Legislative efforts to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, expand state authority to investigate adoptive families, limit future governors’ emergency powers and reduce the cost of public records may all stall this year if Gov. David Ige carries through with striking down some 30 legislative measures he included on his veto list unveiled Monday.

The governor has until July 12 to decide what measures should ultimately be vetoed. That’s the same day the Legislature has to decide if lawmakers will return to session to override any vetoes.

Ige said at a press conference Monday that not all 30 bills on his intent to veto list would ultimately be vetoed.

He indicated that a bill to reform Hawaii’s bail system, House Bill 1567, and another energy bill that the governor described as “misguided,” Senate Bill 2510, would most likely be killed.

Governor David Ige holds a press conference announcing bills he intends to veto.
Gov. David Ige has said he is considering vetoing 30 bills that passed the Legislature. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

The House is still reviewing the governor’s list, Speaker Scott Saiki said in a statement. Committee chairs will review the list first before discussing possible overrides with the full 51-member chamber.

The 25-member Senate is scheduled to meet privately Tuesday morning to discuss the governor’s list, according to Senate spokesman Jacob Aki. He declined to comment on any particular measure.

Senate President Ron Kouchi said in a written statement his chamber would also need to discuss its course of action with the House.

The Legislature would need to drum up 17 votes in the Senate and 34 votes in the House to override any of the governor’s vetoes.

Green Energy Bill Likely Dead

SB 2510 was pushed through the session with the help of influential lawmakers. Some critics saw it as a measure that could benefit the Hu Honua tree-burning plant on the Big Island, but senators who supported the measure saw it as a way to move Hawaii more quickly to renewable energy production through a variety of power sources including geothermal.

The measure requires 33% of renewable energy to be generated by what is called “firm renewables,” primarily generators using geothermal, wood, renewable natural gas and biodiesel. Ige said that could hamper Hawaii’s energy goals by limiting the types of projects that could be built on each island.

Hu Honua on the Big Island was expected to be able to move forward if SB 2510 became law. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

“I think the measure is just misguided,” Ige said during a press conference. “I was trying to to find a reason to support the measure. I could not find a single reason to support SB 2510.”

How that 33% is calculated is not clearly laid out in the measure. Ige also rejected arguments posed by the bill’s proponents that the measure simply sets up guidelines instead of mandates for state agencies to follow. The bill “is a mandate – black and white,” Ige said.

The worry among energy advocates and state officials has been that such strict mandates could mean that some islands, particularly Lanai and Kauai, could immediately fall out of compliance if the bill were enacted.

Ige was also concerned that the bill could override state agencies that handle energy projects and “compromise the independence and integrity” of the state Public Utilities Commission.

“The flaws in this bill are too many to list here,” Ige said.

Cash Bail

HB 1567 cruised through the Legislature with little public attention until it finally passed in May.

Since then, the bill’s opponents, including the mayors of each of the four counties, the statewide police union and Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm have helped to stir up additional opposition to the measure.

HB 1567 would only end the use of cash bail for most nonviolent misdemeanors and some nonviolent Class C felonies. The bill comes with a whole range of exemptions that also gives the courts and prosecutors the chance to impose bail on people who may pose a threat of recidivism – where someone is jailed for a crime after being released on other charges.

Ige said that the measure ties the hands of judges, who currently have the power to release individuals on their own recognizance but are not required to do so.

Honolulu Prosecutor Steven Alm speaks to media that the office will not have a third trial involving federal law enforcement officer Christopher Deede.
Honolulu Prosecutor Steven Alm joined a coalition of mayors and law enforcement agencies in opposing HB 1567. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

In a written statement, Alm said that lawmakers need to set up a “robust and well-funded alternative system that protects public safety” before ending the current cash-bail system.

“Putting such a system in place will take a major policy and funding commitment from the Legislature, the Judiciary, and the law enforcement community,” Alm said.

Ige said the community uproar coupled with the fact that Rep. Scott Matayoshi, the bill’s author, asked for a veto led to his decision to include the measure on his list.

