Hawai’i Gov. David Ige notified lawmakers and the public today of his intent to veto 30 of the 343 bills passed by the 2022 State Legislature, including a renewable energy bill that could jeopardize a solar-to-battery storage system project for Lānaʻi.
Bills on the governor’s chopping block include:
- A vaping ban that had mass support before being gutted so much that even the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai’i can’t support it.
- A child welfare bill that Gov. Ige said goes too far to monitor adoptive parent so they “never live free of government intrusion in their lives.”
- A bail reform bill that a coalition of prosecutors, law enforcement agencies and all four county mayors lobbied against because it could lead to an increase in crime.
- A public information bill that would cap the cost of some government information but Gov. Ige said the changes would lead to broad requests that would be “too burdensome” for state agencies and government with limited staffing.
Govt. Ige has until July 12 to make final decisions on the bills on his veto list, which is the largest in his eight years in office. The State Legislature can convene before noon on July 12 to act on any of the bills on the veto list.
Speaker of the House Scott K. Saiki and Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi each issued statements that their respective bodies would review the veto list and then confer with the other body to determine a course of action.
The Hawaiʻi Constitution requires two-thirds of the members in the Senate and House must vote to override a veto.
Govt. Ige said during a news conference today that he also has signed another 105 bills into law, bringing the total number signed to 220. The remaining 93 bills passed by the State Legislature will become law, with or without the governor’s signature.
While Gov. Ige said he liked the intent of some of the bills on his veto list, they had legal considerations, compliance issues or duplicated other efforts that made them unbearable.
Here is a rundown of some of the bills on the veto list
SB2510: Govt. Ige said he received 1,600 letters and emails in opposition of this bill, which requires each island to have at least 33.33% of renewable energy to be generated by “firm” renewable energy, which is renewable energy that is available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year with exceptions for maintenance and repairs.
Until an island meets the one-third threshold, no other renewables may be allowed unless the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development (OPSD) issues a waiver or OPSD’s opposition to a waiver is overruled by the governor.
Govt. Ige cited the island of Lānaʻi, which pays the highest electric rates in the state, as an example of how this mandate could stop or delay a renewable energy project. Lānai is in the process of getting request for proposals for a solar-plus-battery storage system that would lead to 98% clean, renewable energy in the next 12 to 18 months, reducing every family`s electric bill by $130 per month.
“This bill could prevent that from happening,” Gov. Ige said.
HB1147: It appropriates funds to the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, the Convention Center special fund, the State Office of Planning and the University of Hawaiʻi.
Govt. Ige said while he strongly supports funding for the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, especially as it pivots to destination management action plans, he can`t support this bill because it is a “gut and replace” that could be constitutionally challenged in courts.
The conference committee removed capital improvement projects that were in the original bill introduced in 2021 and inserted operating appropriations for various state agencies for FY23 without public input.
“I know some have suggested that I just let it go and see what happens,” Gov. Ige said. “Certainly, it is better to chart a specific course to provide support for the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority than wait for the shoe to drop on someone challenging HB 1147; and then having to litigate as well as determine what is the best way to support tourism.
HB1567: It eliminates the use of monetary bail and requires defendants to be released on their own recognition for certain nonviolent offences, subject to certain exclusions.
Govt. Ige said that while he is for criminal justice reform, the bill would mandate the automatic release of defendants that are charged with class C felonies that pose significant risks to public safety, including felons in possession of firearms, burglaries in the second degree and arson in the third degree.
He said it was the first time as governor that primary sponsors and proponents of the bill asked him to veto it.
HB1570: It bans the sale of certain flavored tobacco products and mislabeled e-liquid products; and it establishes fine.
Govt. Ige said he plans to veto the bill because of a late amendment to the definition of “flavored tobacco product” that exempted certain FDA-approved tobacco products to the point where the ban was “useless.”
The FDA-approved exemption was requested by the registered lobbyist for JUUL Labs, an e-cigarette company that owns roughly one-third of the vaping market. While the FDA recently ordered JUUL Labs to remove all of its products from the US market; the very next day a federal court granted a stay that allows JUUL to continue selling its menthol-flavored products pending the company’s appeal, which could take years.
“It is a flavor ban in name only,” said Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai’i Chair Julian Lipsher. “Knowing the dangers of nicotine addiction, we cannot allow big tobacco to continue to influence legislation that compromises our health.
SB3179: It requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife to adopt rules and issue funds to licensed hunters at a per unit rate for feral axis deer herd management.
Govt. Ige said he is vetoing the bill because “bounty programs to manage feral animal populations have been found to be ineffective and invite problems of fraud and trespass.” He added that DLNR already is working on this issue and has a task force to reduce the axis deer populations in Maui County.
HB1705: It allows the Department of Agriculture to extend the agricultural park lease of any lessee who holds a lease with a remaining term of 15 years or less if the land is 25 acres or less and located in a county with a population of less than 500,000.
Govt. Ige said the agricultural park program is meant to be a start-up program for new farmers and other small farm operations to become commercially established. It was not meant to be a permanent space for lessees.
“Many of the current lessees have had leases for close to 55 years, and there is a current wait list of over 200 applicants for new leases,” Gov. Ige said. “The largest hurdle that young farmers face is access to available and appropriately sized agricultural lands.”