Archive for April, 2012

Finishing touches

April 30th, 2012
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Lawmakers completed work today on 47 bills that were left on the table Friday that appeared to be casualties of the budget stalemate between the House and Senate.


^^Crowd gathers outside Room 309 to await start of today’s conference committee.

Agreements had largely been reached before an internal deadline of 6 p.m. Friday to have work completed on all bills, but many with a financial component were simply awaiting approval from theei respective money committees.

The bills included measures for ambulance service on the Leeward coast, expanded visa programs and travel opportunities to lure international visitors, proposals related to space tourism and a key component of the Abercrombie administration’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

Conferees met at 10 a.m. today and after an hour completed votes on 46 of the 47 measures. The final bill, HB304 (grants-in-aid for public health, welfare and education programs) required a bit more negotiating and was completed by 11:10 a.m.


^^ Lawmakers, staff and other interested parties cram into Room 309.

Lifelines

April 29th, 2012
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State House and Senate leaders have posted 47 bills that will be heard in conference committee on Monday morning under the extended deadline announced early Saturday.

The bills include money for public health, welfare and education, ambulance service on the Leeward coast, and expanded visa programs and travel opportunities to lure international visitors.

The conference committee will meet at 9 a.m. on Monday in Room 309 of the state Capitol. The deadline to reach agreement is 10 a.m.

HB2012 – Deadline Day

April 27th, 2012
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An update on budget negotiations:

House and Senate conferees opened negotiations at 9:20 a.m. to a packed conference room with interested parties waiting on the fate of their bills (above). The chairmen then promptly punted to 4:30 p.m.

Ways and Means Chairman Sen. David Ige repeated the Senate’s desire for an “Economic Accelerator Package” focused around five key areas:

>> $400 million for repair and maintenance projects to spur job growth.
>> Enhancement of film and digital media tax credits to create more local jobs and expand the industry statewide.
>> Investment in tourism with $2 million to expand visa programs and increase opportunities for international visitors.
>>Accelerating partnerships with the rental car industry with $500M in revenue bonds to allow Oahu and Maui facilities to be started as soon as possible.
>> Investment in social safety net programs.

Finance Chairman Rep. Marcus Oshiro noted that the House also was looking at stimulating the economy through a balanced approach.

UPDATE (7:30 p.m.)

Budget negotiators convened at 4:30 p.m. but immediately recessed and are now scheduled to return to the table at 9 p.m. Still awaiting final resolution are the supplemental budget, a bond funding measure (CIP budget) and the Judiciary budget.

Other bills that did not get completed by the self-imposed 6 p.m. deadline may still be brought back before the end of the night.

UPDATE (10:40 p.m.)

Conferees reconvened at 9 p.m. and recessed then reconvened and recessed again at 10:15 p.m. after Oshiro said both sides were still hammering out final language. The committee is scheduled to return at 11:15 p.m.

UPDATE (12:30 a.m.)

The midnight deadline came and went with an announcement from Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Shan Tsutsui that negotiators were unable to reach a final agreement on the supplemental budget by the self-imposed deadline.

Oshiro said the conference committee intends to continue work on three bills and vote on them tonight/this morning: the supplemental budget (HB2012), the Judiciary budget (HB1800) and the general obligation bond declaration (HB1838).

Leadership agreed to suspend the internal rules to allow discussions to continue on various other bills that  had been negotiated today and were awaiting approval of the budget.

Bills that will be given until Monday include fiscal bills that fit within the parameters of the budget, bills that were agreed to in conference but were awaiting FIN/WAM approval when the previous 6 p.m. deadline passed and bills that were completed but not voted on due to lack of quorum at that time.

UPDATE (3:30 a.m.)

As promised, conferees returned before the end of the night (and before dawn) to pass the supplemental budget, the Judiciary budget and the bond declaration bills.

Final passage of the supplemental budget came at precisely 2:59 a.m.

Details were light, with the agreement coming so late, but there was some clarity on an issue that had been a sticking point: the amount of bond financing for capital improvement projects.

The Senate had proposed an ambitious plan of $500 million in CIP spending, while the House had pushed for an amount closer to $300 million. In the end, the conferees decided on $428 millions with $250 million of that to go toward repair and maintenance projects.

“We went above what the House and governor had originally agreed upon,” Oshiro said. “The Senate also came down from their original request for $500 million.”

Ige ended the conference committee at exactly 3 a.m.with the line of the night:

HB 2012 — Day 6

April 27th, 2012
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Unable to reach an agreement over state construction spending, state House and Senate negotiators will reconvene at 9:20 a.m. Friday on the supplemental state budget.

If a deal happens Friday morning, lawmakers will only have several hours to negotiate dozens of other bills that have been put on hold because of the budget stalemate. If no deal is reached, House and Senate leaders would have to extend internal deadlines.

Friday is the deadline to have bills ready for final votes before session adjourns next week.

Deadline

April 26th, 2012
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Buying more time to work out their differences over state construction spending, state House and Senate negotiators will reconvene conference committee on the supplemental state budget at 9 p.m. on Thursday.

The delay could stall negotiations on dozens of other bills with a finance-related component as a deadline approaches on Friday to have legislation ready for final votes before session adjourns next week.

State Sen. David Ige (D, Aiea-Pearl City), the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, made it clear that the Senate is going to enforce an internal procedural deadline to have most negotiations wrapped up by 6 p.m. on Friday. The Senate took a similar position last session, which resulted in several bills being left on the table.

