Gov plans informal
lobbying style

She says she will avoid
contentious issues early in
her administration's term

Ten who made a difference

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

When the 2003 Legislature's committees get down to the nitty gritty of tough calls on major legislative proposals, Gov. Linda Lingle says she expects to be nearby, "hanging on the rail" as she defends her administration's positions.

State of Hawaii

Much of the lobbying at the Capitol goes on "hanging on the rail" as lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and the occasional private citizen line up to chat along the koa wood railings that line the Capitol's interior walkways.

Such laid-back informal appearances by Lingle would be in sharp contrast to former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who rarely lingered in the Capitol's legislative corridors during his eight years in office. He let his cabinet members and other top officials carry the administration's flag.

While Cayetano would aggressively pursue proposals unpopular with lawmakers and grumble both behind closed doors and in public when they stalled, Lingle said she won't enter fights she knows she can't win.

For example, the former mayor of Maui County said she feels strongly that the state's Land Use and Water Resource Management commissions should be eliminated, leaving it to the counties to decide water and land use.

But she said she won't seek legislation to eliminate the two state agencies early in her administration's four-year term.

"There's such strong opposition in the environmental community about it that I wanted to focus in the early years on those issues I feel we can get agreement on," she said Friday in a meeting with Associated Press member newspaper editors and reporters. "The sessions are so short that to spend time in argument that is not going to lead to a conclusion is a waste of time."

The governor, after three weeks in office, said it doesn't mean she won't fight hard "for those things I believe are important, such as local school boards, but I'll limit the number of things that I'm going to go down and get into big arguments about."

Republican Lingle said she believes she has established a good relationship with the Democrat-controlled Legislature at the outset of her administration and doesn't want to jeopardize it.

"There are enough things that I think we agree on that we can really get done in this session," she said.

Beyond dealing with the Legislature, she's developing a style that reflects the power of the governor in a unique state system where so many high offices are appointed and the governor has real influence.

"It's better than I thought," Lingle said when asked how the reality of being governor compares with her earlier perception of what she could accomplish.

She expressed satisfaction in being able to quickly resolve issues, including the release from quarantine of a pet dog on the Big Island after its owner went on a hunger strike.

"We got Chocolate released," Lingle said.

The dog's owner, retired Navy commander Bill Schnurr, 70, of Kailua-Kona, had appealed for help after a blood test at the end of Chocolate's normal 30-day quarantine showed his pet had cancer and would have to spend an additional 90 days in the canine state pen.

Lingle's communications director, Lenny Klompus, persuaded Schnurr to give up the hunger strike, she said, even before state officials agreed to let the owner take the dog after a rabies test turned up negative.

Lingle describes her approach to such problems as a simple matter of saying, "Look, guys, this is what this is, and this is the direction we should be going now to get it resolved."

The new governor took office Dec. 2, and after just two days she had met with the leadership of the House and Senate, with all sides calling the sessions cordial and productive. Since then, she has met with the House's Democratic majority, again winning praise for her promise to work with lawmakers.

On Thursday night, Lingle met with House Finance Committee Chairman Dwight Takamine and Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian Taniguchi to talk about when the administration will submit its six-year financial plan.

"We discussed schedules a lot, but we also discussed the deficits that the state's going to face in the coming year and we looked at a couple of different scenarios ... including whether or not the Hurricane Relief Fund is used," Lingle said, noting she and the Senate thus far don't want to use it.

Senate President Bobby Bunda (D, Wahiawa) in his unaccustomed opposition role, said he's anxiously awaiting the governor's proposals on several issues. But he has praise for her plan to avoid contentious issues this session.

"That's great," Bunda said, noting that in the meetings with senators she spent a lot of time asking advice from lawmakers who, he said, will follow her lead on what issues to tackle.

The Democratic leader said with Lingle's background as mayor of Maui, he expects her to be especially responsive to needs beyond Honolulu.

"I expect a lot of these things will be county-driven," he said.

Reflecting the generally warm reception Lingle is getting and the way she has been relating to the Democratic power base in the Legislature early on, Bunda said, "She should be a Democrat, actually. Democrats elected her."

State of Hawaii

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