Bill Mandating Native Hawaiian Rights Training Signed Into Law

Will require members of certain state councils, boards and commissions to attend course

Governor Ige this morning signed into law HB207 which will require certain state councils, boards, and commissions to attend a course administered by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) on native Hawaiian customs and rights.

Will require members of certain state councils, boards and commissions to attend course

The new law will require members of certain state councils, boards and commissions to attend course

The course will be administered by OHA and shall apply to members of the Land Use Commission, Board of Land and Natural Resources, Commission on Water Resource Management, Environmental Council, the Agribusiness Development Corporation, Board of Agriculture, Legacy Land Conservation Commission, Natural Area Reserve Systems Commission, Hawaii Historic Places Review Board, and the Board of Health.

“Harmony among a diverse population and a strong respect for our host culture is what gives Hawaii its reputation of a place of Aloha. Some recent controversies have called into question our state’s commitment to Native Hawaiian issues,” said Representative Kaniela Ing, Chairperson of the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs.

“This measure takes basic steps to ensure that the next generation of public servants will be more knowledgeable of the historical and cultural context of the place for which they are tasked to make decisions.  After all, Native Hawaiian issues are everyone’s issues, and everyone’s issues are Native Hawaiian issues.”

The law will take effect on July 1, 2015

Hawaii State Judiciary Launches New Environmental Court

On July 1st, Hawaii will take the historic step of establishing the second statewide Environmental Court in the United States.  Hawaii’s new Environmental Court will have broad jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases affecting the environment.

JudiciaryAccording to Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, “The goal of the Environmental Court is to ensure the fair, consistent, and effective resolution of cases involving the environment.  We are excited to be part of this new initiative.”

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the creation of environmental courts and tribunals around the world.  To date, 350 environmental courts of some kind are operating in 41 countries.  The Vermont State Legislature founded America’s first environmental court in 1990.  No other statewide environmental courts were formed in the United States until former Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law Act 218, Session Laws of Hawaii 2014.

Pursuant to Act 218, Chief Justice Recktenwald appointed Associate Justice Michael D. Wilson to serve as Chair of the Environmental Court Working Group, an assembly of court personnel from across the state, to manage the implementation of the new specialty court.  The Working Group has been preparing for the July 1, 2015 launch, starting with a report to the 2015 Legislature describing plans to implement the Hawaii Environmental Court.  Since then, environmental court judges for the district and circuit courts have been assigned, Circuit Court Rules were amended, case management systems were updated, and adjustments were made to some court schedules to accommodate environmental court calendars.

“With the Environmental Court, Hawaii will be better positioned to safeguard one of the most treasured environments in the world,” said Justice Wilson.  “By organizing the technical and legal environmental issues under the Environmental Court, the State Legislature’s intention of promoting and protecting Hawaii’s natural environment will be realized through informed, efficient and consistent application of Hawaii’s environmental laws.”

Commentary – Poor Job Handling TMT Protestors

Governor Ige’s administration, and to a lesser extent, the County of Hawaii, are doing a poor job handling the ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protests on Mauna Kea. The governor’s proposed changes to the stewardship of Mauna Kea offended both the protesters and the individuals who’ve helped preserve this sensitive area.

TMT laserThe protesters  were mainly unhappy the governor reaffirmed the TMT’s legal right to begin construction, but there were other aspects of the revised stewardship plan the protesters were not pleased about. They were also unhappy the removal of ¼ of all the existing telescopes and imposing access restrictions to the summit area, among other issues

The governor’s stewardship changes also offended the individuals who’ve helped preserve Mauna Kea. It was  like a slap to the face when the governor stated the University of Hawaii and Department of Land and Natural Resources have been poor stewards of  Mauna Kea. There were issues with the stewardship of Mauna Kea in the past. However, there has been immeasurable improvements over the past 15 years. The execution of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan in 2010 was one of the highlights of these recent improvements.

Governor Ige’s administration also dropped the ball as far as dealing with these ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protests. His administration has allowed these protesters to illegally encamp at Hale Pohaku for the past three months and obstruct access to the summit area. Yes, these protesters have a constitutionally protected right to protest, but they shouldn’t break the law in the process.

The elephant the room is the ongoing Hawaii sovereignty debate. The latter has Trojan horsed itself into the current debate over the Thirty Meter Telescope. The State and County of Hawaii are playing softball with these groups as a result. For example, the Hawaii County prosecutor is considering dropping criminal trespass charges against the first wave of 21 protesters in lieu of initiating  ho’oponopono with these individuals. This will entail holding discussions with the governor, the University of Hawaii, Thirty Meter Telescope, DLNR, etc.

The Thirty Meter Telescope has undergone a seven year public vetting process. These individuals had  ample opportunity express their concerns about this project during this time. In short, this is simply another stalling tactic that is being employed by the opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

As it stands now, the Thirty Meter Telescope has the legal right to initiate construction until the appellate courts say otherwise. I hope Governor Ige gets a backbone and  stops pandering to the interests of these protesters.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Two Million Provided for Hawaii Bikeshare Program Seed Funding

Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Hawaii State Department of Health Director Virginia Pressler, M.D. today signed a contract providing matching funds for Bikeshare Hawai‘i.

Bike ShareUnder the agreement, the City and State will each provide $1 million in seed funding to assist the nonprofit Bikeshare Hawaii in building its large-scale bicycling infrastructure system, which is set to launch next year.

“We’re proud to support this important transportation public-private partnership between the City, State, and Bikeshare Hawaii,” said Mayor Caldwell. “This expansion of Honolulu’s bicycling infrastructure will be a game-changer in giving residents and visitors options to avoid traffic, help the environment, and have fun.”

bike share signing

“The Department of Health is thrilled to partner with the City and County on this important initiative that puts bikeshare within the reach of Hawaii’s residents and visitors,” said Director Pressler. “Having access to active transportation modes like bikeshare makes it easier for us to meet out daily physical activity needs, ultimately helping to reduce obesity and chronic disease to improve the health and well-being of our community.”

Bikeshare Hawaii will be a low-cost, flexible public transportation system that provides on-demand access to a network of publically-rentable bicycles at strategic locations. Approximately 1,700 bikes will be available at stations throughout urban Honolulu during the initial rollout. Upon completion of Honolulu’s rail project, bikeshare stations will provide first/last mile connectivity to rail and TheBus stations, facilitating the use of public transportation. Bikeshare will eventually expand the system statewide as demand increases.

Bikeshare systems have been proven to expand mobility options, create new bicyclists, and reduce automobile use. Bikeshare systems also promote healthier cities, active lifestyles, reduced vehicle emissions, and reliance on imported fossil fuel.

More information: http://www.bikesharehawaii.org/
https://www.facebook.com/bikesharehawaii

State Commissioner of Securities Orders Concert Promoters to Cease and Desist

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ (DCCA) Commissioner of Securities, Ty Nohara, issued a preliminary order to cease and desist and notice of right to hearing against concert promoters Ferdinand C. Jacobe, Gina T. Carlos, and P.B.C. Productions, LLC for violating state securities laws.

Click to read suit

Click to read suit

The order asserts that, between January 2012 and June 2013, Jacobe and P.B.C. Productions solicited investors among the local Filipino community to fund three concerts in Hawaii, guaranteeing returns of 10 to 40 percent within days of each concert.  The order asserts that P.B.C. Productions enlisted the assistance of an agent, Carlos, to solicit investors for the first two concerts.  As a result, more than 30 Hawaii residents invested a combined total of $666,000 into the concerts. Nearly two years have passed since the last concert took place, and many investors remain unpaid.

