Saturday, November 3, 2001


State Sens. Matt Matsunaga, left, and David Ige signed
bills given to them last night by aide Abe Pacheco, right,
as they wrapped up things in the Senate.

Emergency bills target
economic recovery

Gov. Cayetano signs 14 bills into
law and is expected to sign
the 15th measure today

By Pat Omandam and Richard Borreca

Gov. Ben Cayetano has signed 14 of 15 emergency bills into law, signaling the end of a concentrated two-week legislative special session and the start of a hoped-for economic recovery.

Legislature Cayetano signed the bills yesterday afternoon, just a few hours before lawmakers approved the final bill, which gives the governor temporary and limited emergency powers to deal with the crisis.

The governor is expected to sign the emergency powers bill today.

Even so, state House Republicans objected to ending the third special session of this year, saying their job was not done. They argued the Legislature needs to stay at work so it can do more to help Hawaii's people and the economy.

"We don't want it to end simply," said state Rep. Charles Djou (R, Kahaluu). "We think its very important that the people of Hawaii see and understand exactly what this special session has done, and more importantly, what it hasn't done."

Lawmakers conferred on the state Senate floor last
night to wrap up the special session.

With the state Senate finishing just after 7 p.m., the House wrapped up business at 8:20 p.m. and adjourned shortly after.

Cayetano said the Legislature acted to help local residents and businesses but failed to provide new jobs or build the economy.

"Some good things were done, they were reluctant to move on the big things and that is the shortcoming of the session," he said.

Faced with the possibility the state economy will slow even more since the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, lawmakers passed 15 bills in 12 days.

Sen. Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa), Senate president, said the governor sent the Legislature 23 bills to consider.

"We pared it down to 17, held a marathon 10-hour public hearing, amended five and passed out 15 bills all in two weeks' time.

"Although it may not qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records, it certainly was a record for us," Bunda said.

On the emergency powers bill, most Republicans claimed it was a great victory for the people of Hawaii and demonstrated the necessity and potential benefits of a healthy two-party system in Hawaii.

Originally the bill gave the governor emergency powers to amend rules and laws to help deal with the state economic crisis. But public opposition prompted Democratic leaders to accept Republican revisions to the measure to limit the governor's powers to cover only the 14 other measures passed during the special session.

A few House Republicans still had concerns about the bill.

"You don't want us to give unlimited powers to the executive branch in a time of crisis," said House Minority Floor Leader David Pendleton (R, Maunawili), who missed most of the special session while on a medical mission to South America.

"If we believe there are laws that are holding back business, things like that, then in the coming session, let's repeal those things," Pendleton said.

House Democrats, however, said the arguments against this bill are the same made against the original bill, even though it has changed significantly.

House Majority Whip Brian Schatz (D, Makiki) said the bill does the trick by allowing the governor to quickly enact this group of bills with little red tape.

"This bill enables our package to have an immediate impact," Schatz said. "This package is a good package, and this bill is a good bill."

In the Senate, Bunda said Hawaii's economy took "a direct hit" after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We provided tax relief for businesses, stimulated Hawaii's economy through repair and maintenance of our schools, diversified our economy ... and provided food and housing assistance for the needy," Bunda said.

"In this crucial period in Hawaii's history we did what was right. We took decisive and responsible action," he said.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Galen Fox (R, Waikiki) asked the House to remain in recess for now in case it is needed.

House Speaker Calvin (D, Palolo) asked members to consider what brought them together -- the horror of the Sept. 11 attacks and the sadness of the families affected.

Legislators set aside emotions to do their job, said Say, who asked for a moment of silence to remember the tragedies.

"The emergency measures we adopted attended to our most urgent needs for humanitarian relief and assistance, public safety and security, and they set in motion our long journey to economic recovery," he said.

15 bills pass in special session

The state Legislature in its emergency special session passed 15 bills in two weeks to help revitalize the state economy and help those affected by its downturn following Sept. 11.

Here's what the bills do:

>> Food and Housing: Provides $2 million for food and housing aid for Hawaii's needy.

>> Unemployment extension: Adds 13 weeks of unemployment benefit compensation for those laid off after Sept. 11.

>> State purchase exemptions: Temporarily raises the threshold of state small purchases to $50,000 from $25,000 to streamline the state procurement process. It also gives Hawaii residents preference for certain public contracts.

>> Tourism promotion: Appropriates $10 million for tourism marketing of Hawaii.

>> Income tax credits: Raises tax credit for hotel renovation to 10 percent from 4 percent, and allows a 4 percent tax credit for residential construction and remodeling.

>> Transportation: Imposes the General Excise Tax, instead of the Public Service Company Tax, on transportation service providers to lower the tax burden on these companies.

>> Tax thresholds: Increases the filing thresholds for taxpayers and businesses that file withholding, general excise, transient accommodations and other types of tax returns. The higher filing thresholds allow struggling taxpayers and businesses to file less frequently, which increases their cash flow.

>> Medical insurance: Provides temporary health insurance for those who lost their health insurance on or after Sept. 11 and do not quality for any other plan. It also provides reimbursements for those who were forced to continue their coverage through the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).

>> Marketing safe airports: Appropriates $5 million to promote the safety and increased security at state airports.

>> Rainy day fund: Transfers $33.2 million in tobacco settlement money to the rainy day fund to help pay for increased health, safety and welfare needs of the state.

>> State transportation: Allots $36 million from the state airports, highways and harbors special funds to strengthen security at these areas.

>> Construction projects: Adds another $100 million in funded construction projects, with an emphasis on public schools and the public university system.

>> Emergency environmental work force: Provides $1.5 million to pay three-month contracts for as many as 450 people unemployed since Sept. 11 to help the state fight environmental problems, including the coqui frog, dengue fever and miconia.

>> New medical school: Appropriates $150 million for a new University of Hawaii health and wellness center in Kakaako. UH must raise the other $150 million.

>> Emergency powers: Gives the governor limited emergency powers to suspend any rule or law in the areas of the measures approved this session.

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