Democrats evaluating
veto list to decide
on targets for override

Lawmakers are convening a special session of the Legislature today to override several of Gov. Linda Lingle's 28 vetoes from the 2005 regular session.

Lingle sent her final vetoes to the Legislature yesterday, and majority Democrats were scheduled to meet this morning to determine how many they can agree on for an override.

"We are still not quite set on the list," Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea) said yesterday.

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise) said he also was studying the vetoes and did not know exactly which ones would be targeted for overrides.

A vote of two-thirds of the members in both the House and the Senate is required to overturn a veto. Majority Democrats, who outnumber Republicans 4-to-1 in both chambers, have overturned 13 of the Republican governor's vetoes in the past two years.

Lingle's vetoes yesterday included one on a bill that changes the appointment process for the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. Her veto message says the proposal prematurely assumes that voters in 2006 will approve an amendment to the state Constitution that allows the change in the appointment process.

Also vetoed was one of two bills related to discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Lingle approved a measure that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of classifications protected against discrimination under existing fair housing laws. An exemption for religious organizations was crafted with the help of officials from Brigham Young University-Hawaii.

She vetoed a similar measure that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender expression or identity.

"The housing bill was the result of many, many years of debate, discussion and an ultimate compromise with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ... I felt it was important to honor that compromise," Lingle said.

Also becoming law is a bill that would restore the Voluntary Employee Benefit Association Trust, or VEBA, health plan for Hawaii's public school teachers for a three-year trial period. The state teachers union has complained that its members have faced higher insurance premiums and diminished benefits since the Legislature forced teachers to move out of the VEBA Trust in 2001 and into a separate health plan.

Lingle had considered vetoing the bill but said yesterday she would allow it to become law without her signature because there are many public employees who feel that the VEBA trust has benefits, and wish to have the option available to them.

Among the rejected issues expected to be taken up today is the governor's veto of a bill that restricts the rule-making authority of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on workers' compensation issues.

Democrats introduced the measure, Senate Bill 1808, after the Labor Department began setting new rules aimed at curbing workers' compensation abuses and bringing down costs for businesses. The new rules, which were instituted last month, were prompted after the Lingle administration failed in its attempts to bring about sweeping reforms to the workers' compensation system.

"They're restricting us from making reforms we know will help and will bring down the cost and will get workers helped quicker, get them back to work quicker," Lingle said yesterday. "That one I wouldn't want to see them override."

Democrats have criticized the governor, saying she is going around the Legislature's authority to set state policies.

It is unclear what would happen to the new rules if the veto is overridden and passed into law. The bill states that any rules adopted after Jan. 1 would be invalid. Lingle and officials with the Labor Department said they have not yet discussed the issue with state Attorney General Mark Bennett.

Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca contributed to this report.


Lingle says no

Gov. Linda Lingle has vetoed 28 bills passed by the Legislature during the 2005 regular session. Those bills include:

Senate Bill 1808: Restricting the rule-making authority of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on workers' compensation policies and procedures.

SB1257: Increases the number of members on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents by three, to 15; establishes the candidate advisory council to screen and propose candidates for appointment to the board.

SB 960: Authorizes the use of up to $8 million from the Hawaii Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund for various natural disaster mitigation and prevention efforts.

SB 74: Permits drivers who are at least 18 years of age to receive a commercial driver's license; prohibits operation of tractor-trailers by persons under the age of 18.

House Bill 1450: Prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression as a public policy matter and specifically with regard to employment.

HB 332: Requires retailers to post signs telling shoppers whether baked goods were previously frozen and then thawed.

Sources: State Legislature, Office of the Governor

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