Jacobe and P.B.C. Productions are accused of failing to disclose to investors that they were substantially in debt to numerous past investors, and the proceeds of a future concert, as well as a portion of new investors’ funds, were needed to repay past investors, and investors’ funds would not be returned by the guaranteed deadline.

Jacobe, Carlos, and P.B.C. Productions also failed to inform the investors who were solicited by Carlos that Carlos would be receiving a 5 to 15 percent commission on the funds she collected from them.

State securities laws include anti-fraud provisions, requiring both securities and persons soliciting or transacting securities to be registered with DCCA’s Securities Compliance Branch.  The order asserts that Jacobe and P.B.C. Productions violated these anti-fraud provisions by employing deceptive schemes and devices to perpetuate fraud.  It further alleges that neither Jacobe nor Carlos was registered to transact securities in Hawaii, and the securities they sold to investors were also unregistered.

The order seeks total penalties of $200,000 in addition to a permanent injunction against Jacobe and Carlos for transacting securities in the state, disgorgement of commissions received, and rescission of the sales of the securities.

Anyone who has been solicited by Jacobe, P.B.C. Productions, or Carlos to invest in a concert or who may otherwise have information regarding this matter is urged to contact the DCCA’s Securities Enforcement Branch (SEB) at 808-586-2740 or toll free 1-877- HI-SCAMS.

SEB receives and investigates complaints regarding potential violations of Hawaii securities laws and prosecutes securities fraud as well as other securities law violations.

Navy Teams with State of Hawaii to Combat Mosquitoes

The Navy in Hawaii is partnering with the State of Hawaii’s Department of Health (HDOH) in surveillance and prevention of mosquito-borne diseases.
Mosquito Bite
During an interview on local TV June 11, entomologists Lt. Ryan Larson, of Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit (NEPMU) 6, and Dr. Jeomhee Hasty, of HDOH, showed specimens of mosquitoes and explained the importance of working together to prevent the spread of diseases.

The partnership with HDOH was strengthened when the Navy began to recognize the spread of mosquito-transmitted diseases throughout the Pacific last summer.

“Fences don’t stop mosquitos,” Larson told KHON2’s Wake Up 2day audience. “We realized we need to be prepared to respond in case this disease arrived in Hawaii.”

There have been cases of mosquito-borne diseases chikungunya and dengue fever in recent years, according to the HDOH.

“Travelers infected overseas can bring the disease back home where local mosquitos can ‘bite’…and start local transmission of the disease in Hawaii,” said Hasty.

Mosquito surveillance conducted by HDOH since 2010 at Honolulu International Airport supports Hasty’s concern. The mosquito species Aedes aegypti was detected near the airport several times since 2012. This group is more efficient at spreading dengue fever, said Hasty.

The HDOH Navy partnership allows combatting invasive species to move beyond the airport to cover more of the state.

Ryan demonstrated how two different traps are being used in the joint effort. A light trap sucks nocturnal mosquitos in after attracting them with visual cues and carbon dioxide, which mimics human respiration.

He also showed a sentinel trap, which is used for catching day-feeding mosquitos like the ones that carry dengue and chikungunya. Baited with a chemical lure that smells like “the worst pair of smelly socks you can imagine,” this device targets ankle-biting mosquitos, said Ryan.

As for residents of Hawaii, Hasty says using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants can help prevent exposure to harmful mosquito bites. She also recommends eliminating standing water on and around one’s property, which reduces mosquito reproduction.

Hawaiian Electric Industries Shareholders Approve Merger with NextEra Energy

Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (NYSE: HE) (HEI) today announced that HEI shareholders have approved the merger agreement with NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE) announced Dec. 3, 2014.

Helco new Logo 2“We’re extremely pleased that our shareholders, many of whom are Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light customers, have shown their strong support for this historic partnership by approving the proposed merger,” said Jeff Watanabe, HEI’s chairman of the board. “The approval marks another significant milestone in our efforts to accelerate Hawaii’s clean energy transformation by bringing the expertise and resources of NextEra Energy to our state to achieve even higher levels of renewables and lower energy costs for our customers.”

Of the shares voted, approximately 90 percent were in favor of the merger. Achieving this level of shareholder support is a significant accomplishment because, while publicly held companies commonly may proceed with a merger with the affirmative vote of a majority of their outstanding shares, HEI is required under Hawaii law to obtain supermajority approval from 75 percent of its outstanding shares. Hawaii is the only state with such a high approval requirement for a merger.

The merger will bring together two industry leaders in clean and renewable energy. Hawaiian Electric has put Hawaii on the leading edge of clean energy nationally, successfully integrating rooftop solar with 12 percent of its residential customers and helping meet 21 percent of customer electricity needs from renewable energy resources. NextEra Energy has developed, built and operates one of the nation’s most modern grid networks and is the world’s largest producer of renewable energy from the wind and sun. NextEra Energy supports and will help accelerate Hawaiian Electric’s plans to lower electric bills, triple distributed solar – including rooftop solar – and achieve a 65 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2030. This week Gov. David Ige signed a bill into law that set a goal of 70 percent RPS by 2040 and 100 percent RPS by 2045 for the state—goals which Hawaiian Electric and NextEra Energy have each stated they fully support.

“We’re confident that this merger will help us more quickly achieve the affordable clean energy future we all want for Hawaii,” said Connie Lau, HEI’s president and chief executive officer and chairman of the boards of Hawaiian Electric and American Savings Bank. “We’re proud to support a measure recently passed by the legislature and signed by our governor making Hawaii the first state in the nation to adopt a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio standard. Partnering with NextEra Energy will strengthen and accelerate our ability to reach our state’s ambitious goals.”

The merger with NextEra Energy is expected to provide Hawaiian Electric with the added resources and access to expertise to accelerate Hawaii’s clean energy transformation, while delivering substantial customer benefits, including lower costs. Subject to approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the companies have committed to approximately $60 million in customer savings over four years and to not request an increase in the general base electricity rate for at least four years post-transaction close. Following completion of the transaction, Hawaiian Electric will continue to operate under its current name, be locally managed, and remain headquartered in Honolulu. HEI is one of Hawaii’s most charitable companies and NextEra Energy will continue HEI’s overall current level of corporate giving in Hawaii.

While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the proposed merger, the transaction remains subject to other regulatory approvals including approval by the PUC, other customary closing conditions and the spinoff of American Savings Bank, a subsidiary of HEI and one of Hawaii’s largest full-service financial institutions. Following the spinoff, American Savings Bank will remain based in Hawaii as an independent public company, and continue to provide a full range of financial products and services, including business and consumer banking, insurance and investments, corporate banking and commercial real estate lending.

“The spinoff of American Savings Bank as a condition to completing the merger enables shareholders to continue to own American Savings Bank and to participate in the bank’s upside potential as an independent public company,” said Connie Lau. “Our ability to spin off American Savings Bank reflects the strength of the bank’s business, its strong market position and its talented team of employees.”

Governor Signs Bill Setting 100% Renewable Energy Goal

The Hawaiian Electric Companies today joined others across Hawaii in applauding Gov. David Ige and the Hawaii Legislature for setting the most aggressive clean energy goal in the country – 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

 Governor Ige signs bill setting 100 percent renewable energy goal in power sector

Governor Ige signs bill setting 100 percent renewable energy goal in power sector

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light Company fully support the goal of having 100 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources while ensuring that it’s achieved at a reasonable cost for electric customers and that safe, reliable electric service is maintained.

