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Assembly Minority Holds Town Hall Meeting

“Is Albany working for you?” asked New York State Assemblyman Minority Leader Brian Kolb (129th A.D.) to those gathered for a town hall meeting last week. “Is the New York State government working for you?”

The response from an audience of about 50 gathered at the Hicksville Knights of Columbus was silence; not a single person raised their hand.

Kolb led the April 29 meeting on behalf of the People’s Convention to Reform New York, stating the mission as a “non-partisan, grassroots effort to empower citizens so they can take back their state government and chart a positive, new direction for New York.”

During the meeting, Kolb, along with other members of the Assembly’s Long Island Republican delegation, discussed their support for a “People’s Convention to Reform New York,” and how it could deliver the positive change New Yorkers are demanding. The purpose of a People’s Convention, said Kolb, is to bring change to a state that has become “too costly, unresponsive and disconnected.”

Some of the issues that could be considered during a People’s Convention, the group says, include fiscal reforms like property tax and state spending caps, debt reform, along with a ban on “backdoor” borrowing and unfunded mandates. Governmental reforms such as initiatives and referendums, an independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, term limits for legislative leaders, ethics reform and a succession plan for state offices could also be considered, it was stated.

Additionally, a People’s Convention, according to Kolb, offers any tax-paying citizen the opportunity to run and serve as a delegate for possible reform in New York; the legislation specifically requires that any elected official seeking to run as a delegate for, or serve in, the People’s Convention must obtain 1,000 signatures from voters in their respective district and step down from their position before running.

By law, the question of whether New York should convene a People’s Convention automatically appears on the November ballot every 20 years and is currently set to go before voters in 2017 and during last week’s meeting, Kolb discussed “The People’s Convention to Reform New York Act” (Assembly Bill A.9157), that he said is a non-partisan bill that, if enacted, would put the question of whether New York should convene a People’s Convention on the 2010 ballot. If the option to approve a People’s Convention is added to the November 2010 ballot, the process of electing statewide delegates would begin and three final delegates would be in place by 2012. Through these town hall meetings, the delegation hopes to garner enough support to move up the opportunity by seven years, accelerating the state’s ability to enact long overdue and much-needed changes.

“What’s motivating us to accelerate [the process] by seven years is the state that we are in, I don’t think we can wait any longer,” said Kolb. “We need to channel anger, frustration and disgust to a positive movement that doesn’t take shots at anyone, but try something different.”

To “pass along the message of the People’s Convention,” said Assemblyman Michael Montesano (R, 15th A.D.), members of the delegation are traveling to every county in the state. He references an $8 billion increase in taxes along with hikes in SUNY tuition and DMV fees in the 2009 budget as just some reasons why change is needed.

According to Assemblyman David McDonough (R, 19th A.D.), a People’s Convention would “take control out of the hands of politicians and put it into the hands of the people,” which he said is what New York State needs. “We have let the dysfunction in Albany go on for way too long. A People’s Convention to Reform New York is just the change that the state capitol needs,” said McDonough.

“This idea of a People’s Convention to Reform New York would be a non-partisan group of citizens working together to fix the ongoing struggles of our state,” added Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt (17th A.D.). “It is obvious to the people that what’s happening in Albany is not getting the job done.”

For more information about the People’s Convention to Reform New York, contact the Assembly Republican Long Island Regional Office at (631) 366-1530 or visit www.reformny.org.

“It’s up to the minority to push the majority for change – not to complain – but push for it,” said Kolb, adding, “I have three children that I want to stay in New York, and I don’t want my son and his grandchild having to move to another state because of better economic opportunity.”