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Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

House hammers out
bill-recall agreement

By Pat Omandam

Both sides of the state House are claiming victory in an agreement that allows the 19 House Republicans to debate bills they recall to the House floor.

Legislature All the House minority needs to do is let the Democratic majority know when they plan to do it.

"We took a timeout over the weekend, a Sunday-Monday timeout, and cooler heads prevailed," said House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore Village).

The agreement, reached after more than four hours of negotiations yesterday, allows the House minority to recall bills "in a reasonable manner for a reasonable number of bills." It requires Republicans to first ask committee leaders to hold a hearing on certain bills before those measures can be successfully recalled by the minority on the House floor.

The eight-point agreement, however, doesn't obligate the House majority to vote on the merits of any bill recalled. Rather, they'll be able to cast a procedural vote to table the measure or send it back to committee.

House and Senate leaders were forced to waive a preliminary deadline last Friday after partisan politics stalled action on the House floor. Republicans wanted to debate bills they pulled out of committee, but the Democrats did not allow it.

State Rep. Charles Djou (R, Kahaluu-Kaneohe) said part of the hang-up was that the majority didn't want their votes recorded on any bill pulled by Republicans. If they did, their position on any particular issue would become official record and they feared it could be used against them in the next election.

Djou was among those who helped draft a compromise that allowed free, fair and open debate on measures recalled, while letting the majority off the hook. State Rep. Jim Rath (R, Kona) was more blunt about the deal:

"This simply means they weaseled out of getting their votes on the record," Rath said.

House Minority Leader Galen Fox (R, Waikiki) said another important aspect of the agreement -- which remains in effect for this year -- is the minority will let the majority know beforehand how many people are going to debate on a recalled bill so the majority can match that number.

State Rep. Mark Moses (R, Kapolei) said the plan gives Democrats the benefit of the doubt so they can all move the legislative process along.

"But obviously, they realize they are on shaky ground or they would not have agreed to anything," Moses said.

Democrats disagreed. House Vice Speaker Sylvia Luke (D, Nuuanu-Punchbowl) said the majority stopped debate on a age-of-consent bill recalled last week because it was the right thing to do. There needs to be a hearing on such an emotional issue, she said.

"Although there is a constitutional right for recall, there is still a constitutional right to do the people's business," Luke said.

State Rep. Scott Saiki (D, McCully-Pawaa) added the point that Democrats tried to make is that the recall motion should be used in conjunction with the normal legislative process.

"It shouldn't be used to obstruct the process," Saiki said.

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