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Ige right to veto bill OK’d via ‘gut and replace’

Gov. David Ige doesn’t always get it right — who among us does?

For example, his “intent to veto” SB3089, which would reform the state’s emergency-management statute, is off the mark.

But he definitely made the right call in announcing his intent to veto HB1147, which would restore funding to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Unfortunately, he didn’t do that because he opposes subsidies to private industries, but rather because the bill was approved by the Legislature via the unconstitutional practice of “gut and replace.”

As described by reporters Allison Schaefers and Andrew Gomes in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the measure sent to Ige by the Legislature was “an eleventh-­hour solution that state legislators cobbled together at the end of the session to save the agency’s $60 million annual budget.”

According to their article: “HB 1147 originally started out as a capital improvements project bill in 2021, but this year lawmakers removed the projects and replaced them with operating appropriations for HTA, the Hawai‘i Convention Center special fund, the State Office of Planning and Sustainable Development, and the University of Hawaii. The move was done without public input.”

Ige noted on his official website that because “operating appropriations for various state agencies for FY23 were inserted without public input … the amendment of the bill in conference could be subject to constitutional challenge for making a non-germane amendment to the bill (‘gut and replace’) without allowing an opportunity for the Legislature or the public to sufficiently consider the bill.”

As quoted in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Ige spoke more plainly: “As much as I supported HB 1147, I felt that it was clearly a violation of the League of Women Voters case. I think it’s a pretty slam dunk that if someone sued, we would lose.”

Keli‘i Akina, institute president and CEO, agreed with the governor.

“This bill has ‘lawsuit’ written all over it,” he said in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I commend Gov. Ige for vetoing this bill, which was illegally gutted and replaced.”

Meanwhile, the governor said he is still looking at “other ways we can continue to support HTA operations without the risk of a court challenge,” which is too bad. As Akina said, “There is no need to fund the Hawaii Tourism Authority at all, since the industry is more than capable of paying for its own marketing.”

However, the veto — so far as it shows respect for the state Supreme Court’s ruling against “gut and replace” — is still major a sign of progress.

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