The primary reason for a special session would have been to make further changes to the state’s budget in the event that a dramatic reduction in economic growth was forecast.
But there are other reasons the Legislature might have come back for a few more days of work: to pass key bills that were left in conference committee limbo.
Many of the bills were priorities of Gov. Neil Abercrombie, in part to further his New Day plan.
From Cables to APEC
What follows are some of the more significant measures that were held:
Undersea Interisland CableSenate Bill 367 would establish a regulatory structure for the installation and implementation of an interisland, high-voltage, electric transmission cable system, and for the construction of on-island transmission infrastructure.
SB 367 was supported by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; the state Consumer Advocate and Hawaiian Electric Co.
But several members of the Maui County Council, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Friends of Lanai and Life of the Land opposed the bill, while the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Public Utilities Commission and the Maui Tomorrow Foundation expressed concerns.
The measure also did not attract full legislative support. Republican Rep. Cynthia Thielen — a long-time advocate of renewable energy — is a vocal opponent of the idea.
Public Utilities Commission Restructuring The Abercrombie administration also supported Senate Bill 99, which was intended to improve the structure and functioning of the PUC.
Among other things, SB99 would expand the number of PUC commissioners and include neighbor island representation and a greater degree of professional expertise. As well, the revamped PUC would be required to provide greater notice of public hearings when entities — namely, intra-island cargo ship companies — apply for a change of service that could directly impact neighbor islands.
Young Brothers, chambers of commerce and island farm bureaus supported the bill. The Blue Planet Foundation did not. The Senate, which broadly supported SB99, ended up disagreeing with House amendments.
APEC SecurityHouse Bill 1012 would have appropriated about $2 million in state funds for security costs associated with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.
Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and Attorney General David Louie waited patiently for repeated conference committee hearings on the measure, but it was held — even though not a single lawmaker voted against the bill as it moved through session.
Schatz later told Civil Beat that he was confident the state would receive appropriate federal help in providing for a safe APEC meeting.
Claims Against the StateHouse Bill 1001 would take $2.1 million from general funds to settle “tax overpayments, refunds, reimbursements, payments of judgments or settlements, or other liabilities,” including some involving the Hawaii Department of Education and the Department of Health.
Such measures are regularly introduced by legislative leadership at the request of administrations, and HB 1001 received not a single vote in opposition. But the House did not agree to Senate amendements to the bill, and matters were left unresolved in conference committee.
Those measures, respectively, would permit the DOE to lease unused public school lands for the development of affordable work force housing, appropriate funds for the Families for R.E.A.L. program regarding early learning, allow the University of Hawaii to issue at least $100 million in revenue bonds for construction and repair and extend use of $4 million a year in tobacco settlement funds by the UH medical school.
There’s Always Next Year
Because Hawaii has a biennium session, each of these bills remain alive for the 2012 session.
Lawmakers could still reconvene, possibly to override any vetoes from the governor (he’s vetoed only two so far and indicated his intention on a third).
But it takes a two-thirds majority in both chambers to make that happen.
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