From the governor: Making democracy work in tough times

Posted on Jun 27, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
Moms Demand Gun Action joined Governor Ige at HB 2075 bill signing.

Moms Demand Gun Action joined Governor Ige at HB 2075 bill signing.

Judging by the headlines, our democratic system is under siege from all sides. From civil rights and gun safety to the Jan. 6 attack on our nation’s Capitol, the political divide hasn’t left much room for civil discourse. But in Hawai‘i we’ve found ways to work together as a community — whether it’s surviving the pandemic or passing legislation to make progress. This issue of Capitol Connection highlights several bills Governor Ige recently signed into law and why they matter.

Q: What should we know about the current levels of COVID-19 in Hawai‘i and what concerns you most?

A: I’m proud that Hawai‘i was recently ranked first in the nation for its management of the pandemic, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Although current case counts remain high, we’re also encouraged by some recent downward trends. And now we have COVID-19 vaccines for keiki under age five. On the regular calls we governors have with the White House, our biggest concern is that, without more federal support, the states will have a harder time getting access to free testing and new drug treatments and vaccinations. Unless the federal government commits to purchasing supplies, the manufacturers won’t ramp up production until they can justify it economically.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of the bill review process? Is there anything different this year?

A: As governor, I have only three options: sign the bill into law, veto it or let it become law without my signature. The measures I veto may have some merit but could be legally flawed or may just not be good policy. If it becomes law without my signature, that means I might disagree with parts of the measure, but they’re not so egregious that I would veto the whole bill. This is the first session since the state Supreme Court’s ruling struck down the legislature’s use of “gut and replace” for bills, so that has made our review more complicated. I may support the content of a bill, but clearly, if we know it was a “gut and replace,” it’s hard to ignore that.

Q: What’s the significance of the bills you’ve already signed, especially for communities and families?

A: We know the pandemic has left many people struggling financially. The bills for tax rebates, increasing the minimum wage and making the earned income tax credit permanent and refundable will help many people. Other bills I’ve signed in the last month reaffirm that in Hawai‘i we believe everyone deserves respect, and that respect extends to all our people as well as our land and culture. Whether it’s gun safety, sustainability, equity issues or student rights and responsibilities, these laws send important messages about what we value as a community and how we intend to uphold those values.

Capitol Hill

Debate on Jan. 6 attack continues.

Q: What have you found most disturbing in the hearing coverage of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack?

A: I’ve found it disturbing that a former president of the United States could continue to indiscriminately promote the lie that the election was “stolen” when his own advisors told him those claims were baseless. Even William Barr, his former attorney general, described Mr. Trump as being “detached from reality.” What’s even scarier is that many people, including Republican members of Congress, still support him in that narrative.

Q: Why was Title IX so important for gender equity? Have you sought gender balance in your cabinet and other appointments?

A: There’s no denying Title IX, co-authored by Hawai‘i Congresswoman Patsy Mink, has helped women and girls tremendously in sports and other areas of education and created opportunities that didn’t exist before. My daughters have benefited from that, although I know there are still biases in our society. It’s harder for anyone to be a public servant today, but as governor I wanted to have the different perspectives women can bring to the table. We were committed to appointing the best, most qualified people to serve in the cabinet and other appointed positions. In many cases, the most qualified were women.

Read more in the July Capitol Connection newsletter.

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