Lingle appointees head into rough water of confirmation hearings
EVEN in the most cuddly of times, the relationship between the governor and the Senate is tenuous when cabinet appointments are on the line.
No governor wants to lose any appointment, whether it be a Supreme Court nominee or an appointment to the civil defense advisory council.
For Gov. Linda Lingle, the legislative relationship has ranged from temperate at the best of times to chilly on all the other days. She will never hear senators tell her, "No problem, just send the names down, we'll take care of it."
Instead, confirmation hearings are proving a perfect time for senators to glory in the separation of powers, the responsibility to provide advice and consent and how checks and balances does the body politic good.
This year, the Senate is looking at three nominees with a critical eye. Peter Young, director of Land and Natural Resources; Lillian Koller, Human Services director; and Iwalani White, Public Safety director, all appear to be heading for rough hearings, according to Senate leaders.
Senators are grumbling that they are getting too many calls from staffers working for both Koller and White, who are critical of their bosses.
Senators take those complaints seriously because they know that a disgruntled staff stops a department.
In comparison, in the committee report enthusiastically supporting Georgina Kawamura's reappointment as Budget and Finance director, the Senate Ways and Means committee gushed: "In a rare expression of support and respect, nine department of Budget and Finance managers and senior staff members expressed their support.
"She has a remarkable ability to absorb details of the operating and CIP budget and displays a thorough understanding of budgeting practices ... she has brought graciousness, composure and level-headedness to the position, along with her sense of humor."
Legislators even thought it was fine that Kawamura "has prodded our staff and departmental staffs to develop better performance measures."
Some of the mumbled criticism of Koller and White is that their staffs don't care for their management style.
Interestingly, Young has gone from condemnation by environmental groups to a hearty endorsement by the Sierra Club, which says it is proud to stand by him during the confirmation hearings.
Senators see murky water in that sea change of support and say Young might need to channel Jacques Cousteau to keep his position for another four years.