Sunday, June 24, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Special session
still possible

Senate leaders will meet to
discuss the age-of-consent veto

Associated Press

Senate leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss the possibility of going back into session to override Gov. Ben Cayetano's veto of a bill raising the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16, Senate Co-Majority Leader Cal Kawamoto said.

Legislature Going back into session and overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.

However, if the session were proposed only to vote on overriding the veto in the age of consent bill, Kawamoto said he doubts it will be approved.

"That's my gut feeling," he said.

House and Senate leaders say the Legislature would override a veto of the Hawaii Government Association pay raise.

However, a pay raise veto does not seem likely.

Cayetano said Friday those negotiations are going well. He noted he told HGEA leaders last month he had no intention of vetoing the pay package because the union was proceeding in good faith.

"And that's the way it stands right now," he said Friday.

Four of seven HGEA units have reached agreement with the state and negotiations are continuing with the other three units, the union said.

Cayetano on Friday defended his veto of the age of consent bill saying the penalty was too severe.

"They've equated this offense to a bank robbery or kidnapping, which are class A felonies" subject to a 20-year prison term, the governor said.

He noted similar concerns from Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle and the Commission on the Status of Women, "hardly people who would not care what happens to 14-year-olds."

The age of consent bill approved in May would have made it a Class A felony of first-degree sexual assault with a prison term of up to 20 years for a person to have sex with someone he or she knows to be younger than 16, provided the age gap is not less than five years and the two are not legally married.

If the penalty for statutory rape of a 14- or 15-year-old boy or girl was a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a year in prison, or even a Class C felony with a five-year term, Cayetano said he might support such a measure.

"From my standpoint, I think we need to make sure the penalties are not disproportionate to the offense," he said.

He urged lawmakers to study the issue more closely and check how other states deal with the age of consent before moving to override the veto.

"That's their choice and that's their authority under the Constitution and it's part of the process and I would accept whatever they come up with," Cayetano said.

Tomorrow is the deadline for Cayetano to notify lawmakers of any vetoes.

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