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Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Legislature 2000


Lawmakers working
on lesser-known bills

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press


State lawmakers are completing work on hundreds of issues that make few headlines, from disposing of unclaimed corpses and combatting a pig disease to continuing Hawaiian healing practices and creating leases for private residential piers.

While not attracting as much public attention as civil service reform, fireworks bans and education accountability, each of these bills affects Hawaii life in some way.

For example, Rickmar Properties Inc. has an ambitious plan to retrofit air conditioning systems in downtown Honolulu to use chilled water from an overnight ice-making plant, increasing energy efficiency and replacing systems that use chloroflourocarbons.

Rickmar Properties wants lawmakers to approve $19 million in special purpose revenue bonds to carry out that plan.

Other companies seeking the tax-free bonding authorization -- which attracts lower interest rates on commercial loans -- want $8 million for a taro processing plant, $10 million for a plant for freeze dried coffee on Kauai and $10 million for facilities on the Big Island to process cacao beans and manufacture chocolate products.

Another measure aimed at creating new businesses and more jobs would provide an income tax credit for producers of ethanol, which would be blended with gasoline and diesel or waste cooking oils to decrease Hawaii's dependence on imported petroleum.

In education, there is a proposal to ensure boys and girls are treated equally when it comes to sports programs. In some cases, it would let girls try out for the boys' high school team if there is no girls' team in that sport, and vice versa.

Other education measures would establish a full-fledged Hawaiian language immersion program in the public schools and release confidential juvenile criminal records to certain school officials "in cases involving serious acts of violence that could jeopardize the safety and welfare of Hawaii's people."

In response to last November's slaying of seven employees at a Xerox Corp. warehouse in Honolulu, there is a measure to authorize the Crime Victim Compensation Commission to pay for mental health counseling for witnesses and individuals at the scene of mass tragedies and for relatives of the victims.

Crime victims seeking civil enforcement of court-ordered restitution would be excused from the mandatory $225 filing fee under another crime-related bill, while another measure requires convicted criminals sentenced to probation to help cover the costs of probation officers by paying $75 for probation of less than a year and $150 for more than a year.

A sampling of other measures:

Bullet Dual water systems -- one for drinking water and the other for lawn watering and toilet flushing -- would be required in new commercial and industrial developments.
Bullet To solve the late December mad rush for state identification card renewals, the expiration date would coincide with an individual's birthday, not the end of the year.
Bullet The state would swap coastal lands owned by Earl Bakken at Kihilo Bay in North Kona for nine acres the state owns inland of the bay, giving the state property with "an extensive coastal strand, mature vegetation and anchialine pools adjacent to a fine black sand beach ..."
Bullet The state would be required to cremate within six days, rather than bury, unclaimed corpses for which there are no known relatives.
Bullet The Department of Agriculture would conduct a survey to determine the rate of porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome in the state's $6 million swine industry.
Bullet The state's exemption from medical licensing for Hawaiian healing practices would be extended two more years to give more time for a required report to the Legislature on the traditional healing arts.
Bullet A long-standing controversy would be resolved with negotiation of rental fees for the use of state-owned tidal and submerged lands for noncommercial piers fronting private residences.

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