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Marathon sessions starting as legislative deadline looms

By Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:56 a.m. HST, Apr 07, 2014



Hawaii lawmakers are preparing for an onslaught of bills to move through their chambers this week, in advance of a legislative deadline to pass bills out of the second chamber.

Tuesday will be a long day, and the House session is expected to start early and last for hours. Proposals on lifeguards, animal cruelty, tanning, unlicensed contractors and sewer systems are still alive, at least for now.

For the most part, bills that haven't passed by the end of Thursday are in trouble.

Here are four more things the lawmakers will tackle this week:

» Health hazards. On Wednesday an investigative committee will hear testimony about workplace safety of psychiatric workers at Hawaii State Hospital. They'll hear from administrators who were issued subpoenas after reports of improprieties. Later that day the acting state auditor will share preliminary results of an audit of the troubled Hawaii Health Connector.

» State appointees. There will be a plethora of hearings this week on the governor's appointees to posts that range from the Board of Education to the Commission on Fatherhood.

» Conference committees. Those pesky bills where lawmakers from the different chambers couldn't agree on details will head to conference committees. The meetings where a select few lawmakers from either chamber meet to negotiate their differences will begin popping up this week. Watch the hearing notices, but after the first conference committee on a bill is held, the subsequent meetings are sometimes held quietly.

» State budget. The House and Senate are millions of dollars apart in their budget proposals. That's largely because the state revised revenue projections dramatically after the House passed its version of the budget. Conference committee meet­­ings on the budget may happen later this week.

Meanwhile, the deadline for concurrent resolutions to cross over from the House to the Senate, or vice versa, has come and gone. That meant a flurry of hearings on concurrent resolutions — those requiring passage by both legislative chambers — last week. More than 100 such resolutions survived crossover, while many others are now formally dead.

Here are four sets of concurrent resolutions worth noting:

» Veterans benefits. A pair of resolutions passed that aim to secure benefits to groups of veterans who claim to have been poisoned as a result of U.S. military action in Asia. SCR 84 urges the U.S. Congress to restore Agent Orange-related benefits to Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the defoliant while they were on boats or in planes in combat zones. And HCR 247 calls on the federal government to recognize as Atomic Veterans those who helped to clean up nuclear test sites in the Marshall Islands from 1977 to 1980, who now suffer from radiation-related sickness.

» Medical marijuana. This has been a rough legislative session for proponents of easing marijuana restric­tions or for expanding access to prescription for pot. The House, though, moved two measures aimed at addressing Hawaii's medical marijuana policies. HCR 74 would ask the auditor to do a review of the market that would arise if dispensaries were legalized (as would have happened under a House bill, HB 1587, that failed this session). And HCR 48 would convene a task force to make recommendations on a dispensary system by Sept. 1.

» Ocean regulation. Two measures look promising for threatened ocean creatures. HCR 229 requests a Department of Land and Natural Resources study on how best to manage the delicious opihi, while HCR 170 urges the agency to develop rules on how to keep manta rays and visitors safe at dive sites. A third ocean-related measure has drawn scrutiny from environmental groups. HCR 65 would establish a task force to develop rules on managing oceanic resources — but with members selected by the governor and legislative leaders, not necessarily drawn from scientific backgrounds.

» Student fees. The Senate is not impressed with the deficits the University of Hawaii sports programs have racked up. SCR 38 urges the university not to raise student fees to balance that budget, noting that students already pay $50 apiece for athletics fees each semester and generally aren't stoked enough about football to actually attend games.

» The casualties. It's sometimes telling to see which measures didn't pass. Concurrent resolutions that have died include measures that would have encouraged the Department of Land and Natural Resources to train its employees in Hawaiian language and culture, and that would have urged the Department of Education to forgo using pesticides and herbicides on any school property.

Cannabis also lost out, when measures withered that would have pushed for an industrial hemp advisory board and requested the federal government to consider removing marijuana from the list of Schedule I controlled substances.

Also gone is a measure that would have pushed for annual inspections and registrations of mopeds.

Cathy Bussewitz and Sam Eifling, Associated Press






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