Labor chiefs urge Dems to override gov's vetoes
The unions support several threatened pieces of legislation
Democrats in the Legislature should override all 28 of Gov. Linda Lingle's threatened vetoes to "demonstrate leadership for the party," according to a letter sent to all 61 Democrats by a group of politically powerful labor unions.
The letter was sent to the House and Senate Democrats by Russell Okata, director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association; Ron Taketa, director of the Carpenters Union; Guy Fujimura, ILWU secretary-treasurer; Dayton Nakanelua, United Public Workers executive director; and Randy Perreira, president of the state AFL-CIO.
Lingle says she might veto up to 28 bills passed by the 2006 Legislature. Among them are several bills supported by labor.
» House Bill 266, which would restrict the state and counties from transferring government employees.
» HB 1867, which would extend workers' compensation medical payments.
» Senate Bill 2190, which would increase unemployment insurance.
» SB 3035, which would extend temporary disability payments.
The union leaders told the 61 Democratic legislators that the bills should become law because the measures are "all of the significant bills affecting the labor movement here in Hawaii."
"As leaders of the major labor unions in Hawaii, we are looking to the Democrats in the House and Senate to step up and demonstrate leadership for the party by meeting the governor's challenge and returning in special session to override her vetoes of these critical issues," the letter said.
In response, Lingle said the lawmakers should not look at the bills in a political light.
"It is my hope that our legislators will put public interest before party. As public officials we must represent all the people, not just some. I am certain that the public will have no trouble recognizing the difference," Lingle said.
The union leaders cast an override session as an opening salvo in the 2006 elections.
"In our view, it is imperative before the 2006 elections that Democrats make a stand and demonstrate how we are philosophically different from (the) governor and her party," the letter said.
Perreira said the letter was an attempt to show the Democrats that the unions would support them if they returned for an override session.
"The issue of a special session could be attacked on a cost basis, but if there is a good reason to return, we are ready to stand with the legislators to come back and stand with them," Perreira said in an interview.
In the union letter, the leaders say that labor "exists in an extremely tough political environment in Hawaii.
"Here at home, despite a proud history of legislative achievement where we as Democrats have stood for social equality and justice for workers, we face the daunting task of dealing with a Republican governor with enormous appeal and great popularity," the letter stated.
Perreira added that he thought the Legislature would have public support to override a possible veto of another bill, HB 3116, which calls for a health insurance program for children unable to get other forms of health insurance.
Lingle said the bill would allow families who could qualify for other forms of insurance to enroll in the program, and that could "crowd out those who genuinely need the coverage."
Lingle has until Tuesday to announce her vetoes. If it wishes, the Legislature may come back on that day to overturn them.
But any of Lingle's vetoes have to be overridden with a two-thirds vote in both chambers to allow the measures to become law.
In their letter, the union leaders noted that "the bills on the governor's veto list reflect a lot of hard work, but more important are reflective of the philosophy that Democrats must uphold.
"To achieve that purpose, we are counting on the Legislature to take up the challenge and stand for what all of us believe in," the letter said.