KAILUA-KONA — Gov. David Ige took the podium, spending around 10 minutes directly addressing a few of the 13 measures he chose to veto on Tuesday’s deadline for such action.
Among the bills Ige roadblocked was House Bill 1240, which would have eventually regulated the aquarium fishing industry out of existence. The legislation is particularly relevant to West Hawaii, where the majority of aquarium fish in the state are caught.
Ige promised to revisit the issue next session, but has asserted, in step with comments from officials at the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, that science and research point to current management strategies being implemented in West Hawaii as effective.
Thus, phasing the industry out is unnecessary, though all have acknowledged more management measures could be undertaken.
“There are a number of initiatives that we will discuss with the advocates concerning this aquarium fisheries issue, including limited entry permits, expanding fishery replenishment areas … setting caps on the number of permits, addressing catch limits and establishing permit fees as appropriate,” Ige said Tuesday.
The Humane Society of the United States, which lobbied for the bill, promised in a release Tuesday to continue fighting on the measure’s behalf.
Ige said his office has already made contact with stakeholders to set up discussions that will begin well before the start of next year’s legislative session.
The governor also addressed Senate Bill 562, concerning tort liability. Ige vetoed the measure that would have required the Attorney General to “defend any civil action or proceeding brought in any county, based on any negligent or wrongful act or omission of a lifeguard who provides lifeguard services at a state beach park.”
Ige explained his veto, saying the language of the bill was too broad, requiring the Attorney General to mount a defense in response to any civil action “without exception.”
Lifeguards across all counties have for years been afforded limited liability protection from lawsuits, a key component to ensuring the presence of lifeguards on popular state beaches around Hawaii.
That protection lapsed on June 30, giving rise to fears that some counties will abandon lifeguard services at state beach parks because the lack of limited liability protection opens counties up to potential civil penalties.
The governor said he was “confident” an agreement between the state and counties would be reached, adding that “we’ll be back next year.”
The final vetoed measure Ige addressed by name Tuesday was Senate Bill 410, concerning collective bargaining. The legislation would have broadened the scope of negotiable terms in collective bargaining deals between public employers and their employees.
The measure would create too much of an imbalance in future negotiations, Ige explained.
“This bill directly impacts the ability of state departments to effectively manage (their) workforces by impacting management rights and the ability to direct the workforce,” he said.
Ige’s initial veto list noted 15 measures the governor considered vetoing. He axed only 13 on Tuesday. One he chose neither to sign nor veto, allowing it to become law without his signature, was House Bill 575, concerning public lands.
Introduced by Hilo Rep. Mark Nakashima, the bill creates a process by which businesses can re-lease or renegotiate a lease of public lands for commercial or industrial purposes and also allows the DLNR to extend leases to schools or government entities “without recourse to auction.”
Nakashima contends in the language of the bill that the 65-year lease limits, which have traditionally come without the chance to renew the initial terms of the lease, left longstanding businesses in tough positions as the leases neared the end of their duration periods.
Another consequence the bill asserts is that the paradigm de-incentivized lessees from improving their leased properties in the final years of the lease.
“It has been a big issue on Hawaii Island, and although I believe that there are legal issues with the measure, I decided to allow it to become law without my signature,” Ige said. “I know that it is a complex, challenging issue about what happens for lessees at the end of their leases, and we’ll continue to work with the lessees and the department to implement this law.”
The governor said the constitutional concerns involve single-purpose legislation and special-purpose legislation, which were explained by the Attorney General in testimony given last session on HB575. He also vetoed a bill that would have allowed for tiny houses on agricultural land.