Posted tagged ‘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!


2015 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Education

March 3, 2015

2015 Hawaii Legislature

The 2015 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 21. Astonishingly, there were 1,515 bills introduced in the House of Representatives and 1,379 bills introduced in the Senate.

I started off my legislative session round-up by highlighting bills that focus on taxes. With over 2,800 bills being proposed and no legislation-reading minions, I’m relying on bill summaries to accurately reflect the legislators’ intentions.

Here is an overview of the significant education bills being proposed in the 2015 Legislative Session. This is another long post, and I’ve divided the bills into six sections: 3 sets of bills that could make Hawaii more affordable for teachers, 7 bills that could energize students, 4 sets of bills that have government looking over educators’ shoulders, 2 bills that are not necessarily better mouse-traps, 3 sets of bills that tinker with early education, and 7 bills about student health issues. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

3 sets of bill that could make more Hawaii affordable for teachers

  1. Bonuses for effective teachers. HB11 and SB847 would give bonuses to teachers who maintain current national board certification and teach at a school in a focus, priority, or superintendent’s zone. HB1228 would give teachers a $2,500 bonus for becoming a teacher leader. HB1229 and SB842 would give teachers a $5,000 per year bonus to teachers who maintain current national board certification and teach at a Title 1 school.
  2. Tax credits for teachers. HB13 and SB821 would give teachers a state income tax credit of up to $500 for unreimbursed expenses.
  3. Housing vouchers for teachers. HB1016 would give housing vouchers to full-time public and charter school classroom teachers.

7 bills that could energize students

  1. Incentives for finishing high school early. HB1121 would give tuition incentives for public school students who complete their high school graduation requirements before grade 12 and attend a collection within the University of Hawaii system.
  2. Empowering the student member of the Board of Education (BOE). HB1200 and SB834 would allow a student member of the BOE to vote.
  3. More afterschool programs. HB397, HB959, SB980, and SB1128 would establish the REACH (Resources for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture, and Health) program in the Office of Youth Services to fund afterschool programs in public middle and intermediate schools. This could provide students with more opportunities to learn and a purpose (less time for trouble).
  4. More teaching, less class disruption. HB1334 would allow teachers to exclude disruptive or threatening students from the classroom.
  5. More community service in the classroom. HB12 and SB819 would allow student or class participation in a fundraiser or charitable activity in conjunction with a nonprofit organization.
  6. Better citizens. HB1122 would require high school students to pass the United States citizenship exam to receive a high school diploma. This would ensure that young adults know their history and rights, and could motivate them to vote. Of course, I don’t know if I could pass the citizenship exam right now.
  7. Extracurricular activities for home-schooled students. HB468, SB361, and SB954 would allow home-schooled students to participate on an equal basis in extracurricular activities offered at the public school they would otherwise be required to attend.

4 sets of bills that have government look over educators’ shoulders

  1. How many instruction hours in a day? HB14 and SB822 would require all secondary schools to provide 990 student instructional hours and would repeal the requirement that all public schools implement a school year of 180 days and provide 1,080 student instructional hours.
  2. Leave instruction hours up to the schools. HB797 and SB1039 would repeal student instructional hour requirements.
  3. How many tests can one child take? HB1159, HB1406, and SB1243 would require students to take a standardized test early in the school year. Instead, we should cut down on the number of standardized tests.
  4. To multi-track or not to multi-track. SB1346 would require the DOE to develop a transition plan to end multi-track schedules in public schools. This decision should be made by individual schools.

2 bills that are not necessarily better mouse-traps

  1. Crowdfunding in schools. HB692 would allow the DOE to use crowdfunding to fund specific capital improvement projects. Crowdfunding seems like a good idea. But don’t we already have crowdfunding through parent-teacher and Friends organizations? How would this be different?
  2. Compulsory schooling to age 18. HB1280 would increase the age requirement for compulsory attendance at public or private school from 16 years to 18 years. I don’t see the benefit of raising the age requirement. Students may prefer to enroll in a technical school or apprenticeship, or go straight into the workforce. What if students finish high school early? I think we need alternatives to school instead.

3 sets of bills that tinker with early education

Are all three and four-year olds ready for structured school? How much responsibility do parents have for early education? Can taxpayers afford it preschool for everyone?

  1. Junior kindergarten? Let them in! HB762 would change the kindergarten entry cut-off date from July 31 to December 31 of the school year. HB798, HB1066, and SB733 would establish junior kindergartens for “late-born” children with birth dates between August 1 and January 1.
  2. Preschool? Let them in! HB1401 would allocate $3.4 million each year to each of five preschool programs ($17 million per year).
  3. Prekindergarten? Let them in! SB813 would require the DOE to operate pre-kindergarten programs for four and five-year olds. HB820, SB844, and SB863 would establish the Executive Office on Early Learning Prekindergarten Program.

