Hawaii lawmakers pass dozens of bills
By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER
HONOLULU — The Hawaii House and Senate separately passed dozens of bills Tuesday touching on issues ranging from energy to education, starting a marathon session by passing a $23.8 billion budget and largely putting off the toughest decisions to the end of the day.
Lawmakers met Tuesday to vote on the majority of remaining bills, with only one more session on Thursday before the 2013 session ends.
The unanimously approved budget provides millions for capital improvement projects and the state’s unfunded liabilities. Lawmakers are also voting on budgets for the judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Both chambers approved the governor’s initiative to provide loans to help low income people afford solar panels and other green energy equipment. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has been pushing for the green energy infrastructure loans as part of his plan to help Hawaii move away from fossil fuels.
Both chambers also approved a bill to require background checks for people who bring guns to Hawaii from out of state.
Lawmakers disagreed on a proposal to extend the state shield law. The Senate approved a version that made the law permanent but limited its scope. The House chose to amend the measure to keep the existing law for two more years, and plans to revisit the bill on Thursday.
The Senate approved measures for higher tax credits for film productions and more stringent campaign spending requirements. The chamber also approved a pilot program to allow the state to lease some public school lands and a bill intended to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
With the necessary two-thirds support, the Senate also moved forward a constitutional amendment to allow the state to fund preschool. If the House agrees, the measure will be on Hawaii residents’ ballots on 2014.
The Senate also approved Abercrombie’s proposal for a new school readiness program to help late-born 4-year-olds from low-income families. The proposal has received much less funding than Abercrombie’s original request, but advocates said this is a building block for a more expansive early childhood education program in the future.
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