House bill pins state agencies against the state employee's union

House bill pins state agencies against the state employee's union
Published: Feb. 29, 2016 at 5:53 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 29, 2016 at 10:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A House Bill that has been sailing through the Finance Committee is pinning state agencies against the HGEA, the union for state employees.

House Bill 2008 would get rid of temporary, 89-day hires after two terms, or 6 months. Currently, the 89-day hire can be renewed indefinitely.

Many state and county agencies hire the temps and dozens of departments have submitted testimony opposing HB 2008.  If it becomes law, the Attorney General's office would be the hardest hit.  Of the 50 investigators there, 43 are temporary, 89-day hires.  Many are retired police detectives who repeatedly take the positions because it allows them to still collect their county pensions.

"You lose all that talent," says former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, who opposes HB 2008, "They're the most elite of the police departments and they (are paid) virtually nothing, You'll be lucky if you can hire mall cops."  Carlisle says the practice says millions because the state doesn't have to pay health insurance or other benefits.

The bill has passed both readings in the House Finance Committee.  Representatives James Tokioka and Romy Cachola are on the committee.  Both voted in favor or the bill even though both were investigated for campaign finance violations by the same Attorney General investigators.

Tokioka would not comment on camera but told me off camera, that his support of the bill has nothing to do with the misdemeanor that was resolved last year.

Cachola was not available for comment.

Representative Jarrett Keohokalole -- who also voted in favor -- says the bill is not about revenge, but reform.

"We have already budgeted funds for these permanent positions and the agencies aren't hiring them," says Keohokalole, "We have agencies not utilizing the money to hire permanent people, instead they're circumventing the civil service system."

Despite the dozens of letters against the bill that the Finance Committee received, there were two agencies supporting the bill: Labor unions UPW and HGEA -- which represents permanent state employees.

"The way the 89-day hire was created was to fill gaps," says HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira, who says the practice instead is used to bypass the system and allows the temporary employees to collect another pay check on top of the pension.  Perreira says there are many temporary hires who want permanent jobs and health benefits and the state agencies instead use the temporary positions to take advantage of those workers instead.  He also says that while it may save state money because they are not paying benefits, the county still does.

House Bill 2008 still needs to be approved by the full House, before going through the same process in the Senate.

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