Former UH Regent sues state over reduction in regents
There are four fewer seats on the University of Hawaii's Board of Regents.
According to legislators, the new law improves the university's efficiency, but a former regent disagrees.
He now wants a judge to decide if lawmakers overstepped their authority.
Whether spending money on athletics or academics, the university of Hawaii has to get its budget approved by the state legislature. But this year lawmakers not only approved a budget, they trimmed the number of regents.
"We felt we needed to streamline some of the operations at the University of Hawaii, including the Board of Regents," said Senator Donna Mercado Kim.
Regents have to be confirmed by the legislature. If approved, they then have jurisdiction over the UH President and management of the university.
"The number of regents should be decided by the university under the constitutional autonomy it is provided. Not by the Senate of the Legislature," said former UH regent Jeff Portnoy.
The bill cut the number of regents from 15 to 11.
"We had enough trouble with 15. We are volunteers, we don't get paid. Fifteen was hard enough, but now that they cut it to 11, they have already cut committees," added Portnoy.
The measure also made the number of neighbor island regents equal to those representing Oahu, even though the vast majority of UH students are on Oahu.
"We get criticized about being Oahu-centric all the time, and neighbor islands were concerned about having representation," stated Mercado Kim.
Portnoy filed a lawsuit against the state, after being upset not only about the changes but because of the way the bill was passed.
"It can't be gut and replace, as it happened here. That is unconstitutional," said Portnoy.
"What we had here was a case where the public had no input, no knowledge," added his attorney Eric Seitz.
They said the bill is unconstitutional because after it was added to another measure, there wasn't the required public hearings.
Mercado Kim disagreed, stating legislators simply took a stalled bill and added it to a different measure, "This bill had gone through three readings in the House and Senate. The number of the bill simply changed, it wasn't a gut it was an add. So the public hearings were intact."
This case will be decided in federal court, where hearings on the matter could happen as early as next February.