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Editorials
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Friday, June 28, 2002



[ OUR OPINION ]

Legislators can wait
until regular session


THE ISSUE

Some legislators are calling for a special session to override Governor Cayetano's vetoes of certain bills.


CALLS for a special session of the Legislature to override vetoes by Governor Cayetano are nothing more than political posturing. The two bills prompting most of the talk -- campaign finance reform and tax breaks for development at Ko Olina -- can be reconsidered in next year's legislative session and, if approved again, by the next governor.

While Cayetano's veto of the most significant campaign-finance reform measure in years was disappointing, it will have no effect whatsoever if next year's Legislature approves the reform and the next governor signs it into law. The bill, if Cayetano had approved it, would not have taken effect until after this year's election -- so its earliest effect would have been on the campaign leading up to the 2004 election.

The governor opposed the bill because of what he regarded as "a major flaw," the exemption of state legislative candidates. The most important provision of the bill was a ban on contributions from companies receiving government contracts. Those contracts are awarded by the executive branches of county and state governments, so it would have had little if any bearing on legislative candidates. However, legislators next year should include themselves in the bill, if only to satisfy the possible whims of the new governor.

Developers at Ko Olina are disheartened but have not surrendered despite Cayetano's veto of a $75 million tax credit for their proposed world-class aquarium and marine science center. Cayetano said he opposed a tax credit that would benefit a single project instead of "the tourism industry as a whole." In addition, he said, it did not ensure economic growth, would have been "difficult to administer" and contained "vague language that leaves it open to misinterpretation."

The developers plan to present their proposal to next year's Legislature and can be expected to clarify language in the bill while not wavering from its thrust. Meanwhile, the proposal is sure to be an issue in this year's gubernatorial election.


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Appeals court ruling
no threat to pledge


THE ISSUE

A federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Hawaii has ruled that "one nation under God" cannot be recited as part of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.


THE possibility that a federal appeals court ruling that the phrase "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance cannot be recited in public schools will withstand an appeal is so remote that education officials should not be concerned. The issue probably will not even reach the U.S. Supreme Court after the storm of public outrage in reaction to the ruling. Hawaii school officials are taking no risk by allowing the pledge recitations to continue.

Hypothetically, Hawaii is vulnerable because it and eight other Western states fall under the jurisdiction of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued the opinion. The divided ruling by a three-judge panel will be appealed to the full appellate court, which is likely to reverse it. In the unlikely event that the full court affirms the ruling, and the even more unlikely event that the Supreme Court then refuses to hear an appeal, the school ban on reciting the pledge would be the law of the islands. That won't happen.

The Supreme Court, which opens each of its sessions with the request that "God save the United States and this honorable court," has suggested in the context of related issues that "one nation under God" in the pledge to the flag is constitutional in school settings. The high court stated more than a century ago that "this is a religious nation" and has not wavered much from that outlook.

The court commented in a 1962 decision striking down school prayer that it was not "inconsistent with the fact that school children and others are officially encouraged to express love for country by reciting historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence which contain references to deity or by singing officially espoused anthems which contain the composer's professions of faith in a supreme being."

However, in pandering to public sentiment, many politicians overreacted to the 9th Circuit decision. A fine line can separate rote references to deities, such as the "In God we trust" national motto stamped on currency, and proselytizing to schoolchildren. The appellate judges learned how hot that line can get.



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Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner,
Assistant Editor 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790; mpoole@starbulletin.com
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533; jflanagan@starbulletin.com

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