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”Come on Democrats, Just ‘Fess Up: The Special Session was Just a Show”
Democrats should just admit the Tuesday, July 8 special session at the Hawaii state Legislature was really a show — a pro-wrestling match between Hawaii’s two major political parties.
They should be honest and say they wanted to flex their muscles and give the Republicans a good, old-fashioned whupping.
Because give a whupping they did.
They showed with 20 of 25 seats in the Senate and 36 of 51 in the House that they could put Hawaii’s new Republican governor in her place and override 6 of the 50 vetoes.
They showed her who is boss.
And they showed they don’t mind breaking their own code of honor and long-standing tradition of not overriding a governor’s fiscal vetoes — a tradition to which they’ve adhered without exception over the last 40 years while Democrat governors have been in power.
There is only one problem. Democrats forgot something really important when they set up these theatrics.
Sure they had their cheerleaders — including professional fundraisers not competent enough or just too lazy to get funds privately, even after Lingle’s cabinet offered to help them, and so sought state government grant subsidies.
They had their Korean War Veterans in uniform who were told to show up to protest Gov. Linda Lingle’s veto of $30,000 for their 50th commemoration celebration. This despite the fact they already received a $90,000 appropriation, and the fact that the governor’s cabinet has helped raise $18,000 more and pledged to get $12,000 more so the celebration will go on.
They also had their bread and butter public union thugs waiting in the wings.
What a wonderful picture they made sitting together in benches above the Senate and House arenas.
But again, Democrats forgot something important, something essential to their end victory.
They forgot their audience.
They forgot all the people of Hawaii were watching to see what kind of performance they’d give. To see if they’d have good sportsmanship, play fair and be in the fight with true passion or just for show and to make them look superior.
At the conclusion of the match, although Democrats won all six rounds, overriding six of the governor’s vetoes, they lost many of their fans.
And though the special interest cheerleaders might help the Democrats in their electioneering, it is all the fans who really count on Election Day in 2004.
”Special Session Unorganized, Not Thought Out”
It seemed as if Democrat leadership in the Legislature was just “winging it” during the special session.
In the early minutes of the Senate session, proper procedure was not being followed. There was no “Order of the Day” for senators and members of the public to follow, so no one knew which bills were up for discussion. Then when the first version of the Order of the Day was passed out, it simply said “vetoes” and did not list the bills up for consideration.
The House, confused by the Senate’s disorganization, simply printed all 50 of the governor’s vetoes on its Order of the Day, to ensure they would override the same bills as the Senate did.
Also, the Senate Democrat leadership neglected to tell the Republican minority that there was a special session on Tuesday or what bills would be challenged.
House minority leaders say they had to attend Democrat press conferences with the media in order to find out what time they were supposed to be in session and what bills might be covered.
Minority Republicans say these were not oversights, rather intentional acts to prevent real debate and a truly good legislative agenda from moving forward.
”Several Mistakes Expose Democrats for False Session”
At a July 7 press conference, Senate President Robert Bunda and House Speaker Calvin Say told Hawaii media they were calling a special session to ensure the “health, welfare and safety of the people of Hawaii.”
They said they disagreed with the governor’s statement that she ensured no safety nets were broken for those in need and that subsidies she vetoed to specific charities were duplicative or expanded services.
But as soon as the session started, it seems Democrat leaders forgot their pledge, and instead overturned six bills, four of which had nothing to do with what they termed “health and welfare.”
*The first bill they tackled was to give the Korean War veterans $30,000 for their 50th anniversary celebration, a bill that had nothing to do with health or welfare. Democrats insisted their support of this bill made them “patriotic” and Republicans “not patriotic” which of course caused a huge ruckus. Republicans pointed out the governor vetoed the $30,000 because her cabinet took the initiative to help raise the money privately and already has had success, raising $18,000 and negotiating with the city to have fees waived to make up the remaining $12,000.
*Another bill they overrode had nothing to do with health and welfare. Democrats sided with the public sector unions in overriding the governor’s veto of binding arbitration, which allows union leaders to avoid strikes and instead rely on a decision by three arbitrators on one panel as to what their salary increases should be. The governor, Republican legislators and Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Waianae, voted against binding arbitration because the arbitrator does not have to use as a criteria what the state can afford. In other words, union leaders get to charge as much as the arbitration panel of three says on the state’s credit card and the taxpayers have to find a way to pay it back. Typically unions get much higher increases under binding arbitration, usually double digit increases, with little or no effort or risk, while taxpayers are bound to foot the bill.
*A third bill again had nothing to do with health and welfare, rather with agricultural land in Hawaii and zoning of that land. Saying they had the farmers beating down their door, Democrats voted to override the governor’s veto of SB 255, relating to agriculture. The governor originally planned to sign the bill saying it was “worthy,” but it was technically flawed according to the state attorney general, so she asked Legislators to fix the bill and send it to her in the next session. Democrats refused and overrode her veto, also turning down an amendment proposed by Republicans and approved by the governor that would have fixed the flaws. Now, as is, the governor and her staff says there will be “unintended adverse consequences.”
*A fourth bill they overrode had nothing to do with health and welfare, rather with power and money. With the power of the highly respected state auditor behind them, Democrat legislators authorized the auditor to audit any agency in the administrative branch and charge the agency for it. The governor argued the bill invites duplication and waste of limited resources for the many departments that must budget for and schedule their own audits.
