State Senate Adjourns Session Approving More than 240 Bills Including Key Measures that Improve the Lives of Hawaii’s People

Lawmakers remain vigilant throughout legislative session striking a balance on measures supporting keiki, kupuna, workers and environment



The Hawaii State Senate today adjourned the 2014 session passing more than 240 bills that align with its initial priorities to make Hawaii a better place for everyone now and in the future through initiatives supporting Hawaii’s keiki, kupuna, workers and the environment.

“The ability to compromise and work together is essential to making good laws that help Hawaii’s people today and in the future,” said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. “It is thanks to the patience and passion of our members and advocates that we were able to complete another successful session.”

“With anything we do in life, it’s always about balance. That’s the same way we look at it here in our majority caucus,” said Sen. Brickwood Galuteria. “Every issue will have two opposing sides. Our job as lawmakers is to come out at the end of session with worthy legislation that improve the quality of life of our people. I think we did just that and I’m proud of my colleagues in the Senate Majority.

The Senate Majority, whose members are Democrats, this afternoon took action on its final bills of the session. Some of the major bills discussed and approved were several education measures that align with earlier action emphasizing the Senate’s commitment to Hawaii’s keiki, the future of Hawaii.

Lawmakers passed four bills relating to education, one prohibiting teachers from using seclusion and creating conditions and procedures for the use of restraint in schools in order to promote the safety and well-being of students (HB2257), and another raising the salary cap of the superintendent of education in order to attract and retain exemplary candidates (HB2257). The third bill will allow charter schools to charge fees on the use of facilities to help cover operating costs (HB1745).

Overall, many of the notable bills this session focused on prevention and maintaining core services and projects. Lawmakers funded initiatives that address imminent problems (as part of the joint majority package) such as the rise in kupuna population, spread of invasive species, and effects of climate control. Lawmakers also remained committed to providing continued support for the people most in need, including Hawaii’s keiki, k?puna and workers who earn the lowest wages.

The governor has 45 days from the time a bill was received to veto it, sign it into law, or allow it to pass into law without his signature.

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Highlights of Bills Passed this Session

Minimum Wage Increase

SB2609: Increases minimum wage rate to $7.75 per hour beginning on 1/1/15, $8.50 per hour beginning on 1/1/16, $9.25 per hour beginning on 1/1/17, and $10.10 per hour beginning on 1/1/18. Increases the tip credit to 50 cents per hour beginning on 1/1/15, and 75 cents per hour beginning on 1/1/16; provided that beginning 1/1/15, the combined amount the employee receives in wages and tips is at least $7 more than the applicable minimum wage

TAT for Counties
HB1671: Increases the current cap on transient accommodations tax revenues to be distributed to the counties for two fiscal years. Establishes a working group to determine future county allocation ceiling amounts and the appropriate division of the provision of public services between the State and counties.

Turtle Bay Resort Conservation Easement
HB2434: Establishes a method to use transient accommodations tax revenues to pay the debt service on revenue bonds issued by the Hawaii tourism authority to acquire a conservation easement in Turtle Bay, Oahu.

Joint Majority Package
Supporting Hawaii’s Kupuna
HB1713 SD2 and SB2346 SD1 HD2 supports Hawaii’s kupuna through funding of aging, long-term care and investor education programs

Protecting the Environment
HB1714: Establishes an interagency sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation committee under the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

HB1716: Appropriates $5 million to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council for invasive species prevention, control, outreach, research, and planning, passed out of committee earlier this month.

Voter Registration
HB2590: Allows voter registration at absentee polling places beginning in 2016 and late voter registration, including on Election Day, beginning in 2018. Appropriates funds.

Other Notable Bills

Government Reform
Lobbyist Disclosure
SB2629: Requires lobbyists and specified individuals to report to the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, within 30 days of adjournment sine die of a special session of the Legislature, on contributions and expenditures made to lobby on legislative matters considered during that special session. (SD2629 HD1

SB2634: Requires individuals who spend more than $750 on lobbying during a statement period to itemize each expenditure in certain categories, as applicable.

