Hawaii Legislative Watch: Up for debate

Last week, we reviewed proposed bills in the 2013 Hawaii State Legislature that pit residents against government. This week, let’s look at the controversial bills that are spurring lively debate.

Here are 14 hot-button issues in the 2013 Legislative Session. If I’ve missed any important contentious bills, please let me know!

1. Defining marriage: HB1004 defines a marriage as “a relationship only between a man and a woman.” HB1005 defines a marriage as “a legal relationship between two people of the opposite or same sex.” HB1020 and SB1292 reserve marriage to “relationships between one man and one woman.” HB1109 and SB1369 extend to same-sex couples the right to marry and to receive all the same rights, benefits, etc. as opposite-sex couples. Does government have the power to define marriage?

2. Higher minimum wage: HB53 and SB331 increase the minimum wage to $8.25 on 7/1/13 and $8.75 on 7/1/14 and ending 6/30/15, adjusting it according to the Consumer Priced Index (CPI). HB512 increases the minimum wage to $7.75 on 7/1/13 and recalculates it according to the CPI. HB916 and SB1147 increase the minimum wage to $8.75 on 1/1/14 and adjust it according to the CPI; tip credits are increased to 30¢. HB1028 and HB1215 increase the minimum wage to $8.00 on 1/1/14, $8.25 on 1/1/15, and $8.75 on 1/1/17. Does minimum wage help people earn a living or hinder inexperienced workers (teenagers and college students) from getting a job? Are we creating a permanent class of minimum wage earners? Are we discouraging people from taking initiative and earning promotions?

3. Voting by mail or Internet: HB855, HB1107, HB1218, SB412, SB579, SB720, and SB1086 authorize voting by mail. SB209 establishes a vote-by-mail pilot program. SB216 and SB927 establish a vote-by-Internet pilot program. I would support vote-by-mail or vote-by-Internet because it is convenient and can save us money, but they must address security issues. Personally, I like going to my polling place on Election Day.

4. Election Day voter registration: HB1218, SB854, SB857 allow voters to register to vote on Election Day. This could encourage residents to vote; or it could just mean more paperwork for election officials, confusion for polling place volunteers, and the possibility of voter fraud.

5. Legalized gambling: HB145 and SB769 grant a 20-year license for one stand-alone casino in Waikiki and impose a 15% wagering tax. HB1063 sets the stage for casino gaming in Waikiki and Kapolei. HB1065 creates a gambling task force. HB1320, HB1425, SB1251, and SB1376 authorize a statewide lottery; SB768 authorizes an Internet lottery. SB766 creates a state lottery report. SB767 authorizes shipboard gaming in Hawaii waters. SB918 and SB920 authorize pari-mutuel horse racing. SB1250 regulates bingo games and raffles. It’s a question of our right to spend our money and more revenue for the state vs. real concerns about increased crime and gambling addition.

6. Legalized marijuana: HB150, HB455, HB699, SB467 legalize marijuana for personal use. HB667, SB471, SB686, SB689, SB703 legalize the medical use of marijuana. On the other hand, SB472, SB739 impose civil penalties on one ounce or less of marijuana. Should marijuana be treated like alcohol and tobacco, to be restricted and taxed; or like medicine, to be licensed and regulated?

7. Partial birth abortion: SB251 prohibits partial birth abortion. Abortion is an individual choice, but I oppose partial birth abortions.

8. Death with dignity: HB606 would allow euthanasia with a lethal dose of medication; requires informed consent. Euthanasia is an individual choice.

9. Tighter seatbelt laws: SB4 and SB340 require all front and back seat passengers to wear a seatbelt, regardless of age. As adults we have the right to behave stupidly, especially if it doesn’t endanger someone else. This law would put more responsibility on our police and could be uncomfortable for the elderly (my grandmother always sat in the back seat so she wouldn’t have to wear a seat belt).

10. Ban and taxes on plastic bags and styrofoam: SB318 bans non-biodegradable plastic carryout bags. HB356, HB357, SB13 and SB14 add a 10¢ tax on single-use checkout bags, with businesses retaining 1¢ of the tax (subject to income and general excise taxes for the first year). HB934 and SB1165 establish a fee for single-use checkout bags. SB621 adds a 10¢ tax for foam disposable food containers. My ten cents: I think that plastic bags and styrofoam should be a business and consumer decision; I am skeptical that eliminating plastic bags will really help the environment; and I am outraged that businesses would be paying tax on the tax!

11. Solutions for the homeless: HB519 continues the “Housing First” program for chronically homeless individuals. I question the “housing first” model – what incentive do individuals have to become drug-free or accept treatment/counseling? HB535 requires temporary nighttime parking lots where homeless individuals who live and sleep in their vehicles can park overnight. How can “nighttime only” parking be enforced? What if vehicles park there during the day too?

12. Repeal the Public Land Development Corporation: HB9, HB82, HB110, HB226, HB317, HB352, HB454, HB589, HB1133, HB1267, SB1, SB245, SB246, SB338, SB425, SB480, SB663, SB780, SB781, SB866, and SB958 repeal the PLDC. It seemed like a good idea two years ago, but look at how many attempts there are to repeal it!

13. Higher high rises in Honolulu: HB1118 would exempt qualifying high-rise dwelling projects with affordable rental units in the urban core of Honolulu from height restrictions. We should encourage affordable rental units, but height restrictions should apply to development.

14. No parking at ’Iolani Palace: HB1227 removes the parking lot surrounding ’Iolani Palace and develop a pedestrian area. It’s a trade-off between visitor parking and open spaces. How can we compromise?

Please think about these issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

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2 Comments on “Hawaii Legislative Watch: Up for debate”

  1. Aloha Rachelle,
    It would be helpful to distinguish between bills that were introduced but are getting no hearing and other bills which are actually on the move after first crossover.

    • Hi Andrew, Thanks for your great suggestion. I wish I had a few helpers to do just that! My goal was to summarize the proposed bills and get a feel for what legislators and constituents think is important. It’s hard to keep up with all the bills, and we need more people to pay attention. aloha, Rachelle

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