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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Counties to Receive a Larger Share of the Hotel Tax

Bill to increasing the Transient Accommodations Tax revenues distributed to the counties passes out of the Legislature and will be enrolled to the Governor


The Hawaii State Legislature passed out on final reading a bill that will increase the counties’ share of the transient accommodation tax (TAT). The measure will now go to the governor for further consider. The governor can sign, veto or let the bill become law without his signature.

The Legislature believes that increasing the maximum amount of TAT revenues to the counties will allow them to better provide for public safety, parks, road maintenance and visitor-related services

House Bill 1671 will give the counties a combined $103 million per year for the next two years of the TAT revenues. The counties currently get a combined $93 million. In 2010, during the economic downfall and facing a budget deficit, the state placed a cap on the counties’ share of the TAT.

Despite a perceived $844 million surplus, the Council on Revenues mid-session lowered tax revenue growth from 3.3 percent to zero percent in 2014 and from 7.4 percent to 5.5 percent in 2015, amounting to more than half a million dollars less than expected. This session, the Legislature increased TAT revenues for two years, but found it prudent to require a study to determine the appropriate division of duties and responsibilities to provide public services before establishing a firm TAT distribution amounts.

“These funds will provide extra support and funds for all counties in our state,” said Senator Gilbert Kahele (District 1 – Hilo), chair of the Senate Committee on Tourism. “

With more than a million visitors each year, tourism plays a key role in how we care for our infrastructure. County services, facilities and infrastructure directly affect the visitor experience,and the funds for the counties will be used to ensure that our tourism industry is maintained and remains high quality.”


Sen. Kahele at conference committee meetings on the state budget.

“Tourism remains one of our state’s top industries and TAT revenue helps to fund activities to keep our state’s economy strong,” said Senator Ige (District 16 – Pearl City, Momilani, Pearlridge, ‘Aiea, Royal Summit, ‘Aiea Heights, Newtown, Waimalu, Halawa, Pearl Harbor), chair of the Ways and Means Committee. “Although revenue projections were lower than expected, an increase in the cap on TAT revenues shared with the counties will allow them to improve services that support the state’s economy overall. Obviously we would have wanted to do more for the counties, but given our financial constraints, we had to balance the needs and concerns of all aspects of our communities.”


Sen. Ige on the Senate floor speaking in support of the the state budget.

The transient accommodations tax is a tax that applies to certain rental activity in Hawaii. The tax is levied on gross income and is imposed only on gross rental income when renting in transient accommodations. A transient accommodation applies to a hotel room or suite, apartment, condominium, house, beach house, or similar living accommodation which is rented for less than 180-consecutive days by and regularly furnished to a transient (a person has a permanent place to live elsewhere.)

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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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Hawaii State Senate Announces Transformation in Committee Lineup

Honolulu–The Hawaii State Senate today unveiled changes to its committee lineup and chairmanships. Two committees have been added, splitting the current Committee on Tourism and Hawaiians Affairs (THA) into two separate subject matter committees. The new committees are Tourism (TSM) and Hawaiian Affairs (HWN).

Senator Gilbert Kahele will chair TSM with Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran serving as vice-chair. Senator Maile Shimabukuro will chair HWN with Senator Clayton Hee serving as vice-chair.

In the beginning of the session we acted quickly to organize and kept changes to a minimum so that we could focus our attentions on the issues and prepare for the 2013 session,” said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. “Now that session is over, we are afforded the capacity to listen to feedback and evaluate ourselves. In doing so, we have been able to make some positive changes.  These new assignments maximize the skills and interests of each of our members, while providing us with greater opportunity to focus on the individual subject areas.”

Currently, Senator Brickwood Galuteria has served as both the Majority Leader and Chair of THA. The new committee assignments will allow the newly appointed chairs to take on greater leadership roles while providing Galuteria with more flexibility to serve in his continued capacity as Majority Leader.

