Poinography!

June 28, 2009

The wait is almost over – vetoes announced tomorrow

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:24 pm

Long time, no posting. Sorry. This post has been on my back burner for quite some time, and now it is finally time for me to act.

Back in early May, the Governor issued a press release seeking public comment and input on the bills transmitted to her by the 2009 legislature.

As she has done in prior years, the Governor is seeking comments on bills from the public, including individuals, businesses, industry and professional associations, nonprofit groups, and community organizations statewide. In addition, the Administration is soliciting input from the counties, law enforcement agencies and state boards and commissions.

“I am asking the public to stay engaged in the process,” said Governor Lingle. “My Administration values the public’s input regarding the impact the proposed laws will have on residents, businesses and the future of our state.”

Engaged? That’s me, in spades!

Days earlier, in her veto of a few tax increases, the Governor chided the Legislature for its lack of transparency, suggesting a contrast with herself:

The Governor plans to issue her vetoes in a public forum with the opportunity for members of the community to fully see and understand the basis for her decisions. This compares to the practice of the Legislature who render their decisions late at night, frequently behind closed doors, and without the opportunity for public scrutiny.

A few weeks later, in the Honolulu Weekly wrap-up of the completed regular session, Governor Lingle wrote:

The general public may not be aware of how many critical decisions by the Legislature are made behind closed doors during conference committees, instead out in the open during public hearings. This means that when a bill fails to pass at the last minute, we often have the same questions as the public: “What happened? How come?” Several innovative measures introduced by our Administration, and which had broad bipartisan support, suffered this fate this past legislative session, and were killed during secret sessions and with no explanation. Until this process is improved and made more transparent, I fear that the Hawaii public will continue to be kept in the dark on issues that affect their quality of life.

A few chinks in the Governor’s “transparency” armor have appeared since then. Before her speech about the budget crisis, the Governor and her administration engaged in closed-door meetings all weekend. Hmmmm.

Is the Lingle administration on or off the transparency wagon at this time? June 29 is the last day for the Governor to signal if she intends to veto any of the still-pending legislation.

UPDATED: Here is the list of measures the Governor intends to veto.

So, here’s where I go to work. I have made a UIPA request to obtain all the incoming and outgoing communication and records related to the veto (or approval) of the still-pending legislation. If the Lingle administration is as good as her word [wink], then with this information we will know, “What happened? How come?” If individuals, businesses, industry and professional associations, nonprofit groups, community organizations, counties, law enforcement agencies and state boards and commissions actually participated in the process as she requested, then there should be plenty of records to disclose. I’m sure the Lingle administration will respond promptly, but even if a response takes the entire 10 days allowed by law we’ll have the information before any veto may be carried out.

RELATED: If she does not sign the budget bill by Wednesday, then what? Automatic furlough?

June 3, 2009

AG reverses its opinion of furloughs, with curious timing

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:39 pm

Thanks to the Hawaii House Majority for this blog post that provides two opinions sent from the Attorney General’s office to Speaker Say in response to a series of questions about furloughs. The first opinion, dated February 17, told the Speaker that furloughs would need to be part of the collective bargaining process. On May 29, however, a second opinion now claims that the Governor may unilaterally impose furloughs.

The first opinion took pains to note areas of the HRS where furloughs are conspicuously absent, but at that time the Deputy AG inferred that furloughs would need to be negotiated with the employee unions. The second opinion does a rather thorough job of dismantling the arguments presented in the first. So, why the change? The cynical no-brainer answer is that opinion number two serves the Governor’s interests at this time. However, I think the same answer applied to the February opinion, which also served the Governor’s interests at that time. Here’s why: In February, had the AG noted the HRS’ lack of clarity yet somehow concluded that the Governor could go ahead with furloughs, there would have been ample time for the Lege to amend HRS 89 to make it clear if furloughs were to be a part of collective bargaining, or, less likely, to make it clear that the Governor is indeed free to impose furloughs unilaterally. On May 29, however, with the collective bargaining contracts expiring in a few weeks and the Lege no longer in regular session, it is too late for HRS 89 to be clarified before any legal challenge to her furloughs (which she intends to begin in July).

Pretty devious, yeah? Lull them into complacency, then spring the trap.

