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Thursday, March 16, 2000

Legislature 2000

House urged
to toughen
reform bill

Democratic Rep. Ed Case
says the Senate version
is better legislation

By Richard Borreca


If Democrats do not adopt a thorough civil-service reform package, they risk both losing control of the state Legislature and stalling the revitalization of Hawaii's economy, Rep. Ed Case warns in urging House Democrats to overhaul their reform measure.

In a letter sent to House Democrats Tuesday, Case, the majority leader, renewed his criticism of the House civil-service bill and pointedly said he thought the Senate version was better legislation.

"We are, in fact, very exposed to attack by a majority of our voters who know the House position is not reform," Case said in his letter.

The Manoa Valley Democrat declined to discuss his letter, but House Speaker Calvin Say described it as "educational" for the Democrats. "What members are saying is that we do want reform, and what Ed is doing is trying to educate the members," Say said.

The House speaker, however, cautioned Case that he was not speaking for all 39 Democrats in the House and that it was too early to judge the merits of either the House or Senate position.

"You can't compare and say one is better than the other. We need to get input and have reaction," Say stated.

Case told the members that his personal position was that Hawaii's civil-service laws needed "comprehensive" reform.

"In my independent judgment, Gov. Cayetano's initiative represents comprehensive reform," Case said, adding that he thought the House proposal "incorporates virtually no reform aspects."

Public-employee unions are objecting to all three reform plans, saying that it would be a case of management taking away rights that were in previous labor contracts.

The reform package is also complicated because the unions are supposed to start bargaining for new contracts and possible pay raises.

Yesterday, however, Cayetano presented a tough bargaining position, saying he would not consider raises for the first two years of the contract, but hinted that salary increases in the third and fourth year of a contract could be tied to the passage of some civil-service reform. He ruled out a tax increase to pay for a public employee salary increase.

Case, meanwhile, thinks there is actually enough support in the House to pass a more far-reaching reform bill.

Only Rep. Dwight Takamine drafted the House reform bill, according to Case, who said Takamine was not in step with most House Democrats.

Case added that civil-service reform was a priority for the Democrats before the session started, which is why it was included in the Democratic package.

But, Case said, if the Democrats did not want to follow the package, why have it at all?

"If this is not our common understanding, we should abandon the majority package exercise as a waste of time," he said to his colleagues.

House Speaker Say, however, played down Case's comments, saying it was too early to "define meaningful reform." Besides, he added, the House has several other bills aimed at changing how Hawaii government operates that are not included in Case's criticisms.

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