Hawaii lawmakers met at the state capitol yesterday for several hours for the second “crossover” of the 60-day working session. They debated and voted on bills before the legislation passed third reading in their respective Houses.
Bills that passed the Senate yesterday will:
- Make wild bird feeding a misdemeanor offense to help curb … bird poop;
- Legalize same day registration and voting;
- Force religious hospitals to dispense morning after pills in the emergency room;
- Fund pay increases for public unions;
- Mandate that entrepreneurs buying a business with 100 or more employees to retain all of the employees working under the previous employer;
- Substantially weaken Hawaii’s current journalism shield law.
Legislation that would cover settlements in lawsuits filed against the state also passed. That includes a $5.3 million settlement against the state for sex assaults that took place on the campus of the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind. Once that settlement is paid, the case will be sealed.
Another bill would use taxpayer funds to pay for campaigns of political candidates. The so-called voter owned elections were established in Hawaii years ago over the objections of then Campaign Spending Director Bob Watada.
Watada asked what Hawaii taxpayers want their money to go to politicians – including politicians they might not like?
But the voter owned elections advocates launched an aggressive campaign this year to expand their program, and so far their bill has survived this session.
In the House, several measures passed including:
- A bill that requires financial institutions to report any abuses they suspect to the county police department and Department of Human Services;
- A bill that establishes and funds a “School Readiness Program”, which gets Hawaii’s children in to school at age 4 with taxpayers support;
- A bill that will place more scrutiny on the people nominated for the University Board of Regents to ensure they are qualified. As a statement from the House majority notes, “Several concerns have been raised as to the selection process, which has hampered the work of the Board of Regents Candidate Advisory Council, and this bill seeks to address those concerns.”
Animal related measures also passed including one that will require that a person convicted of cruelty to animals in the first or second degree be prohibited from possessing or owning any animal for a yet to be designated amount of time; a second animal related bill makes any cruelty offense involving 25 or more animals a class C felony.
Another measure that both restricts tobacco displays by ordering retailers keep cigarettes behind the counter and amends the medical marijuana law to increase the number of plants that can be grown by registered patients and caregivers, also passed.
One of the major debates in the House was over SB1092 SD1 HD1, which would recapitalize the Hurricane Relief Trust Fund. The two warring Democratic factions debated the amount that should be replenished into the account that has been raided many times by lawmakers since it was established after Hurricane Iniki hit Hawaii.
Another bill that tourism industry officials opposed will make the 9.25 percent Transient Accommodation Tax – or hotel room tax – permanent. A two percent increase imposed two years ago was supposed to be temporary.
On Thursday, lawmakers will meet again to debate bills on third reading before the final crossover deadline that day.
Next week, some 200 bills will move into conference committee, where lawmakers from both Houses will meet to negotiate language in the bills before they are put up for final passage.
The legislative session ends May 2.