Hawaii lawmakers override bills vetoed by Gov. Ige

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The governor went ahead and vetoed a measure that would cut funding for counties and the Hawaii Tourism Authority on Tuesday, July 6. The state Legislature voted to override the measure just hours after the announcement, however.

The bill passed by the state Legislature at the end of the session would cut more than $100 million each year to the counties’ share of the Transient Accommodations Tax, also known as TAT or hotel room tax. It would also allow the counties to impose their own 3% increase to the tax.

The governor rejected it and said it would create an inefficient system for the counties to collect the taxes.

Gov. David Ige also vetoed the bill because it significantly reduces the funding for the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). He said it comes at a critical time when HTA is shifting strategy to better manage tourism by emphasizing quality over quantity.

“Now more than ever, we need to strike a balance on a sustainable and respectful visitor industry and mitigating the impacts on our community,” said Gov. Ige.

State lawmakers made the unusual move of overriding the measure. Senators voted narrowly in favor of it and said HTA needs to be more transparent and should have done more to anticipate tourism needs during the pandemic.

“I was privy to meetings where data was not provided despite repeated requests. I found that management decisions were slow amidst the crisis and might have led to an unnecessary waste of government resources,” said Sen. Benette Misalucha.

The governor vetoed 26 bills, including the measure that would have given public school teachers a $2,200 bonus. Lawmakers did not discuss overriding that bill.

“Conditions have changed since the Legislature has completed its work in late April. First, the state’s economic position has brightened significantly since the end of session,” Ige said. “We’ve received the federal COVID-19 relief funds for the State of Hawaii, and we are receiving funds for the Department of Education and many of the state agencies, which has helped us respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The governor said The Council on Revenues met in May and significantly increased its revenue forecast, adding more than $3 billion to the 7-year financial plan window.

“Because of this, we can look differently at some of the measures that the Legislature took up in session,” Ige said.

Among the bills the governor has vetoed are:

HB862 — Requires a number of changes to the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES); the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) and the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). Below are some of the points listed in the bill:

  • Repeals TAT funding for the counties, the Tourism Special Fund within HTA, the State Parks Fund, and more.
  • Repeals HTA’s Tourism Special Fund (TSF), HTA’s market development-related research authority.
  • Appropriates $60 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Recovery Funds under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for HTA for fiscal year 2021-2022, to be expended by DBEDT.

“I’m certainly willing to work on a compromise measure, if that makes sense, to help plug the gaps in the budget and the HTA operations. I do believe it’s important that HTA is able to lead in this transition to destination management, and I think it’s important because there really is no other state agency that is positioned to be able to identify the hot spots in every community,” Ige said.

SB11 — Requires DOE to publish a weekly report on its website identifying schools that have reported COVID-19 cases.

SB1387 – Require dog and cat owners to microchip pets and update pet ownership when pets are transferred between owners.

SB1409 – Prohibits newly appointed or reappointed members of certain state councils, boards and commissions from serving if they have not completed the Native Hawaiian rights training course required by section 10-42, Hawaiian Revised Statutes. Requires the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to record the training course and make the recording available to those who were unable to attend.

Click here to see the final veto list and statements of objections.

On the Intent-to-Veto list that Ige will not veto is HB817, which requires and establishes benchmarks for each state department to ensure that a certain percentage of the produce purchased by that department consists of fresh local agricultural products.

In June, the governor went through a list of bills he intended to veto: 28 bills out of 268 bills passed during the 2021 Hawaii legislative session. Click here to see his Intent-to-Veto list.

All measures on the Intent to Veto List are subject to veto, but inclusion on the list does not indicate that the governor will veto a bill. Any measures passed by the Hawaii State Legislature this session that are not on this list will become law with or without the governor’s signature no later than July 6.

The governor held a signing ceremony on bills related to gun violence prevention and crimes against seniors on Thursday, July 1.

“You know, we see every day, stories of criminals targeting our kupuna. It’s tragic and totally unacceptable,” Ige said. “House Bill 490 will add further protection to our most vulnerable adults by standardizing the age at which certain penalties apply for crimes against our kupuna.”

Click here to read more.

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