Friday, March 12, 1999

Legislature '99

Bills Senate
killed in error

The 40 bills killed last week
are being inserted into other
proposals to keep them alive

By Mike Yuen


Forty bills were approved and then inadvertently killed by the Ways and Means Committee last week when the panel's co-chairs missed a midnight deadline.

"In my 20 years in the Legislature, I've never seen such a thing," says Senate Minority Leader Whitney Anderson (R, Kailua), a member of the Ways and Means panel. "This is so much. It is a shame."

What occurred, says Andrew Levin (D, Volcano), co-chair of Ways and Means and a lawmaker since 1980, is that "we tried to do too much. We were (preparing) 212 bills, which apparently is a record. We overloaded the system. There's nobody to blame but us."

The bills died when the co-

chairs failed to meet the deadline for having legislation in final form prior to the bills moving from the Senate to the House.

The issues addressed by the measures - such as collective bargaining pay increases for state workers for the next two fiscal years - remain alive, Levin says.

The resurrection began yesterday when the Senate, after having agreed to suspend its own rules, approved floor amendments that inserted 17 dead measures into other proposals.

Other bills will come alive by being inserted in House measures that cross over to the Senate, Levin adds.

Yet for some lawmakers and several lobbyists, the Ways and Means breakdown is indicative of a larger problem:

The Senate's majority coalition's emphasis on cooperation, collaboration and dialogue puts an inordinate emphasis on process and procedure. That results in timely decisions not being made nor ensuring that approved bills are in final form to meet deadlines, critics say.

"If the mind-set is, 'We've got to hear everything, we've got to please everybody,' we'll become bogged down," says Senate dissident leader Randy Iwase (D, Mililani), a member of Ways and Means. That's what happened with the committee in the 72 hours leading up to last Friday's midnight deadline, Iwase adds. And constantly deferring decision-making on bills didn't help either, he says.

"You've got to have an agenda. You've got to have a goal. You've got to know where you want to end up. You've got to prioritize bills - and not move all the bills sent to WAM," Iwase insists.

First-term Sen. Jan Yagi Buen (D, Waihee), a member of Ways and Means, was troubled by the seemingly wholesale use of floor amendments to resurrect the committee's bills. "I hope this doesn't happen again," she said.

Floor amendments rarely surface. When they do, it is usually Republicans, the minority party, or a minority Democratic faction trying to reshape a bill of some significance, say longtime legislative observers.

Sen. Carol Fukunaga (D,Makiki), co-chair of Ways and Means and a lawmaker for 16 years, is "dismayed" at what happened. But she believes it is unfair to blame the Senate's collaborative system, which she embraces. "It was more the scheduling of the amount of bills that created this logjam," she says. "We adopted a much more responsive policy (to hear nearly every bill) this year. That kind of got us into this logistical thing."

Now, the money committee's staffers, nearly all of whom are working on legislation for the first time, have been told to inform the co-chairs when they are overloaded with work, Fukunaga says.

Fukunaga has had a different committee supervisor in each of the three years she has led the panel.

Levin, in his first year as Ways and Means co-chairman, is much less troubled than some of his colleagues by the use of floor amendments. "The WAM amendments were decisions made by the committee in open session well before the deadline," he says. "For one reason or the other, because of the snafus, we did not get the amended version decked. We're just correcting the record; we're not changing things."

A spot check of the history of the bills that inadvertently died shows that not all were killed in a late-night rush that failed to meet deadline. Some measures died a slow death. They were approved in committee on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the Friday midnight deadline, but still weren't put in their final form.

About 10 years ago, the House Finance Committee fell short the way the Senate's money panel did, longtime House staffers remember.

They could not recall how many bills were inadvertently killed, but they are convinced it was not anywhere close to 40.

"We were greatly embarrassed by it," says House Chief Clerk Patricia Mau-Shimizu, then a staffer in the House Majority Research Office. "We've learned from it."

The changes instituted included detailed bill tracking and better communication between lawmakers and staff.

Mau-Shimizu adds: "If you wait until the end, it is a recipe for disaster."

Recount showing
tiny vote variance

By Craig Gima


Preliminary results from a machine recount of the 1998 general election were expected to be released as early as today, said a member of the committee overseeing the election review.

"We're at the point where once we have the Oahu numbers, we think we can give preliminary results," said oversight committee member R. Doug Lewis of the Election Center.

Lewis said the oversight committee hoped to get the Oahu numbers by today.

So far, Lewis said the neighbor island results he has seen do not show large differences between the recount and the

blrb Overseers decided to hand-count sample precincts for the Big Island irradiation initiative.election in November.

"In almost all the instances, all numbers were resolved within one or two votes," Lewis said.

The recount is scheduled to finish early next week, but the hand-counting of ballots in close races is going slowly.

It took two days to recount by hand all 24,366 ballots cast in the Kauai County Council race.

The oversight committee and the Office of Elections on Wednesday decided they would recount a smaller number of sample precincts by hand rather than recounting the 53,658 ballots cast in the Big Island irradiation initiative.

"Otherwise we'd be here forever," Lewis said. "A lot of these people (involved in the recount) have real lives and need to get back to them."

The manual audit teams still have to examine three House and Senate races where the difference was within 1 percent. The oversight committee will also be asking for hand recounts of sample precincts in three other contests, Lewis said.

House budget favors
schools, cuts elsewhere

By Pat Omandam


Calling it an investment in "human capital," state House lawmakers have forwarded to the Senate a $12 billion state operating budget that increases spending mainly in education through savings from other agencies.

And senators will be left with some major budget work as the Council on Revenue yesterday predicted a slower state revenue growth than expected this fiscal year and a loss next year.

