House revives bill to help pay for UH medical school
The measure would use funds from a tobacco settlement
House lawmakers revived a bill that would allow the University of Hawaii medical school to use leftover tobacco settlement funds to pay for operating expenses.
The Senate proposal appeared dead on Tuesday, after the House voted it down 25-21, with five members absent. In a rare move, the House voted late tonight to reconsider that action, by a vote of 34-15 with two members absent.
The vote followed nearly an hour of debate.
"Initially, we left the body to make the decision on its own," said Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell (D, Manoa). "But after further reflection and people looking at it and understanding the issue Ö people wanted to reconsider their vote."
Opponents argued the chamber should have a higher standard before overturning a vote.
"There is nothing that was discussed tonight that is new," said Rep. Scott Saiki (D, McCully-Moiliili. "Unless we heighten the standard for reconsideration, we really open the door to anyone on the outside, to third parties, to come back to the House whenever they disagree with one of our votes."
The proposal in Senate Bill 1283 would allow the John A. Burns School of Medicine to use money leftover from its share of the state's tobacco settlement funds to pay off operating expenses. Currently, the money is earmarked for debt, with any leftover returned to the state.
Opponents argued that the medical school needs to be held accountable financially and should come up with a sound business plan, rather than continually coming back to the Legislature for help.
"Since it has been built, it has always been in a financial crisis," said Rep. Glenn Wakai (D, Moanalua Valley-Salt Lake). "When does that crisis come to an end?"
Supporters cited Hawaii's growing health care needs as reason enough for supporting the medical school.
"One of the important remedies is to train doctors here in Hawaii," said Health Chairman Josh Green (D, Keauhou-Honokohau), who was absent for Tuesday's vote. "If we train them here, they will stay here."