“From the Senate’s perspective, the 6 p.m. deadline on Friday night is a real deadline from our perspective,” Ige told state Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho), the chairman of the House Finance Committee, at budget talks this morning. “We don’t see anything that’s in conference currently that we would feel compelled to extend the deadline at this time.

“So I think it’s important that we make decisions in a timely manner so we can avoid the logjam at the end.”

“I appreciate that very much,” Oshiro replied.

HB 2012 — Day 5

April 25th, 2012
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Divided over how much money to spend on new bond-financed state construction, state House and Senate negotiators have pushed budget talks until Thursday morning.

The House has preferred the $300 million in new bond-financed state construction recommended by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, while the Senate has called for as much as $500 million for repair and maintenance at public schools, hospitals and other public buildings.

Negotiators have reached consensus on the supplemental budget, but need the capital improvement project plan to close the deal. They are set to reconvene the public portion of the budget talks on Thursday at 10 a.m.

“There’s at least 12 hours or so,” state Sen. David Ige (D, Aiea-Pearl City), the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said Wednesday night.

“The night is still young,” said state Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho), the chairman of the House Finance Committee.

“Yes, I concur,” Ige said.

Afterward, state Sen. Michelle Kidani (D, Mililani-Waipio), who oversees state construction for the Senate, said senators believe in a larger investment in the CIP plan to address the state’s repair and maintenance backlog.

“Our biggest concern is to put out a substantial number for repair and maintenance,” she said. “That’s what’s needed.”

The House has been reluctant to take on significant new debt while there is a substantial amount of state construction already approved and awaiting action.

HB 2012 — Day 4

April 25th, 2012
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House and Senate negotiators moved closer on Tuesday night to completing an $11 billion supplemental state budget for fiscal year 2013. Negotiators agreed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s request for $25 million to help cover an increase in public school bus costs, far less than the state Department of Education has said is needed. Some in the department have warned of massive cuts to bus service.

“The shortfall is still significant,” said Kathryn Matayoshi, the state schools superintendent. She said the department would look at reducing costs or finding money from other parts of the education budget.

Negotiators also agreed to an additional $14 million for the department’s student spending formula to account for an increase in enrollment. Lawmakers described the new money as an investment in the classroom at a time when educators are preparing innovations and reform to improve struggling schools.

Negotiators also signed off on new money for Abercrombie’s justice reinvestment initiative and for information technology. Abercrombie took a seat in the front row of Room 309 at the state Capitol during the public portion of the budget deliberations, a rare appearance for a governor. The governor had privately greeted the negotiators last week before the conference committee opened.

House and Senate leaders said budget talks would resume Wednesday night. Other bills with a finance-related component are on hold until a budget agreement is reached, leaving little time for discussion before Friday’s deadline.

HB 2012 — Day 3

April 23rd, 2012
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State House and Senate negotiators hope to close out the supplemental budget by Tuesday night and empower lawmakers to seek agreements on other finance-related legislation before Friday’s procedural deadline to have bills ready for final votes before session adjourns.

On Monday night, budget negotiators agreed to fund 20 positions in agriculture with general funds instead of special funds, freeing up the special fund money to help combat invasive species. Lawmakers will also use general funds to pay for nine other positions being financed with federal money.

Negotiators agreed to spend $5.2 million in bond and special fund money for Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s watershed protection initiative. The amount is less than Abercrombie wanted but would help launch the initiative.

Narrower

April 20th, 2012
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A proposal aimed at clarifying the state’s civil unions law has been deferred until next week as House and Senate negotiators try to work out differences over a so-called “religious exemption” being sought by the House.

Under language approved by the House, religious organizations, as well as associations, societies and nonprofit groups affiliated with such organizations, “would not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges” related to the solemnization of a civil union.

Facilities would be limited to properties “regularly used for worship or ministry activities in the religious work of the organization.”

House Judiciary Chairman Gil Keith-Agaran said the House was working on a proposed amendment with a “narrower religious exemption.” The intent is to allow the exemption to apply to specific facilities of worship and not property that would remain accessible under the state’s public accommodations law. Senate Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee has pushed for a cleaner “fix” bill with no additional policy implications.

The conference committee for House Bill 2569 is set to resume 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in Capitol Room 325.

Deep impact

April 20th, 2012
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Expanded tax credits for film and television production in Hawaii remain alive – if barely – as the Legislature enters the final week of conference committees next week.

The House has yet to appoint conferees on a number of measures to address the credits. (Those include: House Bills 13082869 and 2338; and Senate Bill 3050.)

On Friday, lobbyists for Comcast/NBC Universal Media were circulating results of an independent study showing that tax credits for media production have resulted in a significant return on investment for Hawaii.

Among the findings:

>> Estimated cost of tax credits to state: $20.4 million.
>> Tax revenues from film production: $25.2 million.
>> Direct/indirect jobs created: 3,287.
>> Film & TV expenditure in Hawaii from 2006-11: $210.7 million.
>> Local productions have led to “Film Induced Tourism” resulting in estimated tax revenue of $62.3 million and 8,900 direct/indirect new jobs.
>> A return on investment for Hawaii of 4:1.

From the report’s executive summary:

“Hawaii’s film and television production industry is an important contributor to the state economy through the creation of jobs and the generation of income tax and tax revenues. In addition, film and television production in Hawaii contributes to the visitor industry through the worldwide exposure of these productions.”

The 63-page report was prepared for the Motion Picture Association of America by the consulting firm of MNP LLP.