Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York

By Peter J. Galie | Go to book overview

Similarly, in the twentieth century the debt and tax limitations have had important consequences on the fiscal practices of state and local governments. These restrictions have made it difficult to develop rational financing policies while simultaneously failing in their primary goal, the prevention of significant debt accumulations.

The third aspect of our constitutional system that has had important consequences for the state's social and economic practices is home rule. The home rule provisions largely protect traditional community patterns and make it difficult to achieve annexation or consolidation of functions or establish rational and comprehensive policies to deal with urbanization and metropolitanization. The limits on local debt and taxes are, of course, related to the issue of home rule. The state has yet to confront directly the relationship between the current debt and tax restrictions in the constitution and the contemporary financial needs of local governments.

Contrarily, the New York Constitution is a document which has effectively accommodated new social forces, expanded the electorate, and developed a system of civil liberties which, in a number of areas, is more protective of liberty than is the national Constitution. It is a constitution which has committed the state symbolically, and to some extent instrumentally, to the protection of social and economic as well as political rights.

The New York Constitution is an imperfect document, much in need of reform. On April 20, 1987, the 210th anniversary of the New York Constitution, the country was simultaneously celebrating the 200th birthday of the United States Constitution. The New York Times observed: ". . . the New York Constitution, which is older and longer -- at times unfathomably longer -- doesn't even warrant a public seminar on its 210th birthday, which happens to be today. Yet it too is a document that is worth pondering." 49 New Yorkers have demonstrated a willingness to ponder and revise, and there is no reason to believe they have abandoned that tradition. In 1997 they will be asked, in accordance with the every-twenty-year clause, whether they wish to approve a call for a convention to revise and amend the constitution, or whether they will be content to end the century with the constitution they adopted just prior to its beginning.


NOTES
1
See Peter Galie, "The Other Supreme Courts: Judicial Activism Among State Supreme Courts", Syracuse Law Review, 33 ( 1982). Stanley Mosk, "The Emerging Agenda in State Constitutional Rights Law", in John Kincaid, ed.,

-372-

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