By Tom Precious
ALBANY – There are theories floating around the Capitol that the casino expansion resolution can get its second passage in 2014 in time for a statewide referendum by voters that fall if the governor and lawmakers are unable to resolve their differences this year.
He may have died in 1996, but Louis Lefkowitz would disagree.
In a 1959 legal opinion, then-Attorney General Lefkowitz stated that his formal view is that second passage of an amendment to the state constitution must be approved in the first year of a two-year session of the Legislature.
The Legislature last year approved a resolution to add up to seven new casinos on non-Indian lands in New York. If the formal opinion of Lefkowitz is correct, that means lawmakers could not punt on the issue until 2014 if Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature are unable to strike a deal before the end of session in June. [Legal opinions aside, one wonders why Cuomo would want to run for re-election in 2014 with a controversial casino resolution on the same ballot.]
At 22 years, Lefkowitz, a Republican, was the longest serving attorney general in state history.
Here is the opinion he issued to then-Lt. Gov. Malcolm Wilson:
1959 N.Y. Op. Atty. Gen. No. 36, 1959 WL 101143 (N.Y.A.G.), Office of the Attorney General State of New York Formal Opinion
March 4, 1959
STATE CONSTITUTION, ARTICLES XIX, § 1, XIII, § 9-PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT-APPROVAL BY SUBSEQUENT LEGISLATURE.
Your office has requested my opinion interpreting Article XIX, § 1, of the State Constitution with respect to the second approval of a proposed constitutional amendment by the Legislature.
Specifically the following question is posed: "If a constitutional amendment is approved at the second session of one legislature, can the same amendment be submitted for the second time at the second session of the next legislature and skip the first session of the next legislature?"
The pertinent part of the cited section of the Constitution provides that a proposed amendment, after having been agreed to by a majority of the members of each of the two houses, shall be "referred to the next regular session convening after the succeeding general election of members of the assembly * * *; and if in such legislative session, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each house, then it shall be the duty of the legislature to submit each proposed amendment or amendments to the people for approval in such manner and at such times as the legislature shall prescribe; * * *:"
Article XIII, § 9, provides that "the legislature shall, every year, assemble on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January." It is quite clear that the regular annual meetings of the Legislature constitute separate and distinct sessions and, therefore, it must follow that the "next regular session convening after the succeeding general election of members of the assembly" is the session which commences on the first Wednesday after he first Monday in January following such general election.
It is my opinion that a proposed constitutional amendment, whether initially approved at the first or second session of the previous Legislature, must be referred to the first regular session of the next succeeding Legislature and can be considered for approval for the second time only at such session.
Louis J Lefkowitz
taggedAndrew Cuomo | casinos