6 vetoes killed
in special session

The Legislature restores
binding arbitration and
$3.6 million in grants
to social services

A bitterly partisan Legislature rejected six of Gov. Linda Lingle's 50 vetoes last night.

The Legislature's action to override Lingle's vetoes effectively restored $3.6 million in grants to social service agencies and gave the public worker unions a big break by restoring binding arbitration.

The Legislature also restored funds for air ambulance service for Maui County and restored a bill that made it more difficult for landowners to build homes on agriculture lands.

The Legislature's action was the biggest defeat for a Hawaii governor in state history.

Governors have vetoed more than 400 bills since 1959, but, until last night, the Legislature has overridden only one veto, in 2001.

The binding arbitration bill proved to be one of the most controversial measures in yesterday's session.

"This bill has the most devastating effect on the Hawaiian economy of anything we do," Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo), GOP leader, said about SB 768.

Fellow Republican Sen. Sam Slom (Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) said the unions had won bigger pay raises though binding arbitration than they could get with a strike.

But Sen. Ron Menor (D, Mililani) said if Lingle's veto was not overridden, it could "pave the way" for a public employee strike that "would be the thing most devastating to the economy."

Lingle lost the battle on collective bargaining in both the House and Senate as the majority Democrats voted to toss out her vetoes.

Both the House and Senate had to override the vetoes by a two-thirds margin. The votes yesterday fell along party lines, with all Democrats voting to override and Republicans voting to support their governor. The only break in party lines was when Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, Democratic leader, voted with the GOP in the losing effort to sustain Lingle's veto of the binding arbitration bill.

Lingle, who is in Japan promoting tourism and business, accused Democrats of putting politics ahead of fiscal reality, calling their attempts to override her vetoes of spending bills as just "for show."

"I think they are being political, clearly, in this," she said. "All of us care about people who need help, but like any individual family, we need to live within our means and we can't spend money that we don't have. So their action is really for show because they know I've already said we don't have this money."

Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Russell Okata said the vote on binding arbitration would give unions encouragement and would also show continuing support by Democrats for the public unions.

Lawmakers used the override debates to highlight differences between Democrats and Republicans. The debate was heated at times, including the discussion about a bill that provides a $30,000 grant for the Korean War Memorial Commission.

"We can come up with the money without the expenditure of this bill," said Rep. Mark Moses (R, Kapolei).

Tempers flared as Rep. Michael Kahikina (D, Nanakuli) said that anyone who did not support the measure was unpatriotic, prompting Rep. David Pendleton (R, Maunawili-Kaneohe) to complain that he was offended by the remark.

That incident was followed by comments by Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa), who said Lingle's veto of the funding was "quite remarkable" given it should have been a "no-brainer" to fund the event. Oshiro added it revealed a lot about her character and priorities.

Those remarks prompted strong complaints by Republicans, including Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe), who continued to argue with Oshiro after House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo) gaveled the session into recess to clear the air.

In the Senate, Hemmings said "these poor veterans are being used as pawns."

Senate Democrats used Lingle's veto of extra funding to the legislative auditor as another example of the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

Senate Vice President Donna Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa) said Lingle had enthusiastically supported the auditor's work while campaigning, but backed away once she was in office.

"She said within 100 days of taking office she would perform the audits, but instead, within 180 days she vetoed it," Kim said.

In the House, the 35-member Democrat majority said the measure ensures taxpayer dollars are spent well and provides checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government.

As the session ended around 8 p.m., Democratic senators said the overrides should give Lingle reason to look carefully at bills before vetoing them next year.

"I think she will come to the session next year and give us better input and take more time to read the bills and think what is in the bills," Kim said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

6 measures restored

Here are the six bills the state Legislature passed into law yesterday by overriding the vetoes of Gov. Linda Lingle:

>> House Bill 282, CD1: Allows the legislative auditor to seek reimbursement of financial audits of state agencies and creates an audit revolving fund.

>> Senate Bill 317, CD1: Allots $30,000 to the Korean War Commission for the 50th anniversary commemoration of the war.

>> Senate Bill 745, CD1: Establishes a statewide air ambulance service and appropriates $1 million for emergency helicopter services for Maui County.

>> Senate Bill 1305, CD1: Allots $3.6 million from the state rainy-day fund for health, social services and safety programs.

>> Senate Bill 255, CD1: Amends state law to ban private restrictions on agricultural land, except those to protect environmental or cultural resources.

>> Senate Bill 768, CD1: Reinstates binding arbitration for public bargaining units representing blue-collar supervisors, white-collar workers and supervisors, education officers, university and community college non-faculty personnel and professional and scientific employees.


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