Tuesday, February 23, 1999

Star-Bulletin, Hawaii News 8 Poll

Poll: Cutting civil
service a bad idea

Poll also show support for
physician-assisted death and
disapproval of Cayetano's
stance on domestic

Cayetano popularity rising

By Pat Omandam


The way 86-year-old Richard Booth sees it, a plan by state officials to abolish the state civil service system would be a good idea -- if they knew what they wanted in its place.

"You don't know what's going to happen to take care of civil service," said the Aiea resident and retired telephone engineer.

Art "If it was more specific, and they gave ways to protect the workers and the public, I might have a different answer. But it's still up in the air too much," said Booth, one of the respondents in a recent Honolulu Star-Bulletin/Hawaii News 8 poll.

Poll results show Hawaii residents are split evenly at 36 percent each on whether it is a good idea to do away with civil service for a more equitable system. The remaining 28 percent of respondents were not sure what the state should do.

The telephone poll was conducted among 428 registered voters statewide on Feb. 11-13 by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc. of Columbia, Md. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Civil service reform was one the legislative issues raised in the poll. Others included physician-assisted death, domestic partnerships and a ceded land settlement between the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Last week, a House committee killed a bill to abolish the civil service system, voting instead for a task force study. A companion measure remains alive in the Senate, however. That bill, SB 1046, SD1 calls for all "stakeholders" in the issue to meet during the legislative interim to redesign civil service.

The group would then submit model legislation to a joint House and Senate labor committee on Nov. 15, 1999. Any civil service reform would begin on June 30, 2000.

Senate President Norman Mizuguchi (D, Aiea) recently said the success of civil service reform rests with the governor and the public worker unions.

"In something this huge, of this magnitude, changing civil service (means) all parties have to be together and we need to be talking with each other," he said.

"And here again, maybe it's House and Senate leadership in conference that will determine the final product."

Meanwhile, a majority of those polled continue to favor legalization of physician-assisted death, although the controversial issue was shelved by lawmakers this session.

The poll shows 55 percent favored enacting a state law permitting physician-assisted death under carefully controlled conditions, while 30 percent opposed such action.

Respondent Wanda Larkin-Battles, 54, said any law regarding physician-assisted death must have strict safeguards. She said anyone who makes such a request must have a good reason for it, although it should be a clear option for the terminally ill who are in a lot of pain.

"I don't think just anybody can just say, 'Well, I think I feel like dying this way,' " said the Makaha resident, who works as a property manager.

Art Booth believes the state should honor an individual's right to die.

"I think it's a matter of free will," he said. "If a man wishes to be put out of his misery, I say, he should get his wish."

Overall, support in Hawaii for physician-assisted death and physician-assisted suicide -- where a patient self-administers a lethal agent provided by a doctor -- seems to have dropped.

A 1998 Star-Bulletin poll showed 67 percent of those polled favored it while 20 percent opposed it. A 1993 poll showed 44 percent of respondents favored physician-assisted suicide, while 33 percent disapproved it.

Bills dealing with both measures were killed last Friday by a Senate committee, which favored more community discussion.

Another poll issue apparently on the legislative back burner is domestic partnerships. Gov. Ben Cayetano proposed limiting the state's reciprocal beneficiaries law to committed gay and lesbian couples, giving them many of the financial benefits of marriage but not adoption or parental rights.

Of those polled, 52 percent disapproved of such a plan, compared to 33 percent who favored it. A House bill dealing with domestic partnerships remains in the House Judiciary Committee but has not been heard.

Finally, respondents don't believe the state and OHA can settle their differences over ceded lands, including annual revenue payments to OHA, before Cayetano's four-year term expires in December 2002.

In his inauguration speech in December, Cayetano pledged "to leave no stone unturned" in reaching a settlement.

Sixty-nine percent of those polled said they don't believe this will happen, compared to 16 percent who did.

"Oh, I think it's going to take them a very, very long time," said Larkin-Battles. "I don't think they're going to be able to settle on anything anytime soon.

"I think Cayetano has done a lot more for the Hawaiian people than any other governor, but he can't do it in this term."

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