Bills improperly curtail governor’s authority
For decades, the governor of Hawaii has been responsible for making a number of critical appointments within state government. Our democratic system appropriately delegates the authority to our state's chief executive because such appointments do not fall within the legislative scope of responsibility.
But once again, Democratic legislators are attempting to pass eight bills to improperly curtail the governor's authority in filling legislative and judicial vacancies, entering into international trade agreements, and appointing members of the Hawaii Tourism Authority Board of Directors and the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.
Why tamper now with authority properly ascribed to the governor, after a half-century of the system working successfully? The answer could be as simple as a Democratic-controlled Legislature not liking a Republican governor making such appointments. Stripping executive powers is a serious matter and should not be politically motivated.
Two bills relate to filling legislative vacancies (House Bill 304 and Senate Bill 1063).
At present, when filling vacancies in the U.S. Senate or state Legislature, the governor appoints an individual from the previous incumbent's political party. Under HB 304 and SB 1063, the governor would be forced to choose from a restrictive list of just three candidates submitted by the previous incumbent's political party.
Such a law has two fundamental problems: It unnecessarily restricts the pool of qualified candidates for the vacancy and it places a political party official in a position of power, when they are not elected by or accountable to the people of Hawaii.
Another piece of legislation, SB 948, would limit the Judicial Selection Commission to providing only three names to the governor when filling vacancies for chief justice, Supreme Court, intermediate appellate court and circuit courts. The commission could provide only three names to the chief justice for filling district and family court vacancies. Currently the commission can submit six names to the governor and at least six names to the chief justice. Again, why restrict a pool of candidates and possibly eliminate an appointee who could be best for Hawaii?
Legislators also are pursuing a drastic reduction to executive authority through SB 1823 by reducing from 12 to two the number of voting members appointed by the governor to the Hawaii Tourism Authority Board of Directors. The bill proposes allowing the speaker of the House and Senate president each to have three nominations to the board, which is clearly an attempt to shift not only party power, but the lines of power between the executive and legislative branches of government. The speaker of the House and Senate president also would take responsibility for three appointments each to the 13-member Contractors License Board under HB 966.
One of the most publicized changes suggested by legislators is the establishment of a candidate advisory council for the UH Board of Regents. The council would present a pool of candidates for the Board of Regents to the governor. Under HB 135 and SB 14, of the seven proposed members of the council, only one would be selected by the governor. Each of the other six members would be selected by a different group. UH President David McClain testified before the Senate in January that the university's accrediting bodies and a national association of university governing boards recommended that the governor appoint members of a selection committee.
"Such a Noah's Ark-style candidate advisory committee actually injects more politics into the regent selection process, not less," McClain said.
HB 31, however, could be the most restrictive and damaging to Hawaii's economy. This bill would eliminate the governor's authority to enter into international trade agreements and contracts without explicit approval of the Legislature. The federal government frequently asks states to consent to such arrangements on short notice, and this measure would inhibit international business with the state of Hawaii and put local businesses and their employees at a severe disadvantage when competing in the global marketplace.
Please contact your legislators today and urge them not to improperly curtail the executive authority of the governor.
James R. "Duke" Aiona Jr. is Hawaii's lieutenant governor.