The Governor’s Next Showdown

Larry Price
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Wednesday - April 25, 2007
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We are about to witness one of the scariest legislative maneuvers - the gubernatorial veto.

The gubernatorial veto is a direct challenge between the executive branch and the legislative branches of government. Once the governor vetoes a bill, it must be overridden by a two-thirds votes in both the House of Representative and Senate or it will not become a law. Simply put, it is a political showdown with heavy consequences.

The first major veto happened in the middle of a host of several contentious re-confirmation hearings of the governor’s cabinet. The tension was remarkable as individuals speaking for and against the nominees were grilled with great gusto. Obviously, there is a lot at stake on the outcome of the hearings.

It’s not a pretty sight and begs the question, “Why would anyone want a job in the governor’s cabinet that much, to put up with that kind of abuse?” The answer is, not many.

It all has to do with power. No matter which side you are on, in most cases, the winner gets stronger and the loser loses political capital. So in this intense political climate, enter Senate Bill 14, titled “A bill for an Act Relating to the University of Hawaii.” It establishes a seven-member Candidate Advisory Council, exempts it from the open meeting provisions of the Sunshine Law (Chapter 92, HRS), and establishes geographic criteria for 12 of the regent positions.

SB 14 establishes a narrowly focused constituency-based selection council with each member appointed by seven separate interests, including the All Campus Council of Faculty Senate Chairs, the Executive Council of University of Hawaii Student Caucus, the Association of Regents Emeritus, and the President of the Alumni Association.

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Accreditation Commission of Community and Junior Colleges have pointed out that the process contained in the bill runs counter to national best practices in university governance.

The usually quiet and refined president of the University of Hawaii System has stated his strong opposition to SB 14.

What’s important to note is the electorate amended the State Constitution in the last general election to change the method for selecting the Board of Regents.

Is it possible SB 14 is what the public had in mind when they voted? I don’t think so. I think the public wants to keep politics out of the selection process and have regents selected on merit not their political persuasion.

It is interesting to note that as the bill was being vetoed by the governor, the legislature was probably already geared up to override the gubernatorial veto, before they closed down the legislature for 2007.

Only time will show what happens; however, if it does happen according to plan, the Republican Party is going to have a lot of motivation and ammunition to inspire them in the next election, because the legislature is about to pass not only SB 14, but another nine bills taking away power from the governor’s office. It’s not likely to be a pretty sight.

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