Special session not warranted


POSTED: Thursday, July 02, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle's list of bills that she may veto will please some and disappoint others, but none warrants a special session of the Legislature to override a veto. Legislators have been known in the past to use a special session to accomplish other ends and should not again place themselves under such pressure.

While we disagree with Lingle's inclusion of some bills on her list of 65, none is vital and urgent. Legislators will have an opportunity to reconsider the proposals in their next regular session.

Democrats had various reasons for calling a special session in 2003 to override Lingle vetoes, but it became clear late in the session that the session's real purpose was to overturn civil-service reforms attained during the administration of Ben Cayetano. Since then, state employees have been able to use binding arbitration to obtain generous pay increases.

The union members now are angry about Lingle's decision to require state employees to take three days off without pay every month over a two-year period or else lay off thousands of them. The unions could subject legislators to enormous pressure during a special session to increase taxes to keep state government jobs and wages secure.

Instead, legislators should accept Lingle's decision on several controversial bills. Those bills would:

» Scale back tax breaks to high-technology companies, including capping tax credits at 80 percent instead of the present 100 percent, although Lingle's senior adviser on policy commented during the Legislature that the breaks “;would still be very generous.”;

» Collect general excise taxes from mainland companies on Internet sales through their Hawaii-based affiliates or, in an alternative bill, which we favor, join other states seeking a uniform system to collect taxes from online sales. The first, to which Lingle fulfilled her veto threat yesterday, would violate Hawaii's Constitution and the other would be premature, Lingle explained; congressional approval is needed for the system's implementation.

» Allow labor unions to circumvent secret-ballot elections in organizing campaigns by allowing union certification if more than half of a company's employees sign union cards. We agree with Lingle that such a system would subject workers to “;possible harassment and intimidation.”;

» Increase the tax on a barrel of oil from 5 cents to $1.05, which would raise the price of gasoline by 2 or 3 cents a gallon, with the revenue going to energy-saving projects. The issue should be revisited after the economy recovers.

» Create a task force to examine how to overcome roadblocks to the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. Lingle says federal law forbids any use of marijuana, even though U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said he would not interfere with states' medical-marijuana laws.