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The House and Senate each passed hundreds of bills Tuesday, sending them back to their originating chamber often with big questions to be answered when it comes to funding.
Medical marijuana dispensaries, the rail tax, public hospitals, transgender birth certificates, wrongful imprisonment, energy, bullying, mail-in elections and local food were on the long list of legislation that crossed over ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
Some still resemble their original form. Others not so much.
The state House and Senate each passed hundreds of bills Tuesday, but will negotiate funding for many initiatives over the next two weeks.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
In the coming days, conferees will be appointed to joint House-Senate panels that will hash out final versions — or scrap the effort entirely if an agreement can’t be reached.
The generally chaotic conference committee process is set to start Monday and wrap up the week before the session ends May 7.
But as the Legislature turns down the home stretch, the public is still in the dark when it comes to key details — namely, money.
Take the Preschool Open Doors Program, for instance. Senate Bill 64 at one point last month in the Senate included $6 million in subsidies and $440,000 for three positions to continue running the early childhood education program. The House passed it unanimously and sent it back with $1 placeholders.
A conference committee will negotiate the final amount or possibly abandon it. The public likely won’t know until it happens — at which point it’ll be too late to advocate for a change.
Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke probably has a number in mind for this initiative and other higher profile issues this session. Same with her counterpart in the Senate, Ways and Means Chairwoman Jill Tokuda. But they’re not showing their cards at this time and neither are other lawmakers.
House Speaker Joseph Souki ran the bill-passing marathon Tuesday.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
It’s a similar situation when it comes to the Legislature’s effort to salvage a deal brokered at the 11th hour last session to conserve 665 acres of undeveloped North Shore land near Turtle Bay for $48.5 million.
The Senate sent the House a bill in March that would issue $40 million in revenue bonds and use the proceeds to acquire the conservation easement. It would have also allocated $3 million annually in hotel tax money to pay the debt serve on the bonds and ongoing expenses.
The House is returning the bill in a form that changes all the references to the transient accommodations tax to an unspecified funding source. Another big question lawmakers will have to answer before session ends.
Senate President Donna Mercado Kim presides over the session Tuesday.
Given the frequent emphasis that lawmakers, Gov. David Ige, his budget director and others have placed on the limited discretionary funding in the nearly $26 billion proposed two-year spending plan for the state, these are some pretty big details that will be negotiated in a frenzy over the next two weeks.
Conference committees often hold meetings on bills with limited public notice, making the process all the more challenging to track.
Read more about the Senate bills that the House returned here.
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