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Wednesday, March 4, 2020
House Passes Economic package, budget, mental health bills
By News Release @ 12:26 AM :: 2271 Views :: Hawaii State Government


Economic package, budget, mental health bills now move to Senate

News Release from House Democratic Caucus, March 3, 2020

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi –The House of Representatives today passed two meaningful and substantial bills to address the  high cost of living for our working-class families who are often forced to live from paycheck to paycheck just to provide the basic needs of raising their families in Hawaiʻi.

HB2541 HD1 to help working families, and HB2543 HD1 to provide access to learning, were passed on third reading today and are part of a joint economic package introduced this session by the House and Senate, and supported by the Ige Administration to aggressively address Hawaiʻi's cost of living issues.

The joint working class economic package is designed to tackle the issues highlighted in the Aloha United Way sponsored report, "ALICE: A Study of Financial Hardship in Hawaii."

The ALICE Report says the biggest cost drivers for the working class are taxes, housing, and child care. Nearly half of Hawaiʻi residents struggle to make ends meet.

HB2541 HD1 will provide up to $72 million in tax relief for working families by making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable and permanent. The bill will also raise the minimum wage for those making the least to $11 in 2021, $12 in 2022, $12.50 in 2023, $13 in 2024.

House Labor Committee Chair Aaron Ling Johanson said on the House floor that this one bill is not a panacea for all our complex economic issues.

"The passage of this bill is net beneficial for workers and taxpayers. The $70+ million in tax relief for working families and individuals, coupled with phased in minimum wage increases, will be a huge help to those struggling to cope with Hawaiʻi's high cost of living," Johanson said.

HB2543 HD1 will provide access to child care for many working families, freeing up parents to return to the workforce, reducing child care costs, and providing much needed early learning to help their children become prepared to learn as they enter kindergarten.

The bill expands the Preschool Open Doors program and will both increase the capacity at existing private childcare facilities supported with public funds and develop new facilities for early learning programs for 3- and 4-year-old children where they are needed. State-owned sites including public libraries and University of Hawaiʻi campuses across the state will be used as new group child care facilities. The goal is to provide all children who are 3 to 4 years old with enrollment in a early learning program by the year 2030.

House Lower and Higher Education Committee Chair Justin H. Woodson said Legislators and private section partners, knowing how important child care is as an economic driver, have been discussing and planning this bill for several months..

"Many of our family members and friends are leaving the state every year because is it so expensive to live here," Woodson said. "One major cost driver is the cost of child care. Our children are most dear to our families. We want them to grow, thrive and become productive citizens. We also want them to be prepared for kindergarten, but early learning is cost prohibitive for many families, so we want to absorb some of those costs."

March 5 is the "First Crossover" deadline for bills to pass third reading in order to move (or crossover) to the other chamber. The House today passed 73 bills on third reading including the Capital Improvement Project bill, and measures addressing mental illness, homelessness, and the coronavirus.

A total of 355 bills have been sent from the House to the Senate for their consideration.

Bills passed today include:

Capital Improvement Projects (CIP)

HB2725 HD1 Relating to Capital Improvement Projects

Appropriates funds for supplemental capital improvement projects for the fiscal biennium 2019–2021. Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 totaling more than $4.9 billion.

COVID-19, the Coronavirus

HB1629 HD1 Relating to Government Services

Makes appropriations from the general revenues of the State to support DOH and DOD activities to detect, contain, mitigate, and respond to the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Mental Health

HB2022 HD2 Relating to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Special Fund

Authorizes expenditures from the mental health and substance abuse special fund to be used for certain capital improvement projects. Limits the expenditures for capital improvement projects to an unspecified percentage of total expenditures from the special fund and an unspecified percentage of the total surplus of the special fund. Excludes projects that would expand inpatient forensic capacity at the Hawaiʻi State Hospital from permissible capital improvement projects funded from the mental health and substance abuse special fund.

HB2680 HD2 Relating to Mental Health

Amends the definition of "dangerous to self." Defines the terms "gravely disabled" and "psychiatric deterioration." Broadens the term of "imminently dangerous to self and others" to persons who will likely be dangerous within the next 90 days, rather than within the next 45 days. Increases the maximum period of emergency hospitalization from 48 hours to 72 hours.

HB1620 HD2 Relating to the Administration of Justice

Amends the effect of finding a defendant charged with a petty misdemeanor not involving violence or attempted violence unfit to proceed. Amends the requirements for fitness determination hearings, court-appointed examiners, and examination reports. Authorizes the courts to enter into agreements to divert into residential, rehabilitative, and other treatment those defendants whose physical or mental disease, disorder, or defect is believed to have become or will become an issue in a judicial case. Amends the requirements for appointing qualified examiners to perform examinations for penal responsibility. Requires an examination for penal responsibility to be conducted within 15 days after a finding of fitness to proceed.

HB1661 HD3 Relating to Health

Amends criteria for emergency examination, release from emergency examination, emergency hospitalization, and release from emergency hospitalization for individuals suffering from a behavioral health crisis.


HB2525 HD2 Relating to Homelessness

Extends the emergency department homelessness assessment pilot program and medical respite pilot program to December 31, 2021.


HB2069 HD1 Relating to Property Forfeiture

Prohibits civil asset forfeiture unless the covered offense is a felony for which the property owner has been convicted. Excludes the forfeiture proceedings for an animal pending criminal charges. Requires the Attorney General to deposit the net proceeds of the forfeited property to the credit of the state general fund.

HB2747 HD3 Constitutional Amendment

Proposes a constitutional amendment to article XVI, section 2, of the state constitution to authorize the legislature to enact laws to require the forfeiture or reduction of benefits of any member, former member, or retirant of the employees' retirement system who is convicted of a felony related to the member's, former member's, or retirant's employment with the State or any political subdivision thereof.

Other issues

HB2057 HD2 Relating to Proof of Domestic or Sexual Violence Victim Status

Makes consistent the types of documents accepted as proof of domestic or sexual violence victim status. (Women's Legislative Caucus Package Bill.)

HB2464 HD1 Relating to the use of Intoxicants while Operating a Vehicle

Imposes a fine of up to $1,000 for the operation of a vehicle with .05 or more but less than .08 grams of alcohol in breath or blood.

HB1907 HD2 Relating to Transportation

Requires helicopter owners and operators to submit reports to the Department of Transportation about basic helicopter flight information. Requires the DOT to post reports regarding helicopters to its website.

See all House bills that have crossed over to the Senate this session here.  

CB: Priority Bills On Housing, Education And Wages Advance At Hawaii Legislature  

SA: Minimum wage increase and tax credits are approved


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