Friday, February 13, 2015
Committee investigating Calvin Say’s qualification to hold office may struggle with the concept of “intent”
by Larry Geller
This won’t be “disappeared news”—the hearing room at the State Capitol today was packed with both observers and press.
The newspaper and TV coverage should be pretty good, so I’ll just add some comments. For the record, a copy of Speaker Joe Souki’s memo establishing the special committee can be downloaded here (pdf).
- The committee did not have its own counsel. The House attorney was present over at a side table, but did not participate.
- No one testified under oath. This point was raised also by Bert Kobayashi, representing Calvin Say, who commented that therefore the testimony is not evidence. I contrast this with my memory of the Felix Investigative Committee—their attorney asked the questions, and testimony was taken under oath. It does make a difference, since some of the committee’s questions today would hinge on a point of law that their own counsel would have understood.
- Rep. Cindy Evans questioned the meaning of “intent.” This may be a key deciding point. Did (does?) Calvin San intend to return to his home in the district, and how can one demonstrate intent? (This is my paraphrase of the issue, not Rep. Evans’ words). If he intended to return, he might escape disqualification, but how does one establish intent?
- Not spoken in exactly these words, but if a lawmaker lives away from his district for so long, isn’t intent less important, and also how can it be shown, when there was plenty of opportunity to move back?
So it could be that this question of “intent” decides the issue for the committee.
I don’t know how the committee will decide this, but if unquantifiable “intent” is allowed to trump the fact that a lawmaker was continually absent from the district he represents, then the whole concept of residing in the district falls apart completely.
This raises the following overarching questions:
Why do we want legislators who lie to the electorate?
Why have laws that are not enforced?
Good points, should be self-evident, of course.
But it hasn't yet been determined that Say lives outside his district.
I wonder if the law doesn't need "fixing" to clarify that vague "intent" to move back to the district is not enough? It may be that a legislator claiming "intent" effectively nullifies the "intent" that each legislator live in the district she/he represents,