[ OUR OPINION ]
GOVERNOR Lingle acknowledges that she has more authority than most governors in running the state. Democratic state legislators want to change that but are going about it the wrong way. Several bills before the Legislature would sharply reduce Lingle's power, in some cases injecting House and Senate leadership into that executive role. The consequences would be chaotic and fiscally irresponsible.
The Legislature is considering numerous bills that would reduce the authority of the governor.
Hawaii is one of only three states -- the others are Alaska and New Jersey -- in which the governor does not share power with any other officials elected independently statewide. Voters typically elect an attorney general, state treasurer and lieutenant governor or secretary of state, none of whom have any allegiance to the governor.
The Star-Bulletin has long advocated that Hawaii's attorney general be elected. Instead of offering such a constitutional amendment, Democratic legislators in the current session are groping at other ways to detach the Republican governor from various state agencies and limit her ability to appoint people to certain offices.
For example, a Senate bill would strip the governor of the authority to reject administrative rules and regulations adopted by state agencies, a proposal that Attorney General Mark Bennett regards as unconstitutional. A House committee is considering another proposal that would deprive Lingle of the line-item veto of any education appropriation.
A governor's authority to administer agencies and exercise fiscal restraint is a major factor in states' bond ratings. Georgina Kawamura, the state budget and finance director, points out that an erosion of that authority could cause Hawaii's rating to drop, resulting in higher interest rates when the state borrows money.
The Senate Education Committee has approved a proposal that would create a "candidate advisory council" to appoint the University of Hawaii's Board of Regents. The governor, Senate president and House speaker each would name four members to the appointing council. A House bill would create a similarly shared process for directly naming members of the Land Use Commission.
The House is advancing a bill that would require legislative approval of gubernatorial appointments to the positions of deputy director and special assistant in state departments. The measure is nothing but a cumbersome, partisan attempt to harass the Lingle administration.
House Majority Leader Scott Saiki claims that the changes are not sought because of the presence of a Republican administration. He says similar concerns were raised during the administration of Gov. Ben Cayetano. Indeed, Cayetano was a Democratic maverick, fiscally responsible in achieving civil-service reform -- since repealed by the Legislature -- and in coping with the aftermath of the free-spending, public-employee-union-driven governorship of John Waihee.