Ballot Questions 2013

BALLOT QUESTIONS AND CITIZENS UNION RECOMMENDATIONS

The language provided below is the text of six proposed amendments to the state constitution which will appear on the ballot. All ballot initiatives will appear on the back of your paper ballot.

For more information about the ballot questions, including arguments in favor and against, see Gotham Gazette's summary of the proposals, the Campaign Finance Board Voter Guide and the League of Women Voters NYS Voters Guide. The full text of the proposals is available from the New York State Board of Elections.

Citizens Union has taken a position on only one ballot question, Question 6 related extending the retirement age for certain state judges.  See our opposition statement below.

1. FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER ONE, AN AMENDMENT

Authorizing Casino Gaming

The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?

Citizens Union has not evaluated this proposal.

2. FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER TWO, AN AMENDMENT

Additional Civil Service Credit for Veterans with Disabilities Certified Post‐Appointment

The proposed amendment to section 6 of article 5 of the Constitution would entitle a veteran who has received civil service credit for a civil service appointment or promotion and subsequently is certified as disabled to additional civil service credit at a subsequent appointment or promotion. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Citizens Union has not evaluated this proposal.

3. FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER THREE, AN AMENDMENT

Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities

The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution would extend for ten years, until January 1, 2024, the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness contracted for the construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Citizens Union has not evaluated this proposal.

4. FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER FOUR, AN AMENDMENT

Settling Disputed Title in the Forest Preserve

The proposed amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution would authorize the Legislature to settle longstanding disputes between the State and private entities over ownership of certain parcels of land in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County. In exchange for giving up its claim to disputed parcels, the State would get land to be incorporated into the forest preserve that would benefit the forest preserve more than the disputed parcels currently do. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Citizens Union has not evaluated this proposal.

5. FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER FIVE, AN AMENDMENT

In Relation to a Land Exchange in the State Forest Preserve with NYCO Minerals, Inc.

The proposed amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution would authorize the Legislature to convey forest preserve land located in the town of Lewis, Essex County, to NYCO Minerals, a private company that plans on expanding an existing mine that adjoins the forest preserve land. In exchange, NYCO Minerals would give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with a minimum assessed value of $1 million, to be added to the forest preserve. When NYCO Minerals finishes mining, it would restore the condition of the land and return it to the forest preserve. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Citizens Union has not evaluated this proposal.

6. FORM OF SUBMISSION OF PROPOSAL NUMBER SIX, AN AMENDMENT

Increasing Age until which Certain State Judges Can Serve

The proposed amendment to the Constitution, amending sections 2 and 25 of article 6, would increase the maximum age until which certain state judges may serve as follows: (a) a Justice of the Supreme Court would be eligible for five additional two‐year terms after the present retirement age of 70, instead of the three such terms currently authorized; and (b) a Judge of the Court of Appeals who reaches the age of 70 while in office would be permitted to remain in service on the Court for up to 10 years beyond the present retirement age of 70 in order to complete the term to which that Judge was appointed. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

Citizens Union opposes this proposal.

Statement of Opposition

Citizens Union opposes ballot proposition number six, which would extend the retirement age for only certain state judges.

All New York State judges must currently retire at age 70; however, justices of the Supreme Court (one of the State’s trial courts) can remain until 76 upon being “certificated.” This process requires the state’s court administrators to find the Supreme Court justice physically and mentally capable of performing her or his judicial duties, and that there is a need for the justice to continue to serve in the court system. A justice continuing past age 70 must undergo this certification procedure every two years during the period from age 70 to 76. The amendment would increase the age at which Supreme Court justices may remain on the bench from 76 to 80, using the certification process.

The amendment would additionally permit judges of the State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to remain on the bench beyond age 70 without any certification process to finish out his or her term but not beyond age 80; if a Court of Appeals judge’s term expires after age 70, he or she would not be eligible for reappointment.

Citizens Union is concerned by the application of the amendment only to certain state judges. There is no principled reason for raising the retirement age for only two groups of judges – judges of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court – and not having the same apply to the majority of the state’s judges. Further, even the amendment’s limited changes appear arbitrary. Supreme Court justices would be certificated, but no such evaluation process would be in place for Court of Appeals judges to determine whether they are able to perform the duties of the office. In addition, Court of Appeals judges whose terms expire while in their 70s have to leave the bench immediately before reaching 80 and cannot be reappointed, whereas those judges whose terms expire in their late 60s can be reappointed to serve until 80. Their retirement age will thus be determined by the vagary of their age at the time of appointment.

Proponents of this measure argue that it will provide additional judges to a court system that badly needs them. Citizens Union believes, however, that this is not a particularly effective way to address that need. Citizens Union has supported reforms to the judicial system to simplify and modernize the state’s court system by consolidating the nine trial courts into a two-tiered system. While we recognize that this reform has not yet gained sufficient traction, we believe that this amendment is not a substitute for this important systemic reform, which would more effectively address the shortage of judges and provide for greater efficiencies in the court system. The State Legislature also currently has the authority to create additional judgeships in many courts, particularly in New York’s Family Courts where the number of judges has not kept up with the burgeoning caseload.

A further criticism of the proposal is that the certification process for Supreme Court justices is ineffective, in that virtually all justices who seek to remain on the bench past age 70 have been permitted to do so. To address this concern, the Chief Judge of the State of New York has proposed improvements to the certification process, including providing for a public hearing process. We applaud the Chief Judge for proposing improvements to the process, which are needed and should be implemented regardless of whether this amendment is adopted.