Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Money panel
moves quickly to
avoid gaff repeat

By Mike Yuen


Legislature '99 The co-chairmen of the Senate Ways and Means Committee are trying to avert a replay in which 40 bills passed by the committee were inadvertently killed.

They are seeking action on about 115 bills this week that they believe will not require much discussion.

That will free the committee to concentrate on more complex measures that will likely demand more time, Ways and Means Co-Chairwoman Carol Fukunaga (D, Makiki) said.

The goal, added Co-Chairman Andrew Levin (D, Volcano), is having copies of proposed revisions to bills available to all committee members before a vote is taken.

While the new approach was reassuring, two members of the 13-member committee, Sens. Marshall Ige (D, Kaneohe) and Jan Yagi Buen (D, Waihee), told Fukunaga and Levin yesterday that the Democratic majority needed to be briefed as soon as possible on what will be the Senate's financial plan.

Fukunaga and Levin have 10 days -- to midnight April 9 -- to get the Senate's budget and other money-related bills in final form before they go to a floor vote.

Ige and Buen said they need to know "the big picture" before they can comprehend the effect of individual money-related bills. The earlier the briefing, the better, Buen stressed.

Ige said it could turn out that Sens. Bob Nakata (D, Kaneohe) and Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa) might be right in proposing that the 4 percent general excise tax be increased to 5.35 percent.

But Nakata's and Taniguchi's suggestion has run into overwhelming opposition, including the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, and it appears likely to die.

Ige also wondered if a budget could be shaped that would pay for retrospective pay raises for government workers or if that appears unlikely.

Fukunaga said the closed-door briefing for Democratic senators on the financial plan was originally scheduled for this week, but it has been pushed back to next week.

Yesterday, Ways and Means passed 19 bills. Nearly all of the measures were approved earlier by subject matter panels, which had inserted the Senate's position into House bills that had crossed over to the Senate.

Three weeks ago, Ways and Means failed to meet a statutory deadline to have bills in their final form for at least 48 hours before a floor vote. That led to the demise of the 40 bills.

Levin has blamed the mishap on trying "to do too much. We were (preparing) 212 bills, which apparently is a record."

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