Legislative lap dogs suck it up
PUTTING aside the Senate Democrats' boorish behavior in the rejection of Peter Young as Land and Natural Resources director, the Senate's action remains worrisome.
One problem is the often-cited influence of public employee unions in the affairs of the entire state.
Gov. Linda Lingle was right on target when she explained the defeat of both Young and Public Safety Director Iwalani White in terms of the Senate catering to the public unions. Lingle worried that a malcontent with a state paycheck could get a couple of buddies to go along and start a campaign against their director, winding up with the employee getting the boss canned while legislators pass out Kleenex and pillows to the vexed workers.
That's a good part of what happened to White and Young.
THE STATE treats private and public unions differently in the Constitution. Private employees have a constitutional right to bargain collectively -- that is, form a union. The range of rights for public employees is set by the Legislature.
That means what the Legislature gives, the Legislature can take away, and that is why any public union leader worth his free parking stall should be the best friend of all legislators.
Somehow there has been a role reversal among the 76 lawmakers, and it is the Legislature that has acquired the sucking-up imperative. So when Randy Perreira, deputy director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association and president of the Hawaii AFL-CIO, writes to fellow union leaders asking for donations of between $500 and $1,000, as he did recently for one legislator, it is easy to see why lawmakers would be attentive.
If Democrats are ready to stand up and salute when the HGEA marches past, they are equally willing to sit down and dis when the Republican administration parades by.
FOR THE past five years, the majority has treated the administration like an occupying army rather than a co-equal branch of government. It started the first year with Democrats nickel-and-diming the expenses for Lingle's office and was still alive last week with the flaying of Peter Young.
Lingle now has three departments without directors, and she is openly worrying about being able to recruit satisfactory replacements, let alone lure the best and brightest to government service. A pattern has formed that unions set the Legislature's table and stock the pantry, while the Legislature hacks away at the administration's executives.
That real pattern of abuse, meaningless conflict and misbehavior within the legislative and executive branches is now the norm, and it is the definition of a dysfunctional family.