Hawaii State Senate (photo by Mel Ah Ching)
Hawaii State Senate (photo by Mel Ah Ching)

REPORT FROM THE SENATE MINORITY – The 27th State Legislature, which began January 16, 2013, continues until May 2. An estimated 2,000 new bills were introduced. Not all will be heard and at the end there may be 200 to 250 new laws.

There were major changes in leadership. Senate President Shan Tsutsui of Maui became the appointed Lt. Governor after LG Brian Schatz was appointed to the US Senate by Governor Neil Abercrombie, following the December, 2012 death of Daniel Inouye.

The Senate elected VP Donna Mercado Kim as President. Over in the House, a contentious battle ousted Calvin Say and returned 79-year old Maui Rep. Joe Souki as Speaker. Bad blood still exists and will color the 2013 Session.

This Session is supposed to be about the 2-year operating and CIP budgets but collective bargaining and personal issues have muddied the Session as it approaches the half way mark. Taxes, fees and unreasonable regulations are concerns of business here.

Prayer Returned? The 27th State Legislature convened and the State Senate still didn’t allow a daily prayer (after 2 years) unlike the State House. However, weeks later, the Senate introduced a “Moment of Contemplation” to start each Session.

Doobie, Doobie Do. The Legislature, as usual, has more than its share of bills that divert our attention from improving the business climate and increasing residents’ economic standard of living. Leading the list of bills meant to divert your attention include, a full court press to legalize marijuana, same sex marriage, gambling, physician assisted suicide and the “Steven Tyler Act” to protect local celebrities—and politicians—from pesky photographers and news people.

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes. This session there are many bills to increase your taxes and costs of doing business in Hawaii. Being heard are tax increases for the General Excise Tax, Transient Accommodation (Hotel) Tax, Conveyance Tax (the Chamber of Commerce supports this increase) gasoline tax, barrel tax, cell phones, tobacco and cigar taxes and our annual favorite, “sugary beverage” tax. And many, many fee increases, including PEO fees, electronics fees (from $150 to $5,000 annually!) and even the marriage license fee from $60 to $100.

Minimum Wage. The near annual call for increasing the minimum wage—but not the restaurant tip credit— continues at the Big Square Building.

Grab Your Guns. In the light of the Sandy hook shootings and other incidents, the kneejerk legislators have proposed several bills to limit, prohibit, tax or ban your firearms. The Attorney General mistakenly refers to gun ownership as a “privilege,” instead of the correct, right guaranteed under the Second Amendment.

You can keep up to date on the status of the estimated new 3,000 bills, business legislation and hearing notices by checking the legislative website, www.capitol.hawaii.gov, the Senate Minority Blog, http://senateminority.wordpress.com/, or by calling Senator Slom’s office, 808-586-8420.

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