Tuesday, February 24, 1998

Legislature '98

House bill hikes
the cost of getting wed

A marriage license and other records
will cost more if the measure passes

By Craig Gima

The cost of getting married in Hawaii would go up under a bill passed by the House Finance Committee today.

The bill would raise the price of a marriage license from $25 to $40.

Health Director Lawrence Miike yesterday testified that the state should see an increase in revenue of between $200,000 and $300,000. About half of the 19,000 to 20,000 marriage licenses issued each year go to out-of-state residents, he said.

The bill also would make it more expensive to get a copy of a divorce decree and other vital records. It would raise the fee for certified records to $11. The cost of birth, marriage and death certificates was raised from $2 to $10 last year.

The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women supported the certificate fee increase because part of the money collected would go to spouse- and child-abuse special funds.

The committee today amended the bill to waive the fee for records required by a state agency, or those needed for proving ancestry, after objections from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. OHA argued that the fee increase would disproportionately affect Hawaiians who must prove their ancestry to qualify for Hawaiian Homelands and other benefits.

Alice Ululani Greenwood testified she had to get records going back several generations to prove her children's ancestry. "Today, it cost more than $440. I have to get these documents straightened away."

Earlier this month, when the bill passed the House on second reading, Republicans protested the increase in the marriage license fee.

"Call it a tax, call it a fee, I think it's inappropriate," said Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa (R, Nuuanu).

Democrats said the $40 is still less than the average fee nationwide for marriage licenses of $60.

But one Democrat, Rep. Robert Herkes (D, Kau) agreed with the Republicans. "As a relative newlywed, I don't think you should have to pay that much for a marriage license," he said.

Workers comp bill
deemed a dud, criticized
as too narrow

Some senators say it's the big policy issues
that should be decided

By Pat Omandam

An attempt in the state Senate's effort to discourage workers compensation benefits to employees who file stress claims arising from disciplinary actions has fizzled, say some senators.

"I thought we could deal with this with a bang, and instead, what we've ended up with is a shoo-shoo baby," said Sen. Randall Iwase (D, Mililani), referring to a dud firecracker called Senate Bill 2934, S.D. 1.

The Hawaii Supreme Court last July ruled Regina Mitchell, a Big Island teacher who was suspended for allegedly striking a child in 1990, was entitled to workers compensation for stress injuries because of the school's disciplinary actions.

Lawmakers this session felt the highly publicized decision may result in an increase in stress-related claims and sought to deny such claims through legislation.

The bill was among the first 25 up for passage yesterday before the Senate and drew the most comments from the chamber floor. Opponents say the measure is too narrow, because it defines only stress-related claims stemming from disciplinary actions and not from other sources of stress, such as job transfer, layoffs, demotion, termination and work evaluation.

Along with Iwase, opponents were Sens. James Aki (D, Nanakuli), Marshall Ige (D, Kaneohe), Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa), Whitney Anderson (R, Kailua), Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai), Malama Solomon (D, Kau), Joe T. Tanaka (D, Wailuku) and Norman Sakamoto (D, Moanalua).

Sakamoto told Senate President Norman Mizuguchi (D, Aiea) that local businesses are laying off people and shutting down at an alarming rate. The public, he said, expected senators to work on broad policy issues related to workers compensation.

"I'm asking you and the rest here: We've still got a lot of time to put the games away and deal with what we've got to deal with as quickly as we can deal with it," Sakamoto said.

In the bill's Feb. 20 committee report, Ways and Means Co-chairwoman Rosalyn H. Baker said the current law needs clarification to exclude injuries caused by disciplinary action taken by employers "in good faith for just cause."

The bill, if passed, would provide some protection to employers who need to take disciplinary action to maintain the quality and efficiency of their workplace, she said.

Baker, however, acknowledged the measure doesn't address nondisciplinary issues surrounding stress claims, although lawmakers could cover it in other bills in the Legislature.

But Slom said employers, employees and the public believed in good faith the Senate would tackle the problem, and members shouldn't have to rely on a companion House bill to do so.