“Reducing our dependence on imported oil and increasing our use of renewable energy is critical to our state’s future. It’s the clean energy transformation we all want for Hawaii. Reaching this goal will require a diverse portfolio of renewable energy resources and strong, upgraded electric grids, and that’s exactly what we’re working toward,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO.

The proposed merger involving Hawaiian Electric and NextEra Energy would provide additional resources to help make these ambitious goals a reality. NextEra Energy has developed, built and operates one of the nation’s most modern grid networks and is the world’s largest producer of renewable energy from the wind and sun.

“Reaching these goals will be a challenge that our entire state must work together to meet. And we’ll do that with strong collaboration among all stakeholders and our collective commitment to building a better energy future for Hawaii,” Oshima said.

Hawaii Governor’s office released the following:

Gov. David Ige today signed into law four energy bills, including one that strengthens Hawaii’s commitment to clean energy by directing the state’s utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2045.

The bold step taken by the Hawai‘i State Legislature in passing the landmark legislation (HB623) fulfills one of Ige’s policy objectives by making Hawai‘i the first state in the nation to set a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for the electricity sector.

“As the most oil dependent state in the nation, Hawai‘i spends roughly $5 billion a year on foreign oil to meet its energy needs. Making the transition to renewable, indigenous resources for power generation will allow us to keep more of that money at home, thereby improving our economy, environment and energy security,” Ige said. “I’d like to thank the senate and house energy committee chairs for championing HB623 and ensuring that Hawai‘i remains a national leader in clean energy.”

“Setting a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard will help drive investment in Hawai‘i’s growing clean energy sector,” said Luis Salaveria, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. “Our commitment to clean energy has already attracted entrepreneurs and businesses from around the world, looking to develop, test and prove emerging technologies and strategies right here in Hawai‘i.”

“Raising the bar for renewable energy in Hawai‘i will also push the state to stay out in front on innovation,” said Mark Glick, administrator, State Energy Office. “We are finding ways to be innovative both with technical solutions and financing structures that will help us meet our ambitious renewable energy goals.”

“Renewable energy projects are already producing cheaper power than new fossil fuel projects in Hawai‘i, and it’s only going to get cheaper as renewable technology advances, unlike fossil fuels which will only grow more expensive as they become more difficult to extract from a shrinking supply,” added Rep. Chris Lee, Chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. “The faster we move toward renewable energy the faster we can stop exporting billions from our local economy to import expensive fossil fuels.”

Another measure signed by Ige (SB1050) will help democratize renewable energy by creating a structure that will allow renters, condominium owners and others who have been largely shut out of Hawai‘i’s clean energy transformation, to purchase electricity generated at an off-site renewable energy facility, such as a large-scale solar farm.

The bill establishing a community-based renewable energy program will be particularly valuable on O‘ahu where there is a high concentration of high-rise condominiums that lack sufficient roof space to support on-site solar panels.  The law is also expected to provide relief to homeowners and businesses who are located on highly saturated circuits that cannot accommodate additional PV installations.

“As of March 2015, there are about 56,000 PV/Solar systems on rooftops.  These folks are saving tremendously on their electricity bills. That’s great, but what about the 44 percent of Hawai‘i residents who don’t own their homes? And those without roof space? SB 1050 allows people to form a hui, find a piece of land, and purchase or lease however many PV panels they want and then get a credit on their electricity bill for the energy they produce.  We spend $3-5 billion annually buying fossil fuels; this is an awesome concept that will help keep some of that money here to help our economy,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard, who co-authored the bill while serving as chair of the Energy and Environment Committee.

In addition to the 100 percent RPS and community-based renewable energy bills, Ige signed into law a measure that sets a net-zero energy goal for the University of Hawai‘i  System (HB1509) and another that designates a state hydrogen implementation coordinator (HB1296).

Hawaii Climate Change Adaptation Committee Begins Work

Hawaii Climate Adaptation

ICAC Video News Release 6-5-15 from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

The Hawaii State Legislature identified climate change as one of the most urgent and long-term threats to the State’s economy, sustainability, security and way of life over the next century.  In 2014 it passed Act 83 in order to address the effects of climate change.  Act 83 also established the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee (ICAC), with representatives from more than a dozen state and county agencies. The ICAC is tasked with developing a statewide Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Report (SLR Report) to the legislature by the end of 2017. The committee held its first meeting this week on June 3.

Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the Hawaii House of Representatives Energy & Environment Committee was one of the lawmakers instrumental in the passage of Act 83.  He said, “Hawaii, as the only island state in the U.S., is among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise, yet we were one of the few coastal states that had not adopted a statewide climate adaptation plan.  Act 83 and the ICAC changes this.”

The DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) will lead the development of the SLR Report in coordination with the ICAC.  Sam Lemmo, OCCL Administrator said, “ The SLR Report will serve as the framework to address other climate-related threats and climate change adaptation priorities, ultimately leading to a Climate Adaptation Plan for the State, which will be prepared by the State Office of Planning. Over the next two and a half years we will meet regularly, engage climate change experts, and keep the citizens of Hawaii informed of our progress and recommendations to combat the negative impacts of sea level rise and other climate change threats.”

One of the experts being engaged is Dr. Chip Fletcher of the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). Dr. Fletcher is a climate change scientist, who works on predictive models which visually depict the impacts of sea level rise along Hawaii coastlines.  He presented his latest findings at the first meeting of the ICAC.  Dr. Fletcher explained, “Rising sea levels, exacerbated by stronger storms, will increase coastal flooding and erosion.  It will damage coastal ecosystems and infrastructure and affect tourism, agriculture, military bases and other industries. This is on top of the impacts of higher sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification.”

DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case co-chairs the ICAC with the director of the State Office of Planning.  She commented, “The work of the ICAC is among the highest priority work we will do over the next few years.  Beach erosion, drought, coral bleaching and rising ocean temperatures are already having measurable impacts on Hawaii and are expected to accelerate in coming years.  These threats include impacts to our host culture, including impacts to coastal artifacts and structures and reduced availability of traditional food sources and subsistence fisheries.”

Courts Order Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to Release Enrollment List

In a victory for transparent government, a state court has ordered the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission to release its enrollment list. The suit was filed by Judicial Watch with the assistance of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii after an open records request for the Roll was repeatedly denied by the Commission.

Native Hawaiian Roll Commision

In a decision that emphasized the importance of open government, the Court rejected the Commission’s reasons for denying the request, requiring the Commission to produce the list and pay attorney’s fees in the case.

Said former Hawai`i Attorney General, Michael A. Lilly, who represented Judicial Watch in the case, “Today, in a victory for open government, Judicial Watch won a case seeking a roll of over 125,000 people allegedly registered with the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission.”

Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute stated, “With the release of the Roll, it will now be possible to answer concerns over the tens of thousands of names that have been placed on the list without the express permission of individuals. The fact stands that the vast majority of Hawaiians have chosen not to support the efforts of OHA and the Native Hawaiian Roll to create a sovereign government. Their voices can now be heard. And, hopefully, OHA will stop wasting public money on its unconstitutional push for sovereignty and, instead, spend it on housing, education, employment, and health services for those in need.”