Financial Disclosure
SB2682: Fifteen boards and commissions will be required to file public financial disclosure statements

Sunshine Exemption for Counties
HB2139: Authorizes a limited meeting where any number of county council members may attend a board’s or community group’s meeting to discuss council business, provided that certain requirements are met. Repeals 6/30/2016.

Police Misconduct
SB2591: Police departments will have to disclose more information about police misconduct. They will have to report to the Legislature how many officers were suspended or fired in a given year, and whether the disciplinary action resulted in criminal charges or was still subject to a union appeal.

Affordable Housing
Rental Housing Trust Fund
SB2542: Increases the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund from 30 percent to 50 percent beginning July 1, 2014. The rental housing trust fund is used to provide loans or grants for the development, pre-development, construction, acquisition, preservation, and substantial rehabilitation of rental housing units. It is estimated that restoring the allocation of conveyance ta collections to 50 percent will generate $33, 100,000 for the rental housing trust fund for fiscal year 2014-2015.

Bonds for Affordable Housing
HB 2448: Authorizes HHFDC to issue bonds for infrastructure for land owned by an eligible developer for the construction of affordable housing.

Housing Choice Voucher
HB1539: Requires the return of a housing choice voucher to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority upon the death or removal from assistance of the last original household member or upon the youngest minor of the family reaching the age of 21 or 23 if the minor is a full-time student. Prohibits adding legal guardians to the household unless the legal guardian is also eligible for participation in the program

Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond
HB2251: Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750,000,000 to $1,000,000,000. Hula Mae helps qualifying first-time homebuyers with 30-year mortgages at competitive rates and offers some down payment assistance.

Hawaiian Homelands
HB2288: Amends the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act to permit the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to dispose of department-owned or department-controlled improvements, or space within an improvement, on Hawaiian home lands through direct negotiation.

Public Safety
Nonviolent Offender reentry pilot project
HB2363: Provides systematic reentry programming for nonviolent, low-risk drug offenders by establishing and funding a reentry pilot project for nonviolent, low-risk drug offenders.

Statute of limitations on sex abuse cases
SB2687: Extends the period during which a victim of child sexual abuse may bring an otherwise time-barred civil action against the victim’s abuser or an entity with a duty of care, including the State and counties.

Sexual Assault, statute of limitations
HB2034: Removes the statute of limitations for criminal actions arising from sexual assault in the first and second degrees and continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of fourteen years.

Habitual property crimes
HB2205: Imposes a mandatory minimum term of one year imprisonment upon conviction for the offense of habitual property crime. Authorizes probation only for a first conviction of the offense of habitual property crime.

Prostitution
HB1926: Amends the offense of prostitution to include sadomasochistic abuse under the definition of “sexual conduct” and clarify that a law enforcement officer shall not be exempt from the offense if the law enforcement officer engages in sexual penetration or sadomasochistic abuse while acting in the course and scope of duties. Amends the offense of solicitation of a minor for prostitution. Clarifies sentencing of repeat offenders and enhanced sentences for repeat violent and sexual offenders. Amends the applicability of a deferred acceptance of guilty plea or nolo contendere plea.

Human Trafficking
HB2038: Establishes the Human Trafficking Victim Services Fund to be administered by the DLIR to provide support and services to human trafficking victims. Also establishes human trafficking victim fees to be imposed upon persons convicted of labor trafficking and prostitution offenses.

Internet Crimes Against Children
HB702: Establishes an Internet Crimes Against Children Fee for each felony or misdemeanor conviction. Specifies order of priority for collection of fees. Establishes an Internet Crimes Against Children Special Fund. Requires deposit of fees collected into the Special Fund. Appropriates funds

Health
Tanning
HB 611: Prohibits tanning facilities from allowing the use of tanning beds by anyone under 18 and imposes fines for violations.

Hawaii Health Connector Oversight
SB2470: Establishes the Hawaii health connector as the State of Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange.

West Maui Hospital
HB2213: Authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds to assist West Maui Hospital and Medical Center Foundation, Inc. in establishing a hospital in west Maui

Cost-Effective Healthcare
HB1752: Appropriates funds to provide primary medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare to uninsured and underinsured patients and restores basic adult dental benefits to Medicaid enrollees; and appropriates funds to community health centers to provide outreach.

