By B.J. Reyes
The state Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to repeal the Public Land Development Corp., following the state House, which passed a repeal bill last week.
Senators say the Senate could hold a hearing on the House version and, if there are no changes, move to accept the legislation.
Who is a Democrat? A Republican? A Green? A new bill would shift the burden of proof in court to the potential candidate, not the political parties.
Dante Carpenter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, asked for the bill after candidates ran for office last year as Democrats even though the party had determined they were ineligible.
Laura Thielen won a state Senate seat after disregarding the party’s ruling that she was ineligible to run as a Democrat because she had not been a member of the party for at least six months before the filing deadline. Chris Manabat, who was not a party member when he filed to run for the state House, won in the primary but lost in the general election.
Both Thielen and Manabat had signed sworn oaths that they were members of the Democratic Party and their filing papers were accepted by the state Office of Elections. Democrats had the option of challenging the candidates in court, but Carpenter said the party did not have the money and could not find attorneys to take the cases for free.
Carpenter said that the state should ensure candidates are “true to their word.”
The bill — Senate Bill 223 — would require the Office of Elections to reject potential candidates who political parties claim are not eligible to run under party labels. It would be left to the potential candidates to challenge the findings in court.
Democrats so thoroughly dominate Hawaii politics that some candidates have made strategic decisions to join the party to increase their chances of election or to maximize their influence at the Legislature. The party’s “big tent” philosophy has led to several disputes over whether elected Democrats adequately represent the party’s platform.
Sen. Les Ihara (D, Moiliili-Kaimuki-Palolo) said Hawaii is like a “one-party state.”
““Sorry, Sam,” Ihara said to his colleague, Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Kahala-Hawaii Kai), the only Republican in the Senate.
“Hey,” Slom said, “you’re stating fact.”
House Speaker Joseph Souki on Thursday credited the public with identifying “pukas” with the Public Land Development Corp., which the House voted unanimously to repeal.
Asked whether he saw any similarities between the public’s reaction to the PLDC and his unpopular van cam law a decade ago, Souki laughed:
“Van cam was one of my favorite projects. It did save lives. And I think it’s very different than van cam,” the speaker said, adding however that like van cam, the idea behind the PLDC was good but the process was off.
The state Senate Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing Committee on Wednesday voted to advance a bill that would create a new Public-Private Partnership Authority.
The authority — a similar concept to the Public Land Development Corp. — would work with other state agencies and the private sector on development projects. The new authority, unlike the PLDC, would not have broad exemptions from land use regulations.
The new authority would first do a main street redevelopment project in Wahiawa and a film production studio on Maui as pilot projects.
The bill would also preserve the stadium authority special fund, a potential resource for redeveloping the parking lot at Aloha Stadium. The special fund is in danger if lawmakers repeal the PLDC because the fund was folded into the PLDC law.
“Hopefully, this helps us in the long run,” said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, the committee’s chairman, who was also behind the PLDC.
The committee voted 3 to 2 to move the bill. Sen. Laura Thielen, a PLDC critic, voted against the bill, as did Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, who routinely votes against legislation that contains special funds.
“We just decided we’re not going to go there,” Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria said.
On Monday, senators set a joint hearing on the bill for Thursday before the Senate Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing Committee, the Senate Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, and the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee.
On Tuesday, the bill was re-referred and set for a hearing for Wednesday before Galuteria’s Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs Committee. Senators then decided to delete the bill from the hearing agenda.
Hawaii and Utah are the only states without some form of legalized gambling.
The state House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday tabled a bill that would have legalized small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Rep. Karl Rhoads, the committee’s chairman, said he believed he had the votes on the committee to advance the bill but not in the full House.
“Leadership has recently informed me that there’s no chance of the bill progressing beyond this committee,” Rhoads said.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Monday announced his support for same-sex marriage, part of a national Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign.
The campaign is led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Houston Mayor Annise Park and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
A city is a place where talented minds come together to develop ideas, build businesses, and create culture. In Honolulu we welcome all who want to contribute and build a better future for our island. We take pride in our diversity.
