House Passes Budget, Other Measures on Final Day of Session
By Wendy Osher
House lawmakers took final action on bills this session, with a focus on human services, education and agriculture.
One of the major bills discussed and approved was the supplemental state budget, which addresses the state’s most basic needs, particularly in human services, education, and agriculture.
The House budget includes $700,000 for the statewide institutionalization of the Na Pua No’eau Program, a program that provides educational opportunities for Native Hawaiian children and emphasizes a college education within the University’s system.
There’s also a $2.5 million appropriation for the launch of a Watershed Initiative to protect priority watersheds throughout the state.
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.
“This session, as we come out of the Great Recession, the House focused on economic recovery, assisting new industry and job creation,” said Speaker Calvin Say in a statement. “We passed a balanced budget that supports programs and services vital to serving Hawaii’s people, as well as other legislation that supports long-term planning and accountability to improve government services,” he said.
During floor remarks, House Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro highlighted the top ten reasons he believes his colleagues should vote yes on the budget, saying it moves to “reprioritize, rehabilitate, and renew” the character and delivery of government services. His list included the following:
- $250,000 to develop an Early Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Prevention Program for the state;
- $1.0 million for the Freeway Service Patrol on Oahu, which starts at Fort Weaver Road, and extends coverage to Ainakoa Street;
- $1.4 million and 19 positions for staffing shortages – electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and housing specialists – who will get uninhabitable rental units repaired for waitlisted applicants without a roof over their heads;
- $2.5 million to launch the Watershed Initiative, a program to protect priority watersheds throughout the State;
- $3.3 million for Hawaii’s adult education program will provide GED, English as a second language, and competency-based programs necessary to attain a degree;
- $3.4 for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to bring prisoners home from out of state, provide rehabilitation services, and strengthen victims assistance programs at both the state and county levels;
- $22.9 million for Medicaid capitation payments to maintain critical access to health care for those in need of a safety net;
- $26.4 million for the continued construction of UH-West Oahu, and $3.3 million for a bookstore, dining and catering services, and parking lot management at the new Kapolei campus opening in August;
- $700,000 for the statewide institutionalization of the Na Pua No’eau Program, a successful program that provides educational opportunities for Native Hawaiian children and emphasizes a college education within the University’s system, and;
- $14.0 million for the weighted student formula will ensure student support in the classroom.
Rep. Oshiro also shared his disappointment in what he described as a “missed opportunity” to begin addressing the long-term cost of retirement benefits for state workers. The House’s position this session was to put a $50 million down payment on the unfunded liability in the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund, but lawmakers were unable to get agreement during budget negotiations.
“The longer we wait to set aside any money for this obligation, the more expensive it will become,” said Rep. Oshiro during his floor remarks on the budget bill. “We will no longer be arguing about how much to spend on human services programs, agriculture or education. The only thing we will be paying for will be the fixed costs of government – debt service, Medicaid, and retirement benefits – pension and health care – for government employees,” he said.
Notable Measures that passed on Thursday include the following:
- HB2319 Venture Accelerator Program: establishes a venture accelerator funding program under the Hawaii strategic development corporation to assist the State’s technology businesses to compete for investment capital.
- HB2873 PISCES: transfers 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, and establishes a PISCES board of directors. In addition, SB112 Space Tourism, appropriates funds for the application of a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration to establish space tourism in Hawaii, subject to matching federal funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
- HB1953 Emergency Medical Care: provides for the medical needs of Leeward Oahu in light of the closure of Hawaii Medical Center’s two hospitals, by appropriating $1 million to increase the on-call availability of emergency medical services and ambulance services.
- SB2939 Revenue bonds for St. Francis: authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds of up to $80,000,000, for St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii to finance the construction, improvement, and equipment of certain Hawaii Medical Center East facilities.
- HB2275 Hospital Sustainability Fee: ensures access to health care for Medicaid recipients by establishing a hospital sustainability fee on public and private hospitals to attract matching federal funds.
- HB2740 Extending Sunset Provision on Naptha Fuel Tax: extends the sunset provision relating to the reduction of the fuel tax on naptha sold for use in a power-generating facility through 2015. This extension is key for the people of Hawaii, providing much needed assistance to counter the rising cost of fuel.
- HB2626 Safe Routes to School: establishes the Safe Routes to School Program within the Department of Transportation and establishes a Safe Routes to School Program Special Fund. A surcharge of $25 for speeding violations in a school zone and a $10 surcharge on various other traffic violations occurring in a school zone will be deposited into the Safe Routes to School Program Special Fund.
- SB2115 Charter School Reform: establishes a new chapter governing charter schools based on the recommendations of the Charter School Governance, Accountability, and Authority Task Force established by Act 130, Session Laws of Hawaii 2011. The intent of the Act is to establish a new charter school law that creates a solid governance structure for Hawaii’s charter school system with clear lines of authority and accountability that will foster improved student outcomes.
- SB2545 Early learning: establishes the early learning advisory board to replace the early learning council and eliminates junior kindergarten programs with the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Students are required to be five years of age on July 31 of the school year in order to attend kindergarten.
- HB1755 Electronic Voter Registration: updates voter registration laws, including authorizing the acceptance of electronic applications to register to vote, beginning with the primary election of 2016. It appropriates $500,000 for an online voter registration system.
- SB2220 Boiler and Elevator Safety: establishes the boiler and elevator special fund to collect and deposit fees for inspections, permits, and examinations of boilers, pressure systems, elevators, kindred equipment, and amusement rides. The purpose of the bill is to address the backlog of safety inspections. It provides for sufficient operating costs to carry out the purpose of the boiler and elevator safety law.
- HB2226 Victim Notification: Codifies the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System and establishes an Automated Victim Information and Notification System Special Fund.
- HB2113 Aerial Fireworks: Bans the ignition, possession, selling, offering for sale, and use of aerial luminaries.
***Supporting information courtesy Hawai’i House of Representatives.