Posted tagged ‘2016 Hawaii Legislature’

2016 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Observations

March 22, 2016

2016 Hawaii Legislature

The 2016 Hawaii Legislative Session will end on May 5 in just a few short weeks. The “First Crossover” (the last day to approve the third reading of a bill) and the “Budget Crossover” deadlines have passed. Of the proposed bills with action taken in 2016, 483 House bills have crossed over to the Senate and 363 Senate Bills have crossed over to the House.

After weeks spent browsing through the bill summaries, I look forward to finding out how our legislators voted – and which bills have passed. I’ll conclude with three quick observations about this year’s Hawaii Legislature.

First, there is no way that legislators could write or co-write every bill with their name on it. Legislators must rely on a small army of people and organizations to write bills. Who are the real writers of these bills? How can we find out who the authors of a bill are – and how much they have contributed in campaign donations?

Second, there are a lot of duplicate bills in the House and Senate. The duplicate bills address the same issues, but with slightly different timelines, fees, penalties, or other details (for example, a different effective date or a different percentage increase/decrease). Why do we need to introduce and carry-over so many bills that have the same intent? This seems to be a case of paperwork that never dies, ever.

Third, the number of proposed bills is overwhelming – but the bill reports are underwhelming. Currently, bill reports show the Bill number, Title, Subtitle, Appropriation, Bill Summary, Current Status, Introducer(s), and Current Referral. Here are 5 more things we need to know about proposed bills:

  1. What’s new. Add a category to sort bills by New (introducing a new act), Amended (changing, adding to, or removing a section of an existing act), and Housekeeping (fixing errors or omissions).
  2. Will the real author stand up. In addition to acknowledging the bill introducer(s), we should also identify who actually wrote each bill – whether it was the legislator’s staff members, Hawaii state department staff members, in-house lawyers, or third-party organizations.
  3. Show us the money. Instead of merely showing us that money is being requested for a bill, tell us the actual dollar amounts – whether it’s a one-time appropriation or an annual appropriation over a number of years.
  4. This reminds me of… Reference all other bills during the legislative session, in both the House and the Senate, that are substantially similar – not just “companion” bills. These bills may have different effective dates or different tax rates, but the wording and intent are essentially the same.
  5. What’s alive and what’s dead. Acknowledge bills that are “dead” for this legislative session – that aren’t scheduled for a hearing and have no chance of passing a hearing.

Which issues are you paying attention to during this legislative session? Have you reached out to your state representative or senator; and just as important, have you received a response?

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2016 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Up for Debate

March 15, 2016

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 highlighted bills that affect taxes, education, and individual rights vs. government powers. In this last legislative review, I tackle controversial bills that (in my opinion) aren’t black and white, right or wrong. 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 I think need more discussion and debate. This is a shorter list of bills, grouped into three sections: 4 bills that may be a good idea, 6 bills that could do more harm than good, and 2 bills that seem unnecessary. If I’ve missed any significant bills, please let me know!

4 “This may be a good idea, but I need more convincing” proposals:

  1. Ticket for a windfall. HB1830 authorizes a single operator for a lottery in Hawaii. HB2536 establishes a state lottery to fund homeless programs.
  2. Sports fantasies on my mind. HB1838 and SB2722 authorize fantasy contests. On the other hand, SB2429 prohibits fantasy competitions.
  3. Smoking for adults only. HB385 HD1 and HB587 increase the minimum age for smokers from 18 years to 21 years.
  4. More family leave. HB535, HB1049, HB1785, and SB2229 increase family leave from 4 weeks to 12 weeks.

6 “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” proposals:

  1. Men, women, and everyone. HB2216 requires single-occupancy restrooms in public buildings to be gender-neutral. I like the privacy of separate restrooms.
  2. Politicians rewarding campaign donations. HB2600 creates an income tax deduction for political contributions. The fox rewarding the hens for opening the coop?
  3. Who pays for public education? HB1301 creates an income tax credit for parents or guardians who home-school their children. We all pay for public education. Next will be a tax credit for private school parents, couples with no children, and seniors with adult children.
  4. Who controls the medicine we give our kids? HB1722 requires all public school students to be immunized, except for cases in which the immunization would endanger the life or health of a child. I am concerned about laws that force us to receive immunizations.
  5. This may be the end of recycling. HB167 repeals the Deposit Beverage Container Program. We put a lot of effort into the program. What are the alternatives?
  6. When you lose control over selling your property. HB1319 requires sellers to give qualifying Hawaii residents the right of first refusal in the sale of residential real property. A better way to approach this would be to limit the amount of property that non-residents can own, instead of taking away homeowner rights.

