By Derrick DePledge
State lawmakers often insert defective dates in legislation -- dates far into the future -- to move bills along for further discussion or as strategic tools. Usually, the defective dates are not controversial.
Not on Tuesday in the state Senate.
Sen. Malama Solomon and Sen. Laura Thielen got embroiled in a rowdy debate in private caucus over the absence of a defective date in a bill on konohiki rights on Niihau.
Sources say senators had agreed to add a defective date in the bill in private caucus on Monday, but there was no amendment by Tuesday morning.
When Thielen brought the issue up in private caucus, sources say, Solomon, the chairwoman of the Senate Water and Land Committee, questioned her motivation.
"It was nasty," one senator said privately.
In conversations on the Senate floor, Solomon told colleagues that she did not want to be micromanaged. She said that, as chairwoman, she has her own strategy on bills. Not including the defective date, for example, could have forced a dialogue with the House after the bill crosses over later this week, since there is no House companion.
Senators later agreed to add a defective date of July 1, 2050 to the bill, which is up for a vote on Thursday.
"My point was, well, why don't we send it as is? And then it would give me some kind of flexibility so I could call the chair on the other side to say, `Why don't you just put in a defective date, so at least we can go to conference,'" Solomon said afterward. "That's a way to keep it alive."
She said that "Sen. Thielen has a way of getting really personal, and so does Sen. (Russell) Ruderman, when it comes to my legislation. It's like I'm trying to do something underhanded. So they're always using those kinds of loaded words.
"I just told them I didn't appreciate that. I don't think that you can facilitate a good discussion if people are going to be constantly using loaded words."
Thielen -- who also raised issues about other bills that moved through Solomon's committee, including a bill regulating solar projects on agricultural land -- declined to comment, noting that discussions between senators in private caucus are meant to be private.
(Ruderman, on the floor Tuesday, repeatedly described a bill that would help farmers sell products at retail outlets on agricultural land as "shady." Solomon's Senate Water and Land Committee was one of three committees to advance the bill.)
Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran and Sen. Jill Tokuda had some fun with the tension. They arranged the children's blocks on Tokuda's desk to read "Defectiv" -- the word of the day to continue discussion on legislation.