Hawaiian
Geothermal on Hawaiian Home Lands
SB2953: Provides that all royalties from geothermal resources on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) lands shall be paid to DHHL. 

Higher Education
UH Hilo Astronomy Center
SB3093: Makes an appropriation to the University of Hawaii at Hilo to support its memorandum of agreement with RISE 21st Century After School Program.

Education
Charter Schools
HB1745: Authorizes the State Public Charter School Commission to assess fees on non-state entities and individuals to help offset its operating costs. Establishes pre-opening procedures and requirements for charter applicants. Clarifies that beginning with fiscal year 2015-2016, appropriations for the state public charter school commission are separate and in addition to appropriations for charter schools. Makes other amendments to Hawaii’s charter school law for clarity and consistency. Requires a report on the Commission’s staffing and operational expenditures.

Restraint and Seclusion
HB1796: Prohibits the use of seclusion in public schools; establishes conditions and procedures for the use of restraint in public schools; and requires collection and review of data. Requires reports. Makes an appropriation.

Superintendents Salary
HB2257: Adjusts the salary cap of the Superintendent of Education. Requires an annual evaluation of the Superintendent of Education based on outcomes determined by the Board of Education. Repeals June 30, 2024.

Hawaii 3R’s
HB2598: Renames the Hawaii 3R’s School Repair and Maintenance Fund the Hawaii 3R’s School Improvement Fund. Requires the transfer of moneys collected pursuant to section 235-102.5(b), Hawaii Revised Statutes, and authorizes the transfer of any other moneys received in the form of grants and donations for school-level improvements and minor repairs and maintenance to the Hawaii 3R’s School Improvement Fund.

Mandatory Kindergarten
SB2768: Makes kindergarten mandatory for children who will be at least five years of age on July 31 of the school year, unless otherwise exempt.

Agriculture
Milk Control
HB2009: Establishes a minimum reserve requirement in the Milk Control Special Fund to cover contingency costs in the administration of the State’s Milk Control Act. Specifically includes audits as a contingency cost.

Macadamia Research
HB1931: Appropriates funds to DOA to research and develop methods for the prevention and treatment of macadamia felted coccid. Makes an appropriation. Effective 7/1/2014.

Lower Hamakua Ditch
HB2179: Limits the toll that the Board of Agriculture may charge for water from Lower Hamakua Ditch. Takes effect on 7/1/2015.

Coffee Berry Borer
HB1514: Establishes a Pesticide Subsidy Program until June 30, 2019, for the purchase of pesticides containing Beauveria bassiana to combat the coffee berry borer

Energy and Environment
Utilities Regulation
SB2809: Aligns statutory language regarding utility ratemaking with widely accepted utility ratemaking principles and ratemaking practices already applied in Hawaii by allowing utilities in the State the opportunity to earn a fair return on utility property that is “used and useful” for public utility purposes.

Environmental Courts
SB632: Establishes environmental courts as divisions of the circuit courts and district courts to hear proceedings, including certain chapter 91, Hawaii Revised Statutes, proceedings arising from certain environmental laws. Requires the Judiciary to convene a working group and report to the Legislature the total number of environmental-related cases filed in the last five years and recommendations for implementing environmental courts in the State.

Energy Systems Development Special Fund
SB2196: Re-establishes the energy systems development special fund, which was repealed. Extends the repeal of various allocations of the environmental response, energy, and food security tax from 2015 to 2030.

Public Utilities Commission
SB2948: Transfers the administrative placement of the public utilities commission from the department of budget and finance to the department of commerce and consumer affairs. Clarifies the public utilities commission’s authority concerning standard administrative practices, including operational expenditures and the hiring of personnel. Enables the chair of the public utilities commission to appoint, employ, and dismiss an executive officer, fiscal officer, and personnel officer. Establishes that the executive director of the division of consumer advocacy shall be the consumer advocate. Appropriates funds to effectuate the transfer of the public utilities commission and for the hiring of an executive officer, fiscal officer, and personnel officer.

