This will be a very busy election season for Hawaii voters. Besides the exciting U.S. Senate race, the challenging race for Representative Ed Case's seat, and the race for governor, there will be five constitution amendment proposals to ponder over -- plus Honolulu's Charter Review Commission's final recommendations to be placed on the ballot in November.
We will be doing a pro-and-con on the constitutional amendments to be placed oour web-site at the least. At that time, we'll try to discuss each one fully, plus present as many viewpoints on the proposals as we can gather. The five that survived are:
- HB 1917 HD2, SD2, CD1, which would establish a salary commission toreview and recommend salaries for the justices and judges of all state courts, members of the legislature, the governor and lieutenant governor, the administrative director of the state, department heads or executive officers of the executive departments and the deputies or assistants to department heads of the executive departments, excluding the University of Hawaii and the Department of Education.
(League did not testify on this bill, nor the accompanying bill, HB 1918 which is designed to implement the provisions of the constitutional amendment, having no position on this. However, in hindsight, we could have commented on the fact that all members of the salary commission will be appointed by people who will be directly affected by changes to the salary schedule -- the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, the Governor, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Why not make sure that there will be someone representing the public on the commission to make sure it does not forget its responsibility to taxpayers?)
- SB 0995 SD1, HD1, CD1, Proposes an amendment to the Hawaii
Constitution to Remove the Mandatory Retirement Age for Justices and Judges. [The mandatory retirement age is currently 70. There was earlier talk aboutchanging it to 80 years, but I guess they decided against any mandatoryretirement age.]
- SB 1256 HD1 would modify the appointment process for the Board of Regents. [Currently, the Governor appoints members to the Board with the advice andconsent of the Senate. Article X, section 6 of the Constitution of theState of Hawaii would be amended to establish that the Governor would appoint members to the Board of Regents from pools of qualified candidates presented to the governor by the candidate advisory council as provided by law.]
(In previous years, I have always supported the screening of applicants toappointed boards by "independent" councils. This year, I missed the opportunity to weigh in on this. While the governor makes the final appointment, the council can help make the Board of Regents a more independent body, while acknowledging the reality that you cannot completely eliminate political influence from the process.)
- SB 2246 SD1, HD1, CD1, which proposes to allow the Legislature to define what behavior constitutes a continuing course of conduct and what constitutes the jury unanimity that is required for conviction in continuous sexual assault crimes against minors younger than 14 years of age.
(A similar proposal was on the ballot in 2004, and voters approved it. However, it was invalidated by the Hawaii State Supreme Court, and this is an attempt to amend the constitution in such a way as to make it easier to prosecute those who repeatedly sexually assault a child over a period of time, Presently, there must be unanimity on the part of the jury in agreeing not only that there has been at least the minimum number of assaults, but in identifying the particular assaults that constitute the minimum number. This measure gives the Legislature the authority to define a) what behavior constitutes a continuing course of conduct, and, b) what constitutes the jury unanimity that isrequired for a conviction.
- SB 2479 HD1, CD1 proposes to amend the constitution to authorize the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds to finance facilities of or for,or to loan the proceeds of such bonds to assist agricultural enterprises serving important agricultural lands.
(I believe it was in 2002 when there was an amendment to the constitution to allow the issuance of special purpose revenue bond or SPRBs to help private schools with their capital improvements. SPRBs are revenue bonds that can be issued by the State to assist designated corporations, industries, government programs etc. raise needed capital. Because the dividends from these bonds are tax exempt (both state and federal), they can be sold for less interest which helps the enterprises borrowing the money. They're called revenue bonds because the revenues from the capital improvements are used to repay the bonds and interests. What this amendment would do is to add agricultural enterprises serving important agricultural lands to the list of those enterprises whose facilities may be financed by SPRBs.)