Ethics class mandated
under law

Most of the state's top officials have already signed up to attend a one-time ethics training class this month that is mandated by a new state law that takes effect today.

"It's going to be hectic," said Daniel Mollway, executive director of state Ethics Commission.

The new law mandates all top state officials -- including the governor, lieutenant governor, executive department heads and deputies, members of the Board of Education and trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs -- take the two-hour ethics training class.

"I think it's extremely beneficial," Mollway said. "We really want to avoid inadvertent violations of the law."

The course will be held each January and will also cover lobbying laws.

Mollway noted that all public officials, regardless of whether they attended a workshop held by the State Ethics Commission prior to Jan. 1, are required to attend the class.

"This will give them a basic understanding of the laws that they are subject to carrying out in their official duties," he said.

So far, four training classes have been set up to be held at a conference room at the State Capitol for a total of 140 officials.

Last summer, the state Ethics Commission determined that Gov. Linda Lingle's administration violated ethics laws after state resources were used to benefit a private organization called Citizens Achieving Reform in Education.

Lingle apologized and said her administration unknowingly broke the law. In July, she signed House Bill 680 into law.

Rep. Jon Karamatsu (D, Waipahu-Waikele), who introduced the bill last year, said the class will also help elected officials educate their staff members about the current ethics laws.

Other new laws that take effect today would:

» Increase the allowable income tax deduction for National Guard members and reservists over five years. The yearly deduction is now $2,500 for 2005 and will increase to $4,725 by 2010. The current state deduction is $1,750.

» Double the administrative fee for parking and traffic tickets. The fee to process parking citations is now $10, from $5. Violations are $40 instead of $20 and additional fines imposed by the court are $30, from $15. The additional money will go into a special fund for the state Judiciary to use to update and improve its computer system.

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