July 22, 2010

My UIPA saga – a $1582.15, twelve month struggle

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:43 pm

Back in June, 2009, I wrote a post inspired by comments made by Governor Lingle alleging that the Legislature works in secrecy. As a former legislative staffer, I knew that the public can learn far more about what happens to legislation while it is under consideration at the Lege than is possible once the bills go to the Governor for consideration (i.e. approval or veto).

To illustrate the extent of that contrast, on June 28, 2009, I promptly sent the Governor a UIPA request for records, thinking I might get the records in time to analyze how she came to approve or veto those bills. Boy, was I wrong…

Make yourself comfortable, this is a very long post.


July 21, 2010

I’m baaaaack…

Filed under: General — Doug @ 5:50 pm

Can you believe that I waited just over ONE YEAR for the Governor to provide me the records I asked for about the 2009 legislation sent to her for approval or veto?!

Well, believe it.  The saga of why it took so long will make an interesting meta post, which is in the works.

At last, I do have the records, and a new scanner, and OCR software, and the latest version of WordPress (3.0).  It is going to be a lot of work to get all of this online, that’s for sure.

Did anybody miss me?

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

UH part of effort to send ROV to bottom of deepest ocean trench

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Science — Doug @ 7:39 pm

It’s been a while since I have used the science category (not surprisingly, since it’s been a while since I have done any scientific work), but the Saipan Tribune reports on a research expedition from the R/V Kilo Moana, a UH-operated ship that used to take me to sea regularly. If you’re a science dork, it’s exciting news. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, partnered with a UH geologist, has made several dives to explore and to gather data from the Mariana Trench with the Nereus, a remotely operated submersible.

It has been a few years (after the loss of a Japanese unmanned submersible in 2003) since a machine capable of reaching these depths has been in operation. It’s amazing how little we know about the bottoms of the sea…

Oh, and I also use the Hawaii Media tag on this post because I’ve seen no mention of this locally. [Did I miss it somewhere?] Get with it, UH flacks!

META: The last I heard of my former co-worker, Akel Sterling, was that he piloted ROVs for WHOI. I wonder if he’s part of this effort?

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. ??

May 1, 2009

Hypothesis: Veto threat is another collective bargaining strategy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug @ 4:28 am

After a night of rest and a workout to brood on my previous post, I have a simple hypothesis that might explain why the Governor told Speaker Say that she may veto the budget bill:

So long as the budget bill is not law, Governor Lingle has more leverage during the ongoing collective bargaining talks with the public workers.

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 28, 2009

Hawaii County internet use investigation is not open-ended

Filed under: Uncategorized — Doug @ 7:29 pm

Just as Aaron Stene and Tiffany Edwards Hunt have heard from Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida in response to what they wrote on their blogs, Ashida has responded to my post, too.

I wrote:

Sounds almost reasonable, until you consider that the County may never (probably will never, if they are serious about curbing abuse) stop collecting these data. Unless there is a plan to halt internet access by County employees altogether at some point, the “proper timing” argument for the release of the data is, if not a red herring altogether, going to be a real challenge. Here’s why: the portion of the investigation that “includes sites currently being visited in order to establish trends” may reveal other alleged cases of abuse, which would lead to further “ongoing” investigations preventing the release of the data, which could again reveal other potential cases of abuse, ad infinitum. Long story short: investigations of this nature are never “complete.” Following Ashida’s argument to its logical conclusion, we’ll never have access to these data.

Ashida’s response:

1. We are looking at the period from January 2008 through December 2008. Even though subsequent data may be looked at to establish trends, we are mindful of statute of limitations concerns, and that will drive us to ensure closure of the investigation in order to generate charges, if any (with a referral to the Prosecuting Attorney if appropriate). Assuming there is a noncriminal violation (i.e., no internet gambling or private business use or anything that would constitute a penal offense; we anticipate this will be the vast majority of “cases” made), then the reports will be forwarded to the offending employee’s appointing authority for appropriate disciplinary action. At that point, normal UIPA standards would apply with respect to a department head (or Council representative) determining whether the records may be made public or not.

2. More on the “trends” I mention above, I doubt we will find much more probative evidence at this point, given the media coverage generated. I would assume offending employees have since stopped visiting any illicit sites (but you never know).

3. I’m sure you’re more interested in “when” you can expect the reports to be released or when the department head may be asked to produce them. I don’t want to make a commitment we cannot keep, but I will be meeting with Data System representatives on Wednesday (i.e. April 29) to develop an internal timeline for completion. We are proceeding one department at a time, and I am recommending the first set of departments be completed by the end of May 2009.