Of course, the Lege could take up the matter of amending HRS 89 in the now almost-inevitable veto override special session this July. Everyone remembers that legislators were too-wiling to haphazardly bail out the Hawaii Super Ferry for very little obvious political benefit, so perhaps legislators would be just as quick to, at a minimum, require the Governor to negotiate furloughs with the public employee unions, i.e. a constituency that wields much more political influence than the pro-ferry folks.

May 10, 2009

Motion? What motion? Denied.

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 11:22 am

Hmmm. The Hawaii Supreme Court has not (so far as I know) responded to the Lingle administration’s motion to reconsider the Superferry ruling. More than ten days have elapsed since her motion and the Senate’s amicus brief were submitted nearly a month ago.

According to the procedure Charley Foster helpfully wrote about earlier, the decision invalidating Act 2 still holds. “Neener, neener, neener,” says the Court. Okay, the justices say that through only by inference through their inaction, but still… :)

Nothing overt “happened,” but this is clearly news. Did I overlook a mention of this development by the media? I don’t think so, but lemme know if I did.

May 8, 2009

Budget in limbo serves as a de facto furlough

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:45 pm

From a KGMB story:

[T]he governor could veto the entire budget. She has asked for guidance from her advisors about that option.

“If she vetoes the budget,” said Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, “come July 1st, when the new budget is supposed to take effect, then they wouldn’t have a budget, and I’m not sure how she’s going to operate because they can’t spend any money.”

If the override doesn’t work [note: the overrides worked], the governor’s vetoes would stand and she would have to make up the money gaps. She’s suggested furloughing public workers to cut costs or having state employees pay more for health care. The governor’s staff says, she is still working with the labor unions to reach an agreement.

The Governor has a few weeks between the beginning of a new fiscal year (July 1) and the deadline to veto legislation (July 15). If Lingle vetoes the budget at the last minute (she’d have to notify the Lege 10 days beforehand, but legislators could not vote to override until she actually returns the bill), or even if Lingle allows the budget to become law without her signature on July 15, there would be a period of time with no spending bill in effect. My best guess, then, is that would mean that the “non-essential” functions of state government would be shut down, those workers would not report to work, and those workers would not be paid. i.e. That looks like 10 or 11 days of furlough. How much money would that equal? I dunno.

May 4, 2009

More on the budget veto meme

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:55 pm

Hmmm. It is getting more weird. Since last week, when Borreca had a seemingly throw-away comment in a Q & A with Speaker Say, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and some checking. To that end, I decided to compare the transfer language in past budgets to the transfer language that is in the current budget about to be passed. The transfer language in the latest draft of the budget seems fairly typical in that regard, so I don’t see any reason for a veto of the new budget over the transfer of funds. Next, I reviewed the testimony submitted on the budget this year. [META: Given the importance of the document, it's amazingly sparse on testimony. Odd.] None of the testifiers raised any concern about transferring funds.

Meanwhile, a reliable source in the Capitol suggested that this bill, and not the budget bill, is the one facing a potential veto. I doubt it. Going into conference committee SB 387 would have required the Lege to approve any transfers of funds from one budget item to another. Indeed, there was testimony from the administration saying that it was unconstitutional and unworkable for those transfers to require legislative approval—which is not-so-subtle code for “we will veto this bill.” However, at this point the conference draft only requires the Governor to submit quarterly reports detailing any such transfers. That’s not unconstitutional, and it’s not very onerous, so I highly doubt she’d veto it in this form.

On the off chance that he’d respond to a blogger, I have sent an email to Russel Pang of the Governor’s press office, asking if he would like to explain or clarify what is going on. No response yet, but it’s only been a few hours…

Then, while eating my dinner I was reading Larry Price’s latest Midweek column:

First, can you remember when a governor has vetoed the entire state budget? I can’t, but it still remains a possibility. If that happens, the state of Hawaii would be literally shut down on July 1. The ramifications would be immense. Emotions would be pushed to the breaking point.

Price does not provide, nor does he even attempt to offer, an explanation of what is behind this veto “possibility.” Of course, every bill passed by the Lege faces the “possibility” of a veto, but Price clearly thinks the budget is in a uniquely risky position. Finally, after a few paragraphs of thoroughly cryptic rambling about “unholy coalitions” and “dirty tricks,” Price adds,

Hopefully, the governor won’t be forced [sic!] to veto the entire budget, although it appears clear that there are forces in the legislature pushing for that outcome.

