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Updated 5:35 p.m., 7/14/15
Hawaii Gov. David Ige has followed through on his previously announced plans to veto eight bills.
That includes measures to combat sex trafficking, allow University of Hawaii graduate students to unionize and clarify the order of succession for lieutenant governor.
Tuesday marked the deadline for the governor to veto any of the eight bills he put on his intent-to-veto list last month. All eight were officially vetoed Monday and then transmitted to the Legislature.
House Democrats met in caucus two weeks ago to review the list of bills Ige said he planned on vetoing. House Speaker Joe Souki and Senate President Ron Kouchi also met to discuss the issue last week.
“There was no sentiment to come back to override,” House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said Tuesday.
Saiki said the concerns the governor had with the bills can be dealt with next session, which starts in January.
Ige vetoed a bill that would have extended the authority of UH to maintain a separate accounting and financial management system; a bill that would have required estimated future debt service for proposed Capital Improvement Projects to be included in the budget documents submitted to the Legislature; and a bill that would have repealed the ethanol facility tax credit and established a five-year renewable fuels production tax credit.
Another bill he vetoed would have increased the dollar threshold with respect to property or services for theft in the second degree to $750 from the current $300.
And he vetoed a bill that would have provided authority for the Employees’ Retirement System to make direct payments of benefits to a non-member former spouse of a member with a court order or divorce decree.
All eight bills Ige vetoed can be found here, along with his rationale for not letting them become law.
Ige said he vetoed the sex-trafficking bill because it creates a loophole that could make it harder to prosecute certain offenders.
He also noted that the attorney general and three of the four county prosecutors in Hawaii oppose the law. He said existing statutes already let authorities prosecute sex-trafficking crimes.
“This bill is also objectionable because the new sex trafficking offense is confusing, can be difficult or impossible to apply, and requires the prosecution to prove additional elements of the crime,” Ige wrote in his message to lawmakers explaining his veto.
Supporters of the bill plan to push lawmakers to take the issue up again next session.
They include House Bill 134, which will allow Honolulu, with approval from the City Council, to extend its half-percent General Excise Tax surcharge to fund the $6 billion rail project, now facing a nearly $1 billion shortfall.
The surcharge is currently set to expire in 2022. The law would extend the sunset date five years, far less than what Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell initially 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 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.
Ige told reporters June 29 that is part of the equation as to whether he signs the bill or not.
The governor has also not decided whether he’ll sign House Bill 321, which would establish medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii. Specifically, the law will allow eight companies to open two pot dispensaries each as soon as July 15, 2016.
Ige has 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.
The other six bills that will become law with or without the governor’s signature include: