February 1, 2009

Dissident Democrats seek to clean House

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 1:23 pm

I haven’t even touched the Senate Bills, but I did survey the list of bills introduced in the House. Many of the bills will never even be heard in committee, and most of them will never become law, but it’s still a fun list to browse—if you’re wonky.

Anyway, I thought I’d point out HB 186 which was introduced by Representative Saiki. It proposes a Constitutional Amendment to limit legislators’ terms to 20 years in the House and 20 years in the Senate. Saiki won his House seat in 1994. Saiki and other dissident House democrats have tried several times in recent years to unseat Speaker Say (first elected in 1976). Representative Chris Lee (a true freshman) would appear to have joined Saiki among the dissident Democrats, since he was not “awarded” (read “burdened with”) the typical vice-chairmanship of a committee that is foisted upon junior legislators who support the Speaker. Chris Lee introduced HB 973, a bill substantially the same as Saiki’s.

Not to be outdone, however, and still smarting from the defeat of the ConCon ballot question in November, Representative Belatti (elected in 2006) introduced HB 364 which proposes to amend the Hawaii Constitution to limit legislators to only 12 years in each chamber. Unsurprisingly, Saiki did not sign on as an introducer of Belatti’s bill, haha.

So, in the unlikely event that either of these measures were heard, passed and ratified, there would indeed be significant turnover in the Lege. Reps Chang, Marumoto, (Speaker) Say, (Speaker Emeritus) Souki and Thielen would be term-limited out in 2010 if a 20 year limit were ratified. (No Senators would fall to a 20 year limit.) In addition to the aforementioned old-timers, Reps Herkes, Ito, Marilyn Lee, Luke, Morita, Marcus Oshiro, Saiki, Takai, Takumi and Ward would be pau in 2010 should a 12 year limit be ratified. Senators Baker, Bunda, Chun Oakland, Fukunaga, Ige, Ihara, Sakamoto, and Slom would be gone, too.

The implications for internal leadership struggles, and the likely churning among term-limited members seeking a spot in the opposite chamber would be fascinating.

Don’t hold your breath, though.


  1. Cynical efforts by crybabies who can’t get their way. If they really believe in term limits, a thoroughly GOP blunderbuss, they should switch parties. By the way, where was Rep. Bellatti’s opening day broadside? In 2007, she had been a member of the House for, what 10 weeks, and she waxed eloquently about eh “old boys’ club” and threats of retaliation, blah, blah, blah. She’s been a member for more than 110 weeks now and nary a peep? Maybe, once she got in she realized not all was as the smoke blown up her behind by the chief weenies, Saiki and Takai.

    Comment by Ted — February 1, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  2. I am disappointed by these cheap bills. I have great sympathy for many of the dissidents, but bills such as this are demogogic PR stunts which avoid the real problems.

    Ted’s comment about Della is off the mark. Della has not accommodated herself to “the old boys network.” If anything, her problem is that she is tactically very clumsy, coming across as self-righteous and erratic. She is bright as all hell, but needs to figure who to build up relations of trust and forge alliances. She is not the only “principled” member of the House. If she learns to harness her intelligence and passion, she might become an effective legislator and LEADER.

    This newest gambit just reinforces my worry that she is an a self-made path to marginalization. As a media figure, she’s of more value to the Republicans than to the Democratic reformers.

    Comment by kolea — February 2, 2009 @ 10:38 am

  3. Every single term limit provision I’ve ever seen has not been prospective only- not retroactive. I’m pretty sure that retroactive or backward looking provisions like that are illegal.

    DOUG: I would tend to agree, except these bills go the ConAm route, so I suspect even a retroactive limit is deemed “constitutional” if the amendment is ratified. I am no lawyer.

    Comment by Andy Parx — February 2, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  4. If those dissidents had a point of view that was compelling, we would have heard of it by now. There is nothing compelling about a change of leadership without real ideological substance. A certain amount of greater transparency does not strike as as being compelling enough to replace Speaker Say with a new leadership group.

    The biggest problem I have with most legislators and these legislators in particular, is that they are in the legislature to be legislators. I think there is a place for that, but it is far less significant to those who are there to actually do something.

    In this context, Hermina Morita and Gary Hoosier or for that matter Fred Hemmings seem to be in the legislature to do something or at least stand for something the everyday people understand. There are real issues and ideological differences. Perhaps if the dissidents can make a case that they are for a very different group of issues than the status quo, they might have a compelling point.

    If not less said (by them) the better.

    Comment by zatoichi — February 2, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

  5. I don’t think it matters if it’s a state construction provision because it’s rooted in due (4th) process and equal protection (14th) parts of the US constitution. You can’t make something that was legal at the time illegal and then make it apply to those who committed a legal act. I’m not sure of the exact provisions/cases and application but I’ve seen it too many times to think someone found a way around it here on term limits.

    Comment by Andy Parx — February 3, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  6. Well said by the others who were kind enuf not to slam me for my fit of pique. And hats off to Doug for letting me expose myself to the criticism that fit probably deserved.

    I think the comments bear out the real shortcoming of the dissidents and that is their obsession with procedure over substance. Sure, it’s easy to rail about some of the antiquated procedural habits of, especially, the House. And they desperately need to be changed. But if you could do away with them, what substantively would you do next? It’s easy to be a back-bencher and snipe about the abuse of power but that’s a means to the end, not the end in itself. Getting power is one thing. Using it constructively is another.

    Among this group who have had some hold on power (Saiki as Majority Leader), Takai (as Vice-Speaker), and Luke (as Jud chair), only Luke even remotely distinguished herslef as having any kind of vision (even if you disagree with that vision) or leadership skills. The other two didn’t give any reason to believe things would be any better with them in charge. Plus, they have less than no sense of humor. I just don’t see what Luke sees in their company.

    “Ooops, I did it again.” Like Britney. Not.

    Comment by Ted — February 3, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  7. Term limit bills introduced by Dems are just silly or worse. In my mind, there is a mechanism for term limits. It’s called elections. Antiquated, perhaps, but believe it or not, people do lose.

    Also, if Saiki, Belatti, et. al., really believe in term limits they can impose it on themselves and let voters in other districts decide whether or not they want to keep their legislators in office.

    Instead of getting sidetracked by extraneous issues, how about proposing something that will move the state forward?

    Comment by charles — February 3, 2009 @ 10:16 pm

  8. The problem with Scott and Mark is that they should do what every good, respecting dissident does: run for higher office already. Or get out.

    Outside of the Chief Weenies statement, everyone (who reads your blog) knows that I too think Luke is being wasted by all their bullshit.

    Comment by hipoli — February 3, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

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