Wha?! Which “forces” in the Lege favor a veto of the budget? Why be coy, Mr. Price? Sheesh. If you know who, then name names!

I think there is something queer about the way in which this whole meme has been propogated. Why the media are not pursuing the administration for comment is baffling and frustrating. For now, the Lingle regime appears to have been given a pass. I guess a budget being vetoed is not considered newsworthy. ??

April 30, 2009

What happens if the budget were vetoed?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:29 pm

Part I of II in a Poli-Sci-themed day of posts.

Embedded in this Star-Bulletin story is a very intriguing passage that is offered without further comment:

[Speaker] Say said [Governor] Lingle stopped by his office Tuesday morning to discuss the state budget and let him know she might veto the budget because of her concern with provisions in the bill that would limit her ability to transfer funds between programs.

Before I go on, there’s no way that a veto of the budget would not be overturned or (less likely) amended to a form that the Governor would not veto. So, with that established, her veto threat is best viewed as a political stunt.

Still, what if the budget were vetoed and the Lege did not override or amend the vetoed budget? Would the government shut down on July 1 when the new fiscal year begins? Would there be some sort of continuance of the previous budget? The Constitution doesn’t address the scenario explicitly, so my non-lawyer guess is that means no spending of state money (or, more specifically, no spending except what is authorized by non-vetoed legislation) could occur.

Going back to the Governor’s threat, what exactly is it about the fund transfer provisions in the budget that rises to the level of provoking a potential veto? I did a quick scan of the appearances of the verb “transfer” in the House and Senate drafts of the budget, but those appearances read more like permissive than restrictive language. Maybe something has happened at the ongoing budget conference meetings that is not reflected in those drafts. ??

Two-thirds majority? Don’t be fool(ed/ish)

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:29 pm

Part II of II in a Poli-Sci-themed day of posts.

I’ve seen a few Twitter tweets today about an agreement reached during conference meetings on SB 1677 that would require the Lege to pass a concurrent resolution with a supermajority vote before the conclusion of any sale or transfer of state lands to non-state entities.

If this were a ConAm question, then I’d be impressed. It’s not a ConAm. I’m not impressed. Future legislators, with a simple majority, could simply pass new legislation to suspend, repeal, or carve out exemptions to SB 1677. The Legislature, for reasons that should be obvious, has no power to (durably) restrict its own future actions in this manner.

April 23, 2009

Repeal of tax credits is within bounds of Constitution, even if retroactively applied

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:27 pm

The Senate balked at passing SB 199 CD1 which would suspend and amend certain tax credits, which led Representative Marcus Oshiro to suspend budget conference negotiations, according to the Advertiser. I don’t recall where I first read it, but a version of the argument that may have caused the Senators to reconsider the adjustments is posted at Hawaii Reporter . The crux of the argument from the Hawaii Science and Technology Council (a trade association) is:

BILL IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Bill reduces the investor credit from 100% to 90%. It is unconstitutional because it retroactively restricts the rights of investors to claim Act 221 investment tax credits for past investments made in years prior to 2009. This is because Act 221 requires investors to wait 5 years to claim all of their investment tax credits for investments made in the first year. Therefore, this bill restricts investors rights to claim credits for investments that may have been made as far back as 2005. Additionally, the credit reduction would apply to taxable years beginning January 1, 2009.

THE BILL HARMS INVESTORS AND WILL EXPOSE THE STATE TO LITIGATION

Applying this restriction retroactively to past year investments will trigger lawsuits from many investors for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars against the state. Eliminates any carryover for credits generated between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010, including credits generated from past investments made from years prior to 2009.

This argument is not compelling. States and the federal courts (to include SCOTUS) have ruled that retroactive tax increases are Constitutional. It may not be “fair” to renege on those who had acted in a certain way in order to obtain a tax advantage, but it’s legal. So says the Heritage Foundation, the Oregon Courts, and (from that Oregon link) the U.S. Supreme Court:

Legislation adjusting the benefits and burdens of economic life are presumed constitutional, even when retroactive. Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Co., 428 US 1, 96 S Ct 2882, 49 L Ed 2d 752 (1976). The standard set forth by the United States Supreme Court for application of the Due Process Clause to retroactive legislation merits repeating.

