The Legislature is considering a special session to override Gov. David Ige’s possible vetoes of at least 11 measures, according to memos circulated to lawmakers this week.
The bills mentioned in a Senate memo include proposals to reform Hawaii’s asset forfeiture programs, allow the interisland transportation of medical cannabis, increase the annual cap on tax credits for the film industry and tax Hawaii’s real estate investment trusts.
Absent from the list, however, is Senate Bill 1292, a proposal that would tax short-term vacation rentals while allowing hosting platforms like Airbnb to act as tax collectors.
A memo from Senate President Ron Kouchi, left, includes a list of 11 bills the Senate is considering trying to override in the event Gov. David Ige vetoes them.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Senate leadership is still considering whether or not to hold the session, Senate spokesman Richard Rapoza said. Meanwhile, House Speaker Scott Saiki wrote in a memo to state representatives Wednesday that he plans to provide a status report on a potential override session by Friday.
Saiki said in the memo that he is discussing the possibility of an override session with Senate President Ron Kouchi.
Each chamber would need two-thirds of its members voting in favor to override a veto. For the 25-member Senate, that means 17 votes, and for the 51-member House, 34 votes.
Lawmakers have until noon July 9 to reconvene if they want to try to override any of the governor’s vetoes. That’s also the day Ige must veto a bill or allow it to become law without his signature.
The senators met in a majority caucus Tuesday, according to the memo from Kouchi. However, not all of them attended, and it wasn’t clear from the caucus meeting if the Senate had enough votes to actually override any vetoes.
Kouchi asked the senators to respond by noon Wednesday with a list of bills as well as an indication of whether or not they could attend a potential session July 9.
“It is imperative to determine if there are seventeen members who would vote to override a specific vetoed measure,” Kouchi said in the memo.
Kouchi’s memo lists 11 bills that the Senate may try to override. The list isn’t definitive, however, and Kouchi said in the memo that senators who weren’t in the caucus could also suggest bills for override votes.
One of the biggest reform measures on the Senate’s list is House Bill 748, which would prohibit law enforcement from pursuing an asset forfeiture case through the courts unless the property owner is convicted of a felony. The bill would also redistribute the proceeds from assets auctioned off from funds for law enforcement to the state general funds.
A 2018 audit of the asset forfeiture program found that 26% percent of civil asset forfeiture cases in 2015 resulted in property being seized with no corresponding criminal charge. From 2006 to 2015, law enforcement made $11.5 million from auctioned property.
Some lawmakers and progressive groups called on Ige to reconsider his veto at a Tuesday morning news conference.
“It seems fundamentally un-American to me,” Sen. Karl Rhoads said of the current asset forfeiture law.
Another measure that caught the Senate’s eye was Senate Bill 1353, which proposed creating an industrial hemp program. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp in the U.S.
SB 1353 would establish a hemp licensing program at the state level. Ige said he had concerns the licensing structure can’t be enforced and that it created problems for enforcing the state’s current medical cannabis program.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell