One of the most interesting things to emerge out of the mess in the state senate was Rudy Giuliani’s op ed in the Times yesterday, one of the few serious efforts to go beyond calls for throwing the rascals out and thinking about how to throw the entire system out. Now, being Rudy Giuliani, his good suggestions were outweighed by the scary ones, but still, it’s a start. Let me start with what I agree with.
I am glad to see a major NYS politician call for new constitutional convention; it clearly is the only way of our current morass, completely rethinking the way our government is organized. There has recently been some reluctance on the part of progressives to entertain notions of a new constitutional convention, out of fear that conservatives would take the opportunity to undo some of the more liberal features of the state constitution, particularly those provisions dating from the 1938 constitutional revision. The fear is real, but I think we have no real choice. Certainly, Giuliani’s suggestion that an independent commission establish district lines is a basic desideratum, and I certainly agree as well that something has to be done to allow a lieutenant governor to be appointed in case of a vacancy.
Less salutary are his suggestions for term limits. By all accounts this has little or no effect on the caliber or nature of the legislative process. Look at California. And supermajorities for revenue increases is even a worse idea. Once again, and a fortiori, look at California.
But the most interesting suggestion made by Giuliani was that the governor have an increased role in the budget process, similar to that of the mayor of NYC. I think that Giuliani saw this op-ed as a first statement in a possible gubernatorial race next year, and of course, being Giuliani, he wants to strengthen the powers of the executive, and no doubt sees himself as a potential man on horseback, a strongman coming into to replace a tottering government. Well, I hate to say it, but that is perhaps what the state needs. Look if Giuilani or some other future governor wanted to eliminate the legislature entirely, and just rule directly by emergency decree, I would seriously consider it. A bit of constitutional dictatorship (lets compare the current situation to the French Fourth Republic rather than Weimar Germany, if you will), might be just what the doctor ordered.