Posted tagged ‘People vs. Government’

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!


2015 Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. government

March 10, 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.

So far, my legislative session round-up has covered taxes and education. 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 bills being proposed that affect individual rights and government powers in the 2015 Legislative Session. I’ve divided the bills into 4 sections: 5 bills about elections and voting, 5 bills that show government on our side, 8 bills that put checks on government power, and 8 bills that reveal government overreach (I had to restrain myself from including more bills). If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

5 bills about elections and voting

  1. Voting: the carrot and the stick. HB789 would create a tax credit for voting in elections. HB1495 would establish compulsory voting and a fine of $100 imposed on registered voters who fail to vote without a valid excuse. We can reward people for voting, but we shouldn’t penalize people who choose not to vote – we have a right not to vote.
  2. More ways to vote. HB124, HB294, HB1211, HB1481, SB219, SB255, SB287, and SB578 would allow voting by mail. HB1130 would allow online voting. HB1006 would allow voting by cellular phone.
  3. Closing the door on open primaries. HB338 would establish closed primary elections, in which only registered political party members can vote. HB339 would require voters to declare a political party preference or nonpartisanship as a condition of voting in a primary or special primary election.
  4. Automatic voter registration. HB401, SB150, and SB439 would automatically register to vote applicants for a driver’s license, provisional license, instructional permit, or civil identification card.
  5. Lowering the voting age. HB1304 and HB1306 would lower the qualifying age of voters from 18 years to 16 years. I’m undecided about this – 18-year old voters may have more real-world experience (holding a job and paying taxes), or at least may have thought about it more.

5 bills that show government on our side

  1. Residency requirement for welfare. HB1045 and SB1249 would require an applicant or recipient of public assistance to be a resident of Hawaii for at least 4 months. Why not 6 months or even a year?
  2. Safety inspections every two years. HB1089 would require motor vehicle safety inspections every two years, rather than annually. If this passes, the safety inspection fee should stay the same, rather than double.
  3. Electronic monitoring while on probation. SB517 would require electronic monitoring as a condition of probation for repeat misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor offenders who are not sentenced to incarceration. Yes.
  4. A little hope for victims of violence. HB58 and SB471 would establish the Hawaii Hope Card Program to issue Hope Cards upon request to those holding a long-term protective order.
  5. The rights of the terminally-ill. HB92, HB882, and SB585 would allow terminally-ill patients to receive investigational drugs, biological products, and devices that have not received final FDA approval. HB1255 would allow a terminally-ill, competent adult of at least 50 years to receive a lethal dose of medication to end life.

8 bills that put checks government power

  1. Term limits for legislators. HB168, SB835, and SB927 proposes term limits of 12 consecutive years for State Representatives and Senators. Term limits may encourage more people to get involved in politics, and it may mean that ineffective legislation can be repealed more easily because its supporters have moved on.
  2. No fundraising during legislative sessions. HB327 and SB244 would prohibit legislators and employees of legislators from holding fundraisers during a regular or special legislative session.
  3. Initiative, referendum, recall, and impeachment. HB418 would provide for direct initiative, popular referendum, and recall. HB471 and SB952 would provide for Referendum. HB474 and SB951 would provide for Recall. SB241 would provide for the power of Impeachment.
  4. Constitution-check on bills. HB394 would require all introduced bills to be subject to a legal sufficiency check that determines whether the bill meets state constitutional requirements and does not conflict with the state constitution or federal constitution before first reading. Does this mean that legislators could pass a bill now that turns out to be unconstitutional?
  5. A unicameral legislature. SB931 would propose a constitutional amendment to create a unicameral legislature consisting of 51 members serving four year terms. Legislators would serve smaller districts and proposed legislation might be reduced (less overlap of bills).
  6. Resign-to-run! SB1182 would create resign-to-run laws on all state elected public officers. Public campaigning and fundraising is practically a full-time job. However, HB1048 would establish reemployment rights for public employees who resign in order to seek elective office.
  7. Legislator residency requirements. HB1263 would require candidates for the state legislature to be residents of their legislative districts for at least one year prior to the general election.
  8. Bill, be true to thyself. SB245 would require that bills can only become law if, after amendments, it reflects its original purpose. This makes so much sense, no one thought it needed to be a law.

