Thursday, January 21, 1999
Events centered around the 1999 Hawaii state Legislature.
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"It's the economy, stupid!" certainly applies this legislative session. And while Hawaii's weak economy is expected to dominate, many other topics offered by a wide range of interest groups and sectors will embroil lawmakers. Among the hot issues:
THE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
COUNTIESExempt the counties from paying excise taxes.
Restore to counties the portion of the transient accommodations tax (hotel room tax) lost after last year's session.
Allow counties to charge vehicle registration based on value rather than weight.
Renew/make permanent beach liability exemption for the counties; current law sunsets this year.
Allow greater authority to privatize services.
Regain authority to legislate fireworks.
Restructure tax system, shifting taxes away from production and income and toward consumption. To wit: Replace general excise tax with tax on retail sales, excluding food, medical care and prescription drugs.
CRIMEGive judges discretion in certain circumstances to sentence those convicted of second-degree murder or attempted murder to a life term without the possibility of parole.
In criminal cases, allow guilty verdicts to come at 10-2, rather than require a unanimous jury decision.
Habitual offender bill to treat a fourth-time petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor offender as a felon.
Authorize overtime pay for police officers subpoenaed as state witnesses in criminal proceedings during off-duty periods.
Amend law to distribute traffic fines to the counties where the infractions occurred and to the state agency that maintains traffic enforcement and safety programs.
Amend the penalties for assault and terroristic threatening against law enforcement officers to a Class C felony.
Enable county police chiefs to form partnerships to fight crime statewide by allowing officers to exercise powers in other counties when necessary.
Issue $130 million in government bonds for a 2,300-bed, Big Island medium-security prison.
ECONOMY AND MONEYProvide $50 million in tax incentives for small businesses.
Offer tax credits to offset 50 percent of the annual premium cost of long-term care.
Further lower the personal income tax credit, with the tax rate dropping to 7.25 percent by the year 2002.
Prohibit strikes by all state and county workers by using binding arbitration.
Establish Hawaii as the Asia-Pacific's "call center" hub.
Dollar-for-dollar tax credits for hotel room renovation projects of $1 million or more.
Develop a biotechnology research park in Kakaako under a public-private partnership.
Develop the Marks Estate in Nuuanu as a wellness center under a public-private partnership.
Enact a law to allow the state to enter into agreements with private entities to develop transportation and environmental infrastructure.
EDUCATIONFelix consent decree: The Education Department is asking $28.2 million for the biennium's first year, $33.7 million for the second year. Requested items include autism training for teachers, resource teachers, special education teachers, educational assistants and teacher-training programs. (The departments of Health and Education have separate million-dollar budgets requested for this.)
Hawaii Content and Performance Standards: $3.4 million in first year, $3.1 million in second year to implement standards and development of a comprehensive assessment and accountability system.
School support: $7 million in first year, $8.5 million in second year to beef up curriculum and clerical responsibilities.
New facilities: $26.1 million in first year and $12.6 million in second year to provide staff, equipment and utilities for new facilities in the next biennium, including Kapolei Middle, Keaau High, and Kauai Intermediate schools as well as new classrooms at Mililani Middle and Waikele Elementary.
Launch pilot projects to advance early childhood development and education.
Seven more instructional days: $3.8 million for each year of the biennium for school expenses associated with the addition of seven teaching days to the school year.
Impose school-by-school budgeting.
Multitrack schools: $576,000 in first year, $564,000 in second year.
Hawaii Center for the Deaf and the Blind: $281,663 in first year, $180,000 in second year.
ENVIRONMENTAddress shortcomings of last year's law, which gives automatic approval to requests for state permits if government agencies do not act within given time limits.
Continue funding for alien species control, especially miconia.
HAWAIIAN AFFAIRSApproval of a settlement between OHA and the state over past-due revenues from ceded lands. Negotiators are working on an informal 60-day deadline that ends around March 1.
Possible follow-up legislation on annual revenue payments to OHA. The 2-year-old, $15.1 million cap of OHA's annual ceded-land revenue payment expires this summer.
Require Hawaiian names only for fish caught locally, to separate it from fish caught elsewhere but sold in Hawaii under the same name, such as fresh ahi or ono.
Tuition waivers for Hawaiians: Grant waivers to 500 Hawaiian students who are financially needy and are enrolled in a degree program in the University of Hawaii system.
Allow trustees to be vested in the state Employees Retirement System.
