New York voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5, to pick their local representatives, public servants and judges. It will be an important day, to be sure, and while we always advocate on this page for the electorate to gather as much information as possible on their candidates, it’s not just people voters will be deciding on come Election Day.
This year brings a bevvy of constitutional amendments and other propositions to the ballot – six, to be precise. But as experienced citizens already know, it can be tough to make a decision on these issues based simply on the proposition’s language, which can waver between lopsided and indecipherable.
So, we present you with a summary of what will appear on the ballot, and the arguments pro or con for each measure. We hope you’ll keep this page handy for reference when it comes time to head to the polls.
Proposition 1: Casinos
This is the constitutional amendment that has been drawing the most attention. In short, if this proposition were passed, the state legislature would be allowed to authorize up to seven casinos to be built in New York. The locations of those hypothetical casinos have been the subject of much debate, but nothing has been decided officially.
It’s a pretty simple idea, but also one with strong opinions on both sides. Proponents argue casino gambling would create jobs and revenues for municipalities and schools, lifting the tax burden from residents and driving the economy. They also note casino gambling already exists at five Native American casinos in New York, and that thanks to a loophole in the existing law, legal slot machines hooked into the state’s lottery system are already in operation elsewhere. This measure, by that argument, would not greatly expand on what already exists.
Opponents, however, argue casino gambling would increase the impacts of gambling addiction across the state, exploit those suffering from that addiction and negatively impact the communities casinos would be located, including through increased crime. Some also question the possibility of meaningful job creation and economic impacts.
Proposition 2: Veteran credits
This proposal, if passed, would amend the state constitution to entitle a veteran to an additional one-time credit toward civil service exams, under certain circumstances.
Under the existing rules, vets get five extra points on civil service exams (2 ½ if the exam concerns a promotion). Disabled veterans are entitled to a larger benefit: 10 points, or 5 on a promotion. The amendment would create an exception covering veterans who are certified as disabled after having already received this one-time credit, so they could be credited the difference.
There doesn’t seem to be any outspoken opposition to this amendment.
Proposition 3: Sewage debt
Strap in for an exciting ride.
If New Yorkers pass Proposition 3, it would extend until 2024 the authority of municipal governments to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness contracted from the construction and reconstruction of facilities for the conveyance, treatment and disposal of sewage.
In plain English, towns, villages and counties would continue to be able to borrow money for expensive sewer projects without maxing out the credit card (as far as the state is concerned, at least). This exclusion was originally authorized in 1963 to encourage governments to undertake responsible sewage projects without worrying the work would exclude making other capital improvements down the road.
Again, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of opposition to this proposition.
Proposition 4: Raquette Lake land dispute
This constitutional amendment would settle a longstanding land dispute in the Town of Long Lake, up in Hamilton County.
In short, for the past century, the ownership of many parcels of land around Raquette Lake has been in dispute, with both the state and private landowners claiming ownership. About 200 parcels are still contested despite attempts to settle the matter in court.
Under a settlement on the table, the contested land would be conveyed to private landowners and replaced with land elsewhere in the Adirondack Park to be added to the forest preserve. The private landowners would have to pay into a fund held by Long Lake until enough money is raised to buy the land.
So why must the entire state of New York sign off on this? Well, the area in question is in the Adirondack Park, which is declared forever wild in the state constitution. The lease, sale, exchange or taking of any forest preserve land is forbidden. This proposition, if passed, would amend that article to allow this swap (and this swap only). That is, if the legislature later determines the offered land would benefit the forest preserve more than the disputed parcels.
Those in favor of Proposition 4 say it would settle a problem that has left many homeowners and business owners in a state of uncertainty for years, and has cost much wasted money in the courts. It would also add to the forest preserve. Conservation groups feel the state would likely target the Marion River Carry for acquisition, which would open up new recreational opportunities in the area.
Opponents, however, argue the deal would set a dangerous precedent for other land disputes within the park. Some question whether the fees would be sufficient to acquire better land, as well.
Proposition 5: Mining land swap
This is another forever wild proposition. NYCO Minerals wants to mine about 200 acres in the Town of Lewis, in Essex County, which is located on forest preserve land.
In exchange for conveyance of the land, the company would give the state another parcel of about 1,500 acres to be added to the preserve forever and, when mining is finished, replant the 200 acres and give it back to the state.
NYCO is mining wollastonite in the area, which is used in ceramics, paints and as an asbestos substitute. It’s clear the company would continue to operate in the area regardless of Proposition 5’s outcome, but the deal would obviously open up new business.
Proponents point out the deal would be a net gain for the state from a numbers standpoint. The 1,500-acre parcel NYCO would convey also contains choice pieces of recreational resources that are not presently accessible to the public. The 200 acres known as Lot 8 is directly adjacent to NYCO’s existing mine and does not see much recreational use.
Opponents argue the swap would not create new jobs or drive the local economy. They also say the deal would set a dangerous precedent by allowing commercial access to land designated forever wild. Some worry it could become common for businesses looking to harvest the Adirondacks to buy the state off through land swaps.
This slippery slope argument is chief among the reasons groups like the Sierra Club and Adirondack Wild oppose the proposition. Groups like the Adirondack Council and local and state business groups have endorsed the swap.
Proposition 6: Judicial age
This constitutional amendment would increase the maximum age until which certain state judges may serve.
The language of the actual proposition is somewhat confusing, but the amendment would effectively raise the maximum age on the bench to 80 for judges on the Supreme Court or in the Court of Appeals. The retirement age would still officially be 70, but in the case of the Supreme Court, justices would be able to serve five additional two-year terms upon a certificate their services are needed (they can currently serve three additional terms). Court of Appeals justices would be able to remain in office for up to 10 years after the retirement age in order to finish a term.
The amendment would also prohibit the appointment of any person over the age of 70 to either court.
Those in favor of the measure argue the state would continue to benefit from experienced judges and point out the average lifespan has increased since the retirement age was put in place. Some opponents feel extending the maximum age would favor long-serving judges and discourage diversity on the courts.