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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

Bill on appointing lawmakers vetoed

 •  No more oversight of health plan rates

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Gov. Linda Lingle has vetoed a bill that would have restricted her ability to choose replacements for vacancies in the state Legislature and the U.S. Senate.

The bill would have required the governor to select replacements from a list of three candidates recommended by the political parties. State law requires the governor to fill vacancies with someone from the same political party as the person leaving office.

The bill arose after Lingle picked Bev Harbin last September to fill a vacancy in House District 28, which covers Iwilei, Chinatown and Kaka'ako. Harbin had joined the Democratic Party over the summer specifically so she would qualify for selection and was chosen over candidates recommended by the Democratic Party of Hawai'i. Harbin later refused the governor's request that she resign for not disclosing state tax debts and misdemeanor criminal convictions for writing bad checks.

The provision involving the U.S. Senate was seen as a way to give Democrats some control over the replacement if U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye or Daniel Akaka, who are both in their 80s, were unable to serve out the rest of their terms. Lingle, a Republican, would have to pick a Democrat to replace either Inouye or Akaka and the replacement would serve until at least the next statewide election.

Another provision would have required candidates for vacancies to be members of their political parties for at least six months. Lingle, in her veto message to lawmakers, wrote that the provision would limit the pool of potential candidates since many people do not philosophically associate with a political party.

"The governor's ability and responsibility to select the most qualified person to fill a vacancy should not be so narrowly restricted," Lingle wrote.

State House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa), said "I'm not confident enough to trust (Lingle) with selecting a replacement for our U.S. Senate, state House or state Senate if a vacancy were to come up on her watch."

The governor has also vetoed a bill that would have required new appointments to the state post of adjutant general who leads state Civil Defense and the National Guard and coordinates with other military branches to have served at least five years in the National Guard.

Lawmakers had found that most other states had similar qualification requirements and that it would encourage appointments from within the ranks of the National Guard. But Lingle wrote that the bill would restrict the governor from selecting the best military leader for the post and was "shortsighted and gravely misguided."

The governor has also let a bill become law without her signature that would bar discrimination in public places based on sexual orientation or gender identity. A bill that became law after last session banned similar discrimination in housing.

"Equal protection under the law is a hallmark of a fair and just society. It is gratifying that our laws will now more fully protect people across Hawai'i from discrimination," Eduardo Hernandez, the executive director of The Center, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community organization, said in a statement.

State House and Senate leaders yesterday said they have not decided whether to override Lingle's vetoes today, the last day of the session, or to hold an override session later. Lingle has vetoed five bills so far this year.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.