8 bills that reveal government overreach

  1. Driving rights for illegal immigrants. HB688 would allow illegal immigrants (“regardless of immigration status”) to gain limited purpose driver’s licenses, provisional driver’s licenses, and instruction permits. HB1007 would allow illegal immigrants (who “do not present proof of authorized presence in the United States”) to gain limited purpose driver’s licenses, provisional driver’s licenses, and instruction permits. SB365 and SB683 would create limited purchase driver’s licenses, provisional driver’s licenses, and instruction permits with “satisfactory proof of identity and Hawaii residency.” Driving is a privilege, not a right.
  2. Red lights, camera, action! HB1324 and SB1160 would establish a three-year pilot program for a photo red light imaging detector system program.
  3. No more fruit punch or orange juice on kids menus. HB1437 and SB1179 would prohibit restaurant children’s menus from offering any beverage other than bottled water and milk, but allows children to order any nonalcoholic drink from a restaurant’s regular menu. Let restaurants, parents, and children make this decision. This would give children fewer choices, not help them make better choices.
  4. What’s in your snorkel? HB1460 would require people to use snorkels equipped with a safety valve. How would they enforce this?
  5. Crowdfunding is okay, but only when we say it’s okay. HB1482 would establish a crowdfunding program for limited intrastate investments between Hawaii residents and Hawaii businesses, limited to no more than $1 million raised over a 12-month period, not to exceed $5,000 per investor. Why is the government getting involved in private crowdfunding?
  6. A 1-meter bubble around bicycles. SB128 would prohibit a motor vehicle from being operated within 1 meter of a moving bicycle. This seems unreasonable and unenforceable. Some roads have narrow bike lanes or parked cars in the bike lane. Also, bikers must sometimes move closer to the car lane to avoid a pothole or a rock on the road.
  7. Separate electricity meters and more service fees for all. SB488 would require nonresidential and residential condominium units to install separate electricity utility metering. I think that this should be the condominium association’s decision. This seems like a way for electric companies to charge individual units with a monthly service charge.
  8. Pawnbrokers and customers, we’re watching you! SB515 would require pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers to submit daily electronic reports on items received. This is an economic hardship: dealers would need a computer, Internet access, and a digital camera; customers would have to pay a property receipt reporting fee (they need money, or they wouldn’t need a pawnbroker or dealer).

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!

Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

March 5, 2013

Recently, we’ve looked at proposed bills in the 2013 Hawaii Legislative session that affect taxes and education. This week, let’s look at bills that pit residents against government.

There are 10 issues, large and small, in which government is intruding more into our lives and our businesses. If I’ve missed any important bills that limit our rights and freedoms, please let me know!

1. Fewer consumer rights: HB 663 and HB1198 ban non-biodegradable single-use checkout bags. SB619 bans polystyrene foam take-out containers. SB620 requires food services businesses to offer compostable or reusable food containers at no extra cost. HB243 and SB428 ban consumer fireworks statewide. Businesses and consumers should make the decision about plastic bags, styrofoam, and fireworks.

2. Privacy concerns: SB693 establishes a red light camera pilot program. This infringes on our privacy, cannot account for the timing of yellow lights, and can only catch the vehicle, not the actual driver. SB465 establishes penalties for “constructive invasion of privacy” if a person (celebrity) has a “reasonable expectation” of privacy. This seems both too narrow (Does it only apply to celebrities? Does everyone have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy?) and too broad (What about photos of crimes in progress, investigative reporting, and people in the background? What about candid but inoffensive photos of celebrities?).

3. More constraints on law-abiding firearms owners: SB36 requires annual renewals of firearm registrations and mandatory education and training every two years. This makes it unreasonably difficult to own a registered firearm (criminals won’t have this problem).

4. Limits on free speech: HB119 would allow only “natural persons” the right of freedom of speech. What is a “natural person” and could this limit the free speech of other “persons”? HB272 and SB196 make “abusive conduct” against a public employee a “violation”. Who decides what is “abusive conduct” and could this be used to intimidate or retaliate against legitimate complainants?

5. Fewer rights for smokers: HB1210 prohibits smoking in a motor vehicle if a minor is present. SB616 prohibits smoking at public bus stops, parks, beaches, and in motor vehicles if a minor is present. Smokers are being pushed out of private and public spaces.

6. Fewer rights in public housing: HB83, HB515, HB740, HB884, SB88, SB944, and SB1115 ban open containers of intoxicating liquor on sidewalks and/or common areas within public housing projects. HB86, SB330, SB651, and SB942 ban smoking anywhere in a public housing project. Public housing residents should have the choice to ban smoking and alcohol.

7. More constraints on fishermen: HB731 prohibits catching uhu (parrotfish) within state marine waters. SB1320 prohibits catching any parrotfish. This is difficult to enforce; fishermen can’t choose which fish to catch. HB1155 restricts opihi harvesting. SB27 prohibits synthetic nets for gill net fishing.

