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Hawaii Reporter has learned that the Senate Judiciary committee headed by Sen. Clayton Hee, D-Kahaluu, will hold a hearing Tuesday tentatively set for 9 a.m. in room 016.

On the agenda will be the 2011 redraft of last year’s controversial HB 444, the civil unions bill. The bill numbers will be assigned by the clerk on Monday.

There are actually two separate measures in the Senate. One mirrors exactly the bill that was enacted at the last moment of the last day of the 2010 session, then vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle. Another bill tweaks the first version and adds even more tax and other benefits for unmarried couples.

The chair has indicated that he will introduce only one version to the committee – that is the original draft of the bill.

Hee is hoping for quick action in the 5-member Senate Judiciary Committee and the full 25-member Senate. The bill can then be transmitted to the House where it is expected changes will be made. But this way, the Senate has taken the hot issue and passed it off quickly allowing time for more substantial but less controversial bills.

However, committee member, Senator Les Ihara, D-Kaimuki, wants the enhanced version of the civil unions bill either to be heard on its own on the same day or in conjunction with the original draft. Apparently a majority of committee members may force the chairman’s hand in accomplishing that if Hee does not cooperate.

The last time the Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing on the bill was two years ago. And the hearing in the capitol auditorium lasted more than 18 hours – the longest single public hearing on any subject in the legislature since statehood.

The 6 members of the committee deadlocked 3 to 3, essentially killing the measure.

This year it is expected with the re-alignment of the Senate committee, new members in the Senate and House and an openly supportive governor, the measure is likely to pass quickly without fear of veto.

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