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State House panel backs Say in residency challenge

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A special House committee voted unanimously Friday that state Rep. Calvin Say "is qualified to sit as the member" representing his district, in response to the latest challenge to question where the longtime lawmaker and former House speaker actually lives.

Democratic Rep. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the special committee to review Say’s residency, quickly read the conclusion of the group’s draft report during an afternoon hearing and then called for a vote.

The hearing lasted less than 10 minutes.

"There certainly wasn’t a thorough investigation," Lance Collins, an attorney for the six voters who brought the challenge to the Legislature, said moments after the hearing ended.

Say did not attend, but issued a statement later saying, "The House special committee has done its due diligence and found, like other investigative bodies before it, that there is no basis for this challenge. For me, I hope we can finally put this behind us and get on with the people’s business."

The six-member panel of House leaders considered a challenge brought this session by six Oahu residents asserting that Say lives in Pauoa Valley — not the Palolo Valley home that he owns with his wife in the district that he represents. Say, a Democrat, has previously said that he spends time at both places but that his residence is in Palolo, on 10th Avenue.

The committee’s final report is expected to be released soon, and eventually considered by the full House.

Rep. Beth Fukumoto Chang, the committee’s lone Republican, said she supported the decision but understood how the challengers might be disappointed.

"I know that’s going to be frustrating" to the petitioners. "I understand that seems unfair, and at some level that seems unfair to me too," Fukumoto Chang said. However, she added, the committee’s work wasn’t the proper venue to change the laws that its members were considering.

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