Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced Monday that he tentatively plans to veto 11 bills that the Legislature passed last session, including measures to tax resort fees, allow cannabis as a drug to treat opioid addiction and create a statewide law enforcement training and standards board.

The governor has until July 10 to make his final decisions. The House and Senate will decide in the coming weeks if lawmakers should reconvene to try to override any of the vetoes.

Some bills were just “poorly drafted,” Ige said, and others were unenforceable or inconsistent with state goals or current laws.

Gov. David Ige announced Monday a list of 11 bills he intends to veto. He has until July 10 to make final decisions. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Ige said that House Bill 2071, which would establish a Law Enforcement Standards Board for the certification of county and state police officers, was “premature at this time.”

Hawaii is the only state without a police standards board, as Civil Beat first reported in 2013.

The governor noted all county police departments are certified by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

The commission is a private, nonprofit corporation that sets public safety benchmarks and charges departments a fee to see if they meet those standards — not the same thing as a government board with enforcement powers.

Sheriffs deputies and other state divisions that have personnel with police powers are not even certified by CALEA, Ige said, and a lot would need to happen to obtain it. He said there is no formal training facility and discussions have been ongoing about consolidating state law enforcement.

“Those kinds of questions need to be answered first,” he said.

Ige added that the main concern he heard from police chiefs was that a statewide board would not add any value to what they’re doing.

In his written comments explaining his rationale, Ige said the Honolulu Police Department alone currently has 55 training staff positions, meaning that the $100,000 appropriated for the Law Enforcement Standards Board would be insufficient to support statewide training standards programs.

Rep. Scott Nishimoto introduced HB 2017, which the House and Senate passed unanimously May 1 after similar measures failed in previous years.

‘Unintended Consequences’ In Taxing Resort Fees

Ige also plans to veto Senate Bill 2699, which would make certain resort fees, like using fitness centers or accessing pools, subject to the state’s 10.25 percent transient accommodations tax.

Many resorts have started charging fees for amenities that used to be included with the room price.

The governor said the bill creates “an extensive and ambiguous expansion of the TAT” that makes it unclear if it would subject things like restaurants, spas and other businesses.

The bill cleared the Senate unanimously and passed the House with nine members voting no.

“The unintended consequences could be significant,” Ige said.

The Department of Taxation had projected in March, when the bill was moving through the legislative process, that it would increase revenues by $4.7 million over the last half of fiscal year 2019, which starts July 1, and by $12.8 million in fiscal 2020, increasing a bit in each of the following years, according to Dane Wicker, Senate Ways and Means Committee clerk.

Wicker said that doesn’t include over-the-counter booking fees. He added that DOTAX would be able to work out its implementation through administrative rules.

Pot For Opioid Addiction?

The governor is also not ready for Senate Bill 2407 to authorize the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for opioid addiction, substance abuse and withdrawal symptoms.

He said the Department of Health already has a formal evidence-based petition process for physicians and patients to apply to add qualifying conditions to the list of uses for medical cannabis.

Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii Executive Director Carl Bergquist called the veto threat “misguided.”

“As a state that pioneered the legalization of medical cannabis, and now has dispensaries serving the patient population, it makes sense that we embrace this kind of progressive outlook rather than bury it in a process that will lead to prolonged suffering,” Bergquist said in a statement.

The governor, who’s in the midst of a tough campaign for re-election, also intends to veto Senate Bill 2992.

The measure would reduce transparency in campaign finance by exempting signs and banners from having to include a disclosure about who paid for the advertisement.

Currently, signs supporting or opposing candidates have to say, even if only in fine print, who paid for them.

Leasing Library Land

Ige also intends to veto two land-related bills.

He is concerned that Senate Bill 2524 would allow large plots of agricultural land to be subdivided into “gentleman farms,” which conflicts with his state goal of doubling local food production by 2020.

