2016 Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

2016 Hawaii Legislature

The 2016 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 20. It’s hard to believe, but 2,658 bills are under consideration in the House of Representatives and 2,371 bills are up for debate in the Senate.

In previous weeks, I identified bills that affect taxes and public education. This week, I’m highlighting bills that challenge the balance between individual rights vs. government powers. It would be impossible for me to read every bill in such a short time, so I’m relying on bill summaries to accurately reflect a bill’s intentions.

Here is an overview of proposed bills in the 2016 Legislative Session that test the balance between government’s power and the power of the people. I’ve grouped the bills into five sections: 7 proposals that constrain government’s power, 7 proposals that look out for taxpayers and residents, 6 proposals in which government is acting like a parent, 4 proposals that will be a hardship for employees and employers, and 4 proposals in which government is on the edge of illegal action. If I’ve missed any significant bills, please let me know!

7 proposals that constrain government’s power:

  1. A supermajority for tax increases. HB423 proposes a constitutional amendment to include a two-thirds supermajority voting requirement for the legislature to pass laws that raise taxes or create new taxes.
  2. Power to the people: initiative, referendum, and recall. HB418 gives voters the powers of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall. HB472, HB1976, SB952, and SB2708 give voters the power of Referendum. HB474, HB1970, HB2441, SB951, and SB2701 give voters the power of Recall. HB1796 allows an initiative issue question on a general election ballot. SB2521 and SB2754 give voters the right of direct initiative.
  3. Term limits. HB168, SB835, SB927, SB2699, and SB2753 limit the terms of members of the Hawaii Legislature to 12 consecutive years. SB2752 prohibits incumbents who have served for 12 consecutive years from being a candidate to serve an additional term of office in the Hawaii Legislature.
  4. One legislature, fewer arguing legislators, fewer proposed bills. SB931 and SB2703 propose a unicameral legislature consisting of 51 legislators.
  5. No fundraising during legislative sessions. HB327 HD1, SB244, and SB2266 prohibit legislators from holding fundraisers or receiving campaign contributions during the regular legislative session.
  6. Resign to run. SB1182 requires state elected public officers to resign before running for a different public office.
  7. Check with Legal before submitting this bill. HB394 requires all introduced bills to be subject to a legal sufficiency check to determine whether the bill is constitutional before First Reading.

7 proposals that show government looking out for taxpayers and residents:

  1. Zero-based budgeting. HB689 incorporates zero-based budgeting into the executive budget.
  2. How much will that bill cost? SB2719 requires a fiscal impact statement for any proposed legislation that calls for an appropriation or results in significant fiscal changes for Hawaii.
  3. Public assistance for Hawaii residents. HB1045 and SB1249 require a recipient of public assistance to be a resident of Hawaii for at least 4 months.
  4. Bringing back the SuperFerry. HB2670 and SB3090 implement an interisland ferry system. HB2225 and SB2618 ask for a feasibility study for an interisland ferry system.
  5. Move into low-income housing for 7 years. HB2246 establishes a 7-year limit on tenants in state low-income housing projects, and requires that unemployed tenants perform community service or enroll in classes.
  6. Cutting safety check costs in half. HB1089 HD1, HB1804, HB2436, HB2578, and SB2715 require motor vehicle safety inspections every two years (instead of annually).
  7. Worker’ unions optional. SB2717 prohibits mandatory union membership.

6 proposals in which government is acting like a parent:

  1. Water or milk with that kid’s meal? HB1437 and SB1179 require food establishments to offer for sale only bottled water or low-fat milk as part of a children’s meal.
  2. Weed whackers interfere with our beauty sleep. SB990 prohibits using a weed whacker before 8 am or after 6 pm near a residence.
  3. Tax our sodas – but not our shaved ice and malasadas! SB1256 imposes a fee on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  4. No more Styrofoam take-out. HB754 bans polystyrene foam containers in restaurants and food establishments, effective 1/1/16. HB2232 bans polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) containers in restaurants, food establishments, hotels, and food packagers by 2023.
  5. Next up: snorkel inspections. HB1460 prohibits people from using a snorkel without a safety valve.
  6. Eyes up, pedestrians! HB2723 prohibits pedestrians from crossing a street while using a mobile electronic device.
  7. Vote – or else! HB1495 makes it mandatory for registered voters to vote, with a $100 fine if a registered voter fails to vote without a valid excuse.

4 proposals that will be a hardship for employees and employers:

  1. $16 minimum wage. SB2463 raises the minimum wage to $16 per hour by 2020.
  2. Employee contributions for family leave. HB1911, HB2128, SB965, SB2477, and SB2961 create a family leave insurance program, which requires employees to make contributions into a trust fund. HB496 HD1 SD2 requires an actuarial study on the cost of implementing this program.
  3. Payroll assessment for sick leave. SB2290 establishes a payroll assessment to fund sick leave in the private sector.
  4. Tax surcharge for long-term care. HB1253, HB1885, SB272 SD1, and SB2478 establish a long-term care surcharge on state tax to pay for claims for defined benefits under the long-term care financing program.

4 proposals in which government is on the edge of illegal action:

  1. Ringing the doorbell for a land grab. HB1635 and SB2173 force commercial property owners to sell land to tenants, if the tenant has at least a 15-year lease, has occupied the premises for at least 5 years, and is not in default on the lease.
  2. Opening the car door to illegal immigrants. HB688, SB20, SB365, and SB683 SD2 allow limited-purpose driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants (“regardless of immigration status”). SB2718 repeals the issuance of limited-purpose driver’s licenses.
  3. Heavier burden and more paperwork for taxpayers. HB968 HD2 SD1 establishes that a taxpayer is liable for any amounts passed on and separately stated as the tax owed by the taxpayer for the transaction in a receipt, contract, invoice, billing, or other evidence of the business activity. Provides a civil penalty and reporting of violations to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Effective 1/7/59.
  4. Lights, camera, ticket! HB1324 and SB1160 SD1 establish a 3-year pilot program for red-light cameras.

If you feel strongly about an issue, please speak up! Contact your state senator and representative by phone, mail, or email. Talk to your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Write to a local newspaper or magazine.

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