Many of the other bills on Green’s list have logistical or procedural issues or would have otherwise been moot.

Gov. Josh Green plans to veto 11 bills passed by lawmakers this year, including one related to the controversial Hawaii Technology Development Corp. and another that he says could discourage the building of new housing.

The bills include House Bills 153, 475, 964, 999, 1088 and 1090, as well as Senate Bills 814, 945, 1079, 1518 and 1586, according to a press release from his office Friday.

HB 999 would have removed a key member from the HTDC, which is attached to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. The HTDC is also the agency that Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz was hoping would steer a controversial large-scale project to his district.

Vassilis Syrmos, vice president of research and innovation at the University of Hawaii, questioned the project dubbed the First Responders Technology Campus and Cybersecurity Data Center.

The bill was introduced with the intention of funding the HTDC so it can give money to tech sectors like agriculture, aerospace and climate change reduction. Language added near the end of the session would have switched the composition of the HTDC’s board of directors, effectively booting Syrmos.

Vassilis Syrmos, right, sat next to DBEDT deputy director Dane Wicker at Friday’s meeting of the Hawaii Technology Development Corp., which was presumed to be Syrmos’ last as a board member. Green’s veto paves the way for Syrmos to potentially continue on the board. (Stewart Yerton/Civil Beat/2023)

“I’m vetoing HB 999 because in the 11th hour, language was added that targeted a single person, to knock them off of a key advisory board, and that’s just not OK with me as Governor,” Green wrote in a text message.

The HTDC had a routine meeting Friday intended to serve as something of a farewell to Syrmos, who was presented with a lei and koa bowl as gifts for his service. Still, some expressed hope that Syrmos would be able to stay.

“Hopefully, if everything works out, Vassilis, we’ll see you next time,” board chairman Craig Nakanishi said.

Another veto under consideration is Senate Bill 1518, that would exempt the Department of Education from the procurement process for educational materials like textbooks and computers, theoretically making it easier and quicker for the agency to purchase goods and services.

The procurement process has different monetary thresholds for when certain rules kick in – more expensive goods and services necessitates a more stringent procurement process – and SB 1518 would also raise those thresholds.

Green said in the press release that he’s vetoing the bill because he thinks the procurement process shouldn’t be tampered with in this situation.

“If enacted, this bill will decrease efficiency, create administrative burdens, limit competition, and open unfair advantages to certain vendors,” he wrote.

Many of the bills on Green’s list have logistical or procedural issues, he wrote – two of them, if enacted, would be essentially meaningless anyway.

House Bill 1088 would allow the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management the power to declare an emergency if it determines there’s an absence of water in an area. It also would give the commission the power to rectify the situation.

Green wrote that the commission’s powers are already “sufficient to address emergency situations.”

Similarly, Senate Bill 1079 would expunge some conviction records prior to 1998 related to driving under the influence, citing two specific offenses under the Hawaii Revised Statutes. But these laws did not exist prior to 1998 anyway.

House Bill 475 would introduce an Art in Private Places Program within the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. The foundation, which had testified in support of the bill, currently oversees an Art in Public Places Program for display in places like airports and schools.

Green wrote that he was vetoing it partially because it “goes against the original intent of Art in Public Places law,” and because it may endanger the state’s tax-exempt bond program since it would be using public property for non-public purposes.

Senate Bill 814 would require multilingual access for all state entities’ electronic information technologies to be periodically reviewed, implemented and updated. Green wrote that there are approximately 600 IT systems across the state government’s purview, and that this effort would be essentially impractical if all of them had to follow the same standards.

Senate Bill 945 would institute a regulatory structure over special purpose digital currency companies, and Green wrote that the bill’s funds would need to come from the Compliance Resolution Fund, “which is not typically used to start new programs.” He also is concerned that the bill’s content might be insufficient for consumer protection.

Gov. Josh Green on Friday also signed 18 good government bills into law. (Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2023)

Senate Bill 1586 would appropriate money for five new full-time positions at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, but Green wrote that these positions should have been classified differently because the positions are technically faculty members rather than administrative, professional and technical positions.

Hawaii’s ocean recreation commercial permit system would have been revamped under House Bill 1090, requiring that the Department of Land and Natural Resources consider seniority when issuing new permits and in cases where a permit limit is implemented but the existing permits already exceed that limit.

Tour boat companies opposed the bill.

Green essentially wrote that the change would be drastic and sudden, and that the solution for ocean management needs more thinking.

“While the recreation commercial permitting system requires reform, our state needs to take a balanced, concerted approach so that fishermen, hundreds of local jobs, and several businesses across our islands are not adversely impacted by the sudden change in ocean recreation commercial permits,” he wrote.

House Bill 964 would up the fee for apostille or certification of document services from $1 to $10, which Green wrote was too large of an increase. Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, whose office provides authentication services about 7,500 times each year, had testified in strong support of this bill.

House Bill 153 would substantially increase the fines for violators of the water code, upping the penalty from a maximum of $5,000 per day of violation to a maximum of $60,000 per day of violation. Green wrote that he vetoed this one because it might discourage housing developments, and added that “a graduated schedule or a set of guidelines for penalties and fines” would make it appear more fair.

Green, who is in his first year as governor, has vetoed one other bill, Senate Bill 921, lengthens the liability period for condominium developers in specific circumstances, essentially allowing residents more time to sue if they find defects in the construction.

Green’s rationale was that this could increase the cost of housing by increasing the costs of insurance premiums, a cost that developers might then pass on to consumers. Lawmakers voted to override that veto.

Immediately after Green’s list was issued, Speaker Scott Saiki released a statement saying that it doesn’t appear that the legislature will be returning for a special session.

“The House members will need to caucus to discuss the bills identified in the Governor’s veto list. At first glance, it does not appear that these vetoes would necessitate an override vote. The Legislature may continue its work on these bills for the 2024 Legislative Session,” he wrote.

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