Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Letters, activism, demonstration seem to have worked to save caregiving bills
by Larry Geller
On Monday the groups assembled at the Capitol to support passage of caregiver bills carried their demands (and signs) into the Governor’s office itself. It was not a quiet group, in awe of the koa wood, giant portraits and official seal on the walls. It was a group that expected more from this governor. Maybe bringing the demand right into her office was a bit bold, but maybe it worked.
That day she signed the two bills bills into law that were the subject of the demonstration, though she took out the money with line-item vetos.
On TV Monday evening she said she had no idea who was outside in her office area and asked if that was the best way to achieve their goals. She could have just asked, of course (I find it hard to believe she didn’t). And yes, the goals were achieved.
Yesterday the Legislature put back the $500,000 for Kupuna Care. Activists and supporters of the bills had written to and visited legislators throughout the session. Here was the vote:
Note that the vote was unanimous in both houses. The governor was completely isolated on this, even by members of her own dwindling party. I hope they will have a word or two with her.
The above is from the Capitol website with information on the special session. There was also a handy list of bills in today’s Star-Bulletin story. Strangely, neither the Advertiser print edition nor its website lists the bills, and their story mentions the line item veto override thusly:
The House voted to override 13 vetoes and one line-item veto not considered by the Senate.
It’s not stated what that was, but if it’s the $500,000 for Kupuna Care, the Senate did consider it, and passed the override unanimously.
As usual, the Advertiser sought out Sen. Fred Hemmings for comment (among several other legislators). This time he was uncharacteristically subdued:
State Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai'i Kai), called the override session in the Senate "a healthy exercise in democracy with the exception of the partisanship."
Seems to me the session worked fine. On this issue, both sides of the isle joined together to make sure that vulnerable seniors will get the meals and services that they need. (see letter here for background)
It will be interesting, of course, to see if the Governor decides to spite the Legislature and the senior citizens waiting for those meals by withholding or delaying the money. In 2006 it took a community outcry to get the money released:
Lingle withheld more than $500,000 that was to go to Kupuna Care in 2006. As a result, reports circulated of seniors leaving the hospital who had to be re-admitted because they could not get services needed to get better at home. Several organizations had written letters asking that the money be released to no effect. I also wrote, the Friday before election day, and sent out a flock of press releases on the issue. Lo, the money was released just before the election. No, said the Governor, the letters had nothing to do with it. Ok.
I’ve held that the phrase “popular governor Linda Lingle” is a PR invention, a frame, if you will, like “free market” and others that don’t correctly describe reality. This $500,000 may be a test of her unpopularity. I will go by the evidence and continue to use “unpopular governor Linda Lingle” where appropriate.