Hawaii coalition opposes constitutional convention

HONOLULU (AP) — A coalition of Hawaii unions, businesses and environmentalists is urging residents to vote in November against a state constitutional convention. The purpose of the convention would be to amend or rewrite Hawaii’s Constitution. “The groups coming together in opposition of a constitutional convention don’t always see eye-to-eye,” said Hawaii Government Employees Association Executive Director Randy Perreira in a release Thursday. “However, we all recognize that Hawaii’s Constitution is one of the best in the country and a ConCon (Constitutional Convention) could very well weaken the rights and protections that we have today.” The coalition, called Preserve Our Hawaii, includes many of Hawaii’s major unions, such as the Hawaii Government Employees Association, which is the state’s largest, and unions representing public school teachers, police and firefighters. The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the Sierra Club of Hawaii and the Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also have joined in the coalition, as has the Hawaii Democratic Party. The coalition warns that Mainland special interest groups could pour money into the process in an attempt to advance their agendas and that approving a constitutional convention could weaken protections for the environment, civil rights, Native Hawaiian rights, collective bargaining, public employee pensions and health care. A constitutional convention is estimated to cost $56 million, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. Residents are given the chance to vote on whether to hold a state constitutional convention every 10 years. The last convention was in 1978 and ushered in major environmental protections, created the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and term limits for governor, as part of the three dozen amendments that were approved by voters.