Bills five and six can be argued as “health and welfare bills,” though Republicans argue these are duplicative subsidies or expanded services the state cannot afford.
*Democrats voted to override the governor’s veto of SB 745 relating to emergency medical services. This bill requires the Department of Health to establish, administer and maintain an aeromedical emergency medical services system statewide, but the attorney general argued the bill opens the state to liability because it is written with the term “statewide” but only is intended to serve Maui county. The governor also said the state cannot afford the $1 million it will take to start up the service. Republicans argued the service will not save even one life anyway this year as it is not set to start until July 2004. But Democrats disagreed with the arguments by the governor, the attorney general and Republicans, saying by 2004 the state will be able to afford the $1 million and will not face additional liability issues.
*Democrats also raided the Rainy Day Fund to give more handouts and subsidies to the charities and non-profits that support them. Specifically Democrats voted to raid the state’s emergency fund — the rainy day fund — for $3.5 million to pay for services they deemed necessary, despite the fact that the governor’s human services and health directors made sure all essential services not new, expanded or duplicative were covered. The governor was forced to choose between making cuts to SB 1305 or raiding the state’s special fund because the budget she received from the Legislature was short $152 million thanks to a revenue projection shortfall announced by the council on revenues after the session closed May 1.
”Nasty Attitudes, Harsh Words Fly at Legislature”
Many House Democrats brought their nasty faces, snide voices and prewritten canned scripts to the session and took direction from a public relations flak cueing them from the sidelines.
House Speaker Calvin Say had to act like a disciplinarian father presiding over bratty children who would not listen and kept talking back. Several times during heated discussions, Democrats got down and dirty, launching personal attacks on the governor and her Republican counterparts. In several cases, the Representatives got so out of control that the House speaker had to call a recess and a caucus with Democrats.
Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-Wahiawa, called the governor brainless and heartless, despite loud protests from Republicans and a good scolding from Rep. Cynthia Thielen who got in his face for the comments. This exchange led Say to call another recess and an eventual apology from Oshiro.
Rep. Michael Kahikina, D-Waianae, called Republicans and the governor “unpatriotic” for refusing to allocate $30,000 to the Korean War veterans for their 50th celebration, even though the governor’s appointees were successfully helping organizers raise the money privately.
Democrats in the Senate showed more restraint, but were just as aggressive and determined as their counterparts in the House to show the governor that she could not beat them at the political game.
There were exceptions in the Senate — some freshman Senators who don’t yet know how to keep their cool as the more experienced Senators seem to do, exposed themselves to questions as to their mental stability and ability to stay on subject and speak the truth.
Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kauai, who tends to travel at light speed toward the Hooser twilight zone once he gets talking, attacked Republicans and said they abandoning the sick, poor, homeless, beaten and raped to fend for themselves because they would not subsidize duplicative or expanded government programs.
Though other Senators, such as Sen. Roz Baker, D-Maui, gave similar biting speeches, Hooser leads the pack in the ability to get so carried away that he loses sight of reality and gets into fantasy.
Political observers note that this trait is bound to get him into hot water with his constituents, and say that they believe his Senate career will be short lived — like one more year.
”Happy Ending for the Taxpayer?”
If this were a happily ever after story for the majority of people in Hawaii, it would end with Democrats in the Legislature checking themselves into a shopperaholics anonymous clinic until they learned to control their raging spending habits that are based on emotion rather than logic.
They’d have to take a lie detector test in order to determine if they truly believe the stories they spew to the people of the Hawaii. The stories such as the often repeated one about people (substitute any of the following: homeless, children, elderly, sick, beaten, raped, drug addicts) who will die, live on the street, trade sex for food, take drugs and commit crimes, should taxpayers not give even more of their hard-earned money.
Some would pass the test, but many would not. Some legislators actually do believe the $3.5 million will create a “safety net” and want the governor to raid from the rainy day fund under SB 1305. They are caring, compassionate Democrats who have fallen for the best stories told by the non-profits directors who are better at storytelling, then working to fundraise from private and federal sources.
Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, D-Nuuanu, for example, bursts into tears, real tears, nearly every time she talks about people she feels are less fortunate. To her credit, she is not a callous politician, but she does need to check out if she is being duped by wise fundraisers and follow the money to see if it is going where it should.
Sen. Colleen Hanbusa, D-Waianae, says she is a Democrat and believes people should receive handouts and subsidies. She is one of the few Democrats in leadership who votes on occasion against the other majority leaders and for what she believes. She was the only Democrat to vote against binding arbitration for the public sector unions.
But bottom line is the state only has so much money and it is all gone and no amount of tears will bring back that money.
Much more than is available has been spent by the previous governor and legislators and the Council on Revenues estimates an additional $150 million shortfall that will make balancing the budget even more difficult.
”Awakening the Sleeping Giant – the Hawaii Taxpayer”
Though people in Hawaii are slow to anger, once they are hurt or insulted, they remember the incident and the culprit. And despite what many politicians and political operatives think, they are not stupid.
Democrats awakened many observers with this charade, even some in their own party, who watched the special session in person or on television and were disgusted by what they saw.
They knew the special session was not held for the benefit of the general public, even though Democrats, through a fake series of hearings with their cheerleader supporters, tried to make it appear that way.
Unlike the special session in 2000, which at insistence of the general public led to the override of Gov. Benjamin Cayetano’s veto of a bill that raised the age of sexual consent to 16, the 2003 session was strictly for political, not moral, purposes, and at the public’s expense.
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