Friday, February 28, 2014

Princeville Teen Authors Bill to Establish Food Forest Program

Representative Derek Kawakami videoconferencing with Talia
“Edible community landscape” seen as part of solution to rising food costs and limited lands

House Bill 2177 is the brainchild of 15-year-old Talia Abrams of Princeville, Kauai. Earlier this session, it passed through the House Water and Land Committee, then the House Finance Committee and today the measure was voted on by the full House and passed on third reading. Although it is only half way through the full legislative process, it is, nevertheless, an accomplishment not shared by hundreds of bills which have fallen by the wayside during the grueling three hearing bill review process in the House. 

“HB 2177 is not only a good idea but is also a great example of how our youth can get involved in our legislative process,” said Kawakami, who was approached by Abrams last session on her idea of an edible landscape.”

The measure seeks to establish a statewide network of “community food forests” or edible landscape to create a ready source of locally grown food and as an answer to the problem of increasing food costs and the dwindling availability of undeveloped land. The bill was introduced by Kauai Rep. Derek Kawakami (Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa, Wailua) and co-sponsored by 23 other representatives, including Rep. Dee Morikawa (Niihau, Lehua, Waimea, Koloa) and James Tokioka (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao). 

“It is also an example of addressing community needs by creating partnerships to improve our public lands,” Kawakami added. “Many of our well maintained parks, harbors, and recreational areas are so because of volunteers who participate in our adopt-a-park and adopt-a-harbor programs. This bill would allow community members to partner with the State to help provide food on public lands.”

"As legislators, it is our great honor and privilege to work alongside our future leaders and nurture their creativity.  This initiative is a perfect opportunity for Kauai residents, and residents State-wide, to actively engage in their communities, cultivate stronger relationships with their neighbors and help to ensure a more self-sustainable Hawaii," said Tokioka.

If it becomes law, the measure would create a community food forest program within the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and would be modeled after the Kalihiwai Food Forest, a two-acre site on Kauai’s North Shore, which contains thousands of edible roots, ground, shrub and tree plantings. The one-year project is a collaboration between Malama Kauai and Regenerations International Botanical Gardens.

House Passes More than 200 Bills on to Senate

Includes measures relating to the hotel room tax, aging and climate change

The House today passed 83 bills that cover a broad range of issues on education, health care, social services, housing and homelessness, economic development, aging and senior care, space exploration, and climate change and the environment. The body now stands in recess and will reconvene to take action on additional measures up for third reading next week on Tuesday, March 4th at 9 a.m.

To date, the House has approved more than 200 bills this session that have crossed over to the Senate for its consideration.

The measures passed today include HB 1671, relating to the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT), HB 1713 relating to aging and long-term care, HB 1714 protecting seniors from financial fraud, and HB 1714 relating to climate change, as well as bills relating to Niihau, the homeless and the disabled.   

HB 1671 HD1 removes the $93 million cap on the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) allocation to the counties and, instead, establishes the distribution of these revenues as a percentage of the TAT collected. The measure, which is expected to produce additional funds for the counties, was introduced and advocated by House Speaker Joseph M. Souki in his opening day speech.

The following bills were part of the joint Senate-House majority package focusing on seniors and the environment. The significance of the joint package is that the bills are considered to have statewide importance and the commitment of the majorities of both chambers.

HB 1713 provides ongoing financial support to healthy aging programs and services, and requires the Executive Office on Aging to conduct a public education and awareness campaign on long-term care.

HB 1715 HD1 appropriates funds for educational outreach targeted to protect seniors from financial fraud, based on Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ existing investor education programs.

HB 1714 HD1 addresses climate changes by tasking the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee under the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) with creating sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation reports. Tasks the Office of Planning with establishing and implementing strategic climate adaptation plans and policy recommendations based on that report.

Other notable bills also passed today included:

HB 709 HD2 establishes a task force to assist the DLNR in developing rules that regulate activities within and that are applicable to all coastal areas and near shore waters. It requires the task force to submit reports to the Legislature in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and prohibits DLNR from adopting any rules affecting coastal areas and near shore waters of Niihau until the task force submits a final report. The bill also appropriates funds for the DLNR to conduct public outreach meetings to adopt rules applicable to all coastal areas and near shore waters.

HB 2478 HD1 provides a taxpayer who hires an individual with a disability a nonrefundable tax credit for the six-month period after the individual is initially hired by the taxpayer.

HB 1934 HD1 appropriates funds to various programs that provide housing, housing assistance, and supportive services to individuals at risk of or experiencing homelessness.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Coffee Berry Borer Bill Moves out of Finance Committee

House Bill 1514, introduced by Representative Nicole Lowen (District 6-Kailua Kona, Holualoa), cleared a major hurdle last night as it was unanimously passed out of the House Committee on Finance.  The bill creates and funds a subsidy program in the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and appropriates funds for education and outreach to farmers through the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii.  The bill will now move to the house floor where it is expected to pass third reading and cross over to the Senate.

"Funding to combat the coffee berry borer (CBB) infestation is clearly critical," said Rep. Nicole Lowen, "but we need to do more than throw money at the issue.  If this bill passes, we will finally be getting direct assistance through a Department of Agriculture subsidy program, and dedicated full-time employees through CTAHR to reach out to farmers and educate them on what to do."

"We appreciate the concern and assistance of Rep. Lowen in the battle against the coffee berry borer," said Scott Enright, acting chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.  "Coordinated efforts between the industry and agricultural agencies are the only way that we will turn the tide against this devastating pest."

In recent years the coffee berry borer beetle has become a major threat to Hawaii's coffee industry, which is responsible for $30 million in revenue annually.  While past efforts have provided much-needed funds to help mitigate the infestation, this bill goes a step further. In the past, the responsibility for implementing a mitigation program has fallen to the CBB task force, who has been granted funds from the State through the lengthy procurement process.

