Modern Issues in Hawaii

Hawaiian Hero

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Con Con 2008

A Call For Constitutional Convention

“Our citizens will make the best decision for Hawai’i’s future.” Quoted by
Lt. Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona Jr.

On Nov. 4, 2008 Hawai`i voters will be asked, “Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?" It is a decision that will have a lasting impact on the future of Hawai‘i because our constitution represents the fundamental governing principles and values of our state. A constitutional convention is an organized gathering of publicly elected delegates for the purpose of reviewing and proposing amendments to our State Constitution. Any proposed constitutional amendments approved by the constitutional delegates would then be voted on for ratification by our citizens during a subsequent general election. The delegates who drafted the constitution in 1950 didn’t want the people to amend the constitution directly, yet they were nervous about leaving all the power with the legislature, so they incorporated a provision that allows for the public to decide whether or not to hold a constitutional convention at least once every 10 years. The last time the voters of Hawai`i were asked to vote on the prospect of holding a Constitutional Convention was on November 3, 1998, 10 years ago. 59 percent of Hawai`i voters voted no for Con Con, and blank votes were counted as a no.
Our legislature has called for a Constitutional Convention only once since statehood which led to the 1968 convention, and Hawai’i’s last Constitutional Convention was held in 1978, 30 years ago.

Here are several significant accomplishments that resulted from our last constitutional convention, including the requirement of submitting an annual balanced budget, the establishment of term limits for the Governor and Lt. Governor, the creation of the Judicial Selection Commission and Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the adoption of the Hawaiian language as an official state language, and the creation of the Council on Revenues to prepare revenue estimates for a six-year planning period.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett believes that ConCon will provide the people with a forum outside the legislature for the people to debate issues such as public education, criminal justice and fiscal management. Some of the issues that could be up for discussion includes the level of independence for the University of Hawaii, whether the Department of Education should be broken up into school districts governed by local school boards, changes to evidence rules in criminal trials, and a balanced budget requirement.

Those who are opposed to ConCon such as Anne Fedar Lee from Hawaii Alliance group feel that a convention should be called to fix identified problems. She believes that we should vote ‘no” on Con Con.

Sen. Gary L. Hooser believes we don’t need a constitutional convention. He states “We can put the money one would cost to better uses.” He also feels that we run a great risk of our state constitution suffering a lasting damage at the hands of special interests. He believes that we should vote “no” on Con Con.

Former Governor Ben Cayetano say’s that if groups of citizens want to amend the constitution they should lobby the legislature, and if their unhappy with their legislature they should vote them out of office.

The argument against ConCon is that the legislature should do what’s best for the people in making changes on their own, but they haven’t made any changes since statehood. In consideration to the above oppositions, I understand we run a risk by voting “yes” on Con Con. However, I believe that it would open opportunities for changes that would be voted by the people without the filters of the legislature. Con Con allows for an open discussion of issues that may not come in the normal course of the legislature session.

Works Cited

Honolulu Magazine / September 2008 / Does Hawaii Need a Con Con?

Derrick DePledge, ‘Call For Constitutional Convention Weighing Time, Need ”
The Honolulu Advertiser” October 12, 2008

t. Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona Jr. “State of Hawai’I”


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