Before he was elected governor, Neil Abercrombie was a professional legislator for 35 years — in the state House and Senate, on the Honolulu City Council and in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Abercrombie understands well the art of introducing bills, amending them and getting them passed (or not).

He is also a Democratic executive with hefty majorities in both the state House and Senate.

So, as the 2011 Legislature sends its bills from one chamber to the other this week, how did the governor’s package hold up?

Civil Beat has already sized up the governor’s major revenue-raising proposals, which are a key part of his agenda.

In summary: He’s not anywhere near getting what he wants.

It’s a different picture, however, when looking at the governor’s entire legislative package. There are a total of 216 measures, which, because most have a companion bill, equates to roughly 100 bills.

With much of the media focus on the budget, many of these measures have received little attention, yet most are alive and moving through the Legislature.

One reason is that he has a better relationship with lawmakers than his Republican predecessor, Linda Lingle. And it’s not just a matter of party.

His policy team, led by legislative liaison Debbie Shimizu, has worked quietly and effectively behind the scenes to shepherd the governor’s agenda through the Capitol. And many of the people he brought to work with him have legislative experience both here and in Washington.

Their work is not sexy, and most often flies under the radar — except such things as high-profile Cabinet and other appointments, where the administration is doing well.

Much of this is wonky stuff, the meat and potatoes of government, with no gravy. But it can be important and a lot of the legislation fits with the governor’s pledge to make government run more efficiently.

For example, there are measures designed to make local regulations comply with recently passed federal laws and ensure the state gets money from Washington, to better administer and finance departments and to shift programs from one agency to another.

There are bills as well that aim to assist law enforcement — over a half-dozen — and to pay for extra security for the APEC meeting in November. Others address clean energy, health, education and affordable housing.

Keep in mind that if lawmakers don’t pass some of the governor’s measures, it’s possible that language or ideas will be adopted and amended in other bills. In that regard, the governor’s “New Day” goals — prison reform or energy sustainability, for example — are still being advanced.

One important note: The governor’s legislative package includes about two dozen bills that propose the state’s operating budget, appropriate money for collective bargaining and settle legal claims against the state. These are bills that are required of any administration, and all of them are currently in flux.

After weeding through the rest of the package, however, we can see what remains of noteworthy legislative proposals from the administration — with the oft-stated caveats that anything can happen before lawmakers wrap things up by May 5, and that amended bills may not look anything like what the introducer of the bill intended.

What’s Alive

• Strengthening laws on promoting and disseminating pornography to minors: House Bill 1007.

• Granting greater powers of arrest to the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement: House Bill 1008.

• Establishing a single entity to administer enhanced 911 services for the state: House Bill 1000, Senate Bill 1227.

• Providing greater court protections to victims of domestic violence: House Bill 1003.

• Allowing the state to retain fingerprints of employment and licensing applicants for whom criminal history record checks are authorized: House Bill 1009.

• Appropriating funds to the Attorney General for operating expenses of agencies preparing for the APEC meeting: House Bill 1012.

• Establishing specific time frames for a commitment or release on conditions when unfit defendants are charged with petty misdemeanors for 60 days, and non-violent misdemeanors for 120 days: House Bill 1069.

• Specifying that any person acquitted on the grounds of a physical or mental defect and who was charged with a petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or violation can be granted conditional release for no more than one year: House Bill 1070.

• Repealing conveyance tax exemptions for low-income housing projects certified by the state: Senate Bill 1241.

• Modifying the renewable energy facility siting process to include biofuel production facilities of a certain magnitude: House Bill 1017, Senate Bill 1244.

• Abolishing the Aloha Tower Development Corporation and transferring its assets to the Hawaii Community Development Authority: House Bill 1020, Senate Bill 1247.

• Providing for the issuance of vehicle bonds from the National Highway System Designation Act and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act to use on transportation projects: House Bill 1039.

• Authorizing the Insurance Commissioner to enforce consumer protections and market reforms relating to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Senate Bill 1273.

• Providing uniform standards for review procedures based on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Uniform Health Carrier External Review Model Act to comply with health-care reform: Senate Bill 1294.

• Updating the Insurance Code and related provisions: House Bill 1049, Senate Bill 1276.

• Updating regulation of legal service plans and fees charged to insurers by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: Senate Bill 1277.

• Adopting model regulations of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to conform with senior investor protections in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: House Bill 1051, Senate Bill 1278.

• Adopting amendments to the insurance code to comply with the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act related to surplus lines insurance and to participate in a multi-state cooperative to collect surplus lines premium taxes and fees: House Bill 1052, Senate Bill 1279.

