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State Legislative Leaders on Overriding Gov. Ige's Vetoes, Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Funding

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Hawai‘i State Legislature
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Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki

State lawmakers last week passed amendments to several bills as requested by Gov. David Ige and overrode a handful of his vetoes, including one that overhauls how the state funds the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) and allocates tourism tax revenue to the four counties.

The Conversation spoke with Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki about why they pushed back on Ige’s vetoes and what issues they wanted to address in the next legislative session.

"It's all part of the process and while the legislature has rarely exercised veto overrides, you know, it's something that we can do," Kouchi said. "There isn't any kind of risk between the governor and myself, but certainly members of my caucus and on the House side have worked hard on these measures.

"This time with the amount he had on his list, we wound up with five that the members felt should take effect. We overrode the veto—a sixth one was just technically done," he said. "At this point, the democracy is working. But it's not about any kind of risk with the governor."

With the override of Ige's veto on restructuring tourism funding and the HTA, the HTA will now be required to get support from lawmakers for its budget like other state agencies. This will require the agency to be more forthcoming with its strategic plans and force more communication between the agency and lawmakers, Sen. Bennette Misalucha said previously.

Ige has said he was concerned that the measure would damage the agency’s ability to shift beyond marketing Hawai‘i to travelers to instead better manage tourists who come to the islands.

Saiki said the HTA was created around 25 years ago with marketing as its main purpose, and now it's perhaps a good time to reassess its role in the tourism industry.

"I'm not sure if that is what it is today. One of the fundamental questions about HTA is whether or not HTA's role is to be an advocate for the tourism industry. Because if it is, I think that should be made clear," Saiki said. "Because it's difficult for us to get try to get concessions from HTA if they feel that their role is really just to be an advocate for the tourism industry.

"It needs to help us manage the kinds of impacts that you're now seeing and that the public is growing more and more frustrated with," he said.

This segment aired on The Conversation on July 12, 2021.

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