HAWAII UPDATE: 2017 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
From Rep Gene Ward, R-Hawaii Kai, January 19, 2017 (excerpt)
On Wednesday, January 18th, the House and Senate in separate swearing in ceremonies started their 60 working day sessions with local entertainment followed by refreshments in legislators’ offices.
Missing this year in the Senate will be the Minority Leader’s response to President Kouchi’s remarks. Senator Sam Slom will be greatly missed; the 6 Republicans in the House can hopefully encourage Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto to channel a few of Sam’s issues and that of the loyal royal opposition.
Other than Opening Day festivities, there could be a blitzkrieg in just the next week not only involving the rail tax but also assisted suicide, which appears to be on a fast track to allow doctors to play god and turn their Hippocratic Oaths on their heads.
The other big issue that the legislature will try to tackle, but always fails to get its arms around, is homelessness. With 6,500 new housing united needed per year to keep up with population growth, but with us only producing only 1,000 units last year, we have a built-in homeless increase formula that can’t quit. Sad but true. The proverbial kicking the can down the road by this session will be denied by lawmakers, but when the smoke and mirrors are removed, there will have been little more than a bit more money thrown at the problem, but that’s about it.
My office will be introducing a “Tough Love Act” that will give homeless who commit perpetual misdemeanor crimes the option to go before a judge to choose either jail or rehabilitation/taking of their meds/getting off drugs, or getting job training. There is nothing criminal about being homeless, but many of the chronic homeless are not able to help themselves. Our party’s founder, Abe Lincoln said, “The government should do what the people themselves cannot do for themselves.” The chronic homeless population is growing and there is no Frank Fasi or Rudy Giuliani leading the charge in this state. Stay tuned, more to come about “Urine Free Zones” legislation being introduced.
WHAT ABOUT THE FATE OF THE RAIL TAX?
For those who are tired of hearing about the out of control rail project, you are in store for another ear full. Mayor Caldwell and company will be doing a full-court press on us at the legislature to either:
- Extend the ½ percent G.E.T. tax (rail surcharge) for another 5 years; or
- Make permanent the ½ percent G.E.T. tax (rail surcharge) into perpetuity; or
- Threaten us with an implied or subtle suggestion (like a brick or hammer wrapped in velvet cloth) that if we don’t extend the G.E.T. tax he will be “forced to raise property taxes” (as he has said in the past) if the legislature doesn’t move on his tax increase.
Overall, though the legislature is generally in bed for the project, except for a few of us, it will not be a cake-walk for the Mayor and his “Railies” this session. House Finance Chair Luke, and even Speaker Souki are looking for some “skin in the game” by the City and County. The Mayor and the Council has allowed this project to balloon from $3.5 billion to almost $10 billion dollars without any sound explanation and no one seems to be accountable for this fiscal fiasco.
For the life of me I cannot fathom why Japan and Hong Kong can sell development rights along their rail corridors and come up with more private than public monies to build their rail systems. Are we that dull and anti-entrepreneurial to not have even tried? In last week’s House Finance Committee Hearing it was noted that about 50 percent of the land along the rail’s corridor is owned by the State of Hawaii. Mufi long ago was approached by a Japanese company to build a portion of the rail in exchange for development rights, but Mufi supposedly said he and the State were “not interested.”