Hawaiʻi Senate Approves 160 Bills on Final Reading
By Maui Now Staff
The full Senate on Tuesday passed 160 bills including measures to protect undeveloped land on Oʻahu’s North Shore, increase the food/excise tax credit, and ensure funding so that Hawaiʻi’s elderly are cared for.
Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English of Maui said the body was able to resolve a number of lingering issues including Turtle Bay. The senate also provided support for some of the state most fragile members of the community; the homeless, seniors and preschoolers; and provided safeguards for natural resources.
The State budget bill includes more than $13.4 billion in general funds over the biennium.
The bills approved yesterday were also approved by the House and will be forwarded to the Governor for his signature, veto, or passage without his signature.
Some highlights outlined by Senate leaders include the following bills:
- Autism Coverage: SB791 CD1 would mandate that insurance companies cover up to $25,000 a year in treatment until a child turns 14.
- Turtle Bay: SB284 CD1 allows the state to enter into an agreement with the owners of Turtle Bay that would protect 665 acres of undeveloped land on the North Shore of Oʻahu.
- Free Dual Credit Programs for High-Schoolers: SB374 CD1 would waive college tuition for high school students in dual credit programs, such as Running Start and Jump Start, at the University of Hawaiʻi’s community colleges.
- Health Connector Assistance: SB1028 CD1 would provide $2 million next year for the health insurance marketplace.
- Food/Excise Tax Credit: SB555 CD1 would increase the food/excise tax credit, which hasn’t been changed since it was established in 2007.
- Preschool Open Doors: SB64 CD1 would restore $6 million necessary to run the Preschool Open Doors Program, the statewide school readiness program, next year.
- Community-Based Renewable Energy Projects: SB1050 CD1 would establish a community-based renewable energy program, which allows electric utility customers to participate in renewable energy projects that produce electricity, which they can sell back to electric utility companies.
- Barrel Tax: SB359 CD1 would fund the Environmental Response Revolving Fund with the general fund instead of the barrel tax to ensure there is a consistent stream of funding that supplies investments in clean energy, local agricultural production and environmental emergency responses.
- Kupuna Care: SB964 CD1 would provide an additional $3 million to fund the Kupuna Care program in fiscal year 2016, which is in addition to the base budget of $4.8 million.
- Sex Trafficking: SB265 CD1 would ban sex trafficking and raise the penalties to a class A felony and promote the concept of treating prostitutes as victims rather than criminals.
- Homeless ID cards: SB273 CD1 would allow homeless people to apply for state identification cards even without the required state and federal documents if a social service organization, attorney, member of the clergy, correctional institution staff or health professional presents a signed statement certifying their personal information. It would waive fees for homeless individuals.
- Ethanol Repeal: SB717 CD1 repeals the existing requirement that gasoline for motor vehicles be composed of 10 percent ethanol.
- Hawaiʻi Resiliency and Sustainability: SB892 CD1 appropriates funding for Hawaiʻi resilience and sustainability strategy in the areas of broadband, energy efficiency and smart grid, and water and sewer infrastructure.
- Affirmative Consent: SB387, CD1 would establish an affirmative consent task force to review and make recommendations on the University of Hawaiʻi’s executive policy on sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
- Multi-Track: SB1345 CD1would require the Department of Education to develop a transition plan to end multi-track schedules in public schools.
The bills approved today were also approved by the House and will be forwarded to the Governor for his signature, veto, or passage without his signature.