Lawmakers Highlight Need for More Affordable Housing and Statewide Coordination at Informational Briefing with State and City Agencies

Joint Senate and House informational briefing on affordable housing in Hawaii

With the shortage of affordable housing options for the moderate income workforce, Hawaii lawmakers today held a joint Senate and House informational briefing to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii.

Senators and representatives heard from various government agencies to learn about the status of existing and planned affordable housing projects, and their plans to address the growing need for affordable housing as the state’s population and housing demands increase.

“We convened this informational briefing because there’s an urgent need for affordable housing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. “And it’s necessary that we get everyone involved at each level and at the same table to discuss where we are at, what we are doing and what needs to be done to meet the housing needs of Hawaii’s residents.”

In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) released the Hawaii Housing Planning Study which revealed 50,000 new units needed to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet demands. Of that number, based on Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) income guidelines, about 19,000 are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and below. (This is $43,250 for 1-person household, and $61,750 for 4-person household). HHFDC has procured a new updated study that will be released later this year.

Senator Chun Oakland and Representative Hashem receive updates on existing and planned affordable housing projects from government agency officials

“Hawaii’s workforce deserves to live in housing they can afford,” said Rep. Mark Hashem, chair of the House Committee on Housing. “Nearly half of Hawaii’s homeless population are working persons who are unable to afford steady permanent housing. In addition to addressing the housing shortage for those at AMI, we also need to ensure there is enough help for hard-working low-income individuals to obtain housing units.”

During the briefing, lawmakers questioned the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) about reserved housing requirements for workforce housing in the Kakaako district.

“Our constituents remain concerned that developers are reserving affordable housing units at the 140% of AMI mark, which is not reasonable for many of Hawaii’s working population,” said Chun Oakland. “HCDA needs to be doing more to address the housing needs of the people at 100% of AMI and below.”

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, questioned the siloed approach to planning for affordable housing projects for transit oriented development (TOD).

Senator Dela Cruz at a July 23, 2014 informational briefing on affordable housing

“It seems like all agencies have their own plan and no one is working together,” said Dela Cruz. “Instead of this siloed approach to workforce housing in relation to TOD, there must be an overall statewide approach. There’s going to be housing located around the various TOD stations. Why are we not working together?”

This past session, the legislature created a TOD Working Group to bring together all major players to plan for the future in a comprehensive and succinct way.

Senator Espero at a July 23, 2014 informational briefing on affordable housing

Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, expounded on the effect veterans returning home will have on Hawaii’s housing needs in the future.

“Our veterans fought for our nation’s principles of freedom and liberty and deserve to raise their families in housing they can afford,” said Senator Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “As our veterans return home, we need to ensure they have access to services to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian life.”

Other issues related to affordable housing discussed included the growing number of people on the waitlist of public housing and Hawaiian homelands. In public housing, there is approximately 30,000 people waitlisted (using three people per family as the average). That is about 10,000 families on the waitlist. For Hawaiian homelands, 26,926 applicants are waitlisted and 43,080 applicants are pending.

During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved measures to help with affordable housing. They include:

  • SB2542 (Act 163) – Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to 50% beginning July 1, 2014. It is estimated that this law will generate $33,100,000 for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, which is used to leverage funds for the building of affordable housing units.
  • HB2251 (Act 162) – Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750 million to $1 billion. The program will help first-time buyers afford a 30-year mortgage at a competitive rate and provides down payment assistance. There’s a high demand for this type of financing and in 2013 the total dollar value of requests exceeded the amount available. Increasing this amount will allow for the continuation of development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income households.

The following government agencies who provided testimony include Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Department of Defense, City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Housing.

All of the briefing material posted here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2014/testimony/INFO_TESTIMONY_HMS-EGH-PSM-HSG_07-23-14.pdf

Tranquility Base Day in Hawaii

This Sunday (July 20) will mark the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, when Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans in history to walk on another world. This seminal event helped launch humankind’s first steps beyond Earth, and the State of Hawaii played an instrumental role in both training the Apollo astronauts for their historic mission (at multiple lava fields on the Big Island of Hawaii) and in providing a communications link with the Apollo spacecraft (through the Koke’e Tracking Station on Kauai) during its sojourn to the lunar surface.

