If two senators want to change
their votes, she could
HGEA chief denies swaying voteBy Craig Gima
Bronster backlash in Editorial section
There is a slim possibility that Attorney General Margery Bronster and Budget Director Earl Anzai could be confirmed by the Senate before the session ends Tuesday.
But a move to reverse the Senate's rejection of Bronster and Anzai is saddled with political overtones and could signal the end of Norman Mizuguchi's reign as Senate president.
"Many people would view it as an attempt to further reorganize," said Judiciary Co-Chairman Avery Chumbley (D, Kihei).
Last year, the House reconsidered its vote on a bill to limit the pay of Bishop Estate and other trustees of charitable trusts. The vote eventually led to the ouster of former House Speaker Joe Souki.
Before the Senate can reconsider the vote on Bronster, two of the 14 senators who voted no on her nomination must be willing to change their vote to create a 13-vote majority in her favor.
Then, as happened last year in the House, a motion can be made on the floor to reconsider a decision, and after another procedural vote, Bronster's nomination could be voted on again.
Chumbley said he hopes senators would look at reconsidering the vote on Bronster as "doing the right thing," rather than a possible reorganization. But he does not think that will happen.
Senators who voted no on Bronster appeared last night to be firm in their votes, despite the outcry from the public.
Union chiefCraig Gima
Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Russell Okata insists he did not directly lobby against Attorney General Margery Bronster's confirmation and denied that Bishop Estate trustees Henry Peters or Richard Wong asked the union to oppose her nomination.
At first, when asked if the trustees or a business associate influenced the union, Okata said he would have no comment to rumor and innuendo. But he later added that he has known Peters and Wong for a long time -- from the days when both trustees were in the Legislature. Peters is a former House speaker, and Wong served as Senate president. Then, Okata said: "The trustees did not ask me to intervene. I hardly see them."
On Wednesday, Wong denied any influence on the Senate vote. Peters declined comment.
Gov. Ben Cayetano on Tuesday suggested that forces outside the union were behind what he called "a full-court press" by the HGEA against Bronster's nomination.
"I think that those of us who know Hawaii know that there are pressures and interests that go far beyond the ranks of labor. People in this state, everyone knows each other, and that influences people," Cayetano said.
Okata said the union has never publicly opposed a Cabinet nomination. He said he met privately with the governor to express his reservations and the union did not take an official position against Bronster's nomination.
Contrary to Cayetano's statements, Okata insisted the union did not fax senators or actively lobby against Bronster.
"A number of senators did call me, but again it was just a small handful," Okata said. "I didn't call any senator or knock on any door."
'I didn't call any senator or
knock on any door.'
HAWAII GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
HGEA spokesman Randy Kusaka said that the union has been receiving calls from members about the governor's statements that the union was involved in the effort against Bronster. In a position paper to union members, the HGEA listed several reasons why it raised objections to Bronster's nomination with the governor and some senators.
Among the objections raised by the HGEA: an attorney general's opinion that the Legislature's not funding the HGEA's pay raises last year constituted a rejection of the contract, that the office failed to represent and defend HGEA members sued in the scope of performing their jobs, and a legal opinion that blank votes should not have been counted in determining whether voters approved a constitutional convention.
Cayetano said he was disappointed by the HGEA and that it may affect his relationship with the public-worker union.
"These relationships are based on trust, and I had hoped they would have expressed to me the concerns they had about the attorney general before they put on this full-court press against Marge Bronster," Cayetano said.
Okata said he called the governor after Cayetano charged on Tuesday that the union influenced the vote on Bronster, but Okata said he has not been able to speak with Cayetano.
State Human Relations Director Mike McCartney, who is working with the unions on civil service reform, said last night that the HGEA's efforts against Bronster strained the relationship between the HGEA and Cayetano. But McCartney said he did not believe it would affect the effort to work with the unions for civil service reform.
"He (Cayetano) told me we've got to move on his agenda. His concern is to accomplish an agenda of change," McCartney said.
"My union intends to work very closely with the governor," Okata said. "We have many, many issues that are pending before the governor, including civil service reform to modernize the system and work for meaningful change."