Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced Monday that he currently plans to veto eight of the 252 bills the Legislature approved this past session.

Bills to combat sex trafficking, allow University of Hawaii graduate students to unionize and clarify the order of succession for lieutenant governor were among those he’ll potentially veto.

Monday was the deadline for the governor to submit his list of bills that he intends to veto. He has until July 14 to actually do so — or change his mind. The 101 other bills Ige has yet to take action on will become law, with or without his signature.

The most notable bill not on the governor’s intent-to-veto list is legislation that will allow Honolulu, with approval from the City Council, to extend the half-percent General Excise Tax surcharge to fund the $6 billion rail project, now facing a nearly $1 billion shortfall.

Governor David ige walks away from podium after answering media questions and announcing his short list of bills that he plans to veto. 29 june 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gov. David Ige answers media questions Monday about his list of eight bills that he currently plans to veto. He has until July 14 to decide for sure.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The surcharge is currently set to expire in 2022. House Bill 134 would extend the sunset date five years, far less than what Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell sought.

The legislation also lets the neighbor-island counties levy a similar half-percent GET surcharge for public transportation projects and gives them the same sunset date of 2027.

The bill will become law since it wasn’t on Ige’s intent-to-veto list, but it may do so without his signature in part over information that surfaced Friday suggesting Caldwell misled the Legislature when lobbying for its passage.

The mayor had said the extension was needed to cover the shortfall for the 20-mile route or else the county would have to look at raising property taxes by 30 percent to 43 percent. But internal emails obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser show the Honolulu Authority of Rapid Transportation had estimated the city would only have to increase the median property tax by 5.6 percent.

“That’s part of the equation as to whether I sign or not,” Ige told reporters at a press conference Monday.

“The reason I did not have it on my veto list is that in my review of the information provided, it’s clear that HART is short in terms of the funding that’s required for that first segment,” he said.

The governor said the measure will ensure, based on the current budget, that there is enough money to finish the first segment and possibly plan for additional routes.

“I am committed to seeing the rail project successfully completed,” Ige said, but added that “any funds for future expansion should be decided by future legislation.”

Another important bill not on the governor’s intent-to-veto list is the one establishing medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii. That too will become law with or without his signature.

Ige said he hasn’t decided yet whether he will sign House Bill 321, which will allow eight companies to open two pot dispensaries each as soon as July 15, 2016.

He said he may not sign the bill over concerns about its “aggressive” implementation schedule and the amount of resources the Legislature appropriated. The bill includes $1.5 million over the next two years and five permanent positions for the Department of Health.

As of Monday, the governor had signed 142 bills into law.

Here is the list of bills Ige intends to veto and his rationale.

  • House Bill 540, relating to the University of Hawaii Accounting and Financial Management System. Extends authority of UH to maintain separate accounting and financial management system.
    • “The University of Hawai‘i believes, and I agree, that this measure contains provisions that violate the Hawai‘i state constitution regarding autonomy for University System management over university finances.”
  • House Bill 553, relating to collective bargaining. Allows UH graduate student assistants employed by UH to collectively bargain their wages, hours and other terms.
    • “Our administration appreciates the contributions graduate students make throughout the university system. Their valid concerns can and should be addressed internally through Board of Regents policy followed by a commitment from the University administration to implement such policy. We strongly encourage this option rather than amending state collective bargaining laws that govern management and employee relations.”
  • Senate Bill 105, relating to the budget. Requires estimated future debt service for proposed Capital Improvement Projects to be included in the budget documents submitted to the Legislature.
    • “Our administration believes that this measure, while well-intended, would be difficult to implement given the uncertainty of capital finance markets. Thus, it would be difficult to calculate long-term debt and might lead to inaccurate projections that could ultimately affect our bond rating. We would prefer to voluntarily work toward more accurate projections driven by administrative policy rather than state law.”
  • Senate Bill 218, relating to the order of succession. Clarifies the order of succession to the lieutenant governor’s office.
    • “We believe that the existing order of succession is adequate and appropriate. We further believe that these changes might leave a gap in succession that would be difficult to address in a state of emergency or disaster.”
  • Senate Bill 265, relating to sex trafficking. Changing wording in statute from “promoting prostitution in the first degree” to “sex trafficking.”
    • “I understand the concerns raised about exploitation of women that have driven advocates to seek strong penalties for sex trafficking. Unfortunately, this measure creates a special crime that eliminates the opportunity for prosecution of lesser related offenses. Thus, our Attorney General and three of our four county prosecutors are advising that this bill may result in fewer prosecutions for these types of crimes. I am asking our Attorney General and county prosecutors to propose a bill that will allow them to prosecute the full range of prostitution and sex trafficking offenses.”
  • Senate Bill 349, relating to taxation. Repeals ethanol facility tax credit; establishes a five-year renewable fuels production tax credit.
    • “We have been advised by our Attorney General that the definition of qualified taxpayers is flawed in that it does not allow for companies outside of Hawai‘i to be qualified. This potentially violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and could subject our state to potential litigation.”
  • Senate Bill 569, relating to theft. Increases the dollar threshold with respect to property or services for theft in the second degree to $750 from the current $300.
    • “We have been advised by county prosecutors that increasing the threshold for felony theft from $300 to $750 will eliminate the deterrent effect within retail markets. The retail merchants, in particular, are concerned that this will increase their revenue loss from shoplifting.”
  • Senate Bill 1324, relating to divorce. Provides authority for Employees’ Retirement System to make direct payments of benefits to a non-member former spouse of a member on order of court judgment, order or divorce decree.
    • “Our administration supports the intent of this measure. However, we believe that working with the Employees’ Retirement System Board and administration, we can accomplish this without state law.”

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