Posted tagged ‘2017 Hawaii Bills’

2017 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Unnecessary and Wasteful

March 28, 2017

The 2017 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 18 with prayers, speeches, and music. Hawaii residents definitely need the prayers – our lawmakers have been busy, introducing 1,601 bills in the House of Representatives and 1,317 bills in the Senate. It’s a mountain of paperwork, negotiation, tax dollars, and details.

Every year, I do a legislative round-up that spotlights bills that could have a big impact on Hawaii. I will focus on taxes, education, individual rights vs. government powers, controversial issues, and (in my opinion) unnecessary and wasteful spending. With over 2,900 bills being proposed in 2017 and less time than ever to read through them, I rely as always on bill summaries to accurately reflect the bills’ intentions.

Here is an overview of controversial, thought-provoking, and argument-inspiring bills being proposed in the 2017 Legislative Session. This is a long post, so I’ve organized the bills into four sections: 4 bills that seem wasteful and ineffective, 11 bills that seem unnecessary, 7 bills about government treating us like children (and maybe rightfully so?), and 7 bills that seem like wasteful spending. If I’ve missed other wasteful or ineffective bills, please let me know!

4 bills that seem wasteful and ineffective:

  1. Prescription: home. SB2 would require all health plans in the State, including EUTF health plans and Medicaid managed care programs, to provide coverage for the treatment of homelessness. Doctors are trained to keep us healthy; they are not trained to be social workers.
  2. A water fountain show at the State Capitol. HB106 would add a choreographed water fountain show with light displays and Hawaiian music to the State Capitol reflecting pool. The State Capitol is not a tourist attraction.
  3. Reproduction guaranteed by health insurance. HB1562 and HB1573 would require health insurance coverage for reproductive health (embryo, oocyte, and sperm cryopreservation). I think that we need a cultural change in perspective to value all children, not just biological children.
  4. Which comes first: the license or the employee? HB438 would requires prospective commercial marine licensees to provide the Department of Land and Natural Resources with a copy of the work contract of all of fishers that it employs, prior to being granted a license. Why would you hire someone if you don’t have a license yet?

11 bills that seem unnecessary:

  1. The right to choose your last name. HB799 and SB123 would allow parties to a marriage or civil union to choose any middle or last name. We already have the right to change our names.
  2. A state microbe for Hawaii. HB1217 and SB1212 would designate Flavobacterium akiainvivens as the official microbe of the State. Why do we need a state microbe?
  3. Colored sea salts. SB1221 would fund a study about the use of color additives in sea salt products. This should be funded by private businesses.
  4. Health insurance coverage for paddling, hula, and lua. SB1315 would require health insurance companies to cover Native Hawaiian culture-based activities, including but not limited to canoe paddling, hula, and lua. A nice thought, but it sets a precedent to require coverage for all fitness and exercise classes/expenses from every culture.
  5. Domestic violence classes for hairdressers. HB680 would require barbers and hairdressers to complete a one-time, one-hour training program on intimate partner violence awareness and education. A nice thought, but it sets a precedent for bartenders, sales clerks, and anyone who deals with the public to take this class.
  6. What is Lunar Architecture? HB960 and SB1246 would create the Multinational Lunar Architecture Alliance to devote to hold an International Lunar Development Summit and implement prototype lunar architecture. This is over my pay grade.
  7. Dark night skies protection. HB427, HB1159, SB140, and SB1025 would create a Dark Night Skies Protection Advisory Committee to preserve dark night skies and reduce light pollution. Do we need another committee to handle this?
  8. Candidate filing fees fill political party coffers. HB1376 would require a partisan candidate for state office to pay a $100 filing fee, $80 of which shall be provided to the candidate’s party. This seems like a tax to benefit the political party.
  9. In Hawaii, air travel is a necessity, not a luxury. SB105 would require state agencies to participate in a carbon offset program to offset carbon emissions caused by their employees’ air travel. Maybe we should prohibit off-island travel and require video conferencing instead (a half-serious idea).
  10. In Barack Obama’s footsteps. SB269 would place markers in the State to indicate significant sites in the life of President Barack Obama. I think that there are few “significant sites” in Hawaii.
  11. Who needs to know? SB354 would establish a temporary task force to define a “bona fide agricultural producer.” We don’t need a task force for this.

