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LWV-Hawaii Legislative Testimony

SB 2126

Relating to
Congressional Vacancies

Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor (JDL) - chair: Clayton Hee, vice chair: Maile S.L. Shimabukuro

Friday, January 24, 2014, 2:00 p.m. Room 309

Testifier: Sue Irvine, Legislative Committee, LWV of Hawaii

Click here to view SB2126

Chair Clayton Hee, Vice-Chair Maile S.L. Shimabukuro, and Committee Members:

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii offers comments only on SB 2126 that provides that when a candidate other than the incumbent is elected to Congress, and the incumbent vacates the office prior to the expiration of the incumbent’s term, the Governor must appoint the member-elect to immediately fill the vacancy.

This bill initially sounds like an easy way for Hawaii members of Congress to gain a slight seniority over congress people from states without such legislation. As the bill states, seniority can be a big advantage in Congress, which would be nice for our State. However, the League of Women Voters has some concerns about this bill.

The U.S. House and U.S. Senate are both elected bodies, but the way in which they are elected and the way vacancies in office are filled are not identical.

Individual states are responsible, within certain legal parameters, for how vacancies in their Federal Senate seats are filled. In Hawaii, the vacancy for the unexpired Senate term is filled at the following state general election; provided that the vacancy occurs not later than 4:30 p.m. on the sixtieth day prior to the primary for nominating candidates to be voted for at the election; otherwise the vacancy is filled at the next general election. Pending the election, the governor makes a temporary appointment to fill the vacancy by selecting a person from a list of three prospective appointees submitted by the same political party as the prior incumbent.

We think SB 2126 may make it possible for a Senator to gain a bit of seniority, but it could certainly put pressure on a legally elected Senator to leave office before their term ended.

In contrast to the Senate, vacancies in the U.S. House are filled according to Federal guidelines. The U.S. House is elected as set forth by Article I, Section 2, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires that all vacancies in the U.S. House of Representatives be filled by election. Yet SB 2126 provides for appointment of a Representative. The U.S. Constitution seems to preclude the Governor being able to appoint a Representative as outlined in SB 2126, even if the individual were elected to take office shortly.

The League of Women Voters believes in a representative democracy and in upholding the U.S. Constitution, thus we are voicing our concerns today.

Please consider these matters before voting on SB2126. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.


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