• Amending national requirements of licensure for dental hygienists: House Bill 1053.

• Making the administration of nationally norm-referenced testing in English and math for certain grades discretionary rather than mandatory: House Bill 1055, Senate Bill 1282.

• Amending state law to replace language regarding principal and vice-principal candidate qualifications that conflict with Race to the Top grants: House Bill 1056, Senate Bill 1283.

• Authorizing the Department of Education to monitor students with disabilities placed in private schools, and to get private help paying for them: Senate Bill 1284.

• Amending state law to include agencywide technology and computer systems with an estimated useful life of not less than seven years as capital investments to allow all costs to be financed with bond funds and depreciated as capital investments: House Bill 1058, Senate Bill 1258.

• Giving greater fiscal authority to the chief information officer: House Bill 1060, Senate Bill 1287.

• Increasing the limit Hawaiian Home Lands is authorized to borrow or guarantee on loans from $50,000,000 to cover the department’s requirements for its housing program: House Bill 1063, Senate Bill 1290.

• Repealing the authority of the Office of Youth Services to transfer youth committed to the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility to adult correctional facilities for disciplinary or other reasons: House Bill 1067.

• Requiring the Department of Health to provide a fitness restoration program for defendants unfit to proceed with court proceedings and on conditional release, and to report information regarding defendant’s plan and compliance to the prosecutor of the county where the defendant was charged: House Bill 1071,

• Amending the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation board composition to add an at-large member appointed by the governor, give voting rights to the ex-officio Director of Health member, and adding community members from the respective regional system boards: Senate Bill 1300.

• Making exemptions from state Fair Housing laws consistent with similar exemptions found in the federal Fair Housing Act: Senate Bill 1301.

• Establishing the Conservation and Resources Enforcement Special Fund in the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the purpose of setting aside moneys to be used toward the protection of natural resources: House Bill 1082.

• Clarifying that all costs and expenses associated with the disposal of an impounded unauthorized vessel by the Department of Land and Natural Resources shall be borne by the vessel owner: House Bill 1083.

• Amending state law so laws on controlled substances are consistent with the federal laws, and to increase registration fees for medical marijuana patients: House Bill 1085.

• Providing amendments so that the Hawaii income tax law comports with changes to the Internal Revenue Code: House Bill 1089, Senate Bill 1316.

• Establishing a minimum age of 12 for passengers to be permitted to ride or be carried on a three-wheeled moped: House Bill 1095.

• Authorizing the Department of Transportation to collect increases in passenger facility charges: House Bill 1100, Senate Bill 1327.

What’s Dead

• Including in the offense of murder in the second degree acts committed with the intent to cause serious bodily injury to another person or create the strong probability of causing death or serious bodily injury to another person, which result in the death of another person: House Bill 1002, Senate Bill 1229.

• Authorizing the Department of Health to provide certain public health records to law enforcement officers to facilitate criminal investigations: House Bill 1010, Senate Bill 1237.

• Enabling the Attorney General to retain and deposit 33 percent of recoveries from civil actions or settlements of a civil claim, with exceptions, initiated or prosecuted by the Attorney General to be used for staffing, expenses, equipment and training: House Bill 1011, Senate Bill 1238.

• Establishing a program for granting low-income housing tax credit loans in lieu of low-income housing tax credits administered by the state and authorizing bonds to pay for it: House Bill 1013, Senate Bill 1240.

• Requiring the Department of Transportation to adopt rules for the registration of, and issuance of license plates for, electric vehicles and exempting them from parking fees: House Bill 1016.

• Modifying existing tax incentives for ethanol production facilities to be available to other biofuel production facilities using locally grown agricultural feedstocks: House Bill 1018, Senate Bill 1245.

• Clarifying the type of public notice required for reporting the state growth rate and expenditure ceiling and the release of grants: House Bill 1044, Senate Bill 1271.

• Providing for the establishment of a health insurance exchange authority in response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: House Bill 1048, Senate Bill 1275.

• Allowing the Disability and Communication Access Board to charge a fee to defray expenses of reviewing construction plans to ensure compliance with law: House Bill 1072, Senate Bill 1299.

• Removing the sunset date on the use of new safe harbor agreements, habitat conservation plans and incidental take licenses as recovery options for conserving and protecting threatened and endangered species: House Bill 1078, Senate Bill 1310.

• Providing the Department of Land and Natural Resources with flexibility in developing industrial parks in order to address the growing demand in the State for available industrial lands: House Bill 1081, Senate Bill 1313.

• Amending state law to separate the intake service centers and reentry services within the department of public safety: House Bill 1086, Senate Bill 1306.


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