New York's Broken Constitution

The Governance Crisis and the Path to Renewed Greatness

Edited by Peter J. Galie, Christopher Bopst, and Gerald Benjamin

Subjects: New York/regional, New York State Government, Constitutional Studies, Political Science, Politics, Public Policy
Series: SUNY series in American Constitutionalism
Paperback : 9781438463322, 340 pages, December 2016
Hardcover : 9781438463339, 340 pages, December 2016

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Table of contents


Peter J. Galie and Gerald Benjamin

I. The Care and Maintenance of the State Constitution

1. Cleaning the Constitution Part I: Institutions and Rights
Peter J. Galie and Christopher Bopst

2. Cleaning the Constitution Part II: Public Policies
Peter J. Galie and Christopher Bopst

II. Institutions

3. New York State’s Allegedly Unified Court System
Daniel L. Feldman and Marc C. Bloustein

4. These Seats May Not Be Saved: A Fair and Rule-Bound Legislative Reapportionment Process
Jeffrey Wice and Todd A. Breitbart

5. “Mixed Messages:” The Governor’s Message of Necessity and the Legislative Process in New York
Peter J. Galie

6. “Mind the Gap”: The Promise and Limits of Home Rule in New York
Richard Briffault

III. Policies

7. “Till Debt Do Us Part”: The Opportunity for New York Finance Law to Enter the Twenty-First Century
Kenneth Bond

8. “The Gift That Keeps on Giving”: New York’s Approach to Gifts and Loans of Public Money and Credit
Christopher Bopst

9. “Forever Wild”: The Treatment of Conservation and the Environment by the New York State Constitution
Paul Bray

10. Gaming the Constitution: Why New York’s Constitutional Gambling Prohibition Does Not Prohibit Gambling
Gerald Benjamin

IV. Constitutional Change

11. “All or Nothing at All”: Changing the Constitution—The Reform Dilemma
Gerald Benjamin

Coda. Should Voters Approve the 2017 Ballot Proposition Calling for a Constitutional Convention?

List of Contributors
Table of Cases

Examines the significant gaps between what New York State’s constitution says and how the state is actually governed and offers ideas for reform.


On its face, New York State's constitution is an elaborate and impressive aggregation of processes, powers, mandates, and limits. But many of these are "inoperative," and New Yorkers who read the document and believe what it says will come away with a massive misunderstanding of the realities of state government. The essays in New York's Broken Constitution seek to clarify the realities by bringing attention to the gaps between what the constitution says and how the state is actually governed, and they provide a disquieting picture of the state of the state's constitution. Among the topics addressed are state debt and budgeting practices, legislative redistricting, local government, gambling, conservation, and the process of amending the constitution. Written by knowledgeable professionals, the chapters explain the constitutional provisions in question, including the reasons for their constitutional status; how they have been used and interpreted; and the extent of the gaps between the constitutional provisions and practice. Various proposals for reform are also examined.

Peter J. Galie is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Canisius College. Christopher Bopst is Chief Legal and Financial Officer at Sam-Son Logistics. They are the coauthors of The New York State Constitution, Second Edition. Gerald Benjamin is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Director of the Benjamin Center at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is coauthor (with Daniel L. Feldman) of Tales from the Sausage Factory: Making Laws in New York State, also published by SUNY Press, and coeditor (with Henrik N. Dullea) of Decision 1997: Constitutional Change in New York.


". ..argue[s] convincingly that New York's Constitution is so riddled with anachronisms and has been so circumvented by legislative exceptions that it finally needs to be overhauled. " — New York Times

". ..this book should … be read by every community leader in New York. " — CHOICE

". ..[a] well-researched and well-written book … I enthusiastically recommend New York's Broken Constitution to voters as they contemplate their decision on calling a constitutional convention. " — Philip Terrie, Adirondack Explorer

"This is an impressive volume, teeming with invaluable insights. It presents a compelling message: since many of the dysfunctions in state governance are inextricably tied to the organizational structures and policies detailed—and sometimes followed, sometimes disregarded—in the state constitution, constitutional reform is imperative. Anyone concerned about the operation and current dysfunction of New York State government should read this book. " — Vincent M. Bonventre, Albany Law School

"This book will be enormously useful in guiding the public and scholarly debate in the lead-up to the November 2017 vote on the question of whether to hold a state constitutional convention. " — John J. Dinan, author of The American State Constitutional Tradition