Grid Modernization
HB1943 – Eliminates technical and economic barriers that prevent customer-generators from interconnecting to the Hawaii electric grid

Veterans
General Excise Tax
HB1772: Exempts from the general excise tax amounts received by a contractor of the Patient-Centered Community Care Program established by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs for costs or advances to third party health care providers

Veterans Cemetery
HB1564: Requires the counties to obtain approval from the office of veterans’ services prior to any action that may impact the State’s obligation to establish and maintain veterans cemeteriess

Driver’s License
HB1770: Requires notation of veteran status on state driver’s licenses and identification cards if desired by the applicant. Effective October 1, 2014.

Gold Star Family Day
HB2071: Designates the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Family Day”.

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Compromise Leads to Legislature’s Approval of Over 135 Measures Ahead of Sine Die

Lawmakers pass fiscally responsible state budget bill supporting keiki, measures supporting kupuna and the environment, and flagship bills raising the minimum wage and funding the Turtle Bay Conservation Easement


The Hawaii State Legislature approved more than 135 on final reading ahead of the adjournment sine die this Thursday, including the state supplemental budget, measures supporting kupuna and protecting the environment, and flagship bills raising minimum wage and funding the Turtle Bay Conservation Easement. The measures will now be enrolled to Governor Neil Abercrombie for consideration. The Governor has until Monday, June 23 to notify the legislature of an intent to veto and until Tuesday, July 8 to sign.

“Through the diligence and efficiency of my colleagues in both the Senate and House, not to mention their willingness to compromise, we have passed key measures that support our workers, kupuna, keiki and environment,” said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim.

“Caring for our kupuna and protecting our environment was a priority of the legislature this year,” said Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria. “The four measures we passed will help fund preventive measures to care for our aina and seniors.”

State Supplemental Budget*

HB1700 includes funding for core services such as education, health, the University of Hawaii, human services, the environment, public safety, and supporting and caring for the lives of Hawaii’s people.

Through prudent money management, and in order to reflect a weak economic forecast, lawmakers reduced Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s executive budget request by $173 million in general funds over fiscal biennium 2013-15. The governor’s $200 million budget request for FY2015 was significantly cut down to $65.7 million.

Funding for capital improvement projects amounted to just over $5 billion, of which $2.3 billion is funded in general obligation (GO) or reimbursable bonds. This number includes the lapse and reauthorization of $339 million in GO Bonds for the State Educational Facilities Improvement (SEFI) Fund. The budget includes $40 million for grant-in-aid (GIA).

“We’ve had some challenges balancing the budget this session, especially with lower-than-expected tax revenue projections,” said Sen. David Ige, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, “but through the commitment of both Senate and House members to work together to balance the needs and concerns of everyone in our community, we were able to make the smart financial decisions to close the budget.”

Flagship Measures Passing Final Reading:

Increasing Minimum Wage

Senate Bill 2609 will boost the income of Hawaii’s lowest paid workers giving them more money to spend and invest, increasing economic activity and growth, while allowing them to care for their families. The final version of the bill increases the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over the next four years. For workers who earn at least $7 more than the minimum wage, businesses can deduct a 75 cents tip credit. The current tip credit is 50 cents.

Preserving Hawaii’s Lands

House Bill 2434 will provide the $40 million needed to complete the agreement reached last week between the State of Hawaii, City and County of Honolulu, The Trust for Public Land, and Turtle Bay Resort (TBR) to establish a conservation easement on 665.8 acres of land at Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku.

JOINT MAJORITY PACKAGE BILLS

Supporting Hawaii’s Kupuna

HB1713 SD2 and SB2346 SD1 HD2 supports Hawaii’s kupuna through funding of aging, long-term care and investor education programs.

Protecting the Environment

HB1714 establishes an interagency sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation committee under the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The final joint majority package bill, HB1716, which appropriates $5 million to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council for invasive species prevention, control, outreach, research, and planning, passed out of committee earlier this month.

Although the Senate passed out SB2478, a bill updating the chiropractic scope of practice, the House voted to recommit the both measures to committee. Both the House and Senate recommitted SB2799, relating the salary of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation Executive Director.

