Toughen law against
excessive speeding


The city prosecutor is asking state legislators to impose criminal penalties for excessive speeding.

GOVERNOR Lingle signed into law in June a measure that gives judges the authority to revoke driver's licenses of excessive speeders for up to five years. The new law has been ineffective because it fails to regard such dangerous conduct as a serious crime, instead merely denying the offender the privilege of driving. Legislators need to treat the recklessness properly as a criminal offense in next year's session.

City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle joined outgoing Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Cal Kawamoto at a joint city-state safety summit this week in calling for criminalization of excessive speeding. A bill approved by Kawamoto's committee in the past session would have made driving more than 30 mph above the posted speed limit a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 and a one-year driver's license suspension.

That bill was rejected after Judiciary Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa complained that it would increase the burden of proof required for a conviction to beyond a reasonable doubt. She said that would force police to tail suspected speeders for a certain distance to obtain evidence of the crime. Instead, the Legislature enacted a law, described by Carlisle as "a baby step," that allows revocation of licenses for five years for driving at 90 mph or more.

The new law has not been a deterrent. Fourteen persons have died so far this year in speed-related collisions, compared with 13 over the same period last year. The most recent was the death of a 20-year-old Honolulu man who died in a collision as he tried to overtake another car on the H-1 freeway. Police said it was caused by three cars racing, treated under present law as a petty misdemeanor.

Drunken driving was criminalized years ago and prosecutors have not been hampered by having to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Carlisle's support of making excessive speeding a Class C felony shows he is not intimidated by the higher burden of proof. New Police Chief Boisse Corrrea's endorsement is needed to assure legislators that his officers are up to the task of enforcing a law much tougher than the gentle provision now on the books.


Don’t let government
filter campaign info


President Bush has said he plans a lawsuit to push the Federal Elections Commission to shut down advocacy groups.

VOTERS know well that what springs from the mouths of politicians and their advocacy groups during an election year is certainly not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As a matter of fact, when an organization tacks on the word to its name, skeptical eyebrows go up almost as fast as a Swift boat taking fire along a river in Vietnam.

Yet it appears that politicians and power brokers believe Americans can't separate truth from lies, important issues from the immaterial, substance from puffery. Thus, they want a federal commission to do this for us. That's not a good idea.

The matter arises because of a television ad claiming that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry lied about how he won his Vietnam war medals. The unproven charges came from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, led by a man whose dislike of Kerry has festered since 1971 when he was recruited by the Nixon administration to debate Kerry on the war, and funded primarily by Texas Republicans who have been long-time associates of President Bush, his family and his campaign's directors.

Fueled by indiscriminate cable news networks that value good grooming more than reportorial skills, the ad took on legs. The TV talking heads pumped it as a legitimate issue since Kerry had put his war experiences at the top of his resume, forgetting that they had not examined the allegation for veracity.

Kerry initially ignored the ad, but the noise was drowning out his campaign. He called on President Bush to denounce the ads and when Bush didn't, asked the Federal Elections Commission to ban the ads, saying the group had violated the law that disallows advocacy groups, called 527s, from coordinating with the Bush campaign.

Meanwhile, the president remained under pressure to disavow the smear. When Sen. John McCain, who had defended his fellow Vietnam vet and whose good graces both Kerry and Bush covet, said he would directly "express my displeasure" to the president, Bush seized the initiative. He called McCain from Air Force One and asked McCain to join in court action to shut down all 527 groups, including Democrat-aligned groups, such as MoveOn.org, that have brutally attacked the president.

Advocacy groups are the fruit of campaign spending reforms that limited the amount of money a candidate could raise, a well-intentioned attempt to curb special interests from influencing federal policy through cash. However, the law allows organizations to collect unlimited funds to champion issues as long as they do not promote a candidate or work in cooperation with a campaign.

The effect of these convoluted rules is an infringement of free speech and free association. Political groups -- as well as citizens -- have a constitutional right to say what they want about a candidate and to talk with whomever they want. Having a government panel approve or disapprove ads violates that right.




Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

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Colbert Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,

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