State of Hawaii

Isle Dems to wait
on campaign reforms

The move upsets GOP lawmakers
who want to override the veto

By Crystal Kua

GOP state lawmakers accused their Democrat counterparts of hypocrisy and lying as Republicans tried to force a special legislative session to override a veto on a campaign finance reform bill.

Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, meanwhile, said they are proud of the bill they passed this past session to ban direct political contributions from government contractors, unions and corporations to county and state elected officials who issue contracts. But they will wait until next year to address concerns raised by Gov. Ben Cayetano last month when he vetoed the bill.

"It was a significant first step towards real reform," said Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa) and House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) in a joint statement. "While we are disappointed that campaign spending reform did not become law this year, we will take Gov. Ben Cayetano's concerns and incorporate his suggestions into better campaign spending reform legislation next year."

The governor criticized lawmakers for exempting themselves from the legislation.

House Minority Leader Galen Fox (R, Waikiki) said Bunda and Say have the authority to convene a special session.

"I think we may be dealing with a group of hypocrites," Fox said. "They've got the power to do it, they can do it for just this one issue and they're refusing to do it."

Republicans are pushing for the Legislature to convene in special session by the Tuesday deadline.

Fox said all but two of the 20 House Republicans have signed or will sign a petition calling for the override session for campaign spending only. Rep. Paul Whalen (R, South Kona-North Kona) is not signing the petition and Rep. Bud Stonebraker (R, Kalama Valley-Portlock) is traveling and could not be reached, Fox said.

A similar petition, which allows for other bills to be considered at a special session, is circulating in the Senate, Fox said.

Fox also said House Majority Whip Brian Schatz (D, Makiki), who successfully lobbied his Democratic colleagues for passage of the bill, was supposed to be circulating the petition among House Democrats.

"I never got anything," Schatz said. "He may have dropped it off at my office."

Fox responded, "He's lying."

Fox said he dropped the petition off with Schatz's office manager, and the office manager has been in contact with Schatz on it.

"He's either lying or he's not communicating well with his office," Fox said.

Bunda and Say said that while passing the initial campaign finance reform bill was a bipartisan accomplishment, they criticized GOP lawmakers for bringing election-year politics into the fray.

"We are also disappointed that some of our Republican colleagues seek to exploit this issue during an election year in order to force a special session so they can re-address other issues," they said.

Schatz said a collective decision was made to wait until next year because the bill did not take effect until the next election cycle, so there's time to improve it.

Schatz, who called the legislation the most sweeping campaign spending reform the state has seen, said he will not sign Fox's petition.

"The momentum for campaign finance reform is building," Schatz said. "We're not concerned we will lose the momentum."

Democratic Rep. Ed Case, who is running for governor and is the only House Democrat so far to sign Fox's petition, does not see it that way. He said campaign spending was the most important product of this year's Legislature, but next year's Legislature, in a nonelection year, may slip in its commitment to reform the system.

State of Hawaii

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