Gov. Green lines up 17 bills passed by Hawaii Legislature to veto

Gov. Josh Green on Tuesday discusses bills aimed at easing the state’s housing crisis.

Gov. Josh Green may veto 17 bills the Legislature passed this year, including one that would deposit $300 million into the state’s “rainy day” budget reserve fund.

Green informed lawmakers Friday of his intent to veto the bills that also include the state budget bill where the governor intends to line-item veto specific appropriations.

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The list this year compares with 13 bills that Green vetoed in 2023 during his first term as governor. One of the vetoed bills last year was overridden by the Legislature.

Green said in a statement that vetoing the bills on this year’s list would help maintain a balanced budget while keeping $300 million in extra revenue for use at the end of the next fiscal year, July 1, 2025. He also said his intentions reflect priorities addressing Hawaii’s high cost of living, affordable housing crisis and impacts from the Aug. 8 Maui wildfires.

“After enacting the largest income tax break in our state’s history, strategic decisions were necessary to ensure we had a balanced budget,” Green said in a statement. “In addition to fiscal considerations, my decisions are based on legal concerns, improving government operations, and avoiding negative impacts on the public and Hawaii residents.”

Green has until July 10 to veto bills on the list. Any bills on the list not vetoed by then will become law. The Legislature also has time to modify bills on the list to address concerns from Green and can override vetoes with a two-thirds majority vote in a special session.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said that he will meet with House members to determine if any bills on the list, if vetoed, should be the subject of an override session.

Saiki also said that it appears that many of the bills identified by the governor could be addressed in next year’s session that begins in January.

The 17 bills facing a veto are:

• House Bill 40, which would transfer $300 million in general fund revenue to the Emergency Budget and Reserve Fund and deposit an extra $135 million into an underfunded pension fund for local government workers.

Green called these appropriations “financially imprudent” given other needs including Maui wildfire recovery work and affordable housing production.

“The current balance of the Rainy Day fund of more than $1.5 billion is the largest it has ever been, and the state is committed to making regular payments on its unfunded liabilities including its pension obligations,” he said.

• HB 2619, which appropriates $19.8 million for the state Department of Agriculture to combat pests, including coconut rhinoceros beetles, fire ants, brown tree snakes, coqui frogs, rose-ringed parakeets and two-lined spittlebugs. It also appropriates $50,000 in matching grant funds for each county to combat feral chickens.

The governor said he strongly supports the bill’s intent but may adjust the appropriation as part of an effort to determine how much is feasible and executable by the agency.

• Senate Bill 3068, which appropriates close to $460 million for Maui wildfire expenses next fiscal year.

Green said this bill inadvertently zeroed out a $230 million appropriation for affordable housing, and that he intends to redirect appropriations in the budget bill to cover Maui wildfire recovery expenses.

• HB 1800, the budget bill.

Green has not yet specified which spending appropriations in this bill he may cut or adjust. Preliminarily, appropriations totaling about $35 million to $40 million are being reviewed and are subject to a final determination.

• HB 2526, which would increase the penalty for a third or subsequent offense involving unauthorized use of a motor vehicle to a Class C felony, under which a court could order forfeiture of the vehicle involved.

Green said enacting this bill would increase criminal justice system caseloads without any additional funding.

• HB 2581, which would bar the governor or a county mayor from suspending electronic media transmissions during a state of emergency they declare.

The governor stated that he is a strong proponent of the First Amendment, and understands that during an emergency, communication must be timely, accurate, and well-coordinated. “However, we must still guard against acts of extreme violence or acts of terrorism which can use social media or other electronic media to communicate and activate crowds or destructive devices,” he said in a statement.

• SB 2512, which would establish notice and reporting requirements for the governor to use public resources during emergencies.

Green’s concern with this bill is that it would impede a governor’s responsiveness along with state Department of Defense flexibility during emergency and disaster situations.

• SB 572, which would allow the Department of Agriculture to declare a biosecurity emergency under certain conditions, and allow the agency and the governor to take actions to prevent the establishment or spread of pests and prohibited or restricted organisms.

According to Green, parts of SB 572, if enacted, could impede harbor operations and the timely movement of commercial goods.

“In effect, the power to requisition ships, as provided in this legislation, will unnecessarily impact the flow of goods that our communities rely on and appears to be an extreme power that could be addressed in a more methodical and limited approach,” the governor said in his statement.

• HB 1936, which would require all work tying up any vessel to commercial docks and other facilities be done by unionized labor.

Green said this bill could increase shipping costs across Hawaii that may be passed on to consumers.

“Given that Hawaii already has a high cost of living, this bill will further increase costs and place an undue burden on Hawaii’s economically stressed residents,” he said in the statement explaining his veto list.

• HB 1640, which would establish certain timetables related to negotiations for repricing classes within local government collective bargaining units.

The governor said this bill would greatly affect the state’s and counties’ ability to uphold an objective, equitable pay system, and would place undue stress on chronically understaffed human resources teams across state and county governments.

• SB 3153, which would reappropriate $10 million for a state grant program established in 2023 to help private dam owners maintain or remove their dams.

Green said his administration is evaluating the financial viability of the program.

• SB 2439, which would establish a two-year window beyond the statute of limitations for people to bring civil actions against someone who they allege committed a sexual offense against them while they were an adult.

Green is concerned that this bill extends the statute of limitations in ways that don’t appear to have any clear or prudent basis. Green also said that financial implications, insurance coverage and document retention decisions must be properly factored into future legislation.

• HB 1633, which would allow for an owner-builder exemption from contractor licensing requirements for building or improving residential or farm buildings not for use by the owner or their immediate family.

Green said there are concerns about how increased unlicensed activity would affect renters and possibly lead to more development of short-term rentals.

• HB 1763, which in part would repeal the power of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., a state agency that helps finance affordable housing, from providing grants using its rental housing fund or forgiving loans from the fund.

Green said this bill could negatively affect affordable housing construction.

• HB 2359, which would establish a digital equity grant program.

Green said participation rules under this bill would inhibit development of small-scale, community-based networks in historically disadvantaged communities.

• SB 1511, which would alter how and what the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii does.

This bill, according to Green, is unnecessary because a task force was convened to address issues covered in the legislation.

• SB 2557, which would allow a court to appoint an attorney for the subject of a petition for assisted community treatment and no longer entitles the subject of a petition to legal representation by a public defender.

Green said this bill is nearly duplicative to another bill that passed this year, HB 2159.