The Senate deferred a vote on HB1652, a bill establishing a 5-year pilot program at the University of Hawaii Hilo School of Pharmacy and a University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy Special Fund, until Thursday, May 1. And the House deferred vote on SB3065, the Dole land exchange bill, and until then as well.

Thursday, May 1, is adjournment sine die, the final day of the 2014 Legislative Session and the last day for the lawmakers to vote on measures. Senate will convene session at 11 a.m.

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*Highlights of the budget include:

Education

  • $15 million for the weighted student formula, which are funds given to schools based on enrollment and other factors.
  • $2 million for school athletics.
  • $1.925 million for Strive-HI performance system, which was designed to measure and better understand school performance and progress, and to help tailor rewards, supports and interventions for school improvement.
  • $600,000 for the educator evaluation system.
  • $579,208 for the professional development management system.
  • $256,000 for teacher induction and mentoring program.
  • $200,000 for a contract with Teach for America.
  • $3 million for early learning through the prekindergarten program.
  • $9 million to cover the shortfall in utility costs
  • $592,000 in general funds for sabbatical leave for teachers

Charter Schools

  • $800,000 for additional funding to mitigate charter school commission costs.
  • $134,802 for charter school per-pupil allotment

Public Libraries

  • $685,000 for electricity budget shortfall in libraries statewide.
  • $200,000 to increase security services at libraries statewide.
  • $600,000 to maintain computers and other technological services offered by Hawaii State Public Libraries System to patrons.

Health

  • $5 million for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.
  • $2 million for the Hilo Medical Center primary care residency program.
  • $750,000 for Hawaii Health Information Exchange for operational and technical support. 

University of Hawaii

  • 89 positions and $4 million for the University of Hawaii West Oahu campus.
  • $1 million for community college outcome based funding.
  • $19.5 million in general funds for UHPA employees’ salary increases.
  • Increase of the special fund ceiling by nearly $46 million to support UH-Manoa campus operations and programs.
  • 50 positions to support UH community colleges operations. 

Agriculture

  • 4 positions and $96,309 for the pesticides branch.

Human Services

  • $5.5 million for foster care payment rate increase.
  • $500,000 for the REACH program.
  • $200,000 for Hawaii Health Information Exchange for Medicaid services.

Environment

  • $577,000 for operating expenses for conservation and resources enforcement officers.
  • 12 temporary positions and $800,000 for community fisheries enforcement units.
  • $100,000 in general funds and $3.9 million in special funds for the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation 2016 Congress. 

Public Safety

  • 10 positions and $259,930 for hospital and suicide watch posts.
  • 6 positions and $155,958 for hospital and suicide watch posts.
  • 20 positions and $786,718 for mental health treatment at correctional facilities.

CIPs

HB1700 provides nearly $900 million to fund projects that continue the progress begun over the last few years in renovating, repairing and maintaining existing state-owned facilities to utilize our current resources and reduce general fund expenditures in the future. Including:

  • $700 million for the Department of Education and $90 million for the UH system
  • Remainder allocated to hundreds of other projects, mainly in the Department of Health, DLNR and DAGS.
  • Major funding in the amount of $1.9 billion is provided to the Department of Transportation for highways, harbors and airports, including an additional $280 million for the new Mauka concourse at Honolulu International Airport.

HB1700 addresses future capacity needs and economic growth. Including:

  • Funding for the much anticipated UH Hilo College of Pharmacy in the amount of $33 million.
  • Allied Health and Administration Building for the growing UH West Oahu campus at Kapolei in the amount of $28 million.
  • Following last year’s major investment in technology infrastructure, the budget this year includes an investment of $100 million in state and matching federal funds for Kolea, the new eligibility system for public assistance programs.

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Senator Malama Solomon Applauds Richard Ha’s Leadership in Agriculture

Submits testimony in strong support of the Hawaii Island farmer’s Board of Agriculture appointment



In written testimony to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Malama Solomon (District 9 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, and Kona) expressed strong support for the appointment of Richard Ha to the state Board of Agriculture.

“The challenges that face the agricultural business in Hawai‘i are daunting,” Solomon said in written testimony. “This is why we need Richard Ha’s leadership. His community involvement has given him in-depth knowledge of how the government, public, and private sectors cooperation is necessary so we can decrease our dependency on imported food and increase our local food production.”

