Categorized | Government, News

Bills address farmers, marijuana, driving

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

State lawmakers are introducing scads of bills at the beginning of this year’s Legislature, covering a variety of issues including farming, safe driving, housing and homelessness, marijuana cultivation and the Hawaii Health Connector.

Among the bills already introduced:

STRONGER PROTECTIONS FOR HAWAII’S FARMERS AND RANCHERS

Rep. Richard H.K. Onishi (Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Pahala, Honoapu, Volcano) is calling for stronger protections for Hawaii’s farmers and ranchers by introducing a bill to strengthen Hawaii’s Right to Farm Act.

Hawaii’s right-to-farm law is designed to protect and preserve agricultural operations by allowing farmers, who meet all legal requirements and use accepted farming management practices, protection from unreasonable controls on farming operations and from nuisance suits which might be brought against them.

The law also documents the importance of farming to the local community and State of Hawaii and puts non-farming rural residents on notice that generally accepted agricultural practices are reasonable activities to expect in farming areas.

“Like many other states, Hawaii has had to deal with encroaching urbanization and pressure it puts on our farms and agricultural lands,” Onishi said. “Unlike most states, Hawaii is an island with very limited space for agricultural endeavors. We’ve seen how hard it’s been to protect our ag lands and to keep them productive in the face of other pressing needs and priorities.

“But if we are interested in sustainability and moving Hawaii toward greater self-reliance, we will have to strike a better balance between our rural and urban needs. This measure is designed to do just that by protecting our local farmers and ranchers. They have a right to farm in the best way they see fit, as long as they follow legal and accepted agricultural practices, whether we’re talking about ranchers, poultry, hog, vegetable, flower and plant farmers.”

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bill at capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_ind…

MEASURES AIMED AT ADDRESSING HAWAII HEALTH CONNECTOR CONCERNS

Reps. Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa) and Angus McKelvey (West Maui, Maalaea, North Kihei) are introducing a package of bills intended to help the Hawaii Health Connector improve transparency and reliability and ensure the agencies financial stability, as it faces technical and administrative challenges.

The Health Connector is the state’s enrollment portal for coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Belatti, who chairs the House Committee on Health, and McKelvey, who chairs the Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, have led committee hearings during the interim aimed at understanding the challenges and problems experienced by the Connector before and since the Connector’s October 1, 2013 rollout.

Belatti and McKelvey share a desire to see the Connector succeed.

“It goes without saying that the Connector has had a rough time with their rollout for many reasons,” said Belatti. “But at the end of the day, if it fails, it is the people of Hawaii who will be the losers. There has been plenty of justification for finger pointing and calls for accountability, but now we need to move beyond the criticism and provide constructive recommendations to help right the ship.”

“The Connector was designed to match low-income residents with subsidized health plans under the Affordable Care Act,” said McKelvey. “It has faced technical difficulties as well as administrative ones. The problems cannot be solved by a single silver bullet or by simply saying let’s throw it all out and start fresh. If you do, you’re doomed to repeat the same failures.

“We need to understand the specific problems and match the solutions appropriately: If the problem is an administrative one, then let’s fix it administratively. If it’s a technical one, let’s find a technological fix. If it’s a financial one, let’s find a financial fix.”

In Hawaii, more than 17,000 individuals have applied for health insurance through the Health Connector during the current open enrollment period, which ends March 31, 2014.

“We can all agree that access to quality health care through affordable health insurance plans is a major goal of health care reform today. The Connector plays a critical role in fulfilling that goal,” Belatti said. “Our job in the Legislature is to make sure that the Connector is restructured to provide better transparency and accountability, ensure that the Connector is on a path to sustainability, and connect the work of the Connector to the larger process of healthcare transformation.”

The proposed measures include bills:

HB2529 RELATING TO HEALTH: Transitions the Hawaii Health Connector from a private to a state entity. Makes changes to the composition of the Hawaii Health Connector board. Creates a consumer, patient, business, and health care advisory group and an intergovernmental advisory group.

HB2526 RELATING TO THE HAWAII HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE: Establishes the Hawaii Health Connector as a state entity as of 01/01/2015.

HB2527 RELATING TO HEALTH INSURERS ASSESSMENTS: Establishes a sustainability fee for the Hawaii Health Connector. Deposits the fee into a special subaccount of the Compliance Resolution Fund.

HB2525 RELATING TO INSURANCE RATES: Requires individual health insurance plans and small group plans to establish rates based on community rating without regard to age, sex, health status, tobacco use or occupation.

HB2530 RELATING TO THE HAWAII HEALTH CONNECTOR: Effective July 1, 2014, lowers the number of members on the board of directors of the Hawaii Health Connector to twelve, with a maximum of nine total voting members. Removes members representing insurers and dental benefit providers from the board and requires all but one of the state agency representatives on the board to be ex officio, non-voting members. Establishes procedures for filling vacancies on the board.