“Provided that the retroactive application of a statute is supported by a legitimate legislative purpose furthered by rational means, judgments about the wisdom of such legislation remain within the exclusive province of the legislative and executive branches[.]
“* * * * *

“[R]etroactive legislation does have to meet a burden not faced by legislation that has only future effects. * * * But that burden is met simply by showing that the retroactive application of the legislation is itself justified by a rational legislative purpose.” Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. Gray & Co., 467 US 717, 729-30, 104 S Ct 2709, 81 L Ed 2d 601, 611 (1984).

Hmmm. This all sounds rather similar to the legal canards that contributed to (and/or provided a pretext for) the failed vote to recall the civil unions bill. I wonder if the same principals (and/or political prinicples) are involved…

April 7, 2009

311 pages of inequality – courtesy of Senator Espero

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 8:25 pm

After soliciting a copy from Senator Espero, and after three evenings of effort, I offer the following crude digest of his 311-page draft to revive the Civil Union bill. However, after all this work, today comes news that there is at least one other alternative draft being circulated (by which Senator[s], if any, I don’t know) which is much more brief. And the red shirted opponents are already strategizing on how to respond. [I thought Dennis Arakaki was a rather progressive guy when he was in the House. Apparently not. What happened?!]

Espero’s bill seems to go from start to finish through the HRS, searching out instances where marriage is found, and making amendments to include civil unions in (some of) those laws. Because it takes this piecemeal approach instead of the more broad “civil unions have the rights of marriage” approach found in the previous incarnations, numerous rights are excluded simply because they are only found in case law, or in session law, or in administrative rules, etc. It’s a messy way to go about it, and Espero has, if follows, made a mess of it.

I have another document that catalogs all of the places where the term “marriage” is in the HRS, but I have yet to cross-reference it to Espero’s draft. I figured I would at least publish this digest before the whole issue dies, and continue working on comparing the draft to the other document.

After completing the digest I notice that Espero’s draft, while incrementaly better than the status quo, does not come close to replicating what comes to mind when one thinks of all the rights and privileges of marriage. If I tried to describe “marriage” to you only by means of the topics included in this bill, you’d be forgiven for not being eager to enter into it. Unless “marriage” currently meant even fewer rights and privileges than are in the draft… cf. reciprocal beneficiary status.

This is a long post, so click the link to see the gory details. Probably more than a few typos. Forgive me, but I have had enough for today, I’ll correct them if/as they turn up.

(more…)

March 26, 2009

Lingle’s “budget” has $278M hole – that may or may not exist and may or may not need filling

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:43 pm

Am I missing something, or is the Governor’s latest attempt at a budget yet another non-starter? First, I’ll note again that it’s foolish (and I’m speaking to both the Executive and Legislative branches here) to write budgets while there are collective bargaining agreements still unresolved, but that silliness happens regularly… Second, if the Lege drafts a budget that raises revenues or includes lay-offs of government workers, then the calculus at the collective bargaining talks changes. The House has already passed its draft of the budget that does those things, and the Senate draft probably will, too. The Governor submitted her (half-baked) budgets so late that she might as well have foregone submitting them at all. Now, whatever budget that passes will certainly not be anything resembling her “budget,” and she and her administration surely recognize(d) that fact. Thus, the Lingle administration has been freed to posture and to throw red meat to the masses (with talk of no new taxes, no lay-offs, pay and benefit cuts for public workers, etc.). That said, I don’t think the government employee unions are likely to agree to Lingle’s givebacks until they see what the alternative fiscal scenario from the Lege would be. Furthermore, since the counties and the unionized county workers are also part of the collective bargaining process, the Governor’s “take these pay and benefit cuts or face lay-offs” stance is not going to present a genuine risk to the rank and file unionized county workers. I have not heard of any Mayor(s) issuing a similar ultimatum. Have you?

On the “other” topic of the day, the Senate’s failure to recall the Civil Unions bill confirmed my cynical fears. How the Senate went from a (so-called) majority of support for the bill to only six votes in favor of the recall can’t be spun: too many duplicitous cowards. Oh well. Props to the six who voted in favor, and bigger props to Senator Hooser for his effort.

March 22, 2009

What if the Justices actually meant it?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 11:09 am

Lots of articles and online chatter last week about the Lingle administration and the Legislative leaders who intend to request that the Hawaii Supreme Court reconsider the ruling that invalidated Act 2. The crux of their request, so far as I can tell, is that in ruling that Act 2 was a “special law” and not a “general law,” the validity of numerous other previous (and pending) pieces of legislation are put in doubt. I am not a lawyer, but I am reminded of the old adage that a lawyer should be careful about asking a question if he or she does not know the answer.

