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This is the Hawaii Legislature‘s final day. After Tuesday’s floor votes, only a handful of measures require attention — including a bill that would continue a 5-percent pay cut for lawmakers. Nanea Kalani and Chad Blair will be live blogging from the House and Senate chambers.
Follow developments here.
Editors’ Note: To make sure you’re getting the latest updates, hold down the SHIFT key and click on the refresh icon in your browser. To view and participate in the discussion, scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Dan Akaka has had an accident in his home and broke two ribs. But he’s ok, writes his spokesman, Jesse Broder Van Dyke:
“I wanted to let you know that Senator Akaka had an accident in his home Monday night and broke two ribs. He is doing fine and is expected back in the office next week. Thankfully he’s okay.
For now, anyway.
There is some talk of a special session should the Council on Revenues issue a dark forecast on May 26. The governor has the authority to ask the Legislature to reconvene.
Most lawmakers doubt a special session will happen, though, satisfied with the combination of budget cuts and tax and fee increases employed to balance the budget.
House members concluded with a moment of silence for the U.S. military.
And Calvin Say offered special thanks to the news media for their work, including Ciivl Beat for shedding light and transparency on government operations.
No, thank YOU, Mr. Speaker! And see you next session!
They sang “Hawaii Aloha” and called it Sine Die.
Waiting now for House to finish. They are praising a long-time employee, who is retiring, for all her service.
Tears and laughter! Love!
The House agreed to overhaul retirement benefits for new government employees hired after July 1, 2011.
The House advanced the bill, agreeing to the Senate’s version, which previously cleared the Senate.
The bill is expected to save the state $440 million in the first five years by doing the following:
The measure now heads to Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s desk.
House members agreed to accept the Senate’s version of HB 575, which continues a 5-percent pay cut for executive-legislative-judicial salaries until Dec. 31, 2013.
The cuts began in 2009 and were set to expire on June 30.
A choked up Shan Tsutsui closed saying: “It’s been a very productive 60 days.”
“To the governor and his administration, I know we’ll be here in a short seven months, but let us pledge to work with him to continue to make Hawaii the best place to live.”
The Senate president then called for a recess to let the House know they’re ready to close the session.
The House and Senate have both passed SB 120, which would allow the state to tap into about two dozen special and revolving funds to help balance the budget.
The Senate on Tuesday made a floor amendment that David Ige said would fix “technical errors” that would increase the amounts that can be transferred to the general fund.
The money would be used only for the current fiscal year, which carries a $200 million deficit.
“This bill is an important part of our financial plan,” said Marcus Oshiro.
Mark Takai supported passage of SB 120 with reservations because it continues diversion of money from the tobacco settlement trust fund.
As senators made their thank-you floor remarks as the Senate winds down, Malama Solomon took the opportunity to encourage her colleagues to be open-minded about legalizing a casino in Waikiki next session.
She said a Wednesday Honolulu Star-Advertiser story oversimplified the state’s financial woes by pinning the solutions to either cutting programs and services or raising taxes.
“There is a third: a free standing casino in Waikiki,” Solomon said. “This would increase revenues by $500 million, employ 3,600 new workers and create over 5,000 new jobs through vendors.” She said a casino would generate $90 million in new taxes annually.
Solomon had pushed for the idea early in the session as well as through a last-minute failed attempt.
“While not a panacea, it will go a long way of improving the state’s tax base and revitalizing Waikiki,” she said.
The Senate unanimously voted to pass Senate Bill 219 that would prohibit pregnant female inmates or those in postpartum recovery from being shackled.
Will Espero, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said it’s unbelievable that such a bill would be necessary today, saying it’s about time.
The Senate unanimously voted to confirm three of Gov. Neil Abercrombie‘s nominees to the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents.
They are Jan Sullivan of high-tech firm Oceanit Laboratories, Coralie Matayoshi of the Red Cross of Hawaii and Saedene Ota of clothing company Maui Thing.
