FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Reps. Dwight Takamine, left, Roy Takumi, Tommy Waters and Jerry Chang worked to wrap things up in the House on Friday, one of the final days of the legislative session.
Lingle and Democrats
call session cooperative
The Legislature ends today with
progress on housing and traffic
Democratic leaders in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Linda Lingle say new efforts at cooperation provided some success stories this session.
The 2005 Legislature is expected to end this afternoon with both Lingle and the Democrats claiming some joint victories.
"It was a pretty good session," Lingle said yesterday at a news conference.
Lingle said she had "several productive meetings with legislative leaders as well as individual members."
House Speaker Calvin Say, at times a partisan critic of Lingle, said the session showed a new cooperation.
"We have very good cooperation with the Cabinet. The governor and (chief of staff) Bob Awana and (senior policy adviser) Linda Smith have all called.
"We worked well together, and a great deal of the bills passed were administration bills," Say said.
University of Hawaii political scientist Neal Milner detects a shift in Lingle's political strategy.
"I think in the first couple of sessions, she had a strategy of negotiating and then going out to outflank the Democrats by going to the public. I don't think she was as successful in that as she thought she would be," he said.
For example, Milner cited Lingle's past attempts to restructure the state school board, only to have the Democrats push through a completely different education reform package.
"This time, she had housing as an issue to share with the Legislature. She changed her strategy," Milner said.
Lingle said her calls for more affordable housing and increased aid to charter schools and traffic safety set the agenda for the Legislature.
"Affordable housing got addressed, but the housing shortage is not going to disappear between now and the next session because of what was passed. We need to come back and pass more," Lingle said.
In response, Say saw progress, calling the housing legislation a success.
"We were successful in addressing the housing issue; we incorporated a lot of the housing task force recommendations," Say said.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Onlookers watched state lawmakers on one of the closing days of the legislative session on Friday in the Senate chambers.
Lingle had said the Legislature should have included more tax credits for developers to build affordable houses, while Say said Democrats thought the existing credits were adequate.
"The target was affordable home rentals," Say added.
Another success of the session will be the new transit options such as the private interisland ferry that needed $40 million in state harbor improvements, and the approval to raise the excise tax to 4.5 percent from 4 percent, according to Say.
Lingle and the Democrats differed, however, on the new increased conveyance tax, which is the tax charged when real estate is sold.
Lingle said she wanted a larger portion of the money collected by the conveyance tax shifted to state rental programs. Democrats increased the tax on properties selling for more than $600,000.
"On Maui the median price of a home is over $600,000, so this is really taxing the average person and is driving up the cost of housing, not bringing it down," Lingle said.
In disagreement, Say called plans to use the increased conveyance tax to buy park land "visionary" and said the increase was so small that it would not have any effect on housing.
Lingle and the Legislature meet again in 2006, when she is expected to be running for re-election.
Yesterday, Lingle said she did not expect her relationship with lawmakers to change because of the intense political atmosphere of an election year.
Say agreed, predicting the session to be "more collegial because the Democrats will rise to the occasion."
Milner, however, added that Democrats might have missed an opportunity to find a strong candidate to run against Lingle and allow that candidate to use the Legislature as a sounding board for new ideas.
"I thought a likely Democratic candidate would emerge and be more assertive," Milner said.
BACK TO TOP
The state Legislature is set to adjourn today. Here is the status of some of the major bills considered this session:
: An $8.9 billion budget that includes pay raises for state workers; allowing the counties to increase the general excise tax by 12.5 percent to pay for transportation projects; requiring DNA testing of all convicted felons.
: Public funding for political candidates; increasing the state standard tax deduction; a tax credit for people who buy long-term care insurance policies.
: A bill that would have allowed 18- to 20-year-olds to drive commercial tour vans.
Passed in 2005
A look at some of the 202 bills passed by the 2005 Legislature:
» Sets an $8.9 billion two-year general fund budget that includes government employee pay raises, education initiatives and anti-drug programs but does not include any tax breaks. House Bill 100
» Increases the conveyance tax for property sales of more than $600,000 to provide money for a conservation land fund and additional money for the Rental Housing Trust Fund. The Legacy Land Act is aimed at preserving lands of significance, which include coastal and cultural lands, open spaces and scenic resources. HB 1308
» Allows the Department of Education to increase school lunch prices to recover up to half rather than one-third of the cost of preparing the lunches. HB 843
» Allows counties to tack a half-percentage-point surcharge to the state's 4 percent general excise tax. The bill ties the 12.5 percent tax increase to funding a new rail transit system on Oahu and other transportation projects on the neighbor islands. HB 1309
» Requires state agencies to buy alternative-fuel vehicles or show increased improvements in state auto-fleet mileage economy. SB 1427
» Creates a three-tier system for driver's licenses for 16- and 17-year-olds. HB 150
» Promotes awareness, education and diversity of the Hawaiian culture through the establishment of a state cultural public market for vendors and artists built on state-owned land within the Kakaako Makai area. SB 1491
» Hires a private contractor to tag and monitor sharks from Pearl Harbor to Kaena Point. SB 1267
» Appropriates $300,000 to the counties for eradication of the invasive coqui frog. Big Island Rep. Clifton Tsuji called the bill "a milestone in the war against the coqui frog." HB 1301
» Allows Hawaiian outrigger canoe clubs registered with the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association, Hui Wa'a Association or its affiliates to keep their Hawaiian outrigger canoes on state shoreline areas at no charge. HB 125
» Improves the controversial state bottle bill calling for reverse vending machine rebates and increasing redemption center incentives. SB 212
» Allows golf courses and golf-related facilities within the rural district. Prohibits golf courses and driving ranges in the agricultural district except those approved by the county before July 1, 2005, for development. HB 109
» Moves the state Office of Planning from the Governor's Office to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. It was approved over the objections of most House Republicans, who have said it is among the measures aimed at stripping Gov. Linda Lingle of her authority. SB 1877
» Clarifies the state's sex offender registry law. The measure would require lifetime registration for the worst sex offenders and automatic online public access to their personal information. Less serious offenders would have the chance to end their registration and public access to their information on the Internet after a certain period of time. SB 708
» Requires DNA testing and hand impressions of all convicted felons. State law currently requires only sex and violent offenders to provide DNA samples. HB 1733
» Limits purchases to three packages of medicines containing pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used in creating the illegal drug crystal methamphetamine. The bill also requires store owners to keep those cold medicines behind their counters or in sight of a store clerk or security camera. SB 1100
» Repeals a year-old law that gives authorities the power to ban anyone from public property in Hawaii for up to a year, and instead creates a new petty misdemeanor offense of criminal trespass onto public parks and recreational grounds. HB 806
» Requires the Legislature to develop a pay plan for substitute teachers. SB 1250
» Allows any public employee union to set up a health fund trust plan for its members. HB 1608
» Increases legislative allowances to $7,500 from $5,000 a year and allows inquiries in travel expenses for legislators. HB 1236
, HB 1235
» Alerts shoppers through prominently placed signs that stores are selling previously frozen and thawed baked goods. HB 332
» Protects farmers against crop thieves by making it a crime for a person to enter or remain on agricultural land without permission. HB 1202
» Encourages developers to build affordable housing, targeting affordable rentals for working families earning about $50,000 a year. SB 179
» Increases the state's minimum wage by $1 over the next two years. Proponents say the increase is long overdue for workers in the lowest-paying jobs. However, Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai) said raising wages will mean employers will offer fewer entry-level jobs. SB 294
» Establishes a commission to recognize and honor the late U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong, also a former state House speaker. HB 283
» Creates a candidate advisory council to screen and propose candidates for the governor to chose from when appointing to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents. Republican opponents say the bill is part of a push by Democrats to usurp the power of the Republican governor. Senate Higher Education Chairman Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) said the bill seeks to balance the political nature of board appointments. SB 1257
» Prohibits fund raising on state and county property, and limits campaign contributions from out of state to 20 percent of the total contributions for each reporting period. Disallows a "deferred acceptance of guilty" plea for anyone judged to have intentionally tried to get around campaign spending laws. HB 1747