We’re getting close to the end of the Hawaii Legislature. Nanea Kalani and Chad Blair will be live blogging from the Capitol where lawmakers need to agree on all bills in advance of next Tuesday’s floor vote. Lawmakers will be meeting all day to meet an 11:30 p.m. deadline tonight for all non-fiscal bills. Friday night is the deadline for fiscal bills.

Follow developments here.

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9:08 p.m. Instant Runoff Voting Bill Dead

The measure calling for instant runoff voting for county elections was deferred tonight in conference committee, killing any chance for its passage this session.

Gil Keith-Agaran said there were concerns about the cost of House Bill 638.

IRV, as it’s called, was opposed by the Honolulu City Council, though the last candidate to be elected to the Council won with only a small percentage of the vote — something IRV aims to correct.

NOTE: That’s it for Civil Beat’s live blogging from the Capitol today. We will pick up where we left off tomorrow.

6:50 p.m. Shield Law Heads to Gov’s Desk

A bill extending the state’s 3-year-old Shield Law for another two years passed final reading on the House floor this evening.

The law protects journalists against compelled disclosure of sources and unpublished information.

Gene Ward said the bill is about protecting First Amendment rights. But he voted “aye” with reservations because he believes the law should be made permanent.

House Bill 1376 previously passed the Senate, so it is now on its way to the governor’s desk for his consideration.

6:32 p.m. Poi-Pounding Bill Passes Conference

Senate Bill 101, which exempts the preparation of hand-pounded poi from certain Department of Health requirements regarding food safety if certain conditions are met, is headed to a full floor vote Tuesday.

The measure passed out of conference committee today.

SB 101 is supported by Native Hawaiian groups, which say it will help preserve traditional cultural practices.

5:55 p.m. Lawmakers Cut $600 Million from Budget Gov Submitted

Lawmakers agreed on an $11 billion operating budget for fiscal 2012, with $5.4 billion coming from the general fund. The budget for fiscal 2013 is $10.9 billion, with $5.5 billion in general funds.

That compares to a $10.2 billion budget for the current year. The increases were mostly attributed to higher Medicaid and welfare costs, public workers health and pension increases, and debt service.

Marcus Oshiro and David Ige said they cut a total of $600 million from the general fund portion of the budget Gov. Neil Abercrombie proposed in December. That budget, which Abercrombie had stressed he inherited from former Gov. Linda Lingle, had called for $11.9 billion in spending in 2012 and $11.1 billion in 2013.

With those cuts, the budget approved in conference committee Thursday narrows the two-year shortfall from $1.3 billion to about $500 million.

Oshiro said lawmakers will rely on revenue measures to close the remaining gap, including suspending GET exemptions, eliminating income tax deductions and itemizations for higher income earners, capping the hotel room tax the counties receive, and an increase in the alcohol tax.

The committee also approved a $1.8 billion for capital improvements projects in 2012 and $1 billion for 2013.

All conferrees voted to approve the operating budget and CIP proposal, which now becomes a conference draft, or “CD1.” Republican Reps. Marumoto and Ward were excused.

4:30 p.m. A Vote on Budget At Last?

The committee reconvened around 4:20 p.m. and staff passed out a draft of the two-year capital improvements budget.

David Ige then called for a recess to allow the conferees to review the list. He announced that the meeting will pick back up at 4:45 p.m. “for decision making on HB 200.”

4:11 p.m. Votes on Revenue Bills Postponed — Again

Various conference committees delayed action on the following proposed revenue bills with little or no discussion:

  • SB 120 — Raiding of special funds
  • SB 754 — GET exemptions for businesses
  • SB 1186 — Capping counties’ share of TAT; increasing TAT on timeshares by 2 percentage points
  • SB 570 and HB1092 — Taxes pensions of higher-income earners, eliminates income tax deduction and itemizations at those same thresholds
  • SB 1270 — Allows raiding of Hurricane Relief Fund

The bills have been rescheduled for Friday afternoon.

4 p.m. Ige: Pension Tax Should be Policy Issue

Regarding SB 570 and HB 1092, dealing with the pension tax, David Ige again expressed concern.

