Since the legislative session ended on May 1st, my Administration has been analyzing more than 200 bills that were approved by the State Legislature. As Governor, I have until July 8 to sign the bills into law, veto them or let them become law without my signature. We encourage Big Island residents to provide input on the bills during this comprehensive review process by e-mailing my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though some of the initiatives we introduced moved forward, including bills to develop Hawai‘i’s energy independence and protect our natural resources, overall the legislative session was lackluster.
The Legislature should have approved major investments for affordable housing and homeless programs and done more to further long-overdue medical malpractice reform, but instead chose to sustain the status quo. In opposing the agreement reached between the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs concerning ceded land revenues, the Legislature also turned down an opportunity to permanently resolve a 25-year dispute with a fair settlement that serves the long-term interest of native Hawaiians and all the people of Hawai‘i.
Another major disappointment was the decision by Senators Russell Kokubun and Jill Tokuda to block modernization of the Bureau of Conveyances. Hawai‘i residents will now have to wait another year before they can access the Bureau of Conveyances online. This is a particular inconvenience for people on the Big Island and other neighbor islands, who must continue to file real estate records by mail or in person in Honolulu.
In dealing with our state’s moderated economic growth, the Legislature took a cookie-cutter approach to our budget and made the unfortunate decision of setting aside $22 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds for “a rainy day.” With welfare cases decreasing, we should continue to build on the progress we have made in increasing self-sufficiency by putting every federal dollar to work for us and investing in prevention and work programs. Instead, this money will most likely sit idle.
On a more positive note, the Legislature did support proposals my Administration set forth to protect our environment. These include bills that increase fines for damaging the environment and encroaching on conservation land, that expedite the removal of grounded vessels, and that save important agricultural lands from urbanization.
I’m also pleased that measures moved forward supporting our state’s Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative. Specifically, the Legislature approved our Administration’s proposal to expedite permitting of renewable energy facilities and to create an energy facilitator position within the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to assist with the permitting process.
I’d like to conclude by thanking all of you who participated in the 2008 legislative session and encouraging you to stay involved. Your input remains critical as we continue to review bills passed by the Legislature over the next few weeks. Please visit my website at www.hawaii.gov/gov to track the detailed results from the 2008 session, including new laws enacted and vetoed bills.
Mahalo nui loa,
Governor Linda Lingle