Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Revisor of Statutes

What happens when the legislature passes two different bills that may contradict each other? With the hundreds of bills passed each year, and countless versions of those bills in play throughout the session, it's bound to happen.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports on technical problems with two tobacco-related bills, HB895, a bill to increase the tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes, and HB1175, a bill to increase the tax on cigarettes. Story here.

Lingle said the new law on so-called "little cigars and existing tobacco law are
in conflict, resulting in the state tobacco tax on cigarettes being raised to 14
cents per cigarette now and then dropped to 12 cents on Sept. 30."

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Finance Committee chairman, said the mistaken tax holiday cannot be corrected, but the cigarette tax switch can be handled by the legislative
revisor of statues.

The revisor, who is employed by the Legislative Reference Bureau, will be
able to blend the two bills together to preserve the Legislature's intent to
raise the tax on all tobacco products, said Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho).

The tax increase is an important part of the Legislature's plan to
balance the state budget and is estimated to bring in an extra $22 million a
year. Oshiro warned that the Tax Department is expected to "enforce the law of
the land."

But Linda Smith, Lingle's senior policy adviser, said they
are asking the attorney general for guidance because they think the law is

"The way we read it, you have to raise the tax and then lower
it," Smith said yesterday in an interview.

Lowell Kalapa, executive director of the independent Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said he doubts that the revisor of statues has the power to put the bills together. Kalapa says that HB 895, the last bill passed, is the one that governs and leaves the cigarette tax at the old rate.

To the rescue is the Revisor of Statutes, a function of the Office of the Legislative Reference Bureau. The Revisor of Statutes is responsible for statute revision and publication of session laws, supplements and replacement volumes.

According to Section 23G-15 (9) HRS, the Revisor of Statutes may:

"Make such other changes in any act incorporated in the suppelments and replacement volumes as shall be necessary to conform the style thereof as near as may be with that of the last revision of the laws of Hawaii; provided that in making the revision, the revisor shall not alter the sense, meaning, or effect of any act."

1 comment:

Doug said...

Wha, what is this "to the rescue" business?

The revisor of statutes would be "altering the effect" of BOTH acts if there was an attempt to "blend" them together. Let us keep the branches of government at a total of three, please.