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Amendments on judges, dam financing shot down

By Gary T. Kubota


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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onevoice82 wrote:
why did people oppose the judge amendment? what was so bad about it?
on November 7,2012 | 04:29AM
Gary_S wrote:
It read like the extensions could go on forever...not requiring the nomination of a permanent judge. Same as current 89 days temporary employment in the civil service, which has been greatly abused.
on November 7,2012 | 05:54AM
walaau808 wrote:
Ok, because I thought it was a good amendment. The wording needs to require permanent filling of positions. Other than that, having retired judges serve for short terms to reduce backload seemed like a great idea.
on November 7,2012 | 08:48AM
ichiban wrote:
yo Mr. Alla Jr.. I was't mistaken at all in thinking the state would be liable. I feel the owners of the dams and reservoirs should be liable and responsible. They bought the land to turn a profit. And as you say the owners would be responsible in paying the debt, what's the difference with they going to a lending institution to get financing like most people? Please don't bother drafting another bill of the same color. I going get the allas.
on November 7,2012 | 05:02AM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
ichiban doesn't understand: thanks to the dam regs, pun intended, selling river water isn't profitable. therefore owners are going to take down their dams. therefore, ag isn't going to happen
on November 7,2012 | 05:57AM
bender wrote:
It obviously is very profitable. That's why A&B and Amfac continue to sell water even though they no longer operate sugar companies. We're not taling about small time companies. The owners of these reservoirs are major players in Hawaii and can well afford to maintain their reservoirs. These are companies such as Dole, Campbell Estate, A&B, Amfac, etc. They're not exactly paupers.
on November 7,2012 | 08:11AM
false wrote:
Tried to catch us sucker again eh?
on November 7,2012 | 03:30PM
Gary_S wrote:
The difference is that the State Special Purpose Bond would allow a lower interest rate than thru private lending institutions.
on November 7,2012 | 05:59AM
bender wrote:
I agree. And who is left holding the bag if the land owner defaults. Obviously that will be the tax payers of this state.
on November 7,2012 | 08:08AM
walaau808 wrote:
I read the amendment and didn't think it was worded as a "loan" to dam owners, and that's why I voted against it.
on November 7,2012 | 08:50AM
Larry01 wrote:
The land owner receives the bond proceeds, and pays the bondholders back upon maturity. The state is not liable for payment. It's too bad you didn't understand this (and it's pretty obvious that a lot of people didn't, either).
on November 7,2012 | 10:26AM
Larry01 wrote:
No, the state is not responsible. The loan holder takes all liability for payment - that's how special purpose revenue bonds work.
on November 7,2012 | 10:24AM
ichiban wrote:
Sen. Baker, why do the legislator who draft a bill that gets shot down by the public when it comes up for a vote thinks that we(the public) misunderstood its intention? Your bill was very clear. Why don't you really do some background check on why the 70 year age mandatory retirement for state judges was made into law.
on November 7,2012 | 05:19AM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
The people of Hawaii have spoken: we don't want ag. No, actually they said: we don't want to pay for agriculture. Opps, they might hava also have said: we don't understand ag, but as long as we don't, let's let it go...
on November 7,2012 | 05:55AM
Kuokoa wrote:
Avila, the land owner should be responsible for the maintenance of their property and if not the State should take the land away.
on November 7,2012 | 08:40AM
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