7 bills about government treating us like children (and maybe rightfully so?):

  1. Hiker safety public awareness campaigns. HB479 would fund a public awareness campaign to educate the public about hiker safety and preparedness.
  2. “Previously frozen” in big letters. HB905 specifies the font size for the words “previously frozen” on frozen food product labels. (I’m not making this up).
  3. Diaper-changing stations in every restroom. HB956 would require public restrooms built or renovated after June 30, 2017 to provide baby diaper-changing accommodations. I like the idea of a family restroom for parents, which would accommodate p infants and the elderly.
  4. Making public urination and defecation illegal. HB16 and HB1595 would make it illegal to urinate or defecate in public. It pains me that we need a law about this.
  5. Is that really a service animal? HB1599 would make it illegal to lie about whether an animal is a service animal. If we cannot ask to see a service animal license, how could we prove that someone is lying?
  6. Safety helmets for mopeds. SB178 and SB179 would require safety helmets for drivers and passengers of motorcycles, motor scooters, and mopeds. I am torn between the desire to keep people safe and the right to do reckless things.
  7. No riding in the back of the truck. SB587 would make it illegal to ride in the back of pickup trucks. I am torn between the desire to keep people safe and the right to transport additional people.

7 bills that seem like wasteful spending:

  1. “I voted” stickers. HB532 would distribute “I voted” stickers at polling places. There are better ways to encourage voting.
  2. Filipino Veterans Legacy Exhibit. HB886 would fund a Filipino Veterans Legacy Exhibit at the Honolulu International Airport. I think this should be funded by private donors.
  3. 50th anniversary celebration of the state capitol. HB1225 and SB1074 would fund celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Hawaii State Capitol. There are better things that we could celebrate.
  4. Basalt rebar market study. HB1326 would fund a basalt rebar market study. Shouldn’t market studies be conducted by private businesses?
  5. Stipends for volunteers. HB1445 would offer stipends to volunteers assisting in the point-in-time homeless count. If they receive a stipend, they are not really a volunteer.
  6. A new symbol and all-new signage. SB189 would require a new international symbol of access: a dynamic character leaning forward with a sense of movement. Is this really necessary?
  7. Billfish tournament grant. SB1256 would fund the 58th Annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament. I think this should be funded by private donors.

The 2017 Hawaii Legislature adjourns on May 4. Please think about these issues and how they may affect you, everyone around you, our children, and our grandchildren. Whether you have concerns or feel strongly about an issue, speak up, talk about it, and be part of the discussion!

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2017 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Up for Debate

March 21, 2017

Hawaii Legislature 2017

The 2017 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 18 with prayers, speeches, and music. Hawaii residents definitely need the prayers – our lawmakers have been busy, introducing 1,601 bills in the House of Representatives and 1,317 bills in the Senate. It’s a mountain of paperwork, negotiation, tax dollars, and details.

Every year, I do a legislative round-up that spotlights bills that could have a big impact on Hawaii. I will focus on taxes, education, individual rights vs. government powers, controversial issues, and (in my opinion) unnecessary and wasteful spending. With over 2,900 bills being proposed in 2017 and less time than ever to read through them, I rely as always on bill summaries to accurately reflect the bills’ intentions.

Here is an overview of controversial, thought-provoking, and argument-inspiring bills being proposed in the 2017 Legislative Session. I’ve organized the bills into two sections: 9 controversial bills that are sure to spark debate and 5 bills that are a little puzzling. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

Marijuana on our minds. One issue that I’m not going to discuss: the use, taxation, and regulation of marijuana. I don’t know enough about marijuana to have even a half-baked opinion, and I don’t understand why there are so many bills that want to change legislation with so little information about the effects of current legislation.

Oxybenzone out of our waters. One issue that I don’t think is controversial is the prohibition of sunscreens and sunblocks with oxybenzone. Sunscreen chemicals that may be safe for our skin, but not for coral reefs, fish, or the ocean. I think it’s reasonable to require more testing to ensure that sunscreens are safe for the environment.

9 controversial bills that are sure to spark debate:

  1. Making prostitution legal. HB1532 and HB1533 would make prostitution legal. I usually support the rights of consenting adults to act without government interference, but I oppose making prostitution legal. Many people are forced or pressured into prostitution because they feel that they have no other options. Legalizing prostitution would make it easier and even profitable to exploit those who are vulnerable, naïve, or who lack supportive families.
  2. Raising the minimum wage. HB5, HB442, and SB544 would increase the minimum wage. HB441 would increases the state minimum wage to $22 by 2022. SB14 would increase the minimum wage to $14 by 2023. SB107 would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2019. SB267 would increase the minimum wage to $14 by 2022. SB1165 would increase the minimum wage to $15.10 by 2023. I believe that minimum wage increases help employees in the short-term, but inevitably prices go up and buying power goes down again.
  3. Sick leave, family leave, and maternity leave. HB4, HB1434, and SB638 would require minimum paid sick leave. HB213 would allow family leave. HB214 would require 4 weeks of paid family leave for full-time State employees. HB683 and SB521 would require 6-week paid maternity and paternity leave for government employees. HB986 would require sick leave. SB207 would create a shared leave program for State employees. SB516 would allow an employee to take family leave in addition to victim leave. I support family leave for parents of newborns, but I don’t think we should mandate one-size-fits-all paid leave policies.
  4. Making death easier for the dying. HB150, HB201, HB550, SB357, and SB1129 would allow terminally ill adults to choose to end their life by prescription or lethal dose of medication. I would like this choice if I am ever in this situation. While I don’t think doctors should be responsible for death, I don’t know who else we could trust to make these decisions.
  5. Gambling: lotteries, shipboard gaming, and online fantasy gambling. HB348 would create a state lottery. HB766 would allow shipboard gaming. HB855 and SB204 would allow online fantasy sports contests. SB677 would allow Internet gambling. I think a lottery would be such a bad thing.
  6. Banning polystyrene take-out boxes. HB371, HB1545, and SB1109 would prohibit polystyrene food containers and require compostable containers. In theory, this sounds good, but what would we eat on? Would restaurants become bring-your-own-bowl and start to offer washing stations?
  7. Preserving Affordable Care Act (ACA) benefits. HB552, HB687, and SB403 would make certain health insurance benefits a requirement. While I agree with some provisions, such as covering people with preexisting conditions, I have reservations about others, such as extending dependent coverage to age 26.
  8. Single-payer health insurance in Hawaii. SB1120 and SB1199 would establish a single-payer universal health care insurance system. This may seem to simplify health insurance for consumers and providers, but I have concerns that it would be costly, inefficient, and have burdensome regulations and paperwork for healthcare providers.
  9. State support for Hawaiian sovereignty. HB1297 would require the State to support a model of sovereignty and self-governance chosen by the Hawaiian people that complies with federal and state law. I don’t think it’s a good idea to support something without knowing what it is.

