New Year, Same Old Legislature

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - January 23, 2008

The beginning of the year brings us a new legislative session. With each new session, there is a swirl of optimism, collegiality and a bit of giddiness.

The recent bow of the 2008 Legislative session was no different. The leadership in both the House and the Senate spoke of dedication to common goals, and the governor remarked she was so enthused by the expressions of desire to work together with the administration in achieving common goals.

And then we woke up.

By the time you read this, the Legislature will have been convened for the first few days of its 60-day schedule. I am certain the familiar strains of Kumbaya will have been replaced with The Party’s Over. I am not a practicing cynic, but it’s a familiar story that plays out year after year.

The conciliatory tone aside, the reality of election-year politics will soon overtake the contrived appearances of team-work.

The first salvo was launched recently by House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell when, in a letter to the editor, he blamed the deaths of pedestrians on Gov. Linda Lingle. The dispute was over the funding of monies for pedestrian safety measures. Caldwell conveniently left out the fact that the Democrats changed the source of funding for the initiative and refused to reverse their action. It is outrageous to exploit the deaths of citizens to advance a political agenda, but it appears the majority leader and the majority party have set the tone for the new year.

There will be professions that the economy, education, taxes and “sustainability” will be the focus of this session. I believe it will be the debate over the ban of plastic bags that will prove to be the “Tali-Van” issue for this year. The VanCam legislation raised the ire of voters for the first time in a long time. Although there was support in the Legislature from key politicians, the public rose up and put a stop to an onerous piece of legislation. The same may hold true when lawmakers try to force vendors to stop providing plastic bags for their customers. We’ll delve into the details of this issue next week.

The mantra I share every day on my radio program is “Politics touches every part of our lives, whether we like it or not.” Our representative democracy demands our attention and participation. The opening of each legislative session affords an opportunity to do just that.

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