Aloha Airlines Crisis Will Test Emergency Powers by Rep. Gene Ward

If the rumors heard at the state capitol are true, then some of my colleges have lost all their sense of reality.  Over the past few days, the media has reported that the Senate will consider offering a bail-out to Aloha Airlines.  Senators from the majority have proposed giving Aloha loan guarantees, waiving their landing fees, and eliminating the excise tax on their jet fuel.  They have called upon the Governor under the guise of an “emergency” to use state funds (or lack thereof) to prop-up this private company. 

            The sad irony of this episode comes from the attention that my majority colleagues are giving this “emergency.”  While the majority intends to subsidize a failing business, they have repeatedly denied that our state has faced homeless crises that have called for real emergency actions.  Why would the majority make such an absurd disclaimer?  Why does a failing business qualify as an emergency, while homelessness does not? 

             The answer is Governor Lingle.  The majority performs these political and intellectual gymnastics because of the phobia known as IFOL, or the Irrational Fear of Lingle.   For the past six-years, the majority in the state legislature has made it a habit of trying to prevent the Governor from taking actions and enacting reforms which would greatly benefit our state.  A specific target of the majority’s ire has been the Governor’s emergency powers, the actions she has taken to handle actual crises that have we have faced.   For example, Governor Lingle used such an action to help the homeless following the abrupt closure of Ala Moana Beach Park-an incident that the majority now denies as an emergency.  Evidently, the majority’s IFOL condition has now led to grand delusions. 

            Because of what she did for the homeless, she has been threatened by a bill to strip her of emergency powers as governor.  Senate Bill 2828 would require the Governor, before taking action in response to a disaster not caused by an enemy attack, to submit a report verifying that the emergency has produced “tangible and measurable harm or damage” as “resulted as a consequence of the disaster and that the disaster relief could not otherwise be achieved through legislation enacted in the next occurring regular session of the legislature or a special session of the legislature.”   Only after jumping through these bureaucratic hoops could Governor Lingle then use her emergency powers to tend to such an event.  If the legislature finds that relieving the disaster can be achieved through legislation, then “the governor shall not execute any action to further provide for disaster relief under this chapter.”  This bill would turn the executive into a reactive office, eliminating its preventative powers, and there are no provisions in this bill allowing for executive actions while emergency legislation is in debate. 

             Senate Bill 2828 literally puts public safety in jeopardy and ties the Governor’s hands to rapidly respond to a crisis without first filing “Findings” or a report to the legislature.  However, this is only the latest IFOL measure that has been heard at the state capitol this session.  A few weeks ago we heard House Bill 2686 which now sits in the Senate.  This bill would also curb the authority of the governor’s state agencies at the expense of legislative power.  It all started in 2005 when the legislature passed Senate Bill 1808 over the Governor’s veto.  This bill prevented Gov. Lingle from enacting administrative rules which would have reformed workers’ compensation laws; laws that are hurting Hawaiian laborers and businesses.   Also in that same year, House Bill 1224 was passed over a veto and took away the Governor’s power to appoint members to the Hawaii Simplified Sales and Use Tax Advisory Council.  The executive is now hindered from making sure that Hawaii complies with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.  Just this past year, the legislature passed, once again over a veto, Senate Bill 1063, changing the procedures for filling vacancies in the State Legislature and U.S. Senate.  The Governor now must select a replacement from a list submitted by the political party of the former incumbent, giving further power to political parties and taking away public accountability, while preventing the replacement from taking place in a timely manner.  Ditto this same process for the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents selection process. 

            The events of this week with Aloha Airlines filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy brings all of this into focus. Though for the past six-years it has been the compulsive behavior of the majority to undermine the efforts of the Governor, this week it suddenly appears convenient to pass the buck back to her while wringing their hands about an airline emergency. If the present legislation in this 2008 Session passes taking away her emergency powers, then real emergencies, like the homeless crises, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods-may receive only sluggish, burdensome, and ineffective relief.  But if Aloha Airlines fails after the legislature passes SB 2828 and takes away the Governor’s emergency powers, whose fault will it be? The State Legislature needs to let Governor Lingle do what all previous governors have been allowed to do – govern the state of Hawaii without tying their hands to the legislative branch.              

