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Veto override session dead

House Speaker Say's decision not to call members back renders any Senate action moot

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 3:00 a.m. HST, Jul 7, 2010

Gov. Linda Lingle will have the final say on which bills become law this year, including House Bill 444, the civil unions bill.

House Speaker Calvin Say said yesterday he would not call House members back into special session, as the Legislature has done in past years, to override any of the governor's vetoes.

Lingle has said she plans to take the full amount of time -- until Tuesday's deadline -- to decide whether to veto HB 444, sign it or let it become law without her signature.

Meanwhile, her office continues to be inundated with calls, e-mails, faxes and letters on both sides of the issues.

This week, the Governor's Office received close to 12,000 comments on the bill, with roughly 86 percent in favor of the proposal and 14 percent opposed, the governor's spokesman, Russell Pang, said.

The numbers in support of the bill -- granting couples in civil unions all the rights, benefits and protections of traditional marriage -- have evened out over the past week, coinciding with a growing number of members from the Hawaii Business Roundtable speaking out against a veto.

Last week the count was 22,000 comments with 85 percent opposed and 15 percent in favor. The total of 34,000 comments received since the Legislature passed HB 444 on the last day of the 2010 session now breaks 40 percent in support and 60 percent opposed, Pang said.

Lingle sent the Legislature a list last month of 39 bills she was considering for vetoes. She already has vetoed two of those measurers.

Senate members were poised to return for a one-day special session, but both chambers are needed to override vetoes.

Members were told last week to report to the chamber on Tuesday to prepare to convene, but Say informed members yesterday of his plans.

"It is important to note that every bill on the governor's potential veto list has merit," Say wrote in a memo to members. "The Legislature had good justification for passing them.

"My consultation and discussion with the House majority members, however, leads me to conclude that no absolute imperative or exigent reason exists to override any of the vetoes of the bills on the list."

He listed four reasons the vetoes should stand: The bill did not have the two-thirds support of members to override a veto, the bill was not of sufficient statewide concern, the governor's objections had merit or the bill no longer is needed to balance the budget.

The civil unions bill passed by a vote of 18-7 in the Senate and 31-20 in the House, three votes shy of the two-thirds needed to override.

"It's my personal belief that simply because we have the legislative supermajority to override is not justification for us to do so," Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Valley-Palolo Rise) added. "Partisan politics should not be a consideration or basis for any policy decision."

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa did not return telephone messages seeking comment.


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