Governor vetoes eight bills, explains objections to lawmakers

Local News

Gov. David Ige vetoed eight bills Tuesday and sent his statements of objections to House and Senate leadership.

The vetoed bills include:HB540: Relating to the UH Accounting and Financial Management System: Extends authority of UH to maintain separate accounting and financial management system.

Statement of Objection: This bill is objectionable for several reasons. Operationally, this bill would require, for example, that appropriations made during the 2015 legislative session must be expended by June 30, 2016. If moneys were expended not according to the purposes specified by the Legislature, the University of Hawaii would report that fact to the 2017 session of the Legislature, and the University of Hawaii would be required to return those  moneys to the general fund in fiscal year 2017-2018. This could result in a reduction in the base budget for the University of Hawaii and will result in uncertainty for the University of Hawaii with respect to how much money it actually has available to expend and how much it may have to hold in reserve and unexpended to cover the possible contingency that it must repay the general fund.

Second, this bill as passed is subject to challenge for violation of Section 14 of Article Ill of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii, because there are  multiple subjects in the bill, some of which are not expressed in its title. The bill is entitled, “Relating to the University of Hawaii Accounting and Financial Management System.” However, section 2 of the bill, which adds a new section to chapter 304A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, imposing requirements on the University of Hawaii regarding spending and reporting appropriations to the Legislature, does not appear to be covered by the bill’s title and does not appear to be related to the other sections of the bill that extend the time for the University of Hawaii to use its specific accounting and financial computer systems.

Finally, Section 6 of Article X of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii provides, among other things, that “[t]he board [of regents] shall also have exclusive jurisdiction over the internal structure, management, and operation of the university. This section shall not limit the power of the legislature to enact laws of statewide concern. The legislature shall have the exclusive jurisdiction to identify laws of statewide concern.” Because the Legislature did not make the requisite finding that this bill is a law of statewide concern, the bill is vulnerable to a challenge that it violates Section 6 of Article X of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii, because it impacts the internal management and operation of the University of Hawaii.


HB553: Relating to Collective Bargaining: Allows UH graduate student assistants employed by UH to collectively bargain their wages, hours and other terms.

Statement of Objection: This bill is objectionable because it is incomplete and could potentially cause legal and administrative problems. Through this bill, the Legislature allowed graduate student assistants the right to collectively bargain, but did not provide the necessary tools to accomplish it.

Further, requiring the University to engage in discussions with exclusive representatives of bargaining units that represent University employees concerning the scope of negotiations is not consistent with collective bargaining concepts.

Finally, graduate student assistants are students first and employees second. None of these positions is a career position within the government service. There would be significant  cost increases for both the University and the State of Hawaii should student assistants become employees with a right to collectively bargain.


SB105: Relating to the Budget: Requires estimated future debt service for proposed CIP projects to be included in the budget documents submitted to the legislature.

Statement of Objection: While this bill has merit, accurate information in the form required by the bill is unavailable due to the limitations of the State’s accounting system.

Further, it would be difficult to provide accurate information on the total debt service for capital improvement project appropriations in the budget, because assumptions would need to be made about the start date and disbursement schedule for the projects.

SB218: Relating to the Order of Succession: Clarifies the order of succession to the Lt. Governor’s office.

Statement of Objection: This bill is objectionable because it does not provide for succession in the situation when the office of the Governor becomes permanently vacant at the same time as the office of the Lieutenant Governor and the Senate President and the Speaker of the House belong to a political party different from that of the Governor.

This bill is substantially similar to House Bill No. 1288, which was vetoed by Governor Neil Abercrombie in 2014 for the same reasons. The flaw contained in the previous bill was  not remedied by Senate Bill No. 218.


SB265: Relating to Sex Trafficking: Changes wording in statute from “promoting prostitution in the first degree” to “sex trafficking.”

Statement of Objection: This bill is objectionable because the provisions that amend the offenses of promoting prostitution in the first and second degrees may actually impair law enforcement’s ability to address the problems of prostitution and sex trafficking. The bill will preclude the prosecution of certain crimes, including sex trafficking of some juveniles, and profiting from the acts of another who forced a victim to engage in prostitution.

This bill is also objectionable because the new sex trafficking offense is confusing, can be difficult or impossible to apply, and requires the prosecution to prove additional  elements of the crime. The conduct that this bill seeks to prohibit is already prohibited as a result of Act 147, Session Laws of Hawaii 2008, which was proposed by the Hawaii Anti-Trafficking Task Force after two years of analysis and discussion, and Act 145, Session Laws of Hawaii 2011. The current offense of promoting prostitution in the first degree would appear to cover the conduct prohibited by this offense, and does so with clearer provisions that state prosecutors would find easier to use and prove.

Kris Coffield, executive director, IMUAlliance, issued the following statement in response: “While this is a disappointing day for anti-trafficking advocates, my heart truly breaks for the numerous victims who would’ve been helped by this bill. Instead of treating sex trafficking survivors as victims of violent crimes, Ige has chosen to continue calling them criminals and punish them for their own exploitation. Rather than stand with sex trafficking victims, he has chosen to side with perpetrators of sexual terror… Despite their legal experience, the Attorney General and Honolulu Prosecutor are mistaken in their analysis of the bill. Far from impeding prosecutions, this bill would have ensured that victims are properly identified and offered them the safety and security needed to disclose their trauma, in turn leading to a spike in arrests. With 150 high-risk sex trafficking establishments in Hawaii and an average age of entry into commercial sexual exploitation of 13-years-old, local law enforcement should never play politics with protecting women and children.”


SB349: Relating to Taxation: Repeals ethanol facility tax credit; establishes a 5-year renewable fuels production tax credit.

Statement of Objection: This bill is objectionable because the provisions in this bill on page 2, lines 8-11, and page 4, lines 1-6, that restrict the income tax credit for  renewable fuels to only renewable fuels produced and sold in the State may be subject to challenge as violating the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

In addition, although the “credit period” defined on page 2, lines 1-5, sets the maximum period to claim the credit at five consecutive years, section 6 of the bill on page 19, lines 19-21, provides for the repeal of the credit only four and one-half years after the income tax credit becomes available.


SB569: Relating to Theft: Increases the dollar threshold with respect to property or services, for theft in the second degree from the current $300 to $750.

Statement of Objection: This bill is objectionable because it would diminish the seriousness of many theft crimes and reduce the deterrent impact of theft offenses. The Department of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Food Industry Association oppose this bill, noting that increasing the threshold will cause an increase in theft.


SB1324: Relating to Divorce: Provides authority for Employees’ Retirement System to make direct payments of benefits to a non-member former spouse of a member on order or court judgement, order or divorce decree.

Statement of Objection: This bill is objectionable because there is no appropriation for the costs of implementing the bill, which are expected to be at least $1,000,000.


Bills that are not on this list will become law with or without the governor’s signature, including the extension of the rail tax and the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Gov. Ige did, however, sign two bills into law Monday.

The first, HB1394, will allow a study to be done on how to re-use sewer water at state facilities.

The Department of Transportation will be in charge of the “water scalping” study. It will explore the possibility of filtering wastewater to reuse at the Honolulu International Airport, which uses 36 million gallons of water a month.

The study will cost about $2 million and will be paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The governor also signed into law HB361, which will provide an easier way for transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates.

Under the old law, people would have to have surgery to change genders if they wanted that to be reflected on their birth certificates. Now, surgery is no longer required and only a doctor’s note is needed.

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