In a speech on the House floor yesterday, House Finance Chairman Dwight Takamine (D, Hilo) said the House's two-year budget bill -- which grew about 4.3 percent or $129 million from last year -- takes into account the state's uncertain revenue outlook while trying to stimulate business and continue structural changes made in last year's Legislature.

Takamine said the Finance Committee spent more than two months dismantling and reconstructing the governor's proposed executive budget, and found $44 million in it that could be saved or redirected.

For example, the committee trimmed the budgets of the Department of Budget and Finance by $17 million and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism by $11 million through savings in fixed costs.

"Each state agency will be facing substantial reductions or zero-growth budgets in the coming biennium," Takamine said. "The two exceptions are the public schools and the University of Hawaii system."

Lawmakers approved the budget plan after a 21/2-hour debate yesterday, with lone dissenter Republican Jim Rath of Kailua-Kona arguing that the budget doesn't pay for collective-bargaining cases or possible negotiated ceded land payments. He complained that the House majority is trying to tax its way out of the state's nine-year recession.

"The burden is heavy for the average person to bear," Rath said.

But Finance Vice Chairwoman Bertha C. Kawakami (D, Hanapepe) said the focus on children and education far outweighs its cost in the long run. The budget calls for an increase in the Department of Education biennium budget of $123 million next fiscal year and $116 million the year after.

Department of Education funding includes money for an additional 416 teachers, $6 million to revise and implement academic standards in the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards, $10 million so the department can include special-education students in the class ratio formula and $17 million for a comprehensive plan that ensures levels of academic and developmental support for students.

"Education costs money, but so does ignorance," Kawakami said.

The budget bill makes capital improvement of educational facilities the top construction priority at $150 million, which is in addition to the $24 million the department receives annually in its operating budget.

Finally, the proposed department budget provides $23 million over the next two years to open new schools at Kapolei, Lihue and Keaau, as well as new facilities at existing schools.

The university would see a $19 million budget increase in each year of its biennium budget. The amount includes $4.9 million for Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi's animal cloning work and $1.1 million for international research ventures.

Also funded -- by a $1.5 million state commitment -- is a new $45 million oceanographic research ship being built by the Navy to replace the aging UH vessel Moana Wave.

Council of Revenue economists yesterday said state revenues will grow only by 0.5 percent this fiscal year rather than the 1 percent expected -- a difference of $15 million. One percent equals about $30 million in revenue.

The council -- whose forecasts must be used by the state administration and the Legislature in drafting the state budget -- predicted revenues next year will decline by 1.6 percent but increase by 2.4 percent the following year.

Senate passes
smoking stricture

By Craig Gima


Legislators, lobbyists and staff members who smoke at the state Capitol may have to leave the building to get their cigarette fix under a bill that passed the state Senate yesterday.

For now, they smoke at the koa benches or on the railing in the open-air walkways that ring the inside of the Capitol.

"It's discriminatory," said Senate staffer and smoker Jay Nakasone. Nakasone said he doesn't like the idea of having to leave the Capitol to smoke out by King Street.

"You could die from carbon monoxide," Nakasone joked.

The bill would ban smoking in enclosed places where two or more people work. As currently written, lobby areas and hallways are considered enclosed even if they are not completely contained by walls and a roof.

The bill could also affect the walkways at Honolulu Airport and Ala Moana Center.

Julian Lipsher, director of the Department of Health's tobacco prevention and education project, agrees that the bill needs some refinement to define what is an enclosed area and what is considered partially enclosed and exempt from the ban.

But Lipsher believes the state's current smoking laws are obsolete. He said the laws were passed before studies showed how dangerous secondhand smoke can be to nonsmokers.

"Clearly we should not go back to a condition where nonsmoking employees are involuntarily exposed to someone else's tobacco smoke," he said.

Even though it passed the Senate, the bill faces an uncertain future in the House.

Earlier this session, a companion bill passed the House Health and Labor committees but died when it did not get a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

Six senators voted against the bill yesterday.

"I would discourage everyone from ever smoking, but I do respect the right of an individual to make a choice," said Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Moanalua). "This measure goes too far."

Sen. Randy Iwase (D, Mililani) said the bill would mean a small business with two employees would lose half its work force if one person had to go outside to smoke.

But Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Liliha) pointed out the bill would allow employers to set aside an area for smokers as long as it did not affect nonsmokers.

Oakland argued that the state has an interest in protecting the health of employees.

Tuition waiver
bill gets wide
support in hearing

By Rod Thompson


HILO -- A bill pending in the state House to waive tuition for Hawaiians in the University of Hawaii system received nearly unanimous support during a hearing last night, but two Hawaiian studies professors urged caution.

University of Hawaii at Hilo professor Larry Kimura said there may be more pressing needs, such as help for schoolchildren.

His colleague William "Pila" Wilson warned that federal money for Hawaiians in the university system might dry up if state money becomes available for them.

A committee of university administrators and Board of Regents student member Wayne Panoke heard the testimony last night at the UH-Hilo.

Panoke said the tuition waiver proposal had been declared dead in the state Senate, but intense lobbying was able to revive it.

The bill appears in trouble again in the House, but he added, "We've been through that before."

The reasoning behind the bill is the 92 years the university has used ceded lands without payment, he said. State law calls for 20 percent of the revenues from those lands, formerly belonging to the Hawaiian kingdom, to be used for native Hawaiians.

Panoke said a system of tuition waivers is already in place but suggested it isn't helping Hawaiians.

The Big Island has a large Hawaiian population and UH-Hilo has a unique Hawaiian studies program. But of 250 waivers already mandated by the Legislature, only 14 are allotted to UH-Hilo, Panoke said.

Panoke said only community college students with at least a C average and university students with at least a B average should be eligible, he said.

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