HB2531 RELATING TO THE HAWAII HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE: Requires the Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange to comply with open meeting and notice provisions and provide an annual report to the Legislature. Clarifies the conduct of board meetings. Implements enforcement provisions and penalties for violations of open meeting and notice requirements.

LEGISLATION FOR THE CULTIVATION AND EXPORT OF MARIJUANA

In the interest of economic development, Representative Rida Cabanilla (Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe, West Loch) has introduced HB2124 that asks the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism in consultation with the Department of Agriculture to convene a working group to develop an action plan to legalize cultivation of marijuana in Hawaii for sale and export to foreign jurisdictions where usage is lawful.

All commercial activities from the production and export of marijuana and marijuana-related products will be taxed and revenues would be utilized for public education, health care and human services programs.

“Commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana is a bold approach toward generating revenue while capitalizing on Hawaii’s inherent strengths. Hawaii’s rich soil, coupled with its temperate climate, provide ideal conditions for year-round farming and cultivation. Hawaii is well situated to provide an abundant supply of quality marijuana to fill a growing international demand,” said Cabanilla.

SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE DRIVER’S ACT

Sen. Will Espero, Chair of Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, today announced that he is introducing the Safe and Responsible Driver’s Act, which would allow access to driver’s licenses for individuals who cannot show proof of authorized presence or who may be undocumented residents.

“This bill will improve public safety for drivers, pedestrians, residents of and visitors to Hawaii, by helping ensure that eligible drivers pass a driving test and obtain proof of insurance before driving their vehicles in Hawaii,” said Espero.

The bill details how applicants can prove identity and Hawaii residency. Currently, the paperwork requirements mean that many people cannot apply for a driver’s license.

“Immigrants cannot apply for the driver’s license they need to take their children to school, go to work, church, or carry out other daily activities,” said Reverend Stan Bain, retired United Methodist pastor.

Unlicensed, uninsured drivers cause damage claims that other policy holders must cover. If these drivers can get licensed and insured, the cost of covering accidents involving uninsured motorists will decline, and everyone will pay lower insurance rates.

Since New Mexico began issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants in 2003, its rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33 percent to 9 percent.

Another benefit of the bill is that it fosters community trust with law enforcement. Driver’s licenses help law enforcement officers perform their jobs more safely, effectively and efficiently. They enable law enforcement officers to identify the drivers they stop, and check the driver’s traffic and criminal record.

In addition, licenses will assist first responders and health care providers in determining the identity of the person they are assisting.

Nationwide state legislatures are creating and moving legislation to ensure roadway safety for all. These policies are being adopted to decrease the number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers and increase public safety.

Eleven states, in addition to Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, have enacted laws to increase access to driver’s licenses.

ANTI-CHILD PORNOGRAPHY BILL ‘ALICIA’S LAW’

Sen. Will Espero, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, has announced the introduction of Senate Bill 2595, also known as “Alicia’s Law,” a measure that would provide a dedicated revenue stream for Hawaii’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC).

The initiative is named after Alicia Kozakiewicz, who was abducted by an Internet predator, held hostage and tortured in her Virginia basement at the age of 13.

“I’m here today because the ICAC Task Forces were there,” said Kozakiewicz. “I was the needle in the haystack. I received the miracle. Because of that, I feel a moral obligation to help save as many other children who are subjected to abuse.”

There are thousands of ICAC leads in the state of Hawaii trafficking in sadistic images and videos of children being raped and tortured. Nationally, 50 percent to 70 percent of these cases lead detectives to rescuing children from sexual abuse.

The FBI reports that “the scope of the problem is worse than anticipated and growing exponentially.”

“The Hawaii ICAC task force is doing the best job they can with the limited resources of a Federal grant,” Espero said. “However, they are only able to investigate one to two cases per month. With thousands of children needing protection this is unacceptable, and Hawaii needs a permanent revenue stream to fund the ICAC task force.”

“We know that most internet predators are also hands-on offenders and we know that child sexual abuse is a stealth crime,” said Grier Weeks, Executive Director of The National Association to Protect Children. “We can’t let children languish in abusive situations if we have the ability to provide law enforcement with a tool that allows for the immediate rescue of that child.”

“This bill, should it become law, will help to keep our keiki safe,” Espero said. “Internet-based social media applications have become popular and easily accessible over the years especially amongst youth. These technologies and other internet sites can leave minors exposed to a litany of abuses and exploitations. It is imperative that we provide the necessary tools and resources to fight this growing epidemic.”

WOMEN’S LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS JOINT PACKAGE

The Women’s Legislative Caucus, consisting of members from both the state Senate and House, has announced a joint package of priorities for the 2014 legislative session.

