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House Advances Bill in Support of Maui Sugar Workers

HC&S Puʻunēnē Mill. Photo by Wendy Osher.

HC&S Puʻunēnē Mill. Photo by Wendy Osher.

The state House today advanced several bills including legislation in support of Maui sugar workers, ahead of next week’s crossover deadline.

Among the bills passing third reading by the full House was a measure that provides assistance to dislocated sugar workers from Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company on Maui.

“One of our top priorities among the many needs that we are addressing in this session is providing immediate assistance to the sugar workers on Maui who will lose their jobs with the end of sugar production at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puʻuohala, Wailuku, Waikapū). “This measure will help ensure that the affected workers and their families are provided every opportunity to transition smoothly through this difficult and unsettling time.”

HC&S Puʻunēnē Mill. Photo by Wendy Osher.

HC&S Puʻunēnē Mill. Photo by Wendy Osher.

HB2186, HD1 directs and appropriates funds for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to provide workforce development, worker training and retraining, and other dislocated worker assistance programs for workers affected by the cessation of sugar production on Maui.

Another passed bill relating to agriculture is HB1982, HD1 which authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds to assist Big Island Dairy, which operates a dairy farm in Oʻokala, one of only two commercial dairies remaining in the state. Although the dairy plays a vital role in Hawaiʻi’s agriculture and economy, legislative leaders say the company faces increasing competition from mainland producers.

Other bills that advance for consideration in the state Senate include House items that: address Hawaiʻi’s chronic housing shortage; create a Transit Oriented Development authority; and establish a veterans’ services counselor position within the Office of Veterans’ Services to assist all veterans, with a primary focus on female veterans.

In an effort to address Hawaiʻi’s chronic affordable housing shortage, the House passed the following bills:

HB1958, HD1 provides a General Excise Tax exemption for low-income rental subsidies including those from the Housing First programs.

HB2638, HD1 authorizes the Public Housing Authority to impose maximum rental periods of five years for state low-income housing projects which receive state funds for repair and maintenance or capital improvement, but excludes tenants who are disabled or 65 years of age or older. The measure also requires rates for the five-year rentals to be fixed the for entire term of lease and establishes a trust account for the Authority to provide matching funds for tenants who choose to participate in those five-year rentals.

HB2659, HD1 requires a percentage of funds in the Housing First Special Fund to be used to provide homes for persons who qualify for social security disability benefits and are diagnosed with life-long, serious mental illnesses.

HB2744, HD1 bases the amount of the tax credit on whether or not a building is financed by tax-exempt bonds. Increases funding for affordable rental housing development by making the State Low-Income Housing Tax Credit more valuable. Reduces State Tax Credit period from ten to five years.

Other bills passed today by the House include:

HB2199 establishes a Transit Oriented Development Authority within the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to oversee and manage development of infrastructure on state lands within one-quarter mile radius of rail stations.

HB1814, HD1 appropriates funds to provide training and track data on public school pupil punishment and use of restraints restrictions established by Act 206, Session Laws of Hawaii 2014.

HB2510, HD1 authorizes the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance and Development Corp. to establish a housing voucher program for full-time classroom teachers employed by the Department of Education, including classroom teachers at public charter schools.

HB2489 appropriates funds for the establishment of a veterans’ services counselor position within the Office of Veterans’ Services to assist all veterans, with a primary focus on female veterans.

HB2491, HD1 appropriates funds for programs, ceremonies and activities commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.

HB2252, HD1 requires hospitals to adopt and maintain discharge policies, consistent with recent updates to federal regulations, to ensure that patients continue to receive necessary care after leaving the hospital.

HB2010, HD1 allows the First Job Training Programs that provide on-the-job training and education to first-time hires to pay participant-employees a special minimum wage that is less than the state’s minimum wage.

The first “crossover” is on Thursday, March 10.  It is the deadline set for non-budget bills to pass third reading in order to move to the other chamber. If successful, House bills are sent to the Senate and Senate bills are sent to the House for further consideration.

A complete list of bills passed by the House to date this biennium is available on the Capitol website [1].