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Lawmakers prepare for possible veto overrides

State lawmakers will return to Honolulu this week to consider overriding bills Gov. David Ige plans to veto.

A spokesman for the state House said representatives will meet at noon Tuesday to consider overriding any vetoes.

Ige last month announced 28 potential vetoes out of 268 bills passed during the last legislative session.

On that list for possible veto is House Bill 862, which would take away the counties’ share of the tax on hotel rooms and short-term rentals, as well as funding for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and bills that would allocate federal stimulus money to replenish the state’s rainy day fund, pay for debt service and for teacher bonuses, among other measures.

State Rep. Chris Todd of Hilo said the House, Senate and governor are working in tandem to find “areas of commonality” to fix legislation being considered for veto.

Much of that, he said, comes down to guidance from the federal government on how coronavirus relief funds can be spent.

“In some areas, this is a pretty simple fix, and everyone kind of agrees on what needs to be done, but on other things, you’re trying to find areas where legislators feel it is important to override an existing veto,” Todd said. “You don’t want to abuse that power, so you’re trying to find the balance between passing meaningful legislation you think is vital, and respecting the governor’s role in this process.”

When the Legislature reconvenes, Todd said he is hopeful that funding will be restored to the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems.

PISCES unexpectedly lost all funding after an error nixed the center’s budget from a budget bill during a revision. By the time the error was noticed, the bill had already been signed by the governor.

“My primary responsibility is to look after my district,” Todd said. “One of the things that we’re trying to work through, and I’m hopeful for, is to restore funding for the PISCES program, which is based in Hilo.”

Todd also hopes lawmakers override a veto of a measure that would require the state Department of Education to publish a weekly report on any students, staff members or affiliated individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Todd said the problem with COVID reporting now is that if there’s a cluster, the state won’t divulge where the cluster is.

“I think as we return to school … if we’re going to really try and get everyone back to a sense of normal, we need parents and educators really on board with this and trusting the process,” he said. “That’s going to take a lot of transparency. I’m really hopeful we can override that veto and provide that.”

“… We ultimately fail the people if we don’t convene an override session if there are bills the Legislature feels strongly are in the best interest of the people,” state Sen. Laura Acasio of Hilo said, adding the conversations are currently underway among legislators, especially committee chairs, to address some of the issues Ige raised about certain bills and whether those can be fixed by amending language as part of the override process.

Acasio said she supports overriding a veto of House Bill 58, which would increase conveyance taxes for the sale of noncommercial properties valued at $4 million or greater.

“This allows wealthy investors to have a feeding frenzy on luxury homes,” she said. That frenzy ultimately drives up the cost of land and rental prices in Hawaii, she said.

Acasio, however, does support Ige’s expected veto of House Bill 862.

The senator said she doesn’t agree with the process by which this “Frankenstein bill,” which she said was originally one line but eventually ballooned contain 58 pages at one point, came to be.

Acasio said she was concerned that Transient Accommodation Tax money will being taken away from counties, and also the lack of transparency during the process.

“Last-minute attempts to put a lot of things in the bill — that doesn’t feel like democracy,” she said.

All measures on the governor’s intent-to-veto list are subject to veto, but inclusion on the list does not mean the governor will do so.

A spokeswoman for Ige said the governor’s veto deadline is July 6, and he likely will announce the vetoed bills during a news conference that day.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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