HAWAII STATE CAPITOL Photo: Emily Metcalf
HAWAII STATE CAPITOL Photo: Emily Metcalf

Hawaii Legislature on the Downhill Slide

The Hawaii State Legislature meets for 60 working days, and already Monday, April 2, is the 42nd day.

This is an intense week ahead as all bills that will be posted for final action must pass their committees in both the House and Senate by this Thursday.

Next Tuesday and Thursday, hundreds of bills will cross between Houses for the second time of three times.

The following week, bills still alive will be assigned to House and Senate Conference committees, where lawmakers will discuss compromises so bills can be finalized by the May 3 final crossover deadline.

Some bills that were expected to pass easily this year are stalled.

For example, Senate Bill 2012, the Senate Democrats premiere piece of legislation that provides for $500 million in shovel ready capital improvement projects, has not even received a hearing in the House.

There is a contentious relationship between House and Senate Democrat leaders this year – more so than in the past, political observers say.

This animosity historically results in the favorite bills in each House being held hostage or killed by the other at the last moment.

Environmentalists, Republicans, on the Same Side in Opposing Fast Track Construction

One of the hottest topics this legislative session is the Democrats’ attempt to fast track a number of bills that exempt the approval of city, county and state construction projects from public hearings and the standard environmental process.

This could include the city’s planned Honolulu rail and Transit Oriented Developments that developers want to build around the rail.

Environmentalists have been heating up the Internet wires in opposition to more than a half dozen of these bills, and have found usual allies in both the House and Senate Republicans who generally have been the only ones willing to oppose these bills. However, there is just one Senate Republican in the 25-member Senate and 8 Republicans in the 51-member House.

Several of the bills are the result of the infamous “gut and replace” process, where new contents are put into a former bill that may have dealt with a completely different subject.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, and several key Democrat legislators are fighting for passage of these bills, saying they would speed up job creation.

But environmental organizations remain unconvinced they are good for the state.

Hawaii GOP Parties On

Abraham Lincoln, America’s first Republican president, was born in February.

Traditionally Republicans hold a Lincoln Day (Fundraising and Unity) Dinner at least once a year.

However, this year, after considerable infighting in the Hawaii GOP, leading to the chairman’s replacement, the dinner was postponed until April 20.

Several local Republicans have expressed unhappiness with the choice of dates since April 20 marks the anniversary of the week of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

April 20 also is Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

But the grand old party, which has no plans to change the date, will party on.

GOP Power Play

Prior to the Lincoln Day Dinner on April 20, Hawaii Republicans will have at least one more battle on Saturday, April 7.

That is when the State Central Committee of the party will try once again to elect a national committeeman.

In January, amid a hotly contested battle for the non salaried position, long time Republican leader and former party chair Willes Lee was pitted against former Gov. Linda Lingle’s director Ted Liu.

The final vote this January was 31 votes for Liu and 30 votes for Lee. But members, upset with the outcome, submitted challenges to current party chair David Chang.

In a ruling several weeks ago, the Party heads dismissed all challenges and declared Liu the winner.

However, continued party challenges forced a new vote this Saturday.

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