Text by State Senator Sam Slom
The Hawaii State Legislature voted on more than 180 final reading bills during the 2-day final voting process. The process was spread over two days because of a delay during the conference committee process where the budget failed to pass at a self imposed 6:00 pm deadline on Friday night, April 27 and had to be pushed off for decision making until early Saturday morning, April 28 at 3:00 am. The delay resulted in more than 40 other bills being put off until Monday morning where they were decided in a last minute conference committee voting session April 30.
Here are some of the bills that resulted in final floor action votes both on May 1 and today, the last day of the 2012 session, May 3.
HB 2012 THE BUDGET: The $13 billion State Budget bill includes nearly $11.2 billion applied for operating expenses… funds to keep the various branches and departments of government going. The House Draft of the budget bill showed areas of funding of nearly or more than $2 billion each — Dept. of Education ($1.824 Billion), Dept. of Human Services ($2.3 billion), Dept. of Health ($1.5 billion) and the Dept. of Budget & Finance ($1.82 billion), from which the Employeeʼs Retirement System (ERS) and the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) is administered. A conference draft of those figures were not available.
The budget has increased over the last fiscal year with more spending and more employees hired at a time when the state should be cutting the excess and concentrating on core services. As a result I cast a “No” vote on the Senate floor.
HB 304: This is a bill that funds various educational, public health and public welfare services from state tax dollars. Up to $11.643 million has been appropriated to these various agencies, many of them nonprofit groups who rely on yearly appropriations from the taxpayers. The top 10 organizations that got the biggest appropriations are:
Wahiawa General Hospital – $1,000,000
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii – 800,000
Kalihi Palama Health Center – 750,000
Wahiawa General Hospital – 750,000
Hawaii Meth Project – 500,000
Pacific Renal Care Foundation – 500,000
Hawaii Theater Center – 468,000
Read Aloud America, Inc. – 450,293
Susannah Wesley Community Center – 450,000
Hawaiiʼs 3Rʼs – 400,000
A list of all the agencies and funding amounts is posted at the Hawaii Senate Watchdog website.
The fact that the Wahiawa Hospital managed to get 2 separate appropriations of nearly $2 million combined was a reason for my “No” vote on this bill.
SB 2927: This is a bill that many community organizations and environmentalists have opposed. The bill will allow the government and selected developers bypass the environmental review process. This bill was being fast tracked to help support “Transit Oriented Development (TOD)” for the $7 billion heavy rail, steel on steel “train to nowhere”, now under construction in an empty field in West Oahu. I would have voted “no” on this bill at final reading, but it was recommitted back to conference committee by the majority party, essentially killing it.
As a long time opponent against the cityʼs rail project and a party to a lawsuit that aims to stop the rail project, I voted against this bill and all others that fast tracked TOD and let government bypass the environmental review process.
HB 1800: I voted in favor of the Judiciaryʼs appropriations to both their operating and capitol improvement budgets.
HB 2569: I voted against the bill that gives more latitude for people joined through the civil union process. The bill will also force churches to extend their services to same sex couples. I along with Senators Mike Gabbard and Donna Mercado Kim were the only legislators to vote against this bill.
SB 2785: I voted “no” on the bill to allow an undersea electric cable to be built between the islands of Molokai or Lanai to the island of Oahu. I met with several people from Molokai and Lanai who are opposed to the proposal since it will require the use of large windmill turbines to be constructed on those islands. Furthermore the cost of the project will be at least $3 billion most of which will be passed on the HECO ratepayers in terms of higher, monthly electric bills.
HB 2527: This bill required the State Board of Education to establish a “performance management program” that would have required teachers and educational officers to participate in an evaluation process, from which conditions for salary increments would be determined… re: merit pay. I voted “yes” on this bill in the Education Committee that was supported by the Senate Education Chair, Jill Tokuda. On the last day of second crossover, due to pressure from the HSTA union, the bill was recommitted back to the Ways & Means committee where it died.
SB 2506: I voted against this bill because I am not a supporter of the national “Read I.D.” program.
HB 2626: This bill garnered a “No” vote from me because it creates a new special fund for the “Safe Routes to School” program.
SB 2424: This bill benefits only the large employer organizations; requires more regulation of the industry and creates a new special fund. I voted “no”.
HB 246: This bill makes an appropriation of nearly $1.5 million to the City Prosecutorʼs office in Honolulu.
HB 1054: Allows non-profit organizations to conduct book sales on public library property to support the local library. I voted “Yes” on the “Library Bill”. See related story, below.
HB 1800: I voted in favor to support the Judiciaryʼs budget.
HB 2100: Bee hive research appropriation for the University of Hawaii. Honey production is a good industry. I voted “Yes”.
Dead Bills This Session: Bills that have withered on the vine and died this session included all those related to gambling. The plastic bag tax (the city passed a plastic bag ban ordinance that takes effect for Oahu in 2015; other counties have passed similar bans) which I never supported nor a ban also died. Creation of a State Bank also died. The internet “streamline tax” bill which would have allowed the State of Hawaii to join with other states to tax your online purchases did not survive this session. I oppose all bills that create a new tax and that bill was one of several that died this session. The legislature generally does not pass tax increase bills during an election year.
With the legislative session over, the Governor has 45 working days to decide which bills to enact into law.
Photo: Senator Slom speaking on the Senate floor, May 1, 2012.
Additional Link @ HawaiiReporter.com: 2012 Legislative Session – No Respect for the Taxpayers