Voters in New York will be asked to consider six proposed amendments to the state constitution, and we all should familiarize ourselves with the referendum issues scheduled to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. Here is a list of the statewide ballot initiatives with an abstract of each, according to the New York State Board of Elections:
nAdditional civil service credit for veterans with disabilities certified post-appointment: The purpose of the proposed amendment to Section 6 of Article 5 of the constitution is to grant additional civil service credit to veterans who are certified as disabled after they have been appointed or promoted to a civil service position.
nExclusion of indebtedness contracted for sewage facilities: The purpose of the proposed amendment to Section 5 of Article 8 of the constitution is to continue to allow counties, cities, town and villages to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness incurred for the construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities.
nSettling disputed title in the forest preserve: The purpose of the proposed amendment to Section 1 of Article 14 of the constitution is to resolve competing claims of title between the state and private parties to land located in the forest preserve in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County.
nIn relation to a land exchange in the state forest preserve with NYCO Minerals Inc.: The purpose of the proposed amendment to Section 1 of Article 14 of the constitution is to allow NYCO Minerals Inc., a private company, to continue its mining operations in the town of Lewis, Essex County.
nIncreasing age until which certain state judges can serve: The purpose of the proposed amendment to Sections 2 and 25 of Article 6 of the constitution is to increase to the age of 80 the maximum age until which justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Appeals may serve in the following circumstances: (a) Justices of the Supreme Court are currently required to retire in the year they turn 70 years old but are eligible to continue to perform the duties of a justice of the Supreme Court for three additional two-year terms upon a certificate that their services are needed by the courts and that they are competent to perform the full duties of the office. The proposed amendment would make them eligible for two additional such two-year terms, upon the same certification of need and competence; (b) judges of the Court of Appeals are currently required to retire in the year they turn 70 years old. The proposed amendment would permit a judge who reaches the age of 70 while in office to remain in service on the court for up to 10 additional years in order to complete the term to which that judge was appointed.
The most controversial proposed amendment, however, is the one that would permit an expansion of legalized gambling. The abstract highlights the flowery language added to the referendum meant to ensure its success:
nAuthorizing casino gaming: The purpose of the proposed amendment to Section 9 of Article 1 of the constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated.
The ballot issue as originally worded did not include the lofty goals of adding jobs, increasing school funding and reducing property taxes. It merely stated that the State Legislature wants to expand the number of casinos.
But the referendum was revised over the summer, and many people believe this is a dubious way of promoting its passage. This spurred a lawsuit against the Board of Elections, and a state Supreme Court justice will hear the case Oct. 11.
We will explore the proposed casino measure in greater detail sometime before the general election is held. In the meantime, we encourage all residents to review the proposed amendments and learn more about how they would impact the state.
Visit www.elections.ny.gov/ProposedConsAmendments.html for more information on these ballot propositions.