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Home Rule

03/06/2024 9:25 PM | Anonymous

Home Rule  by Tom Reynolds

We may be generally familiar with the term Home Rule as a local defense against the overreach of state government.  Home Rule is definitely an obstacle to those that would wish to consolidate all power in Albany and, it seems, Home Rule is being backdoored in Governor Hochul’s budget.

First, some background.  The following is from the 2016 report on Constitutional Home Rule by the New York State Bar Association

“In New York State, local government has a greater impact on the day to-day lives of the public than any tier of government...since the 19th Century, “Home Rule” — the authority of local governments to exercise self-government — has been a matter of constitutional principle in New York. The continuing dilemma has been to strike the right balance of furthering strong local governments but leaving the State strong enough to meet the problems that transcend local boundaries.”  (Emphasis added)

“Article IX, the so-called “Home Rule” article, contains protections for local government that are more extensive than those in many other states. Constitutional Home Rule is established by granting local governments affirmative lawmaking powers, while carving out a sphere of local autonomy free from State interference.”

“Despite Article IX’s intent to expand the authority of local governments, Home Rule in practice has produced only a modest degree of local autonomy. The powers of local governments have been significantly restricted by two legal doctrines developed through decades of litigation: “preemption” and “State concern.”  Thirdly, local governments must also follow mandates enacted by the State Legislature.”

“Under the preemption doctrine, a local law is unenforceable when it collides with a State’ statute. But even in the absence of an outright conflict between State and local law, a local government may not act where the State has acted comprehensively in the same area.”

”The state concern doctrine represents an exception to the constitutional limitations on the State Legislature’s authority to enact special laws targeted at one or more, but not all local governments. Under this doctrine, the State Legislature is empowered to regulate local matters which also relate to State concerns, such as waste disposal on Long Island, sewers in Buffalo, and taxicabs in New York City.”  (How are NYC Taxicabs the concern of state government?)

“Home Rule is further limited by the State Legislature’s imposition of mandates that compel local governments to provide specific services and meet minimum State standards, often without providing fully supporting funds necessary to comply with such mandates. New York imposes more unfunded mandates on localities than any other state in the nation.”  (Probably every county in upstate NY has complained about these.)

John Droz Jr. is a physicist who has written a public warning about parts of Governor Hochul’s new budget that endanger Home Rule.  What he describes should be familiar to 2nd Amendment defenders and though his letter does not deal with 2A, it seems important enough to pass on as our Home Rule constitutional rights may about to be overthrown.

Droz writes:

As you know the NYS Governor (and legislative allies) have been steadily chipping away at the rights of NYS citizens for several years now. Their basic mentality appears to be: if we can get away with a power grab, then let's go one step further to see if we can get even more.

This is very much like a child testing parental limits.

In this case — although they don't want you to see this — the Governor, et al work for you!  In other words, you are the parent here.

Their next major extraction of NYS citizens' rights is found in the FY 2025 Executive Budget Legislation.

A favorite trick is to label power grabs with innocent-sounding titles. In this case, it is:

Transportation, Economic Development and Environmental Conservation Article VII Legislation.

An accompanying trick used by those trying to take more power is to bury their actions in an omnibus bill overflowing with legalese.

Just this one section has 260 pages!

I was alerted about a problematic energy section: "Part O", starting on page 129.

I perused the next 30+ pages, and (as an energy expert) none of it seems to be in the best interest of the public.  (Emphasis added.)

That said, pages 150 and 151 of this polemic are particularly egregious, as they appear to kill any remnants of Home Rule Rights that NY communities still have. (For reference and a refresher on NYS Home Rule Rights, see this good discussion.)

The State is attacking your Home Rule rights as they contend that they have the moral high ground: they are "saving the planet." Your interest in the health, safety, and welfare of your family and community are a pittance compared to their virtue signaling.

Briefly, right now NYS communities have some legal rights to regulate wind and solar facilities. If the "2025 Budget" is passed with these proposed words, the resulting citizen/community rights will be almost non-existent.

I'm not an attorney, but it seems to me that the legislature cannot simply pass a law that will negate provisions of the NYS Constitution — e.g. the Home Rule Rights stipulated in Article IX. However, as I stated above, they will do it if they think they can get away with it.

I'm playing a Paul Revere role here: alerting you to what is imminent. What you do to defend your rights is your call.

SCOPE does not have any expertise in Home Rule matters but Droz has been level-headed in the past and if he is this concerned perhaps we should also be concerned.  Since most of NY’s land area is Republican and gun rights are important there, Home Rule may be one small arrow-in-our quiver to protect our rights.  Our best advice is that we need to know more.  Maybe it’s nothing but if it is anything like Droz suggests…

Try writing your state Senator and Assemblyperson with a copy of Droz’s letter and asking, “What’s going on here?” 

A 2nd Amendment Defense Organization, defending the rights of New York State gun owners to keep and bear arms!

PO Box 165
East Aurora, NY 14052

SCOPE is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization.

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