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Some bills die as Legislature nears its close

April 29, 2014
By SAM EIFLING , The Associated Press

HONOLULU - The flameout of a bill that could have drastically reshaped Honolulu's Kakaako neighborhood was among the most prominent casualties of a conference committee period that snuffed several bills close to becoming laws.

Under SB 3122, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs would be allowed to pursue development of residential towers on its lands near the Pacific Ocean waterfront. Those parcels - conveyed from the state to the agency in 2012 to settle a claim over ceded lands - would be worth some $200 million without development restrictions. The agency had sought to build in order to fund programs and services for Native Hawaiians.

A flurry of last-minute negotiations, with offers and counteroffers from members of the House and the Senate, coalesced as a logjam right before the April 25 conference deadline. The bill stalled and like so many others won't reach Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Its supporters will have to wait until January to begin the process anew, if lawmakers decide to revive its contents next year. This session ends Thursday.

When both chambers pass a bill, House and Senate lawmakers have only a few days in which to resolve any differences in their respective versions. Sometimes, they don't agree or don't meet, leaving bills to languish. Other bills that met a similar fate include:

* Early childhood education. A bill (HB 2276) that would have established a statewide education program for 3- and 4-year-old kids kept getting booted through committees until the deadline. Lawmakers might have put it off knowing the subject will get a public vote anyway. Senate Bill 1084, passed in 2013, will put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall that would publicly fund early childhood education programs.

* Eating pets. After SB 2026 cleared both chambers, the days of legally eating cats and dogs in Hawaii appeared numbered. But after receiving the bill from the House, the Senate disapproved of amendments that the larger chamber made. Slated for a Senate committee, the bill was never scheduled.

* Outdoors liability. Rock climbers and other outdoors enthusiasts were thrilled when SB 1007 passed the Senate. The bill would limit users' ability to sue the state if they got hurt in undeveloped state lands, and thus permit the state to reopen some of its wilder areas that have been closed for safety concerns.

Then Rep. Sylvia Luke, D-Maikiki, gutted the bill in her House Finance Committee, and although the bill passed the House, it thereafter differed drastically from the Senate original. The bill was scheduled for a conference near the deadline. Then House leaders discharged their assigned committee members a day before they were to meet to hammer out the differences.

* Electronic cigarettes. A pair of bills that aimed to discourage smoking fizzled. SB 2475 would have regulated and taxed electronic cigarettes - and restricted their use in public spaces - much like traditional cigarettes. And SB 2496 would have added an unspecified excise tax on tobacco, to be directed toward cancer research. Neither was taken up in conference committee.



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