The doctrine of Equal Protection is multi-faceted, so I expect that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to generalize how it should be applied by the Court to any particular piece of legislation. I do think, however, that the arguments that the Superferry ruling endangers (or, at least, clouds) the legitimacy of OHA or the legality of the GET surcharge on Oahu for rail (to name the most commonly referenced two) are off the mark. The “rational bases” and “governmental interests” advanced by the Oahu GET surcharge and the existence of OHA were clearly defined and the necessity of restricting those beneficiaries (i.e. to Oahu and to Native Hawaiians, respectively) were logical (even if one does not agree with the existence of OHA or the GET surcharge).

However, many of the other examples brought forth are, in my view, clearly “special laws,” that have always been of dubious constitutional standing. Few were ever challenged, that’s all. If those laws are ultimately struck down, I would not be surprised or disappointed. I’ve seen too many special interest bills (although more have failed than have passed, I’m happy to say) that simply asserted that favoring $ORGANIZATION is “in the best interest of the state,” without any evidence. Hopefully, with this ruling (and a possible “reconsideration”), those days are on the wane. The fact that such favoritism carried on for so long basically unchallenged is unfortunate, but it is not surprising. Really, who would risk the expense to challenge such a law? The beneficiary’s rivals, perhaps, but it’s almost always easier (and less politically risky) to lobby for your own special treatment in the future than to raise the ire of the legislators by challenging the largess previously awarded to your competition.

March 21, 2009

Unclear on the social media concept

Filed under: General,Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 5:40 am

Ed Case has sent another bulk spam message announcing that he is on Twitter and Utterli. I clicked through to his Twitter page and see that a few dozen people are already following him … currently, however, Ed Case is following ZERO people.

Not exactly how the medium was intended to be used. He is sending the message, “listen to me, while I ignore you.”

BTW, I am on Twitter as Poinographer. And, no, I don’t follow everyone who follows me. The difference is that I’m not running for office and selling myself as a great listener. Heh.

March 18, 2009

No legislative save for HSF is likely from the Senate

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:37 pm

One part of my previous post has been quickly put to rest:

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha) said yesterday that, given the latest court decision that Act 2 is unconstitutional because it was designed to benefit a specific company, “I’m not sure there is anything the Legislature can do or is willing to do (to help the Superferry).”

Hanabusa said the Senate also is not interested in revamping the state’s environmental review law, known as Chapter 343, to ease the rules. Although the Legislature last year allocated money for a Legislative Reference Bureau study of the law, “we are not going to do anything to it piecemeal to help Hawaii Superferry. That’s not going to happen.”

According to an Advertiser article.

Governor Lingle’s Attorney General, Mark Bennett, has been reviewing the decision striking down Act 2 and, along with legislative leaders [according to a tweet from Derrick DePledge just a few minutes ago], will ask the Hawaii Supreme Court to “reconsider” the ruling. Um, whatever that means. I don’t know if the Hawaii Supreme Court is obligated to respond to such requests, but my hunch is they’re not. Perhaps in ignorance, I thought the Court was, well, “Supreme” and once it had ruled the matter was settled unless there is an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. I have not heard anything about such an appeal, nor have I even heard any speculation as to the grounds for such an appeal.

The “reconsideration” request sounds to me like a desperation move at this point. We’ll see.

March 16, 2009

And now, a class of (n)one

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:58 pm

Bu-bye. Heh.

I remember quite well when the (blatantly smarmy) Superferry folks came to twist legislative arms while I was working as a clerk for the House Transportation Committee. Garibaldi and his hui wanted (and proceeded, at length) to talk to everyone about everything except about conducting an environmental review. The Superferry got its way with a majority of pliable legislators, but has never had the same luck with the Hawaii Supreme Court. Live by slick PowerPoint presentations without substance, die by no-frills legal briefs. As a long-time foe of the cult of PowerPoint, I take particular glee in that sub-sub-aspect of todays news.