In recognition of this occasion and our State’s support for and continued involvement with space exploration, the Hawaii State Legislature unanimously passed SCR 82 during the 2014 Session, which established July 20, 2014 as “Tranquility Base Day” in Hawaii. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also commemorating this historic occasion through a video presentation in which he discusses Hawaii’s role in the Apollo Program, as well as the substantial scientific, educational, social, and commercial opportunities and benefits the aerospace industry in general (and space exploration in particular) can bring to our Aloha State.

“Hawaii has positioned itself to become an active participant in the aerospace industry,” said Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “Space tourism, regional unmanned aerial systems test site, small satellite launches, a research park on the Big Island based on space exploration, robotics, and laser telecommunications are areas that Hawaii can be a leader in the aerospace world.”

“We are on the verge of expanding and establishing a niche market around science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he added. “This industry will be good for Hawaii residents, our nation, and the world.”

For more information, please contact the office of Senator Will Espero at 808-586-6360 or the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development at 808-383-9811.

 

Statement from Senator Espero

 

On the Governor’s Veto of SB2589, Relating to the Transfer of Harbor Police to the Department of Public Safety


Senator Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs, issued the following statement regarding Governor Neil Abercrombie’s veto of SB2589, relating to the transfer of harbor police from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Espero introduced the measure.

 

“I am disappointed the governor chose to veto SB2589, which transfers harbor police to the Department of Public Safety. It appears he listened to government bureaucrats more interested in protecting the status quo rather than making positive changes to the state’s law enforcement authority.

“The bill had support from both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety during the 2014 legislative session. There was no opposition. It appears that after Director Glenn Okimoto left the top post, underlings in DOT convinced the interim director to request a veto of the bill.

“The bill was part of a long-term plan to eventually consolidate all state law enforcement duties under one state agency. Currently, DLNR also has law enforcement officers as well.

“I believe the governor was given bad advice by his staff on this measure. I would like to see the issue revisited next session and once again passed out so that we can bring positive change to our law enforcement authority.”

 

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Statement from Senator Will Espero on the Release of $2 million for Improvements to Oahu Veterans Center

Senator Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, issued the following statement today following the governor’s release of $2 million in capital improvement project funding for Oahu Veterans Center.

“My colleagues and I in the Legislature worked to include funding in the budget for Oahu Veterans Center because the center serves as a much-needed gathering place for veterans and the surrounding community.

“Our veterans served our nation with esteem and valor and as Independence Day nears, we remember to give thanks and to show our appreciation for those who served to defend our nation’s way of life. The Oahu Veterans Center goes a long way in improving the quality of life for our veterans and the community and I am pleased that the governor has released the funding.”

The funds will go towards the final construction phase of the center which includes a new meeting hall, improvements to the driveway and infrastructure for an air conditioning system and restroom facilities.

Oahu Veterans Center

The Oahu Veterans Center at Foster Village

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Senator Will Espero Calls Upon Governor To Convene Special Ad Hoc Committee to Address Prison Problems

The recent prisoner escapes and ongoing problems with Hawaii’s prison system has prompted Ewa Beach Senator Will Espero to call upon Governor Abercrombie to convene an ad hoc committee made up of experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to address the operational inefficiencies within the Department of Public Safety. The committee would be tasked with identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to improve the operations of Hawaii’s prison system.

In addition to the escapes, the Department of Public Safety has been in the spotlight for a number of problems in recent years. Prison staff have been charged with bringing illegal drugs into the facility and during a recent Senate hearing, staffing issues and the use of paid sick leave were tied to the cancellation of family visits at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.

“Previous escapes by inmates at our state’s prisons are troubling and are too numerous. It appears that there may be operational inefficiencies that need addressing. My proposal to form this ad hoc committee will help to bring stakeholders and experts to the table to determine how we can improve upon a system that may be less than fully functional,” said Espero.

The ad hoc committee could be quickly convened by the request and appointment of members by the Governor with no funding being needed. “I think we can make headway into solving this problem if we get the Department of Human Resources Development, Accounting and General Services, Public Safety, non-profits, public sector unions, and other experts in the field of prison operations to come to the table and formulate a set of recommendations,” said Espero.


