A Super Lesson For Gov. Lingle

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 17, 2007
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Sad but true, most of us learn more from mistakes and defeat than from success and victory. The Lingle administration has learned a valuable lesson.

There is little question that the environmentalists and their handlers outwitted the Department of Transportation and the state Attorney General’s office. If you read the accounts of the judicial ruling on Maui, you would have to believe that one side knew the law and the other side never read it. Of course that is absolute nonsense, but what’s done is past and the state has to move forward.

Forward, in this case, is to call a special session of the Legislature. It probably doesn’t matter if or when a special session will be called. What’s more important is its content is of monumental consequence for the Lingle administration.

Only time will tell if the legislators will rewrite that revised statute that covers environmental assessments. Contrary to popular belief, the judicial branch of government does not make laws. The only way it does that is with rulings that become precedent. It does this by making rulings on the intent of the law. The bottom line is, if the law is not being interpreted correctly, meaning the way the legislators intended the law to be read, then the legislators have the responsibility to correct the vagueness of the law.

There is probably a more critical agenda for the Legislature to act on. It has to do with the confirmation of the governor’s nominations of three very important directorships in her cabinet: Department of Land and Natural Resources (Laura Thielen), Labor (Darwin Ching) and Public Safety (Clayton Frank). Additionally, as a result of a reorganization of the state’s health system on all islands, the governor had to appoint 60 new members to a board to oversee the system.

If for some reason the legislators decide they want to make life miserable for the Lingle administration, they can choose not to act on her appointments. If they choose not to, then those individuals are automatically out of work and can’t be appointed again.

In another matter, the Senate has to decide on confirmation of a judge for the Intermediate Court of Appeals, the seat occupied by Judge James Burns, who was forced into retirement by a bill passed by the Legislature. Unlike Lingle’s other appointees, if the Senate does-n’t take action on confirmation, the appointee is automatically confirmed.

There is a strict timetable for all this to happen. If the governor convenes a special session, they have only 30 days to correct the vagueness in the environmental statute. With two-thirds of the votes they can extend the 30-day special session for 15 more days and that’s it.

If all this fails and party politics win out over the needs of the state, then the next problem is how the state will come up with the $40 million for harbor improvements for the Superferry, and the workers who will lose their jobs. That answer is probably simple. Those who use the harbors will have to pay the $40 million shortfall, and the owners of the Superferry will have to take care of their vanquished employees the best they can.

It’s interesting to note that during this critical time, this federally supported project has not caused any senator in Washington to lift a finger or utter a word of encouragement, as they did during the environmental mortal combat over the construction of the H-3 freeway. After all, the Superferry has FEMA implications for Kauai, as do civil defense and homeland security issues for all the islands.

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