“The Commission was established by the State of Hawai`i to prepare a roll of native Hawaiians,” continued Michael Lilly. “After only a handful of Hawaiians had registered with the Commission, it artificially augmented its roll with three other lists held by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  The Commission refused to produce the roll in response to a freedom of information request by Judicial Watch. In granting Judicial Watch’s request for the roll, the Hawai`i Circuit Court held that the roll was a public record and thus ordered its disclosure. The Court pointed out that Hawai`i’s open records law was intended to ensure that the formation and conduct of public policy be conducted as openly as possible. The Court will assess against the Commission the reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred by Judicial Watch in having to seek judicial relief.”

Hawaii Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge to Marriage Equality Act

The Hawaii Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge raised by four individual plaintiffs to the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013. The 2013 law changed Hawaii’s statutes regarding marriage so that same-sex couples could marry.

Attorney GeneralThe Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs were not harmed or injured by the Marriage Equality Act and therefore did not have standing to challenge it. “The most important part of the Supreme Court’s ruling was its conclusion that the ‘legislature’s decision to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples did not, in any way, diminish the right to marry’ for the plaintiffs or anyone else,” said Attorney General Doug Chin, quoting the opinion.

“This is an exciting time for marriage equality in our country, as we await the United States Supreme Court’s ruling that will govern so many other States,” said Deputy Attorney General Deirdre Marie-Iha, who argued on behalf of the defendants. “We hope that the United States Supreme Court will recognize, as our Supreme Court did today, that those who oppose marriage equality are ‘harmed not at all when others are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage.’

Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in 2013. The current governor and state director of health’s names were substituted in as defendants after the change in administration.

Department of Transportation Settles Hawaii Drivers License Lawsuit

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) and Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), a non-profit organization, jointly announce that the parties settled a lawsuit yesterday regarding the translation of driver’s examinations required for Hawaii residents to obtain a license.

Hawaii Drivers License Sample

FACE filed a lawsuit in federal court in September 2013, alleging HDOT discriminated against foreign-born residents of Hawai’i by not offering a translated exam for a period of more than five years after previously existing translations were removed from service when additional questions needed to be added to the exam.

Throughout the case, and even with the settlement, HDOT disputed that there was any discriminatory motive involved in decision-making about the translated exams. “HDOT and our employees have always been committed to serving all of Hawaiʻi’s residents regardless of who they are or where they are from,” said HDOT Director Ford Fuchigami. HDOT currently offers the examination in thirteen languages, making Hawaii the only U.S. State with fewer than two million people to offer the exam in more than ten languages and the only state to offer the exam in a native language, Hawaiian. “We are proud of our current language access program and are dedicated to a positive and proactive approach to language access and will continue to look at additional ways to ensure that those with limited English skills can safely drive on our roads.”

FACE is pleased with the outcome and the commitment to keeping translations in place over the long-term. “This resolution is an answer to our prayers,” said FACE organizer reverend Tasha Kama, a minister at Christian Ministry Church in Wailuku. “It takes all of our families-local and immigrant-to make Hawaii work. The more languages and cultures included in our policies, the stronger we are as a state. We appreciate the opportunity to work closely with the Hawaii DOT to further language access for all our people.”

“HDOT is committed to ensuring all drivers have the knowledge and skills to drive safely on Hawaii’s roads,” said Director Fuchigami.

United States District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway approved the settlement.

Big Island Senator Urges Action on Federal Highway Fund Extension

The recently appointed Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy is expressing grave concern over the looming expiration date on federal transportation funding.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye

Sen. Lorraine Inouye

Senator Lorraine Inouye (Dist. 4 – N. Kona, Kohala, N. Hilo, Hāmākua) addressed Hawai‘i’s Congressional delegation in a letter urging action on federal funding authorization to avoid a lapse in funding that would severely impact state projects and to support the passage of a bill that will create a more sustainable funding stream for individual transportation projects on a long-term basis.

“Hawai‘i relies greatly on federal funds, as do other states, and our State’s transportation projects depend on long-term commitments from federal funding,” said Sen. Inouye. “It is imperative for Congress to continue to fund projects that have already started while looking for additional long-term solutions that continue to support Hawai‘i’s needs.”

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved HR 2353, the Highway Transportation Funding Act of 2015.  The bill extends funding for the Highway Trust Fund until July 31 through a series of “reconciliation of funds” measures amending the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014. The bill now goes on to the Senate.

Congress has until May 31 to take action on authorizing federal funding for state highway, bridge, and transit projects.  Without action prior to this date, federal aid funds for state projects would be halted. 

Hawaii Lobster Season Closed Until End of August

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) reminds the public that the season for taking ula and ula papapa (spiny and slipper lobsters) and Kona crabs in state waters is closed this month through the end of August.

Spiny Lobster

Hawaii Administrative Rules prohibit the taking, killing, sale or offering for sale, or possession of any ula, also known as spiny lobster (Panulirus penicillatus, P. marginatus) and ula papapa or slipper lobster (Scyllarides squammosus, S. haanii) from state waters during the closed season, which started May 1. It is also illegal to take, possess, or sell Kona crab during May through August.

“These rules are in place to protect lobsters and Kona crabs during the summer months, which are the peak of their reproductive season, and to help ensure their populations will continue to be sustainable,” said Suzanne Case, DLNR chairperson.

However, any commercial marine dealer may sell, or any hotel, restaurant, or other public eating house may serve spiny or slipper lobster lawfully caught during the open season by first procuring a license to do so pursuant to section 13-74-41, Hawaii Administrative Rules.

During the open season catching, taking or possessing of female spiny and slipper lobsters and female Kona crab is prohibited as a result of the passage of Act 77 by the 2006 State Legislature.

Also during the open season, any spiny or slipper lobster, or Kona crab, caught with eggs must immediately be returned to the waters from which it was taken. Taking or killing of females is prohibited year round.

The Hawai‘i Fishing Regulations booklet, available at all Division of Aquatic Resources offices and most fishing supply stores, shows how to determine the sex of spiny lobsters and Kona crabs. Or go online to http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/fishing/fishing-regulations/marine-invertebrates/how-to-determine-sex-of-regulated-invertebrates/

For more information on regulations concerning these and other marine invertebrates, including minimum sizes, go to http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/fishing/fishing-regulations/marine-invertebrates/  or call the Division of Aquatic Resources.

To report any violation of these or other fishing regulations call the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement at 643-DLNR.

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Final Reading – Dispensaries in Hawaii Next Step

On the last day of the 2015 regular session, the House passed on final reading HB321, CD1, which creates a statewide distribution system for medical marijuana and establishes the parameters for individuals and entities to apply to set up the dispensaries. Medical Marijuana

“There are an estimated 13,000 qualifying patients throughout the state who are desperately looking to find a safe, reliable and convenient access to medical marijuana.  This bill is a reasonable and compassionate response to the needs of our citizens,” said Rep. Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully Pawaa, Manoa), who co-introduced the bill along with House Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu).  Both are long-time supporters of medical marijuana dispensaries.

“While the Legislature made legal the medical use of marijuana on June 14, 2000, the law has remained silent for 15 years on how patients can obtain medical marijuana if they or their caregivers are unable to grow their own supply,” Souki added.  “There has been a desperate need for a safe and reliable dispensary system statewide for medical marijuana for a long time.  This bill finally answers that need.”