And he questioned whether Senate Bill 2919 was appropriate in its plan to create a pilot program to generate revenue through the lease of public library lands. He said the state library system does not have the resources or expertise to undertake the leasing of public lands for income-generating purposes.

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said he envisioned SB 2919 creating the potential for public-private partnerships to help the library system evolve, noting as an example how it’s already common for bookstores to have coffee shops.

Dela Cruz said he has heard some of his colleagues express an interest in the Legislature reconvening to consider potential overrides.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said the House will go through its usual process, which will involve a majority caucus meeting Tuesday for members to air their concerns about the veto list and debate whether to return to attempt to override any of the vetoes.

Saiki said none of the bills on Ige’s intent-to-veto list jumped out at him though. He added that Ige has already signed many of the Legislature’s biggest bills from the past session, including measures related to medical aid in dying, pesticides, housing and the environment.

He expects House leaders to decide whether to reconvene by later this week or early next.

Senate President Ron Kouchi said senators are circulating an email to see “what the temperature is” but there are no plans to caucus, as several members are traveling. 

He noted that the Senate already plans to reconvene July 9-10 to confirm four judicial appointments.

Ige has signed 54 bills into law so far this year and 177 are awaiting his action.

More Potential Vetoes

Other bills on Ige’s intent-to-veto list include:

  • House Bill 1601, which would prohibit merchants from charging any fee to repair, replace or refund damaged or defective goods and require high turnover restaurant franchises to disclose their non-participation in national advertising campaigns and prohibit the franchisor/restaurant chain from limiting or restricting the disclosure.
    • Ige said the bill provides a vague definition of “high turnover restaurant” and that the law would be unenforceable because it does not provide explicit standards to measure conditions such as the average duration of a customer’s stay or determine a menu’s price range. The measure also exempts fast food restaurants, which runs counter to current consumer protections as the majority of complaints received by the Office of Consumer Protection regarding this issue involve fast food chains, he said in his written comments explaining his rationale.
  • House Bill 2507, which would remove preschools from the school superintendent’s scope of authority and clarify that the Executive Office on Early Learning director may authorize preschool personnel to access a student’s immunization registry information. The Department of Educaiton would still be required to administer special education and Title I funded programs at the pre-kindergarten level.
    • The governor said in his rationale behind the potential veto that the measure could unintentionally impact pre-kindergarten programs on certain DOE campuses. The administration is doing its due diligence and proceeding with caution to ensure that no services are jeopardized and all preschools can continue to operate with no interruption, he said
  • House Bill 2589, which would let the Department of Transportation allow two-wheeled motorcycles to drive in designated shoulder lanes.
    • Ige said the shoulder lane is designated to accommodate stopped vehicles and emergency vehicles on highways, as well as bicycles on arterial roadways. There is concern that the bill would compromise road safety and create more dangers for operators of all vehicles.
  • Senate Bill 48, which would merge the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation and the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation into the Hawaii Innovation, Technology, and Research Corporation.
    • The governor said the measure creates operational issues and disrupts the core functions of HTDC. First, it eliminates 1.5 permanent positions and 6.25 temporary positions from HTDC. It appropriates general funds to convert these positions from special funds, but does not create the new positions to replace those eliminated. Second, the additional amendments to HTDC’s budget, when combined with the amendments in the supplemental appropriations bill, create a net reduction in HTDC’s core resources that will adversely impact its operations.
  • Senate Bill 2519, which would authorize the Agribusiness Development Corporation to enter into contracts with private businesses to remove select municipal solid waste, glass, and food/green waste from the waste stream for use in other businesses, provided that it benefits agriculture and agriculture-related projects.
    • Ige said it would interfere with the counties’ authority to direct the disposal of municipal solid waste to specific locations under Section 340A-3, Hawaii Revised Statutes. The statute authorizes counties to require that solid waste be disposed of at designated facilities or areas. It is unclear whether ADC’s or the counties’ authority would have priority when determining control over the municipal waste disposal.

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