Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Hawaii puts its lawmakers under the microscope

by Larry Geller

If the Oahu hearings are still underway when you read this, go check it out either on Olelo ch. 53 or streaming at As I am writing this, Sen. Kokubun shot down Ted Liu's testimony that farmers would use the ferry (they testified it is too expensive) and that the Superferry has low carbon emissions. You can read this later.

The fate of the Superferry (and of course, whales and invasive species) rides with whatever action the State Legislature will take in the special session just convened this morning.

But, like a circus, this event has at least three rings.

In the main ring is Senate action, since the House has abdicated its legislative responsibility to take testimony from those affected by its actions.

In contrast to House leadership, the Senate president does not appear to have received any ferry-related campaign contributions. The Senate has taken the time to visit Neighbor Islands and receive testimony, culminating with today's session on Oahu (is there any connection between their willingness to hold hearings and the preceding sentence? I didn't say anything). 

The Senate appears to be considering amendments to the draft bill, based on the Attorney General's original submission. According to an Advertiser story this morning:

Senators this morning have already been circulating amendments to the bill related to operating conditions on the ferry, while Superferry executives and their lobbyists, working with the state Attorney General, are looking to alter language in the bill shielding the state from liability for delays to ferry service.

In the ring on the right (the right ring) we have the foxes, the Superferry executives, the AG, the Governor, her Department of Transportation. Perhaps the Speaker of the House drops in from time to time. They are salivating over the prospect of being put in charge of the henhouse. The initial AG draft bill would have done that by leaving regulation of the ferry operations to the executive branch. It would also overturn court decisions, leaving the foxes entirely in control.

As the article suggests, the right ring is working closely with executives of the company the law would regulate, if passed.

This is called a public-private partnership, I believe. It is based on an investment of about $175,000 that the private part (company) made in the public part (our lawmakers). The story is here: Hawaii ferry spent $175,000 on lobbying. Those who claim that Hawaii is a bad place to do business simply aren't willing to make the necessary investment in the public part of the partnership. This is one thing that the special session is demonstrating.

The only ones not in the ring with the Governor are the people, including their county councils. The same thing for the House side of our legislature, where a similar investment has been made. The House has not held hearings on Neighbor Islands. [aside: the URL to the Advertiser's table of contributions (the link above) lists them under "assets".]

Finally, lining up near the right ring, is a whole menagerie of invasive species, just waiting for the ferry to sail.

Then there is the left ring. The newspaper claims that everyone opposed to the ferry can be classified as "environmentalists" or "activists" who gather in "raucous crowds." Actually, the testimony presented by residents of Kauai, Maui and the Big Island has included many valid concerns that ought to make it into the amended bill. They also gave good reason why the special session should not have been held in the first place and why the courts should not be overruled by the Legislature. But for the moment, let's put them all in the left ring, it's not a bad fit, and something stinks over in the right wing anyway, who would want to be there.

Today all three rings are under the same tent. Who knows what the outcome might be. The State continues to make claims emphasizing the ferry's essential nature over in the right ring, while over in the left, these claims  are challenged. Some state claims are pretty blatant falsehoods, such as that farmers will use the ferry, or that watching for whales with binoculars is sufficient protection. (See that clown with binoculars squinting in the dark to find any whales that may be equipped with running lights? Ha, ha!).

This just in: The state Supreme Court just shot down the right ring lie that

'The Supreme Court, for whatever their reason was, decided to wait over a year-and-a-half to reach a decision and to do it two days before this service was set to begin.' [Gov. Lingle's statement, quoted in the Honolulu Advertiser]

See the article, Administrative Director of Courts issues Superferry statement.

Switch now to KauaiEclectic, where Joan Conrow discusses a possible future scenario, the advantages of having a fat bank account to do business in Hawaii, and much more.



On Maui the hearing is/was on live on Channel 54.

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