The measure follows closely the recommendations of the Task Force commissioned by the Legislature in 2013 to study the implementation of medical marijuana dispensaries.  It also provides for opportunities to improve the system and correct any shortcomings on a go-forward basis.

The bill, which also passed the Senate, now goes to the Governor for his signature, veto or passage without his signature.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BILL:

  • Allows for eight (8) dispensary licensees in the state: three (3) on Oahu, two (2) on Big Island and two (2) on Maui County; one (1) on Kauai;
  • Each licensee may own, operate or subcontract up to two production centers and up to two retail dispensing locations; prohibits dispensary from being located in same place as production center;
  • Requires the Department of Health to engage in public education and training regarding medical marijuana;
  • Requires the Department of Health to adopt interim rules by Jan. 4, 2016, for the establishment and management of the medical marijuana dispensary system;
  • Tasks the Department of Health with accepting applications for dispensary licenses from Jan. 12, 2016, to Jan. 29, 2016, and announcing licensees by April 15, 2016;
  • Tasks the Department of Health to select licensees based on minimum requirements and merit based factors including: the capacity to meet the needs of patients; ability to comply with criminal background checks, inventory controls, and security requirements; ability to operate a business; and financial stability and access to financial resources;
  • Allows the Department of Health to license additional operators after Oct. 1, 2017, based on qualifying patient need;
  • Dispensaries must comply with all zoning regulations and will not be permitted within 750 ft. of a playground, public housing or school;
  • Licensees may begin dispensing marijuana and manufactured marijuana products on July 15, 2016, with the approval of the Department of Health;
  • Licensed applicants must pay (a) $5,000 non-refundable application fee, (b) an additional $75,000 fee for each license approved, and (c) a $50,000 annual renewal fee;
  • Establishes the criteria for license applications to require that an individual applicant: be a legal resident of the State for not less than five years, be over the age of 21, and have no felony convictions;
  • Establishes the minimum criteria for license applications to require that an entity applicant: be organized under the laws of the state and have a Hawaii tax ID number, have a 51 percent or greater Hawaii based ownership stake, have at least $1,000,000 under its control for each license applied for with an additional $100,000 available for each retail dispensing location;
  • Imposes regular general excise taxes onto the sale of marijuana and manufactured products within the dispensary system and does not include any additional taxes;
  • Allows qualifying patients to obtain medical marijuana from primary caregivers who cultivate or by personally cultivating marijuana until Dec. 31, 2018;
  • Allows a primary caregiver or legal guardian to cultivate marijuana after Dec. 31, 2018, if qualifying patient is a minor or adult lacking legal capacity or who is located on any island with no dispensary;
  • Expands the definition of “debilitating medical condition” for the purpose of authorizing use to include post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Expands the Department of Health’s authority to conduct criminal background checks;
  • Requires dispensaries to allow announced and unlimited unannounced inspections and to conduct annual financial audits; and
  • Requires the Department of Health to file annual report to Governor and Legislature on dispensaries.

Additional details of the measure can be found in the bill text and the committee report at the links below:

Hawaii State Senate Reorganizes Committees – Big Island Senators Elected to Key Positions

The Hawai‘i State Senate today announced a new line up of committees and committee chairs as part of its recent reorganization.

capital

“This new alignment is consistent with our policy of making the best use of our members’ skills and interests,” said Senate President, Sen. Ronald Kouchi (Kaua‘i, Ni‘ihau). “We believe these assignments will make us more effective as a body moving forward.”

The following are the new committee assignments:

Consumer Protection (CPN)

  • Chair:  Sen. Rosalyn Baker
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Michelle Kidani

Economic Development and Technology (EDT)

  • Chair: Sen. Glenn Wakai
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Sam Slom

Education (EDU)

  • Chair:  Sen. Michelle Kidani
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Breene Harimoto

Hawaiian Affairs (HWN)

  • Chair:  Sen. Maile Shimabukuro
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. J. Kalani English

Higher Education and the Arts (HEA)

  • Chair:  Sen. Brian Taniguchi
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Gilbert Kahele

Housing (HSG)

  • Chair:  Sen. Breene Harimoto
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Brickwood Galuteria

Judiciary and Labor (JDL)

  • Chair:  Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Maile Shimabukuro

Public Safety, Government Operations and Military Affairs (PSM)

  • Chair:  Sen. Clarence Nishihara
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Will Espero

Tourism (TSI)

  • Chair:  Sen. Gilbert Kahele
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. J. Kalani English

Transportation and Energy (TRE)

  • Chair:  Sen. Lorraine Inouye
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Mike Gabbard

Water, Land and Agriculture (WLA)

  • Chair:  Sen. Mike Gabbard
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Clarence Nishihara

Ways and Means (WAM)

  • Chair:  Sen. Jill Tokuda
  • Vice Chair:  Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz

In addition, Senate Leadership has assigned Sen. Laura Thielen the chair of the Committee on Health and the Environment (HEV) and Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland the chair and Sen. Donna Mercado Kim as Vice Chair of the Committee on Human Services (HMS). These assignments are awaiting confirmation.  Sen. Rosalyn Baker has been confirmed as Vice Chair of HEV.

The new confirmed committee assignments will take effect immediately.

As the Senate reorganizes, members of Senate leadership will not act as committee chairs. This division of duties allows the Senate to more broadly balance and distribute power within this chamber and better respond to the needs of our state. Senate leadership will be as follows:

  • Senate President: Sen. Ronald Kouchi
  • Senate Vice President: Sen. Will Espero
  • Majority Leader: Sen. J. Kalani English
  • Majority Floor Leader: Sen. Josh Green
  • Majority Caucus Leader: Sen. Brickwood Galuteria
  • Majority Whip: Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz

Hawaii House of Reps Passes Bills on Final Reading

As the close of session quickly approaches, the House today approved bills that address a wide range of issues, including extending the rail tax for another five years, funding the Turtle Bay land purchase, and approving the state budget.

capital

Other significant measures that passed final reading in the House included increasing the tax state credit for low-income residents; providing additional funds for preschool for low-income families; requiring health insurers to provide coverage for children with autism; making sex trafficking a Class A felony; and establishing an affirmative consent task force to review and make recommendations on the University of Hawaii’s executive policy on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

“The House took on some tough issues relating to the rail tax, Turtle Bay and the Maui public hospitals, and worked collaboratively with the Administration and the Senate to come up with sound and reasonable solutions,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu).

“We also crafted a responsible budget that addressed our long-term obligations and took care of our immediate social services needs and capital improvement requirements.”

HB500, CD1, the state budget bill, appropriates funds for operating and capital improvement costs of the Executive Branch for the current biennium, fiscal years FY2015-2016 and FY2016-2017, will now go to the Governor for his signature.  The bill includes nearly $6.6 billion in general funds for FY2015-2016 and $6.862 billion in general funds for FY2016-2017.

In crafting the budget, House Finance Chair Rep. Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa) looked to create a “better budget” in four ways, by: (1) limiting growth in the budget, (2) fueling economic growth through selective tax credits, (3) investing in people who need help the most, and (4) reducing the state’s unfunded liabilities and building up its Rainy Day funds.

Earlier, the House passed and sent on to the Governor a bill that raised the smoking age in Hawaii to 21 that put the state in the lead in national efforts to prevent nicotine addiction.  The bill also banned the sale and use of e-cigarettes in public places to anyone under 21.

Highlights of the measures passed include:

EDUCATION

SB64, CD1, makes an appropriation of $6,000,000 for the Preschool Open Doors Program.

HB820, CD1, establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning Public Prekindergarten Program to be administered by the Executive Office on Early Learning and provided through Department of Education public schools and public charter schools.

HB11, CD1, authorizes an additional per year bonus for teachers who maintain current national board certification under the national board certification incentive program and teach at a school in a focus, priority, or Superintendent’s Zone, as determined by the Department of Education.

SB1345, CD1, requires the Department of Education to develop a transition plan to end multi-track schedules in public schools and report to the Legislature regarding the plan and any proposed legislation. Appropriates funds to the Department of Education for the development of a transition plan to end multi-track schedules in public schools.

SB854, CD1, requires public school lands that are leased to benefit public educational purposes rather than simply to be used for public purposes. Authorizes the Department of Education to enter into leaseback agreements.

SB374, CD1, renames the “running start program” as the “dual credit program”. Broadens participation to include ninth and tenth graders. Broadens participation to include home-schooled students for courses offered on University of Hawaii campuses. Replaces a standardized test with an assessment. Repeals tuition and fees requirement.

HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

SB273, CD1, requires the examiner of drivers to accept a sworn statement from a victim services organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, correctional institution staff, a medical or health professional, or a verification letter from a homeless service provider as documentary evidence of a homeless person’s address. Requires the Director of Transportation’s rules to direct the examiner of drivers to waive all fees for original or renewal identification cards for homeless individuals upon verification of homeless status. Establishes a working group to develop a plan to enable homeless individuals in the State to obtain necessary documentary evidence.

KUPUNA

SB964, CD1, appropriates $3,000,000 for the Kupuna Care Program.

HEALTH AND HEALTH CONNECTOR

SB1028, CD1, appropriates $2,000,000 for the operations of the Hawaii Health Connector.

HB576, CD1, narrows the scope of work of the State Innovation Waiver Task Force to facilitate the development of an Affordable Care Act waiver in a timely manner.

SB1117, CD1, makes an emergency appropriation of $15,000,000 to support the functions of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.

SB1291, CD1, prohibits discrimination against medical marijuana patients and caregivers by schools, landlords, courts with regard to medical care or parental rights, planned community associations, condominium property regimes, and condominiums.

SB791, CD1, requires health insurers, mutual benefit societies, and health maintenance organizations to provide insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

HB631, CD1, establishes the documentation required when requesting the Department of Health to issue a new birth certificate with a sex designation change.

UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII

SB387, CD1, establishes an affirmative consent task force to review and make recommendations on the University of Hawaii’s executive policy on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

HB553, CD1, allows part-time and full-time graduate student assistants employed by UH to collectively bargain their wages, hours, and other terms; provided that no collective bargaining agreement shall take effect prior to July 1, 2016. Requires UH and the relevant exclusive representatives to meet and report to the Legislature.

HB547, CD1, requires the University of Hawaii to provide guidance to students to increase the rate of on-time graduation through a Graduation Pathway System. Appropriates funds for the Graduation Pathway System and to the John A. Burns School of Medicine for repairs.

HB541, CD1, requires each UH campus to prepare an operations plan, to be reviewed by the President and VP for Budget and Finance and CFO of UH, for each fiscal year. Requires the moneys in the UH Tuition and Fees Special Fund for each UH campus to lapse to the credit of Program ID No. UOH900 (University of Hawaii, system wide support)

PUBLIC SAFETY

HB448, CD1, requires the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct reviews of domestic violence, near-deaths, and suicides, in addition to fatalities. Authorizes DOH to enter into memoranda of understanding to obtain information relating to near-deaths resulting from intimate partner violence.

HB436, CD1, amends the definition of “emergency vehicle” to include sheriff division vehicles, Hawaii emergency management agency vehicles, civil defense vehicles, DOT harbors division vehicles, DLNR division of conservation and resources enforcement vehicles, and county emergency management vehicles to require approaching vehicles to slow and change lanes when nearing the emergency vehicle when it is stopped for official duties.

SB265, CD1, replaces the term “promoting prostitution” with the term “sex trafficking,” a Class A felony.  Includes the offense of sex trafficking in the Department of the Attorney General’s statewide witness program and adds various other amendments relating to sex trafficking.

SB1211, CD1, increases the expenditure ceiling on Major Disaster Fund moneys. Increases the ceiling for additional funds required for matching federal disaster relief funds.  Requires the Adjutant General to report any allotment of fund moneys or any expenditure of fund moneys to the Legislature within one month of the allotment or expenditure. Appropriates funds for deposit into the Major Disaster Fund.

SB871, CD1, authorizes the Director of Transportation to establish reciprocal licensing privileges to any person eighteen years of age or older who holds a license from another country or state, under certain conditions. Authorizes the examiner of drivers to waive the demonstration of the ability to operate a motor vehicle for individuals with licenses from other jurisdictions who receive reciprocal licensing privileges. Repeals the driver’s license reciprocity committee.

THE ENVIRONMENT AND INVASIVE SPECIES

HB444, CD1, authorizes the use of a portion of transient accommodations tax revenues for beach restoration and conservation. Makes additional general fund appropriations for the same purpose for fiscal years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.

SB284, CD1, authorizes the B&F to issue $35,000,000 in reimbursable general obligation bonds and to deposit the proceeds into the Turtle Bay Conservation Easement Special Fund. Appropriates $35,000,000 out of the Turtle Bay Conservation Easement Special Fund for the DLNR to acquire a conservation easement and other real property interests at Turtle Bay, Oahu. Allocates TAT revenues of $1,500,000 annually to the Turtle Bay Conservation Easement Special Fund. Provides that a nonprofit land conservation organization shall file an application annually with the BLNR requesting $1,500,000 from the Land Conservation Fund to be used for the reimbursement of debt service on the Turtle Bay reimbursable general obligation bonds. Appropriates $3,000,000 out of the Turtle Bay Conservation Easement Special Fund to reimburse the state general fund for payment of debt service on the reimbursable general obligation bonds.

SB359, CD1, applies the state environmental response, energy, and food security tax to fossil fuels other than petroleum products and bases the tax on one million British thermal units. Removes the sunset of the various funds related to the barrel tax. Clarifies the purposes for which the environmental response revolving fund may be used. Provides for the transfer of moneys from the environmental response revolving fund into the general fund. Requires the Director of Health to report to the Legislature information regarding the environmental response revolving fund.

AGRICULTURE

HB573, CD1, establishes and appropriates funding for the Hawaii Good Agricultural Practices Program to develop and support good agricultural practices for Hawaii farms growing agricultural food products.

SB1060, CD1, allows for agricultural loans to be administered for livestock biosecurity projects to assist the livestock industry by establishing a low-interest biosecurity loan program within the Department of Agriculture for construction, improvements, purchase of equipment and other costs related to biosecurity projects.

SB376, CD1 establishes the Hawaii Farm to School Program and a Farm to School Coordinator position.

TAXES

SB555, CD1, increases the refundable food/excise tax credit. Repeals credit for individual taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $30,000 or above and for heads of households, married couples filing jointly, and married couples filing separately, with adjusted gross incomes of $50,000 or above. Repeals residency requirement. Applies to taxable years beginning after 12/31/2015. Repeal and reenactment on 12/31/2017.

