No sirens in emergency power play
The first round in a largely unseen tiff between Gov. Linda Lingle, House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa has ended.
Expect more as the trio jockey for power in the waning days of Lingle's Republican administration.
This dust-up is about Lingle declaring the homeless problem in Leeward Oahu and Kauai a state emergency, invoking emergency powers to start building shelters and move families off the beach.
In an effort to continue the program, Lingle also continued her emergency powers this year.
Because she did not tell the Legislature about the declaration and that she was using profits from the Employer-Union Trust Fund, the public workers health fund, to pay for the emergency programs, Say and Hanabusa questioned why she could not travel from the fifth to the fourth floor of the Capitol to talk to them.
Without the emergency powers, Lingle said, the state would be mired in permits and environmental reports, and "the chronic nature of the problem screamed for a unique solution."
Lingle asked, if homeless lining the beaches and sleeping in bushes is not an emergency, then what is? And she dared Say and Hanabusa to make her stop.
"If the homeless situation is not an emergency, and we should approach the homeless situation in typical government fashion, please let me know in writing by Friday, Sept. 7 ... and I will rescind the proclamation," Lingle wrote.
Hanabusa shot back saying she didn't think the homeless situation "warrants the extraordinary exercise of emergency powers that grant you carte blanche, while denying the people of this state any input in the formulation of these important public policies."
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the resulting economic fall-off, the Legislature gave then-Gov. Ben Cayetano emergency powers to handle state contracts. The first version of the bill gave Cayetano such sweeping emergency power that it was dubbed the "King Ben bill," and then-GOP chairwoman Lingle led a public rally against it.
The legislator who modified the bill to address Lingle's concerns was Hanabusa, who included a section calling for the Senate president and House speaker to review any emergency powers exercised by Cayetano. The emergency power bill lasted for just six months. Lingle's actions now are with standard emergency power laws.
Asked if, in light of her previous concerns, she thought her new use of emergency powers was wise, Lingle didn't hesitate.
"I think it works really well and the public supports it."
Lingle added that while she has patched things up with Say, she thinks Hanabusa "needs to get focused" on the homeless problem in her own district, speculating that "maybe she had her feelings hurt."
Watch for Round Two.