House OKs raising
Bills go to conference committees
kindergarten entry age
By Pat Omandam
The House passed a bill yesterday that says students would not be able to enter kindergarten unless they reach age 5 by Sept. 1 starting with the 2007-2008 school year.
The measure was among the 111 Senate bills amended and approved by the House as lawmakers prepare legislation for House-Senate conference committee meetings in the next three weeks.
The legislative session ends on May 1.
Raising the kindergarten age drew small bipartisan opposition yesterday before a majority of the 51-member House approved Senate Bill 17, SD1, HD1. The bill goes to conference committee and then back to both chambers for a final vote if a compromise is reached.
Rep. David Pendleton (R, Maunawili-Kaneohe) argued on the House floor that children need as much stimulation for their intellectual growth as possible at this age, and to deny a certain group entry to kindergarten because they may be a few months short of age 5 is "not well thought through."
Pendleton said the proposed law takes away parents' discretion and flexibility in deciding when their child is ready for school.
Others complained problems with kindergartners who may not be mature enough for school should not be solved by having them "drop out" of kindergarten to wait another year.
"Age does not equate to maturity," added state Rep. Alex Sonson (D, Waipahu), who voted against the measure. "If age was the only factor ... I would not have been able to go to school until I was 7," he joked.
But Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City), House Education chairman, said studies have shown children who are not yet age 5 when they start kindergarten are at a disadvantage, and parents have a choice to home-school their children.
House Higher Education Chairman K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Waimalu) added the state needs to raise the age of kindergarten to have "a fighting chance" to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
"If we're going to make a dent and really compete with states across the nation, we're going to have to do this," Takai said.
Currently, children who turn 5 by Dec. 31 of the year they start school can enter kindergarten.
What House members did not do yesterday, however, was approve a floor amendment by Republicans that asks voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would create locally elected district school boards.
The amendment was among four proposed by the House minority, all of which failed.
Meanwhile, House members agreed to changes yesterday made by the Senate to a House bill that provides the Office of Hawaiian Affairs $9.5 million in undisputed ceded-land revenue, as requested by Gov. Linda Lingle's administration.
House Bill 1307, HD1, SD1, now goes to Lingle for approval.
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Bills go to
Here are some bills approved by the House and Senate yesterday. The differences in versions must be resolved in conference committees in the next few weeks before the measures can pass the Legislature:
>> HB 135, HD1, SD1: Allows foreigners recruited by international matchmaking services access to the criminal and marital history information about prospective spouses who are Hawaii residents.
>> SB 1075, SD1, HD1: Allows a state agency to require parties to a contested-case hearing to submit to mediation prior to the hearing.
>> HB 287, HD2, SD2: Provides that public officials and employees who have been convicted of a felony in office or in the performance of their duties lose their positions upon being found guilty.
>> HB 123 HD1, SD1: Allows pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives with approved procedures developed by a pharmacist and physician.
>> SB 1423, SD2, HD2: Establishes a commission to promote state policies and procedures to take into account fathers' roles in healthy family relationships.
>> HB 714, HD1, SD2: Proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize the Legislature to establish regional boards of education and review the structure of the state Department of Education.
>> SB 975, HD1: Establishes limited liability for the state and counties from tort liability arising out of use of skateboard parks.
>> HB 638, HD1, SD2: Provides a check-off box on state individual income tax returns to allow the public to support the Hawaii State Public Library System.
>> SB 1281, SD1, HD1: Exempts lands held by the High Tech Development Corp. from the management of the Department of Land & Natural Resources.
>> HB 1616, HD1, SD2: Establishes a long-term care income tax to pay for long-term care benefits.
>> HB 500, HD1, SD1: Allows the Family Court to commit a minor to a youth correctional facility for a mandatory period of time if the minor is found guilty of selling or distributing drugs.
>> SB 1700, SD1, HD2: Improves state charter schools by appropriating funds based on projected enrollment of the school and the average per-pupil cost as reported by the state Department of Education.
>> SB 1262, SD1, HB1: Requires an independent selection committee to rank bidders on a state contract and requires the awarding procurement officials to negotiate the contract with the bidders in the order they are ranked.
>> HB 29, HD1, SD1: Requires employers to provide employees with at least a 30-minute break for eight hours of work, unless such a break is already covered in a collective bargaining agreement.
>> SB 1393, SD2, HD1: Establishes a new state Department of Corrections. Transfers correctional programs from the state Department of Public Safety to the new department and changes the name of the Public Safety Department to the Department of Law Enforcement.
>> HB 512, HD1, SD2: Allows a patient's next of kin access to the patient's records and allows the disclosure of a mental health patient's medical records for insurance reimbursement claim purposes.
>> SB 1333, SD1, HD2: Authorizes a judiciary salary commission to determine salaries for justices, judges and appointed administration officials in the Judiciary.
>> HB 298, HD2, SD2: Directs the executive branch to consider the undeveloped portion of the existing Halawa Correctional Facility as one of the possible sites for replacing Oahu Community Correctional Center.
>> SB 1661, SD2, HD1: Requires the Hawaii Community Development Corp. to complete construction of the Villages of Kapolei, including affordable housing units, if any, no later than five years after the effective date of this act.
>> SB 658, SD1, HD3: Allows emergency contraceptives for sex assault survivors in emergency rooms.
>> SB 464, SD2: Requires the state Department of Transportation, the city and Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization to develop an action plan for the implementation of a fixed rail transit system for Oahu.
>> SB 78, SD2, HD1: Authorizes the state attorney general to bring civil action against any person who commits abuse of a dependent elder.
>> SB 420, SD1, HD1: Eliminates certain state funds that do not meet the criteria for continuation, and transfers excess balances from these special and revolving funds to the state general fund.