People have stood on line for hours to testify on the gay marriage bill. Hearings continue today at the state capitol. (photo by Mel Ah Ching)
People have stood on line for hours to testify on the gay marriage bill. Hearings continue today at the state capitol. (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

HONOLULU – The House Judiciary and Finance committees will hear public testimony for a fifth day Tuesday, November 5, beginning at 10:30 a.m. in what representatives are calling an “unprecedented” hearing.

Some 5,000 people have registered in the House to testify on Senate bill 1, which would legalize gay marriage in Hawaii. The Senate already passed one version of the bill.

Democrats in the House said the testimony has been evenly split among those for and against the legalization of gay marriage.

However, Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican opposed to gay marriage legalization, said in-person opposition to the bill has been overwhelming.

The House Minority research staff reports that on Thursday, just 18 percent supported the bill, and 82 percent were in opposition.

On Friday, 20 percent were in support, and 80 percent in opposition.

On Saturday, 10 percent supported gay marriage legalization and 90 percent were opposed.

Yesterday, 9 percent supported the bill, and 91 percent were opposed.

While there have also been thousands of pieces of mailed-in testimony, McDermott said much of it is what he called “fake” form letters sent from outside the state.

“The one form of testimony that cannot be faked is real people, taking the time from their families, to come down to the capitol and wait for hours to give personal, heartfelt testimony,” McDermott said. “These are real people, citizens of Hawaii and voters, and they are still coming to the Capitol by the hundreds.”
Back on the Senate side of the capitol, Senators have confirmed about 20 of the governor’s nominees for boards and commissions.

Two of the governor’s nominees withdrew from the process after they were targeted by environmentalists groups including Genevieve Salmonson, the governor’s nominee for Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control, and attorney Sean Smith whose appointment was also squashed by Senator Laura Thielen.

Attorney Lloyd Poelman was confirmed as a district judge on Maui.

Yesterday, Senators also passed three additional bills dealing with funding for two collective bargaining agreements and funding for the Kauai public hospital.

House Bill 1 compensates United Public Worker unit 10 through a $15 million appropriation. That is the unit that refused to take part in the 5 percent reduction in spending between 2011 and 2013.

House Bill 2 funds United Public Worker unit 3 with a $69 million allocation, which will give the members a back raise from January 1 of this year and fund their salaries and benefits for the next four years.

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom was the only vote in opposition to both funding packages. He said while other people in the community continue to struggle financially, the state continues to give public unions both pay increases and bonuses.

The final bill Senators approved yesterday was House Bill 3, which gives a $7.5 million dollar emergency appropriation to the Kauai public hospital. Even with the appropriation, the hospital is $8 million short.

The entire public hospital system costs taxpayers $200 million a year for six facilities.

All attempts to privatize the hospital system or work with a private partner have been shut down by union members and lawmakers who are backed by the unions.

The system asked for a $13 million emergency appropriation during the 2013 regular session and will come back again during the 2014 regular session to ask for another $25 million.

Around 70 percent of the funding goes to salary and benefits.