author On Politics

Richard Borreca

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Early-bird Democrats
may choke on the worm

This is going to come as a shock, but the Legislature's Democratic leaders have a plan to actually wrap up business 10 days early.

This sudden left-brained attack of attention to detail was caused by their struggle to find new ways to get a leg up in their running two-year battle against Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

The plan is to pass the state budget, the education reform bill, plus the omnibus drug bill and its companion expenditure bill at least 10 days before the end of the session.

"This year the budget could come to the floor three weeks early," Sen. Fred Hemmings, GOP leader, points out.

In his best attempt at understatement, Hemmings, (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo), notes that this concern about the calendar "has more to do with politics, than efficiency."

A quick review of the state Constitution explains the Democrats new-found interest in productivity. The Constitution (Article III, Section 16) gives the governor 10 days to review bills sent to her 10 or more days before the end of the session.

"If any such bill is neither signed nor returned by the governor (vetoed) within that time, it shall become law in a manner as if the governor had signed it," the Constitution reads.

So if Democrats can get their big issues to Lingle early, she has only until the end of the legislative session, May 6, to veto them. Because weekends, holidays and legislative recess days are not counted, the Legislature has until April 21 to get those bills up to Lingle.

"They are going to hurry things up, so that if she vetoes the budget and the other bills, they will still be in session and able to override the veto," explains Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai).

For the timing to work, Rep. Calvin Say, House speaker, and Sen. Bob Bunda, Senate president, have had to cooperate more than usual. This year the two have walked, if not in lockstep, then at least down the same path at the same time.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate won't confirm the plan on the record, but others in leadership say that the agreement is to move those four major bills together to the floor for an early final vote. They calculate that Lingle will then be faced with vetoing popular legislation knowing that as soon as she rejects it, the Legislature will be in session ready to override the veto.

In previous years, just getting the Legislature to reconvene for a special legislative session has been nearly as contentious as the actual veto override debate. The new strategy would be akin to having everyone already locked and loaded when Lingle shows up at the OK Corral.

But while Democrats are visualizing an easy win, it is an open question whether the public will see it the same way.

"They (Democrats) are taking a calculated risk that if they all stay together they will be OK in the November elections," Slom observes. "They are deluding themselves in thinking that the public doesn't care."

The selling point for Democrats will be to reject the gamesmanship in favor of defensible accomplishments that voters will understand.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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


E-mail to Editorial Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --