Senators endOn the last session day, the 25 members of the state Senate came together as one body, got their business finished, congratulated themselves on a job well done and talked about improving things -- including the "deplorable" condition of expensive koa furniture.
session with a
toast to change
The Senate's last-day business
includes approving the OHA
and Judiciary budgets
>> Cayetano vetoes increase in
travel pay for legislators
By Crystal Kua
Senate President Robert Bunda called this session one of "tough choices and hard decisions."
Most of the bills taken up yesterday were left over from Tuesday's agenda. Some of the measures passed included budgets for the Judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The Senate had been expected to revive a bill that would have taken $8 million from the tourist tax fund to maintain state parks.
But the effort failed, senators said, because the bill had not received a hearing before the Senate Tourism Committee, chaired by Sen. Donna Mercado Kim.
One of the lively discussions evolved from whether to approve David Louie to another term on the Aloha Tower Development Corp. Louie's nomination received approval by a vote of 16-9.
Sen. Rod Tam (D, Nuuanu), who chairs the committee to which Louie's nomination was sent, opposed the nomination because he said Louie favors turning historic Irwin Memorial Park in front of the Aloha Tower Marketplace into a permanent parking lot. Tam said the Senate wants the park to remain an open space.
Tam also said Louie had not made an appearance before his committee, which recommended the Senate reject his appointment.
Kim voted against the confirmation because she agreed with Tam that nominees should appear before the committees hearing their confirmation.
But Sen. Jonathan Chun (D, Kauai) argued in favor of Louie's nomination, saying his integrity was impeccable.
Meanwhile, the House wrapped up its session before the Senate for the first time in recent years.
House members, some pointing to their wristwatches, entered the Senate chambers before the Senate concluded its business and exchanged hugs, handshakes and good wishes.
Farewell speeches eventually followed.
"I'm happy to say that at the end of this session, I think that we can all share in a feeling that we have worked hard and we have done things differently. Changes were made," said Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai). "This will be remembered as a historic legislative session."
Slom, a frequent critic of the Democrat-led state government, thanked Bunda and the majority leadership for re-establishing public confidence in the body and extending gestures of courtesy and openness to the Republican minority.
Kim's goodbye speech included suggestions on how the Senate could improve things in the interim.
Kim, who returned to the Legislature after 14 years on the City Council, said she asked for changes this past session but was told, "We've always done things that way." That troubled her, she said.
Kim asked for year-round professional staffing, changes in committee structures and scheduling, a more public-friendly session agenda and a plan to refurbish and maintain koa office furniture that has gone shoddy over the years.
"The desks and bookshelves are made of expensive koa, but lack of upkeep has left them in a deplorable condition -- a real waste considering the amount of money that was originally spent to purchase them," she said.
Attention should also be given to the slow state Capitol elevators, which she described as "the mechanical equivalent of clogged arteries," she said.
Gov. Ben Cayetano on Monday vetoed a bill that would have increased the per-diem travel allowance for legislators on official business.
increase in travel pay
By Rosemarie Bernardo
House Bill 143, House Draft 1, would have allowed legislators on state government travel to receive an allowance of two-thirds of the General Services Administration rate for Hawaii to cover expenses such as board and lodging. The GSA rate is about $171 a day.
Cayetano said the per diem "appears to be adequate as currently established."
Currently, the allowance is $80 a day for local travel and $130 for mainland travel.
If there is a need to further revise the statute, it should include all public officers and employees, he said.
"The increase of the travel per-diem allowance only for one group of state officers does not appear to be justified," the governor said.
Cayetano also signed into law:
>> Two bills that set aside money so state departments can fulfill requirements of the Felix vs. Cayetano consent decree. Senate Bill 1084, Senate Draft 2 House Draft 1, earmarks $27 million to the state Department of Education.
Senate Bill 1142, House Draft 1, appropriates $7 million for the Early Intervention Section and Healthy Start program of the state Department of Health.
>> A bill giving minors seeking a driver's license more time to gain driving skills before taking the road test.
Senate Bill 212, Senate Draft 1 House Draft 1, extends the time period for individuals who obtained a temporary driver's license permit from 180 days to a year before it expires.
Hawaii Revised Statutes