Richar Borreca

On Politics


Sunday, July 14, 2002

Here a veto, there a veto
... candidates tell when
they would just say no

Gov. Ben Cayetano has never been one to suffer in silence. If he feels aggrieved, he announces it. If he feels something is wrong, Cayetano says so.

One way a governor may express his displeasure is with a veto pen, so it is not surprising that during the Cayetano administration, that pen has gotten a lot of exercise.

Cayetano has contributed 312 vetoes during his eight years in office, or almost 40 percent of the 818 vetoes since statehood. Last year Cayetano moved into the state record book by suffering the first veto override of a governor since statehood 43 years ago.

The question of how the next governor will deal with the Legislature is already on the minds of lawmakers. Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, who went to the state Supreme Court for a clarification of state law because of Cayetano's vetoes of a series of bills this session, says the governor might give more consideration to the voice of the Legislature.

Although any governor has a constitutional right to veto any piece of legislation, Hanabusa recommends that governors consider that the bill represents the effort of compromise by 76 legislators.

If the governor is of a different party, will there be more of a philosophical clash?

Republican gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle says no, explaining that if she is elected, she expects her relationship with the Legislature to be similar to her experience with a Democratic county council when she was mayor of Maui.

Vetoes and overrides on a municipal level are not as seismic as at the state scale. This is probably because there is only so much ego you can devote to deciding how much to charge to pick up garbage.

And, Lingle says, the Legislature represents the people and vetoes should not be used as whims or just to reflect a governor's personal opinion.

D.G. "Andy" Anderson, a Republican who turned to the Democratic Party to run for governor, agrees. He recalls one of the profound lessons he learned in politics came when former Gov. John Burns, a devout Catholic, allowed the bill legalizing abortion to become law.

"He was respecting the Legislature because it represented the people," Anderson said.

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, who last month jumped back into the governor's race, says she would be "judicious" in the use of vetoes, adding that she would reject measures that were either very expensive or could be handled with rules and regulations instead of laws.

The only candidate who reacted with enthusiasm for the debate and battle over legislative vetoes is Rep. Ed Case, the Manoa Democrat, who says a veto doesn't reflect badly on the Legislature and an override is not an act of disloyalty.

"The Legislature and the governor are separate and co-equal; neither has a higher claim to represent the voice of the people," Case said.

He also doesn't see a problem with Cayetano's disproportionate number of vetoes, explaining that Cayetano sees problems with the state budget and policies that the Legislature just hasn't realized. It is a debate that Case hopes to continue from the governor's office this December.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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