Minimum wage
to rise, Bottle Bill
rules to ease

Those bills and one to tighten
campaign spending are not
on Gov. Lingle's veto list

Hawaii's minimum wage is going up; politicians will have a new, tougher campaign spending law to follow; and the controversial Bottle Bill will relax some of its rules.

State of Hawaii These bills passed by the 2005 Legislature will become law. Gov. Linda Lingle said she will not sign a bill that would raise the minimum wage in two steps from $6.25 to $7.25 an hour, but will allow it to become law without her signature.

Lingle informed lawmakers yesterday that the measures will not be vetoed by her by the July 12 veto deadline. Bills that are not vetoed will automatically become law. Lingle already has vetoed some bills.

Lingle is considering vetoing 33 bills, including one that would raise the general excise tax to 4.5 percent to pay for a Honolulu mass transit system.

Lingle also is considering whether to veto a bill that would allow public workers to set up their own health insurance plans. Public employees are now required to join the state's health fund, but public school teachers have lobbied for three years to set up a plan they say would cost less and provide more coverage.

Lingle said the bill, HB 1608, would reverse past health fund reforms and negate the benefits of cost sharing under a single statewide system.

The governor said she also has to decide whether she will veto the remaining bills, including two others that deal with discrimination in housing and employment.

She said the measures were "vague and ambiguous."

Also Lingle said today she will make good on her threat to veto SB 1808, which would have stopped her administration's attempts to reform workers' compensation laws.

Lingle tried for two years to win legislative approval for her workers' comp law changes, but the Legislature refused, so she drafted the reforms this year as administrative rules that did not need legislative approval.

In response, the Legislature passed a bill stopping Lingle from implementing the rules.

"This is one of those handcuff bills that says, 'You can't make things better,'" Lingle said. "This issue was the No. 1 priority of the business community."

Legislative leaders have promised to override her veto.

"I'm very proud of the work we did this past session, so it's disappointing that the governor would veto these bills," Rep. Calvin Say, House speaker, said.

Senate President Robert Bunda said Lingle's action brings up a "separation of powers issue," with her setting policy without legislative concurrence, and "we feel very strongly about that."

In the minimum-wage bill, Lingle said she wanted the Legislature to include an increased tip credit for restaurant workers and also lower the unemployment tax threshold, but would not object to a minimum-wage increase. Another bill that she will either sign or allow to become law, SB 1747, limits campaign contributions from out-of-state donors and state contractors, and also increases public funding for Office of Hawaii Affairs candidates.

The new campaign spending law will prohibit both state and county contractors from giving money to any political party, committee, candidate or person for a political purpose. The law would also cover persons with a personal services contract, such as architects and engineers, who buy or sell property to the government.

The law would not limit contributions from unions.

Another bill that will become law, SB 212, will give up to $3 million in state money to pay for incentives for retailers to install reverse vending machines to take bottles and cans.


Potential major vetoes by Lingle

Here are some of the major bills Gov. Linda Lingle said she might veto and her reasons for rejecting the measures:

HB 1309: General Excise Tax Increase
"Assigns the power to collect a 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge to the state, which will retain 10 percent of the proceeds. This is inconsistent with home rule, deprives the counties of a significant portion of the revenues, and denies them the opportunity and obligation to collect the taxes they vote to impose. Contains additional technical flaws including exempting written contracts signed prior to June 30, 2006, and imposing harsher penalties for failure to pay the surcharge than the penalties that apply to existing GET tax obligations."

HB 1450: Gender Identity in Employment
"The intent of this bill is to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. Current Hawaii law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation, as well as race, color, religion, age, marital status, national origin, ancestry or disability."

SB 1554: Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii Environmental Workforce
"Purports to permanently establish a workforce to assist the counties' fight against invasive species, but fails to provide funding for the workforce. Ignores the role and responsibilities of the existing invasive species committees in the counties. Inappropriately attaches the workforce to the RCUH, an agency whose mission is to conduct scientific investigations and research, in an effort to avoid civil service laws and state personnel statutes."

SB 1808: Workers' Compensation Law
"Suspends, between Jan. 1, 2005, and July 1, 2007, the director of Labor and Industrial Relations' authority to improve the implementation of the workers' compensation law through the rule-making process. The department adopted rules that address factors driving up the cost of workers' compensation insurance while ensuring that injured workers receive quality medical care and benefits."

Office of the Governor

| | |
E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com