State of Hawaii

Special session is
GOP ruse, Dems say

They say veto override calls conceal
a desire to discuss other issues

By Treena Shapiro

State House Democratic leaders say GOP lawmakers' call for a special legislative session to override a veto on campaign finance reform is a ruse to bring other issues back to the table.

The majority leaders called a press conference yesterday to say that a special session is not necessary because the campaign finance reform bill that Gov. Cayetano vetoed last month would not have taken effect until the next election cycle, so the legislators can wait until the 2003 session before taking up the governor's concerns.

"It doesn't apply to this election, and we don't want to use this as a ruse for them to go and politic under the guise of campaign finance reform," said House Majority Whip Scott Saiki (D, Moiliili-McCully-Ala Wai).

House Minority Leader Galen Fox (R, Waikiki-Ala Wai) responded that the petition he circulated for a special session specifically targets campaign finance reform and could be resolved in a few hours during a special session tomorrow.

As of yesterday he still needed 14 more signatures.

Although the reform would not affect this election cycle, Fox noted that it would end "the corrupt practice of awarding contracts" to campaign contributors beginning in November. The governor vetoed the bill because of concerns that the lawmakers exempted themselves from the legislation.

State GOP Chairman Micah Kane said that legislators should override all 51 of the governor's vetoes, especially legislation that would have given tax breaks toward development at the Ko Olina resort.

"They don't believe in the bills that they passed. If they did they would join the Republicans and call for a special session," Kane said.

House Majority Whip Brian Schatz (D, Maikiki-Tantalus), who co-authored the campaign finance reform bill, said that it was the strongest legislation on the issue in more than 20 years.

"There are two approaches that we can take from here and bring forward: One is to pass a bill that I think doesn't quite go far enough, and the other is to pass a stronger, more aggressive and more comprehensive bill in the next legislative session, and that's what we're going to do."

Gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ed Case (D, Manoa), the only Democrat to sign the petition for a special session, said that he would agree with the majority leaders "if I had any confidence that the political culture so opposed to these reforms would not succeed in blocking this bill again in the 2003 legislative session.

"I fear that there will not be the same level of commitment to reform in the next legislative session as led the Legislature to pass the reform bill this year," he said.

Failing to pass the bill now would extend the current system that links campaign contributions to government contracts until at least next July, he said. "That's simply eight more months of a totally broken system in operation."

State of Hawaii

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