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Tuesday, April 7, 2009
April 7, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:04 AM :: 6948 Views

Hawaii civil-union bill revision is proposed

Gay rights advocates have suggested a new draft of a civil-unions bill that would give both same-sex and heterosexual couples the option of entering into civil unions.

The draft also explicitly says the intent of the bill is not to revise the definition of marriage under state law, which is reserved between a man and a woman. The draft removes references to marriage and instead refers to the marriage chapter in state law.

The draft would still give same-sex couples who enter into civil unions the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as married couples under state law, but gay rights advocates hope that by offering civil unions to heterosexual couples, and softening the connection to marriage, the bill will be more palatable to skittish senators.

(Anyone stupid enough to fall for this scam?)

Taniguchi, who met with gay rights advocates yesterday afternoon, said he had no personal opinion yet on the draft but said there is some interest among senators.

If a hearing is held, one of the three opponents of the bill on the committee — likely state Sen. Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa) — would have to change their position and back the new draft for it to advance. Bunda, an aide said last night, had not read the draft and was inclined to support something closer to an amendment offered last week by state Sen. Will Espero, D-20th ('Ewa Beach, Waipahu), to expand the rights same-sex partners now have under the state's reciprocal beneficiaries law.

"The main push is to distinguish civil unions from marriage, because that line has been blurred," said Jo-Ann Adams, an attorney active with the Democratic Party of Hawai'i.

(Former DEMOCRAT Legislator) Dennis Arakaki, the interim executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum, which opposes civil unions, said he was given a copy of the new draft yesterday and had not had time to read it closely. He said he would prefer the two sides take a step back from the issue and meet together after session to discuss a compromise. He said opponents acknowledge there are shortcomings in the reciprocal beneficiaries law and are willing to work to improve the rights of same-sex partners.

But some lawmakers have said privately that it may be more difficult to debate civil unions next session during an election year. Majority Democrats may be reluctant to prolong the debate and expose lawmakers to potential backlash from religious conservatives. The issue could also be helpful to Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, a Republican candidate for governor who opposes civil unions. Aiona could use the issue to attract moderates and conservatives.

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Lingle: Stick with me to keep TAT (option 1)

If counties want to keep their transient accommodation tax revenues, they need to side with her on $140 million in cuts to public workers' salaries, Gov. Linda Lingle said Monday in Hilo.  Lingle needs just one mayor to vote with her during collective bargaining in order to begin implementing her planned cuts. She has four votes and each mayor has one, she said, addressing the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce. Lingle is bargaining with the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers unions.

She said mayors had a choice: They could not vote with her, they could vote with her to cut state workers' pay while keeping county workers at status quo, or they could vote with her and also cut county workers' pay.

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Transient accommodation tax payment bill sent to Senate (TAT increase offered as option 2)

The Senate Ways and Means Committee unanimously voted to send a bill to the full Senate that would end transient accommodation tax payments to Hawaii counties for six years.

Big Island Sen. Russell Kokubun, who is on the committee, voted yes with reservations, but said he did not expect the bill to pass the full Senate if it continued to direct the counties' portion of the tax revenues to the state.

"What I prefer to see is we increase the Transient Accommodations Tax and leave the counties' portion whole," Kokubun said.

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Legislators Consider Internet Sales Tax Collection

State lawmakers are advancing a bill to have Internet and catalogue sellers voluntarily collect the taxes from customers and then pass the taxes on to the customer's state.  Currently people who buy on the Internet and from catalogues are supposed to pay taxes, but most do not.  (This is a step towards MANDATORY collections.)

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KITV Report Shows 9 Transit Jobs Make More Than $100,000/Year

Councilman Duke Bainum wants to cut the salary funds in half to $1.8 million....

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Police Union will not sway Correa's evaluation, panel leader says

SHOPO President Tenari Maafala said the union is not publicly releasing the results of its survey, but did say a large number of the respondents want a new chief, more than the 78 percent in a survey conducted in 2005.

The sealed survey results were turned over to the commission, but its chairwoman said she has not yet seen them.

Correa's five-year contract is up at the end of August.

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Residents on Kauai work for free to fix road to Hawaii state park

When the state has no money to fix a road to a popular park on Kaua'i, local residents don't just sit on their hands. They bring in the heavy equipment and do it themselves.

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