Plastic bag cartoon, plastic bags destroy planet earth, attack of the plastic bags
Our most serious threat!
Plastic bag cartoon, plastic bags destroy planet earth, attack of the plastic bags
Our most serious threat! (Cartoon by John Pritchett)

Sen. Gabbard Pushes Through New Plastic and Paper Bag “Fee”

If you go shopping and get charged an additional 10 cents for every one of your plastic and paper bags, you can thank Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-Waianae.

Gabbard, who chairs the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, believes if there is a “fee” for the bag, it will reduce the number of bags going into the landfill because it will force people to use recyclable bags.

He said he was inspired to pass the legislation after seeing the number of plastic bags in the Oahu landfill, which is in his district.

The Girl Scouts of Hawaii came to the capitol to lobby for the bill earlier in the session.

After a cheerful endorsement on the Senate floor Tuesday, Gabbard, wearing a plastic bag hat and lei, pushed the bill through in the Senate with a 24-1 vote. Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head, was the only vote in opposition.

The measure was transmitted to the House, where it is expected to pass.

Several stores such as Safeway and the Retail Merchants of Hawaii are supporting the plan, instead of fighting against the new tax on behalf of their customers. The fee cost will be passed on.

Other counties have banned plastic bags all together and the Oahu council could still follow suit.

Opponents of the new tax point out it won’t decrease the number of bags in the landfill, it will just increase the cost of living in Hawaii and will remove consumer choice.

In addition, opponents say the city’s HPOWER plant, which burns Oahu trash, relies on plastic bags for fuel.

The plastic and paper bag fee is just one of several dozens of bills that add or increase fees and taxes to Hawaii products.

That includes increased taxes on loose tobacco and the addition of the so called streamline tax, which would tax all Internet purchases by Hawaii consumers.

Sen. Roz Baker, D-Maui, is the main advocate for increasing taxes on loose tobacco, and Sen. Carol Fukunaga, D-Makiki, has pushed for the streamline tax for a number of years.

Legislature Continues Crossover Today

The Hawaii legislature will hold part two of its crossover today, with legislators in both houses likely to pass a number of bills before they are sent to the other respective House for consideration.

Around 500 bills already crossed between the House and Senate on Tuesday.

In the Senate, lawmakers will decide if they will support Sen Clayton Hee’s plan to ban local Opihi harvesting.

Special Investigating Committee to Convene in Senate

Sen. Donna Kim

State workers, in some cases, are being overpaid or compensated for work they did not perform. These over payments made to former employees or those state employees on vacation, have lost taxpayers at least $2 million.

Today at 1:15 p.m., the Hawaii State Senate’s Special Committee on Accountability will look into these issues and see who has been overpaid, why and what can be done about it.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 1:15 p.m., in the State Capitol’s room 224.

The committee, chaired by Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim, will review Senate Resolution 20 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 37, which ask the State Auditor to conduct a financial and management audit of State agencies in an effort to determine the true amount of salary overpayments to public employees.

“I intend to examine payroll and sick-leave procedures, as well as current statutes that deal with recovering overpayments.  While it’s troubling that these payments were made to begin with, I’m also concerned by the State’s inability to recover them,” said Senator Donna Mercado Kim, chair of the Senate Special Committee on Accountability.  “After testimony is heard, I am confident that the committee will have a clearer understanding as to the severity of the problem and what course of action should be recommended to my fellow Senators.”

For more information on the resolutions, go to http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov

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