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Friday, November 17, 2000

Democrats must
back real change
or more will lose
in ’02, Lingle says

By Pat Omandam

The state Legislature next year will pass major civil-service reform, privatize state prisons, eliminate the excise tax on medical services and foods, and raise the age of consent, predicted Hawaii Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Lingle.

Buoyed by the 19 Republicans elected to the 51-member state House and by outgoing House Majority Leader Ed Case's call for meaningful change in government, Lingle said voters have sent a silent but strong message to Democrats they'd better move for real change or more of them will be voted out of office in 2002.

"These things are going to happen not just because there are 19 Republicans in the House, but because the Democrats who remain know they remain only as long as they produce now for the people of the state," Lingle told attendees at the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii's annual membership convention yesterday.

Lingle said Republicans and Democrats must form coalitions to pass effective reform, which is one of the options supported by Case. The Manoa representative has broken off from the Democratic House leadership after he was dissatisfied with the majority decision to keep the same key committee line-ups for the 2001 Legislature.

Case reiterated his belief that the focus next session must be on reform of government operations and expenses, which are the biggest drags on the state economy. Those reforms can be done through changes in the civil-service laws but are done mostly through the collective-bargaining laws, which Case said have progressed to a point where most personnel issues must now go through collective bargaining.

He said the general public, the governor and Hawaii's mayors, as well as the rank and file members of public worker unions all support privatization and civil-service reform to balance the state budget.

The problem, he said, is opposition from the public union leadership, as well as from current House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine (D, Hilo) and House Labor Chairwoman Terry Nui Yoshinaga (D, Moiliili). Case even cast some blame at House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo).

"The leadership of the House, thus far, has decided to defer to those two chairs," Case said yesterday.

"So I don't think we can expect any help from either of these people."

To override these obstacles, Case said he'll try to push a minority position within the House majority or possibly form bipartisan coalitions with Republicans. Say acknowledged possible bipartisan support for many issues next year and said the committee chairmen chosen next week will have a greater responsibility since the Republican minority has "make-or-break" power for items that require a super majority, or two-thirds vote.

"Like I said, if you have both majority and minority caucus working together on issues of commonality, you're going to come up with a better result," Say said.

"But most of the chairs would be very scared now because any bill that's referred to them can be yanked out of the committee. And you have to defend it and why you didn't schedule any hearing on it," he said.

Say was surprised Case publicly named Takamine and Yoshinaga as opponents of civil-service reform and hoped he can mend the bridges between the two and Case.

"I've really felt that Ed has done an excellent job in being the majority leader the past two years, and I've been very honest ... that I wanted Ed to continue on as majority leader over objections of some of our members in our caucus," Say said.

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