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Tuesday, June 26, 2001



Lt. governor signs
minimum-wage increase,
telemarketing fraud bills


By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono signed into law yesterday a measure that will increase Hawaii's minimum wage by $1 per hour over the next two years.

Approved by the Legislature in May, the new law increases the minimum wage to $5.75 an hour from $5.25 an hour as of Jan. 1, 2002, and to $6.25 an hour on Jan. 1, 2003.

Hirono, who is acting governor while Gov. Ben Cayetano is on the mainland, said raising the minimum wage is about raising the quality of life for families.

"It'll help reduce poverty," she said.

Hirono also signed a bill into law that makes telemarketing fraud a Class B felony with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, one of the strictest laws in the nation.

"This tells those with telemarketing schemes who target our elderly citizens, 'Don't call us ... or we'll be calling on you in prison,'" Hirono said.

The measure was strongly supported by the American Association of Retired People, which said telemarketing fraud nationally is a $40 billion industry.

"The enactment of this new law will help to keep all the people of Hawaii safer in terms of telemarketing fraud," said AARP Hawaii State Director Greg Marchildon.

Raising the penalty to a Class B felony makes extradition for prosecution and property forfeiture more likely, according to the AARP.

Hirono also signed into law a measure she said protects individuals and small businesses from cybersquatting -- a practice of registering an Internet domain name in anticipation of selling it to the company or person of that name who wants to use it for a Web site.

Hirono, herself the victim of someone else registering her name, said Hawaii is the second state behind California to establish such a law.

Another measure signed by Hirono establishes goals for electric companies in Hawaii to expand their use of alternative sources to fossil fuels -- such as wind and solar power -- for generation of electricity.

It also requires electric companies to establish a meter system for homeowners and businesses with their own electrical generating systems to log the excess power they return to the utility company's grid, thereby reducing their monthly electric bill.



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