Education Committee chair Jill Tokuda called the three highly qualified “successful and innovative business women.”
Malama Solomon said she was disappointed that none of the candidates introduced themselves to lawmakers.
“Their collective energy provides the direction for the entire university system,” Solomon said. “Knowing who these players are is critical.”
On the House side, Mele Carroll, Scott Nishimoto and Kymberly Pine are absent, meaning only 48 members are here to vote.
Not long after roll was taken and introductions were made to visitors in the House gallery, Democrats went behind closed doors for caucus. Sigh …
On the Senate side, all 25 members are present. They have a light agenda, but it includes expected confirmation for Jan Sullivan, Coralie Matayoshi and Saedene Ota to be UH Regents.
Kahu Curt Paalua Kekuna, the senior pastor of Kawaiahao Church, asked lawmakers to hold hands and forgive each other after a long and tough session.
He said forgiveness was the first thing Jesus called for after his resurrection.
Kekuna also thanked the House for continuing its tradition of spiritual invocations because, as he put it, “We need all the help we can get.”
House members are set to take up only a handful of measures, beginning in a few minutes, but one Democrat whispered to Civil Beat: “Five-seven-five has issues.”
That would be House Bill 575, the bill that would continue salary cuts until Dec. 31, 2011. It’s unclear what the “issues” are, but there is concern about language in the bill that might be unconstitutional.
The bill is still expected to pass, but one never knows what surprises may develop.
The state House is set to convene at 10 a.m. while the state Senate is set for 10:30 a.m.
Business should be — should be — brisk in the Senate, where there’s not expected to be any heavy lifting on the agenda. (Let’s hope so!)
Not so in the House, where bills on extending pay cuts for legislative-judicial-executive salaries and to revising the Employees’ Retirement System are on the docket.
Kanu Hawaii invites one and all to its “Rotunda Roundup Social” tonight at the Capitol.
In a press release, Kanu says:
We’ll set up a projector and screen, some mats and chairs (bring your own beach chair if you have one handy), enjoy some refreshments, and talk story about two questions:
1) How can lawmakers make the process more accessible and open to citizen input?
2) What should we all work on during the interim related to the Citizen Challenge?
The event will also be live-streamed here.
The Hawaii Christian Coalition will hold a prayer at the Capitol Auditorium from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“We will be praying for His righteousness over our islands and in the hearts of all the people,” according to the coalition. “Hear prayers from many Pastors and inspired Praise and Worship music. See you there…..GOD BLESS!!!”
A big story out of Washington today will probably be about Joe Biden‘s meeting at Blair House (no relation; I have an apartment) with Dan Inouye and a bipartisan panel of lawmakers.
The topic is the national debt and deficit spending.
As The Huffington Post reports:
In addition to raising the debt ceiling from its current limit of $14.3 trillion, lawmakers would include legislative language in the bill that called for caps on government spending in over the next one or two years. The level at which that cap would be set is unclear and is likely to be a major fault line during discussions. …
Pulling off such a legislative arrangement will be a challenge for the administration. For starters, the White House has not formally given up its position that there should be a vote on a “clean”0 debt-ceiling bill. Moderate Senate Democrats, however, are insisting the deficit or debt-reduction measures be added. A top aide for one of those Senators said there was deep concern that a failed party-line vote (House Republicans wouldn’t pass a “clean” bill) would damage both the markets and the White House.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will be holding an oversight hearing this morning (PST) in Washington on the depictions of Native peoples in American society (hint: Geronimo, Osama … it was in the news yesterday) “and the effect they have on these communities and the American public in general,” according to a press release:
The Committee will explore how Indian mascots, common caricatures and prevalent mis-portrayals have far-reaching impacts on the identity and sense of self-worth of Native peoples and negatively impact how all Americans perceive and relate to each other.
“Our hearing is about the real harm that is done to all people, Native and non-Native alike, when mascots, movies and images reinforce the stereotypes and the lines that divide rather than unite us,” said Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Live video and witness testimony will be provided.
Catch up on previous coverage: