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Legislative update from Rep. Coffman

Rep. Denny Coffman, of Kona, has issued an update from his Honolulu office:

I am happy to report that our Manta Ray Bill has passed its final vote (3rd Reading) in the House and it is now in the Senate for review and approval.The Manta Ray Bill (HB366) creates administrative penalties for any person who captures or kills manta ray within state waters. The manta rays are a threatened species and this bill will enforce their protection against poachers and commercial fisherman. With only an estimated West Hawaii population of 150, the protection of our manta rays is extremely important.

As a freshman legislator, I am extremely honored to have been assigned as the Vice Chair of the Energy & Environmental Protection Committee.

Our main focus this year is legislative policy that facilitates the Hawaii Clean Air Initiative; our drive to reduce our fossil fuel consumption by 70 percent by 2030.

As a member of the Finance Committee, I participated in the Department Budget briefings that were conducted in January. I spent long hours in committee hearings in February. The departmental budget briefings and House Bill hearings were based upon an October 2008 revenue projection of -0.5 percent. 

We have just submitted a budget and supporting legislation to the Senate that attempts to addresses the January 2009 revenue forecast of a -3 percent. This work-in-process budget reduces our State’s expenses by an additional $235,000,000 more than the Governors December 2008 base line budget.

The just now release revenue forecast for this year is a –5 percent. 

The governor is now faced with finding another $90,000,000 to balance this year’s budget and our challenge to produce a balanced budget for FY 2010 and FY 2011 is more difficult. We must find a source for more revenue or cut more expenses. In addition, the House Finance Committee is working on legislation that will facilitate and support obtaining funds from the American Recovery and reinvestment Act of 2009 (the Federal Stimulus Bill).

I am working on Phase 1 of the Ane Keohokalole Highway Extension Project. It is also known as the Midlevel Road. 

We are attempting to qualify for stimulus funding. In addition, since this is a high priority project, we are also trying to obtain funding for this project through the State’s Capital Improvement Project funding.

This road will provide access to two major affordable housing projects, the Hawaiian Homeland Development (DHHL) Villages of La’i’opua, which will provide 700 homes and HHFDC’s Keahuolu Project, which is projected to provide 2200 affordable homes. It will also serve the new West Hawaii Civic Center and the La’i’opua Community Center.

At the other end of the mid-level road lies the Palamanui Development project. This section of the road will support access to the West Hawaii Community College. We are actively working with the Developer, County and State to keep the road and college projects moving forward.

Contact Coffman at repcoffman@Capitol.hawaii.gov or 586-9605.

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