The Constitutional Convention of 1967
THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1967
During the 1960's there was a growing demand among New Yorkers to hold a convention to revise the State Constitution. This Constitution had been in existence since 1894 and contained a large number of amendments approved by voters during subsequent years. In 1965, the legislature (Laws of 1965, Chapter 371) put the question before the voters of whether or not to hold a convention. The voters approved a convention, to be held in 1967.
The legislature (Laws of 1965, Chapter 443) soon created a Temporary State Commission on the Revision and Simplification of the Constitution and to Prepare for a Constitutional Convention. This Commission made a comprehensive study of the Constitution and compiled several volumes of information for the use of delegates. In November 1966, New York voters elected 186 delegates to the convention.
The 1967 Constitutional Convention, the ninth such convention in the state, was held in Albany from April 4 to September 26. Anthony J. Travia, Speaker of the Assembly, served as Convention President. The stated purpose of the Convention was to eliminate obsolete and confusing provisions and remove unnecessary detail from the extremely lengthy document. The Convention delegates also worked to loosen restraints that prevented state government from responding promptly to the needs of the people.
Many of the revisions in the Constitution proposed by delegates attempted to meet these purposes. The highlights of changes in the Constitution proposed by the Convention's major committees were:
Bill of Rights and Suffrage: added new language guaranteeing freedom of speech, press, assembly, and petition, and forbade any law that limited the establishment or free exercise of religion; forbade discrimination because of age, sex, and physical or mental handicaps; added stricter controls over wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping; added a provision giving any citizen the right to bring legal action against the state; guaranteed jury trial in criminal cases for offenses punishable by imprisonment of one year or more; added a liberalized suffrage article eliminating literacy requirements and property qualifications for voting; and gave the legislature authorization to reduce the voting age.
Education: repealed the 1894 "Blaine Amendment" prohibiting direct or indirect aid to denominational schools, subject to restrictions of the Federal Constitution; added constitutional authority for many aid programs for higher education while leaving the legislature to set priorities and programs; and forbade discrimination because of race, religion, or national origin in admission to any school supported by public funds.
Local Government: included broad authorization for economic and community development programs in cities; added authority for cooperative financing among multiple local governments to create regional agencies to handle special government functions; and streamlined procedures for increasing local tax limits.
Judiciary: provided for the gradual state takeover of the operating costs of the statewide court system; authorized the legislature to alter the jurisdiction of the courts; permitted the Court of Appeals to create new judges and