Thursday, May 7, 1998

Legislature '98

Trustee pay limits
hinge on change of mind

House leaders meet with those who
voted down the bill as some waver

By Keith Kosaki


A bill to limit the compensation of the trustees of the Bishop Estate and other charitable trusts may be revived on the House floor as early as tomorrow night.

That is, if at least one of the representatives who voted against the bill changes his mind before the session ends.

An attempt to pass the bill over the objections of the House leadership failed by just one vote Tuesday night.

At least three representatives who voted against the bill indicated yesterday that they are reconsidering their vote.

"It only takes a couple of mind-changes and we're there," said Rep. Ed Case (D, Manoa), who raised the issue Tuesday.

But Case said he would only bring the issue to the floor again if he's certain he has enough votes to pass it.

Last night's House floor session was delayed an hour as the House leadership met in a closed session with those who voted against the Senate bill. Case and other representatives were left out of the meeting.

Rep. Ezra Kanoho (D, Lihue-Kapaa), a 1945 Kamehameha graduate, said he may have to "reassess" his vote. Kanoho is a supporter of House leadership but thinks Bishop Estate trustee pay is excessive.

"I'm not sure," Kanoho said. "I'm in a real dilemma."

Rep. Nobu Yonamine (D, Pearl City) has been getting pressure at the office and at home to change his vote.

He said his wife, a teacher at Kamehameha Schools, was upset he did not vote for the bill. Yonamine provided a key vote to allow the measure to be debated but then voted against it.

"I'm giving it a lot of thought," he said, adding that he believes reform of trustee pay is needed.

Rep. Paul Whalen (R, Kona), the only Republican who voted against the bill, said he is under pressure to change his mind.

"I might end up voting for it just because people are so emotional about it," he said.

Whalen says the Senate bill will not solve the problem. He said, under current law, the attorney general already has the option of going to court and showing that trustees are being unreasonably compensated.

The Senate bill would allow a judge to set trustee pay at a "reasonable" level. The House favors a study to determine what is "reasonable" compensation.

Na Pua a Ke Alii Pauahi, a group of Kamehameha Schools students, parents and alumni critical of the Bishop Estate trustees, is pressuring lawmakers to revive the issue.

They held a news conference at the Capitol yesterday, to say they are dismayed that "so many legislators failed to vote their conscience on this critically important issue."

"Beadie" Kanahele Dawson said first lady Vicky Cayetano has joined their effort.

"She's like Nobu's wife," said Gov. Ben Cayetano. "She just feels strongly about the issue and feels like something should be done. I support it also."

Dawson and Case believe that some lawmakers were pressured to squash the bill by House leadership.

Case said colleagues who opposed the measure "have expressed real doubts about their votes." However, none have changed their mind.

Attorney Randy Roth, a "Broken Trust" co-author, said most legislators "draw a blank" when asked to explain their "no" votes, and hopes it prompts them to learn more about the issue.

"We think that once they understand it, they're going to vote for it," Roth said.

Dawson also continued to criticize Reps. Terrance Tom (D, Kaneohe) and Robert Herkes (D, Puna), for voting on the issue despite potential conflicts of interest. Tom receives a $4,000-a-month retainer from the estate; Herkes is director of marketing for Kamehameha Investment Corp., a Big Island for-profit estate subsidiary.

Herkes said House lawyers told him he has no conflict, because he does not directly benefit from the bill. Herkes said no trustee has ever asked him to vote a certain way on a bill.

"I cannot see where I have a conflict," Herkes said.

He said Sen. David Ige, a chief lobbyist for GTE Hawaiian Tel and co-chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, has voted on appointments to the Public Utilities Commission, which regulates GTE.

Ige has said he does not lobby state officials.

Bishop Estate Archive

Legislature grants
university greater control

By Pat Omandam


The University of Hawaii Board of Regents would be able to raise season ticket prices without waiting for the state's approval, under a new version of a UH autonomy bill.

The regents would be given sole authority to set university fees that involve the public, such as admission to theatrical plays, sporting events, movie showings and the Waikiki Aquarium.

