Hawaii Legislative Watch: Law on our side

Recently, we’ve looked at proposed bills in the 2013 Hawaii Legislative session that affect taxes,  education, and citizens’ rights, and provoke spirited debate.

This week, let’s look at bills that may put the law on the side of Hawaii residents and taxpayers. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

In addition to proposed bills about campaign finance reporting, conflicts of interest, and prohibitions against nepotism, there are 5 ideas that restrict legislators and give more power to voters.

1. Term limits for legislators: HB180 limits the terms of legislators to five consecutive terms in the House or three consecutive terms in the Senate. HB1036 limits the terms of legislators to 10 cumulative years in the House and 12 cumulative years in the Senate. SB264 limits the terms of legislators to six consecutive terms in the House and three consecutive terms in the Senate. SB573 limits the terms of legislators to 12 consecutive years in the House and 12 consecutive years in the Senate. This could encourage “regular” people to get involved in government, instead of career politicians.

2. Residency requirements for legislators: HB341 requires a candidate for state or county office to have resided within the district of the office sought for at least six months prior to nomination. HB269 and SB478 require legislators to be a resident of Hawaii for at least five years and a resident of the legislative district for at least one year prior to the general election. This would give legislators a chance to get to know the issues that affect their district.

3. More power for voters: HB1445 and HB1447 give voters the right to recall elected public officers. SB229 gives voters the right to impeach the governor, lieutenant governor, and appointive officers. SB771 gives voters the rights of initiative, referendum, and recall. SB223 gives voters the right to write-in candidates. SB982 and SB1024 require that only yes or no votes be counted (blank votes would be discounted) when determining whether a majority of votes have approved an amendment. These bills could encourage more people to vote and would promote more accountability in our elected officials.

4. Bi-annual legislative sessions: SB291 provides that regular sessions of the Hawaii Legislature would occur in every odd-numbered year, rather than every day. This would save us money by reducing the number of legislative sessions; it would limit the number of new laws that can be proposed; and it would give us more time to debate the proposed bills.

5. Limits on legislative fundraisers: HB1246 and SB843 prohibit legislative fundraisers during the legislative session. This makes sense – legislators have only a limited time in session, and it should not be spent fundraising or being influenced by campaign donations.

There are 4 ideas that encourage personal responsibility:

1. You’re responsible for your risky behavior: SB1167 and SB1168 release public entities and employees from liability for injury or damage on government land when engaged in mountain climbing, rock climbing, rappelling, and bouldering. SB1285 grants immunity to state and county agencies and employees from liability for injury or damage while engaged in hazardous recreational activities. We are responsible for our own risky behavior.

2. Actions have consequences for minors: HB239 and SB420 require the family court, when requested by the victim, to require a minor to make restitution to the victim. People should face punishment (probation or jail) as well as restitution (making things right with the victims). SB254 prohibits abortions on a minor without parental consent, unless there is a serious health risk. Abortion is a life-changing decision; parents and guardians need to be involved.

3. Grandparents have responsibilities too: HB340, HB600, and SB924 require the parents of a minor mother or minor father to contribute to the support of their grandchild until the minor’s age of majority. Teen moms need the emotional and financial support of their families, and this could reduce the amount of state financial aid; but it could also promote abortions.

4. Low-income housing for those who really need it: HB532 includes the value of registered motor vehicles as an asset when qualifying for state low-income housing. HB536 disqualifies any applicant or tenant who owns or acquires a home in Hawaii from state low-income housing. All assets, including cars and homes, should be considered!

There are 7 ideas that help and empower the general public:

1. Helping taxpayers choose how our money is spent: HB314 authorizes “crowdfunding” so that people can fund a specific capital improvement project and monitor the progress of the project. I like this idea! It would help us raise money for community playgrounds, parks, libraries, and even minor repairs; and it would make government accountable for the budget and timetable of the projects.

2. Helping employees: SB261 allows employees to refuse to join a labor union. Unless it involves licensing (such as medical personnel and lawyers), joining a union should be an individual choice.

3. Helping home-based businesses: SB367 allows home-based baking businesses to sell food items to consumers. This would encourage home businesses and entrepreneurship.

4. Helping homeowners and property owners: HB603 allows the use of deadly force when protecting one’s primary dwelling against an intruder. We shouldn’t have to worry about the “rights” of criminals who try to rob or hurt us! SB265 and SB266 restrict the government’s use of eminent domain to property acquired for public use, not private use. Personal property should never be seized (stolen) for personal gain. And if it’s for public use, it must be undeniable. SB250 refunds to property owners all but $1 million from the Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund. What do you think?

5. Helping drivers: SB290 abolishes the annual safety check. SB955 exempts a new car from obtaining a safety check from two years to three years. How effective are safety checks? HB1400 and SB790 repeal the 10% ethanol requirement in gasoline. Is gas with ethanol better for the environment? How does it affect our food supply? Are car engines designed to use it?

6. Helping rape victims: HB405, SB295, and SB529 terminate parental rights in cases of sexual assault or incest. Rapists have no parental rights.

7. Helping travelers’ dignity and privacy: SB776 prohibits the use of body imaging scanning in airports. We are not cattle.

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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