Legislature 2003

Lingle vetoes,
calls for reform

Long-term care insurance,
emergency contraception
and three education bills
are among the 47 killed

Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed 47 legislative bills yesterday, including ones that would have provided a long-term care insurance program and directed private hospitals to give emergency contraceptives to rape and sex assault victims.

Lingle hand-delivered 44 of the veto messages to Senate President Robert Bunda's office yesterday shortly after 11 p.m.

The vetoed bills also included proposals to study mass transit, provide tax breaks for Waikiki hotels, and examine the need for a farmers' market.

Earlier in the evening, Lingle used her veto powers to emphasize her call for statewide education reform. She rejected a trio of education bills that she said would only distract the public from the need to decentralize the school system.

"The Legislature should let the people of Hawaii decide the issue of local school boards and stop offering do-nothing bills in the guise of education reform," Lingle said.

Her decentralization plan was rebuffed by the Legislature and Lingle reminded lawmakers of that as she vetoed bills to allow public students to buy their own books, change the public school organizational structure, and draw up criminal sanctions for school personnel who don't report "any person who is teaching outside of his or her area of certification."

Another vetoed bill that was strongly supported by public unions, SB-768, would have restored the unions' ability to go into binding arbitration to settle contract pay raises. A civil service reform package removed binding arbitration two years ago and restored an employee's right to strike.

Lingle vetoed the bill, saying that binding arbitration bill would result in unions getting wage increases that the state and counties could not afford.

But Rep. Joe Souki (D, Waihee-Wailuku) said Lingle's veto would encourage a public workers' strike.

"The consequences of a veto can literally shut down the state," Souki said. "The governor sends the wrong message at the wrong time for all the wrong reasons."

Public employee unions also object to the veto.

"A strike could force schools to close. ... Picket lines at airports will damage tourism," Randy Perreira, Hawaii Government Employees Association deputy executive director, said before Lingle delivered the veto message last night.

The education bills vetoed last night include HB-289, which sets up 15 school complexes to coordinate curriculum within the school areas.

"This bill would etch into stone the latest of the DOE's many reorganizations and make it that much more difficult not just to achieve real reform, but also to manage the system," Lingle said.

Another bill would have permitted public school students to buy their own textbooks, which Lingle said was flawed.

"If more books and instructional materials are needed in our public schools, and I believe they are, then the DOE should pay for them with funds from its existing $1.3 billion budget and not place further financial burden on parents and guardians of schoolchildren," she said.

The third vetoed education bill, SB-1237, would make it a "petty misdemeanor for a licensed teacher or other employee of the DOE to fail to report to the Board of Education the identity of any person who is teaching outside of his or her area of certification."

"Teachers should be allowed to teach and not police their fellow teachers," Lingle said.

She described the Legislature's action as "piecemeal" and said it should instead work on a broad reform of education.

In some cases last night, Lingle used her line item veto power to cut only a portion of the bill. For instance in SB-1305, Lingle sliced hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have gone to fund the new Hawaii prescription drug plan plus grants to agencies such as the Youth Services Network, Volunteer Legal Services and the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse.

The cuts were made, Lingle said, because the state's budget was not balanced and "without fiscal discipline and prudent management now, it will be impossible to restore trust and integrity in government."

The bill had tapped into the state's emergency rainy day fund to pay for programs and Lingle said that the money should be saved.

With three vetoes announced earlier this month, Lingle has vetoed or signaled her intention to veto a total of 50 bills.

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