Solomon also called to the committee’s attention the unfortunate, unwarranted and unfair scrutiny Ha received over the past week due to a targeted campaign to stop his reappointment.

“These falsehoods have targeted Mr. Ha’s pro-active positions and his strong avocation for the furtherance of geothermal energy development on the Island of Hawai‘i,” she wrote. She pointed out that geothermal energy development would reduce the electricity costs substantially and that it is key to accelerate local food production within the State.

Solomon called Ha an outstanding farmer and praised his holistic approach to agriculture.

Today, the Senate Committee on Agriculture unanimously approved Ha’s appointment with many of the senators praising his leadership in agriculture and willingness to serve amidst unjustified public assaults on his integrity. During discussion before decision making, one lawmaker said that the state is fortunate to have a man of his caliber in this position.

Richard Ha’s nomination will now go to the floor for a full vote by members of the Hawai‘i State Senate.

solomon pdf (Copy)

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Governor Signs Measures to Support Agriculture

(Senators Clarence Nishihara, Ronald Kouchi, and Gilbert Kahele join their House colleagues and Governor Neil Abercrombie for the signing of several agriculture bills.)

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie today signed into law several measures relating to agriculture, helping to develop a strong foundation to enhance the State’s food and agricultural self-sufficiency.  Senator Clarence Nishihara, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, released the following statements regarding the enactment of Senate Bill (SB) 993, SB 586, House Bill (HB) 1263 and HB 353.

SB 993, relating to agricultural loans, expands the Department of Agriculture’s agricultural loan program by adding farm innovation loan programs and expanding the definition of a new farmer.

“One of the major concerns regarding sustainability of agriculture in Hawaii is a lack of agricultural entrepreneurs,” said Nishihara. “This measure helps provide Hawaii’s emerging farmers with the capital they need to start their farming operations and be innovative in testing new crops or techniques.” 

SB 586, relating to agriculture, provides, under certain circumstances, an exemption from building code and permit requirements for nonresidential buildings or structures, including indigenous Hawaiian hale, on commercial farms and ranches located outside the urban district.

“These agricultural exemptions enacted in this measure support agricultural development and expansion by significantly easing the financial and administrative burdens that we have placed on our farmers and ranchers,” said Nishihara. 

HB 1263, relating to irrigation, appropriates $75,000 for the East Kauai irrigation system and $45,000 for the Peekauai Ditch irrigation system, also known as the Menehune Ditch.

“Reliable irrigation systems are critical to Hawaii’s agricultural industry,” said Nishihara. “These irrigation system investments will help ensure that Hawaii’s agricultural crops have the opportunity to continue to flourish.”

HB 353, relating to agriculture, appropriates $250,000 in the 2013-2015 fiscal biennium for the Department of Agriculture to research and develop methods for the prevention and treatment of coffee berry borer infestations.  The measure also appropriates $300,000 during the 2013-2014 fiscal year for the Department of Agriculture to fund efforts to control and mitigate the damage from coffee berry borer infestation.

“The coffee berry borer is an invasive species that has caused considerable damage to Hawaii’s coffee industry,” said Nishihara. “The enactment of this measure supports the State’s efforts in controlling the damage from the infestation and ensuring the survival of our coffee farms. “

Governor Signs Measure to Benefit Hawaii’s Honeybee Industry

(Senators Clarence Nishihara and Roz Baker join Governor Neil Abercrombie for the signing of Senate Bill 482 into law.)

Honolulu- Today Governor Neil Abercrombie enacted Senate Bill (SB) 482, relating to agriculture, into law. This measure helps to ensure the continued viability of honeybee stocks by encouraging beekeeping operations of all sizes throughout the State. Following the signing of SB 482 the Governor also proclaimed June 17 through 23 as “Hawaii Pollinator Week.”

Hawaii’s beekeeper operations play a critical role in the vitality of our honeybees,” said Senator Clarence Nishihara, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture. “The enactment of this measure seeks to promote the honeybee industry by leveling the hurdles currently required for beekeepers to operate in the State.”