The package of bills cover a broad spectrum of issues of concern to women of all ages and economic background.

“For more than 20 years, our coalition of women legislators have worked on behalf of the concerns and rights of all women in Hawaii,” said Rep. Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa). “By working collectively, we have provided women with a strong voice when it comes to passing measures that will improve women’s quality of life and protect their safety and rights.”

“This year’s initiatives include bills relating to women’s health issues, strengthening the family, violence against women, human trafficking, and Title IX,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker (South and West Maui). “I am also very pleased that one of our bills directs the state Department of Education to name the new high school in my district of Kihei, Maui the Patsy Takemoto Mink High School. As a role model for young women and as a pioneer in women’s rights, she deserves this honor for all that she accomplished for women in Hawaii and across the nation.”

“Our collaboration involves not only members of the Legislature, but other organizations that focus on women’s issues, such as the YWCA, the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, the Organization of Hawaii Women Leaders, and the Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership,” said Rep. Cynthia Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay). “Proposed bills are voted on by caucus members and those that are approved by at least 75 percent become part of the package.”

“While women have made great strides in many areas, real life experiences and trends suggest we still have a lot of work to do in terms of women’s equality and opportunity, as well as their health, safety and wellbeing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (Liliha, Palama, Iwilei, Kalihi, Nuuanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Lower Tantalus, Downtown).

STRENGTHENING REPRODUCTIVE AND MATERNAL HEALTH

Relating to HPV and Cervical Cancer (Provides Information to Parents about HPV Vaccine)

Requires the Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Health, to annually provide to parents or guardians of each student entering grade six information on the availability of a vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Information will include the link between HPV and cervical cancer as well as other cancers and diseases and that a vaccination to help prevent HPV infection is available.

Parents and guardians are also to be informed about recommendation that the vaccination be completed before the student enters grade seven. Program effective beginning the 2015-2016 school year.

Relating to Cancer (Comprehensive Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program; Appropriation)

Appropriates $100,000 to the Department of Health for the comprehensive breast and cervical control program.

Relating to Jury Duty (Exempting Breastfeeding Mothers from Jury Duty)

Exempts breastfeeding mothers from jury duty for up to one year from the time the mother began breastfeeding the child.

BUILDING STRONGER FAMILIES

Relating to Infant Mortality (Comprehensive Maternal and Child Health Quality Improvement Program)

Clarifies the role of the Department of Health in reducing infant mortality rates; establishes the Hawaii maternal and child health quality improvement collaborative; requires birthing facility reporting; and appropriates funds for operations.

Relating to Project Kealahou

Appropriates $50,000 for the continued funding of Project Kealahou, within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division of the Department of Health. Project Kealahou promotes community-based, individualized, culturally and linguistically competent, family-driven, youth-guided, and evidence-based services for adolescent girls, ages 11 to 21, who have experienced significant trauma in their lives.

TACKLING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Relating to Sexual Assault (Removes the Statute of Limitations on Cases of Sexual Assault)

Removes the statute of limitations for criminal and civil actions arising from sexual assault in the first and second degrees and continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14.

Relating to Judiciary Funding of Domestic Violence Funding

Restores funds in the Judiciary budget to allow for funding of domestic violence services

Relating to Human Trafficking (Victim Services Fund)

Establishes the human trafficking victim services fund to be administered by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to provide support and services to human trafficking victims.

HONORING HAWAII’S WOMEN LEADERS

Relating to Education (Naming Kihei public high school the Patsy Takemoto Mink High School)

Requires the Department of Education to name the new public high school in Kihei, Maui “The Patsy Takemoto Mink High School” in honor of the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink.

RESOLUTION

Requesting the University of Hawaii commit to upholding Title IX and VAWA 2013

Requesting the University of Hawaii to affirm their commitment to upholding the tenets of Title IX and the Violence against Women’s Act (VAWA) 2013 and the University of Hawaii’s dedication to ending all forms of sexual violence on Hawaii campuses through a report on the status of Title IX and VAWA 2013 policies, procedures, staffing and statistics.

Requesting the City and County of Honolulu name the new Central Oahu ambulance facility after the late state Health Director Loretta Fuddy.

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bills by logging onto the Capitol website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advrepo…

HOUSING AND HOMELESS LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE FOCUSES ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING

State lawmakers have announced a package of priorities to address affordable housing and homelessness for the 2014 legislative session.

Much of the package focuses on a variety of funding mechanisms to help put more working individuals and families who find themselves homeless into safe and stable living environments.

“About 40 percent of Hawaii’s homeless are people who work and just can’t find affordable housing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. “In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Planning Study revealed that 50,000 new units would need to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet new demand generated by changing demographic and economic conditions. Of that amount and based on HUD Income Guidelines, about 19,000 new units are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income and below.”

