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Con Con voted down


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POSTED: Wednesday, November 05, 2008

For the third time, Hawaii voters rejected the convening of a statewide convention to consider changes to the state's Constitution.

In 1988 and 1998, voters opposed holding constitutional conventions. The Hawaii Constitution says the voters every 10 years must decide whether a Constitutional Convention must be held. Such a session was approved in 1968 and 1978.

In addition, a change that would lower the qualification age for governor to 25 from 30 also appeared to be headed to defeat, according to early results last night. The measure was drafted by state Rep. Tommy Waters at the request of a constituent who argued that he was old enough to fight in the military but not run for governor.

Voters turned down the call for a new Constitutional Convention, which was backed by the state Republican Party but opposed by the Democratic Party and public employee unions.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett, a supporter of the proposal, said he was "disappointed" by the early results.

However, he added, "I completely respect the democratic process. The vast majority of the people felt that the cost was too high and there was no compelling need."

Roger Takabayashi, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which opposed the ballot measure, said the cost of holding a Constitutional Convention could not be justified when the state is facing rough economic times.

"In these difficult times," Takabayashi added, "when our schools are doing without so much, it would not be appropriate."

It has been estimated that convening a Constitutional Convention would cost anywhere from $2.3 million to $41 million.

Takabayashi said that $40 million could be better spent on school repairs or on other needs of children rather than the convening of a session to rewrite the state Constitution.

This year a spirited advertising campaign was conducted by opponents of a Constitutional Convention. More than $325,000 was donated by the lobbying arm of the mainland-based National Education Association calling for the rejection of the Constitutional Convention. The funds were sent to the newly formed Hawaii Alliance, a group of labor unions and business interests opposing the ballot measure and headed by former Gov. George Ariyoshi.

A September Legislative Reference Bureau Study placed the convention cost at from $6.4 million to $41.7 million, while an 11-member task force headed by Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona estimated the cost at between $2.3 million to $11.1 million.

The 1978 Constitutional Convention cost $2.8 million.