Wednesday, March 3, 1999

State aims to
enlist teens in
liquor sale ‘stings’

By Helen Altonn


Legislature '99 Some underage Hawaii youths soon may be able to buy alcohol without risk of arrest.

They'd be on duty -- gathering information about illegal sales of liquor to their peers.

Legislation is pending to allow teens to participate in studies and activities to enforce the law, which prohibits the sale of alcohol to anyone under age 21.

"It is clear that alcohol is readily available to underage minors throughout the state," state Health Director Bruce Anderson told legislators.

He said a Health Department alcohol and drug use survey of students in 1996 showed 24 percent of sixth-graders, 38 percent of eighth-graders, 46 percent of 10th-graders and 59 percent of 12th-graders can easily buy alcohol.

The department plans to conduct liquor "stings" similar to those it has done with police to curb illegal sales of tobacco to kids.

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division is working with the Liquor Commission on an education and enforcement plan, said division chief Elaine Wilson.

A survey will be done first to determine the extent of the problems and identify areas needing the most attention, she said.

The baseline information will be used to measure progress toward prevention every year, she said.

In the tobacco enforcement program, for example, "We started with a 44 percent sales rate to minors. It's down to 15 percent in two years," Wilson said.

"That can only happen if merchants step up to the plate with you. We're counting on alcohol going the same way."

Wilson said the department is focusing on underage drinking because "we really don't have kids in treatment for drugs who haven't started with alcohol."

Yet, with the war on drugs the past 10 years, she said, "Alcohol has been a forgotten drug and it is the most lethal as far as traffic fatalities."

Friends are the most frequent sources of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and a large number of students -- 59 percent of seniors -- indicated in a survey that they can buy alcohol, Anderson noted.

Researchers have associated drinking with unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, he said.

Wilson said 18- and 19-year-olds will be enlisted as volunteers.

"Getting kids is not a problem," she said. "They are people who have seen the tragedies, who want to make a difference."

Cayetano defends tax,
civil service proposals

By Craig Gima


Raise taxes or cut state programs.

Once again, those seem to be the options before lawmakers as they struggle to balance the budget.

This afternoon, the House Finance Committee was scheduled to hear two administration bills to impose a 1 percent tax on the value of vehicles less than 10 years old and increasing the surcharge on rental cars from $2 a day to $3.

"I frankly don't see what the big hang-up is on increasing the surcharge on rental cars," Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday after his proposals ran into trouble in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. "We are low compared to the rest of the country. For anyone to say to us that this is a tax on business, it's a tax on tourists."

Cayetano said his tax proposals are meant to offset the revenue lost from other proposed tax cuts, including doubling the deduction for health care insurance expenses for employers.

"Sure we can do all these things without having any revenue-raising alternatives," Cayetano said. "But is the Legislature prepared for the kind of cutting of programs that I would have to make to provide that type of relief?"

After Cayetano's news conference, Senate President Norman Mizuguchi said there appears to be strong opposition to the ad valorem (value dependent) tax on autos.

"We need to have a balance in terms of funding for education, hospitals and human services, so I think we'll have to be open on that issue regarding revenue enhancement," Mizuguchi said. "If it's not an ad valorem tax on automobiles, then I think we'll need to come up with some kind of revenue enhancement package and not close out that option because it's very difficult to balance the budget if we don't do it."

Cayetano also suggested that tax credits to attract high-tech business to Hawaii is not as important as improving the University of Hawaii. On a trip to California's Silicon Valley last week, the governor said he learned that tax incentives are at the bottom of the list when it comes to attracting high-tech companies.

"Human resources is No. 1, the quality of life is important. The education system and having a good university is important, all of these things they told me are more important than tax incentives," he said.

The governor also criticized the Legislature for balking at his civil service reform proposals.

"Don't blame the union leadership for opposing these bills. They're doing what they think is best for their membership," he said. "I think you need to hold the legislators who don't have the political will to do what is right accountable."

But Mizuguchi said it's the governor who is not doing a good job explaining what he wants to do. He said the governor's "drop dead" proposal to end civil service as a way to bring the unions to the table may not be constitutional.

"I think there has to be collaboration or discussion because no one has really identified what we'd like to accomplish through a review of civil service. Is it recruitment? Is it classification? So now is the opportunity to define the scope of this review," he said.

Cayetano said department heads and lobbyist Charles Toguchi are down at the Legislature and he has met with House and Senate leaders. "I've heard this story, this song for the last five years. It's the old 'he hasn't been around' routine," he said.

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