Saturday, May 22, 2010


While Lingle’s in China, could Lt. Gov. Aiona veto civil unions? You bet he could

by Larry Geller

The Hawaii Legislature passed HB444 at the very last minute, after all other bills were dealt with. It now needs only a signature to become law:

That signature, of course, must come from the hand of Gov. Linda Lingle, who has remained strangely silent about her intentions, even in the face of mounting scrutiny and repeated media inquiries. As of this writing, Lingle hasn't released a statement acknowledging the bill's passage, let alone indicated which way she's leaning. She has until July 6 to sign, veto or allow the bill to move forward without her signature.   [MauiTime, Civil Unions Bill Awaits Only Lingle Sig, 5/6/2010]

True, it needs a signature. But not necessarily Lingle’s.

Governor Lingle will be off on an 11-day trip to China starting June 4 followed by a stop in Tokyo. While she is gone, Lt. Governor Duke Aiona acts in her place with full power to sign or veto bills.

Aiona has been strongly opposed to HB444 on the basis of his religious convictions.

How convenient it would be…

We know what Lt. Gov., Duke Aiona thinks. "The State House's last-minute political maneuvering is unfortunate for the people of Hawaii who have voiced their support for traditional marriage," Aiona said in a statement released April 29, the same day as the House vote. "If the Legislature wanted to establish the equivalent of same-sex marriage, they should have put it on the ballot for the people to decide."

"This bill should not be allowed to become law," Aiona added, in case there was any doubt about his feelings.

Last year, before HB444 was derailed, there was speculation that, if it passed, Lingle might leave the state and allow Aiona to veto the bill. It's a move that would play well with Aiona's religious base, a base he's counting on to help him in this year's gubernatorial election.

"This bill should not be allowed to become law," he said. Should Aiona veto the bill, he could count on filling his campaign coffers to the brim with local and out-of-state contributions. Should he not veto, his base may be upset with him, once they realize that he had the power and didn’t use it, especially if Lingle returned and let HB444 become law, with or without her signature.

Still, would he veto the bill without Lingle’s agreement? Perhaps it’s really her plan. She could avoid criticism while letting her Republican buddies on the Mainland know that this was really her intention all along.

Those who are writing or calling the Governor about this bill might add Aiona to their mailing lists. It may turn out that the deed has been left to him.

(The original post erroneously credited the Maui News for the above article. I have corrected it to MauiTime, with apologies to Jacob Shafer, who is the author and editor of MauiTime).


This is just legally incorrect. The Hawaii State Constitution sets the parameters on when a bill can be vetoed, and those parameters (1) do not fall within this time frame, and (2) would first require notice to the Legislature in accordance with the Constitutional time frame. I strongly suggest that you either pull this post entirely, or edit it to reflect the true state of the law, to avoid spreading sensationalistic rumors.

Here is the relevant section from the Hawaii State Constitution. This was also checked with the AG's office. And yes, Aiona has the power to sign or veto a bill while Lingle is away.

Article V Section 4.  When the office of governor is vacant, the lieutenant governor shall become governor.  In the event of the absence of the governor from the State, or the governor's inability to exercise and discharge the powers and duties of the governor's office, such powers and duties shall devolve upon the lieutenant governor during such absence or disability.

When the office of lieutenant governor is vacant, or in the event of the absence of the lieutenant governor from the State, or the lieutenant governor's inability to exercise and discharge the powers and duties of the lieutenant governor's office, such powers and duties shall devolve upon such officers in such order of succession as may be provided by law.

In the event of the impeachment of the governor or of the lieutenant governor, the governor or the lieutenant governor shall not exercise the powers of the applicable office until acquitted. [Ren and am Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]

This from a tweet. What do you think?

.The 10 day notice has to be given on 35th day after session, which won't be during Lingle's trip. So Aiona can't affect HB 444.

Yep, you're right, Larry. Aiona could make whatever vetoes he wishes in the Governor's absence, he could even veto bills that Lingle intended to sign. Likewise, Aiona could also SIGN bills that the Governor was planning to veto.

Aiona, contrary to what Lavasusan asserts, would not need to give any advance notice of an intent to veto, so long as he carried out the veto before June 20.

I have just read the statute and am inclined to agree the Governor (or Aiona as acting Governor) can veto a bill without having given notice of an intent to veto, provided the veto occurs before the 35th day after the end of the session. (I assume this has been calculated to be June 20th?)

What appears to be required is that the Legislature have at least ten days advance notice that they may have to reconvene in special session on the 45th day.

But I am not an attorney and look forward to reading any clarification you might get from the AG's office on this.


Jacob Shafer here. I wrote the passages quoted above, and would just like to clarify that they were published in MauiTime newspaper, Maui's alt weekly, not Maui News, which is the daily.

Jacob Shafer

Jacob, my apologies, I regret the error. I'll correct it in the original post.

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