HB134, CD1, reauthorizes the counties’ authority to establish a county surcharge on state tax for a limited time period, with the surcharge to be effective until 12/31/2027, if adopted. Requires counties to adopt an ordinance to establish or extend a surcharge prior to 7/1/2016. Limits the use of surcharge revenues by counties that have already established a county surcharge on state tax to capital costs. Expands the definition of capital costs for counties with a population greater than 500,000.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM

SB1001, CD1, establishes and appropriates funds for the manufacturing development program, through which the High Technology Development Corporation may distribute grants to Hawaii manufacturers for various activities.

SB519, CD1, authorizes fines to be deposited into the tax administration special fund. Increases the balance that may be retained in the tax administration special fund in each fiscal year. Authorizes DOTAX to enforce civil penalties for operators and plan managers who fail to display the certificate of registration and registration ID numbers for transient accommodations and resort time share vacation plans. Authorizes DOTAX to issue citations for failure to provide the registration identification number or link to the number and the contact information of the local contact in an advertisement for a transient accommodation or resort time share vacation plan. Takes effect 1/1/16.

SB892, CD1, makes various appropriations for the Hawaii resilience and sustainability strategy.

ENERGY

HB1509, CD1, requires the University of Hawaii to establish collective goal of becoming net-zero with respect to energy use by January 1, 2035.

SB717, CD1, repeals existing requirement that gasoline for motor vehicles be composed of ten per cent ethanol. Effective December 31, 2015.

HB623, CD1, which increases the state’s renewable portfolio standards to 30 percent by December 31, 2020, 70 percent by December 31, 2040, and 100 percent by December 31, 2045. Requires the Public Utilities Commission to include the impact of renewable portfolio standards, if any, on the energy prices offered by renewable energy developers and the cost fossil fuel volatility in its report to the Legislature.

SB1050, CD1, requires electric utilities to file proposed community-based renewable energy tariffs with the public utilities commission by October 1, 2015. Authorizes ratepayer participation in eligible community-based renewable energy projects. (CD1)

SB1316, CD1, establishes a working group to examine the issues regarding requests to the board of directors of an association of apartment owners, condominium association, cooperative housing corporation, or planned community association regarding the installation of electric vehicle charging systems.

SB349, CD1, establishes a five-year renewable fuels production tax credit and repeals the ethanol facility tax credit. Allows qualifying taxpayers to claim a refundable income tax credit equal to 20 cents per seventy-six thousand British thermal units of qualifying renewable fuel, capped at $3,000,000 per taxable year. Caps the credit at $3,000,000 per year in aggregate. Requires DBEDT to certify all tax credits and submit a report regarding the production and sale of qualifying renewable fuels to the governor and legislature each year. Directs DOTAX to create forms for the tax credit. Applies to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2015.

SB1214, CD1, relating to the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds.  Authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds to assist Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., Maui Electric Company, Limited, and Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc.

CONSUMER PROTECTION

SB464, CD1, requires persons charging a consumer’s credit or debit card or account for automatic renewal or continuous service offer to first obtain the consumer’s affirmative consent. Requires acknowledgment of terms, cancellation policy, and information on how to cancel the automatic renewal or continuous service to be provided to the consumer. Requires free trial offers to clearly and conspicuously disclose how to cancel the agreement prior to the consumer being charged for goods and services.

HB261, CD1, requires health insurers, mutual benefit societies, and health maintenance organizations to post and update information on drug formularies via a public website and toll-free number for the benefit of insureds, potential insureds, and providers. Establishes a formulary accessibility working group.

SB1009, CD1, requires hotels to distribute porterage service charges to employees in full or disclose to customers that the charges are being used for other purposes.

MILITARY AND VETERANS AFFAIRS

SB181, CD1, allows the Department of Education to continue, until June 30, 2020, awarding high school diplomas to qualified veterans who did not receive a high school diploma as a result of compulsory induction into active service in the armed services of the United States or any person whose high school education was interrupted due to wartime practices such as internment during World War II.

HB1153, CD1, exempts qualifying totally and permanently disabled veterans from paying the state motor vehicle registration fee. Requires the Director of the Office of Veterans’ Services to report the number of qualifying veterans to the Legislature and Department of Taxation.

TRANSPARENCY AND GOOD GOVERNMENT

SB996, CD1, appropriates funds to the State Ethics Commission to design and develop a system that allows filers to electronically file required statements and reports with the State Ethics Commission.

SB654, CD1, reduces from less than $500 to less than $100, the aggregate contribution amount a candidate may receive from ten or more anonymous persons at the same political function. Takes effect on 1/1/2016.

HB179, CD1, specifies the in-state mailing address in a voter’s registration record as the forwarding address for receiving absentee ballots permanently. Requires voters seeking to have permanent absentee ballots forwarded to another address to re-apply for an absentee ballot.

SB508, CD1, requires noncandidate committees to file an additional preliminary report on October 1 of each general election year.

HB15, CD1, specifies that the Chief Election Officer is an at-will employee. Requires Elections Commission to provide notice and reason for removal of a Chief Election Officer. Requires a performance evaluation of the Chief Election Officer after a general election. Requires a public hearing on the Chief Election Officer’s performance for purposes of considering reappointment. Creates a statewide standard for the distribution of absentee ballots.

HB1491, CD1, strengthens reporting requirements for organizational reports, noncandidate reports, and late contributions reports submitted by noncandidate committees making or receiving large contributions.

FISCAL INITIATIVES

SB254, CD1, requires information on the estimated operational costs of proposed capital improvement projects and deferred maintenance costs of state-owned buildings, facilities, and other improvements to be summarized in the multi-year program and financial plan and supplemental budget, as applicable. Intends that the requirement apply to the judiciary. Effective 7/1/2016.

HB1140, CD1, provides a temporary income tax credit for the cost of upgrading or converting a qualified cesspool to a septic system or an aerobic treatment unit system, or connecting to a sewer system. Permits DOH, as a pilot program, to certify no more than 2 residential large capacity cesspools as qualified cesspools. Defines terms. Effective 7/1/2015. Sunsets 12/31/2020.

SB1312, CD1, appropriates $10,000,000 from the general revenues into the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund in FY 2014-2015 to comply with article VII, section 6, of the Hawaii State Constitution, which requires, under certain economic conditions, that the legislature provide a tax credit to state taxpayers or make a deposit into one or more funds.

CULTURE AND THE ARTS

SB1177, CD1, appropriates funds to establish four full-time equivalent positions with the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to address the findings contained in Auditor’s Report No. 14-11, that the Foundation needs to improve its management to ensure the accountability, accessibility, and protection of the Foundation’s resources.

OTHERS

SB868, CD1, authorizes county liquor commissions to prescribe regulations on dancing in establishments licensed to serve alcohol. Requires liquor commissions that do regulate dancing to adopt or amend administrative rules, no later than October 1, 2015, regarding dancing in premises licensed to sell liquor for consumption thereon and include a definition of “dancing” in those rules.

HB1090, HD2, prohibits non-compete agreements and restrictive covenants that forbid post-employment competition for employees of a technology business to stimulate economic development in Hawaii’s technology business sector.

HB1366, CD1, appropriates $500,000 to perform due diligence, plan, and enter into negotiations to acquire the Alii Place building in Downtown Honolulu to provide office space for state governmental agencies and offices.

