Partisan bickering threatens public safety in Hawaii
The Legislature has overridden 11 of Gov. Linda Lingle's vetoes, adding to the eight overrides during its regular session.
PARTISAN acrimony between Hawaii's Republican governor and Democratic-controlled Legislature reached a new high this week, as the Legislature finished a record 19 veto overrides from this year's session
. Our concern is that this political conflict has boiled over, potentially scorching the general public.
Gov. Linda Lingle called for cooperation of legislators, but her administration's delay in notifying them of the governor's planned vetoes was not conducive to collaboration. Partisan grandstanding appeared to rule over the public interest.
Legislators overrode eight vetoes during their regular session earlier this year, and they added 11 in a special session Tuesday. Lingle complained that legislators demonstrated their "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."
In an opinion column on Sunday, Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona called on Democratic legislators to "act in the public interest" by making the bill changes. In an op-ed response yesterday, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa faulted the administration for failing to approach legislators about fixes until the 11th hour.
One of the vetoed bills overridden by legislators would allow prison inmates serving time at mainland facilities to be returned to Hawaii a year or less before their terms expire. Clearly, the bill was a slap at Lingle for dropping her proposal a year ago to build two prisons to house the nearly 2,000 inmates now on the mainland because of overcrowding of state facilities.
Hanabusa said the state Public Safety Department will have to "figure something out" about where to put them. There is no space, Lingle said, and prisoners will have to be released before completing their sentences, compromising the safety of the community.
Legislators also overrode Lingle's veto of a bill authorizing expenditure of $3 million to install traffic lights and paint crosswalks to protect pedestrians. The governor supported the purpose of the bill but opposed taking the money from the state Highway Fund, which can be used to draw matching federal funds if spent on highway improvements.
Lingle favored using money from the general fund to pay for the pedestrian safety improvements. Despite the veto override, Lingle said she will refuse to release the Highway Fund money, to the consternation of elderly pedestrians who demonstrated in favor of the bill.
Legislators would have overridden more vetoes if 10 Democratic dissidents had not defected from the party leadership. Rep. Sylvia Luke, one of the dissidents, said Lingle had expressed "legitimate concerns" in some of her vetoes.