Anyway, now the company has announced it will suspend ferry operations in reaction to the Court’s latest ruling. I won’t presume to know the legal process well enough to speculate about a basis for an appeal to the US Supreme Court. After reviewing the decision, however, I don’t see how a legislative remedy could both allow the Superferry to resume operations before the environmental review is complete and also comport with the Court’s decision. (Unless the Lege wants the Superferry to operate so badly that a majority is willing to gut amend HRS 343 itself, i.e. the “general law,” rather than to carve out another dubious exemption). Looking through the bills that are still alive, there are at least two bills with suitable titles, should legislators insist on lacing up their gloves again on behalf of HSF.

March 9, 2009

With a bang or a whimper?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:41 pm

Others (such as Lance Collins via Disappeared News and kolea via his comments at The Notebook) have already done a fine job describing the ins and outs of how it is that the Civil Unions bill remains in the Senate Judiciary Committee after the chair’s recommendation to pass the bill was met with a tie vote and, thus, failed to carry. I concur that the ersatz “mandatory waiting period” said to expire on March 10 really never had to be honored by the Senate, but that is water under the bridge.

At this point the questions become simple: a) will a Senator move tomorrow to recall the bill from the committee for consideration by the full Senate? b) will that motion get a second? and, if so, c) will the motion carry?

Friday saw articles (Advertiser and Star-Bulletin) that indicated that Senate Democrats, depending upon which unnamed source you believe, have (or don’t have) the courage to recall the bill and to pass it.

While senators may have reservations in private, a vote on the Senate floor would put them on the spot publicly, and a majority have told gay activists they support civil unions.

[DOUG: Did you catch that? The implication being that some Senators with private reservations (i.e. in caucus) have told supporters of the bill a different story. Shocking, I know.]

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), said she would like Senate Democrats to come to a consensus. She said earlier reports that the Senate had the votes to pull the bill from committee and to pass it on the floor were accurate at the time. But she said some senators are now looking at other factors, including the importance of maintaining the committee process.

——–

[Senator] Espero, offered an amendment, which was not supported by the caucus [Thursday], but he still hopes to have it discussed Tuesday.

“The amendment would acknowledge civil unions. However, it would not equate them to marriage, and that could provide a win-win situation,” Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach) said.

An amendment could complicate the issue because it would force the bill back to the House and possibly a conference committee. Another senator who asked not to be identified said bluntly that “an amendment will kill it.”

Also, Senate Democrats say support for the bill among Democrats has weakened. Unofficial tallies two weeks ago had 18 supporters, but now supporters say they have a bare majority of 13.

An amendment will kill it. Especially an amendment “crafted” by Espero, a Senator who is not even half as politically shrewd as he may think himself to be…

As for Senate President Hanabusa’s hope for a “consensus” on the issue: balderdash. Senator Gabbard will never support the bill, so there will never be a consensus. A minority of the caucus is allowed to stop the whole legislative process? Strange leadership decision, that.

If Senators who support this bill were to come this far and not even attempt to recall the bill, then that would speak volumes about the depth of their support for civil rights. Besides, it is not as if the committee process is being hijacked. There would be no “majority vote” in the Judiciary committee overridden, that vote was 3-3. If Senator Hanabusa had assigned an odd number of committee members, then a recall would not have been necessary. I can’t see any non-nefarious reason for a key committee to have an even number of members assigned, so Hanabusa deserves to have that decision blow up her in face, and often.

So, are the Senators who support civil unions going to remain silent and attempt to hide behind that “respect for Senate process” fig leaf, or will two Senators move to recall the bill, even if it means forcing their colleagues to go on record.

Heck, it’s even possible that an opponent of the bill (or an opponent of Senate leadership, or of both) who wants to force the issue could move (or second) the recall motion. Wouldn’t that make the civil unions supporters look even more timid! Whatever, so long as it comes to a vote, I’m down.

March 4, 2009

Medal of Valor?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:27 pm

From a Star-Bulletin article about the memorial service for a member of the Hawaii National Guard who died in a “non-combat traffic accident” last month in Kuwait:

Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state adjutant general, presented the State Medal of Valor to [the soldier's parents] at the service attended by more than 400 people.

At first, I thought this may have been a misprint, since (if you remember my posts on the topic pre-blog crash) Hawaii has its own “Medal of Honor” that is awarded posthumously to the family of Hawaii-connected (by birth, residency, or duty station) service members. I still believe that the state award is grossly “over-named” insofar as it clearly infringes on the name and reputation of the Medal of Honor bestowed by Congress; the Hawaii MoH is more akin to a posthumous Purple Heart. Anyway, I googled the Hawaii Medal of Valor and learned that Hawaii established the award in 1994.

