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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Powers proposed for Lingle in war

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

House Speaker Calvin Say, wanting the state to be "proactive" and prepare for the possibility of war, proposes giving emergency authority to Gov. Linda Lingle and setting up a committee to analyze the potential economic effect of a war with Iraq, North Korea or both.

"Faced with the proposition of a United States-led war with Iraq, Hawai'i must be prepared to weather this storm," Say told colleagues at Monday's House session.

House Bill 938 would give Lingle emergency authority to "suspend all laws pertaining to the construction of (military) training facilities" in the state, including the need for environmental assessments or impact statements.

The measure was introduced by House Public Safety and Military Affairs Chairman Ken Ito, D-48th (Kane'ohe), Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa) and Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Wilhelmina Rise).

Say dubbed the proposal the "Queen Linda Bill," a reference to the "King Ben Bill" that gave former Gov. Ben Cayetano emergency authority in the wake of 9/11, in the face of opposition. The new bill is much more focused and limited in scope.

"If we go to war, tourism will fall," Say told reporters. "You're not going to get the venture capital or any construction development." But the state could be in position to acquire federal defense and transportation dollars if it is prepared to do so, Say said.

The House Speaker, meanwhile also introduced House Resolution 16, which establishes a select committee on war preparedness consisting of House members, business leaders and military brass to look at potential impacts of war beyond tourism. For instance, Say wants to know whether there's sufficient oil capacity to sustain the state through a war.

The bipartisan committee, expected to be led by Vice Speaker Sylvia Luke, D-26th (Punchbowl, Pacific Heights, Nu'uanu) would have about a month to conduct hearings and research before completing a report that would recommend action.

The Legislature did not convene a similar committee during other recent military conflicts, but Say said he did not want lawmakers forced into holding an emergency session to address impact issues, as they did after Sept. 11.

House Minority Leader Galen Fox, R-23rd (Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kaka'ako) said he saw no problem with setting up a select committee, though such a group might not have all the information it needed.

Fox said Republicans would want to look at the language in the gubernatorial powers bill before deciding whether to support it.

Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), said Say was taking appropriate action, but wanted to ensure that senators would be able to provide input.

"I hope that the House gives us some latitude as far as debate," he said.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.