Additional revenue is sorely needed by UH athletics as it moves toward self-sufficiency, and to pay for collegiate gender equity efforts to expand women's sports.

The provision was the last item agreed upon yesterday by House and Senate conferees during talks on the UH autonomy bill. The conference draft now goes to both chambers for a vote Monday.

House Higher Education Chairman David Morihara (D, Puunene-Olinda) said the bill -- one of the recommendations from the Economic Revitalization Task Force -- frees UH leaders from much oversight by the state and caps recent efforts to give the 10-campus public university system more control over its affairs.

"It's a big win," Morihara said.

Eugene Imai, UH senior vice president for administration, said the bill exempts UH from state law that requires any changes in fees to go through a lengthy public process, including published government notices, public hearings and a review by the lieutenant governor's office.

Such proceedings meant a four- to six-month wait for approval, Imai said.

If signed by the governor, the bill would let the board approve fee increases within a month. Imai stressed any discussion on raising fees would be included on the board agenda, with public testimony taken before any decision is made.

"In the case of athletics, we're not aware of any other WAC school that would have go through a public hearing process," Imai said.

The bill also allows the UH to hire its own attorneys, a key issue that UH President Kenneth P. Mortimer has lobbied for since last fall.

Conferees, however, left the $1 million needed to pay for a legal staff in the UH supplemental budget, which is pending budget negotiations.

As for the UH operating budget, the measure sets a range for general fund appropriations at three to five times the tuition revenue generated. UH raised more than $70 million in tuition last year, meaning its budget allocation would fall between $210 million to $350 million. "The bill became even more robust as it was going through the session, and it continued to receive very strong support from both sides of the Legislature, so we're very pleased," Imai said.

Other items allow regents to indemnify collaborating institutions from lawsuits resulting from any joint work, as well as let the board determine the value and replacement life for UH equipment.

The bill exempts UH from the requirement that the attorney general's office represent all state departments.

It also precludes the university from transferring any excess money it has in special funds to the state general fund.

Other measures of autonomy would:

Bullet Allow the Board of Regents to establish an optional retirement system for UH faculty.

Bullet Exempt the UH board from state procurement law for goods, services and construction, as well as from concession laws, giving UH officials more freedom to negotiate UH broadcast and advertising rights.

Privatization struggle

By Craig Gima


The House and Senate cannot even agree if they are close to agreement on a bill to allow the state and counties to privatize government services.

House Labor Chairman Nobu Yonamine (D, Pearl City) said the two sides are quite a ways off from agreement.

"We're very close," said Senate Human Resources Committee Co-Chairwoman Suzanne Chun Oakland.

The mayors of all four counties say privatization is a priority for them. Gov. Ben Cayetano agreed with the mayors that lawmakers should pass a bill this session.But, he said last night, the state does not have the same problems the counties are experiencing.

"It's only the counties that have had a problem with privatization. We privatize about a half-billion dollars of our $6 billion (annual) budget," he said. "Some of the problems are unique to county operations like landfill and stuff like that."

During conference committee meetings yesterday, Senate negotiators agreed with the House that privatization should be exempt from collective-bargaining laws.

But no progress was made on another key difference -- whether existing privatization contracts should be subject to review and possible cancelation in three years under a "managed competition" process. The process would compare whether the private sector or government workers can perform a service better.

The House wants to allow contracts to continue. The Senate believes all contracts should be reviewed.

Yonamine said the Senate needs to accept the House version of the bill that has the support of the Cayetano administration and the county mayors. The Senate bill is supported by government labor unions.

Chun Oakland expected to work on another bill to correct a loophole in the workers compensation law today. That bill would address a state Supreme Court decision that allows a worker to collect workers compensation for stress as a result of disciplinary actions.

She has a different opinion on that bill and the privatization bill than her co-chairman, Brian Kanno.

She believes the House bill that disallows "good faith" workers compensation claims for disciplinary and other personnel actions is better than the Senate bill. The Senate bill would disallow claims for "just cause" and would not include other personnel actions.

"Personally, my stand is closer to the House, but I can understand the concerns on a lot of these other issues that Senator Kanno has," she said. "We just need to work for a happy medium."

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