Honeybees, as a primary pollinator of food crops, have a significant impact on agriculture in Hawaii.  Hawaii’s annual Farm Gate Sales from bee-pollinated crops is valued at $212,800,000. Unfortunately, vital honeybee populations are declining at a rapid rate due to the arrival of the varroa mites, nosema, and small hive beetles.

Small and large beekeeper operations are responsible for millions of healthy, pollinating bees throughout the State. Small beekeepers, however, have experienced significant barriers to beekeeping due to administrative and bureaucratic requirements.

It’s important that we continue to take the appropriate steps to curb the decline of Hawaii’s honeybee population,” said Senator Roz Baker, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection. “This law improves Hawaii’s current beekeeping requirements, helping to sustain small beekeeping operations and ensuring an adequate supply of honeybees throughout the State.”

SB 482 clarifies the maximum number of gallons of honey that can be sold by a certified honey house or food processing establishment without obtaining a permit from the Department of Health (DOH). The measure also exempts from the permit requirement sales of honey directly to retail stores that, in turn, sell the honey directly to consumers. Further, the bill requires honey producers to include certain wording on labels of each container of honey, take a food safety class and make records available to DOH.

Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz Introduces Senate Resolution 133

Urging the State to Purchase Land from Dole Food Company

Honolulu — Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz introduced Senate Resolution 133 which urges the State to purchase the 123 parcels of land in Central Oahu that Dole Food Co. has put up for sale.  These parcels will add approximately 22,500 acres of land to the 1,700 acres of Galbraith Estate agricultural land in Central Oahu that the State recently acquired.  The Agribusiness Development Corporation has received the transfer of 1,200 acres of the Galbraith land.

Senator Dela Cruz is champion of the Whitmore Village Agricultural Development Plan that is intended to return agriculture to the prominence it once had in Central Oahu.  He is urging the State to acquire the Dole land to protect this land from urban sprawl and preserve it for agriculture.  Further, those lands suitable for conservation or preservation may be transferred to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

As we increase the State’s inventory of agricultural land, we provide the opportunity for farmers to expand their business or encourage new farmers into the industry.  We also enable the increase of diversified agriculture and allow for self-sufficiency,” said Senator Dela Cruz.  “We want to demonstrate that farming is an attractive profession, agriculture is revenue generating, and that there is a career in agriculture.  We hope to see a new generation of farmers.”

Senator Dela Cruz acknowledged that today’s farmers face many challenges with the biggest drawback being the lack of long-term leases which makes it difficult for them to plan and budget.  In addition they are also faced with escalating costs of equipment and supplies, transporting and shipping, and liability and insurance.  They have to adhere to food safety certification and have to contend with agricultural theft and vandalism.  Adding to their problems is the lack of workforce housing.

The state currently imports 85-90 percent of its food.  By helping farmers with long term leases, it will  allow them to make investments in their business to increase production and encourage them to try raising new crops to determine their viability.  The intent is to create synergy and scale resulting in reduced costs of farming and ensuring supporting systems and activities become efficient.

The re-immergence of agriculture in Central Oahu will also create various levels of jobs in the industry and enhance economic development in a disadvantaged area.  The Whitmore Village Plan toward this end is a comprehensive, economically sustainable plan for agriculture that includes farms, packing and processing facilities, distribution systems, infrastructure and water, agri-tourism opportunities, public-private partnerships and long-term investments.

The resolution sets forth the purchase of the Dole lands through floating general obligation bonds and revenue bonds that do not exceed its annual debt service limitations.  The bonds are to be paid back from the tenants with current leases and including revenues from the Waiahole Ditch.

 

Dr. Dennis Gonsalves and Farmers Honored by State Senate

Senators honored Dr. Dennis Gonsalves with a Certificate of Recognition today for his work and research in the field of agriculture.   Dr. Gonsalves led a team of researchers that developed the first ringspot virus-resistant papaya in 1991, known as the Rainbow Papaya.  Before the Rainbow Papaya was released to growers in 1998, the ringspot virus had reduced Hawaii’s papaya production by 50 percent.  Dr. Gonsalves and the transgenic Rainbow Papaya he and his team developed virtually saved the Hawaii papaya industry from almost total demise.

