Hawaii will no longer be the only state in the country without a police standards and training board after Gov. David Ige said Tuesday he was reversing himself and allowing House Bill 2071 to become law.
Ige ultimately decided to veto eight of the 229 bills passed by the Legislature last session. He announced his intent to veto 11 measures last month.
Ige changed his mind on HB 2071 to create a law enforcement standards board, thus putting Hawaii on par with the rest of the country when it comes to setting minimum standards for police officers. He will let it become law without his signature, and noted he met with police chiefs who had opposed it and said he still has concerns about its implementation.
The new law enforcement standards board will have until July 2019 to finalize its standards and certification process.
The timeline seems unrealistic, Ige said, noting there are concerns about how the standards board will interact with county departments. He also said the $100,000 appropriated for the board would be insufficient to support statewide training programs.
“My primary reason for letting it become law is that I do recognize that our community deserves to have the highest quality law enforcement and that the statewide board is intended to help achieve that,” Ige said.
The bill, which was passed unanimously by the Legislature, will also enact a decertification program to prevent officers fired for misconduct from working again as a law enforcement officer in Hawaii.
This marked the fifth year the Legislature considered such a bill.
The Legislature does not plan to reconvene to override any vetoes, said Senate President Ron Kouchi. Most talk about doing so was spurred by Ige’s decision to place HB 2071 on his intent to veto list, Kouchi said.
A decertification program would have likely prevented Ethan Ferguson, an ex-Honolulu police officer fired for misconduct, from accepting a subsequent job as a state conservation officer on the Big Island, where he raped a teenage girl while on duty. The state was sued by Ferguson’s victim this year.
County police chiefs had long opposed the bill, noting their departments are already 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.
In fact, CALEA has published a document on its website that outlines reasons for creating a decertification program, such as the one outlined in HB 2071.
But Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said Tuesday that all four of the state’s county police chiefs decided to support the legislation after speaking with the governor and others. The chiefs agreed with the intent of the bill, but took issue with the way it was drafted, she said.
CALEA has high standards that address hiring practices, investigations of officers and other issues that HB 2071 addressed, she said, adding HPD will continue to seek CALEA accreditation after the standards board is realized.
“If this is what the community wants to feel that their police departments are doing what needs to be done, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Ballard said.
Josh Wisch, head of ACLU Hawaii, said Tuesday the standards board will increase transparency and accountability, and be a big step forward for the state.
The governor received 12 calls and notes in support of HB 2071 after he announced his intent to veto it, according to a spokeswoman.
Ige had signed 158 bills prior to Tuesday, the deadline for remaining bills to be vetoed or become law without his signature. One of the 229 bills passed by the Legislature was a constitutional amendment that does not require the governor’s signature.
The governor opted not to veto two other bills that originally made his intent-to-veto list.
Here’s what those bills will do and why Ige originally objected to them:
Ige will veto Senate Bill 2699 to make fees for certain resort amenities, such as internet or pool access, subject to Hawaii’s 10.25 percent transient accommodations tax. Mandatory resort fees can add as much as 10 percent to the cost of a room and aren’t listed on sites that let travelers compare room rates.
The Department of Taxation estimated that the bill could have increased revenues by $4.7 million in the last half of fiscal year 2019 and $12.8 million in fiscal year 2020.
It was unclear whether the tax proposed in the bill would have affected other businesses such as restaurants and spas, Ige said last month, adding it could have had significant unintentional consequences.
He also will veto SB 2407, which would have authorized the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for opioid and substance abuse.
Ige wrote last month that the Department of Health already has a process to add qualifying conditions to the list of uses for medical cannabis. He noted Tuesday that nobody has petitioned the Health Department to add opioid abuse to its list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis
Critics have said the department is slow to add new conditions.
“Certainly it took them awhile to actually establish a process but … I do believe that the decision of which conditions should be allowed for medical cannabis should really be defined by the professionals in the medical field,” Ige said Tuesday.
Other bills Ige will veto include:
Click here to read more about Ige’s veto list.