Although the concept of “Home Rule” is enshrined in an over fifty-year-old amendment to the State Constitution (1963), the powers granted local governments are vague and easily overruled by the State Legislature. Voters, and even the politicians themselves, don’t know how to institute change, resulting in a stultifying political culture where the people’s business doesn’t get done. The rights of local government need to be clarified.
- In 2013, Mayor Bloomberg wanted to install speed cameras in New York City, but the Legislature turned him down.
- In 2016, the Mayor of New York City had to ask the State Legislature for continued control over his city’s own school district. The Legislature only gave him a one-year extension.
- Cuomo pulled the plug on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, refusing to amend a state program giving developers generous tax breaks in exchange for creating low-cost housing. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/11/nyregion/cuomo-shuts-door-on-part-of-mayor-de-blasios-affordable-housing-plan.html?_r=0
The principal should be that localities’ have power unless specifically restricted by the State Constitution. This principle is exemplified in other state constitutions. For example, the New Jersey State Constitution states that, “The provisions of this Constitution and of any law concerning municipal corporations formed for local government, or concerning counties, shall be liberally construed in their favor.” Another excellent example is New Mexico’s Constitution on Home Rule, which states, “The purpose of this section is to provide for maximum local self-government. A liberal construction shall be given to the powers of municipalities.”There also needs to be a simplification of the Amendment. Consideration should be given to the 1967 Constitutional amendment recommendation, which cut the Home Rule provision from the existing nearly 1400 words to less than 400.