5 bills that are a little puzzling:

  1. More inherent and inalienable rights. HB1582 would make access to 1) clean drinking water, 2) meaningful health care, and 3) a quality education inherent and inalienable rights.
  2. An interisland ferry doover. SB117 would create an intra-island or inter-island ferry system. We had a ferry. Proponents said that permits were streamlined; opponents said that permits cut corners. Now we don’t have a ferry.
  3. Specific homeless rights. SB589 would make 1) equal access to housing, jobs, and shelters, 2) equal treatment by government agencies, and 3) access to life-sustaining activities and essential services inherent rights of homeless individuals. Everyone has the right of equal access to services and treatment. We also have the right to be safe in our homes, workplaces, and public spaces.
  4. Hawaii becoming a loan officer. SB869 would create a pilot program to allow Hawaii to make consumer loans of 600 to $5,000. I think that micro-loans could be done by local credit unions, not the government.
  5. Hawaii getting involved in home ownership. SB1106 would create the Family Self-Sufficiency Program to provide matching funds so that public housing tenants could purchase housing units. We don’t have a right to home ownership. I think that government should help subsidize affordable housing, but should not subsidize home ownership.

The 2017 Hawaii Legislature adjourns on May 4. Please think about these issues and how they may affect you, everyone around you, our children, and our grandchildren. Whether you have concerns or feel strongly about an issue, speak up, talk about it, and be part of the discussion!

2017 Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

March 14, 2017

Hawaii Legislature 2017

The 2017 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 18 with prayers, speeches, and music. Hawaii residents definitely need the prayers – our lawmakers have been busy, introducing 1,601 bills in the House of Representatives and 1,317 bills in the Senate. It’s a mountain of paperwork, negotiation, tax dollars, and details.

Every year, I do a legislative round-up that spotlights bills that could have a big impact on Hawaii. I will focus on taxes, education, individual rights vs. government powers, controversial issues, and (in my opinion) unnecessary and wasteful spending. With over 2,900 bills being proposed in 2017 and less time than ever to read through them, I rely as always on bill summaries to accurately reflect the bills’ intentions.

Here is an overview of bills being proposed in the 2017 Legislative Session that have to do with individual rights vs. government powers. This is a long post, so I’ve organized the bills into five sections: 4 bills about elections and voting, 4 bills that show government on our side, 4 bills that put checks on government power, 3 innovative bills that try to help the homeless, 3 unconvincing bills that try to help the homeless and could end up causing more problems. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

4 bills about elections and voting:

  1. Elections by mail (11 proposals), with various start dates and procedures. HB131, HB1401, SB175, and SB334 would start in 2020. HB291, HB1187, HB1269, SB428, SB459, and SB1066 would start in 2018. I like the idea of voting by mail or Internet, because it saves us time and money, though I will miss going to my polling place on election day and feeling the energy of other voters.
  2. Automatic voter registration (13 proposals) with driver’s licenses and ID cards. HB292, HB439, SB206, SB301, and SB811 would require automatic voter registration when applying for a new or renewed motor vehicle driver’s license, provisional license, or instruction permit; or a new, renewed, or duplicate identification card. HB245, HB1188, HB1268, HB1290, SB231, SB246, SB460, and SB855 would require automatic voter registration when applying for a civil identification card or driver’s license. I encourage everyone to vote, but I think that choosing note to vote is also a right.
  3. Voting age lowered to 16 years. HB1576 asks for a study about lowering the voting age to 16 years. I don’t think we need a study about this. Vote about it – or not.
  4. Getting rid of partisanship. SB106 would remove party affiliation or nonpartisanship in primary, general, and special elections. I strongly support nonpartisan elections.

4 bills that show government on our side:

  1. Residency requirements for public assistance. SB1241 would establish residency requirements in order to receive public assistance and state low-income housing. We need to help Hawaii residents first.
  2. One job for the governor, mayor, and elected officials. HB71 would prohibit the governor or mayor from maintaining outside employment or receiving emoluments. HB969 would prohibit elected officials from receiving a second income that is more than 20% of their government salary. This would avoid possible conflicts of interest.
  3. Common-sense restrictions on drunk drivers. HB306 would require drunk drivers to be fitted with a continuous alcohol monitoring device. Driving is a privilege, not a right.
  4. Encouraging health professionals in Hawaii. SB735 would create a loan repayment program for medical professionals who work in underserved areas of Hawaii. We need to ensure that everyone has reasonable access to healthcare professionals.

