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.

Governor David Ige walks into ceremonial room for a veto press conference / press avaiilability.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige prepares to announce his final veto list Tuesday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

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.

Catching Up With State Norms

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.

Other Bills That Escaped Vetoes

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:

  • HB 2507 to 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 vaccination registry information. The Department of Education would still be required to administer special education and pre-kindergarten Title I funded programs.
    • The measure could unintentionally impact pre-kindergarten programs on certain DOE campuses, Ige originally wrote. He said Tuesday that he will sign the bill into law because the administration determined no services would be jeopardized.
  • HB 2589, which authorizes the state Department of Transportation to allow two-wheeled motorcycles to drive in designated shoulder lanes.
    • The shoulder lane is designated to accommodate stopped vehicles and emergency vehicles on highways, as well as bicycles on arterial roadways, Ige wrote. There is concern the bill would compromise road safety and create more dangers for operators of all vehicles.

Still On The Veto List

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:

  • SB 2992, which would have reduced transparency in campaign finance by exempting signs and banners from having to state who paid for the advertisement.
    • The Campaign Spending Commission was concerned that broadly exempting signs and banners would lead candidates to believe they didn’t have to report those expenses as advertising.
  • SB 2524, a wide-ranging land use bill that Ige worried could effectively allow agricultural land to be divided into gentleman farms, or farms maintained mostly for pleasure rather than profit.
    • The practice conflicts with the governor’s goal of doubling local food production by 2020, Ige wrote.
  • SB 2919 to raise money for state libraries by leasing library-owned lands.
    • Library lands should be returned to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources if the library no longer needs them, Ige wrote, adding the library system doesn’t have the expertise needed to generate money in that way.
  • HB 1601 to prevent 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. It would also prohibit the franchisor/restaurant chain from limiting or restricting the disclosure.
    • “High turnover restaurant” wasn’t well-defined, Ige wrote, and the law would be unenforceable because it did not provide explicit standards to measure those conditions, such as the average duration of a customer’s stay or determine a menu’s price range. The measure also would have exempted fast food restaurants, even though the majority of Office of Consumer Protection complaints received regarding this issue involve fast food chains, he wrote.
  • SB 48 to 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 would create operational issues and disrupt the core functions of HTDC. It would have eliminated 1.5 permanent positions and 6.25 temporary positions from HTDC. It appropriated general funds to convert these positions from special funds, but did not create new positions to replace those eliminated. Second, the additional amendments to HTDC’s budget, when combined with the amendments in the supplemental appropriations bill, would have created a net reduction in HTDC’s core resources that would have adversely impacted its operations.
  • SB 2519, which would have authorized 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 benefited 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. Section 340A-3 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes authorizes counties to require 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.

Click here to read more about Ige’s veto list.

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