Panel to eye ConCon pros, cons
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona will head a 10-member, bipartisan volunteer panel to look at the costs related to holding a constitutional convention.
The question of whether to hold a ConCon is on the November general election ballot. Critics have said a ConCon could be costly.
Aiona, who supports holding a convention to examine the state Constitution, says he has heard estimates as high as $70 million. Aiona says it could be done with fewer expenses, but has assembled a group to study the issue. The study is expected to take three months.
The group will have representatives from the House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaderships along with people from the League of Women Voters, the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, state comptroller and the Office of Elections and Departments of the Attorney General and Budget and Finance.
The issue is expected to be controversial. At yesterday's Capitol news conference to announce the committee, Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau) a committee member, said he thinks another ConCon would hurt the state.
"I have concerns that some of the loudest voices promoting a ConCon are those who want to take away and weaken our public education system, weaken the rights of labor and weaken environmental protections and the rights of native Hawaiians," Hooser said.
Attorney General Mark Bennett disagreed with Hooser, saying he thinks ConCon supporters are interested in "restoring balance between the criminal justice system, looking at term limits for legislators and asking if our education system is as good as it could be."
Rep. Della Au Belatti (D, Tantalus-Makiki), a strong supporter of a ConCon, said she thought the basic issue regarding changing the state Constitution was over the issue of change.
"If there is a divide it is between the status quo and people who want change. There is a feeling (of) gridlock on one hand opposed to the feeling of uncertainty," Belatti said.
According to Aiona, the public can't decide on the issue until the cost is known.
"The cost is first and foremost. If it is too high people will say 'Wait a minute, I don't even want to get to the issues,'" Aiona said.