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City seeks to strike constitutional amendment question in November election

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Voters at Manoa Elementary School in August. The City of Honolulu is seeking to have a question stricken from ballots in the November general election.

The City of Honolulu is seeking to have a question stricken from ballots in the November general election that would give voters the power to amend the Hawaii Constitution to allow the Legislature to tax investment real estate to support public education.

City officials filed a complaint last week objecting to the Office of Election’s title for the ballot measure, which is to read: “CON AMEND: Relating to Public Education and Investment Property.” They filed an amended complaint today expanding on their legal arguments against the ballot measure, which they say is too vague and doesn’t make clear to voters that the Legislature is seeking an additional taxing power on real estate.

“The ballot question itself cannot be changed and the ballot question itself is unclear and ambiguous and vague,” said Honolulu Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, at a press conference today outside of Honolulu Circuit Court. “We were not able to paraphrase it or rephrase the ballot question. So the ballot question itself we think is invalid and should be stricken.”

The Legislature passed a bill this year, in which the wording on ballots is to be the following:

“Shall the legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?”

Leong also said the phrase “investment real property” is vague, making it unclear exactly what property the state could tax.

Leong said the city will be filing another amendment that will allow the other counties to join in the lawsuit, which she said they intend to do.

The amended complaint was quickly criticized by the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

“They should be ashamed of themselves,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee in a statement. “They are wasting taxpayers’ money by filing this frivolous lawsuit instead of finding a way to adequately fund Hawaii’s public schools.”

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