Editorial: Saving Article IX
Saving Article IX
Among the most important sections of our New York State Constitution is Article IX, one that has been on the local books since the organization of our local governments—our counties, cities, towns and villages: home rule. This, in a broad sense, describes those governmental functions and activities traditionally reserved to or performed by local governments without undue infringement by the state. More technically, home rule refers to the constitutional and statutory powers given local governments to enact local legislation in order to carry out and discharge their duties and responsibilities—budgets, property taxes, schools, highways, fire departments, libraries, and the like. Home rule is accompanied by a restriction on the authority of the state legislature to enact special laws affecting a local government’s property, affairs and government. The legislature is specifically prohibited from acting with respect to the property affairs or governance of any local government except by general law, or by special law enacted on a home rule request by the legislative body of the affected local government, or by a two-thirds vote of each house upon receiving a certificate of necessity from the Governor. Article IX, in fact, serves both as a source of authority for local governments and as a shield against intrusion by the state upon their home rule prerogatives.