JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
A bill for $25 million in general obligation bonds to buy the Kukui Gardens rental complex is on its way to Gov. Linda Lingle for her signature. On Saturday, an emotional Carol Anzai, Kukui Gardens Association president, was comforted by state Rep. Karl Rhoads during an announcement of the successful efforts for funding to keep the housing affordable. CLICK FOR LARGE
Taxes and veto overrides top agenda
A hotly contested bill giving unions key rights is approved
Lawmakers gave final approval to dozens of bills yesterday but still have some of the weightier issues of the session to take up tomorrow, when they officially adjourn for the year.
Among the proposals still awaiting final votes are a constitutionally mandated tax refund and a restoration of a general excise tax exemption on ethanol-blended fuels.
House and Senate members also completed work yesterday on overrides of a handful of vetoes already sent down by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.
One of the widely publicized vetoes overridden was Senate Bill 1642, which would allow a union to negotiate management rights to move workers as needed.
Government officials, including police and fire chiefs from all four counties, have rallied at the Capitol twice in the past week urging lawmakers to let the veto stand. They say the bill would hurt their operations and could jeopardize public safety.
Rank-and-file union members, including police officers and firefighters, have lobbied lawmakers to override the veto, saying the measure simply gives them the right to negotiate transfers of public workers at the bargaining table.
"Our position is that it does not affect public safety," said House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell (D, Manoa). "The guys on the beat and in the field, they said this has nothing to do with public safety. Why would they want to do something that would jeopardize safety?"
Another bill vetoed by Lingle would change the way nominees are selected to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. Senate Bill 14 would require the governor to select nominees from a list provided by a new seven-member advisory committee.
Republican Sen. Mike Gabbard (R, Kalaeloa-Makakilo) cast the deciding vote yesterday, guaranteeing an override of SB 14 in the Senate. House members working late into the evening followed suit, overriding the veto by a vote of 39-10 with two members absent.
A group of four Democratic senators, led by former Senate President Robert Bunda, were voting against the override with the expectation that the five GOP senators would vote with them. The nine no votes would have blocked the majority Democrats efforts to save the bill, because vetoes must be overridden by at least 17 of the 25 senators.
Gabbard voted against the bill twice during the session, but yesterday said he was concerned that if the bill failed, the university would not have a system in place to select regents.
Another notable veto expected to be overridden is SB 1063, which changes the process by which a state or federal legislative vacancy is filled. Senators also overrode SB 1956, which calls for Hawaii to join a movement among states to have the president elected by the national popular vote instead of the Electoral College, but it was unclear late last night whether there would be enough votes in the House to complete the override. Overrides require approval of at least two-thirds of the members in each chamber.
Meanwhile, bills that are on their way to the governor include a proposed tax credit similar to a previous food and excise tax credit that was dropped when the state was facing a revenue shortfall about 10 years ago. Senate Bill 1882 adds a food and excise tax break for those with adjusted incomes of less than $50,000.
Also on its way to Lingle is a proposal appropriating $25 million in general obligation bonds toward the purchase of Kukui Gardens.
Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca contributed to this report.