Report from the Hawaii State Capitol in Final Days of Session

article top

This is a significant day at the Hawaii State Legislature. This is last day for bills to pass out of conference committee, so the proposed legislation can be voted on next Tuesday and Thursday, in time for the session’s end on May 3.

Conferees have been wrestling with the operating budget, which held up dozens of bills with funding attached.


The Senate, as it did last year, plans to end negotiations with the House promptly at 6 p.m. tonight, meaning whatever legislation does not emerge from conference committee, will die.

A number of controversial bills have already died in conference committee.

That includes the controversial birth certificate bill, which would allow transgenders to change their name and sex on their original birth certificate filed with the Department of Health.

The back door Internet Tax, or so called “streamlining tax”, a favorite measure of Sens. Carol Fukunaga and Suzanne Chun Oakland, has died in conference committee for the eighth year in a row, thanks to House leadership.

A bill pushed aggressively by Senator Mike Gabbard would have allowed the public utilities commission to give Hawaiian Electric Company an even higher rate of return and surcharge in exchange for participation in power purchase agreements.

Another bill that died sought to extend the University of Hawaii’s exemption from the procurement code.

The House and Senate still have not finalized legislation that allow the state and counties to exempt themselves from the permitting process so government construction can be expedited.

The legislation is opposed by a coalition of environmental and community organizations.

Unlike last year, no major widespread tax increases will pass, but fees in many agencies will either be introduced or heavily increased by the end of this session next Thursday.

Meanwhile, the looming federal reapportionment lawsuit, which will be heard by a federal panel on Friday, May 18, is causing a big stir around the state capitol. That’s because legislators are unsure whether their district lines will be redrawn yet again, so they are pulling papers for more than one district.

The general consensus among legislators is the plaintiffs in the lawsuits against the state, including Rep. K. Mark Takai, will win their based on their 14th amendment challenge.

That is based on the current reapportionment plan, which excludes 108,000 military and their dependents, in what they say is a violation of one man, one vote rule.

Because of legal delays cause by two state challenges in Hawaii Supreme Court and one federal challenge, the filing deadline for all candidates has been pushed back to June 5. All 76 seats are up for election.