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Constitutionality of IDAs should be decided by court

Referring to the new nation, Ben Franklin famously said, “It is a republic, if you can keep it.” In New York, we are keeping it poorly. In particular, I refer to the existence and operation of industrial development agencies. They have no relationship to a republic, where elected representatives are allowed to operate government.

The U.S. Constitution grants “to every state in this union a republican form of government.” That describes representative government. Appointed bureaucracies, such as IDAs, do not qualify under that description. Their operating board members come to their position through political appointment, thus bypassing any process of public election. They are totally beyond any level of public accountability. The powers they have been granted by law allow them to operate above the elected legislatures that put them in place.

The Constitution also states that revenue-raising bills must originate in the House of Representatives. IDA boards have assumed taxing authority.

In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with Congress, created a National Industrial Recovery Act, which gave inordinate powers to bureaucracies. The intention was to cure the economic devastation of the Great Depression. In operation, this allowed industries to evade anti-trust laws. Eventually, the constitutionality of the law came into question. The Supreme Court determined that the act involved an illegal delegation of legislative power, thus unconstitutional.

New York’s IDAs, only by law, have assumed powers specifically defined in the Constitution as reserved for directly elected bodies. Strangely, this condition has never been brought before any federal court. It is long past time that the people should have a constitutional opinion.

Donald G. Hobel

North Tonawanda