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State lawmakers adjourn but hint of special session

 The state House and Senate adjourned today after understated floor sessions to complete work on a handful of bills, but several lawmakers hinted they might have to return this summer for unfinished business.

The House gave final approval to a bill that would reduce benefits for future public workers and make other structural changes to the state Employees’ Retirement System, which is projecting a $7.1 billion unfunded liability. The bill, which now goes to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, could be one of the most important of the 60-day session if it contains retirement costs over the next generation.

The House also voted to extend 5 percent pay cuts for lawmakers, the governor, the lieutenant governor, department directors and judges that were scheduled to expire in June. The pay cuts would be extended through December 2013, but lawmakers acknowledged that there are potential legal flaws in the bill that need to be fixed.

Abercrombie could call lawmakers into special session, or House and Senate leaders could decide to ask lawmakers to come back on their own, if the Council on Revenues significantly reduces the revenue forecast later this month and puts the budget out of balance.

House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) said that if lawmakers do return, they could also take up several bills that failed to make a procedural deadline for negotiations last Friday, including legislation to pay legal claims against the state, cover state security costs for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference this fall and allow the University of Hawaii medical school to use tobacco settlement money to fund operations.

“It could be a combination of all,” Say told reporters of the reasons for a potential special session.

Other lawmakers want the House and Senate to use a special session or the interim before the next session in January to consider tax credits for digital media and film productions and a Waikiki casino to help grow the state’s economy.

Abercrombie — who signed a bill into law today giving homeowners more protection in mortgage foreclosures, one of the more significant bills this session — said the Council on Revenues forecast could help determine whether a special session is necessary.

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