Top leaders of the Hawaii Legislature say they are considering overriding vetoes of at least 10 bills that Gov. David Ige announced last month.

A list being circulated to lawmakers Friday evening also includes several bills that are slated to be amended and a number of bills that lawmakers have agreed to let the governor veto.

The override measures include House Bill 862, which would change the way the state’s tourism marketing agency is funded and give counties the option of taxing hotel rooms. The local tourism industry is strongly opposed to the bill, warning that it would harm the state’s No. 1 economic driver just as the state begins to recover from COVID-19.

If the overrides occur on Tuesday — the day Ige must veto bills, sign them or let them become law without his signature — it would amount to a rare rebuke of a governor who is a member of the same party.

While Hawaii Democrats overrode dozens of vetoes issued by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle during her eight years in office, Ige has only been overridden once — in 2016 — on legislation regarding separation benefits for Hawaii Health Systems Corp. unionized employees at Maui Memorial Hospital.

House Representatives in floor session during COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hawaii House of Representatives in floor session during April. Lawmakers plan to reconvene Tuesday and will likely override some of Gov. David Ige’s vetoes. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The possible veto override session is the subject of a memo issued Friday from Senate President Ron Kouchi to all senators and some Senate staff.

Kouchi’s chief of staff, Harrison Kawate, said in the memo that Kouchi, House Speaker Scott Saiki, House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz have tentatively identified the following bills for veto in addition to HB 862: House Bill 53, House Bill 54, House Bill 338, House Bill 515, Senate Bill 263, Senate Bill 404, Senate Bill 639, Senate Bill 811 and Senate Bill 1387.

HB 53 authorizes issuance of general obligation bonds. Ige said the federal stimulus funds appropriated in the bill for debt service “are not an allowable use” of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds that are part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.

HB 54 appropriates general funds and federal stimulus funds to the Department of Budget and Finance to cover fixed costs and replenish the state’s rainy-day fund. Ige supports the bill’s intent but said it does not comport with federal guidelines.

HB 515 requires the State Auditor to audit the Department of Education’s school food services branch to see if local produce is being purchased and served to students. Ige said the DOE is already conducting its own system-wide audit.

SB 811 requires the DOE to publish a weekly report on schools that have reported positive COVID-19 cases. Ige said the bill is unnecessary because the DOE and Department of Health already have a reporting protocol in place.

House Speaker Scott Saiki confirmed Saturday that he and his colleagues are considering an override session next week but declined to identify specific legislation.

“The House and Senate leadership have a preliminary list of bills that we will ask our membership to consider overriding,” he said. “However, the list is very tentative for two reasons: First, the governor has not yet indicated which bills he will actually veto. Second, both bodies need to work over the weekend to determine if we have support for the override votes.”

Floor Amendments

In addition to the 10 potential veto overrides, the Kouchi memo also lists three bills for possible amendment: HB 54, the budget bill mentioned above; House Bill 1299, which would repeal, reclassify or abolish funds within various departments and transfer unencumbered balances to the general fund; and Senate Bill 589, which would codify the UH Cancer Center into law as the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii.

Ige said SB 589 may put the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s contracting clause, while HB 1299 is unconstitutional.

If the three bills are amended in House and Senate floor sessions Tuesday, they would require a final vote Thursday. Only a simple majority is necessary.

It takes two-thirds of both the 51-member House and 25-member Senate to successfully override a bill. The chambers would meet separately Tuesday morning to conduct the voting. No hearings are expected during the override session.

In addition to the possible overrides and amendments, the Kouchi memo lists 14 bills that would not be taken up. They include House Bill 1296, which would repeal the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention and Control Trust Fund, and House Bill 613, a onetime bonus of $2,000 each to public school teachers.

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