Dems to alter UH regents selection
Majority Democrats in the Legislature are poised to pass a measure changing the nomination process for the University of Hawaii Board of Regents -- a proposal that is likely to be vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle.
The bill would require the governor to select regent nominees from a list provided by a newly created advisory council. The mandate was approved by voters in November. Currently the governor may nominate anyone, with the appointment subject to Senate confirmation.
7 openings ahead
The seats of seven of the 12 UH regents will become vacant on June 30. Lingle has resubmitted the nominations for five of them: Board Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta, Student Regent Michael Dahilig, East Hawaii Regent Marlene Hapai and Regents Byron Bender and Jane Tatibouet.
The other seat being vacated is that of Alvin Tanaka. There also is a vacancy for a West Hawaii regent for a term that expires in 2010.
Lingle was not immediately available for comment yesterday, but Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona said, "I'm pretty sure we're going to veto that bill."
"If I had the option of doing that, I'd probably veto that bill," Aiona said. "That would be my recommendation to the governor."
Lingle vetoed a similar measure last year, months before election day, saying it was premature to approve the formation of an advisory committee before voters decided the issue.
The new proposal, Senate Bill 14, was approved by the Senate 17-4, and advanced out of the House yesterday by a vote of 42-3. Democrats would need a two-thirds majority to override the governor's veto.
The Senate is expected to agree to minor changes in the bill made by the House and send the proposal to the governor. By moving quickly, Democrats would be able to override a veto before the Legislature adjourns on May 3.
"I did see the two amendments that they did make, and I believe they helped clarify some things," said Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village). "At this point in time, I hope we could agree to the amendments and then send the bill to governor."
Senators are expected to hold a news conference later this week to voice their support for the measure.
The proposal would create a seven-member Candidate Advisory Council, with one member each selected by the governor, House speaker, Senate president, the UH faculty senate chairperson, the UH student caucus, former regents and the UH Alumni Association.
It also would expand the number of regents to 15 from 12, and require that neighbor islands be represented on the board, which sets policy for the 10-campus UH system.
Republicans argue that the bill is a partisan measure that aims to reduce the powers of the Republican governor.
"It really is a stripping of the governor's powers," Aiona said. The appointment process "has been in existence for a long time -- since the inception of the university -- and now all of a sudden it's not good and we're going to change it? I just don't understand that."
House Republicans unsuccessfully tried to amend the proposal to have the council be made up of three members appointed by the governor and two each appointed by the Senate president and House speaker.
They cited testimony from University President David McClain, who said the university's accrediting bodies and a national association of university governing boards recommend that the governor appoint members of a selection committee, rather than having representatives from different groups.
Minority Floor Leader Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Kahuku) said the proposed GOP amendment strikes "a more equitable balance."
"This is a bit of a compromise, but I think it's a wise one," she said.
House Democrats argued that the makeup suggested by the GOP was more partisan.
"We purposely created the Candidate Advisory Council with balance," said Rep. K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City). "I think that our proposal is the farthest thing from politicizing the selection process."