Wednesday, June 30, 1999

State of Hawaii

Stack of bills could
block special session

By Mike Yuen


The Senate will jeopardize prospects for convening a special session of the Legislature in early August if it insists on having perhaps as many as 20 bills on the agenda, said House Speaker Calvin Say.

It is not realistic to believe that both chambers can reach an accord on some of the measures, such as a ban on fireworks, in the five to six weeks before a special session, if lawmakers were unable to reach agreement during the regular session, Say (D, Palolo) said yesterday.

Say's remarks came soon after the Senate's majority Democrats met for more than 2 hours behind closed doors and agreed that they want 11 vetoed, failed or flawed bills placed on a special session agenda. There are an additional six to nine bills that still "need clarification" but will be added, said Senate President Norman Mizuguchi (D, Aiea).

The House wants the five-day session, now targeted to begin either the first or second week of August, limited to two bills:

Bullet One would correct what Say termed a Senate "mistake" and save the state $200,000 to $300,000 in interest payments.

Bullet Say said the other bill would help Hawaii's economy by offering tax breaks for building and renovating hotels, a key element of the state's No. 1 industry, tourism.

Both chambers need to agree beforehand on the final form of bills to be introduced during the special session, if it is to be limited to five days.

The longer the agenda, the more danger there is of the sort of "chaos" that tainted the regular session's House-Senate negotiations, Say said. "There is no reason for any type of horse trading," he insisted.

Lawmakers did pass a bill to aid the hotel industry, but the measure was approved with the percentage of the tax credit left blank, rendering the measure useless. Gov. Ben Cayetano has said he will allow the measure to become law without his signature.

"The hotel renovation tax credit bill will bring in maybe $250 million in private investment for the construction industry -- jobs," Say said.

The other bill is an administration measure that calls for an emergency appropriation of $2.1 million to pay Washington for its share of health insurance refunds and rate credits.

The Senate deleted the $2.1 million and disagreed with House action reinserting the specific appropriation, forcing the measure into conference negotiations, where it got lost. If the U.S. government doesn't receive the emergency appropriation, the state will have to pay $200,000 to $300,000 in interest.

Cayetano said that if a special session approves measures similar to the ones he vetoed, he'll also veto the new bills.

Mizuguchi said that without more than the two bills, it is unlikely that the 25-member Senate will get the approval of the two-thirds majority needed to call itself back into special session.

Moreover, majority Democrats felt that "it would not be economically feasible to just go back for two bills," Mizuguchi said.

But Say said the cost of a five-day special session would not create an economic burden. Only about $10,100 is needed to pay for the airfare and per diem for neighbor island lawmakers.

Among the vetoed initiatives that the Senate wants to reconsider is the so-called Pada bill that would shift the burden of proof involving extreme mental distress in murder cases from the prosecution to the defendant.

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