Upstate New York’s Secession from Downstate Is Unlikely

On August 30, a collection of gun rights groups, pro-fracking advocates, and other activists rallied near Binghamton to discuss their proposals for the future of New York State. According to Channel 2, they have two major ideas: to take counties from upstate New York and merge some or all of them with Pennsylvania or to use them to create an entirely new state called “New Amsterdam”. This could be disastrous financially, but what are the legal implications?

Noted constitutional lawyer Barry Covert was asked for his take on the case. The full story is available at WGRZ’s website.

Secession bad move economically

Bruce Fisher, the director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at Buffalo State College, told Channel 2 that, thanks to downstate revenue, Erie County receives $1 billion more from the state than it pays in annual taxes. According to Channel 2, if upstate New York seceded from downstate, it would lose that revenue, as well as its affiliation with the State University of New York system, the Buffalo Billion, tax revenue, public works funding, and Medicaid revenue. Because of this, Fisher said that he doubts the advocates really expect success. Stephen Alstadt, a Colden native and the President of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, disagrees with Fisher. He told WGRZ that there are “a lot of economic problems in the Southern Tier” and that “what it all boils down to is lack of representation from upstate.”

Difficult legal process

Either proposal mentioned would be very difficult to achieve, as the process for forming a new state is long and drawn out. Mr. Covert says, “They purposely make it very difficult to redivide the states, create new states, because you don’t want to have that type of fluidity.” He explained to Channel 2 that in order to merge upstate counties with Pennsylvania, the New York legislature, the Pennsylvania legislature, and the United States Congress would all need to approve the proposal. The creation of New Amsterdam would need the same approval unless voters choose to hold a Constitutional Convention. These are only voted on every 20 years, with the next vote occurring in 2017, and one has not happened in New York since 1967. “It seems to be very unlikely,” Mr. Covert told WGRZ. “It seems to need a whole lot more momentum than a couple of angry people.”

About Barry Covert

Mr. Covert, a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.