Hawai‘i has always been known for its spirit of tolerance and making all people feel welcome. We live in one of the most diverse places in the world, and for the most part, we all get along. LGBT people were a part of traditional Hawaiian culture, and they are a celebrated part of our community today.
Hawai‘i has a long history of leadership in equal rights. Hawai‘i was the first state to ratify the equal rights amendment for gender equality. We are home to the first Asian American Governor and U.S. Senator, the first Native Hawaiian Governor, U.S. Senator, and Member of Congress, and of course the first African American President of the United States of America.
We have been a leader on rights for the LGBT community, enacting domestic partnerships then civil unions. Now it is time for us to cross the finish line and grant true equal rights with marriage equality.
I strongly support the constitutional right of every person to practice their own religious beliefs, and we should never infringe on that. No religious organization will be forced to conduct a ceremony that is against their teachings. However, committed LGBT couples also have a right to be treated equally under the law, to have their marriages recognized by the state and have equal rights to hospital visitation, work benefits, and tax equity that heterosexual couples enjoy.
Equal treatment under the marriage laws of our state is a civil rights issue. Anything less is discrimination. I urge the legislature to take action.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority issued a statement on Friday opposing Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s suggestion that the state’s hotel-room tax should be increased to help with state finances.
The HTA, however, backed keeping the tax at 9.25 percent beyond its July 2015 expiration date.
An increase to the TAT would negatively affect Hawai‘i’s competitive position in the marketplace by putting an additional tax on our visitors. This could cause us to lose momentum in the significant gains in visitor arrivals and spending experienced over the past three years. We need to ensure the continued success of our industry for the state’s economy to be sustainable.
Hawai‘i is a leisure destination, where the visitor’s spending is discretionary. As such, our visitor market is price-sensitive, and any increase could drive a traveler to a competing destination. An increase to the TAT will only diminish Hawai‘i’s ability to compete in a price-sensitive market.
Currently, the visitor industry supports more than 166,000 jobs and we anticipate this number to grow this year. However, we are still well below the peak of more than 178,000 jobs in 2005, and the TAT increase could cause a loss of jobs in the tourism sector.
Visitors contribute an average of $196 in per person per day spending, which adds up to approximately $1,800 per person per trip. These expenses are inclusive of the 14.0% hotel room tax, which include the 4.712% GET and current 9.25% TAT. Should the TAT increase to 11.25%, hotel room taxes would then jump to 16.0%.
Instead of increasing the TAT, we believe that by investing in opportunities to maintain market share and diversify our tourism profile in the leisure and meetings, conventions and incentive (MCI) markets to our established and emerging major market areas, we can generate greater revenue that will benefit the entire state. We will also continue our efforts to maintain and expand airlift and neighbor island distribution, improve the cruise ship arrival program, build on the experiential assets of our people, place and culture, and support career development for our youth – all of which are an investment into the state.
While we do not support increasing the TAT, we do support keeping the rate at 9.25 percent beyond the current sunset date, provided the cap of $71 million on HTA funding is removed. If legislation passes, the HTA will receive 23.5 percent of the TAT, a 3.5 percent increase in the funding level, which would be reinvested into the Hawaiian Islands brand and would allow us to further market, develop and support Hawai‘i’s tourism economy, which was the original intent of the creation of the TAT.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who declined to include a same-sex marriage bill in his legislative package, on Friday encouraged state House and Senate lawmakers to hear marriage legislation this session.
The state House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee have yet to schedule hearings on the legislation. Several sources have privately doubted whether there are enough votes for marriage equality, while others say lawmakers should wait and see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue later this year.
I have always supported human equality and agree with President Obama and our Congressional Delegation that all of our citizens should be treated equally.
Hawaii is a state defined by our diversity, compassion and aloha. I encourage our state legislators to hold hearings on the marriage equality bill so that we can further discussions on equal treatment under the law.