Pet Shop Safe from Legislative Cruelty, but Vermin, Insects Now in a Protected Class


A controversial bill that would have mandated pet shop owners sell pets that have already been neutered did not have enough votes to pass the 51-member House of Representatives.


Pet shop owners testified against the bill, saying their customers would be unhappy that they could not buy a cat or dog that could have puppies.


Veterinarians testified that although this was supposed to prevent so called “puppy mills”, the bill could actually put young kittens and puppies in jeopardy because they’d be neutered and spayed too soon.


The majority of the Senate voted for the legislation, however, without House endorsement, the measure died at Tuesday’s crossover.


Several dozen animal-related bills were introduced this session. Two that did pass include making it a felony to attend a dog fight in Hawaii and kill pests, including peacocks, and vermin, like rats, inhumanely.


Lawmakers ‘Get By’ with Current Salary, Perks and Benefits


Hawaii lawmakers were set to get a $2,000 pay increase starting July 1, 2011, when the previous temporary two-year pay reduction expired.


However, with state and county workers still on “Furlough Fridays”, $600 million cut from the budget because of a $1.3 billion budget shortfall for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, and many private businesses facing employee layoffs because of the economy, several lawmakers sought to keep their pay as is.


The bill was stalled in conference committee, but the House agreed to the Senate version of HB 575, SD2, which will extends the 5 percent legislative, executive and judiciary salary decreases from June 30, 2011, to December 31, 2013. Both Houses will vote on the final version on Thursday.


Lawmakers took a great deal of criticism when in 2009 they gained a 36 percent pay increase granted by the state salary commission. When state furloughs were instituted, lawmakers took a 5 percent pay cut to their 36 percent pay increases.


The two-year salary freeze implemented in 2009 impacted salaries in the executive, legislative and judicial branches.


Classroom Hour Extension Delayed in Hawaii’s Public Schools


A bill that details the number of hours Hawaii public school children will spend in the classroom passed the House and Senate on Tuesday.


House Bill 945 establishes the implementation of Act 167, a law that requires Hawaii school children in Kindergarten through grade 12 to be in the classroom for 180 days a year.


In 2009 and 2010, the state instituted teacher furloughs because of budget cuts, and the number of school days was reduced to 166 days, the lowest number of classroom days in the nation.


To restore classroom days this year, Gov. Neil Abercrombie ordered that the Hurricane Relief Fund, which was established as back up insurance in the event of a hurricane, be raided to end teacher furloughs.
Sen. Jill Tokuda, Senate education chair, confirms $60 million a year for two years for a total of $120 million will be taken from the emergency fund for public education.


Teachers are now in the classroom for 180 days, but the number of hours they are actually in the classroom has been in dispute.


The Hawaii State Teachers Union wants an estimated $55 million to fulfill all the hour requirements in Act 167, and protested through an email campaign and lobbying at the capitol the immediate implementation of HB 945.


The House and Senate education chairs offered the teachers’ union a compromise, which mandates that 50 percent of the elementary public schools comply with the hour requirements next year and 100 percent the following year.


Secondary schools have until the 2014-2015 school year to comply with the hourly requirements.


Charter schools and multitrack schools are exempted.


Sen. Sam Slom criticized the delay in implementation saying the teacher’s union was more interested in money than the children’s education. But Sen. Jill Tokuda, education chair in the senate, said the legislation does take time to implement.