Elderly care
tax bill passes

Taxpayers making $10,000
or more a year would pay
$10 a month under this plan

State lawmakers have approved a controversial long-term care tax that will cost taxpayers $10 a month, but killed a controversial campaign spending reform bill.

Legislature 2003

Legislature Directory

Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes

The bills were among dozens that legislators voted on yesterday as they moved toward tomorrow's planned adjournment.

A bipartisan group of House members said the campaign spending reforms in Senate Bill 459, CD1, were flawed and another year is needed to work on true campaign spending changes.

"I think the bill was seriously flawed, and I congratulate you and your majority caucus for taking this step," state Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe) told House Speaker Calvin Say (D, Palolo).

Economic Chairman Brian Schatz (D, Makiki) said the reason the House returned the bill to conference committee, essentially killing it for this year, was because it didn't meet the standards of reform expected from the public and from lawmakers.

"I think that this bill is not, actually, better than nothing. We owe it to the public and to ourselves to do a better job next year," Schatz said.

The Legislature also appears ready to vote tomorrow on a set of tax credits for hotels and West Oahu developers.

There was a flurry of last-minute maneuvering yesterday as the Senate at first called off the hotel tax credit bill, after getting a state tax department report saying it would cost too much.

News of the bill being recommitted in the Senate prompted the House's Democratic leaders to threaten to kill the $75 million Ko Olina tax credit, which Senate sponsors said would spur economic development in the Waianae area.

"At first we decided to recommit it because there was a negative impact to the budget," Senate President Robert Bunda said of the hotel renovation tax credit bill.

"The House decided that since we recommitted it, they weren't going to do the Ko Olina tax credit," Bunda said.

By the end of the day, Bunda said, the tax department had come back with revised figures and both tax credits were readied for passage tomorrow.

Perhaps the bill with the largest immediate effect is a long-term care bill that would require a $10 a month tax on every taxpayer making $10,000 or more a year.

The money would go into a fund that, after 10 years, would be available for Hawaii residents who paid into the fund to use for long-term care.

Opponents, however, criticized the measure, saying that it would pay $70 a day for only one year of care.

"This is a sad bill, it is a hoax," said Sen. Fred Hemmings, Republican leader.

"It will pay only half of the cost and last for only a year," Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo) said. "This will be a sad surprise to our seniors."

But, Sen. Roz Baker (D, Honokohau-Makena), chairwoman of the Health Committee, said it fills a needed gap.

"This program will meet 75 percent of the need in our state," Baker said.

"If we do nothing, taxpayers will be called on to do more and more in taxes to pay for our seniors. It is a modest investment," Baker said.

In the House, the long-term care bill passed by a narrow 27-24 vote. Less than a two-thirds affirmative vote means there is apparently not enough support for the House to override a veto of the measure by Gov. Lingle, who has been critical of the bill.

House Health Chairman Dennis Arakaki (D, Kalihi Valley) said the tax is needed to establish an affordable plan to ease the financial impact on the elderly. He acknowledged those who are young may find it hard to visualize this tax, but said it is necessary to provide compassionate and affordable care to Hawaii's elderly.

"We need to make the tough decisions now in order to avoid the financial iceberg in the future," Arakaki said.

Meanwhile, the Legislature also approved a bill that allows schools to charge up to $20 per student per year for textbook and instructional material.

House Education Chairman Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City) said House Bill 32, CD1, is an effort to help decentralize the state Department of Education and give it autonomy and authority.

The measure says principals may charge the textbook fee, but it is not mandatory, he said.

"This is not a mandate from up high," Takumi said. "This is something we're just merely giving them the authority to do."

But Rep. Bud Stonebraker (R, Hawaii Kai) said the $20 fee would be a financial burden, especially for parents who have several children in public schools. Rep. Mark Moses (R, Kapolei) said taxpayers shouldn't pay twice for public education.

"So you're paying for the privilege of using the textbook? I thought that's why we pay taxes already for education," Moses said.

Also yesterday, most House Republicans opposed a bill that repeals the current state law that allows a political sign to be posted on residential property for 45 days prior to an election and up to 10 days after. They fear House Bill 373, CD1, will mean these campaign signs could be posted year-round.

"I think that that's going to create quite a bit of sign blight throughout our neighborhoods and throughout our state," Thielen said.

But House Judiciary Vice chairman Blake Oshiro (D, Halawa) said the state Attorney General's Office has ruled that portion of the state law unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment.

He added that law is deemed unenforceable and the Legislature needed to repeal it.


[Bills moving forward]

Here is a list of some of the bills that passed yesterday in the state Legislature. The session ends tomorrow.

>> Age of consent (House Bill 562, CD1): Makes permanent age of consent laws. Requires sex offenders who remain in the state longer than 10 days or for more than 30 days in a calendar year to register with county police.

