Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2015

Center/Program

Legislative Drafting Research Fund

Abstract

Article IX of New York State’s constitution establishes the basic constitutional framework for addressing questions of local power, local government organization, and state-local and interlocal relations in the Empire State. Premised on a commitment to “[e]ffective local self-government,” the “home rule amendment” added to the state constitution in 1963 and unamended since then, has bolstered local control over local government organization and personnel and has provided a firmer foundation for local law-making in New York. But it has not succeeded in enabling New York’s local units - its counties, cities, towns and villages - to function as efficient, effective, locally accountable governments. Article IX has done little to protect local governments from state interference, and has done nothing to provide local governments with financial autonomy. It also leaves in place an extremely complex and fragmented local government structure, with multiple levels of overlapping governments, without any assurance that these local governments have the jurisdiction or resources needed to address the needs of their residents. This Chapter - part of an edited volume examining the New York State constitution to be published by SUNY Press - examines how Article IX both promotes and constrains local self-government. Some limits on local autonomy are written into the text of the constitution while others grow out of judicial decisions that have tended to bolster state power over local matters. It also analyzes the constitution’s treatment of the financial position of local governments and questions of interlocal relations. It concludes by considering measures by which the gap between the constitution’s promise of local autonomy and the reality of limited local power can be addressed.

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