Two bills to sign, two to veto and one to pare down

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By Keli‘i Akina

Hawaii’s Legislature passed 274 bills this year — out of more than 3,000 introduced. But so far, Gov. Josh Green has signed only a handful of them. 

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That leaves a lot of bills for him to read and decide their fates. So in the spirit of “E hana kākou” (“Let’s work together”), I would like to offer some recommendations that should make the governor’s job a little easier.

Keli’i Akina

>> First, he should sign SB674, which would allow Hawaii to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and make it easier for out-of-state doctors to practice in Hawaii.

Attracting more medical professionals to Hawaii is not just a good idea, it is an urgent need. Our state is short almost 800 physicians, and that has caused enormous suffering and inconvenience for Hawaii residents in need of healthcare, especially in rural areas and on the neighbor islands. 

The doctor compact already includes 37 other states, and with just a stroke of the governor’s pen, doctors from every one of them would be able to relocate to the islands without having to jump through any of Hawaii’s difficult, expensive and time-consuming regulatory hoops.

I realize joining the interstate licensure compact for doctors would not solve all of Hawaii’s healthcare problems, but it would be an important first step.

>> Next, Gov. Green should sign SB1437, a tax reform bill that would allow “pass-through entities” such as partnerships and S corporations to deduct their state income tax liabilities from their federal income tax liabilities. Given that Hawaii is considered one of the worst states for businesses and entrepreneurs, this would be a simple way to lower the tax burden on local businesses — and at no cost to the state!

The practice has been OK’d by the IRS and is already allowed in 29 other states, saving businesses in those states billions of dollars.

>> On the “thumbs down” side of the ledger, Gov. Green should veto SB945, a heavy-handed licensing scheme that could potentially run cryptocurrency companies in Hawaii out of business. 

Among the bill’s many major flaws, it would give the Division of Financial Institutions director immense power to rewrite the law at will. Not only would this create a potential conflict with any federal regulations, but it would put too much power in the hands of an unelected bureaucrat and create a paralyzing level of regulatory uncertainty for cryptocurrency companies hoping to do business in our state. 

>> I also would like to see the governor veto HB525, another massive bill that could derail the growth of cryptocurrency in Hawaii.

Most of the bill concerns amendments to the state’s Uniform Commercial Code, but one section would exclude all digital currencies from the definition of “money,” unless they were created by a government. This, of course, would leave all the other cryptocurrencies out in the cold in the case of commercial payment disputes.

Aside from these four bills, there is the matter of the Legislature’s proposed budget, which stands to increase general fund spending by 23% over last year and exceed the state’s legal spending limit by more than 10%, or more than $1 billion.

My hope is that Gov. Green will use his line-item veto power to trim back this massive spending overreach, including the $200 million “slush fund” that the Legislature appropriated to him, which goes against our ideals of transparency and government accountability.

Gov. Green has until June 26 to submit his intent-to-veto list to the Legislature, but I hope this short list gives him a head start on how to deal with all the bills that remain on his desk. 
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Keli‘i Akina is president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

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