Hawaii citizens (military and civilian) are eligible for the Medal of Valor for performing an uncommon act of personal heroism involving the voluntary risk of his/her own life, or for a self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to be distinctly above and beyond the call of duty.

Given the continuing (and increasingly curious) paucity of details regarding the traffic accident that resulted in this soldier’s death, it seems premature (at best) to bestow an award recognizing “personal heroism,” in my opinion. Plus, I’m still very bitter that Sergeant Rafael Peralta was awarded the Navy Cross and denied the Medal of Honor, for his act of valor in Fallujah that was unquestionably heroic. I don’t take these situations lightly.

February 25, 2009

Editors are clearly not Constitutional scholars

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:33 pm

The Advertiser editorial was a train wreck on Tuesday, especially as seen from a government process standpoint. It is as if the editorial were written by people completely unfamiliar with the Hawaii Constitution. I am not a lawyer, nor am I a Constitutional scholar per se, but I am familiar with the document enough to point out the obvious mistakes made in the editorial.

Instead of an effective bill advocating for equal rights for same-sex couples, the poorly worded [HB 444] equates civil unions with same-sex marriage: “Partners in civil unions,” it asserts, “shall have all the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law … as are granted to spouses in a marriage.”

In doing so, it disregards the 1998 vote in which about 70 percent of voters passed a Constitutional amendment setting up a definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

In its present form, HB 444 clearly is an end run around the 1998 vote.

I don’t get it. The editors want an “effective” bill that “advocat[es] for equal rights” but then immediately say that a bill that “equates civil unions with same-sex marriage” is the wrong solution. So, what non-”end run” method would the better solution to provide for equal rights be, then? A law that provides for civil union rights that are not the same as marriage? If the editors wish to argue that there are certain marriage rights that should not be afforded to same-sex couples they may, but then they can’t [logically] claim to support “equal rights.”

Many of the lawmakers who favor civil unions believe the public sentiment has changed in the past 10 years, and they may be right.

But the only way to test this theory is to ask Hawai’i voters directly, not simply ignore the earlier vote now on the books. Lawmakers should put the issue to another vote.

The Constitutional Amendment was not ignored! The legislature did exercise the power granted by that ConAm to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

But, leaving that point aside momentarily, Hawaii has no means to “put the issue to another vote” directly. i.e. Hawaii’s Constitution does not provide for referenda or for the initiative process. Hawaii voters may ratify proposed amendments to the Constitution, and, short of holding a ConCon (which Hawaii voters declined last year), another ConAm is the only means to put a policy question directly to voters.

Following Hawai’i's 1998 referendum [sic!], lawmakers attempted to equalize access to state services and protections through the “reciprocal beneficiaries” law, a codification of civil partnerships, including same-sex couples. But reciprocal beneficiaries do not have the same rights and protections under state law as married couples.

Sigh. Again, we have no referendum. Words matter. The editors need editors.

It would be far more just if elected leaders would recognize the importance of the 1998 vote. HB 444 should be recast to seek a new amendment that would take the question to the voters in 2010.

State lawmakers still haven’t fulfilled their constitutional duty to provide equal rights for same-sex couples under state law. But voters deserve a chance to re-examine the issue of civil unions, and to be asked which course to follow toward that goal.

Such an important and emotionally charged decision should not be imposed by a few — let the voters decide.

Since the passage of the 1998 ConAm, I believe it is (unfortunately) accurate to say that there is no longer a “constitutional duty” for legislators to provide equal rights for same-sex couples under state law. It’s quite the contrary actually. That 1998 ConAm essentially granted the legislature a new power to deny the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples—and the legislature quickly exercised that power.

Now, with no referendum or initiative possible, how would “such an important and emotionally charged issue” be decided by the voters? Like I wrote earlier (and the editors seem to have finally caught on to some extent), another ConAm would be the only way possible; ignoring the fact that the deadline to introduce such legislation has long since passed, and ignoring that the title of HB 444 [or any other active bill stil pending in either chamber] is incompatible with proposing a ConAm. But, if a ConAm were still possible, then the question becomes what specific proposal would be put to the voters for ratification in 2010? Seriously, there would need to be a relatively concise question to be printed on the ballot. What would that specific question be? Oh, and do keep in mind that a new ConAm would need to comport with the 1998 ConAm, because repealing or amending the 1998 ConAm would require a separate vote (and it would be a real mess in that situation if a change to the 1998 ConAm failed, yet a new ConAm was ratified).