He said he believes taxing of pensions should be a policy call and not a budget decision, noting that the Tax Review Commission should study the potential impacts more closely.

“We’ve made clear that we are interested in taxing a broader base,” he said. “Rather than focus on the pensioners, we feel we should be taxing a broader base of people.”

Using these income thresholds — $100,000 for individual filers, $150,000 for head of household and $200,000 for joint — SB 570 would impact approximately 16,000 returns, or 3.1 percent of taxpayers, according to Marcus Oshiro. It would affect 4,106 pensioners, or 0.7 percent.

The bill would generate $21.3 million each in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

3:50 p.m. Anti-Prostitution Bill Passes

A bill that would strengthen Hawaii’s prostitution laws — and make prostitutes eligible for witness protection, helping law enforcement prosecute pimps — has advanced out of conference committee.

It’s a remarkable turnaround given things looked quite grim yesterday for House Bill 240 — lawmakers couldn’t agree on wording in one part of the bill.

The bill also represents a major first step to address sex trafficking. Earlier this week, a labor trafficking bill moved to final reading and appears headed for the governor’s desk.

—Sara Lin

3:38 p.m. Reapportionment Commission Remains Chair-less

The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission met briefly today but accomplished little of note as it awaits the appointment of its chair by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

The commission had 30 days to pick its own chair but could not come to an agreement and missed the deadline.

The Supreme Court announced a pick would be made by Friday, and told Civil Beat this week that the full list of applicants would be made available after the chair selection is made.

The commission will meet again next week, and the agenda will include the creation of a technical subcommittee, decisions on staff hiring, selection of a vice chair, discussion of a long-term schedule and a conversation about the role of advisory committees.

Michael Levine

3:22 p.m. Gambling Rising, Med Pot Plan Dying

Senate and House conferees are working on language in a bill to create Hawaii’s first pilot program for a medical marijuana dispensary.

But the chances the two sides can work out differences appear slim.

“I, at this point, do not believe the bill is going to pass,” said Josh Green. “But I will honor some of my colleagues and I’ll look over a draft and we’ll get it to you.”

Areas of concern in the bill include which department would regulate the dispensary, possible abuse of the program and specific diagnoses governing who is eligible to receive medical marijuana.

A joint House-Senate conference committee will meet tomorrow at 11 a.m. to decide the fate of the bill.

—Robert Brown

Meanwhile, a bill regarding transfer of the Aloha Tower Development Corporation to another government agency is being completely rewritten to allow for a single stand-alone casino that would levy a 15 percent wage tax.

More than a dozen proposals for some form of gambling have all died this session, including measures on casinos. But, desperate for cash, the idea has gained new life.

A draft of the bill is said to call for a five-member commission to select a site.

One big hurdle to clear: In order to swap out a bill and replace it with radically new language, the title of the original bill has to somehow relate to the new subject matter.

Tthe connection between ATDC and gaming is a stretch, so another bill — or “vehicle,” in the vernacular — may have to be found.

2:24 p.m. Kanu Hawaii on Human Trafficking, Conference Committee

Tonight’s Rotunda Roundup with Kanu Hawaii, beginning at 5:30 p.m., includes these agenda items:

• Calendar update, process Q&A and a briefing on human trafficking bills by Kathryn Xian

Suzanne Chun Oakland talking about human services bills and related budget talks now going on in conference committee

• A visit to the governor’s fifth floor office for a briefing on signing and vetoing bills

• Sitting in on floor sessions in House and Senate chamber

1:25 p.m. Budget Vote Pushed Off Again — To 4 p.m.

The 1 p.m. conference committee convened and adjourned in less than two minutes.

David Ige thanked the room for its patience and asked for more patience. He said House Finance and Senate Ways and Means staff are still working on the capitol improvements budget.

“Rather than rush and be inaccurate, we want to be sure we have everything correct,” Ige said.

Lawmakers will regroup at 4 p.m.

1:07 p.m. Tourism Talk on PBS Hawaii

Dan Boylan has invited Mike McCartney, Keith Vieira, Ramsay Taum and Sumner La Croix to talk about the state’s No. 1 industry on “Insights” tonight.

