Hawaii lawmakers change bills in response to governor’s request

HONOLULU (AP) – Lawmakers in Hawaii on Thursday passed amendments to several bills at the behest of Governor David Ige, including one that uses general funds to pay down debt instead of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Democratic Representative Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Committee, explained that lawmakers and the Ige administration agreed in the spring legislative session to use the aid money to pay down debt, as originally stated in HB 54. But then the US Treasury Department issued guidelines the day after lawmakers were adjourned, saying the money could not be used for that purpose.

As a result, Ige, a Democrat, vetoed the measure, sending it back to lawmakers. The House and Senate each passed the amended bill unanimously, and Ige signed it immediately thereafter.

Both chambers also adopted an amended version of HB 1299, which repeals or removes various special fund accounts and transfers fund balances to the general state fund.

The final version removes the reference to the Special Milk Control Fund, which is funds raised by a state Department of Agriculture levy imposed to regulate Hawaii’s dairy industry.

The governor, in a message to lawmakers, said the Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that money from funds generated by these regulatory fees cannot be transferred to the general fund.

The amended bill removes a provision to eliminate the Hawaiian Homes Receipt Fund, as this fund is mandated by federal law, specifically the Hawaiian Houses Commission Act.

Luke said lawmakers included the provision after the state auditor recommended that the fund be cut. She asked, in remarks to the House, that the state auditor consider whether the disposal of funds would violate federal law when he makes such a recommendation in the future.

Lawmakers also overturned the governor’s veto on HB 53, which allows the state to issue bonds.

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