Democrats' assault on governor's executive powers continues unabated
WHEN the framers of our state government and Constitution got together, they recognized the need for accountability of our elected officials; they also recognized that the chief executive, be it John Burns or Linda Lingle, should be given the power to make appointments. And this has been the case up until the Lingle administration, when there have been many attempts to curtail her executive powers as the governor of Hawaii.
For example, one of the appointments that all governors have been able to make is that of filling legislative vacancies. Further, the governor is accountable for his or her appointments. Whether a Democrat or Republican, they fulfill that responsibility of making an appointment from the same political party as the legislator who vacates a position. All of our governors have fulfilled this constitutional responsibility.
However, Senate Bill 1063, Senate Draft 1, House Draft 1 will require the governor, in filling vacancies in the state Senate, state House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, to select from a list of three prospective appointees nominated by the political party of the prior incumbent.
The bill also requires prospective appointees to be members of nominating political parties at the time of submission of their names to the governor. The bill, which will become effective on approval, will require prospective appointees to be residents of the same electoral district as the prior incumbent at the time of appointment.
This bill is accountable to no one, and is one of the 109-plus bills Democrats introduced to handcuff Republican Lingle's powers since she took office five years ago. Viewed another way, it is one of the 109-plus attempts the Legislature attempted to grab political power for itself.
SB 1063, SD 1, HD 1 proposes that the process of selecting replacements of legislators be put in the hands of party leaders, who aren't elected by the people of the state and therefore aren't accountable to the people of the state.
Let's dispel one of the myths in this bill's premise. The bill purports to take political gamesmanship out of the process by having the governor make an appointment from a list of three names supplied by the vacating legislator's political party. If those placed on the list aren't elected by the public at large, we cannot assume that they have the best interests of the constituents of the vacated district in mind. The nominee's loyalty would most likely lie with the selection committee's political party agenda -- and that is political gamesmanship.
Furthermore, this bill purports to put a time limit on when the new nominee shall be named. By imposing such a time limit, the measure gives no flexibility for events that might be occurring at the time. An executive, like the governor, is accountable to the people who elected them. Therefore, their hands should not be tied by a legislative timetable.
This same hand-tying process is being repeated for Lingle to appoint members of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. The Legislature has argued that it is taking politics out of the process of appointments by taking these appointment powers away from the governor.
When all is said and done, appointments will be made on the basis of their relationship to president of the Senate or the speaker of the House, and we can be sure that politics has certainly entered the picture.
So the tug of war continues between the Legislature and the governor, but I believe a majority of the people would agree that the governor should continue to make these appointments. Her recent confirmation of Judge Glenn Kim and renominations of her fine cabinet have shown she is more than capable of choosing the best and the brightest to serve Hawaii's people.
It is best that we honor the intent of what the framers of our state government and Constitution had in mind several decades ago and let Lingle do her job, as she is well capable of doing without legislative interference. Party politics should stop and legislators should focus on serving the people of Hawaii.
Rep. Gene Ward, a Republican, represents Hawaii Kai to Kalama Valley.