Hawaii Senate Approves 160 Bills in Final Reading

The full Senate today passed 160 bills including measures to protect undeveloped land on Oahu’s North Shore, increase the food/excise tax credit, and ensure funding so that Hawai‘i’s elderly are cared for. capital

“I am proud of the Senate’s accomplishments this session,” said Senate Majority Leader, Senator J. Kalani English (Dist. 7 – Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, Kaho‘olawe). “We resolved a number of lingering issues, including Turtle Bay. We also provided support for some of our most fragile members of our community; the homeless, our seniors, our preschoolers, as well as provided safeguards for our natural resources.”

Senators today also approved several measures that include provisions to support the Senate’s Legislative Agenda set forth at the beginning of the 2015 Session to move Hawai‘i towards a more resilient and sustainable state.

“The budget that was passed today is one that is fiscally prudent, yet addresses many of the priorities of the Senate and the House. Although we were working with a lean budget, we were able to position the State to be in a better position not just for this biennium, but for years to come,” said Senator Jill Tokuda (Dist 24 – Kāne‘ohe, Kāne‘ohe MCAB, Kailua, He‘eia, Āhuimanu), Chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee. The State budget bill HB500 CD1 approved nearly $6.6 billion in general funds for FY2015-2016 and $6.862 billion in general funds for FY2016-2017.

A few of the bills that the Senate approved today include:

  • Autism Coverage: SB791 CD1 would mandate that insurance companies cover up to $25,000 a year in treatment until a child turns 14.
  • Turtle Bay: SB284 CD1 allows the state to enter into an agreement with the owners of Turtle Bay that would protect 665 acres of undeveloped land on the North Shore of Oahu.
  • Free Dual Credit Programs for High-Schoolers: SB374 CD1 would waive college tuition for high school students in dual credit programs, such as Running Start and Jump Start, at the University of Hawai‘i’s community colleges.
  • Health Connector Assistance: SB1028 CD1 would provide $2 million next year for the health insurance marketplace.
  • Food/Excise Tax Credit: SB555 CD1 would increase the food/excise tax credit, which hasn’t been changed since it was established in 2007.
  • Preschool Open Doors: SB64 CD1 would restore $6 million necessary to run the Preschool Open Doors Program, the statewide school readiness program, next year.
  • Community-Based Renewable Energy Projects: SB1050 CD1 would establish a community-based renewable energy program, which allows electric utility customers to participate in renewable energy projects that produce electricity, which they can sell back to electric utility companies.
  • Barrel Tax: SB359 CD1 would fund the Environmental Response Revolving Fund with the general fund instead of the barrel tax to ensure there is a consistent stream of funding that supplies investments in clean energy, local agricultural production and environmental emergency responses.
  • Kupuna Care: SB964 CD1 would provide an additional $3 million to fund the Kupuna Care program in fiscal year 2016, which is in addition to the base budget of $4.8 million.
  • Sex Trafficking: SB265 CD1 would ban sex trafficking and raise the penalties to a class A felony and promote the concept of treating prostitutes as victims rather than criminals.
  • Homeless ID cards: SB273 CD1 would allow homeless people to apply for state identification cards even without the required state and federal documents if a social service organization, attorney, member of the clergy, correctional institution staff or health professional presents a signed statement certifying their personal information. It would waive fees for homeless individuals.
  • Ethanol Repeal: SB717 CD1 repeals the existing requirement that gasoline for motor vehicles be composed of 10 percent ethanol.
  • Hawai‘i Resiliency and Sustainability: SB892 CD1 appropriates funding for Hawai‘i resilience and sustainability strategy in the areas of broadband, energy efficiency and smart grid, and water and sewer infrastructure.
  • Affirmative Consent: SB387, CD1 would establish an affirmative consent task force to review and make recommendations on the University of Hawai‘i’s executive policy on sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
  • Multi-Track: SB1345 CD1would require the Department of Education to develop a transition plan to end multi-track schedules in public schools.

The bills approved today were also approved by the House and will be forwarded to the Governor for his signature, veto, or passage without his signature.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill Passes Conference Committee

Senate and House conferees today reached a compromise on the bill that would establish a medical marijuana dispensary system in the islands.

Medical Marijuana

“This is a measure that many stakeholders have been working on for a very long time. It’s taken much discussion, collaboration and compromise to get where we are today and we believe this is a good measure that will get the medical marijuana dispensary system up and rolling,” said Senator Will Espero (D-19 ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages), chair of the Senate conference committee. “We are now on the verge of having a safe, secure product for our patients who need this, particularly the children who will benefit tremendously from medical cannabis.”

HB321, CD1 would allow applications for licenses to be available in the State of Hawai‘i starting January 4, 2016, with medical marijuana dispensaries being allowed to begin operations no sooner than July 15, 2016. A $5,000 non-refundable fee would be required to apply for a license.  An approved dispensary would pay a fee of $75,000 for a license, with a $50,000 annual renewal fee.  A total of eight dispensary licenses will be distributed throughout the state: three on Oahu, two on Maui, two on Hawai‘i Island, and one on Kaua‘i. Dispensary licenses will be selected on a merit basis and distributed through the State Department of Health (DOH).

The measure requires all dispensary licensees and employees to be subject to a criminal and background check. It restricts medical marijuana dispensaries within 750 feet of a playground, public housing complex or school. It also authorizes licensed dispensaries to be subject to annual unannounced inspections of its operations by the DOH.

The measure will be voted on by the full House and Senate on Thursday, May 7. If the bill passes both houses, it will be forwarded to the Governor for his signature, veto, or passage without his signature.

Sheriffs Being Recruited Across the State of Hawaii

The Department of Public Safety (PSD) is looking for a few good men and women to join the State Sheriff Division.

Sheriff

Recruitment will open on the Department of Human Resources and Development (DHRD) website for a three-week period from Monday, May 4, until Sunday, May 24.  PSD is seeking applicants willing to serve on every island.

“This recruitment will help the department fill several positions,” said Sheriff Robin Nagamine. “We are looking for people who possess traits and characteristics like physical and mental fitness, alertness, tact, integrity, honesty, good judgement and the ability to deal effectively with the public.”

To qualify, the applicant must be a high school graduate; be able to demonstrate knowledge of English grammar, spelling and punctuation; have the ability to read and comprehend complex written material; write a clear, factual report; and have at least two years of work experience which demonstrates these abilities.

After the initial recruitment, chosen applicants will be tested on physical fitness (pushups, sit-ups and a 1.5-mile run) and have to complete a written test to gauge their reading, writing and comprehension skills.  They will also take a pre-employment law enforcement assessment. After successful completion of the physical ability test, written test and the pre-employment assessment, the applicant may be scheduled for an interview with the department.

Individuals who pass the testing and are selected from the recruitment will participate in a 5-month Sheriff Recruit Class, which will consist of classroom and on-the-job training in the laws, rules, regulations, principles, practices, procedures and techniques of law enforcement; the operation of firearms and other equipment; as well as physical conditioning.

You can find more information on how to become a Deputy Sheriff by going to the links below. (NOTE: The official application for recruitment will not open on the Department of Human Resources and Development Jobseekers page until May 4.)

Hawaii Island:

http://agency.governmentjobs.com/hawaii/default.cfm?action=jobbulletin&JobID=1126059

Kauai:

http://agency.governmentjobs.com/hawaii/default.cfm?action=jobbulletin&JobID=1126060

Maui:

http://agency.governmentjobs.com/hawaii/default.cfm?action=jobbulletin&JobID=1126061

Oahu:

http://agency.governmentjobs.com/hawaii/default.cfm?action=jobbulletin&JobID=1126898