Wednesday, July 11, 2001


Senate President Robert Bunda, left, and House Speaker
Calvin Say chatted after lawmakers overrode the governor's
age-of-consent veto at yesterday's special session.

Rare override
makes history

Cayetano becomes the first
governor since statehood to
suffer such a defeat

Prosecutors say few are likely to be prosecuted

By Richard Borreca and Pat Omandam

By voting to override Gov. Ben Cayetano's veto of the age of consent bill, lawmakers said they showed a new spark of independence.

It was also seen by legislators as a victory for parents and those who rarely get involved in politics.

Republicans, long in the minority in state politics, saw it as confirmation that they were players in legislative politics, while Democrats lauded their ability to respond to regular people.

In opposition to the praise and congratulations was Cayetano, who labeled yesterday's session as an exercise in political correctness.

"If there is anything worse than a Republican, it is a Democrat whose sole purpose in office is to be politically correct," Cayetano told reporters after the Legislature adjourned.

Cayetano suffered a dual defeat: He was the first governor since statehood to have a bill overridden, and the rejection came at the hands of his own party, the Democrats.

The only vote to sustain the veto came in the Senate, from Sen. Les Ihara.

Ihara said that even though he had originally voted for the bill when it passed the Legislature, upon review, he thought the penalties were too harsh, making the penalty for having sex with someone 16 or younger equivalent to the punishment for rape.

"I believe the reverse should be true. The crime of consensual sex should have a lesser penalty than the crime of rape," Ihara said.

Rep. Ed Case (D, Manoa), usually a strong supporter of Cayetano's, voted against the governor, saying the bill and the governor's actions were both the result of reasoned and informed decisions. The Legislature just made the "better decision," Case said.

A player in mobilizing support for the session was Kelly Rosati, executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum.

How they voted

In the House

48 members voted "yes" to override the veto, while three members -- Reps. Kenneth Hiraki (D, Kakaako-Downtown Honolulu), Hermina Morita (D, East Maui-North Kauai), and Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City-Waipahu) -- were absent.

In the Senate

23 members voted for the override. Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kaimuki-Kapahulu-Waikiki) cast the only "no" vote. Sen. Avery Chumbley (D, East-Maui-North Kauai) was absent.

The nonprofit advocacy group had been trying to raise the legal age of consensual sex from 14 for the past three years, Rosati said.

Senate President Robert Bunda had introduced several bills on the issue at Rosati's request.

"We had gotten calls asking if we knew the age was 14 and then we got calls from the Aloha Pregnancy Center reporting 14 and 15 year old regularly coming in and the potential father was often an older adult," Rosati said.

Rep. Joe Gomes (R, Kailua) said Rosati played a key role in bringing the House and Senate together for yesterday's special session. "She was able to broker a deal to limit the discussion to one bill and one bill only," Gomes said.

As yesterday's session concluded, Rosati watched from the gallery and was introduced from the floor in both the House and Senate.

Other legislators, including Bunda, said the Senate was ready to go into special session without Rosati's help, but he acknowledged that she had been a strong lobbyist.

"We have heard from the people, they have called us, faxed us, e-mailed us," Bunda said. "The calls have been there from the constituents."

Rosati said the campaign was helped by her appearances on radio stations and by bringing together a coalition working through churches and community groups.

"My experience in working with legislative leaders in both parties and both chambers is that many were concerned about the public policy and others were responding to the wishes of their constituents.

Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) said Rosati deserves "a great deal of the credit: She was getting people to make calls."

"But this is an absolute example of citizens who are committed making a difference and it is a realization that parents have long been cut out of the power," Slom said.

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