Posted tagged ‘2017 Legislature’

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: Education

March 7, 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 education bills being proposed in the 2017 Legislative Session. I’ve organized the bills into three sections: 6 bills that could be positive steps in education, 5 bills that micromanage schools, and 3 bills that need more discussion. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

6 bills that could be positive steps in education:

  1. Promoting careers in teaching. HB1169 would require the University of Hawaii to promote careers in teaching to high school students. Instead of complaining about the lack of teachers, we can do something about it.
  2. Promoting college savings. HB1074 and SB940 would allow State income tax deductions for college savings. Instead of worrying about student debt, we can encourage families to save more for college.
  3. Making college more accessible and affordable. HB1154 and 1020 would offer scholarships at UH community colleges. HB1591, HB1594, SB135 and SB1162 would create a scholarship program called the University of Hawaii Promise Program. SB15 would make community college tuition free for residents. I tentatively support this program, but I want to know more about how much it would cost and how students would qualify.
  4. Reducing the burden of student loans. HB958 would allow individuals to pay student loan debt with pre-tax income. HB1276 and SB1081 would offer a State income tax deduction of up to $5,000 per year for student loan interest paid on qualified education loans. This could help reduce anxiety and student loan defaults.
  5. Promoting computer science classes. HB1166 and SB299 would encourage computer science classes in high school and college. Technology jobs can help keep Hawaii’s graduates in Hawaii.
  6. Getting ready to work. SB298 would create a Workforce Readiness program that would allow students to graduate from an extended high school enrollment with a high school diploma and an industry-recognized associate’s degree. SB619 would create a K-12 Curriculum to Career Pipeline initiative. We need to prepare students for getting jobs – and promotions.

5 bills that micromanage schools:

  1. Legislating class size and minimum teacher salary. SB176 would limit the class size in public schools to 18 students and establish a minimum salary for new teachers of $55,000 per year. I think schools should have the flexibility to decide class size.
  2. 100 years of student records. HB1232 and SB1100 would require schools to keep student records for at least 100 years. Why 100 years? Why would someone need their school records from over 50 years ago?
  3. Jumping through hoops for innovation grants. HB1092 and SB958 would make teachers and schools write grants for “innovative” programs. I think schools should be the gate-keepers of innovation, and teachers should not have to spend extra time writing grant proposals.
  4. School libraries required. SB616 would require all public schools to have a library. I think that schools should make this decision.
  5. Legislator approval for university tuition fees. HB23 would require University of Hawaii tuition increases to be approved by the Hawaii State legislature. I think that UH should retain the authority to set tuition, without getting politicians involved.

3 bills that need more discussion:

  1. Local school boards. HB1201 would create at least 7 local school boards. One school district may offer cost savings (economies of scale); local school districts may offer more flexible and innovative solutions. Before creating a flatter bureaucracy with more bureaucrats, can we fix the system we have?
  2. Anti-bullying classes for students and parents. HB890 and SB561 would require anti-bullying policies that include anti-bullying classes for students who have engaged in bullying as well as their parents/guardians. I think that the parents who would attend an anti-bullying class are the parents who already support their children. Are there other, less formal ways to reach students and parents?
  3. Student loan forgiveness for State employees. SB348 would offer a loan forgiveness program for University of Hawaii graduates who work for the State or county. While I admire innovative solutions to student loan debt, I think this would be an expensive program and could result in government expansion as more people work for the government.

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!