VIDEO: Governor Vetos 8 Bills, Marijuana Dispensaries Still Under Review
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By Wendy Osher
Governor David Ige has informed the Hawai‘i State Legislature of his intent to veto a list of eight bills. Noticeably absent from the list was the controversial marijuana dispensaries bill, which the governor continues to review. House Bill 321 advanced to the governor after passing out of the state House on the last day of session.
During a press conference today, Governor Ige said he hasn’t made a final decision on whether or not he will sign the medical marijuana dispensary bill it into law. “There are concerns in terms of the implementation. The implementation schedule is very aggressive. We’ll be working very hard to meet those deadlines, but resources made available to the department as well as the aggressive schedule will be a challenge. So, I’m committed to implementing the law in the best way that we can,” said Gov. Ige.
He continued saying, “We looked at the law and we believe that a county cannot be a permittee to take responsibility for distributing marijuana, but obviously I think as we go through and we finalize the rules, we’ll make a better determination,” said Gov. Ige.
The measure was co-introduced by House Speaker Joe Souki of Maui and Rep. Della Au Belatti. In an earlier statement, House Speaker Souki said that while the legislature made medical marijuana use legal in 2000, the law remained silent for 15 years on how patients could obtain the product if they or their caregivers were unable to grow their own supply.
The governor still has two more weeks to consider bills for signature, veto, or passage without his signature.
Below is a list of bills that were vetoed by the Governor and his comments on why he chose not to support the measures:
- HB540 Relating to the UH Accounting and Financial Management System: Extends authority of UH to maintain separate accounting and financial management system; also extends sunset provisions with respect to accounting and fiscal management requirements relating to the University of Hawaiʻi. “On this bill, the University raised significant constitutional issues with the measure. I really do believe that it violates the University’s autonomy,” said Governor Ige.
- HB553 Relating to Collective Bargaining: Allows part-time and full-time graduate student assistants employed by UH to collectively bargain their wages, hours, and other terms; provided that no collective bargaining agreement shall take effect prior to July 1, 2016. Requires UH and the relevant exclusive representatives to meet and report to the legislature. “I’m committed to improving the working conditions of graduate students across the state, but clearly this bill had issues. We are committed to looking to see what can be done without formally creating a bargaining unit,” said Gov. Ige.
- SB105 Relating to the Budget: Requires the inclusion, in the six-year program and financial plan and budget, of a summary of the annual debt service for bonds issued to finance capital improvement projects. States intent that the provisions also apply to the judiciary budget by operation of existing law. Effective July 1, 2016. “We are committed to transparency, and we do understand what the legislature’s concerns are, but we do believe that the provisions in SB105 are very difficult and nearly impossible to implement as outlined,” said Gov. Ige.
- SB218 Relating to the Order of Succession: Clarifies the order of succession to the Lt. Governor’s office when the office becomes vacant. “We have a concern on the policy level about the order of succession. We believe that the existing succession is appropriate. Changing it to be driven by the political parties raises some concern, and there could be an instance where the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are jointly incapacitated, which would have no succession path available and may lead with no governor or lieutenant governor to be seated.”
- SB265 Relating to Sex Trafficking: Changes wording in statute from “promoting prostitution in the first degree” to “sex trafficking,” a class A felony. Adds the offense of sex trafficking to the list of crimes for which an order to intercept wire, oral, or electronic communications is permitted. Amends the law relating to tier 2 offenses for the registration of sex offenders. Includes the offense of sex trafficking in the list of offenses to which deferred acceptance of guilty plea or nolo contendere plea does not apply. “I am committed to improving the laws relating to sex trafficking, but this is on the list because of concerns raised by the attorney general and three of the four prosecutors in the counties. They do believe that while enacting legislation specifically on sex trafficking, the unintended consequences of this measure would create loopholes and actually may make it more difficult to prosecute sex trafficking crimes as drafted in this measure,” said Gov. Ige.
- SB349 Relating to Taxation: Repeals ethanol facility tax credit; establishes a 5-year renewable fuels production tax credit. Allows qualifying taxpayers to claim a refundable income tax credit equal to 20 cents per seventy-six thousand British thermal units of qualifying renewable fuel, capped at $3 million per taxable year. Caps the credit at $3 per year in aggregate. “This is on the list because there are concerns that this measure is in violation of the US Constitution’s commerce clause. There is actually a State of Hawaiʻi tax case where we tried to make a limit on taxes specifically to residents and production in Hawaiʻi, which was found to be unconstitutional. So the concern is that this measure would be found unconstitutional based on the US Constitution,” said Gov. Ige.
- 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. “Again, the county prosecutors and the retail merchants across the state have expressed concerns that this big increase in the threshold level would encourage more shoplifting and other property crimes. I would just like to point out that by resolution passed this session, there will be a comprehensive penal review by the prosecuting attorneys and the attorney general’s office, and this would be a good opportunity to review the thresholds across all of the crimes and make a consistent and thoughtful measure that would address it in all areas,” said Gov. Ige.
- 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 of court judgment, order or divorce decree. Allows for the ERS board to adopt rules to assess fees for filing, for processing costs, and a ten per cent administrative fee. Effective January 1, 2018. Requires the ERS to adopt rules pursuant to chapter 91, HRS, upon the approval of this Act. “We have been informed by the Employees Retirement System that the provision to allow for an administrative fee to be incorporated into the operations of the pension system may be a violation of the Internal Revenue Code, and would jeopardize their tax status,” said Gov. Ige.
The governor also addressed questions on bills relating to homelessness and the rail tax extension. He also addressed ongoing questions about access to Mauna Kea amid ongoing demonstrations against the Thirty Meter Telescope and development at the site.
This Intent to Veto list gives the governor the option to veto any, but not necessary all, of the bills on the list by July 14, 2015.
Bills that are not on the list will become law with or without the governor’s signature if not signed by July 14, 2015.