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The Art Of Political Gamesmanship

Sometimes the most damaging proposals are not bills, but resolutions.

If a bill passes, the governor then signs it and it becomes law. New bills that become law are few and far between. The survival rate is very low. The legislators start out with about 4,000 proposed bills, and they are supposed to respond to the wishes of constituents in their district. In some cases, though, it is just political gamesmanship.

If 40 or 50 bills make it through the maze of hearings, it’s a good year. These are easy to keep track of because they are lightning rods for the voting public. A good example is the minimum wage bill. It was introduced and, as predicted, everyone jumped in to support the most popular vote-getting bill of the year. Most pundits predicted that the bill would be passed before the last week of the session to ensure there would be no chance of a special session over the bill’s language.

Everything went right according to plan. That’s gamesmanship.

Then there are some proposals that are less popular but can have serious consequences. These are harder to keep track of. Many of these proposals come in the form of resolutions. A good example is SCR 38, urging the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii to not raise student fees to balance the budget of the University of Hawaii Athletics Department or budget deficits of any other department of the University of Hawaii. The resolution was introduced by Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and passed all necessary readings in the Senate. This measure was referred to Ways and Means. It was a decision-making meeting only; no oral testimony was accepted. Interested people could submit written testimony, but few if any did.

SCR 38 passed without fanfare April 2 as planned.

One of the hottest topics on the Manoa campus happens to be student fees. In some cases, UH charged students for services that did not even exist – such as at West Oahu for transportation and health care that had never provided. That resulted in a refund to affected students and prompted the passage of SCR 38.

With the groundwork skillfully laid throughout the session, it will be interesting to watch Sen. David Ige vs. Gov. Neil Abercrombie sparring over the budget. Exciting times for the taxpayers.