The 2019 legislative session ends, sine die on May 2, and any bills that have not been passed by both the House and the Senate by this date will be dead (for real this time but not really).
Like most of the rules and statements made about the legislative process, this of course is not entirely true.
First of all, 2019 is only the first year of a two-year “biennial” session. This means that ALL bills, unless explicitly voted down (which almost never happens), are technically alive through and until the end of the 2020 session.
All of the 2019 bills remain frozen at whatever place in the process they ended up on May 2, and in theory can be revived during the 2020 session and begin again at that point in the process.
Typically however, legislators prefer to start with a clean slate and will reintroduce bills the following year rather than use old measures that stalled in the first year of the biennium. But this is not required and if they so choose, bills that are in conference or in their final committee, may be revived and passed without enduring the entire House/Senate journey again.
It is also not entirely true that the deadline to pass bills is May 2. The reality is that most or all bills must clear the Conference Committee process by this Friday. This is necessary so that they can then proceed to their final floor votes, with the required 48-hour notice.
For those following HB1326 HD2 (corporate water theft), April 30 appears to be the very last possible day it could be “pulled out of committee” and put to a floor vote in the Senate. If that should happen, the Senate would then have to vote again on the same bill on May 2. I believe it is unlikely that this will occur and numerous senators have stated publicly that there is no interest or intent to revive this bill.
If the Senate backtracks, and decides behind closed doors to pull a last-minute surprise maneuver such as this, you can be sure fireworks will ensue on both dates.
For now, this time is mostly a wait and see game as the Conference Committee process plays out.
For the serious advocate however, this is not a time for complacency but rather a time to pour it on. You can assume “the other side” is doing the same — walking the halls, sending the email and making those all important phone calls.
As to who to call and email, it is always YOUR district senator and YOUR district representative — first!
Then, locate and contact the members of the Conference Committee as well by plugging in the bill number at capitol.hawaii.gov
As I have said repeatedly, your voice matters especially to the senator and representative who is elected to serve you and your district.
Please get involved and take ownership of your government.
And stay tuned. Next week’s column will include a summary report of bills passed and not — as by Tuesday afternoon, April 30, it should all be over (unless of course the Senate goes crazy and decides to try to pass HB1326).
Oh, I almost got to mention one final “wild card”.
The governor could, if he thought the issue important enough — call the Legislature back immediately into a special session and ask them to deal with any issue he might believe rises to a high level of importance.
First published on April 24, 2019 in The Garden Island Newspaper “Policy and Politics” column.