JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dozens of AARP members rallied at the state Capitol yesterday, including Waianae residents Rodlyn Brown, left, and Angela Sacrider, to back pedestrian safety bills in the Legislature. CLICK FOR LARGE
Lingle clashes with Democrats over 'flawed' bills
» 11 more bills become law
Over issues ranging from the fate of Hawaii felons, elderly pedestrians and unwanted newborns, Gov. Linda Lingle and the Legislature's Democratic majority are at war.
The Legislature slapped down a record-setting 19 vetoes this year, including 11 yesterday, the deadline for override efforts.
Early in the debate, Lingle had asked lawmakers to amend bills she said were flawed. The disagreement, Democratic leaders said, was not on the bills' legality, but their merits.
After the six-hour special veto-override session, Lingle stepped up her attack on the Democrats.
"It is disappointing that the Legislature demonstrated again today its unwillingness to work collaboratively with my administration to make common-sense amendments and simple fixes to bills that will ultimately be subject to legal challenges or will be deemed unconstitutional," she said.
Lingle vetoed spending bills for pedestrian safety measures such as traffic lights and painted crosswalks and to allow PBS Hawaii to share space with a creative media academy on the University of Hawaii campus. The Legislature overrode the vetoes and Lingle said she would not release the money.
"I'm not going to release the funding now," Lingle said last night about the pedestrian safety bill. "I've told the legislators that because they've designated that I have to take it from the Highway Fund, I'm not going to do it.
"We've just received a report this month that our roads are among the top five worst in the nation," she said. "That's because the Legislature raided the highway fund of over $100 million since 1995. And we can't ever get our roads in condition if we keep taking money out."
Legislative leaders said they have lost patience with an administration that refuses to respect the Legislature's role in setting policy.
"Remember, we enact the laws, we do appropriations. The actual administration of it is with the executive branch," Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said in an afternoon news conference.
The prisoner return bill, SB 932, provoked a major skirmish.
Lingle said the bill unrealistically demands that the state return prisoners from the mainland if they have less than one year before parole.
"This bill endangers the well-being of inmates, compromises the safety of the community, exposes the state to costly litigation and provides only a single year of funding for programs with multiyear impacts," Lingle said.
The governor said she is having the Attorney General do a legal analysis to determine whether the law is a mandate or whether she has any options. "If it's a mandate, the concern is we will need to release the people before they've served their time because we don't have the facilities here," she said.
Hanabusa countered, "We have got to a point where we have to bring our prisoners home."
Asked where the returning prisoners would be housed, Hanabusa said it was up to the Public Safety Department to "figure something out."
Lingle vetoed a so-called safe-haven bill that gives immunity to anyone who abandons a newborn baby at hospitals or police or fire stations. The governor objected on several levels, including concerns over fathers' rights.
"I came to be very concerned about the fact that someone could take your child. It's not even theirs, and they could just abandon it," she added.
Lawmakers disagreed, so Hawaii now becomes the 48th state with a safe-haven bill.
Besides sparring with Lingle, House Democrats had their own internal disagreements. Democratic leaders in the House initially had said there was support to override nearly all of Lingle's potential vetoes.
But that support faltered, resulting in overrides of fewer than half of the 27 bills that Lingle vetoed yesterday.
One reason for that was opposition from a faction of 10 House Democrats who have been critical of leadership this session.
The group of 10 dissidents, combined with eight Republicans, had the numbers to block overrides if they wanted, and let leadership know, said Rep. Sylvia Luke (D, Pacific Heights-Punchbowl). "That kind of had an effect on some of the bills not being overridden," Luke said.
"One of the things we wanted to stress was that the governor had legitimate concerns when the veto messages came down," she added.
Republicans also acknowledged the cooperation with Democrats.
"It was a collaboration, really, between the dissidents and the Republicans that gave the numbers where some (vetoes) couldn't pass an override," said Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Kahuku).
11 MORE BILLS BECOME LAW
State legislators overrode 11 of Gov. Linda Lingle's 27 vetoes in a special session yesterday. The 11 measures, noted here with Lingle's comments on why she had rejected them, now become law:
» SB 0932: Relating to a comprehensive offender re-entry system. "This bill endangers the well-being of inmates, compromises the safety of the community, exposes the state to costly litigation and provides only a single year of funding for programs with multiyear impacts. This bill unrealistically requires the Department of Public Safety to return inmates from the mainland at least one year prior to their parole or release date to participate in inmate re-entry programs without ensuring adequate facilities to house them and without considering the inmate's completion of rehabilitation programs."
» SB 1066: Relating to invasive species. "This bill imposes a new fee on marine commercial containers exclusively, despite other possible invasive-species entry modes into Hawaii. Assessing a new fee only on marine shipments, while using the fee for inspection of other modes of cargo shipment, could be subject to legal challenge."
» SB 1191: Relating to pedestrian safety. "This bill will appropriate $3 million over two years for county pedestrian improvements. Even though the underlying purpose is good, it is not appropriate to subsidize county programs solely with the State Highway Fund while the counties receive funds through the county fuel taxes. The State Highway Fund has been depleted over the past several years and is not the proper source of funding for this undertaking."
» SB 1922: Relating to creative media. "This bill appears to violate Section 5 of Article XI of the Hawaii Constitution by requiring the University of Hawaii to lease a specific property to a specific private party (PBS) at no cost and on specific terms and conditions. ... The bill violates the terms on which the university holds the land by setting aside the authority of the Board of Regents to control and manage the land and substituting the Legislature's determination of how the land should be used for the Regents."
» House Bill 0030: Relating to international trade agreements. "This bill places Hawaii's firms at a disadvantage regarding tariffs and access to international markets. ... This bill prohibits Hawaii's governor from approving an international trade agreement without legislative approval and would require notification to the Senate president and House speaker to convene a special session to approve an agreement."
» HB 0310: Relating to technology. "This bill creates a 15-member Broadband Task Force solely appointed by the Senate president and House speaker and fails to recognize the proper location within the state government for this function."
» HB 0718: Relating to Kakaako. "This bill is unconstitutional because it sets aside two specific parcels, known as the old ice chute and the fuel dock operations building site, for the continued use of the Kewalo Keiki Fishing Conservancy, which violates Article XI, Section 5 of the Hawaii State Constitution. Additionally, a 2002 environmental report found benzene, lead, asbestos and other hazardous chemicals at the site."
» HB 1270: Relating to state planning. "This bill requires the auditor to continue to prepare the 2050 sustainability plan, a function outside of the scope of the auditor's duties, further delays the issuance of the plan, and appropriates an additional $850,000 to the project, bringing the total in state expenditures to $1.7 million."
» HB 1503: Relating to employment. "This bill adversely impacts employers and employees by requiring businesses that are going through bankruptcy or restructuring their finances to prematurely notify their employees and the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations of a possible closure. Requiring public disclosure may negatively impact the very employees this bill seeks to help by jeopardizing the owner's efforts to reconstitute their business."
» HB 1605: Relating to traffic control. "This bill diverts $400,000 from the State Highway Fund for a traffic control center exclusively on Maui that is not part of the approved State Transportation Improvement Plan and is not included in the Maui County budget."
» HB 1830: Relating to child protection. "This bill provides immunity from prosecution for a person who abandons a newborn baby who is less than 72 hours old. This bill allows anyone to leave the newborn regardless of whether the individual is in legal possession or related to the infant and without genealogical or medical history about the child. This bill provides no safeguards to protect the rights of both parents or extended family members such as grandparents. The infant would be placed at a disadvantage regarding eligibility for blood-quantum based programs."
Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.