8. More restrictions on farmers’ markets: SB737 establishes a farmers’ market operator license. Will this become a barrier to entry to small farmers and growing businesses?

9. More constraints on dog breeders: HB233 establishes licensing requirements and minimum standards of care for commercial dog breeders. Can this be enforced? Will this apply to family dog breeders?

10. More restrictions on pest control: HB673 establishes a pesticide use fee and reporting system. This means more bureaucracy and more fees. Will this apply to homeowners too? HB1386 establishes a pesticide-free buffer zone around school, child care facilities, and health care facilities. SB648 and SB649 ban pesticides with glyphosate.

Please think about these issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

March 6, 2012

Barry Goldwater said, “A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.”

We’re half-way through the 2012 Hawaii legislative session… Today, let’s take a look at bills that affect our freedom – bills that give power back to the voters, and bills that attempt to grow the size and power of government.

There are 5 proposals that ensure our freedoms and check the power of government:

1. Initiative, recall, and referendum: HB195 establishes the initiative process. HB187 allows for the recall of elected public officials. SB76 provides for citizen assembly and the power of referendum. This would make elected officials more accountable to voters and encourage voter participation.

2. Term limits: HB539 limits state senators to two consecutive terms and representatives to four consecutive terms. We need citizen-legislators, not career politicians.

3. Fiscal notes: HB449 requires the cost estimates when bills are proposed. A proposed bill tells us why we need it and how it will solve a problem; but the big question is: can we afford it?

4. Nonpartisan voting: HB415 allows voters to vote for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation; the two persons who receive the highest votes in any primary would advance to the general election. I think we should vote on character and values, not party affiliation.

5. Nepotism prohibited: HB252, SB662, and SB994 prohibit legislators and state employees from appointing, employing, or advancing an unqualified close relative. This shouldn’t even need to be a law; we should hire the people who are the best for the job.

There are 5 trends and proposals that expand the size and scope of government:

1. More bureaucracy: There are a number of bills that propose the creation of a new agency, committee, commission, authority, board, or task force. Just to name a few: a Commission on the Year 2050 (HB185), an emergency response vehicle noise task force (HB233), the Hawaii Health Authority (HB272), a Coastal Memorials task force (HB501), a state-owned bank task force (HB1840), a school immunization task force (HB2087), a Hawaii sports task force (HB2135), a Super Bowl task force (HB2136), a school garden task force (HB2245), a Commission to create a roll of qualified Native Hawaiians (SB1), and a commission on transit-oriented development and affordable housing (SB697). These bills create more layers of bureaucracy, create more duplication of services, and make elected officials less accountable for their decisions.

2. More bans: HB77 bans foie gras. HB95 bans the complete operation of leaf blowers. HB490 and HB969 impose a statewide ban on consumer fireworks. HB604 bans novelty lighters. HB2113, SB171, and SB2152 ban aerial luminaries. SB827 bans aspartame. HB891 bans non-compostable checkout bags. HB903 bans caffeinated beer beverages labeled as “pre-mixed drinks” and SB639 bans caffeinated or stimulant-enhanced malt beverages. HB1157 bans Pacific blue marlin. SB677 bans blunt wraps (tobacco). SB724 bans carbon monoxide (or other gas to preserve color or texture) in raw fish. SB746 bans audible motor vehicle alarm systems. SB1059 bans plastic bags. SB2232 bans bear gallbladders or bile. HB2352 and SB2923 ban opihi harvesting. Individuals and businesses should be able to make their own decisions about products and services.

3. More vocational licensing: HB337 and SB155 regulate athletic trainers. HB559 regulates music therapists. HB2108 regulates body piercers. Okay, I don’t have a problem with this – it’s about health and consent for minors. SB738 regulates beekeepers. Does the government need to get involved? Can each occupation regulate itself?

4. Hawaii wants to watch our odometer: SB819 and SB1131 establish a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” pilot program to evaluate a vehicle miles traveled user fee. In many cases, a pay-per-use fee makes sense. But I don’t know if I want Hawaii to check my odometer. If I don’t pay the miles traveled fee, will they ignition-lock my car?

5. Hawaii wants to check our trash: HB1527 prohibits the “knowing disposal” of fluorescent and CFL bulbs in the trash and requires recycling programs for retailers or wholesalers. Can we start by recycling lightbulbs in the “blue” trash bin instead of creating a new law?

Please think about these government issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.