"The coffee berry borer task force has done their best, but, as a group of volunteers, they lack the time and expertise to implement a program on the scale needed to get the infestation under control. With the help of DOA and CTAHR, we can get a lot more done.  With this bill, I think we have finally hit on a possible long-term solution," Lowen said.

(Photo Courtesy: National Geographic)

Understanding Defective Dates

It is not unusual for a bill to have its effective date (the date it becomes law) changed to a date
far in the future -- usually 2050 -- in order to “facilitate further discussion.”

Such a so‐called “defective date” (or “defective effective date”) would not render the measure invalid if enacted, though it would prevent the measure from taking effect for a long time and may make parts of it ineffective or nonsensical.

The committee doesn’t expect the bill to get enacted in this form – in fact, the committee report often explains that the reason for the change of the effective date is to “further discussion.” How so? Say, for example, SB9999 SD2 has crossed over to the House with a ‘defective date’ of July 1, 2020.

While the House could pass this bill without any changes, it wouldn’t have any immediate effect.

So, if the House wants to pass this bill and have it take effect sooner, they will have to change the effective date.

Here’s how that stimulates discussion:
  • If the bill that passes third reading in the House differs from the bill that passed third reading in the Senate (SD2 in this case), the Senate may disagree with the House’s changes and the bill would go to a conference committee.
  • In conference committee, not only the effective date, but other elements of the various drafts can be discussed and negotiated.

Representative Mele Carroll Responds to Tragic Lanai Plane Crash

Representative Mele Carroll
In response to last night's tragic plane crash on Lanai, Representative Mele Carroll (Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Paia, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Moloka'i, Molokini) released the following statement:

"I wanted to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of last night's plane crash. I know this is an unbearable loss for them to face. The two county employees and the pilot are in my prayers.

I want the survivors, their families and the Maui County Community to know that we are all behind them and ready to support them in whatever they need.

I also want to express my appreciation to the first responders and the members of the Lanai community who rushed to lend their assistance. All of the reports show that the community worked together- and that makes all the difference.

My thoughts, prayers and aloha are with everyone involved today."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

House Holds Medical Marijuana Dispensary Info Briefing

Informational briefing highlights medicinal values and outlines path and roadblocks to implementation of dispensaries

Honolulu, Hawaii –During an hour-long informational hearing on medical marijuana in the House, experts testified on its medicinal value and the issues related to establishing distribution centers, as the House contemplates legalizing a system of dispensaries for medical cannabis.

The speakers provided insight on a wide range of related issues, including the medical benefits of cannabis, the legal context on both state and federal levels, security and public safety, administrative rulemaking, and the experiences of other states and cities, as they dealt with the use and distribution of medical marijuana. Although medical cannabis is allowed in Hawaii for qualified patients certified by their physician, there are no legal outlets to purchase medical cannabis for patients. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have passed medical cannabis laws legalizing the use and production of medical cannabis for qualifying patients, according toThe Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), a national organization promoting drug policies.

Referring to House Speaker Joseph Souki’s call to legalize dispensaries and correct the gap in the current law during his opening day remarks, Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa), Chair of the House Committee on Health, called for a “steady, measured and reasonable approach” to discussions on legalizing local dispensaries for medical marijuana.

“Last year under Act 177, we took the first step to lay the groundwork to transition management and oversight of medical marijuana from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health,” noted Belatti. “This will allow us to regulate its use and distribution primarily from a health perspective, as it should be.”  Officials from both Public Safety and Health were on hand to update House members on the progress of that transition. The deadline for the transition to the Health Department is January 1, 2015.

“The medical sophistication of the active compounds in cannabis is extraordinary,” said James Anthony, an Oakland-based attorney who specializes in medical cannabis dispensary land use law.  “The “high” we normally attribute to recreational users of marijuana that most of us are familiar with is just one of its affects. But it’s not a just single drug with a single outcome.”

Anthony pointed to the advances in research and development in medical cannabis and explained how researchers can now identify and isolate many of its active compounds to create drug variations specifically targeted to treat the severe and otherwise unmanageable effects of a wide range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, HIV and arthritis. 

In response to questions of increasing crime related to the legalized distribution of medical cannabis, Mayor Robert Jacob of Sebastapol, California, referred to statistics that show the opposite is true. “When you take medical cannabis out of the black market, provide clear regulations and laws guiding its use, and a secure and reliable distribution system, the crime rate associated with it actually drops,” he said. 

When asked his view on which level of government, city or state, is best equipped to oversee medical cannabis dispensaries, Jacob pointed to his experience in Sebastapol, a small city of less than 10,000 and nearby Santa Rosa, with a population of a little over 170,000.  

He said city or county oversight of dispensaries was a double edged sword.  On one hand, city or county regulators and lawmakers have a smaller and less complex population and are closer to the actual process when it is handled by smaller intra-state municipalities, according to Jacob.  On the other hand, states end up with a “patchwork” of sometimes conflicting regulations and processes through which dispensary operators and patients must negotiate.

Karl Malivuk, a registered medical marijuana patient who recently moved from New Mexico—where there are 23 medical marijuana dispensaries—to Hawaii, said he did not appreciate the accessibility and level of professional caregivers, physicians and providers who specialize in medical marijuana in New Mexico when he moved to the Islands. He said he could not put into words the “loss of support” he felt after relocating to Hawaii.

HB 1587—which passed first reading and is currently being reviewed by the House committees on health, judiciary and finance—creates a system of registered medical marijuana dispensaries and dispensary agents in the state of Hawaii.

HCR 48 and HR 29—which have been referred to the House committees on health, judiciary and legislative management—requests the convening of a task force to develop recommendations for the establishment of a regulated statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana.