Chad Blair: When It Comes To Veto Overrides, Ige's No Lingle - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


The governor, a Democrat, was not particularly popular in his own party. He often clashed over policy and legislation with his fellow Democrats who controlled the Hawaii Legislature.

The testy relationship came to a head when lawmakers mustered the votes to override a vetoed bill — a direct and successful challenge to the governor’s leadership.

The year was 2001 and the governor was Ben Cayetano. It was the first time in state history that a Democratic governor had been overridden by Democratic legislators. (More on that later.)

On Tuesday, Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, was overridden by Democratic legislators, too, but it was not the first time for him. That came in 2016.

Still, Ige’s veto overrides now total six — the most of any Democratic governor — and he’s still got one more legislative session before his term ends in early December 2022. Lawmakers might also override a seventh vetoed bill this Thursday when they plan to vote on three other vetoed bills that were amended Tuesday to meet Ige’s objections.

Governor David Ige walks into the ceremonial room before the press conference on bills he will veto.
Gov. David Ige walking into the Capitol’s ceremonial room before his press conference Tuesday on bills he vetoed. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Let’s keep things in perspective. Ige issued more than 50 vetoes in his six years in office that were not overturned, giving him a decent batting average. But his predecessor and fellow Democrat Neil Abercrombie vetoed 43 bills in four years and none were overturned.

Ige also explained in a press conference Tuesday that he included more bills than usual on his veto intent list this year — 28, ultimately pared back to 26 but also including a line-item veto of the state budget bill — because of the pandemic’s lessening impact to state coffers and the issuing of U.S. Treasury guidelines on how to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds. Both developments came after the 2021 legislative session ended April 29.

That said, Ige was rebuffed by the House and Senate this week, which overrode a total of five bills on Tuesday and possibly one more on Thursday. The House actually overrode an additional three vetoed bills that the Senate decided not to take up.

Ige’s No Lingle

But Ige will likely never experience the disdain heaped on former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle (2002-2010) by majority Democrats.

Lingle, only the second GOP governor in state history, issued 347 vetoes during her eight years in office and suffered overrides in all but one session. Her track record included a record 38 overrides in 2009 when she vetoed 55 bills.

Among the Lingle vetoes that were overridden were bills increasing income taxes, authorizing permanent absentee voting and requiring recipients of state funding for sexual health education programs to provide comprehensive, medically accurate sex education.

But Democrats could not kill many other Lingle vetoes, including the civil unions bill of 2010. A lot of Democrats were just as uncomfortable about the then controversial bill as was the Republican head of state.

Former Governors Linda Lingle (right) and Neil Abercrombie (left) look on during the inauguration ceremony for Governor David Ige, at the state capitol in Honolulu, HI, Monday, December 3, 2018. (Civil Beat photo Ronen Zilberman)
Former Governors Linda Lingle and Neil Abercrombie look on during the second inauguration ceremony for Gov. David Ige at the Capitol in 2018. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/ 2018

Let’s go back to Cayetano. The legislation he vetoed in 2001 was called the Age of Consent bill and was intended to protect minors from having consensual sex by raising the permissible age from 14 to 16.

In his 2009 memoir, “Ben,” the former governor said he had no objection with raising the age. What bothered him was language in the bill that allowed for a sliding scale.

“For example, under the sliding scale, if a 19-year-old had consensual sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend he would face a 20-year prison sentence,” Cayetano recalled. But if his girlfriend was 15 at the time, it would not be a crime.

The sliding scale “defied reality and common sense,” he wrote, and a 20-year felony prison sentence was way too harsh. Cayetano noted that Honolulu prosecutor Peter Carlisle also opposed the bill as did the Commission on the Status of Women. And yet, only one Democrat, state Sen. Les Ihara, voted against it.

The reason for the veto override, Cayetano learned from some Democrats, was because they did not want to appear soft on crime come election time.

This is not to equate the events in the 2021 Legislature with those of the 2001 session. But bills do have consequences, ones often not foreseen at the time they are approved or rejected.

Cayetano wrote that five years after the Age of Consent bill became law, 24-year-old John Etrata and 15-year-old Ariel Aki killed themselves on Lanai. They had been lovers and lived together for three months at the time. Etrata was arrested for sexual assault of a minor.

“No one knows for sure why they killed themselves,” Cayetano explained. “But I wondered how shocked Etrata must have been when he found out — as he must have — that he faced a 20-year prison term for being intimate with Aki. Ironically, had Aki been a year older, they — with her parents’ consent — could have been married.”


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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Latest Comments (0)

Lingle put more Hawaiian people on the land than all others combined.Cayetano warned us all about the rail and got reamed for it . Nuff said 

tokenhoale · 4 months ago

The fact that the Hawaii Democratic legislature today has no problem overriding veto's from a Democratic Governor is yet another telltale sign of the change in Hawaii's 21st century political culture. If one was around long enough to know, when the Cayetano veto override happened, it was a big deal in this town because it had never been done before. This of course opened the floodgates for the legislature to have at it with Lingle's veto's and, up to today, Governor Ige's. One can say that this is also another sign of Hawaii politics post-Inouye, in which Uncle made sure that everyone walked lock step on decisions and didn't rock the boat - playing for time to the next session where the issues could be hashed out there. 

Kana_Hawaii · 4 months ago

we elect all these people to office. we chose them as the best in their field of candidates. so to have disagreements among the select few on a few of the laws passed is good. the governor is term limited the others are not, so it is safer to be on the good side of the power blocks if you want to be in office in the future. 

dork · 4 months ago

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