Calling On Hawaii Promise Police

Larry Price
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Wednesday - July 21, 2005
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When the 2006 Legislative Session rolls around, the governor’s people may need to call on the services of the (non-existent) Hawaii Promise Police (HPP). Members of this totally ineffective law enforcement agency have no record of ever making a politician keep a public promise, but there is a first time for everything.

The games that go on between the governor and the Legislature would be comical if they weren’t so serious. It’s been going on for a while. Where else does a no vote on a constitutional amendment mean a yes vote? Where else does a blank vote mean a no vote? When asked, the professionals who word amendments for ballots claim it’s the most legally correct language.

In deciding intent, politicians can act like English majors and argue over where a comma should be placed in a sentence. We could blame this tendency on a former president of the United States who once stated, “It depends on what your definition of is, is.”

Most recently, according to majority Democrats, two bills vetoed by the governor this legislative session became law because of typographical errors in the governor’s notification to lawmakers on June 27. Five of the 28 bills she vetoed had incorrect numbers. The error was quickly corrected, but the House majority still intends to take the typographical errors to court. The state attorney general responded to the threatened lawsuit with a 27-page rebuttal. It didn’t change their intent.

In the rebuttal, the AG pretty much challenges the plaintiffs to prove that they didn’t understand the intent of the veto. Chances are it’s going to be difficult. The real problem here is that this kind of behavior between the governmental powers leaves the taxpayers in a wake of unbelievability. How could it do anything else?

Even the veto process needs to be understood and appreciated for what it is. It’s gamesmanship between the lawmakers and the administration. The record shows that the governor has three options when she deals with bills from the Legislature.

First, she can sign the bill into law.

Second, she can veto the bill, and the legislators must override if they choose to.

The last option is the most tricky. The governor can allow the bill to become law without

her signature. The first two options are pretty clear, but what’s the real message in allowing a bill to become law without a gubernatorial signature?

I’m told by experts that this means the governor agrees with the conceptual idea of the bill, but has issues with provisions in the bill. They can be clear-cut political flaws or difficult to understand “technical” flaws. The transit bill Lingle allowed to become law featured at least nine flaws. Technical flaws are probably better known to taxpayers as “loopholes” in the law, and if you know the loopholes in the law you are well on your way to making a lot of money by taking advantage of them.

Now we are led to believe that the governor wasn’t really against the transit-tax bill, she was more concerned with the issue of “Home Rule.” That means she wanted the counties to handle their own tax money and use it how they see fit. So was HB 1309 HD2 SD2 CD1 “Relating to Taxation” a “Home Rule” bill or a “Transit” bill? Actually, it simply gives the counties the right to raise tax money for mass transit projects, complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 or any other public transportation system.

Finally, in the compromise, which was predictable if you understood what the disagreement was about, the governor accepted — trusted if you will — the pledge of the Senate president and House speaker to change the bill to reflect the governor’s “Home Rule” issues.

It’s a little hard to imagine the governor trusting any group that is taking her to court over a typographical error. Especially when the majority lawmakers accepted two of the five bills without her signature with typos and are legally challenging the other three.

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