The power of the veto

As May 2022 ends, one may ask “what should the politically savvy be looking for in this hurly-turbid year of Hawai‘i politics?”

Well, Politics Hawai‘i with Stan Fichtman is so glad you asked!

As we enter June, a new level of the game will be afoot outside of the campaigns, the attack ads, and the proliferation of candidate posters on every key street corner all over the state. That new game will be in the form of what will the Governor do with bills that have been laid at his desk after the end of the 2022 Legislature, which happened on May 5, 2022.

Why you may ask, is the governor’s decision on these bills rising to a high level, isn’t all he does is let them pass or veto them? Why, yes, that is exactly what the Governor does with bills.

Hawaii Governor's Press Desk
What is signed at this desk as bills for 2022, and what is vetoed, will become part of the 2022 election narrative
PC: “Hawaii Governor’s Press Desk” by Castles, Capes & Clones is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

In normal years, a governor’s decisions on bills typically sail by both the news cycle and the political cycle, with a little more emphasis on it during election years. And even then, it only affects specific legislators and elected officials.

But this time around, we have two very distinct things happening, that will collide on the governor’s desk no matter what he does.

The first factor has to do with how many legislators are up for election. In this cycle, all 76 legislators are up for election, thanks to redistricting due to census results. So each Senator and House Representative is being forced to the campaign, or run for higher office.

The second factor is the significance of this last legislative session and what bills were passed, Outside of the fiscal items ($600 million to Dept. of Hawaiian Homelands, for instance) there are “social bills” that passed which many legislators are hoping they can use to convince voters that they are effective, and should be re-elected. One of them is a bill that curbs the governor’s emergency powers.

Another bill, which has a more widespread effect, is the increase of the minimum wage from $10.10 an hour to $18 by 2028. A third one, which seems to have lost support post-session is the so-called “bail reform” measure that has already solicited a lot of protest upon its passing.

Decisions made on those bills will affect the trajectory of incumbent and challenging candidates, one way or the other. Incumbents, trying to show “effort” typically will list out the bills they supported and tell the voters that they are the ones to keep in office because they supported so much “good stuff” in these bills.

Have the governor veto something that the candidate is running on, well, that changes the message, doesn’t it, from the incumbent? It could also provide fuel for the primary or general election challenger, showing that the incumbent is not as effective as their door hangers and mailers say they are.

Arnold, what were you thinking? Protest against Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of AIDS funding
Regardless of what Governor Ige passes or not, there will be enough candidates running around asking this question, not because they really care, but because they need votes.
PC: Arnold, what were you thinking? Protest against Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of AIDS funding
by Steve Rhodes

With the importance and scale of effects these bills have this year, the decisions made by Governor Ige have become a factor in how the election may turn out. So when one hears the amount of noise being placed on bills being passed or vetoed, keep in mind it’s because the fate of those running for office is dependent on it.

The Governor must inform the Legislature of his intentions to pass or veto bills by June 27. And the Legislature has until the 12th of July to reconvene and override the vetoes. Soon after that, on the 26th of July, ballots will be in voters’ mailboxes and the primary election is on the 13th of August. 

And your role as a voter in all this? Pay attention, it could be a wild ride in the next couple of months.