Why Did A State Senator Skip The Scott Glenn Confirmation Vote? - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Gary Hooser

Gary Hooser is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative, a former Hawaii state senator (2002-2010) and Senate majority leader (2006-2010), and a former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Joy San Buenaventura was nowhere to be found the day her colleagues deadlocked over the contested gubernatorial nominee.

The big question of the day is “How was Big Island Senator Joy A. San Buenaventura going to vote on the Scott Glenn nomination?”

I’m thinking that someone, somewhere out there has an email from the senator or her staff stating which way she was leaning.

After all, this was a hot vote and a controversial-in-the-media-kind-of-moment, and many constituents were calling and emailing senators across the state on the issue.

Surely there’s an email response somewhere that gives some hint as to where she stood on this?

According to Civil Beat, when asked the question directly, “She declined to say how she would have voted.”

For those who have not been absolutely glued to this topic over the past few days, I’m speaking of the vote yesterday on Scott Glenn, the nominee to lead the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development. He lost in a 12-12 tie vote by the 25-member Senate.

San Buenaventura was absent.

To state the obvious: If she had intended to vote in support and shown up, Glenn’s nomination would have been approved. The fact that she was absent resulted in a tie vote and, according to the rules, killed the nomination.

Scott Glenn did not receive approval from the Senate after a floor vote Friday fell short of the necessary majority. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

If she had intended to vote “no,” then her absence did not matter nor impact the results.

Thus the big question: How would she have voted? Does anyone reading this today know?

Full disclosure: I have worked with Scott Glenn in the past and I like him a whole lot. During the time when I served as director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control Scott served on the attached Environmental Council. He later went on to also serve as the OEQC director.

I have found him to be a person of high integrity, incredibly hardworking, and values-centered. His past education, experience, and training made him uniquely qualified to lead the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development.

If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the 11:30 a.m. floor session of March 24. Listen to the speeches and follow the vote here starting at the 5-minute mark.

It was brutal. Several of the speeches — attacks, really — were unnecessarily and inappropriately personal in nature. The arguments were a long, long, long way from an “agree to disagree” tone.

It was more akin to tag-team wrestling with baseball bats against one guy sitting in silence in the gallery.

The entire spectacle was nothing anyone should be proud of. But the tag-team won in a tie vote.

So again, how would Sen. Joy A. San Buenaventura have voted? Would her vote have broken the tie or not?

Here is the tally from Friday. Check out how your senator voted:

  • The 12 senators who voted “no” and were against the nomination of Scott Glenn: Henry Aquino, Brenton Awa, Stanley Chang, Lynn DeCoite, Donavan Dela Cruz, Kurt Fevella, Gil Keith-Agaran, Michelle Kidani, Donna Kim, Angus McKelvey, Sharon Moriwaki and Glenn Wakai.
  • Two of these “no vote” senators — Chang and McKelvey — had actually voted “yes” in committee on March 8 but switched their vote to “no” on the floor.
  • The 12 senators who voted “yes” and who supported the nomination of Scott Glenn were: Brandon Elefante, Carol Fukunaga, Mike Gabbard, Les Ihara, Lorraine Inouye, Dru Kanuha, Jarrett Keohokalole, Ron Kouchi, Chris Lee, Karl Rhoads, Tim Richards and Maile Shimabukuro.

The vote is interesting and far too nuanced to get into at the moment. For example, the Senate president will normally always vote “with the chair” — in this case, Inouye, who leads the Water and Land Committee.

Further, it is normally the case that “leadership” will always “know where the votes are” and not actually allow a vote until they are sure they will win. “Leadership” is constantly polling the members and asking “how they’re going to vote” in the hours and minutes leading up to the vote.

In all likelihood, the Senate president and key members of leadership knew the vote was tied 12-12 prior to the actual vote being taken. They also knew that Sen. San Buenaventura would be absent.

Sure, some of the members may have not disclosed their intended vote prior to the actual vote, but in practice this would be unusual.

There is a “Hail Mary” option.

If one person who voted “no” is willing to switch their vote to a “yes,” there could then be a “motion for reconsideration,” which if passed would presumably provide an opportunity for San Buenaventura to vote.

But we don’t know how she would vote do we?

There’s that pesky question again.

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About the Author

Gary Hooser

Gary Hooser is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative, a former Hawaii state senator (2002-2010) and Senate majority leader (2006-2010), and a former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Latest Comments (0)

I will be interested to know if residents actually contacted their Senators to share their thoughts after knowing how wild the advise and consent process has been this session. That's the most proactive thing that anyone can do as we are not the Senator San Buenaventura or other Senators. The process gives residents to not just be bystanders.

Ca · 8 months ago

I actually watched the video and thought they gave decent reasons for how they voted.

xoxoxoxo · 8 months ago

Shame on those voting no or missing the vote altogether! This competent and dedicated person should not have been attacked in that way. My Senator voted yes, and I plan to thank them and ask for more information.

OLD_OWL · 8 months ago

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