POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 12, 2010
When Hawaii's new Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie called for teamwork, unity and collaboration as he took office a week ago, his party's overwhelming majority and outnumbered Republicans heard him loud and clear.
The combination of Abercrombie and the nation's most one-sided Legislature might result in Democrats being able to pass just about any laws they want, unchecked by a Republican governor as they were during the last eight years under Linda Lingle.
"We're back to a one-party government," said Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Kalani Valley-Diamond Head). "It's going to be hard to get a word in edgewise. We won't give up. We'll just keep on fighting."
Democrats now hold all but one of 25 Senate seats, all but eight of 51 House seats and the governor's office.
Abercrombie, who served 19 years as a U.S. congressman, said in his first news conference Monday that he'll keep vetoes and veto threats to an "absolute minimum."
"I don't like that type of activity," he said. "I think it's dysfunctional to the degree that it shows there's a breakdown of communication."
He said he plans to negotiate with lawmakers before they pass bills rather than veto them later.
Democratic legislators are eager to work with Abercrombie, knowing he'll likely support them from his fifth-floor Capitol office.
"After eight years of a rather contentious relationship with the fifth floor, we're all looking forward to collaborative solutions," said Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria (D, Downtown-Waikiki). "We're hoping that the majority package and the governor's direction are in sync, but we have yet to find that out."
Democrats in the governor's office and the Legislature often worked together before Lingle became the first Republican governor in 40 years when she was elected in 2002.
Before Lingle's term, legislators overrode only one veto since statehood in 1959, when they raised the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 in 2001 despite Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano's opposition. During the Lingle years, lawmakers overrode 110 vetoes.
University of Hawaii political science professor Neal Milner predicted dissent between Democrats over cuts in government and tax increases as they try to balance the state's budget in the legislative session starting Jan. 19.