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House Advances 286 Bills With Focus on Economy and Job Growth

March 6, 2012, 10:23 PM HST · Updated March 6, 10:26 PM
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State capitol, file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

House lawmakers today passed 286 measures ahead of Thursday’s first cross-over deadline.  The bills focus on priority areas of economic revitalization and business, agriculture, military affairs, and healthcare.

The economic revitalization package includes bills that seek to position the state for economic recovery by focusing on emerging sectors of the State’s economy and on job creation. Sectors of interest include film and digital media, aerospace, renewable energy, infrastructure and construction, broadband, and tourism.

The agriculture package includes legislation involving honeybee and coffee farming, as well as livestock feed production. The remaining agriculture bills deal with pest inspection and ensuring food safety and biosecurity.

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Bills relating to military affairs aim to protect military members and their dependents against predatory lending practices, permits military experience to be counted towards academic credit and professional licensing requirements, and establishes a Veterans Court to better account for the psychological impact of deployments on military offenders.

As for healthcare legislation, House lawmakers responded to the closing of both Hawaii Medical Center locations, by passing a legislative package to minimize any further lapses in healthcare and emergency services.  Bills that seek to provide relief include HB2345 and HB609.

Economic Revitalization

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HB2869 aims to support the motion picture, digital media, and film production industries in the State by extending the film tax credit from January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2025. It also proposes an increase to the qualified production tax credit ceiling; separates the calculation of the credit amount based on wages and salaries from the credit amount based on other qualified production costs; and provides different credit amounts based on residence within the counties for the wages and salaries paid to all cast, crew, and musicians of the qualified production, plus an additional unspecified% credit amount on wages and salaries of cast, crew, and musicians who are state residents.

HB2319 seeks the establishment of a Venture Accelerator Funding Program under the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation to assist the State’s technology businesses to compete for investment capital.

HB1511 would require the University of Hawaii to extend the current land lease with the high technology development corporation for no less than 25 years from the date of expiration of the existing lease.

HB2873 seeks the transfer of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems from the University of Hawaii to the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism’s Office of Aerospace Development. It would also establish a PISCES board of directors, appropriate funds, and authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds, and would include an aerospace research technology park in Hawaii County.

HB2145 would make, as state policy, the delineation of the key economic sectors of importance for economic diversification in Hawaii.  It would also identify key projects within those sectors that are important to the long-term growth and success of those industries. The key economic sectors include renewable energy, broadband, infrastructure and construction, aerospace, tourism, film and digital media, and the military. The measure promotes over 10-years specific projects within these sectors.

HB1671 would impose time limits on rendering administrative and judicial review decisions.  It would also limit protests to those that are a minimum percentage of the contract value. The measure requires posting of a protest bond, to be forfeited if the protesting party does not prevail.

Agriculture

HB2100 seeks the appropriation of funds to the University of Hawai’i for statewide honeybee hive research. The bill would give $10,000 each to the counties of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai, and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo for hands-on training with honeybee hives.

House Bill 280 would remove the requirement that all Hawaii-grown green coffee beans shall be inspected and certified by the Department of Agriculture.  It would also permitsHawaii-grown green coffee beans to be shipped outside the area of their geographic origin without being inspected by the Department of Agriculture.

House Bill 2244 would authorize the Department of Agriculture to establish compliance agreements with the federal government and other states for inspections conducted in the state of origin. This is aimed at mitigating the risk posed to biosecurity in the form of invasive species being transported with imported goods. The legislation is also aimed at bringing Hawaii’s fruit, vegetable, and flower export industries into compliance with federal regulations and requirements from other states.

House Bill 1943 makes an appropriation to the Department of Agriculture to fund the plant quarantine detector-dog program. State funds would replace Federal funds that sponsored the detector-dog program that ended with recent budget cuts. The primary role of the detector-dog program is to prevent the brown tree snake from coming to Hawai’i, but it would also cover other threats to the state’s biosecurity.