This post is not as tightly argued as I would like, but I’ve got other things to attend to today. This is a good enough start, I reckon, but I apologize. And, yes, I see the irony in my scolding editors in an incompletely-edited post of my own. :)

February 22, 2009

Tesoro publishes gross margin data, whereas PIMAR will not

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 9:56 am

Took me a few days to notice, but the Advertiser ran a story last week about the turnaround for Tesoro (one of the two refiners in Hawaii). Before my previous webhost had a disk failure, you might recall all of the posts I had written about the Petroleum Industry Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting (sic!) program and the weekly reports that are published which are of no use to consumers trying to ascertain if gasoline price gouging is happening. The weekly reports include boilerplate language claiming that gross margins (and other data) for refiners can’t be released because, with only two refiners, those data cannot be aggregated to maintain confidentiality (never mind that confidentiality could be maintained by publishing the gross margins of the refiners and withholding the useless-to-consumers volume data…). Well, what’s the need for confidentiality now that Tesoro has made public its gross refining margin data?

Hawai’i operations played a large part in the profit increase, as the refinery here produced a $140 million gross refining margin compared with a $51 million loss last year. Tesoro has taken steps to modify the plant to handle heavier crude oil in addition to the light sweet crude from Asia, while getting better prices for its production.

Those changes helped the refinery transition from being Tesoro’s worst to the best in terms of a closely watched industry metric, gross refining margin per throughput barrel.

Gross refining margin is revenue minus the cost of crude oil, purchased refined products, transportation and distribution.

In Hawai’i, the fourth-quarter margin per barrel was $23.42, compared with a negative $7.42 last year.

So, with the company making the data public, any claim to confidentiality under the PIMAR Protective Order (PDF) should go away, right? The PUC should begin publishing the data.

February 21, 2009

Bah. Who needs Rex Johnson, sexism, and porn? We have ninjas! Tourism is saved.

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 10:37 am

One the best Advertiser headlines that I can recall: Ninjas sent to fight tourism slump.

Sadly, the author of this article seems to be oblivious to the laughably farcical premise. To “lure visitors from Japan” the Hawaii Tourism Authority (via its subcontractor, Hawaii Tourism Japan) hires ninjas to entertain pre-schoolers and shoppers in Honolulu(?). Who needs the economic stimulus package? This plan can’t fail. Whatever amount the HTA is paying HTJ, it is not enough—even in these tough economic times. I mean we’re talking ninjas, folks. Aww, yeah. Budget surplus, here we come.

Getting those weapons through TSA checkpoints will put a damper on the otherwise inevitable torrent of ninja tourists, but this plan is orders of magnitude better than having the previous boss in the news for forwarding racist and pornographic email messages…

February 18, 2009

Why did I pre-order? [grumble, grumble]

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 6:25 pm

Okay, I gotta admit that I’m feeling like a sucker for pre-ordering my copy of Cayetano’s memoir. After pestering the publisher for more than a year(!) while the publication date was repeatedly pushed back, I ordered my copy as soon as the website would take my money. It said books would be delivered February 13. I still have not recieved my pre-ordered copy.  A Friday release followed by a holiday weekend contributed to the slow shipping, of course. But on Sunday I see stories about the book in the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin. The Advertiser also published four consecutive days of excerpts from the book, and today we see the Capitol Notebook blogger flogging the autobiography, too. That’s a lot of free publicity and can’t hurt sales…

I feel like one of those Harry Potter dorks who did not go to the midnight release party and is forced to avoid the media and their friends (well, some of those dorks have more than one friend, anyway). When will I get my copy, dagfunnit!? :)

I did sneak a peek at the story sidebars to see that Cayetano will be signing copies of his book in a few weeks. I’ll be there! …if I have my copy in time.

UPDATE: I received my copy in the mail today (i.e. February 20). Postmarked on the 19th(!). Now I really feel like a chump for pre-ordering and paying for shipping when I could have went down the road to a bookstore last weekend and avoided shipping fees altogether…

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