4. Regarding the UIPA standards I mention above, I am talking about the balancing of the public’s right to know against any significant privacy interest as defined by HRS Chapter 92F. Once the investigation is completed (each department) and there no longer is a basis to withhold the information based on the UIPA’s “frustration” exception, my recommendation would be to release the records.

Let me know if you need any more information.

The only questions I have at the moment are these:

What kind of internet use data are collected? How much detail is captured in the data (and how much would be released)? i.e. Does the County capture only a list of domain names visited, an exhaustive list of full-length urls and length of visit to each individual page, or something in between those extremes? After accounting for any possibly illegal activity, I am much less interested in tying any particular website visit to any particular employee than I am interested in knowing what amounts and what websites are considered “allowable” internet use with government equipment, on a government network, on government time.

While I have your attention, Mr. Ashida, I’d also like a list of IP addresses for the County network so that, by scrutinizing my server logs, I would be able to tell whenever County employees visit and/or leave anonymous comments on my blog. Heh.

April 26, 2009

When the internet goes away, then perhaps we can tell you what we know

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Neighbor Island Politics — Doug @ 11:02 am

I’ve been keeping a loose watch on the Hawaii County situation regarding an investigation of the internet activity of County workers. The County has data with details of where workers have been on the internet, but have refused to release the data to Councilmembers, to Stephens Media reporters, and to bloggers. The latest wrinkle is this message from the Corporation Counsel that attempts to explain why the data are withheld. Lincoln Ashida writes: 

This is what the County can disclose at the moment:

1. The records compiled by the Department of Data Systems are highly sensitive, and have not been shared outside of their department with any County department, agency or person, other than on a need to know basis. This is because many County officer and employees (including the Council) may be called as witnesses in future cases.
2. If the records are released prior to formal charges (administrative or criminal) being filed, the integrity of the case and investigation may be compromised. When I served as a prosecutor, such unlawful premature release of information would be cause for dismissal or other disciplinary action.
3. These records will ultimately be released, once all investigations are completed.

Some may wonder what the harm is if these records reveal only past internet sites visited. The reason this could harm future cases and the County is because:

1. The investigation includes sites currently being visited in order to establish trends. This also involves forensic examination of hardware and downloading of saved content.
2. Disclosing the records would identify particular individuals who may not be eventually charged administratively or criminally.

No doubt the public is entitled to view these records. The sole issue is one of timing. Once the investigations are completed and final decisions are made on administrative and criminal charges, the records will be released.


Sounds almost reasonable, until you consider that the County may never (probably will never, if they are serious about curbing abuse) stop collecting these data. Unless there is a plan to halt internet access by County employees altogether at some point, the “proper timing” argument for the release of the data is, if not a red herring altogether, going to be a real challenge. Here’s why: the portion of the investigation that “includes sites currently being visited in order to establish trends” may reveal other alleged cases of abuse, which would lead to further “ongoing” investigations preventing the release of the data, which could again reveal other potential cases of abuse, ad infinitum. Long story short: investigations of this nature are never “complete.” Following Ashida’s argument to its logical conclusion, we’ll never have access to these data.

Grudging kudos to the Coporation Counsel office for deigning to respond publicly to the simmering story. I’m hoping that Ashida has a less cynical take on this than what I’ve laid out above. I’m open to hearing it if he does.

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 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.


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 21, 2009

Surveillance camera fail

Filed under: Hawaii Media,Honolulu Politics — Doug @ 8:02 pm

The Advertiser notes a recent attack in Chinatown occurred in an area subject to video recording yet did not yield any video evidence. The police and prosecutors claim there were no recordings made of the crime, yet the article goes on to say that new footage was [is?] routinely recorded over old footage. [Allegedly the media are re-used before anyone bothers to read the police blotter? Genius!]

Remember when HPD was looking for volunteers to monitor these cameras? (There’s a post on that topic in the pre-crash archive somewhere…) Well, that effort didn’t pan out, they are still looking for volunteers, and now we see the cameras revealed as a example of security theater.

A critique for Mr. Dooley: I notice that law enforcement is simply asserting that there was no recording of the incident. That deserves some explanation, doesn’t it? Are the cameras in operation 24/7, or not? The possibility that the records were destroyed intentionally would certainly create a “reasonable doubt,” in my mind, if I were a juror when this case goes to trial…

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.


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.

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