Tuesday | August 30, 2016
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Important bills are halfway home


Tribune-Herald staff-writer

The state Legislature hit halftime last week, sealing the fate of bills that failed to pass the House or Senate by mid-session.

After Thursday’s cross-over deadline, legislation that could not make it through the first rounds of floor votes in either chamber are destined for dust bins or at least the shelf until next year.

A bill to raise the minimum wage made the cut. So did proposals to repeal the Public Land Development Corporation and allow public hospitals on Hawaii Island to be privatized.

On the other hand, legislation to provide $5.975 million to create the Waimea district park and increase taxes on liquor and soda products each failed to past muster.

And while lawmakers have spent much time discussing how to fix past legislation, including the act establishing the PLDC, bills intended to eliminate a loophole in the ethics code that gave legislators broader exemptions failed to gain traction this session.

The following is a list of some of the more noteworthy legislation to gain favor:


Following several high-profile shootings on the mainland last year, Hawaii legislators took up the issue with many calling for tighter controls on firearms.

Five bills were introduced regarding gun violence, with one calling for the ban of semi-automatic firearms.

Only one, Senate Bill 69, made it past the cutoff date.

It would require police departments to fingerprint, photograph, and perform background checks on gun owners trying to register a firearm purchased out of state.

Not all gun-related legislation sought to create more controls.

State Sen. Sam Slom, R-Oahu, introduced several bills that would relax rules regarding concealed weapons permits and a capacity limit for handguns.

In an interview with the Tribune-Herald, Slom said the state’s laws, some of the strictest on guns, are too tight and make it difficult for people to defend themselves.

None of his bills passed the Senate.


Pakalolo has been another hot topic, with several dozen bills regarding it introduced.

Most of them, included proposals to legalize the drug, have since gone up in smoke.

But a few bills seeking to lower penalties for users remain alive.

SB 68 would give judges discretion in setting prison terms for some drug offenders, while SB 472 would allow only a civil penalty of up to $100 for possession of one ounce or less.

Other bills also seek to amend the state’s medical marijuana program by transferring oversight from the state Department of Public Safety to the state Department of Health.

Minimum wage

One bill proposing to increase the state’s minimum wage has passed the Senate.

SB 331 would bump the wage, now at $7.25 an hour, to $8.25 in January.

It would also increase it to $8.75 in 2015 and $9.25 in 2016. Afterward, it would be tied to the Honolulu region consumer price index.

Health care

Hawaii Health Systems Corp. is considering an agreement with Banner Health to allow the private nonprofit to run hospitals on Maui and Hawaii Island.

To help that process, the Legislature is considering two bills — SB 1306 and HB1483 — to allow privatization of the public hospitals.

Legislation to provide funding to help retain more primary care physicians in the state remains in play.

But another bill to provide $2 million to North Hawaii Hospital has failed.


The University of Hawaii at Hilo would get a new learning center in Puna to train and educate farmers, money for an international flight training center, and a technology exchange institute under legislation that survived the cut-off deadline.

Lawmakers are also considering a bill to allow the development of unused school land to help fund education.


Last year, the Legislature adopted Act 97, which eliminated requirements that geothermal development occur within designated subzones.

In the process, it eliminated county-level permitting oversight of new geothermal operations.

House Bill 106 would reinstate the geothermal resources development permit process. It does not address the issue of subzones, which geothermal opponents say should be put back in place.


Consumers would have more food categories to choose from if HB 174 is adopted.

The bill would require imported food that had been genetically engineered to be labeled as such.

Food grown in Hawaii would be exempt from the requirement.

HB 749 would establish an agriculture advisory board responsible for helping the state grow more of its food.

Under HB 353, the state would provide $300,000 to address the coffee berry borer infestation.

Several bills also seek to protect taro lands.

HB 734 would set protection of Hawaiian crops, including taro, as an agricultural planning objective, while HB 484 would protect taro-growing areas from development.

Under HB 414, a new advisory commission would be created to help manage land use in Waipio Valley, a taro-producing area.

State lands

Several bills would allow Hawaii County to lease, and therefore manage, the Mauna Kea and Hapuna state recreation areas and the Banyan Drive area.

The county is seeking control because it believes it could better manage the lands, including the hotel properties along Banyan Drive.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources owns the land and is responsible for establishing leases to the hotels.

That responsibility would be transferred to the county if the legislation is adopted.

The state and county would both share lease revenue.

Hawaiian culture

A Hawaiian museum of music, dance and cultural arts would be established under HB 1441.

The bill would also establish a design committee of 11 members and provide a yet-to-be-determined amount for funding.

The state’s share of funding would be limited to 50 percent.


The Senate and House have both passed their own bills to repeal the PLDC, established in 2011 to create public-private partnerships for development of state land.

The agency has been the focus of criticism for exemptions to county land use and zoning laws.

Another agency may take its place.

SB 215 would create the Public-Private Partnership Authority.

Proponents say it would serve the same purpose but lack the exemptions that have made the PLDC politically toxic.

Private roads

Maintenance of private roads has long been an issue for Hawaii County, particularly in Puna.

Concerns over liability have kept the county from helping fund their maintenance.

Two bills, SB 382 and HB 101, would address that issue by protecting the county from those legal concerns.


The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems would receive additional funding under two bills, SB 1256 and SB 930.

Last year, PISCES was separated from UH Hilo and placed under the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

It has received $2.3 million to set up its own facility and cover some operations.

Both bills would allocate more funds to help cover operations costs for PISCES, though the amount has not been sent.

For more information, visit www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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