Power Struggle Erupts Between Legislators & Governor Lingle

State Civil Defense Director General Robert Lee
State Civil Defense Director General Robert Lee

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- There's political bickering at the over Governor Linda Lingle's emergency powers. The House and Senate have each passed a bill that would weaken the Governor's authority to declare an emergency and release disaster relief funds.

The Legislature is wrestling with Governor Lingle over her emergency powers. This, after the Governor extended an emergency declaration last year to address Oahu and Kauai's homeless problem.

"I admit that it was a unique unprecedented and innovative use of my emergency powers but I believe that the public would say it was justified," Governor Lingle said.

"If I were homeless during that period and I don't have a roof over my head, I would think that's an emergency," said State Civil Defense Director General Robert Lee.

"Clearly that was the most recent issue. The other one had to do with abandoned junk cars on Maui," said Senator Rosalyn Baker, one of the authors of the bill.

Senator Baker says under the bill, the Governor would need permission from the Legislature first before declaring an emergency, but only in certain situations.

"It's not to try and curtail them for legitimate disaster relief or dealing with natural disasters, manmade disasters, terrorism," she said.

The bill does not tamper with Governor Lingle's power when it comes to disasters like earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. But General Lee points out that hurricanes are not included in that exemption.

"If that's the case, I hope they don't plan on any trips between June 1st and December 1st because that's hurricane season," he said.

General Lee says he believes the Governor has used her emergency powers wisely. But the House and Senate are not convinced.

The House and Senate's versions of the bill head back to committee for review. That's expected to happen next week.