Gene Ward is Co-Chair of the Small Business Caucus and a member of the Finance Committee in the State House of Representatives


Cost Of Living

In the State of Hawaii, the Republican Caucus and the Lingle-Aiona Administration remains committed to reducing the cost of living for working families and low income residents.  Representative Gene Ward examines with Senator Gordon Trimble the pricing index.  Hawaii Expenditures have risen 87 percent in the last three years.

Rep. Pine Addressed Students From Campbell High

Campbell High students held a rally at the Hawaii State Capitol to protest the D.O.E. list that lowered their school’s priory from 7 to 70 for receiving air- conditioning.  Representative Kymberly Pine addressed the students informing them that a computer had determined `Ewa Beach temperatures reach a high of 88 degrees; when in fact the teachers at Campbell have measurement of 99 degrees.   House Bill 1960, a CIP Bill, introduced by Representative Pine in 2007, asked for 12 million dollars to air-condition Campbell High School. 

“Being Homeless Is An Emergency” Says Representative Thielen

On the chamber floor, Representative Kymberly Pine rose in opposition to House Bill 2664.  This measure handcuffs the Governor’s ability to act in the best interest of Hawaii in the case of an emergency,” said Representative Pine.  

“The Governor has actually taken power away from the legislature in the example of declaring an emergency regarding homelessness not once but twice in the pass year,” said Democratic Leader Representative Kirk Caldwell.  He continued, “What made homelessness an emergency?” 

“This bill would turn the clock on emergency management law in Hawaii back fifty seven years and significantly hamper the governor’s ability to respond to emergencies and disasters,” stated Attorney General Mark J. Bennett in his testimony to the House Committee on finance.  He continued: 

           Sections 127-1 to 127-9, Hawaii Revised Statutes, have been suspended since 1951 and for the last fifty-seven years, virtually all of the Governor’s emergency management powers and capabilitites have been found  primarily in chapter 128, Hawaii Revised Statutes.  This bill effectively  terminates the suspensions, leaves the Governor with two very separate    and distinct chapters for emergency management,  and dangerously hammpers the governor’s ability to respond to emergencies and disasters. 

  “This bill is design in part to contain the abuse that we have seen in the past year of the Governor’s misuse of emergency powers on the issue of emergency powers on the issue of homelessness,” said Representative Caldwell.  “And that is why I’m talking about homelessness,” continued Caldwell. 

 ”I am personally offended by comments that says homelessness is not an emergency, that speaker has a roof over his head, a very nice roof up in Manoa, said Representative Cynthia Thielen, in response to Rep. Caldwell’s remarks.  She continued,   “There were people out there on the street there were people that were  evicted by the Mayor out of the city park.  The Governor stepped forward   and gave those people a temporary shelter calling it the ‘Next Step’ so they didn’t feel so degraded by the experience of being homeless without any place to go.  I’ve been down to the ‘Next Step’ a number of  times.  I saw   the people that came out and volunteered to set that up so  the people would have a place to stay so children wouldn’t be out there without any shelter what so ever.  I saw the people that really cared that  stepped forward in this emergency. Being homeless is an emergency.    That is the most heartless comment I have ever heard in this chamber that homelessness is not an emergency.”  

“Homelessness is an emergency and we have a Governor that recognized that and stepped forward,” Representative Thielen said.  House Bill 2664, introduced by the Democratic Speaker of the House Representative Calvin Say,  impairs the State’s ability to provide immediate assistance when it is necessary and warranted by requiring the Governor to call the Legislature into session to declare an emergency.  Rather than using proactive emergency management procedures that emphasize loss prevention, this measure would turn disaster prevention principles on its head because if there was an hurricane emergency most likely the Representative would not be able to leave report for a special session.  It is absurd to place the State in a reactive position in disasters and emergencies. 

Rep. Ward and Senator Trimble Dicuss Campaign Spending

Representative Gene Ward joins Senator Gordon Trimble in a discussion about campaign spending purpose changes in SB 2004 SD1, which establishes no limit on contributions or expenditures to the corporation or company non-candidate committee


SB2004 SD1Clarifies campaign spending law relating to electronic filing of reports; clarifies that “ordinary and customary” expenditures are allowable under campaign spending law; clarifies that the campaign spending commission shall not issue rules through the issuance of an advisory opinion; clarifies that in the case of a corporation or company using funds from its own treasury, there shall be no limit on contributions or expenditures to the corporation or company non-candidate committee; clarifies who is subject to administrative fines for violations relating to campaign contributions and expenditures; doubles the amount a candidate can transfer from campaign or surplus funds to a community or charitable organization.