Charter amendment and constitutional amendment pass

HILO — One proposed constitutional amendment that would have raised the value in dispute in a civil lawsuit in order to get a jury trial from $5,000 to $10,000 failed. Proponents say it would have lessened the burden on circuit courts for matters not involving large sums of money. It would also improve access to justice, because bench trials at district courts cost less and dispose of matters more quickly.

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HILO — One proposed constitutional amendment that would have raised the value in dispute in a civil lawsuit in order to get a jury trial from $5,000 to $10,000 failed. Proponents say it would have lessened the burden on circuit courts for matters not involving large sums of money. It would also improve access to justice, because bench trials at district courts cost less and dispose of matters more quickly.

Opponents say the measure robs state residents of their constitutional right to a trial before a jury of their peers and tells people that their rights are worth less because the amount in controversy is less. Only a handful of states limit jury trials, and only two states have higher threshold amounts than Hawaii.

The measure failed at the 11th hour at 190,326 to 174,901 or 46.3 percent to 42.5 percent, with all 247 precincts reporting Tuesday night.

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The second change to the state constitution will allow new uses for budget surpluses: prepayment of bond debt and prepayment of employee pensions and post-retirement benefits. It passed 206,990 to 148,494, or 50.2 percent to 36 percent, with all 247 precincts reporting.

Supporters say the change will allow the state to pay down debt, creating long-term savings for taxpayers. The state Legislature ultimately decides where the money will be spent. Opponents worry there will be less money going into the state’s rainy day fund, and taxpayers would be less likely to get money back when there’s a budget surplus.

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