Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Lack of compromise
kills housing bias bill

The measure would bar
discrimination against

A bill to ban discrimination against homosexuals in rental housing died in the state Legislature, even though both the House and Senate had approved different versions of the measure.

The Hawaii Christian Coalition had lobbied strongly against the measure, saying it "threatens the religious freedoms and sensibilities of people living in Hawaii."

But exemptions to the proposal were criticized by a gay lobbying group, which said the bill would actually hurt their civil rights.

"We supported killing the bill if any religious amendment was added, rather than creating a whole new way to allow discrimination," said Bill Woods, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Education and Advocacy Foundation.

The measure (HB537) would have added "sexual orientation" to a list of discrimination prohibitions, such as discriminating against prospective tenants or buyers on the basis of race, gender, religion, marital status, ancestry, age, disability and HIV infection.

As the measure started, it would have exempted housing on church grounds from the discrimination clause. The clause was designed to satisfy objections from religious groups concerned that the bill would force them to rent rooms to homosexuals.

The House amended the bill to expand the definition to include private property owners who were leasing property to a church. The Senate Judiciary Committee also included an exemption for housing owned or leased by a religious organization, at the request of Brigham Young University, which leases dormitory rooms to students.

The Senate Judiciary Committee noted in a report: "Currently, discrimination because of sexual orientation is only prohibited in employment. Just as a person should not be denied a job because of the person's sexual orientation, a person should not be denied a home because of the person's sexual orientation."

The anti-discrimination bill, however, failed to win the support of the gay community.

"It no longer addressed discrimination with nondiscrimination, but opened up extensive additional discrimination," Wood said.

The House and the Senate committee, faced with criticism from both opponents and supporters of the original bill, were unable to fashion a compromise and no conference committee meeting was ever scheduled, effectively killing the measure.


Legislature sends variety
of bills to Gov. Lingle

Bills passed by the state Legislature include:

>> Senate Bill 17: Establishing a minimum age at which children could enter kindergarten in public schools and requiring the Department of Education to develop a "Junior Kindergarten" program for late-born children.

>> S.B. 3170: Requiring by Jan. 1, 2006, that not less than 85 percent of all gasoline sold for use in motor vehicles contains 10 percent ethanol by volume.

>> S.B. 1611: Fine-tuning the 2-year-old beverage container deposit-and-return law, the so-called "bottle bill" set to take full effect the start of next year. Consumers as of Nov. 1 will start paying a nickel deposit for each glass, aluminum or plastic beverage container they buy. As of Jan. 1, they can get the nickel back by returning the can or bottle to the store or a redemption center.

>> S.B. 2425: Allocating $2.5 million to New Century Charter Schools to make up for a projected shortfall in their budget request for the upcoming fiscal year.

>> S.B. 2134: Establishing in law the emergency environmental work force program to help the counties fight invasive species. The work force originally was formed to create jobs in the economic downturn following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

>> House Bill 2773: Granting the board of directors of condominium associations the authority to allow owners to install antennas for amateur radios.

>> H.B. 2774: Granting the boards of directors of planned community associations in agricultural districts the authority to permit owners to install antennas for amateur radios.

>> H.B. 2137: Establishing a "One Call Center" to coordinate location of underground installations such as pipelines, conduits, cables, ducts, sewer lines and storm drains, and provide advance notice to operators of those installations when excavation work is proposed in those areas.


Bill to foil pesky
data seekers dies

A proposal to let the state limit the amount of public information granted to people who make repeated, frivolous requests for such records has been tabled in the Legislature.

It was one of the few bills killed Monday as lawmakers took final votes on dozens of measures in advance of tomorrow's adjournment of the regular session.

The public records bill was targeted at hindering "vexatious requesters" -- people who make repeated requests that tie up fax and phone lines and interfere with legitimate government functions.

Although the measure passed out of the Senate, it was shelved in the House, where leadership said there weren't enough votes for approval.

Among those pleased with the move was Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua), who said the House action "is in the best interest of open government."

Under the bill, anyone proven to have engaged in a pattern of abusing the request process could have limits placed on the amount of information released to them.

Opponents of the bill said the definition of a "vexatious requester" was too broad and subjective and could lead to legitimate requests being stifled.

Meanwhile, mobile phone users can expect a 66-cent monthly surcharge on their bills beginning July 1, under a measure that would impose the fee to fund a statewide enhanced wireless 911 system.

The enhanced 911 bill was among the dozens of proposals approved by lawmakers that now go to Gov. Linda Lingle, who can either sign the measures, veto them or let them become law without her signature.

The new wireless system, known as "e-911," would allow operators to determine a mobile phone caller's identification and location. Callers also would be connected to an emergency operations center nearest to them.

"This measure will provide a vital communication link," said Rep. Romeo Mindo (D, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point).


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