Gov. David Ige on Wednesday said he gives state lawmakers a “resounding B” as a grade for their work this legislative session, which started in January and ends Thursday.
He highlighted the $12 million lump sum the Legislature approved for the administration to have the flexibility to tackle homelessness as it sees fit.
Ige also touted the $100 million he requested for his top priority, cooling down public school classrooms, and $80 million that lawmakers provided to more aggressively pay down the state’s multi-billion dollar unfunded liability for health benefits promised to thousands of state workers.
“There were so many issues that have festered in our community for such a long time that we were successful in moving forward,” Ige told reporters at a press conference.
The governor wouldn’t comment meaningfully on lawmakers’ reluctance to pass substantial police-reform measures this session.
The only such bill that passed will provide $100,000 to form a seven-member independent review board, made up of former law enforcement officials and two community members, appointed by the governor and attorney general.
The last-minute death of one measure means Hawaii will remain the only state without a statewide training and standards board to set minimum eligibility requirements for working in law enforcement.
Another bill that died last week would have required county police departments to outfit officers and their vehicles with cameras.
“I really haven’t been looking at that,” Ige said, when asked whether there were any police-reform bills he would have liked to have seen come across his desk.
Lawmakers also won’t be toughening the oversight of long-term care facilities anytime soon.
A measure to mandate unannounced inspections passed; but it was amended last week so that it won’t take effect until July 1, 2019. In the meantime, care home operators will continue to receive advance warning from health inspectors about when they are coming to relicense the facilities each year.
Asked whether the state ought to start conducting unannounced inspections for relicensing sooner rather than later, the governor replied:
“Being that I was a legislator, I do appreciate their allowing us … Passing a law doesn’t instantaneously respond to any issue. There are requirements. We have to set up data systems, information systems. We need to build the capacity to do inspections. We need to have the infrastructure in place to allow us to share the reports with everyone. We appreciate, and we will be working to get those inspections as soon as possible.”
The House and Senate plan to cast final votes on remaining bills Thursday for the final floors sessions before sine die. Here’s a look at what lawmakers passed on Tuesday.
Looking ahead to next session, Ige said he plans to again seek an increase in the state fuel tax, motor vehicle registration fee and motor vehicle weight tax.
The three-pronged proposal is estimated to cost Hawaii families another $90 a year and raise roughly $70 million for the state to fix its highway system and leverage more federal funds.
The measure cleared the full Senate but the House killed it in March, with lawmakers noting the disproportional impact it would have on low-income families and the Department of Transportation’s shoddy track record.
The Legislature ended up passing a bill to just give the department a $37 million subsidy next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The governor said the state’s transportation needs continue to far outpace revenue to deal with the issue, which warrants the proposed tax and fee increases.
Watch the full press conference below.
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