The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission meets Monday at 2 p.m. at the state capitol to take action on its district maps for state Senate and House.
The commission finalized its maps in September 2011. However, after a legal challenge by two Big Island groups, which claimed non-resident military, their dependents and non-resident students were illegally included in the population count after a 1992 Constitutional Amendment ordered them removed, the Hawaii Supreme Court said the maps must be redrawn.
Very few people are satisfied with the new maps, which carve up and gerrymander traditional district lines, communities and natural geographic boundaries.
In order to placate the Big Island plaintiffs in the lawsuit, more than 100,000 non-resident military personnel and students are extracted from the state’s total population count. Most of those extractions are on Oahu, which means one Senate seat would go from Oahu to the Big Island.
Hawaii is the only state to go against federal census guidelines and treat military in this manner.
The Commission’s action on Monday on the redrawn maps is not expected to be unanimous.
In addition, it is possible that other lawsuits, both state and federal, may be generated from the commission’s current decision.
As it is, one deadline has already been missed, and that is the February 1 deadline allowing House and Senate candidates to pick up their nomination papers for the 2012 election.
Since boundaries have changed, and some districts renumbered, it is impossible for a candidate or incumbent to know what district they would now represent.
A state lawsuit may still be brought against the new plan, alleging the exclusion of resident military does not meet the constitutional one man-one vote requirement.
Additionally, a federal lawsuit could be brought claiming the plan is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment, which is also characterized by proper vote counting.
If a battle does ensue between the state and federal constitutions on a voting issue, the federal constitution takes precedence.
In any event, election chaos continues and if there are further delays and challenges, the state elections office will have a difficult time meeting its deadlines for the new August 11, 2012 primary date.
Lawmakers in the Midst of 5 Day Recess, But There is No Playtime
The Hawaii state Legislature continues in its recess on Monday, the third day of a five-day mandatory recess.
While there are no floor sessions in the House and Senate until Thursday, there is plenty of activity taking place with a last minute push in both chambers to pass bills out of subject committees in time for the March 6 first crossover vote.
Several key bills have been substantially amended and the infamous legislative practice of so called “gut and replace”, where whole contents of bills are removed and replaced with other bills, have already taken place.
And while bill numbers may die, no legislation or proposal is truly dead until the session adjourns on May 5.
Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in room 016 on proposed changes to Act 1 (2011), which last year legalized civil unions in Hawaii.
Hee is a strong supporter of civil unions and same sex marriage.
His hearing comes after a lawsuit was filed in the State Supreme Court against Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the state health department director by a lesbian couple that wants same sex marriage to be legalized. The high court is expected to rule as early as March 2012.
The new proposal provides civil union couples with almost all benefits of marriage and puts them on an equal par with married couples in all of the Hawaii revised statutes.