Saturday, April 21, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Carole Kai
under different kind
of spotlight

The popular entertainer is
undergoing confirmation to
the Stadium Authority

Majority leaders ditch reform pact

By Lisa Asato

CAROLE KAI -- diva, entertainer and co-host of the now-defunct "Hawaii Stars" -- said she was expecting to be grilled by two Senate committees. And she got it.

Legislature Kai, nominated by Gov. Ben Cayetano for another four-year term to the Stadium Authority, was questioned yesterday by Sens. Donna Mercado Kim and Sam Slom about recent troubles at Aloha Stadium.

Their questions had Kai defending the state's $297,000 settlement with the former operator of the Aloha Stadium flea market and its trouble with a food vendor who prematurely ended a 10-year contract after five months, leaving stadium officials searching for a replacement for two months.

Even so, Kai easily won approval by both committees -- Economic Development and Technology, and Tourism and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Tourism Chairwoman Kim (D, Fort Shafter-Aiea) called the state's settlement with swap meet operator Edward Medeiros "an expensive lesson." Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) said the lawsuit could have been prevented if members had opened their meeting to public scrutiny, where questions could have been raised.

One of flea market operator Edward Medeiros' lawsuits alleged the authority violated the state Sunshine Law when it reviewed and terminated the flea market contract behind closed doors.

But Kai said the board's decision made economic sense. In the two years since the contract was terminated, the stadium has made $900,000 more than it would have under Medeiros' contract, she said. She was not sure whether the number of swap meet vendors has increased under the new operator, but added: "The proof is in the pudding. If we're making more money, it shows we're doing something right."

Of the problem with the short-lived food vendor, Kai said the state Department of Accounting and General Services handles procurement, but she would like the board to have a larger role in awarding contracts.

Bob Fishman, Hawaii Tourism Authority executive director, endorsed Kai's nomination. The two worked together when he was general manager of the stadium, and he said that Kai knows how to carry out and promote large events in the manner by which Hawaii wants to be known around the world.

Also nominated for the board is Anthony Guerrero Jr., an executive vice president at First Hawaiian Bank. Guerrero's hearing is set for Tuesday.

Hawaii State Seal

Majority leaders
ditch reform pact

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

House Republicans and Senate Democratic dissidents say Democratic majority leaders in both houses have abandoned the 1-year-old democracy in conference committees where differences in House and Senate bills are resolved.

Legislature An agreement signed last week by House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo Valley-Kaimuki) and Senate President Bobby Bunda (D, Wahiawa-Haleiwa-North Shore) lets any of the co-chairmen of the conference committees kill a bill, despite the wishes of the majority of the members of the committee.

"Clearly, it's a step back for democracy because it gives the unilateral ability to a single chair to be so powerful that they can kill a measure over the desires of all of the committee members," said Sen. Avery Chumbley (D, East-Maui-North Kauai).

"That is not in the public's interest," he said. "If that's the way we're going to proceed, why have committees? Why have conference at all? Just give all the powers to the chairs and let them go settle their differences. That's what they did in the old days."

Bunda responded, "Why be the chairman when you have a majority of people saying they can do stuff" the chairman opposes?

Bunda and Say said it is important that chairmen involved in drafting bills have veto power over any compromises made on the bills.

A resolution to block any unilateral vetoes by conference chairmen was introduced by Rep. Ed Case (D, Manoa) and has the support of the 19-member Republican caucus. It was to be debated yesterday, but supporters say at last count they were shy two votes of gaining passage.

Letting a single chairman veto a bill "is obviously contrary to the basic legislative principle of majority rule, gives individual members and their particular special-interest supporters the power to block or weaken majority initiatives, and lights a fire under the kind of last-minute deal-making for which the Legislature is so despised publicly," Case said in his weekly legislative report.

In the Senate, dissident Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kaimuki-Kapahulu-Waikiki) said the procedural rule approved by Say and Bunda "flat-out violates Senate rules."

"Just the fact that (Bunda) did it, shame on him," said Ihara, who gained signatures of 10 senators, including the three Republicans, asking Bunda to withdraw the change.

In the past it was the practice to let the chairmen in conference committees decide the fate of bills, "but this gives the chair a right," he said.

Bunda said he is seeking a legal opinion whether the Senate rule or the procedural agreement with the House takes precedence. He noted the House does not have a comparable rule.

Last year, Case and Ihara were majority leaders in their respective houses and drafted new procedures for conference committees, requiring a quorum of the membership for meetings and a majority of the quorum to approve bills in a public vote.

That came after an attorney general's opinion and a lawsuit filed by the Republican Party.

House Minority Leader Galen Fox said the revised conference committee procedures are "outrageous."

"We hope that either through the process of actually voting on the resolutions or just giving this incredible change further thought that it will restore democracy to this process and get away from the right of chairs to be all-powerful," Fox said.

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