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Thursday, October 30, 2014         

ELECTION 2012


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Amendments on judges, dam financing shot down

By Gary T. Kubota

POSTED:



State constitutional amendment proposals allowing state court judges to serve temporarily after age 69 and easing the financing of repairs to high-risk agricultural reservoirs and dams were narrowly defeated in Tuesday’s general election.

After the fourth and final printout Tuesday night, the temporary judges proposal received 49.7 percent “yes” votes versus 50.3 percent “no,” blank and spoiled ballots. Blank and spoiled ballots are counted as “no” on constitutional amendment proposals.

The proposal for reservoir financing was defeated 51.3 percent “no” and spoiled ballots versus 48.7 percent “yes” votes.

State Land Board Chairman William Aila Jr. said he still believed it was a good amendment and planned to support it again. “We have to back to the drawing board,” Aila said.

Aila said he thinks people mistakenly thought the state would be liable.

Dam and reservoir owners would have been allowed to obtain some state support through special-purpose revenue bonds to fund repairs under the proposed constitutional change.

The bonds would have helped the owners get financing for the projects, but the owners would have been responsible for paying the debt.

Several other entities already are designated to use special-purpose revenue bonds, including utilities.

Lawmakers of both chambers would have had to review each special-purpose revenue bond authorization, with approval requiring a two-thirds’ vote.

The proposed amendment followed a 2010 report to the state Legislature calling for improvements and looking at 113 high-risk agricultural reservoirs, in light of the Ka Loko Dam break on Kauai that killed seven people on March 14, 2006.

The judges proposal would have changed a constitutional provision that required state judges to retire at age 70.

State Sen. Rosalyn Baker, who introduced the proposed amendment, said she thought people might have not understood the measure. “I still think it’s a good idea,” she said.

Baker said she needed to review the proposal before deciding whether to reintroduce it.

The amendment would have allowed the state chief justice to select Hawaii judges age 70 and older for three-month appointments to a level no higher than the position they reached before retirement.

Supporters said the temporary appointments would give the chief justice more flexibility to draw from a larger pool of judges and enable the selection of more experienced judges to deal with a backlog of cases, including foreclosures.






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