Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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Governor signals veto of health, other bills

By Derrick DePledge


Gov. Neil Abercrombie informed state House and Senate leaders Monday that he might veto nearly two dozen bills, including a bill intended to protect the state's landmark Prepaid Health Care Act.

Lawmakers agreed to delete a provision that terminates the Prepaid Health Care Act on the effective date of federal legislation that is as good or better than the 1974 state law. The state law requires businesses to provide health insurance to employees who work 20 hours a week or more, which has put Hawaii among the national leaders in health insurance coverage.

Some lawmakers are worried that the federal health care reform law approved by President Barack Obama and Congress could trigger the termination provision in the Prepaid Health Care Act, although most health care experts do not believe the federal law is superior to the state law because it does not include a mandate that businesses provide health insurance to workers.

Abercrombie, according to a statement, placed the bill on the potential veto list because he believes it could have unintended consequences for the federal waiver that Hawaii received in order to implement the state law.

Under the state Constitution, the governor must inform lawmakers of potential vetoes of bills passed near the end of session 10 working days before the veto deadline, which this year is on July 12.

Lawmakers have the option of holding a one-day veto override session. Two-thirds' votes in both the House and Senate are required to override vetoes.

"With the input from many concerned citizens, I have put forward a list of bills that I am considering vetoing," Abercrombie said in a statement. "Some of these measures will not work as they are written, despite their good intentions.

"Many others create additional work for our departments without any funding sources to carry them through. In these austere times, state agencies simply do not have the capacity to implement unfunded mandates that are not high priorities of our administration."

Abercrombie had said during his campaign last year and after he took office in December that he would keep vetoes to an "absolute minimum." The Democratic governor said he would work with majority Demo­crats at the Legislature to fix problems before bills were passed, and described vetoes as breakdowns in communication.

The governor has vetoed two bills so far and put 23 on his potential veto list on Monday. Former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, issued 50 vetoes after her first session in 2003. Six were overridden. Lawmakers had previously only overridden one bill — an age of consent bill vetoed by Gov. Ben Cayetano in 2001 — since statehood.

Among the bills on Abercrombie's list are measures to require online voter registration by 2014, provide incentives for designating important agricultural land, and identify the felony crimes that trigger mandatory minimum prison terms under the repeat offender law.

Abercrombie said lawmakers did not provide the estimated $2.5 million cost for online voter registration. He said there are not enough oversight mechanisms in the important agricultural lands bill.

State Senate President Shan Tsutsui (D, Wailuku-Kahului) described the chances for an override session as "somewhat slim" after his initial review of the list. House Democrats are expected to meet in private caucus next week to discuss the list.

A full list of potential vetoes is available at

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