August 13, 2010

Was Bunda resigned before running for LG? Ask the Senate President.

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

Okay, it was mildly interesting when Larry Geller first raised the topic. I submitted a few comments on his post and, honestly, I thought it was a non-issue. It became slightly more interesting when a lawsuit was filed. And soon (if not already) it will be in the mainstream media, since it has already appeared in the Star-Advertiser’s blog twice.

The question is, did Senator Bunda resign from the Senate before filing to run for Lieutenant Governor? As reported by Geller, Senator Bunda submitted a letter July 14th where he described his “intent” to resign. According to DePledge’s blog, Bunda has vacated his office, initiated his retirement, turned in his keys, etc. The lawsuit, however, argues that without an (unspecified) explicit act of resignation , Bunda is not resigned and, thus, he is ineligible to run for LG. Implicitly, then, the argument is that Bunda is still a member of the Senate.

Allow me to gently point out that the Legislature is a co-equal branch of government. This matters greatly here.

In the Caldwell fiasco, the Office of Elections was answering a question of whether Caldwell had properly withdrawn as a candidate for re-election to the House before filing as a candidate for election to the Honolulu City Council, the Office of Elections was not addressing a question regarding resignation from elected office. The Office of Elections has no authority to decide if a candidate is in fact resigned from office. If the candidate affirms that he or she is eligible to be a candidate, then the Office of Elections has no statutory means to dispute the affirmation.

Likewise, the Judiciary is not (nor should it be) empowered to resolve what is essentially a question of Senate resignation policy, i.e. a “rule of [Senate] proceedings.” Not to put too fine a tip on it, but the Senate runs its own shop and the Judiciary does not have to like it.

Therefore, the President of the Senate (not a judge, and not the Chief Elections Officer) should rule whether any Senate rule was violated, and/or if Bunda’s resignation was in effect on July 16. So far as I can tell, the Senate rules do not proscribe any official resignation procedure, leaving the Senate President with wide latitude to rule on the matter. Whatever is decided by the President, if the Senate then wished to challenge that ruling, regular parliamentary procedure would allow for a majority vote.

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