Proponents of bail reform say that requiring monetary pay for release disproportionately affects those that can’t afford bail. Kat Brady, organizer for the Community Alliance on Prisons, said the impact that bail has on some low-income families is “heartbreaking.”

“But we’re not giving up,” Brady said. “This is really important, and I’m not ready to hang up the keys and turn off the lights.”

Vaping Ban In Trouble

Hawaii seemed poised to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products that state officials blame for Hawaii’s youth vaping epidemic.

Instead, Ige plans to veto the bill because of a loophole that could allow some electronic cigarette manufacturers to continue selling flavored products if they are approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.

The Senate snuck that provision into House Bill 1570 late in the session.

“This amendment renders this bill effectively useless,” Ige said. He later added that public health advocates asked him to veto the measure because of the loophole.

Vape Hawaii sign Vape shop.
Hawaii was poised to ban flavored tobacco products. But a late amendment by the Senate may have killed efforts this year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

Although the FDA recently ordered cigarette giant JUUL Labs to stop selling its products in the U.S., health experts still worry that the tobacco industry could lobby for exemptions in the future.

One of the organizations that supported a ban but is not opposing the latest measure of the bill is the Hawaii Public Health Institute, which raised concerns earlier this year when HB 1570 was stuffed with provisions that would have made implementing a ban impossible.

The bill “will have no positive impact on curbing the youth vaping epidemic because it essentially exempts from its general ban on flavored tobacco anything that has not already been removed by the FDA,” Amanda Fernandes, the institute’s policy director, said in a press release.

Public Records and Meetings

Also included on the governor’s veto list are two bills meant to increase transparency in government.

Senate Bill 3172 would require public boards to maintain recordings of their meetings and make those available to the public. Senate Bill 3252 would cap the cost of public records and exempt requesters from paying fees if a records request is made in the public’s interest.

Ige said both bills could hamper the government’s ability to do its job.

Regarding SB 3172, the governor said that smaller boards and commissions may not have the resources to record and then timestamp their meeting minutes, among other bill requirements.

“The concern I heard from many agencies is it would lead them to stop making those videos available,” Ige said.

Ige worried that SB 3252 could lead some people to make broad records requests that could inundate state offices. His written explanation says that some state agencies do not have enough staff to comply with the requirements of SB 3252, and that noncompliance could lead to more lawsuits over the public records law.

Ige intends to veto a bill that could lower the cost of public records in Hawaii. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2013

“As a result, agencies may be forced to choose between responding to records requests and performing their regular jobs,” Ige wrote.

At the press conference, Ige declined to say which agencies in particular, if any, pushed back against SB 3252.

Attorney Brian Black, executive director of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, rebuffed claims that broad requests could be too burdensome or costly for agencies.

“That concern is unfounded,” Black wrote in written testimony to lawmakers. “Requesters want timely access to information. If a requester makes a broad and burdensome request for voluminous records, an agency is authorized by existing law to disclose records on a month-to-month basis as its other duties permit; the deadlines for disclosure do not apply.”

Other Bills On The List

Other bills on the governor’s intent to veto list include:

House Bill 1980: Permits insurance companies to cover telephonic mental health services but only after certain requirements are met.

Rationale: Ige said the bill’s language is too vague and could allow insurance providers to restrict access to mental health services.

House Bill 2424: Expands the investigative authority of the state Department of Human Services.

Rationale: Ige’s administration raised constitutional issues with a provision that allows the state to monitor adoptive families.

Senate Bill 3089: Would allow the Legislature to strike down emergency orders issued by a governor.

Rationale: The governor worried the bill could hamper future executive’s abilities to respond to an emergency situation.

Senate Bill 3201: Exempts nonprofit proceeds from fundraisers from the state’s general excise tax.

Rationale: Ige’s administration is worried that technical language in the bill could affect “certain types of income currently exempt from the GET subject to tax.”

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