OHA seats on the state Land Board and on the state Water Commission, among other boards.
An elected Hawaiian Homes Commission, as well as enterprise zones and tax exemptions for leased homestead lands.
Decision on whether to extend the Hawaiian Homes Trust Individual Claims Review Panel, which sunsets at year's end.
Native Hawaiian gathering rights.
HEALTHLegalization of physician-assisted death.
Legalization of marijuana for medical reasons.
Funding for special education and mental health services for disabled children required under the Felix consent decree.
Funding for community hospitals.
Funding for community health centers for the uninsured.
HIGHER EDUCATIONLegislation to ban unaccredited degree-granting institutions -- "diploma mills" -- from operating here.
Fine-tune autonomy legislation passed last year, to include issues on procurement, legal representation, optional retirement plans for faculty. Also, lengthen terms of UH regents and change appointment method of regents to include new advisory board. Give UH autonomy over personnel, payroll and property, with employee negotiations with the UH, not state.
Construction: 17 projects of $72.1 million, including access ramps, bringing buildings up to fire and electric codes, classroom-office building at UH-Hilo, renovation of Hawaii Hall at UH-Manoa, classroom at Maui Community College.
Use bond authority to establish endowment for UH to offset dependence on general funds.
Encourage entrepreneurial development of ideas: Those who develop patentable idea/product here using external grant money would be exempt from state income tax.
Change ethics law to allow faculty/public employees to engage in entrepreneurial activities that develop economic opportunities.
HUMAN SERVICESApprove governor's request for Medicaid program -- $10.6 million more in 2000, and $9.7 million more in 2001 -- to fund nursing homes and health-care clinics. Also, strengthen Medicaid program in eligibility determination by converting 158 temporary full-time jobs to permanent ones.
Because of more children in foster care, increase funding for foster board payments and services: $2.6 million more in 2000, $3.6 million more in 2001.
Because of growing population, primarily among aged, increase payments to aged, blind and disabled: $1 million more in 2000, $1.4 million more in 2001.
JUDICIARYPay raises for judges.
Make Drug Court a permanent program of the courts; upgrade computer system for year 2000; add three judges -- one each for Family Court on Oahu and Big Island, and one Circuit Court judge for Kauai; install security surveillance equipment and hire more security personnel; and continue Judiciary Computer System Special Fund.
New Kauai Judiciary complex to house all Judiciary personnel and offices; and a self-help center at District and Family Courts to provide public access.
Eliminate jury exemptions so everyone is eligible to serve on a jury. Current state law exempts attorneys, priests, doctors, policemen, firefighters and members of the armed forces.
MISCELLANEOUSDomestic partnerships, giving legal benefits to same-sex couples.
Political campaign spending reforms.
A calendar of tomorrow's hearings -- to be held at the state Capitol, 415 S. Beretania St., unless noted:
HOUSEHigher Education: Briefing on the University of Hawaii's Manoa, Hilo, West Oahu and community colleges, and University of Hawaii systemwide support, 2 p.m., University of Hawaii at Manoa, Campus Center executive dining room.
Human Services and Housing: Briefing on Department of Human Services programs for children, needy families, the elderly, the disabled, vocational rehabilitation and community care, and the Department of Health's planning, program development and coordination of services for the handicapped, 8:30 a.m., Room 329.
Labor and Public Employment: Briefing on Labor and Public Employment issues, including an opportunity for any organization, group or individual to brief the committee on its legislative agenda, organizational structure and major objectives, 8:30 a.m., Room 309.
Tourism: Briefing on the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; the Hawaii Tourism Authority; the Convention Center Authority; and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, 9 a.m., Room 325.
Water and Land Use: Briefing on the Department of Land and Natural Resources' public lands management, water resources and parks, the Department of Accounting and General Services' land survey and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism's land use and coastal management and the Hawaii Community Development Authority, 9 a.m., Room 312.
SENATEConsumer Protection, Ways and Means, Economic Development, and House Consumer Protection: Joint briefing on Hawaii's captive insurance industry, 10 a.m., Capitol auditorium.
Education and Technology, and Joint Legislative Access Committee: Briefing on the federal government's expansion of Internet information technology and the administrative policy changes and benefits of informational technology procurement over the Internet, 1 p.m., Room 329.
Judiciary: Briefing on the Office of Information Practices' enforcement of information practices, the 1999-2001 biennium budget and 1999 legislative priority briefing, 9 a.m., Room 229.