The Home Rule provision of the state Constitution “is a subject ripe for consideration and debate,” concludes the New York State Bar Association in a report that describes how the autonomy of local governments has been eroded by state laws and court decisions.

Constitutional Home Rule, in theory, grants local governments the authority to decide how best to govern their communities in matters of local concern. It allows them to enact local laws without the interference from the state Legislature.

However, over the years, those protections have been so eroded that the state Legislature has assumed the power to regulate such local concerns as taxi cabs in New York City and the salary of the Allegany County district attorney, to offer just two examples of state micromanagement of local governments.

“New York’s constitutional and statutory provisions regarding home rule are extensive, evincing a clear intent to protect local autonomy. However, the balance between State and local powers has tipped away from the preservation of local authority toward a presumption of state concern,” the report concludes.

The report, approved by the Association’s House of Delegates on April 2, calls for additional study, possibly by a preparatory commission for a state constitutional convention. New York voters will decide in 2017 whether to authorize a convention.

“We expect our Home Rule report will enhance public understanding of the relationship between the state and local governments. It also offers a valuable resource for further study,” said State Bar President David P. Miranda.

The report-meant to be descriptive rather than prescriptive-was drafted by the Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitution, which was created by Miranda in 2015 and is chaired by Henry M. Greenberg of Albany (Greenberg Traurig).

The report recognizes the vital governance role played by local governments, which are responsible for drinking water, social services, sewerage, zoning, schools, roads, parks, police, courts, jails, trash disposal – and more.

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