At the Hawaii state capitol, there are proposals from Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii lawmakers to hike taxes on everything from motor vehicles (weight and miles driven), cans and bottles, alcoholic beverages, public pensions, timeshares and streamline Internet taxes to pay for the state’s ballooning $10 billion operating budget.

Senators also passed a controversial civil union bill, which crossed over to the House where it is expected to pass.

In addition, Senators also banned prayer during their session because of a threat from the American Civil Liberties Union and one individual, despite opposition from 99 percent of residents who wrote in protest and who want prayer.

While many taxpayers are frustrated with the proposals, and have written to their lawmakers opposing tax hikes, civil unions and banning of prayer, these are not the bills garnering the most attention this session.

Instead, thousands of people are writing to lawmakers about a bill related to cats.

SB 13, introduced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, would make it a crime to trap feral cats. SB 700 would make it illegal for retailers to sell cats capable of breeding.

Thousands of animal rights activists and cat lovers have written to the Senate in protest saying the best way to care for feral cats is to trap, neuter and then release them, leading to a decrease in population.

“The big square building is one big cat house,” said Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, at a morning press briefing, who admits he may, as a cat owner, have a conflict.

Sen. Sam Slom at press conference (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

Dogs haven’t been left out. Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-Kailua, introduced legislation to ban so called “puppy mills.”

Not to be out done, a SB 580, is getting attention today, because it imposes a ban on reef fish collection. A hearing is set for Thursday.

With animal mania around the capitol, Slom, a columnist for Hawaii Reporter, says there are important issues that are being ignored such as the budget. He says the state has to balance the budget by reducing spending, not by raising taxes and fees, especially when most single moms, families and small businesses are cutting back to balance their budgets.

He notes that Moody’s latest report, which ranked Hawaii among the worst in the nation for debt and pension burden, does not seem to concern the legislature and administration. Slom says there is no way the funding can continue as is. While the benefits should remain for existing beneficiaries, Slom says the minority position is to change the plan for new incoming beneficiaries.

But Slom isn’t all about economics. He is taking a break from the serious discussion of issues that include what social service programs will be cut, what additional tax burdens will be placed on Hawaii’s taxpayers and whether it is a violation to utter God’s name in the legislative chambers, to promote one of his favorite Hawaiian mammals: The Hawaiian Hoary Bat.

His staff launched a fan blog site for those who support the idea of naming the endangered Hawaiian Hoary Bat (called “Ōpe‘ape‘a” by the early Hawaiians) as the official land mammal for the state of Hawaii.

Frank J. Bonaccorso, Ph.D., Wildlife Ecologist for the Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, writes that the arrival and establishment of bats in Hawai‘i is perhaps “among the most spectacular over-water colonization events in mammalian history.” He says two bat species “have colonized Hawai‘i since these volcanic sea mount islands arose from the ocean depths.”

“We need a true native Hawaiian land mammal to be recognized by the state and the Hoary Bat has extensive international credentials. From a scientific perspective, the Hoary Bat is truly phenomenal,” Slom says.

See more about senate legislative issues at http://hawaiisenatewatchdog.org/

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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards. Hawaii Reporter has a weekly television news show, News Behind the News, which airs on Mondays at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.