On May 5, the gavel came down on 2011’s regular legislative session—a challenging one because of continuing budget deficits, but rewarding because some very solid legislation was passed to:
• Help distressed homeowners facing foreclosure (Act 48)
• Ensure that victims of domestic violence are not also made victims of discrimination in the workplace
• Ensure equal rights under the law for gay, lesbian and transgender residents
• Strengthen laws against sex and labor trafficking and against animal cruelty
• Provide for online voter registration and permanent absentee ballot status
• Enable electronic tracking of pseudoephedrine purchases to deter its illegal use
• Establish the framework for a Hawai‘i Health Insurance Exchange
• Give State recognition to Native Hawaiians and establish a Native Hawaiian roll commission
To view a complete list of the important economic, environmental, health and education measures adopted by the 2011 Legislature, go to www.capitol.hawaii.gov. Click on bill status and documents, scroll down to 2011 bills introduced, passed and vetoed. View updates on Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s action on all bills presented this session.
Win some, put some on hold. As with every session, some good bills remained. I was particularly disappointed about SB 99 that proposed a significant restructuring of the Public Utilities Commission.
The measure calls for two additional commissioners who would, in my opinion, better represent the perspective and concerns of the neighbor islands. This restructuring is especially important given the commission’s oversight of renewable energy matters including energy generated on the neighbor islands for O‘ahu’s grid.
There was also no timely agreement on establishing a framework for the development of an undersea cable to transmit renewable energy between the islands.
May be a summer session. The Council on Revenues will meet on Thursday, May 26, to discuss the general fund forecast that could determine the need for additional legislative action. So there is talk of a possible special summer session.
Those bills left in conference and possibly others could be revived in the special session. If not, we can go back when we convene next January and act quickly to send these bills to the governor.
There were a few bills I wish had not passed. But despite the bumps along the way, it was a delight to work with the new leadership team in the Senate, executive and judicial branches. This was one of the more collaborative sessions I can recall. Even when we disagreed on a revenue approach, there was always the opportunity for dialogue, open communication and a desire to solve problems in a way that would move Hawai‘i forward.
In the interim. My capitol staff and I will continue to follow up on your requests and concerns. I’ll also be working hard on important issues from my committee’s agenda this past session.
The mortgage foreclosure task force is currently reviewing our non-judicial foreclosure laws as they relate to condominiums and planned communities and the implementation of Act 48, especially the revisions of non-judicial foreclosure statutes in order to report to the 2012 legislature any recommendation for additional action.
Our construction task force continues to look into unlicensed activity. We have also designated a task force to explore the development of a locally based stock exchange to match investors to opportunities in locally created Hawai‘i companies.
I’m planning to do periodic reports throughout the remainder of the year and look forward to talking story with the community. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (on Maui) 667-2225.
Mahalo to the Maui Weekly for the opportunity to provide updates, and congratulations to all our graduates. Good luck as you embark on the new opportunities ahead in education or in the world of work. Have a great summer!
A hui hou.