Posted tagged ‘Hawaii Legislature’

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!

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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: 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!

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?

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.

Looking back at the 2015 Hawaii Legislature

February 2, 2016

2015 Hawaii Laws

The 2016 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 20. We’re in for another 16 weeks of discussion, debate, testimony, promises, and compromises until May 5, when the Legislature adjourns.

Before we dive into the 2016 Legislature, let’s look back at what the Hawaii Legislature accomplished in 2015. There were 243 Acts signed into law in 2015; four bills became law without the Governor’s signature. Here are the highlights:

Government on our side:

* Out with the old and obsolete. Act 22 amends tax laws to delete obsolete and unnecessary provisions. Act 35 corrects errors and references, clarifies language, and deletes obsolete or unnecessary provisions in the Hawaii Revised Statutes and the Session Laws of Hawaii.

* Encouraging local farming. Act 31 includes traditional Hawaiian farming systems, traditional Hawaiian crops, and small-scale farming to the Hawaii state plan objectives and policies for the economy.

* Seeing is believing. Act 39 requires open movie captioning for the hearing-impaired in motion picture theaters.

* Don’t blow any smoke. Act 19 prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices in places where smoking is prohibited. Act 123 prohibits smoking and electronic smoking devices within the state park system.

* Better for our cars and fuel efficiency. Act 161 repeals the existing requirement that gasoline for motor vehicles be composed of 10% ethanol.

Government in our pocketbooks:

* Higher fees and taxes fees. Act 240 extends the 0.5% county surcharge for rail transit by five years to 2027. Act 42 authorizes the counties to establish and charge user fees for stormwater management. Act 93 increases the transient accommodations tax (TAT) on resort time share vacation units by 1% each year to gradually achieve a rate of 9.25% of the fair market rental value. Act 223 repeals the refundable food/excise tax credit for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of $30,000 or above and for heads of households, married couples filing jointly, and married couples filing separately with adjusted gross incomes of $50,000 or above.

* Authorizing special purpose revenue bonds for Anaergial Inc. for renewable non-fossil fuel production on Maui (Act 72); Chaminade University of Honolulu (Act 73); Hawaiian Electric Company Inc., Maui Electric Company, Ltd., and Hawaii Electric Light Company Inc. (Act 75); and Waimea Nui Community Development Corporation for $45 million (Act 207).

* It’s not the end for a failed program. Act 76 appropriates funds for the operations of the Hawaii Health Connector.

Questionable decisions:

* Billboards – a foot in the door? Act 37 authorizes the display of an outdoor advertising device at the Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.

* Behind closed doors. Act 88 authorizes the Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees to hold a meeting closed to the public to discuss or decide upon certain matters.

* Never too young to learn. Act 109 establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning Public Prekindergarten program. Act 139 appropriates $2 million (over two fiscal years) for the Hawaii Keiki: Healthy and Ready to Learn program. Act 191 appropriates $6 million for fiscal year 2015-2016 for the Preschool Open Doors program.

* Too young to smoke. Act 122 increases the minimum age for smokers from 18 to 21 years.

* Legalizing the illegal. Act 172 creates a limited purpose driver’s license (not acceptable for federal identification and voting purposes) without a proof of lawful presence in the United States.

* Rewriting the past. Act 226 authorizes the Department of Health to issue a new birth certificate, upon request, with a sex designation change. Note: my concern is this: “The new certificate shall not be marked as amended and shall in no way reveal the original language changed by any amendment.”

* Feeling good in the neighborhood. Act 5 designates October 2 as Mohandas Karamchand Dandhi Day. Act 6 designates the ukulele as the official auana musical instrument and the pahu as the official kahiko musical instrument of Hawaii. Act 7 designates December 20 as Sakada Day. Act 13 designates the ʻōpeʻapeʻa (Hawaiian hoary bat) as the state land mammal. Act 145 authorizes the issuance of special license plates for Haleakala National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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.