4 bills that put checks on government power:

  1. More power for the people: initiative, referendum, and recall. HB1201 would empower voters with Direct Initiative, Popular Referendum, and Recall. HB444, SB832, and SB833 would empower voters with Initiative. HB1365 would empower voters with Referendum. HB962 and HB1430 would empower voters with Recall. This is true grassroots power.
  2. Supermajorities required for tax increases and new taxes. HB353 would require a two-thirds supermajority voting requirement for the legislature to pass laws that raise taxes or create new taxes. Taxes are never temporary, so we need to scrutinize tax increases and new taxes.
  3. Term limits for legislators. HB411 would limit legislators to 20 consecutive years of service. SB827 and SB828 would limit legislators to 12 consecutive years of service. I hope that more citizen-legislators get involved in government.
  4. No “gut and replace” bills. SB1135 would prohibit the passage of bills that have been amended so that they no longer reflect their original purpose, unless the bill is approved by a two-thirds vote in both the house and senate. It doesn’t seem ethical to completely change proposed legislation and pretend that it’s the same bill.

3 innovative bills that try to help the homeless:

  1. Mobile clinics and mobile courts for the homeless. HB527 would create two mobile clinics to serve the homeless population. SB718 would create a community court outreach to serve the homeless population and individuals unable to travel to the State court. If we want them to participate, we need to take medical care and courts to where the homeless are.
  2. Work-for-a-Day jobs program for the homeless. HB1281 would create a three-year Work-for-a-Day Pilot Program that provides homeless individuals with work opportunities and connects them with service providers. Having a job increases self-esteem and gives people a sense of purpose.
  3. Stay-for-Work program. HB1374 would create a Stay-for-Work Program to homeless individuals and families with legal campsites at parks in exchange for their volunteer services maintaining park grounds. This would encourage people to protect the land they are staying on, instead of destroying it.

3 unconvincing bills that try to help the homeless and could end up causing more problems:

  1. Yard space and driveways for the homeless. HB968 would allow property owners to lease yard space or driveway space to campers and recreational camping vehicles. This could cause safety and sanitation concerns residential neighborhoods.
  2. Homeless campgrounds. HB1377, HB1447, and SB1243 would create residential campgrounds for the homeless. I don’t think that a “tent city” is the answer.
  3. Pu’uhonua safe zones for the homeless. SB158 would create Pu’uhonua Safe Zones where homeless persons may reside. SB1223 is an omnibus bill of good and bad ideas, one of which would create Pu’uhonua Safe Zones. Is this something like a “sanctuary city” or a “tent city”? Would this be safe for the homeless or safe for the public?

The 2017 Hawaii Legislature adjourns on May 4. Please think about these issues and how they may affect you, everyone around you, our children, and our grandchildren. Whether you have concerns or feel strongly about an issue, speak up, talk about it, and be part of the discussion!

2017 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Taxes

February 28, 2017

Hawaii Legislature 2017

The 2017 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 18 with prayers, speeches, and music. Hawaii residents definitely need the prayers – our lawmakers have been busy, introducing 1,601 bills in the House of Representatives and 1,317 bills in the Senate. It’s a mountain of paperwork, negotiation, tax dollars, and details.

Every year, I do a legislative round-up that spotlights bills that could have a big impact on Hawaii. I will focus on taxes, education, individual rights vs. government powers, controversial issues, and (in my opinion) unnecessary and wasteful spending. With over 2,900 bills being proposed in 2017 and less time than ever to read through them, I rely as always on bill summaries to accurately reflect the bills’ intentions.