In a photo taken last week, Sen. Espero questions Department of Public Safety officials during an informational hearing regarding the recent cancellation of inmate visitation hours

Senator Will Espero serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Military and Intergovernmental Affairs.

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Senate Looks into Inmate Visitation Hour Cancellations

This past Sunday, the Hawaii State Department of Public Safety (DPS) cancelled visitation hours at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua. Earlier this month, DPS also cancelled visitation hours at the Oahu Community Correctional Center and Hawaii Community Correctional Center. The recent cancellations of visitation hours prompted the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs (PSM) to hold an information hearing to hear from inmate family members and the DPS to learn more the cancellations and what is being done to remedy the problem.

Senators Espero, Baker and Slom question Ted Sakai, Director of DPS, and Max Otani, Deputy Director of Corrections, regarding visitation hours cancellations at DPS correctional facilities

Ted Sakai, Director of DPS, and Max Otani, Deputy Director of Corrections, testified before PSM yesterday explaining the staff shortages and unique circumstances that caused the cancellations including a power outage and ongoing renovations to a facility. The comments offered by the inmates’ families during the hearing gives DPS more insight to the issues concerning the cancellation of visitation hours so that it may address the problems to correct them. Additionally, DPS brainstormed short-term solutions that may give inmates more access to their friends and family such as weekday visitation hours and allowing video chats.

Senator Will Espero presides over the information hearing

Senator Will Espero, chair of PSM, assured the public that he will follow up on the ideas presented during the hearing’s discussion on issues facing DPS’ correctional facilities.

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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Progress in Hawaii’s Prison System

The Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental Affairs and Military Affairs, and the House Committee on Public Safety held a joint informational briefing on the status of the implementation of the Hawaii Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) yesterday.


Senators and representatives meet to hear  from the Council of State Governments Justice Center on the status of the State’s JRI.

JRI is a data-driven initiative that aims to reform the criminal justice system by making it more efficient, reducing prison populations, lessening crime rates, saving money and increasing public safety. The Council of State Governments Justice Center provided technical assistance by conducting a comprehensive analysis of Hawaii’s criminal justice data to identify challenges facing the state.

In response to the findings by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the Hawaii State Legislature in 2012 passed two bills, SB2776 CD1 and HR2515 CD1, that were signed into law, that reduces spending on corrections, and reinvest savings generated in strategies to reduce recidivism and crime, and increase public safety.

Policy analysts from the Council of State Governments Justice Center updated lawmakers on the current status of the JRI, one year after its implementation. Some highlights of its success include:

  • Passage of legislation requiring the use of a pretrial risk assessment which reduces sentences for certain parole violations and drug offenses, expands parole, and enhances community-based treatment and victims’ services
  • Hawaii’s incarcerated population declined 4 percent after the first year of implementation
  • The State saved $2.5 million from corrections population reductions in Fiscal Year 2013
  • The state allocated $3.4 million in Fiscal Year 2013 for expanding treatment programs and victims’ services, and initiating plans to establish a research and planning office

For more information about the Hawaii JRI, please visit the Council of State Governments Justice Center at http://csgjusticecenter.org/jr/hi/

Solomon Supports New Laws Honoring Veterans and their Families

With a family of veterans, including a brother who lost his life during the Vietnam War, Senator Malama Solomon today attended the bill signing of HB2071 and HB1770 by Governor Neil Abercrombie in the ceremonial room to show her support of these bills.

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Photo Credit: Office of Senator Malama Solomon

HB2071 designate the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Family Day,” and HB1170 requires notation of veteran status on state driver’s licenses and identification cards if desired by the applicant. Hawaii will join Illinois, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Guam in celebrating this day of remembrance

“Our military men and women deserve as much support and honor as we can provide,” said Solomon. “Today is a special day for my family and I. Both my father and brother, Randolph Solomon Sr. and Randolph Solomon Jr., are veterans, with my brother giving the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War. We love them very much and are so proud of their service to this great country.”

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