into final stretch
under fire from gov
By Pat Omandam
Both the House and Senate this week cleared the decks for the final stretch of the 1999 session, and already there were rumblings of a "do-nothing" Legislature coming from the fifth floor of the state Capitol.
On Tuesday, both sides concluded all-day sessions just minutes apart after approving hundreds of bills, most of which are pending conference committee debate.
The focus now is on the Senate's proposed $12 billion state budget, which spends 3.3 percent more next fiscal year than this year, but less than the House's proposed increase of 4.3 percent.
Still, Gov. Ben Cayetano criticized both chambers, especially the Senate, for not making tough decisions on civil service reform, overtime calculations in the retirement of state workers, or privatization of state mental hospital services.
The governor said the Legislature is on the verge of concluding a "do-nothing" session.
Other key action this week:
Gubernatorial nominationsThe Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to support the nomination of Circuit Judge John Lim as an associate judge of the Intermediate Court of Appeals.
Other Cayetano nominations for Cabinet posts are also expected to pass the Senate, although Attorney General Margery Bronster may get some resistance from senators.
PrisonsCayetano warned lawmakers that he would consider releasing low-risk inmates if the Legislature doesn't come up with the money to build a new 2,300-bed medium-security facility on the Big Island.
A privately financed prison means a smaller facility, which Cayetano said will leave him no choice but to pardon inmates to free-up space.
HempSenators by a 13-12 vote passed a bill that allows a quarter-acre test plot of industrial hemp. Proponents tout the economic possibilities of the plant, which is the same species as marijuana but doesn't have hallucinogenic effects.
Opponents fear hemp development will hurt drug control in Hawaii.
The one-vote margin on hemp was the narrowest taken this session on any issue before the House or Senate floor.
Board of EducationA plan to spin off the Board of Education and give it taxing powers passed the Senate but likely will be scrapped during conference committee debate as the House majority argues for an appointed school board.
House Republicans failed to secure the passage of a floor amendment that they contend would have brought real education reform to Hawaii.
FireworksA fireworks bill approved by the House that allows the counties to regulate common fireworks and makes the unlicensed use of aerial fireworks a misdemeanor heads for a showdown.
The Senate earlier this session approved a ban on all fireworks after Jan. 1, 2000.
Next weekHouse and Senate leaders on Monday name lawmakers to conference committees. Those chosen will spend the next two weeks resolving differences in legislation.
All nonfiscal bills must be ready for approval by April 29; fiscal bills, by April 30.
CalendarMonday marks the 51st day of the 60-day legislative calendar. The session is scheduled to end on May 4.