7 bills about student health issues

  1. Opt-out of sex education. HB459 and SB395 would allow parents to opt-out of the DOE’s sexuality health education. HB1333 and SB1185 would require parental consent prior to participation in sex education or classes on sexually transmitted diseases. Should sex education be opt-in?
  2. Advance notice of instruction about controversial issues. HB406 would require public schools to provide parents or legal guardians written advance notice of the instruction or provision of materials or activities that address controversial issues.
  3. Human papillomavirus instruction. HB458 and SB394 would require public schools to provide information about the human papillomavirus to parents or guardians of students entering sixth grade.
  4. Physical exam for incoming seventh graders. HB578 and SB115 would require incoming seventh graders to have a physical examination.
  5. Physical education in middle school. HB1436 would require courses in physical education and health education in grades 6, 7, and 8.
  6. Helping children in anaphylaxis emergencies: HB10, HB1163, and SB846 would authorize DOE employees and agents to volunteer to administer auto-injectable epinephrine to a student with anaphylaxis in an emergency situation.
  7. Helping students manage diabetes. HB861, SB848, and SB1221 would require the DOE to provide care to students with diabetes.

The 2015 Hawaii Legislature adjourns on May 7. Please think about these issues and how they may affect you, everyone around you, and future generations. Whether you have concerns or feel strongly about an issue, speak up, talk about it, and be part of the discussion!

Looking back at 2012 Hawaii legislation

January 15, 2013

January 16 is the opening day of the 2013 Hawaii Legislative Session. Before we start talking about upcoming session, let’s take a look back at what our legislatures accomplished in 2012.

In Hawaii, 329 bills became law in 2012. These bills have passed both houses of the Legislature, and were enrolled, certified, signed or unchallenged by the governor, and published.

Here are some of the major bills that affect us, for better or worse. I tried to read the bill summaries carefully, and added some comments. If I missed something important, please let me know!

Bill that affects employers, employees, and the unemployed:
* HB2096 HD1 sets the maximum weekly benefit amount at 75% of the average weekly wage from April 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012; increases the employment and training assessment in increments of .01% retroactive to January 1, 2012 for payments of interest on federal loans for unemployment insurance benefits. My main concern is the retroactiveassessment, which seems unfair.

Bill that affects parents with young children:
* SB2545 SD2 HD2 CD1 repeals junior kindergarten programs at the end of the 2013-2014 school year and requires students to be at least five years of age on July 31 of the school year in order to attend kindergarten. This could increase childcare costs for parents. It may benefit “late-born” children who are not ready for school (preventing them from repeating kindergarten).

Bill that affects condo owners:
* HB1746 HD1 requires for separate utility metering of nonresidential and residential condominium units, regardless of when constructed. This could increase maintenance fees for condo owners.

Bills that affect health care:
* HB1964 HD2 limits out-of-pocket costs for cancer treatment under health insurance plans. This could save cancer patients money, but increase health insurance premiums for everyone.
* SB2798 SD1 HD1 requires all private health insurers to share their membership list with the Department of Human Services for Medicaid eligibility determination. This seems to infringe on members’ privacy.
* HB 2275 HD2 SD2 CD1 establishes a hospital sustainability fee. The Department of Human Services will charge and collect a provider fee on health care items or services provided by hospitals from July 1, 2012 and repealed on June 30, 2013. This could increase hospital costs and may conflict with federal hospital fees set by the Affordable Health Care for America Act.
* SB2825 SD1 HD1 CD1 allows health insurers limited access to the Hawaii immunization registry. I question the need for a registry, except for medical providers and first responders; and I don’t understand why health insurers need access to it.

Bill relating to Native Hawaiians:
* SB2386 SD2 HD2 requires the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to verify documents from individuals seeking to be included in the roll of qualified Native Hawaiians, and prohibits the release of any verification documents. What is a “qualified” Native Hawaiian? Why can’t the Commission release verification documents with the individual’s approval?

Bill that increases utility costs:
* SB2752 SD1 allows electric utility companies to recover all power purchase costs that have been approved by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Electric companies are guaranteed to break even.

Bills that could boost our economy (and boost us into outer space):
* SB112 SD1 HD1 CD1 authorizes the application of a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration to establish space tourism in Hawaii. What an exciting opportunity!
* HB2873 HD2 SD2 CD1 establishes a board of directors for the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and transfers oversight to the Office of Aerospace Development. Seems like a change in housekeeping, from research (University of Hawaii) to development (Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism). On an unrelated note, how long did it take them to come up with the acronym?

Bills that authorize special purpose revenue bonds:
* There are eight special purpose revenue bond bills. 1. Dams and Reservoirs (HB2595 HD2 SD2 CD1); 2. Hawaii Preparatory Academy (HB2127); 3. Seawater Air Conditioning Projects (SB745 SD2 HD2); 4. St. Francis Healthcare System and Hawaii Medical Center East (SB2939 SD1 HD1 CD1); 5. The Queen’s Health Systems (SB2383 SD1 HD1 CD1); 6. Le Jardin Academy (SB2952 SD2); 7. Clearcom, Inc. and Hawaii Broadband Initiative (SB2236 HD2 CD1); and 8. Hawaii Pacific University (HB2248 HD2 SD2 CD1). Special purpose revenue bonds are not supposed to cost Hawaii taxpayers anything, but they do give preferential treatment to some companies, choosing “winners” and “losers.”

Bill that may inhibit free speech:
* HB2751 HD2 SD1 makes the disrespect of a house of the legislature into a petty misdemeanor offense. Under the guise of “decorum,” this may stifle spirited debate and instill a fear of speaking out. What’s wrong with arguing with passion, expressing enthusiasm or outrage?

How would you grade the Hawaii Legislature in 2012? How do these new laws affect you?