Top questions include:

• How is the industry coping with the impact of the disaster in Japan?

• What new ideas and business models are being developed to rejuvenate tourism and sustain it for the future?

11:30 a.m. Budget Recessed Until 1 p.m., Vote Expected Today

The HB 200 budget conference committee will reconvene at 1 p.m. The committee got through all 368 pages of disagreements.

Marcus Oshiro wouldn’t share much details of what’s ahead, and noted that the committee is still working on the capital improvements portion of the budget. But, he did assure reporters that the committee will vote today on HB 200.

11:05 a.m. Budget Bill Reconvened

And we’re back.

The conference committee has resumed its line-by-line reading of department budgets. They’re now on the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which starts on page 267 of 368.

11 a.m. Recess on HB 200, Conference Committee on Other Bills

Marcus Oshiro has called for a recess because he and David Ige are chairs of another conference committee for Senate Bill 1107 and House Bill 848, both dealing with the general excise tax. They were scheduled for a hearing at 11 a.m.

But Ige has now deferred meeting on SB 1107 until 3:05 p.m.

Oshiro presented Ige with a House draft of House Bill 848, which the Senate will take a look at. Ige has added this bill as well to the 3:05 p.m. agenda.

10:15 a.m. Budget Deliberations Continue

No final budget figures announced yet.

The conference committee has moved on to a line-by-line read-off — with Marcus Oshiro and David Ige quickly reading off agreed to differences by department in alphabetical order.

This includes things like adding positions, funding programs, and restoring furlough savings as announced earlier.

10 a.m. UH Faculty Pay Restoration Won’t Come from General Funds

Marcus Oshiro said the scheduled pay restorations over the next two years for faculty covered by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly will not come from general funds.

The university will use other funds to pay for these. As for the scheduled 3 percent raises in the following two years, Oshiro said they will allow the next Legislature to decide how to fund those.

In January 2010, UHPA members ratified a six-year contract that imposed a pay cut over the following 18 months, but then restored the pay in 2011 and added raises in 2013 and 2014. UHPA represents 3,200 UH faculty members across the 10-campus system.

9:45 a.m. Senate Agrees to House Proposal to Restore Furlough Days

David Ige reconvened the conference committee at 9:45 a.m.

Before getting into an overview of budget figures, Ige announced that the Senate has accepted the House position on furlough restorations. The Senate’s version had previously rejected the idea, and instead had built in furlough savings into its budget plan.

“In addition to that though, the budget is reflecting a lump sum estimate of savings that would be realized if the HGEA contract were applied to all units,” Ige said.

The 5 percent reduction in the HGEA contract spread across all unions would save the state $88.2 million annually.

9:35 a.m. Budget Committee Starts Half-Hour Late, Calls Recess

Marcus Oshiro convened the conference committee on House Bill 200 (the state budget) at 9:35 a.m. (It was supposed to start at 9.) But he immediately called for a short recess.

Conference room 309 is packed, forcing more than a dozen people to watch the action in the hallway on two TVs set to Olelo.

9:15 a.m. Deadline Day for Non-fiscal Bills

There are so many meetings and reconvening of meetings for House and Senate conferees today that it’s difficult to pick just a few to highlight here.

Unshackling pregnant prisoners?

Obtaining a spaceport license?

Labeling frozen bread?

Creating whistleblower protections?

Monitoring cyberbullying at schools?

So much to choose from!

Here’s one to keep a special eye on: House Bill 575, which extends a 5 percent pay cut for legislative, executive and judicial branch employees.

The conferees for HB 575 are Clayton Hee, David Ige, Maile Shimabukuro, Les Ihara, Sam Slom, Karl Rhoaeds, Marcus Oshiro, Ty Cullen, Mrk Hashem, Linda Ichiyama, Jo Jordan, Derek Kawakami, Dee Morikawa, Barbara Marumoto and Gene Ward.

Meeting: Reapportionment Commission

Politics prevented them from selecting their own chair — the Hawaii Supreme Court has been forced to step in and find one — but the Reapportionment Commission is scheduled to meet today anyway.

The discussion agenda includes “appropriate action concerning possible names of individuals for Chairperson.”


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