2 “What are they thinking?” proposals:

  1. Standard vs. metric signs. HB399 and SB360 would require roadway signs to show US standard and metric measurements. Is this really necessary?
  2. An association to manage other associations. HB286 establishes the Hawaii Property and Health Association to manage and guide the operation of the Hawaii Property Insurance Association, Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund, and Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange. How many levels of bureaucracy do we need?

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.

2016 Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

March 8, 2016

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.

2016 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Education

February 23, 2016

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.

Last week, I highlighted bills that affect our taxes and our pocketbooks. This week, I’m focusing on bills that influence education in Hawaii. 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 the significant education bills being proposed in the 2016 Legislative Session. I’ve divided the bills into five sections: 7 proposals that should help students, 2 proposals that may hurt students, 6 proposals that could help teachers, 4 education proposals that increase the burden on taxpayers, and 2 proposals in which schools are taking over for parents. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

7 proposals that should help students:

  1. Fewer standardized tests, more instruction time. HB2730, SB2586, and SB2592 limit public school student participation in standardized tests and prohibit the use of standardized tests scores for evaluation purposes.
  2. Smaller classes, more teacher time. HB2732 and SB2597 establish maximum student enrollment per school class beginning in 2020.
  3. Money matters to high school students. HB1402 establishes the Hawaii Public Schools Financial Literacy Task Force. HB2442 creates a pilot project to create credit unions for high school students.
  4. Promoting good citizenship. HB857 and HB1122 require high school students to pass a civics test.
  5. Shaking it up in middle school. HB1436 requires public school students to take physical education and health education classes in grades 6, 7, and 8.
  6. Encouraging student innovation and invention. SB1278 establishes Makerspaces in public libraries. SB2010 establishes the Hawaii Project for Robotics Education.
  7. Voting rights for student board members. HB1200 and SB834 give voting rights to a student member of the Board of Education (BOE). SB820 increases the number of public school student representatives on the BOE from one to two.

2 proposals that may hurt students:

  1. Mandatory preschool (or is it really daycare?). SB2586 requires all eligible children to attend preschool by 2020.
  2. Tests, tests, and more tests. HB1159, HB1406 HD1, and SB1243 require the BOE to administer standardized tests early in the school year.

6 proposals that could help teachers:

  1. Classroom supplies reimbursements. HB13, SB821 SD1, SB2624, and SB2733 offer tax credit for school teachers of up to $500 for out-of-pocket classroom supplies.
  2. Housing vouchers for teachers. HB1016 HD1 and HB2510 create a housing voucher program for full-time classroom teachers.
  3. Teacher leader bonuses. HB1228 allows a $2,500 bonus to qualified “teacher leaders.”
  4. Student loan relief for teachers. SB1056 SD1 establishes an incentive program that provides for incremental loan repayment for teachers serving in high need areas of Hawaii for up to 10 years.
  5. Debit cards for classroom supplies. SB2593 allows public school teachers to use a debit card to purchase classroom supplies.
  6. Teachers take back your classrooms. HB1334 allows teachers to exclude from the classroom any student who engages in disruptive or threatening behavior.

4 proposals that increase the burden on taxpayers:

  1. Higher wholesale general excise (GE) tax. SB1317 increases the wholesale GE tax from 0.5% to 1.0% in 2016 and 2017 for infrastructure development and public schools.
  2. Higher retail GE tax. HB2731, HB2733, and SB2599 Increases the GE tax by 1% for DOE operations. HB1240 increases the GE tax by 0.25% to provide a dedicated funding source for the DOE. SB2586 increases the GE tax by an unspecified amount for public education.
  3. Higher property taxes. HB2065 and SB2292 authorize a surcharge on real property taxes to fund public school capital improvement projects.
  4. Is it preschool or taxpayer-funded daycare? HB1401 appropriates $17 million each year ($3.4 million to each of five preschool programs). HB1786 and SB2227 appropriate an unspecified amount for the Preschool Open Doors Program. HB1715 appropriates $6 million for the public prekindergarten program.

2 proposals in which schools are taking over for parents:

  1. Physical exams required for seventh grade. HB578 HD2 SD1, HB1948, and SB2387 require a child to have a physical exam prior to entering grade 7.
  2. HPV mandatory for seventh grade. HB1910 and SB2316 require a child to receive at least one dose of the Human Papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) prior to attending grade 7, beginning in 2017.

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.