HONOLULU, HAWAII – REPORT FROM THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE – Governor Neil Abercrombie today notified the State Legislature of his intent to veto measures in which he finds either policy disagreement, issues with the details of the legislation, and/or unfunded mandates.
“With the input from many concerned citizens, I have put forward a list of bills that I am considering vetoing,” Governor Abercrombie said. “Some of these measures will not work as they are written, despite their good intentions. Many others create additional work for our departments without any funding sources to carry them through. In these austere times, state agencies simply do not have the capacity to implement unfunded mandates that are not high priorities of our Administration.”
The following measures on the notice of “intent to veto” are:
House Bill 56 allows the family court to award reasonable visitation rights to grandparents if the denial of visitation would cause significant harm to the child. This bill would make it more difficult for grandparents to visit their grandchildren.
House Bill 318 establishes an interagency task force on vog to discuss the impact of vog on the people of Hawai’i and find ways to address these issues. The establishment of an interagency task force at the county level is redundant with a statewide task force already in place to address the effects and impact of sulfur dioxide hazards in various counties and communities. It also places a mandate onto the counties and does not appropriate funds for the task force.
House Bill 545 requires electronic voter registration on the Office of Elections website by January 1, 2014. The Governor objects because the estimated cost is $2.5 million, but no appropriation is provided.
House Bill 667 creates the food safety and security program within the Department of Agriculture. Although the Governor believes food safety is important, this bill does not provide any funding to implement the specified mandates, nor does it provide any authority to establish administrative rules.
House Bill 680 repeals the requirement that the Hawaii Community Development Authority consider recommendations by the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council in developing, accepting, and implementing any plans for the Kakaako makai area.
House Bill 1134 repeals Part V of the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act and Act 99, Session Laws of Hawaii 1994, relating to the future termination of the prepaid health care law. Further investigation is needed on whether approval of this bill would have unintended consequences to Hawaii’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) waiver.
House Bill 1155 specifies class A and B felonies that require mandatory minimum prison terms under the repeat offender statute. It also reinstates, adds, and deletes certain class C felonies that require the mandatory minimum prison terms under the repeat offender statute. This bill will significantly change the current policy on how the criminal justice system addresses the problem of repeat offenders that was originally enacted since 1976. This bill would make the repeat offender law inapplicable to all felony drug offenses, ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition by persons convicted of certain crimes, and insurance fraud felony convictions.
House Bill 1164 authorizes the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to consider the sale or exchange of Sand Island parcels to leaseholders. DLNR has repeatedly stated that the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) is not interested in selling or exchanging the lands under the Sand Island master lease into a hundred small lot transfers with a hundred separate land transactions that could result in the Department owning several non-contiguous lots.
Senate Bill 1230 exempts nonresidential structures used for agricultural or aquaculture operations from county building permit requirements. This bill address a problem that needs to be resolved, however, there are ambiguities in the bill on the implementation process. The Governor plans to sign another bill that establishes a task force to look at impediments for the permitting processes.
House Bill 1405 requires the Office of Planning to establish a statewide system of greenways and trails. In developing this system, the Office is required to meet with various state departments and the counties and review systems of greenways and trails. The Office currently has a staff of six people that focus almost exclusively on meeting federal mandates. Effective implementation of this measure requires resources and funding that the Office does not currently have.
House Bill 1505 establishes the State Facility Renovation Partnership Program, which would allow the sale of certain state facilities to private investors who would improve the facility and lease it back to the state. The Governor is opposed to the sale of state facilities to private entities. Additionally, there are potential debt service issues with the sale of public buildings previously financed with general obligation bonds that may currently be outstanding.
House Bill 1520 directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to investigate an On-Bill Financing Program for residential electric utility customers to finance purchases of energy efficient or renewable energy devices and systems through their regular electric utility bills.
House Bill 1654 terminates a conditional use permit issued by a county agency to facilities intended for group living facilities or group homes that do not use the permits or cease operations for one year. There is a technical flaw in this bill.
Senate Bill 23 establishes within DLNR, the aha kiole advisory council, which may advise the Office of the Chairperson of the BLNR and the Legislature on issues related to land and natural resource management through the aha moku system. The Council is self-selected, is not confirmed, has no terms of service, cannot be removed for cause and would select its own Executive Director and staff. This is essentially a private entity that would receive annual taxpayer funds with no oversight.
Senate Bill 40 establishes a tracking system for the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine. In conference committee, the Legislature added “ephedrine” to also be tracked and reported. There is a technical flaw in this bill because the title of the bill is “relating to pseudoephedrine.”
Senate Bill 44 requires the Department of Public Safety to establish performance indicators for inmate reentry system; and requires reports, using key performance indicators, to be provided to the legislature. It creates the corrections and program report as a consolidated report of other annual reports. This bill does not allow enough time or resources for PSD to accomplish the intended outcomes of the bill.
Senate Bill 49 requires the Director of Public Safety to report to the Governor, and the Governor to report to the legislature any death of an inmate or correctional facility employee within 48 hours. DPS currently does this and there is another statute that covers this procedure.
Senate Bill 217 eliminates the statute of limitations for civil actions brought by victims of sexual offenses as a minor against the person who committed the act(s) and authorizes suits against a legal entity in certain circumstances. This bill appears to allow an employer, including the state, to be sued for the criminal acts of its employees. This is contrary to well-established tort and agency law and is in direct contravention of the State Tort Liability Act (STLA), Chapter 662 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.
Under the STLA, the State cannot be sued for the criminal or intentional acts of its employees. The elimination of a statute of limitations for a civil claim also raises grave constitutional and fairness concerns. If a claim can be brought after an unlimited passage of time, it is likely that documents will be lost or destroyed and witnesses will die or move away. The accused, even those falsely accused, will not be able to defend himself, herself, or itself and true justice will not be achieved.
Senate Bill 590 extends the sunset date of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act Commission by six months. The Governor already signed House Bill 383 into law as Act 26 that does the same thing.
Senate Bill 1417 establishes the minimum number of members necessary to constitute a quorum for the State Rehabilitation Council to ten; and establishes the number of votes necessary to validate any action of the Council to at least a majority of quorum. The Governor believes that rather than reduce quorum, we should get people to serve on the Council who will participate and attend meetings. Reducing the number of votes necessary to validate any action of the council to 6 out of a 21 member council is not a fair representation of the Council.
Senate Bill 1493 requires all new and replacement lights to be fully shielded. This is a noteworthy goal given the effects of night lighting on our native wildlife, astronomy and night viewing activities. However, the funding implications of this mandate are potentially enormous given federal lighting standards for our highways.
Senate Bill 1511 increases the maximum lease terms for aquaculture operations from 35 to 65 years and defines “aquaculture” under Section 171-59(b), Hawaii Revised Statutes. The Governor believes oceans are always changing and providing 65-year leases is not prudent. In addition, the definition of aquaculture is too broad.
Senate Bill 1559 establishes incentives for important agricultural lands. However, this measure does not provide penalties or resolution for failure to comply, does not identify the agency responsible for monitoring compliance and does not address how the monitoring agency will be able to distinguish Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) and non-IAL source products. In addition, incentives should be targeted toward certain agricultural goals and not the general category of important agricultural lands.
Governor Abercrombie continues to review legislative bills that he must either veto or sign into law by July 12, 2011.