- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - The Hawaii House of Representatives held its first hearing to determine whether former House Speaker Calvin Say has the qualifications to remain in office.

A special committee convened by the House met Friday afternoon to hear from challengers who contend that Say doesn’t live in the district he represents, and to give the state’s longest-serving representative a chance to respond.

It was the first known time in Hawaii history that a legislative panel has come together to determine whether a state representative was qualified to serve.

Much of the hearing focused on the previous failed attempts to challenge Say’s residency, such as in 2006 when the Board of Voter Registration upheld that Say lives in his district.

At the center of the dispute are two homes - one on 10th Ave. in Palolo Valley, Say’s district - and another that was owned by Say’s in-laws on Star Rd. in Pauoa Valley, where Say has said he lived for much of the time when he served as House Speaker and chairman of the finance committee.

Say did not speak at the hearing, but he attended wearing lei and was greeted with gestures of support by his colleagues.

Attorney Lance Collins, representing the voters who filed the challenge, said water records in 2010 indicated that the home in Palolo Valley was using zero gallons of water per day, on average, compared to 186 gallons of water per day consumed at the Pauoa Valley home.

But lawmakers on the committee questioned the relevance of those and other reports, because although Say was serving in the Legislature at the time of the recordings, that evidence pertains to a period of time before Say’s current term.

“Do you believe there is new evidence that has come about…since the last challenge to his qualifications failed?” asked Rep. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the special committee.

Collins said that after the previous challenges, some neighbors continued to report seeing no activity at the 10th Ave. residence while other neighbors appeared to be taking turns parking their cars in Say’s 10th Ave. carport.

“Every day that Mr. Say doesn’t live at the house is new evidence,” Collins said.

Say’s attorney, Bert T. Kobayashi, Jr., told the panel that Collins was not under oath, so the claims he made should not be considered evidence.

Also central is the question of whether or not Say intended to eventually return to live permanently his Palolo Valley home.

“It is his intention and has always been his intention to make that his permanent residence,” Kobayashi said, referring to the Palolo Valley address.

Hawaii law indicates that residency qualifications can be met if a person intends to return to a particular home. But it doesn’t state an amount of time that’s too long for an intention to be deemed valid.

“How long can intention be enough to maintain the residence?” Rhoads asked. “At some point you just don’t live there.”

“The law just asks for intention. It does not specify a time period,” Kobayashi said. “If Mr. Say’s intentions were to change, then he would not be entitled to the residency.”

Rhoads said he hoped the committee would complete its work within the next two weeks. The committee plans to read the submitted evidence, draft a report and then hold another hearing to vote on a recommendation that will then go to the full House for a vote.

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