Friday, July 9, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Squabble over bills sinks
special legislative session

By Mike Yuen


House Speaker Calvin Say said the Senate is being hypocritical for nixing a special legislative session that the House sought to limit to two bills.

One of the reasons the Senate gave -- pertaining to a measure that could save the state as much as $300,000 in interest payments to the federal government -- pointed to a Senate flip-flop, Say said.

With both chambers unable to agree on an agenda, there will be no special session next month, acknowledged Say (D, Palolo) and Senate President Norman Mizuguchi.

The Senate wanted the agenda to have as many as 24 bills, including several that were vetoed by Gov. Ben Cayetano. It felt that a special session limited to two bills would not be justifiable, said Mizuguchi (D, Aiea).

He added there is no pressing need to go into special session to approve an emergency appropriation of $2.1 million to pay Washington for health insurance carrier refunds and rate credits.

Cayetano "has sufficient flexibility and funds under the budget act to address the problem administratively," Mizuguchi declared in a letter he and 14 other Democrats in the 25-member Senate sent to Say yesterday.

But Say, a former House Finance Committee chairman, disagreed with the Senate's interpretation and feared the 14 percent interest the state would have to shoulder if payment was late.

Furthermore, he said the Senate is being hypocritical after earlier accusing Cayetano and Earl Anzai, whom the Senate fired as state budget chief 2 months ago but who is now Cayetano's nominee for attorney general, for handling fiscal matters unilaterally.

"They have been the ones who have been highly critical of how the governor runs the state of Hawaii. I took the position that we should not allow the governor to restrict funds to pay for an emergency appropriation that was recognized during the legislative session," Say said.

After the Senate was seemingly so concerned over the administration usurping legislative powers, Say said, "I believe they're now granting the governor exclusive power in doing anything he wants with the budget."

During this year's regular legislative session, it was the Senate that forced the emergency appropriation bill into House-Senate conference negotiations, where it ostensibly got lost, by approving a draft measure that left blank the amount that Washington was to be reimbursed.

Mizuguchi said the Senate's majority Democrats also felt that another bill the House wanted considered, tax breaks for the hotel industry, wasn't "time sensitive."

Next year, lawmakers can pass a hotel construction and renovation tax credit and make it retroactive to Aug. 1, 1999, to help any company that was counting on government assistance to help get any projects under way later this year, Mizuguchi said.

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