I am pleased with this new leadership lineup for the committees,” said Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria. “Understanding the role of a chair makes my Senate Majority Leadership assignment more effective. I look forward to working with both Chairs Kahele and Shimabukuro in their new capacities and most importantly to continuing to work with my Senate colleagues to advance the priorities of the Senate Majority.”

Additionally, the Senate announced changes to the vice-chairmanships of the Committees on Commerce and Consumer Protection (CPN) and Water and Land (WTL). Under the new changes Senator Brian Taniguchi will serve as vice-chair of CPN and Galuteria as vice-chair of WTL.

 

The change in committee assignments will take effect July 1, 2013.

Senator Donna Mercado Kim Comments on HTA’s Recent Visitor Spending Report

On January 30, 2012, Senate Vice President and Senate Committee on Tourism Chair Donna Mercado Kim gave her reaction to the media regarding the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s recent report on the total visitor spending for December 2011.

According to Hawaii Tourism Authority, for the month of December 2011, an outstanding 7.8 percent growth in total arrivals (to 683,293 visitors) and higher daily spending ($185 per person, up from $169 per person in December 2010) pushed total visitor spending to reach $1.298 billion- the highest one-month total on record, according to preliminary statistics released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The increase, up $220.6 million over December 2010 in visitor spending, marked the 20th consecutive month of year-over-year growth since May 2010.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority further stated that, December’s strong performance also resulted in annual visitor expenditures increasing to $12.581 billion in 2011, making it the second highest level of visitor spending in the history of tourism in the Hawaiian Islands, down 0.4 percent compared to the 2007 peak year when visitor spending reached $12.626 billion. Total visitor arrivals also increased 3.8 percent to 7,284,069 visitors over 2010.

To view video click here.

Senate Committee On Tourism Visits Kaua‘i

Senate Committee On Tourism Visits Kaua‘i

KAUA‘I – On Monday, August 22, 2011, Senate Committee on Tourism Chair Senator Donna Mercado Kim joined Senate Committee on Tourism Vice Chair Senator Ronald D. Kouchi on Kauai to tour various visitor attractions. Both senators also met with visitor industry professionals in a roundtable discussion to talk about current issues and concerns relating to Kaua‘i.

Many issues were discussed, but one overriding message attendees raised was the appreciation for preserving Kauai county’s share of the transient accommodation tax (TAT).

In attendance of the roundtable discussion: George Costa (Office of Economic Development for the County of Kauai), Pat Griffin (Lihue Business Association), Rowena Cobb (Kauai Board of Realtors), Mattie Yoshioka (Kauai Economic Development Board), Sue Kanoho (Kauai Visitors Bureau), Kirk Nakamoto, Tom Shigemoto, and Randall Francisco (Kauai Chamber of Commerce), Mike Hough (Kapaa Business & Professional Association), and Sandi Kato-Klute (Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association).

On behalf of the Senate Tourism Committee and its chair, Senator Kim, Senator Kouchi would like to thank the attendees and Randall Franscisco for organizing the meeting.

For more information regarding the Hawaii State Senate Tourism Committee and the legislature, please visit the capitol website at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Senators Challenge Cuts to Visitors Program

Call on Tourism Authority to restore funding to high-visibility efforts.

State Senators who oversee Hawai‘i’s tourism industry today called on the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority to reverse its decision to slash funding for high-visibility visitor programs. Senator Clarence Nishihara, chair of the Senate Tourism Committee, and Senator Donna Mercado Kim, who was vice-chair of the Tourism Committee before being named to head the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee earlier this week, maintain that the cuts will threaten the state’s efforts to attract repeat visitors. They also say that this appears to be an effort by Governor Linda Lingle to micro-manage tourism.

The Senators were responding to a decision by the Tourism Authority on Thursday to cut special fund spending by about $17 million, which will threaten programs that provide Hawaiian entertainment and greeters at airports and harbors, as well as Sunset on the Beach, evening hula and torch-lighting in Waikiki, and the Waikiki by Moonlight event.

“These are high-visibility events that build warm and lasting memories for our visitors,” said Senator Nishihara. “They make Hawai‘i someplace special, and encourage visitors to come back.

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