Let’s Not Mess With The State Constitution

Let’s Not Mess With The State Constitution

Every Election Day is important, and Nov. 7 is no different. There aren’t a lot of high-profile contests, but voters will still be choosing village mayors and town and county officials. A major issue, which has escaped voters’ attention until now, is the vote to decide whether New York state should have a new constitutional convention.

The last convention was held in 1967, and its work product was voted down by large numbers. In 1977, another convention vote failed. Around the country since 2010, voters in 11 states have rejected convening rewrites of their constitutions. It is my strongest hope that this measure will be soundly defeated on Election Day.

 Over the past four months, I have traveled around the state speaking to numerous groups, and I’ve taken part in nine debates. No one has offered to pay me, nor would I have accepted any money. I strongly believe that a constitutional convention would be a waste of taxpayer money, and would be nothing more than a carbon copy of a regular legislative session. A 2019 convention, if approved this year, would mean double pay for the elected officials who attend and double pay for the lobbyists who would love to get on the gravy train.

 

As a member of the State Assembly in 1967, I took the time to watch the convention at work. It was dominated by elected officials from every level of government. It generated some good ideas, but it was manipulated into one proposition that failed. There’s no reason to believe that another convention now would have a different result.

The current Constitution runs to 200 pages. It protects our parks, our jobs, our housing and our quality of life in hundreds of ways. There are two legal procedures to amend it. The State Legislature can do it, or we can elect delegates. Over the past 100 years, the Legislature has amended the Constitution more than 200 times, in many significant ways. This year, thanks to the Legislature, voters will also be asked whether elected officials who commit crimes related to their public office should lose their pensions.

A small handful of well-meaning groups are supporting a convention because they think the current Constitution should be completely overhauled. The average convention runs for about four months, and if you think the Constitution can be totally remodeled within that time frame, I have some swampland to sell you in Louisiana. The groups that oppose the idea are a mixture of every flavor of politics, including the Conservative Party, Planned Parenthood, the National Rife Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and numerous environmental groups.

The union movement has spent lots of money to oppose a convention, for good reasons. Pensions for active and retired members are protected by current law, so union leaders are looking out for their members by opposing a convention. Its supporters have criticized the involvement of unions, as if their money comes from some suspicious source, which is a cheap shot.

The supporters of a convention truly believe that there is no chance that it would be hijacked by groups with carloads of out-of-state money. But thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling, in the Citizens United case, that the government cannot restrict independent political expenditures, there are unlimited funds being spent around the country to interfere with state laws. The proponents of a convention can’t guarantee us that it would be free of outside interference, so why bother?

New York last voted on whether to have a convention in 1997. The idea was soundly defeated because of the expense and the public’s desire to leave well enough alone. The estimated cost of a convention is $50 million to $100 million, and could go higher.

The cost notwithstanding, I would strongly support it if I thought it could be a meaningful event with great results, but that just isn’t the case. That’s why I’ve traveled around the state urging a “no” vote. It’s the wrong time in history to turn our state upside down.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. 

Bipartisan Should Not Be A Dirty Word

Bipartisan Should Not Be A Dirty Word

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There are all kinds of dirty words in the English language.

That includes slang and other forms of expression that are insulting to one person or group. We hear these utterances from persons of all ages and backgrounds.

Occasionally, your eight year old may come home with an addition to his or her vocabulary that is offensive.

There is one word that I can think of that apparently makes certain people in the political world go crazy. It’s the word “bipartisan.”

Whether it is uttered in Washington, Albany or by some local official, the forces in power go crazy at the thought that some action could be taken on a bipartisan basis. We all know that bipartisan is neither dirty, ugly nor objectionable, but for some politicians the thought that Democrats and Republicans should cross the aisle and work together is their worst nightmare.

For the past seven months, President Trump has had no legislative successes to claim as his own, other than getting a conservative on the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc Connell and House Speaker have been paralyzed in their efforts to pass a new healthcare law.

With such deep divisions in both houses, it has been impossible to get a Republican consensus on any other major issue. The thought of working with Democrats seems to make both leaders nauseous.

Frustrated at the gridlock in the Republican Party, Trump had the nerve to reach out to the Democratic minority leaders and invite them to the White House.

Keep in mind that the two dirtiest words that you can utter to a House or Senate Republican is “Pelosi” or “Schumer.”

Over the past 25 years, Republicans have spent millions of dollars demonizing the Democratic Party and using Pelosi as a political piñata.

More Republicans than you can count on both hands have won their seats threatening voters that Pelosi would visit their house and frighten their children.

Mitch Mc Connell, who is probably the biggest sourpuss in Washington, turned all shades of red when the President had the nerve to agree to a 90-day delay on increasing the debt limit at the suggestion of “Nancy” and “Chuck.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan was close to hysterical when he heard that the President would be willing to speak with any Democrat.

To add to the misery of the leaders, the President issued a dinner invitation to Nancy and Chuck, at which they made some type of grand bargain on border security and the Dreamers Act.

The Republican response to the White House dinner bordered on apoplexy.