“One place where we can start to make improvements is supporting programs addressing the shortfall in affordable rental housing units,” she added. “We can do this by restoring to 50 percent the allocation of the conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund. We reduced it to 20 percent during the recession to address the State’s budget crisis; however, it’s time we restored these funds, which would provide for about $30 million a year to build more affordable housing.”

Other bills in the package provide support for Housing First, creates a universal children’s savings account program, and establishes a home ownership revolving fund, among others.

The package is a collaborative effort of the Housing and Homeless Task Force, which was created to bring together homeless service provider, businesses, developers, financial institutions, current and former homeless individuals, and representatives of all levels of government.

It aims to address Hawaii’s housing shortage and to create viable solutions to address homelessness.

SB2533 | HB1935 – Relating to Affordable Housing

Appropriates funds to improve and increase the existing public housing stock in the State. Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds and the appropriation of funds for deposit into the rental housing trust fund and the dwelling unit revolving fund to finance affordable rental housing development and infrastructure development. Appropriates funds for the construction of micro apartment housing units. Appropriates funds to build housing for beneficiaries on homestead land. Appropriates funds to build affordable housing projects for veterans.

SB2535 | HB1934 – Relating to Housing

Part I: Appropriates funds to the department of health for substance abuse treatment, mental health support services, and clean and sober housing services.

Part II: Appropriates funds for a rental assistance program, also known as a shallow subsidy program.

Parts III and IV: Appropriates funds to the department of human services to continue to administer housing first programs for chronically homeless individuals and to reestablish the homeless prevention and rapid re-housing program.

Part V: Appropriates matching funds for the federal continuum of care permanent supportive housing programs to provide rental assistance in connection with supportive services.

Part VI: Appropriates funds for the homeless assistance working group.

Part VII: Transfers the homeless assistance working group from the department of human services to the legislature. Requires the chairpersons of the senate and house of representatives committees on human services to convene the homeless assistance working group instead of the director of human services, or a designee.

SB2542 | Similar: HB2059 – Relating to the Disposition of the Conveyance Tax Collections to the Rental Housing Trust Fund

Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to fifty per cent beginning 7/1/2014.

SB2266 | No HB – Relating to Housing

Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds and the appropriation of funds for deposit into the rental housing trust fund and the dwelling unit revolving fund for the purposes of financing affordable rental housing development and infrastructure development.

SB2442 | No HB – Relating to Affordable Housing

Appropriates funds for the rental housing trust fund to build affordable rental housing projects, including projects with micro units, family units, and elder housing units.

SB2543 | No HB – Relating to Housing

Establishes the homeownership revolving fund to assist households whose income does not exceed eighty per cent of the area median income by allowing the households to pay no debt service at zero per cent interest for the first sixty months and then pay interest on a graduated scale.

SB2545 | No HB – Relating to Universal Children’s Savings Accounts

Creates a Universal Children’s Savings Account Program under the Department of Budget and Finance. Establishes and appropriates funds into the Universal Children’s Savings Account Trust Fund.

Others bills in the 2014 Housing & Homeless Legislative Package

SB2265 – makes an appropriation to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to improve the existing public housing stock and increase the supply of public housing units in the State

SB2267 – makes an appropriation to the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation for the construction of micro apartment housing units

SB2536 – appropriates funds to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to build housing for beneficiaries on homestead land

SB2537 – appropriates funds to the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation to build affordable housing projects for veterans

SB2532/HB1947 – provides an exemption from, or reduction in, school impact fees for housing developments in which at least 40% of the units are rented or sold to persons or families earning up to 80% of the area median income

SB2539 – allows the Hawaii Community Development Authority to sell reserve housing, without legislative approval and in fee simple under certain conditions

SB2268 – requires a portion of the general excise tax to be deposited into the Hawaiian home administration account for operational expenses

SB2269 – requires the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to designate a resident manager at each federal housing complex and state low-income public housing project

SB2540 – establishes a rental deposit loan program within the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation to assist low income and homeless individuals and families in obtaining affordable rental housing

SB2534/HB1841 – establishes the Hale Kokua Program to incentivize homeowners statewide to set aside dwelling units for rental by families or individuals classified as employed but homeless

SB2541 – appropriates funds for the redevelopment, design and construction of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s administrative offices on School Street and the creation of elderly housing

SB2538 – establishes the Hawaii Home Loan Guarantee Program to assist residents who have a steady, low or modest income, and yet are unable to obtain conventional financing with obtaining a home loan from a commercial lender that is guaranteed by the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation.

SCR2 – Concurrent resolution to encourage the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation and Hawaii Community Development Authority to build sustainable, multi-generational, mixed income and mixed use housing.

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