Born and raised in Kohala, Hawaii, Dr.  Gonsalves is an award-winning researcher who has received international recognition for his work.

The Senate today also recognized farmers honored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.  The farmers traveled from the mainland to share their stories about how biotechnology is helping them with real agricultural challenges to ensure a sustainable food supply.

Bill to Promote Agricultural Tourism Activities Becomes Law

Honolulu- Senate Bill (SB) 2341, Relating to Land Use, became law yesterday without the Governor’s signature.  The measure allows agricultural tourism activities, including certain overnight accommodations of twenty-one days or less, in agricultural districts for any one stay within Maui County.

The intent of the SB 2341 is to enable Maui County to make their own determinations regarding the allowance of certain activities on, or uses of, land in agricultural districts.  To assist in this effort the measure provides that the county adopt ordinances setting forth procedures and requirements for the review and permitting of agricultural tourism uses and activities.

The enactment of Senate Bill 2341 provides a wealth of opportunity for Maui County farmers and ranchers as well as the greater community,” said Senator English, who introduced the measure. “Agricultural Tourism serves as a means of additional economic activity for agricultural communities as well as a learning vehicle for many people who might not otherwise have a connection to agriculture.” Senator English represents Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i and Kaho’olawe.

July 10, 2012 marked the 45th Day after adjournment and was the last day for the Governor to veto bills from his intent to veto list. Any bills not signed or vetoed by this date become law without the Governor’s signature.

Governor Signs Measure to Prevent the Spread of Axis Deer

(Senator Gilbert Kahele and Senator Clarence Nishihara join Governor Abercrombie for the signing of Senate Bill 3001 into law.)

Honolulu- Today Governor Neil Abercrombie enacted Senate Bill (SB) 3001, Relating to Wildlife, into law. This measure prohibits the intentional possession and interisland transportation or release of wild or feral deer.

The introduction of non-native species to the State poses a negative effect on Hawai‘i’s environment and indigenous species in a variety of ways.  Specifically, the Axis Deer has caused great damage to native habitats and agricultural crops on Maui and are a danger to vehicular traffic on roadways. SB 3001 aims to provide a deterrent to the purposeful spread of wild or feral deer within the State and establishes penalties for the intentional possession or interisland transportation or release of wild or feral deer.

It is imperative that Hawai‘i’s environment and local industry be protected from the devastating effects that non-native species can pose to the health of our local economy and ecosystem, ” said Senator Gilbert Kahele (District 2- Ka‘u, Puna, Hilo), who introduced the measure. “This measure establishes the regulations needed to prevent the unwanted spread of Axis Deer so that our environment and businesses can continue to grow and prosper.”

We commend Senator Kahele, the state legislature and the Governor for passing SB3001 to prevent the cruel and irresponsible abandonment of deer across Hawaii. Such illegal introductions cause unnecessary animal suffering and harm to the environment” said Inga Gibson, Hawaii director for The Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, who worked in support of this bill, are offering a reward of up to $2500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the illegal transport, release or abandonment of deer on the Big Island. The DLNR- Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) is asking anyone with information on this illegal activity to please contact their toll-free reward tipline at 1-855-DLNR-TIP (1-855-356-7847).

If anyone sights a  deer on Hawai‘i Island, please call the Big Island Invasive Species Council Deer Coordinator at (808)443-4036.

To view video click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_pm8PGgxdY.

Governor Enacts Measures to Support Local Farms

(Photo Courtesy: Office of the Governor)

Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Clarence Nishihara and committee member Senator Ronald Kouchi joined Governor Neil Abercrombie today as he signed Senate Bill 2375 and Senate Bill 2646 into law. Together, these measures aim to benefit local farmers who want to sell their products and/or establish agricultural-based commercial operations.

Senate Bill 2375 defines agricultural- based commercial operations and authorizes agricultural-based commercial operations in agricultural districts. Senate Bill 2646 intends to encourage and support diversified agriculture and agricultural self-sufficiency in the State by exempting certain nonresidential agricultural buildings that are on commercial farms from county building permit requirements.

For more information and to view other measures enacted by the Governor go to: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/report.aspx?type=acts.

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