They questioned the president’s sanity, his loyalty and his very existence, because he had the nerve to cut a deal with the other party.

Lest you think that bipartisan is just a dirty word in Washington, please be assured that it is equally despised in Albany, New York City and in the suburbs.

There are countless times in my career when real political progress was sabotaged because of one party’s unwillingness to deal with the other party.

There is no reason to expect that in the weeks and months ahead Washington Republicans and Democrats will be smoking a peace pipe and exchanging holiday cards.

However, as a former elected official watching the Republican Party being forced to deal with those Democrats is a pleasant reminder that sometimes being bipartisan is in the best interests of the country.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm.

To read the article on The Island Now, click here.

 

Donald Trump The Divider

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Donald J. Trump has been President for the past nine months.

He frequently refers to President Abraham Lincoln, compares his actions to Mr. Lincoln, and occasionally gives credit to Harry Truman. If the President spent more time studying Lincoln he might learn about the great line uttered on the eve of his unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate. His remark was “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln eventually became the national face of the Republican Party, and his words and deeds gave that party the basis for its existence.

While the President is not really a Republican, he has become the unwanted face of the party and, to their utter dismay, he may well be tearing the party apart to the extent that it will take them decades to recover. One recent NBC survey showed that there are more people who call themselves “Trump voters” than “Republican voters.” If the Republicans are meek enough to let Mr. Trump block their priorities and bludgeon their reputation that is their problem.

On the other hand, should Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and the House Speaker Paul Ryan sit by idly as their leader tries to tear apart the America we know and love?

Look back at the political landscape since Donald Trump rode down his gilded escalator to announce his candidacy. His campaign was based on his appeal to the working-class citizens of our country, but at the same time he gave a wink and a nod to the racists, Neo-Nazis and all the other sick factions in our country. Stating that he had no idea who Ex-Klansman David Duke was, even though he was a visible Trump supporter, turned out to be the first hint of the dark side of this President. From those very early days until the present, one man with an ugly agenda has torn the melting pot that we call America, apart…

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm.

To read the entire article on The Island Now, click here.

Living in The Land of Wasted Potential

Living in The Land of Wasted Potential

 

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I recently attended a breakfast meeting, and sat in a room full of successful business leaders along with a large number of attorneys. The subject was the business climate on Long Island, and somehow I left the event slightly depressed. While some companies are making a lot of money, that doesn’t make up for the fact that Long Island really needs a major boost from someone and from somewhere.

There’s no question that, locally, we are blessed with some great natural resources. We have spectacular beaches, wonderful parks and many historic sites. We have a talented workforce and many skilled young people who are eager to live on Long Island, but something is missing: leadership. I’m not talking only about politicians. We have a handful of hard-working elected officials, but the region could use a lot more. We have quite a few successful company executives, but we could use some more success stories.

As a follower of both the local and national media, I would love to see announcements more often that a major company has decided to plant its flag in one of our two counties. Many of our smaller and midsized companies are enjoying record profits and have dedicated employees. The health care dynamos such as Northwell are booming, and more and more major hospitals are becoming affiliated with our local health care centers, which means good jobs and access to more skilled medical services.
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While I don’t expect Amazon or Facebook to build a gigantic headquarters here, I don’t get the feeling that there are any Long Islanders out there knocking on the doors of those companies’ executives, like elected officials used to do years ago. Suffolk County has been much more aggressive, thanks to the hard work of County Executive Steve Bellone, but Nassau County, with a host of budget headaches, is sound asleep when it comes to recruiting new companies to this great area. There are three towns in the county, and they all function as separate entities. It would be productive if they would sit down one day and figure out how to promote the whole county, to make up for its failure to attract big businesses.
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Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm.

 

To read the entire article on The Long Island Herald, click here.

#StopTheMadness – Tax Amnesty could solve the MTA dilemma

#StopTheMadness – Tax Amnesty could solve the MTA dilemma

NEW YORK – DECEMBER 19: Commuters pass through Grand Central Terminal during morning rush hour December 19, 2005 in New York City. Transit workers continue to negotiate a contract with the Metropolitan Transit Authority while saying a system-wide strike will occur if an agreement is not reached by 12:01 a.m. tonight. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Watching the epic battle between Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio as the MTA falls deeper into crisis, reminds me of the Lord of the Rings battle for Middle-earth. Only, New York is not dealing with a fictional problem – our main transportation system is literally crumbling beneath our feet.

So, while our politicians are shuttled around in black SUVs while playing the blame game, the rest of us are asking who’s going to pay to clean up this mess. There is no reason to mandate another wealth tax on the 32,000 city residents who already pay almost half (49.2 percent) of the city’s income taxes or implement congestion pricing, which is a backdoor tax that hits a struggling middle class and small businesses. Instead the city and state could fill the MTA coffers by December with a comprehensive tax amnesty initiative.

MTA officials have pegged the cost for emergency repairs of the subway system at over $800 million. History proves that the development and execution of a professional tax amnesty program could net the MTA these badly needed dollars.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post