Predicting A Lingle Civil Union Veto

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 30, 2010
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Gov. Linda Lingle

After what seemed like a very long time, Gov. Linda Lingle placed the controversial civil unions bill on a potential veto list right on deadline.

Was she stalling, and if she was, why?

Now she has until July 6 to decide whether to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without her signature. The bill would grant same-sex couples and heterosexual couples the same legal rights as married couples.

It doesn’t really matter how she sends the bill forward to an uncertain future or untimely death, both sides of the debate will rage on. It’s interesting to hear the arguments for and against the proposition, especially when many voters don’t really know the contents of the bill and the consequences should it become law.

In just the last two weeks, many members of the vaunted Hawaii Business Roundtable bolted from the position its executive committee expressed opposing wording of the bill, saying they did not want to the governor to veto the legislation. Their contention was they supported equality among their workers and customers and did not want to be considered anti-gay companies - a very surprising move when you consider the nature of business. One of the major rules of serving on a board of directors is to not appoint a committee to look into an issue, make recommendations to the general board and not honor their suggestions.


 

Why have a committee? It seems clear that at least part of the business community believes that the civil unions bill can have an unintended economic consequence.

It appears the governor had a lot of people looking into the question of civil unions. It was socially intelligent of her to listen to all of the recommendations, unlike the Business Roundtable, and she is poised to make a decision. The decision will be to either veto the bill without mercy, sign it into law or let it become law without her signature.

I personally don’t think any good governor relishes the thought of vetoing a bill passed by the Legislature. Anyone who has spent any time covering the Legislature knows the enormous amount of time and effort it takes to pass a bill like the one in question. Vetoes are more often than not done with some remorse. Every bill up for passage must pass a rigorous judicial examination to assure the bill is constitutional and legal. If it passes, it then goes to another committee, which has to decide if the bill has merit, and if it is fair to all parties. This is mainly a question of whether or not it’s good policy: Does it raise taxes, does it discriminate against a protected class of citizens and can it be enforced?

Over the years, bills that have become law without the governor’s signature typically are those that have not had major impact on the state. The bill in question does not fall in that category. It will impact a lot of citizens and will take special consideration to assure it is good policy. It will require additional revenue to enact and additional work for the bureaucracy, mostly the state Department of Health.

Make no mistake, this is not about sex, it’s about recognition and expanded benefits. Most of the language in the bill mirrors the state’s marriage laws and divorce proceedings. This means the bill will not become law without the governor’s signature. All of the rhetoric predicting that her decision will be based on her plans for a political future are nonsensical. She’s paid her dues and is concerned about her political legacy. There is no strong evidence that she will seek a higher office.


It doesn’t appear that Lingle will sign the bill into law because there is no clear indication that the bill, in its present form, answers the plight of those pushing for passage. This leads me to speculate that, if veto history of our past governors is any indication, Lingle will veto the legislation with a request that the Legislature rework the bill, clarify some of the language and resubmit it next session.

Only time will tell, but that appears to be the socially intelligent thing to do at this point.

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