Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 4:33 a.m., Sunday, May 6, 2007

Only 1 in 10 bills made it through state Legislature

Associated Press Writer

HONOLULU (AP) — Longshot ideas like legalized prostitution, public funding of elections and concealed weapons permits never had much of a chance of becoming law in Hawaii this year.

Neither did thousands of other bills, including proposals to allow smoking in bars, crack down on real estate speculation and give residents deep tax cuts.

"There's some pretty crazy bills out there," said Majority Leader Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kauai-Niihau, whose own push to require solar water heaters for all new homes also failed. "Ultimately, the good stuff rises to the top. Sometimes it takes a while."

Every lawmaker, interest group, lobbyist, major company and concerned citizen at the Capitol had their pet projects that they wanted made into law this session, but few made it through.

Out of 3,962 bills introduced in the session that ended last week, 328 passed both the House and Senate by the time the Legislature adjourned Thursday — fewer than one in 12.

Lawmakers also killed several traffic measures that would have sought to reduce dangers on island roadways by installing traffic cameras to catch people who run red lights and prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving without a headset.

"The decorum of the roadways has plummeted," said Rep. Gene Ward, R-Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai. "You see people around you doing stupid things, and then you see they're talking on their cell phone."

Many of these bills received a hearing or two in committees before they stalled out without getting a vote from the full Senate or House.

Even big ideas that had broad support, such as the Senate majority's sustainability package, failed to move forward. Some of those bills sought to ease roadblocks to building environmentally friendly communities, encourage recycling and help developers who plan for open space.

Legislation backed by Gov. Linda Lingle also didn't make it, including a $100 million fund to invest in emerging Hawaii companies and a state version of the earned income tax credit for low income working families.

The bills that finally become law are usually the ones that have gone through a long process of debate, often for months or years before they ever get a vote, said Rep. John Mizuno, D-Alewa Heights-Kalihi.

"By the time you see the end result, it's gone through nine, 10 or 11 months of close review," he said.

Many contentious or potentially costly bills were defeated, including those seeking to stop the Hawaii Superferry from entering service, requiring the Hawaiian language to be used in public documents and raising the standard deduction on state income taxes.

Social issues like the establishment of civil unions as an alternative to gay marriage, death with dignity and tort reform also never caught on.

After some of the governor's innovation ideas got cut and Democrats overrode several of her vetoes, Rep. Barbara Marumoto, R-Kalani Valley-Diamond Head, said she was glad for a break.

"I feel all beat up," she said.