>> Airport concessionaires (Senate Bill 44, CD1): Provides further economic relief for airport concessionaires.

>> Airport fees (HB 1230, CD1): Establishes passenger facility charge revenue fund. Appropriates funds for increased security measures at state airports and harbors.

>> Child Protection (HB 133, CD1): Grants immunity from prosecution for leaving an unharmed newborn at a hospital within 72 hours of birth. Provides immunity from liability for hospitals and their personnel for receiving a newborn.

>> Convictions of public officials (HB 287, CD1): Requires public officials and public employees who are convicted of a felony related to their public duties to be terminated from their job upon conviction. Provides restitution if conviction is overturned.

>> Emergency leave for victims (SB 931, CD1): Entitles domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking victims to receive paid or unpaid employment leave while seeking medical attention, legal action, counseling, relocation or victims services.

>> Executive salaries (SB 1332, CD1): Establishes an executive salary commission to review and recommend the salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, department heads and deputy directors.

>> Fatherhood panel (SB 1423, CD1): Establishes the Commission on Fatherhood within the Office of the Lieutenant Governor to promote healthy family relationships.

>> Filipino war veterans (SB 1050, CD1): Requires the Office of Veterans Services, upon request of a deceased Filipino-American veteran's survivor, to make payment of up to $2,500 directly to a mortuary or crematory for funeral/burial services and to transport the veteran's remains to the Philippines, upon submission of an unpaid invoice to the office.

>> Fixed-rail system (SB 464, CD1): Requires the state Department of Transportation and the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization to develop a plan for a fixed-rail transit system on Oahu. Allows the department to explore a monorail if a full-fledged fixed-rail system is not feasible.

>> Invasive species (SB 1505, CD1): Creates a temporary Hawaii Invasive Species Council to address invasive problems. Bans importation or the sale of Salvinia molesta (aquarium watermoss), Salvinia minima (water fern) and pistia stratiotes (water lettuce). Authorizes use of a warrant when private property owner refuses entry after receiving notice of intent to control or eradicate an invasive species. Deputizes U.S. Department of Agriculture plant protection and quarantine inspectors to enforce Hawaii's law.

>> Judiciary pay (SB 1333, CD1): Authorizes the Judicial Salary Commission to determine salaries for justices, judges and appointed administrative judiciary offices effective July 1, 2004.

>> Kapolei villages (SB 1661, CD1): Requires the state to complete construction of the Villages of Kapolei by June 30, 2011.

>> Leave to attend parent-teacher meetings (SB 205, CD1): Requires public employers to provide employees at least two hours of paid leave during normal business hours to attend a mutually scheduled parent-teacher conference for employee's minor child. No more than two meetings per child in a calendar year.

>> Library support (HB 638, CD1): Provides a $2 check-off box on state tax returns to allow the public to support the state library system. Allows the library to use donated funds to support library operations.

>> Meal breaks (HB9, CD1): Requires employers to provide employees with at least a 30-minute break for eight hours of work. Bans employer from preventing an employee from expressing breastmilk during any meal break provided voluntarily.

>> Matchmaking (HB 135, CD1): Allows foreigners who use for-profit matchmaking services operated in Hawaii to access criminal conviction and marital history information about prospective spouses residing in Hawaii.

>> Political yard signs (HB 373, CD1): Bans landlords from stopping a tenant of a single family home from displaying a campaign sign. Repeals law against displaying campaign signs more than 45 days prior to and 10 days following an election.

>> Prison site (HB 298 CD1): Requires the executive branch to consider the undeveloped portion of land at Halawa Correctional Facility as one of the possible sites for replacing Oahu Community Correctional Center.

>> Public Safety split (SB 1393, CD1): Requires the Department of Public Safety to study dividing the department into a department of corrections and a department of law enforcement.

>> Segway devices (SB 1051, CD1): Enacts traffic code regulations for the Segway, a two-wheeled electric personal mobility device.

>> Skateboard parks (SB 975, CD1): Establishes limited liability for state, counties and volunteers from tort liability arising out of use of skateboard parks.

>> Textbook fees (HB 32, CD1): Authorizes schools to assess and collect annual fees for textbooks. Also requires schools to compile an annual list of textbooks used during that school year and make it available to students, parents and guardians.

>> Warning signs (HB 1214, CD1): Sets up a process for installing and maintaining warning signs on improved public lands that give the state and counties protection from liability for damages caused by dangerous natural conditions. Also says the state or county does not have a duty to warn of dangerous natural conditions on unimproved public lands.

>> Unannounced inspections (HB 914, CD1): Allows unannounced visits of adult residential care homes during or outside normal business hours.

>> Utility disclosure (HB 10, CD1): Requires retail suppliers of electricity to annually disclose their fuel-mix information to customers.

Compiled by Pat Omandam, Star-Bulletin


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --