Conference committee is when members of the House and Senate meet to work out differences between bills that passed out of both chambers and were amended by the non-originating chamber. Leadership from both chambers agreed to a 6 p.m. deadline on April 25 for bills to pass out of their assigned conference committees. Bills that didn't pass out by then did not advance for voting on final reading.
In addition to the limited time to get bills passed, a major reason for bills stalling and dying at this point was the state budget. Near the deadline, members of other conference committees converged into the room where the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means Committees held their hearings, awaiting budget approval and time to vote for the passage of their bills. It's at this point that many bills, including important bills with broad support, stop advancing through the Legislature.
With plenty of community input, I passed two tax relief bills through the House and the Senate. HB2370 would have make it easier for taxpayers to pay late tax payments by changing how those payments are divided towards what they owe. HB2371 was a comprehensive tax relief bill for the working poor, which created credits and improved the benefits of existing credits that have not been amended in several years. Both moved further than similar measures moved in the past. Though both bills stalled in the final days of session due to a sudden downturn in our state’s revenue, with HB2371 lasting until the last day of the conference committee hearings, proponents are optimistic that next session they’ll move even further.
One of the most encouraging comments made on my bill, HB 2371, came from the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. In testimony, they said, “HB 2371 represents a straightforward, common sense, and comprehensive approach ... It provides desperately needed relief and support to help ensure that the American dream can be attained by those who strive for it, and kept by those who have it.” Like me, they hope to pursue passage of this important bill next year.