HONOLULU — Governor Linda Lingle on Monday submitted a package of 168 legislative bills to the Hawai‘i State Legislature.
“The measures we are proposing focus on solutions to meet the state’s near-term obligations while planning for the future,” said Governor Lingle. “This is a robust legislative package that will help streamline government, improve the delivery of critical services, keep our citizens and visitors safe, and help ensure a stronger future for Hawai‘i.”
Among the Administration’s priorities, as outlined by the Governor in her State of the State Address on Monday, are comprehensive measures to increase Hawai‘i’s energy independence and achieve the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative goal of a 70 percent clean energy economy by 2030, as well as measures to increase the state’s food self-sufficiency, by decreasing the over-reliance on food imports and strengthening Hawai‘i’s agriculture industry.
The legislative package also includes long-term initiatives to upgrade and modernize the state’s critical infrastructure, such as the six-year, $4.2 billion Highways Modernization Plan; a five-year, $240 million “Recreational Renaissance” plan to reinvigorate the state’s land- and ocean-based recreational facilities to renew and care for state parks, trails, small boat harbors and forest reserves; and the creation of a new Hawai‘i Communications Commission to focus on enhancing the state’s broadband and information technology communications infrastructure.
The Administration’s legislative package includes additional bills that focus on creating safer communities and protecting Hawai‘i residents from crime, protecting the environment and enhancing the islands’ unique natural resources, increasing access to healthcare, increasing affordable housing opportunities for Hawai‘i’s families and assisting the homeless, providing services to the state’s most vulnerable populations, improving public education and the University of Hawai‘i, and lowering fees.
Highlights of these bills include:
Creating Safe Communities and Protecting Hawai‘i Residents From Crime
- Increase penalties against those who violate protective orders, such as temporary restraining orders, issued to protect victims of domestic violence.
- Provide greater protection for children by increasing penalties for the possession of particularly violent or egregious child pornography. This bill also adds mandatory sentencing provisions for certain serious child pornography offenses.
- Create a new offense that prohibits the obstruction of criminal investigations and increases the penalties for certain public administration offenses.
Protecting the Environment
- Allow the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to impose civil, criminal and administrative penalties for illegal activities in state parks, trails, fishing zones and conservation areas. These fines would be used to restore the damage done to natural resources as well as increase public awareness.
- Allow DLNR to assess administrative penalties of up to $5,000 for damage or breakage of endangered stony coral and live rock.
- Authorize the state enforcement officers to inspect the contents of coolers, containers, boats and vehicles for compliance with state fishing laws.
- Allow the state to enter into an agreement with multiple private landowners to protect entire ecosystems, also called safe harbor agreements.
- Enhance health and environmental protections by prohibiting the delivery of petroleum products to underground storage tanks that do not meet safety features required by the federal Energy Policy Act.
Increasing Access to Healthcare
- Address medical malpractice insurance costs by capping non-economic damages at $250,000, establishing limits for attorney contingency fees and requiring that economic damages be allocated based on proportionate percentage of negligence.
- Reform the Certificate of Need (CON) process for new medical facilities, including reversing the order for CON reviews to allow county or local councils to conduct the final review, require a hearing to reconsider denial of a CON to be held on the island where the medical facility or service would be provided; increasing from $4 million to $8 million the threshold expenditure requiring a CON; and broadening the list of medical facilities exempt from the CON requirement to avoid unnecessary reviews of medical services in short supply.
- Enhance the state’s public health care workforce by providing reasonable immunity from liability of licensed medical personnel providing volunteer services on behalf of the state or a county.
- Improve early diagnosis and treatment of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) by aligning Hawai‘i law with recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control.
- Improve access to dental care for the underserved by authorizing dentists not licensed in the State of Hawai‘i, who are employed or under contract with the Department of Health (DOH), to receive temporary licensure in the state.
- Reduce the DOH’s administrative costs by requiring insurance plans, mutual benefit societies, and health maintenance organizations to pay the state directly for the provision of ambulance treatment and transport services.
Increasing Affordable Housing Opportunities and Assisting the Homeless
- Facilitate the development of affordable housing by:
o Requiring state and county agencies to complete a limited number of permit reviews within a 45-day time frame after county council approval of the affordable housing project.
o Correcting duplication of land classification processes of the counties and State Land Use Commission.
o Establishing a time frame and procedures for the dedication of infrastructure that is part of an affordable housing development.
o Clarifying that mixed use and infrastructure projects that are part of an affordable housing development qualify for expedited review under the state’s housing finance and development statute.
o Instructing the counties to identify affordable housing receiving zones which could be areas that qualify for incentives and exemptions tailored to encourage affordable housing development.
o Clarifying that state and county agencies have the authority to contract with third-party private agencies for the review of permit applications.
- Allow developers and investors in affordable housing to claim the State Low-Income Housing Tax Credit over a period of five years instead of ten years.
- Exempt Special Purpose Revenue Bonds issued for the development of low- and moderate-income housing as well as for the preservation of important agricultural lands from the procurement code.
- Realign homeless programs within the Department of Human Services (DHS) in order to strengthen the network of programs and services provided to help homeless individuals and families gain self-sufficiency.
Providing Services to the State’s Most Vulnerable Populations
- Streamline the delivery of key human services by transferring the Office of Community Services from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to the Department of Human Services.
- Conform state law to federal law regarding the frequency of child permanent placement hearings for children in out-of-home care settings.
- Establish a 12-month time limit for general assistance to address an increased case load. This allows more clients to receive maximum benefits under the general assistance program during their eligibility period while maintaining the program funding threshold authorized by the Legislature.
- Improve patient safety at Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) facilities by authorizing HHSC to conduct criminal background checks on employees, applicants, current or prospective contractors, providers or volunteers.
- Allow the DHS director to conduct Child Abuse and Neglect registry checks on current and new employees of the Hawai‘i Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF).
- Enable timely care of youths by allowing the HYCF to obtain necessary information quickly on youth committed to the facility, and to use the information for treatment and care within the facility.
- Allow DHS to appoint and commission an investigator for the Office of Youth Services, pursuant to a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Improving Public Education and Higher Education
- Create an income tax credit to provide incentives to individuals and businesses to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in public schools. This measure would cost an estimated $500,000 per year.
- Strengthen the public education system by providing comparable funding to public charter schools that is afforded to other public schools.
- Remove educational success barriers imposed on children of military families by frequent moves and deployment through the adoption of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
- Support investment in a child’s future by allowing family members and friends to contribute to state-established HI529 college savings accounts that currently allow only contributions by account owners.
- Allow the University of Hawai‘i to conduct capital improvement projects by increasing the Board of Regents’ revenue bond authority to a total of $250 million.
- Reinstate the ability of the Board of Regents to develop internal policies and procedures for the procurement of goods and services rather than having to use the state procurement code.
- Lower costs for cell phone subscribers by reducing the Wireless Enhanced 911 surcharge from 66 to 46 cents.
- Adjust the invasive species inspection fee placed on freight brought into the state that was imposed by Act 3, which was passed last year. This measure would eliminate the fees on bulk shipments such as oil and cement; and reduces the fee to 20 cents per pound for shipments over 1,000 pounds to minimize the impact on consumers while retaining enough funds to conduct invasive species functions.
In addition to the legislative proposals to lower fees, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) has lowered various business fees and assessments, which are anticipated to save Hawai‘i businesses approximately $7 million in 2009. The fee reductions would build on the $44 million in fees and assessments DCCA has waived for businesses and licensed professionals over the past six years.
Descriptions of each bill can be found on the Governor’s website (www.hawaii.gov/gov/initiatives).