Gov. Ige plans to veto sex trafficking bill

Governor David Ige released his "intent to veto" list Monday and of the 252 bills passed by state lawmakers this legislative session, only eight won't become law.

A bill that would have changed the definition of prostitution to "sex trafficking" was rejected by the Governor over concerns it would create loopholes that would make it more difficult to punish pimps and could further victimize minors.

Instead, Ige asked the attorney general and three out of the four county prosecutors who opposed the measure to work together on a stronger law.

"To see if we can come up with something that is more comprehensive and rather than open loopholes would really allow us to prosecute sex trafficking more aggressively," said Ige.

Notably absent from the Governor's veto list is a bill allowing for a tax increase to fund HART's Honolulu rail by extending the half-percent excise tax five more years and allowing counties to impose a similar surcharge.

"It's clear HART is short in terms of the funds required for that first segment and the measure does assure adequate funds," said Ige, adding he supports completion of this first phase of the project.

Ige says recent reports indicating property taxes would have needed to increase by an estimated 6% and not the 30% Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell initially claimed while lobbying for the extension could keep him from signing it, but wasn't enough to warrant a veto. The tax extension still needs approval by the city council.

Another bill that may pass without his signature is the creation of 16 medical marijuana dispensaries.

"There's some concerns about the adequacy of the funds provided and the aggressive time line," said Ige. "I'm committed to implementing the law in the best way that we can."

Other bill the governor intends to veto include one that would have given the University of Hawai'i autonomy to manage its finances and another that would have raised the threshold for felony theft from $300 to $750.

Governor Ige has until July 14 to take action.

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