The House Democrats today unveiled their priorities for the 2008 legislative session, as indicated through the 16 proposals of the House Majority Package. View the press release here. When developing the package, majority members were asked to submit proposals of statewide importance that will positively impact the state's future growth and stability. The fiscal impact to the state was also a consideration, especially given the Council on Revenues' downward economic forecast for the next two years.
"The House Majority Caucus worked very hard to deliver a package that will be meaningful to the future direction of Hawaii," said House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell. "We have many important proposals every session, but not all rise to the level of the majority package. The House Majority Package bills represent our top priorities for 2008."
Here are the bills organized by topic (click on the bill number to view the bill text):
Chair: Representative Clift Tsuji. Contact: 808-586-8480
1. House Bill 2501 – RELATING TO BIOSECURITY. This bill establishes and funds the biosecurity program within the Department of Agriculture. The purpose of the program is to fight invasive species on several fronts, including administering pre-entry measures, conducting port of entry inspections, and mitigating the establishment of pests within the state. (This bill is also part of the Joint Majority Package.)
2. House Bill 2516 – RELATING TO BIOSECURITY. This bill appropriates $5 million in general obligation bonds, and $5 million appropriated out of federal revenues granted to the State of Hawaii, for the design and construction of joint biosecurity inspection facilities at Honolulu International Airport. It is important that the state and federal government work together to provide inspection services in order to prevent invasive species from entering and destroying Hawaii's environment. The Director of Budget and Finance is also authorized to issue general obligation bonds of $1.5 million for the planning and design of biosecurity facilities at Honolulu Harbor.
3. House Bill 2517 – RELATING TO INVASIVE SPECIES. The Department of Agriculture maintains a list of restricted plants and noxious weeds that restrict the import of these plants into the state. However, the current law does not make it unlawful to cultivate and/or sell the plants on this list. This bill proposes to prohibit the sale in Hawaii or plants designated as restricted plants or noxious weeds. It also clarifies that plants can be placed on the list because they are pests or may be hosts to pests.
Energy and Environmental Protection
Chair: Representative Hermina Morita. Contact: 808-586-8435
4. House Bill 2502 – RELATING TO SOLAR ENERGY. The purpose of this bill is to allow solar facilities as a permitted use in the agricultural district on class "D" or "E" land. (This bill is also part of the Joint Majority Package.)
5. House Bill 2505 – RELATING TO ENERGY. This bill establishes a renewable energy facilitator within the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. The purpose of the position would be to facilitate the efficient permitting of renewable energy projects and to initiate the implementation of key renewable energy projects. (This bill is also part of the Joint Majority Package.)
6. House Bill 2510 – RELATING TO THE ENVIRONMENT. This bill appropriates funds for the state auditor to contract with the University of Hawaii to perform a study of the state's environmental review process. (This bill is also part of the Joint Majority Package.)
Chair: Representative Ken Ito. Contact: 808-586-8470
7. House Bill 2518 – RELATING TO LAND CONSERVATION. The purpose of this bill is to encourage the preservation of conservation land for the future. It provides a tax credit as an incentive to taxpayers who donate land in perpetuity or completes a bargain sale in perpetuity to the state or conservation agency, for land that fulfills a conservation or preservation purpose. The amount of the tax credit is 50% of the fair market value of the land, not to exceed $2.5 million per donation.
Chair: Representative Josh Green. Contact: 808-586-9605
8. House Bill 2519 – RELATING TO HEALTH CARE. The bill establishes the Hawaii Health Corps program to encourage physicians and dentists to serve in areas of the state where there is a shortage of health care providers or high numbers of uninsured patients. It creates a loan program, in partnership with a Hawaii financial institution, providing physician loans to those who agree to serve five years in a shortage area. The bill also makes available the enterprise zone business tax credit and general excise tax exemption to those physicians who practice in enterprise zone areas.
Task Force Chair: Representative Marilyn Lee. Contact: 808-586-9460
9. House Bill 2520 – RELATING TO CAREGIVERS. This bill allows eligible employees to collect up to four weeks of temporary disability insurance benefit payments to care for a family member with a qualifying disability. Effective 7/1/09.
Chair: Representative Jerry Chang. Contact: 808-586-6120
10. House Bill 2521 – RELATING TO EDUCATION. The bill creates the University of Hawaii repair and maintenance account for University facilities, and requires that 1% of the general fund revenues be deposited into the account. The monies shall be used solely for the repair and maintenance of UH facilities.
Chair: Representative Ken Ito. Contact: 808-586-8470
Smart Growth Task Force Chair: Representative Sharon Har. Contact: 808-586-8500
11. House Bill 2522 – RELATING TO THE LAND USE COMMISSION. Allows the counties to reclassify lands not more than 50 acres. The purpose of the bill is to streamline the process, and provide for the consolidation of the boundary amendment process with county proceedings to amend land use maps contained in county plans.
12. House Bill 2523 – RELATING TO THE LAND USE COMMISSION. When reviewing the petitions for reclassification, the bill requires the LUC to consider the county general plan as it relates to the petition.
13. House Bill 2524 – RELATING TO TRANSPORTATION. In preparing the Statewide Transportation Plan for projected need for a six-year period, this bill requires the Statewide Transportation Council to comply with county transportation and general plans, to the extent it does not impact federal funds.
14. House Bill 2525 – RELATING TO HAWAII COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY. The bill requires the HCDA to incorporate smart growth principles in community plan rules.
15. House Bill 2526 – RELATING TO THE STATE PLAN. Adds to the State Plan that one of the objectives is to ensure that land development shall be in compliance with smart growth principles.
16. House Bill 2527 – RELATING TO SMART GROWTH. Requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a system of greenways and trails, and requires the Office of Planning to coordinate smart growth planning.