Here is an overview of the significant tax bills being proposed in the 2017 Legislative Session. I’ve organized the bills into two sections: 9 tax increases to watch out for and 7 bills that could save us time and money. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

9 tax increases to watch out for:

  1. Taxes on Internet purchases. HB398 and SB161 would require out-of-state businesses to collect general excise (GE) taxes. HB1413 creates a “voluntary” program. This is taxation without representation for out-of-state businesses, and it would be a burden on Hawaii residents who already pay higher shipping costs.
  2. Higher general excise (GE) taxes. HB1319, SB1132 and SB1132 would increase the general excise tax by 0.5% to fund education. HB924 would increase the GE tax by 1% to fund agricultural land purchases. Any GE tax increases should be looked at with suspicion, because they tax transactions from wholesale to distribution to retail.
  3. Higher property taxes. HB180, HB182, HB1254, and SB686 add an education surcharge on residential investment properties and visitor accommodations. Real estate and property taxes are high enough – this could be a small step towards adding an education surcharge for everyone.
  4. Permanent county surcharges on GE taxes. HB349, HB1442, HB1565, SB432, and SB1183 would make county surcharges permanent. SB576 and SB1176 would extend the county surcharge on mass transit beyond 2027 and allow the surcharge to be used for operation and maintenance of mass transit, as well as public transportation and road maintenance. SB1278 would extend the county surcharge on mass transit to 2047 and allow the surcharge to be used for affordable housing and transit-oriented development. Apparently, there is no such thing as a “temporary” tax.
  5. New family leave insurance tax. SB408 would create a family leave insurance program and require employees to make contributions into a trust fund. No new payroll taxes!
  6. Higher costs to own and operate a car. HB1144 and SB1010 would increase the state motor vehicle weight tax. HB1145 and SB1011 would increase the state motor vehicle registration fee. HB1146, SB1009 and SB1012 would increases the State Fuel Tax. HB1259 and SB1187 would add a clean transportation fee. Higher taxes won’t necessarily make our roads better-maintained.
  7. New tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. HB1210, SB375 and SB837 would add a fee on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  8. Higher taxes on cell phones and cell phone plans. HB206, HB1021, and SB887 would add a 2.64% surcharge on prepaid wireless services for Enhanced 911 services.
  9. Discouraging visitors from coming to Hawaii. HB401 would increase the rental motor vehicle customer facility charge from $4.50 to $9.00. HB546 would increase the transient accommodations tax (TAT) to fund workforce housing development. HB1453 and SB1143 would add a $20 visitor tax to fund conservation. Why penalize visitors for spending their time and money in Hawaii?

7 bills that could save us time and money:

  1. Repealing the county rail surcharge. HB970 would end the 0.5% county surcharge for Honolulu mass transit.
  2. Repealing the estate tax. HB364 would end the inheritance and estate taxes. We shouldn’t have to pay taxes on money that was already taxed.
  3. Lower income taxes for lower-income taxpayers. HB362 and HB690 would decreases income taxes by twenty-five per cent for all but top income earners.
  4. More county surcharge taxes benefiting the county. HB719 would reduce the amount of the county surcharge that goes to the State from 10% to 5%. HB1072, SB431, SB938, SB1242, and SB1276 do not specify the lower reimbursement rate. HB1002 would reimburse the State 0.5% and use 9.5% for infrastructure improvements along the rail corridor.
  5. A new earned income tax credit. HB209, HB212, HB352, HB670, SB508, SB648, and SB707 would create an earned income tax credit.
  6. Extending the food/excise tax credit. HB209, HB210, HB932, SB256, and SB648 would extend the food/excise tax credit.
  7. Quarterly withholding tax filings. HB1141 and SB1007 would allow withholding taxes to be paid quarterly instead of monthly. We could save time, paperwork, and record-keeping.

The 2017 Hawaii Legislature adjourns on May 4. Please think about these issues and how they may affect you, everyone around you, our children, and our grandchildren. Whether you have concerns or feel strongly about an issue, speak up, talk about it, and be part of the discussion!