Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Legislature 2002

Lawmakers listened to debate over the state budget yesterday. Among them were, from top left, Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, Senate Vice President Colleen Hanabusa and House Minority Leader Galen Fox.

Suicide bill still alive

Lawmakers OK the budget and
resurrect a death-with-dignity
bill in a long voting session

>>The narrowest vote breathes
new life into assisted suicide

>>Cayetano says he may veto the
budget if it neglects the poo



The House floor session continued into last night, briefly tiring Rep. William Stonebraker.

The narrowest vote breathes
new life into assisted suicide

By Richard Borreca

In a 13-12 vote, the Senate cleared the way last night for a final vote on a bill to allow terminally ill patients to receive medication to kill them.

The death-with-dignity bill had already been approved by the House, but it was opposed by Sen. David Matsuura, Health Committee chairman, who had refused to let it come to a vote in his committee.

Senators last night voted 15-to-10 to pull the bill from Matsuura's committee and then after an emotional one-hour debate voted to put House Bill 2487, House Draft 1, on tomorrow's calendar for a final vote. If it is approved, it would go to Gov. Ben Cayetano, who has already said he supported such a measure.

The proposal would require an adult, terminally ill patient "of sound mind" to request in writing that the attending doctor give the patient a medication needed to kill him. The bill is similar to a 1997 Oregon law that is being challenged by the federal government.

The bill was pushed to the floor by Sen. Avery Chumbley (D, Maui), who described how his father died a painful death from cancer.

Heated debate occurred last night over the death-with-dignity bill. Said supporter Sen. Avery Chumbley, whose father died an agonizing death: "There is nothing dignified about this." He reminded fellow senators that only the patient can make the decision to -- as bill opponent Sen. Norman Sakamoto put it -- "pull the trigger," and that there are built-in safeguards.

"He was in tremendous agony, but he died in home, in my arms," Chumbley said.

After the vote, Chumbley said the support for the bill wasn't there in the Senate until this week.

"As people realized the opportunity would be missed, people changed their position and said they would be more willing or open to have a floor debate on it. Clearly people want to continue the debate." Chumbley said.

"I think there is going to be tremendous pressure on people; there may be some people who reverse their position, but it is about allowing people, individuals to make this choice. It is not about murdering someone," Chumbley said.

Others such as Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake) said the bill would allow everyone in Hawaii to have to make a decision about the fate of a terminally ill relative.

"This will equip everyone in this state with the trigger. When you see loved ones suffer, do you say 'Pull the trigger'?" Sakamoto asked.

Here are the senators who voted in favor of the bill on second reading:

Chumbley, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Carol Fukunaga, Colleen Hanabusa, Bob Hogue, David Ige, Les Ihara, Lorraine Inouye, Donna Mercado Kim, Russell Kokubun, Matt Matsunaga, Bob Nakata and Rod Tam.

Voting against the bill were Sens. Jan Yagi Buen, Jonathan Chun, Kalani English, Fred Hemmings, Brian Kanno, Cal Kawamoto, Matsuura, Ron Menor, Sakamoto, Sam Slom and Brian Taniguchi.



Cayetano says he may veto
the budget if it neglects the poor

By Richard Borreca

s Gov. Ben Cayetano said he is considering an unprecedented veto of the state budget if the poor and needy are "not well served" by the bill passed by the Legislature.

The additions to the state's $3.6 billion budget and accompanying revenue bills cleared the House and Senate yesterday. The state budget has never been vetoed, but Cayetano said he has asked his cabinet to give him a written report on whether their departments would be better off under the newly passed budget or the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature last year.

"From what I have seen, there have been big cuts in social services. These people don't have a teachers' union or a faculty union or expensive lobbyists paid by big business. They only have us to defend them," Cayetano said.

"If they are not well served, I won't hesitate to veto this budget and ask the Legislature to either come back into session or continue with the old budget," Cayetano said.

While he said he is not leaning toward a veto, the governor said he is "carefully considering it."

Legislators defended their budget yesterday, saying the recession sparked by last year's terrorist attack caused the state budget to have a $315 million deficit.

If Cayetano vetoes the budget, it would mean all the extra funds put in the budget this year, both operating funds and construction projects, would be dead.

Because the Legislature passes a biennial budget, the bill passed in 2001 contains supplemental appropriations for government operations this year.

But since state expenses have risen and revenues have declined, last year's budget is out of balance by $315 million. So if Cayetano vetoes the budget, and the Legislature does not come back into session and either pass a new bill or override a Cayetano veto, the governor would have to restrict spending to keep the state out of the red.

Cayetano said the strongest argument for not vetoing the budget is that it contains new construction projects that he strongly favors.

"It is a complex problem. The downside is, there are things in the budget like $38 million for Maui Memorial hospital and we have been pushing that for two years now," Cayetano said.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa) said the budget has $82 million less in expenditures, but the budget exercise helped him realize that the state administration "is not the wasteful machine it is characterized to be."

Senate Ways and Means Vice Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) said, "These are difficult times. And we must all prioritize what it is that we wanted to say with the budget. The budget is our policy statement."

Hanabusa said lawmakers wanted to make sure to keep promises, especially to public employees. "This budget did not in anyway jeopardize the pay raises they were entitled to," she said.

But Senate Republicans voted against the budget bill, saying that spending actually increases by $72 million in a budget that does not help the post-Sept. 11 economy.

"We haven't improved our business climate, we haven't improved our standard of living here and yet we go through the motions," Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) said.

In the House, Rep. Dwight Takamine, finance chairman, said the budget cuts $83 million from the spending plan submitted in January by Cayetano.

"There's no question that many of these cuts are actions that I personally do not want to take," said Takamine (D, Hamakua). "Education, which is at the top of our priority lists, is nevertheless facing serious program cuts."

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