Friday, June 25, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Special session weighed
in wake of vetoes

Legislature Directory

By Mike Yuen


Now that Gov. Ben Cayetano's deadline for vetoing bills has passed, state lawmakers are pondering whether they should -- or can -- come back in special session to fix flawed bills they approved or to override any of Cayetano's vetoes.

Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) said he has more than the two-thirds of the House needed to convene a special session as nearly all 51 House members are willing to get back to work next month.

"It depends on whether the Senate president has the two-thirds in his chamber," Say said. Senate President Norman Mizuguchi (D, Aiea) did not indicate if that were the case.

In separate interviews yesterday, Say and Mizuguchi said they will be meeting, perhaps as early as today, to see if they can agree on an agenda if there is a special session of perhaps five days.

For such a short session to be successful, both sides must agree beforehand on specifically what they wish to accomplish and how they would do it. Otherwise, the session would have no focus and would drag on, Mizuguchi said.

Say wants to correct a bill that grants tax incentives for constructing or renovating hotels. It's meant to help revitalize the state's sluggish economy. The Legislature passed the measure but left the percentage of the tax break blank, rendering it useless.

A second priority, Say said, would be to resurrect and pass an emergency appropriations bill to pay $2.1 million to the federal government for refunds from the Hawaii Public Employees Health Fund -- otherwise the state would owe Washington $200,000 to $300,000 in interest.

Say said he doesn't want the Legislature to reconvene to override any of Cayetano's vetoes. "I'm concerned about 'horse trading.' If we're going to override one thing, do we have to agree to override another thing to get that? I don't want to get involved with that. It's too cumbersome," Say said.

His desire to not push any sort of veto override has nothing to do with trying to let tensions between Cayetano and the Senate dissipate, Say said.

Cayetano was outraged when the Senate refused to confirm Margery Bronster as attorney general and Earl Anzai as budget director; Cayetano retaliated with verbal attacks on the Senate's motives and legislative skills, even stating he doubted that Senate Ways and Means Co-Chairwoman Carol Fukunaga (D, Makiki) understood the state financial plan she had crafted on behalf of her chamber.

Mizuguchi, however, left the door open to trumping Cayetano's vetoes. "The number of vetoed bills make it evident that legislators are eager to return," Mizuguchi said.

"For 60 days, lawmakers work hard on their bills, so there's some frustration when they're vetoed. So much time and effort is put in to pass legislation," he added.

Some lawmakers have said they would like to override vetoes of bills that make it easier to get convictions in child abuse cases and that allot $97,000 for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands legal representation in proceedings involving land claims.

This year, Cayetano vetoed 45 measures -- 25 House bills, 20 from the Senate. Two weeks ago, Cayetano said he has been vetoing "more bills of substance" than he ever has. Horse trading between the House and Senate led to the passage of several measures of dubious value, Cayetano said then, but he did not identify the bills.

Cayetano's vetoes

Gov. Ben Cayetano's rejection of 45 bills this year is the most of ones "of substance," he says. Cayetano is the state's chief executive who has vetoed the most measures in any year -- 83 in 1995 -- but about 50 percent of the rejections were of duplicate bills the Legislature had approved. Cayetano's vetoes over the years:

Year -- Number
1995 -- 83
1995* -- 1
1996 -- 27
1997 -- 14
1998 -- 23
1999 -- 45
Total: 193

*Special session Source: Legislative Reference Bureau

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