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Saturday, February 17, 2001

Legislature 2001

GOP exercises
new muscle;
Dems resist

By Pat Omandam

Hawaii GOP Chairwoman Linda Lingle believes Republicans in the state House have a strong case to win a court injunction that prevents the House Democratic leadership from stopping debate on bills recalled to the floor.

Lingle said there is tremendous respect in the country for the rights of a minority body so it is not subject to the tyranny of the majority. She said the U.S. and Hawaii constitutions were crafted with provisions to allow open discussion on measures that at least one-third of a political body believes is important to debate.

Throughout this week, the 19 Republicans in the 51-member House pulled four bills out of various committees that dealt with age of consent and taxes. But the House Democrats either sent them back to committee or postponed discussion on them.

"(The Hawaii Constitution says) if a third of you think this is important, then you have the ability to pull it out," Lingle said.

"If you were able to send it right back to committee, what would the point have been of that provision? No point. It's making a mockery of the constitution; it really is," she said.

The interplay between the factions -- which many expected when the Republicans gained House seats after last November's election -- escalated when the minority began asking for a roll call vote for each motion on the floor.

Now, each blames the other for the legislative delays.

House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore Village) complained the minority is using the recall provision to create unwarranted and obstructionist delays in the legislative process. The four recalled bills have caused horrendous delays, he said.

"My feeling is that this is a mean-spirited effort to undermine the Legislature's work in the hope that the blame will fall on Democrats when certain bills die because time runs out," Oshiro said.

"But I think it will backfire. I think people will see right through them."

Here's a look at some other action before the state Legislature:

Bullet Mandated drug treatment program

The co-authors of a California law that mandates substance abuse treatment programs for first-time offenders will speak to lawmakers on Wednesday at the State Capitol. Bill Zimmerman and Dan Abrahamson will discuss California's Proposition 36 and the current Hawaii legislation modeled after it.

Bullet Yonamine ponders future

Encouraged after a meeting with some of his constituents, state Rep. Nobu Yonamine (D, Pearl City) says he'll decide this weekend whether to quit after the current session or stay to fill out the two-year term to which he was elected in November. He was arrested on Feb. 7 for drunken driving and immediately announced he would resign after this session.

Bullet Layoffs warning

Gov. Ben Cayetano said there will be "massive layoffs" if the Legislature gives the public-employee unions the nearly $500 million in pay raises they are seeking. Senate majority leaders continue to eye legalized gambling or an excise tax hike to fund the raises and provide for other court-mandated improvements in the Felix consent decree.

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