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Ige signs bills on Front Street housing lease, domestic violence

Governor opts to veto five measures

The Maui News

Gov. David Ige has signed a bill that would extend the deadline for the state housing agency to work out a lease for the Front Street Apartments, a housing project in Lahaina that lawmakers have fought to keep affordable.

House Bill 1929 gives the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. until Dec. 31, 2021 to renegotiate or issue a new ground lease with the apartment’s owners, who sought to raise rents to market rates.

The state bought the land under the apartments last year and has the power to acquire the project by eminent domain unless it is able to hammer out a lease by the new deadline.

The bill was introduced by Maui Reps. Kyle Yamashita, Troy Hashimoto, Angus McKelvey and Justin Woodson, and Oahu Rep. Tom Brower.

Ige also signed a bill that would create a pilot program to test self-driving vehicles. House Bill 2590, now Act 21, allows the state to test automated driving technology to ensure public roads are as safe as possible for automated vehicle deployment, according to a news release from the state House of Representatives. It also requires reports on the project to be given to the Legislature.

The bill aims to reduce the severity and number of crashes, pointing out that most fatalities on the road are due to human error, while helping consumers save time and money, reduce pollution and expand mobility for individuals with disabilities.

The governor also signed a number of measures focusing on sexual harassment in the workplace and domestic violence. Some were part of a package presented by the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus, a bipartisan group of all the female members in the Legislature whose co-convenors include West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker.

One of the proposals in the caucus package was House Bill 2060, now Act 18, which allows Family Courts to seal any record of a denied temporary restraining order or protective order while keeping them available to law enforcement. Domestic violence perpetrators often file TROs against victims as a way of retaliation or intimidation, and even if the request is denied, the victim will have it on their record, making it difficult to apply for jobs or housing. With those records sealed, survivors would have a chance at a new start, according to a House news release.

Another measure from the package, House Bill 2054, now Act 17, prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to enter into a nondisclosure agreement related to sexual harassment or assault and outlaws retaliation against an employee for disclosing sexual harassment or assault.

Ige also signed Senate Bill 2638, now Act 19, which helps to ease court congestion of domestic violence cases. The bill ensures consequences for offenders by establishing a petty misdemeanor offense of abuse of family or household members and allowing a deferred acceptance of guilty plea for misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor abuse so long as the defendant completes domestic violence intervention programs. Ige had planned to veto the bill but changed his mind after caucus and community members advocated for it.

He vetoed five bills, including:

• House Bill 1523, which provided CARES Act funding to the state Department of Education to purchase devices for schools with 50 percent or more of students qualifying for free or reduced price lunch. Ige said that the bill was not necessary because he had already provided the DOE discretionary funding to do so without limitation on the eligible schools.

• House Bill 1846, which required all state facilities of 10,000 square feet or more (not including Aloha Stadium) to implement all cost-effective energy efficiency measures by 2024. It also tasked the State Energy Office with collecting and publicizing utility bill and energy usage data for state-owned facilities each month and called for all new state buildings to be energy efficient. Ige said the bill created an unnecessary risk of litigation and that the state is already implementing the energy efficiency changes that the bill addresses.

• House Bill 2124, which amended the State Ethics Code to prohibit the governor, lieutenant governor and other high-level government officials from representing any person or business for a fee or other compensation regarding any legislative or administrative action for 12 months after termination from their respective position. Ige said that most boards and commissions listed in the bill have members who serve voluntarily without compensation and that the measure would subject them to additional restrictions, potentially impact their regular jobs and make it more challenging to recruit people to serve.

• Senate Bill 2206, which authorized the Board of Land and Natural Resources to issue revocable permits for emergency sheltering of homeless people on state lands. Ige said the bill could expose the state to liability and potential costs for eviction enforcement and removal of abandoned structures.

• Senate Bill 2523, which required the Department of Public Safety to expend certain funds during fiscal year 2020-21 for the community-based work furlough program for female inmates. Ige said payments for the furlough program are made throughout the fiscal year rather than in an up-front, lump-sum payment and that the bill would hinder other expenditures from the department.

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