HB1942 would allow moneys in the pest inspection, quarantine, and eradication fund to be expended for the Electronic Importer Manifest Program (EIMP). The EIMP is a Department of Agriculture mandate that provides for the transfer from an importer to the plant quarantine inspector of data on all commodities of interest imported by aircraft or ship.

HB1941 would appropriate $17,000,000 to establish agricultural inspection biosecurity facilities and related infrastructure at the Honolulu International Airport, Kona International Airport, Kawaihae Harbor, Kamuela Vacuum Cooling Plant, and Honolulu Harbor.

HB2093 would establish a Center for Agricultural Leadership within the University of Hawai’i at Hilo and would require the University of Hawai’i to establish a two-year pilot project at one high school in each county to determine the steps necessary for a school farm to be food safety certified by the Department of Agriculture.

House Bill 1947 seeks to authorize the Department of Agriculture to establish an Agricultural Safety and Security Program, which would be accompanied by an Agricultural Practices Audit and Certification Revolving Fund. Under the voluntary program, the Department would conduct audit and certification services indicating a producer’s compliance with generally accepted agricultural and management practices as well as food security and traceability requirements.

HB2668 would amend an important agricultural land tax credit to allow an additional 15% credit for drought mitigation and changes the tax credit cap from $7,500,000 per year to $5,000,000 per year for the 2012 tax year, and $7,000,000 for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 tax years. The bill would also create a livestock feed tax credit for 2012 and creates a feed development tax credit program for 2013 and 2014.

Military

HB 2410 would require the Governor to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the US Department of Defense to provide continued support for the military’s presence in Hawai’i.

House Bill 2409 seeks to authorize the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) to enforce existing federal laws protecting military members and their families. The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 limits the terms of credit that may be applied to military members and their dependents. The act is designed to protect military members and their families from unfair lending practices that are commonly used by issuers of payday loans, vehicle title loans, and tax refund anticipation loans. There is no federal enforcement mechanism for the legislation, and HB 2409 will authorize the DCCA to take action in the state of Hawai’i.

House Bill 2258 would allow professional and vocational licensing authorities to accept military training, education, and service towards licensing requirements.

House Bill 2639 seeks to authorize the University of Hawai’i system to grant military members with college credits for military experience. Military members currently receive college credits for military training, but not for professional experience while serving. The bill would establish a learning assessment to determine college-level learning gained during military service.

HB2798 seeks the establishment of a Veterans Court to allow Hawai’i to join more than a dozen states across the country in taking into account the impact returning home from combat has on veterans when administering justice. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have caused a spike in veterans going through the court system, according to the legislation. The Veterans Treatment Court is a system that recognizes the psychological effects of deployments and gives veterans a degree of justice commensurate with their service.

Health Bills

HB2345 aims to support the St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii by allowing for the application of a special purpose revenue bond of up to $80 million to potentially finance the construction, improvement, and equipment of its healthcare facilities.

HB609 supports and explores the idea of the State’s Hawaii Health System Corporation to assimilate or acquire the Hawaii Medical Center – East Facility.

HB1953 seeks to provide for the medical needs of Leeward Oahu in light of the closure of Hawaii Medical Center’s two hospitals, by appropriating funds to increase the on-call availability of emergency medical services and ambulance services, and assist Wahiawa General Hospital in providing additional emergency room services given its increase in patients and emergency cases.

Relating to HB1952 would appropriate funds subject to a dollar-for-dollar match between private and public funds to Hawaii Pacific Health (Kapiolani, Straub, Pali Momi) to provide and restart a bone marrow transplant program within the State. HMC West and East facilities were primary bone marrow transplant facilities and their closure reportedly forced patients to relocate to the mainland to receive treatment, according to the proposed measure. The bill seeks to help alleviate the extra financial burden on these patients and their family support system by creating this program in Hawaii.

HB2273 proposed that coaches, athletic trainers, the DOE and the DOH work together in the creation and administration of a concussion awareness program to provide guidelines for Hawaii public and private schools.

***Supporting information courtesy Hawaii House of Representatives.

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