By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER
HONOLULU — Hawaii senators have voted to move forward a slew of bills including budgets for the judiciary and Office of Hawaiian Affairs, election reforms and a more restricted shield law for journalists.
The Senate versions of the judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs budgets are more generous than the House proposals. Lawmakers plan to work out the details in conference committees, when lawmakers from both chambers meet to compromise on bills.
Tuesday’s marathon of votes comes just two days before a major deadline in the legislative process. By Thursday, both chambers have to vote on bills and decide whether they should be discussed further in conference committees or move forward without more debate.
Several of the bills approved Tuesday were met with opposition from the 25-person Senate’s only Republican, Sam Slom.
Slom opposed a bill to require hospital emergency rooms to provide emergency contraception to sexual assault victims, as well as a measure to have same-day voter registration.
He also opposed a measure that would allow the Department of Health to investigate and stop bird feeding that is a nuisance.
“Are we really going to talk about bird poop? I mean really?” he asked, saying that the matter was a personal one that neighborhood boards can address.
Slom was joined by eight other senators, including Laura Thielen, Glenn Wakai and Russell Ruderman, in opposing a bill that would require people who buy businesses with more than 100 employees to keep them employed, with some exceptions.
Opponents say the bill would discourage business in Hawaii, but proponents say that it could help save jobs.
Another measure that evoked debate was a bill to extend and limit the state’s shield law, which protects journalists from disclosing their sources and notes unless they’re needed in a felony investigation or defamation case.
The Senate approved a version that would make Hawaii journalists more vulnerable to subpoenas. Among other changes, the bill’s definitions require newspapers to be printed and have paid circulation. Opponents of the amendments say the bill ignores the realities of 21st century news media.
Slom and Sen. Les Ihara voted for the bill with reservations. Thielen voted against it.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Clayton Hee defended the changes, saying “so-called journalists” have been making “self-serving comments” about the proposal. He recited language from a Supreme Court case about the issue.