Battle looms over UH regents
Lawmakers are speeding the creation of a council to select board candidates
The state Legislature is moving quickly to create an advisory council to select University of Hawaii regents, a move that could run afoul of Gov. Linda Lingle.
7 regent seats could soon be vacant
The seats of seven of the 12 University of Hawaii regents will become vacant on June 30 if the Regent Selection Commission fails to nominate candidates for the board by the time the Legislature adjourns. Regents whose terms expire June 30 are:
» Kitty Lagareta, board chairwoman.
» Michael Dahilig, student regent.
» Marlene Hapai, East Hawaii regent.
» Byron Bender.
» Jane Tatibouet.
» Alvin Tanaka.
There is also one vacancy for a West Hawaii regent for a term that expires in 2010.
Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto said the Legislature is poised to pass a bill by the end of next month to follow the wishes of voters who passed a constitutional amendment in November that mandates that the governor select regents from a list provided by the yet-to-be-created advisory council.
One reason for the unusual legislative speediness is that there is a chance Lingle will veto the measure, which would send it back to the Legislature for further adjustment or for a veto override vote before the session ends in April, Sakamoto acknowledged.
Senate Bill 14 and its companion House Bill 135 are similar to another measure passed by the Legislature that Lingle vetoed last year.
The bills would create a seven-member Candidate Advisory Council, with one member each selected by the governor, House speaker, Senate president, the UH faculty senate chairmen, the UH student caucus, former regents and the UH Alumni Association.
The administration and the University of Hawaii submitted bills that would have the governor appoint all members of the commission.
Sakamoto (D, Moanalua-Foster Village) said he will recommend the Senate Education Committee hold the UH and administration bills and move forward SB 14 with amendments on Wednesday. The House will hold a hearing on its bill on Tuesday.
SB 14 would also expand the Board of Regents from 12 to 15 members.
The terms of six regents will expire on June 30, and there is one vacancy. So if the board is expanded to 15 members, the advisory council might have to submit names for 10 regents to the governor. The nominees also would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Sakamoto said even if the Legislature passes the bill by the end of February, the advisory council will not have enough time to screen nominees for all the vacancies by the time the Legislature adjourns in May.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa sent a letter to the state attorney general on Wednesday asking for confirmation that regents whose terms are expiring can continue to serve past June 30. She also sought an opinion on whether the advisory council would be able to select nominees for the regents' terms that are expiring this year.
At a Senate Education Committee hearing yesterday, UH President David McClain told senators that "best practice" according to the university's accrediting bodies and a national association of university governing boards is that the governor appoint members of a selection committee, rather than having representatives from different groups.
"Such a Noah's Ark-style candidate advisory committee actually injects more politics into the regent selection process, not less," McClain said, adding that a constituent-driven advisory panel could lead to a board that reflects the interests of the people who nominated them, rather than the interests of the university as a whole.
But Sakamoto questioned whether what is good for students, faculty and alumni would not also be good for the university as a whole.
Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) also asked McClain whether an advisory council would be less political than the current system, which he said has led to the nomination of regents who have contributed money to the governor's election campaigns.
The Board of Regents sets policy for the 10-campus UH system.