The speaker of the Hawaii House of Representatives says the chamber will not immediately consider a request to investigate Rep. Calvin Say’s residency qualifications.

In a letter dated Oct. 17 to Lance Collins, the attorney for six Palolo residents who argue that Say no longer lives in District 20 and so should not represent them, Speaker Joe Souki said it would be “inappropriate” to address the “numerous assertions” made in Collins’ letter.

Given that the election for all 51 seats is just two weeks away, the House will “most likely” follow its usual process of having its credentials committee meet on opening day of the 2015 Legislature to address such matters.

Souki noted that the House is not currently in session and would not be able to take action to evaluate Say’s qualifications. Souki added that a lawsuit regarding the matter that was dismissed last month “could be subject to possible appeal.”

Rep. Joe Souki

Speaker Joe Souki.

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

In a press release, Collins said Souki “has denied the Palolo Voters request to investigate Calvin Say’s qualifications to hold office claiming he lacks the power to do so.”

Collins stated, “Because the Speaker exercised his powers to intervene in the lawsuit while the House was not in session, but now claims the governor must call the House into special session before he can do anything about Say’s qualifications, it has become clear that Souki’s purpose in intervening in the Say lawsuit was not to protect the House’s jurisdiction over its members — as was claimed — but to protect one specific member from having to answer for his lack of qualifications.”

House spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka told Civil Beat that Collins is wrong to characterize Souki’s action as denying the request of the Palolo residents.

“That is absolutely not what the letter says,” she said. “If you read it, it is not denying his request but saying he is not doing it at this time.”

Collins insists that the House speaker “has extensive powers under the Constitution and the House Rules. The problem is not a lack of power but a lack of political will. The other House members and the public have a right to know what Say offered Souki for the integrity of the House.”

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