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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government

Sunday, February 25, 2018
NYS ConCon 2017

New York’s Only Limited Constitutional Convention: 1801

The first constitutional convention in New York, and the only one ever called for limited purposes, was occasioned by a defect in the Council of Appointments and the growing size of the legislature. In the absence of a formal mechanism for amending the Constitution, the legislature passed an act recommending a convention and calling for the selection of delegates to address only those issues. In response to rapid population growth that had swelled the number of senators to forty-three, the convention fixed the number at thirty-two. The Assembly was set at 100 members, with the authority to increase to a maximum of 150 members. Senate seats were to be apportioned according to population, but one member of the Assembly was guaranteed for each county regardless of population.

The second issue confronting the convention was a dispute over who had the power to nominate appointees, the governor alone or shared with the council. The convention made the power a concurrent right of both, putting effective control of nominations and appointments in the hands of the council and, in effect, the legislature. This change weakened the executive and accelerated the development of the spoils system.

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