Task force to study ‘ConCon’ costs

Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona formed a task force this week to study the costs of convening a constitutional convention to modernize the Hawai‘i Constitution.

The financial information will help voters decide this November whether the state should hold a “ConCon,” he said in a news release Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser, D-7th District, was the sole Kaua‘i resident picked to serve on the 10-member task force, which consists of government and community leaders.

“The constitutional convention Cost Task Force, by design, will take a comprehensive, non-partisan and transparent approach to focus solely on determining the cost projections of convening a ConCon,” Aiona said. “Since blank ballots still count as ‘no’ votes with regards to the constitutional convention ballot question, the work of this task force will be even more critical to ensuring the voters have all the facts to make an informed decision.”

The lieutenant governor will chair the task force, which will provide the public with information in advance of its decision in the 2008 general election on whether to convene a constitutional convention.

The task force’s first public meeting was Friday at the state Capitol. The group will hold a series of public meetings, studying a range of factors that could affect the overall cost of a ConCon, and make available its findings in a public report no later than Aug. 1.

“I believe this is one of the most important decisions facing Hawai‘i voters this November,” Aiona said.

The state constitution calls for holding a convention every 10 years if the voters approve it.

The most recent ConCon was 30 years ago.

The 1978 convention recognized the importance of keeping the state’s fundamental governing documents relevant to the current needs of the state, which is why they included the provision in the constitution, the lieutenant governor’s news release says.

Among other significant accomplishments, it helped to require an annual balanced budget, establish term limits for the governor, create the Judicial Selection Commission, establish the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and adopt the Hawaiian language as an official state language.

In 1997, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled in Hawai‘i State AFL-CIO v. Yoshina that blank ballots must be counted as “no” votes.

Residents on Nov. 4 will either vote for, against or leave blank their response to the ballot question, “Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the constitution?”

The task force includes: Aiona, Hooser, state Sen. Gordon Trimble, state House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, state Rep. Joseph Souki, League of Women Voters of Honolulu President Pi‘ilani Kaopuiki, Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce board member Kaipo Lum, Office of Elections Chief Elections Officer Kevin Cronin, state Attorney General Mark Bennett, state comptroller Russ Saito and state Budget and Finance Director Georgina Kawamura.

“The league believes that the more information that voters have, the better able they will be to make an informed decision on whether or not to convene a constitutional convention,” Kaopuiki says in the news release. “We are interested in adequate funding to allow for a comprehensive review of the constitution.”

She was selected to help provide a public voice on the task force.

The state has formed a new e-mail address, concon@hawaii.gov, for residents to provide their comments to the task force.

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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