February 14, 2009

Civil Unions = veto bait?

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 11:50 am

Maybe it’s out there somewhere, but I have not seen any news reports with Governor Lingle’s reaction to the Civil Unions bill that recently passed the House 33-17. The Advertiser and Star-Bulletin stories after the House vote both mentioned the uncertain fate of the bill in the Senate, but then stop there. A Google search found a quote from Governor Lingle’s senior policy adviser, Linda Smith, saying that Lingle takes no position.

According to the committee report, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor testified in opposition to the bill. I have requested copies of all the testimony, but I don’t see any government agencies (other than the LG) on the list of testifiers. Their absence is odd, as it is clear that CUs would have effects on a wide range of state functions. Of course, the Governor’s Office policy is to require prior approval of all “official” testimony from the executive branch, and if the Governor is unwilling to take a position on CUs, then this probably explains their collective silence.

33 House votes are not enough to override a veto. The Advertiser mentions that Representative Takai (who is on military leave) did not vote but supports the bill. I’m not sure why they mention that, since Takai would need to be present to participate in any (potential) veto override vote. Maybe Takai has a brief period of liberty scheduled this summer when he could attend? I dunno.

The Senate, if the speculation in the media is true, probably does not have a 2/3 majority in favor of the bill, even though Democrats comprise 92% of the chamber. The lack of a Senate supermajority is not that surprising, given that 13 House Democrats have already voted no.

If Governor Lingle signals her intentions regarding Civil Unions (in either direction), it would provide cynical uncertain legislators an opportunity to chose a more politically advantageous position. Which is likely to be the main reason why the Governor remains silent.

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