"The court gave us several options with many opportunities to act, and we chose deliberately to narrow it down to make sure that we would not address the problem," he said.

Brown tree snake may be allowed
here to train sniffing dogs

By Craig Gima

The state Department of Agriculture wants an exemption from the snake ban in Hawaii to bring in its own sterile brown tree snake.

The department wants to bring in a live male snake to help train snake-sniffing dogs used at the airport and harbors.

"Snakes have a kind of generic odor; however, to really train dogs for the brown tree snake, it's best to use that kind of snake," said Larry Nakahara, plant quarantine branch chief for the Department of Agriculture.

Nakahara told the Senate Economic Development Committee the department uses snakes that have been turned in or captured, or frozen snakes to train the dogs.

The department said the dogs need "proficiency" training every two weeks to maintain efficiency.

Senators asked Nakahara how the snakes would be sterilized.

"I would imagine it involves surgically removing what needs to be removed," Nakahara said.

Nakahara assured the senators extra precautions would be taken to make sure the snakes do not escape during training.

He said the snakes would probably be placed in a cylinder with tiny air holes and placed in a secured cargo area for the dogs to sniff out.

"Its sole purpose would be to provide its sweat," Nakahara said.

The Senate Committee is scheduled to make a decision on the bill tomorrow. A House committee already passed a similar measure.

Bills forwarded

Here are a few of the first bills sent by the Senate to the House yesterday:

S.B. 2021: Eliminates the requirement that commercial drivers pass a knowledge test when renewing their licenses, to jive with a 1997 law which eliminated knowledge tests for those renewing Hawaii Drivers licenses.

S.B. 2339: Requires moped owners to register and license their mopeds, and requires safety inspectors to withhold safety sticker and notify police if vehicle identification number is defaced.

S.B. 2911: Allows bicycle operators to also ride on the shoulder of a roadway to enhance bicycle safety.

S.B. 2916: Allows UH Board of Regents to delegate to the UH president or the president's designee the authority to render the final decision in contested case proceedings.


Legislature '98

A calendar of tomorrow's hearings -- to be held at the state Capitol, 415 S. Beretania St., unless noted. Hearings marked with an asterisk will be aired live on Oceanic Channel 53 and TCI Cable 23:


Energy and Environmental Protection: Hearing on bills relating to environmental impact assessments and statements. Decision-making to follow, 8:30 a.m., Room 312.

Finance: Hearing on bills relating to government contracts, privatization, workers compensation, Employees' Retirement System and duplication of government services, 10 a.m. Hearing at 12:30 p.m. to follow, on bills relating to Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund, foreign capital depositories and insurance premium taxes. Hearing at 2 p.m. to follow on bills relating to agriculture, government reorganization and state water code. Hearing at 3:30 p.m. to follow on bills relating to Public Utilities Commission and Hawaii Small Business Regulatory Flexibility act. Decision-making to follow all hearings, if time permits, Room 308.

Consumer Protection: Joint hearing with House Judiciary Committee on bills relating to degree-granting institutions, appeals from Public Utilities Commission and land use. Joint decision-making on bills relating to insurance and occupational therapists. Consumer Protection only hearing on bills relating to private trade, vocational or technical schools and code of financial institutions. Decision-making to follow, 3 p.m., Room 325.


Ways and Means*: Hearing on bills relating to making emergency appropriations for legal services for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands individual claims review, emergency medical services and public safety. Decision-making to follow if time permits, 8:30 a.m., Room 211.

Judiciary: Hearing on bills relating to guardianship, child support enforcement, concurrent jurisdiction, trusts, small estates and sentencing, 8:30 a.m., Room 229.

Ways and Means: Decision-making on bills relating to issuance of special purpose revenue bonds to assist QUEST project, cemetery and funeral trusts, insurance premium taxes and computer and communication systems. No public testimony, 1 p.m., Room 211.

Economic Development: Hearing on bills relating to ocean recreation, aquatic resources and ocean recreation management. Decision-making to follow if time permits, 2 p.m., Room 212.

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