Paper and plastic

January 26th, 2012

Jon Kaneshiro, a senior at Iolani School, had an experience Thursday that most high school students wouldn’t even dream of: a bill he drafted received a hearing before the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

As an intern in state House Speaker Calvin Say’s office, Kaneshiro said he was originally supposed to be a legislative aide, but his interests prompted him to draft HB 1828 —which proposes charging a fee for one-time use plastic bags at grocery stores and retail outlets — and Say submitted it.

“It’s kind of like American Idol, you never expect yourself doing this,” Kaneshiro said following the hearing. “It was a great experience overall and I learned a lot.”

The committee deferred the bill indefinitely because HB 2260, a similar bill that extends the fee to one-time use paper bags and is much more comprehensive in scope, was preferred by those who testified.

Kaneshiro said he wasn’t disappointed by the outcome of his bill, and he even testified in support of HB 2260.

“I didn’t hear about this bill until maybe like a week before, so, once I read it, I liked it a lot,” the law-school hopeful said. “I can see the subtle changes in the way it was written … and it’s not heartbreaking at all. It was a good opportunity to see what people want and see how these kinds of people think.”

Despite overwhelming testimony in favor of HB 2260, Kaneshiro’s bill still made an impression.

Mark Fox, the director of external affairs at the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii of The Nature Conservancy, suggested to the committee that a recycling provision outlined in HB 1828 be rolled into HB 2260. That provision states that if a business operates a plastic bag recycling bin during all business hours, the business can keep 25 percent of the fee charged to cover any costs related to managing the bin.

HB 2260 was also deferred, but not indefinitely. Rep. Denny Coffman, chairman of the committee, said he believes a bill of similar subject matter that will possibly be heard next week will clear up many testifiers’ concerns, and he wants to hear that one first.

– Sarah Zoellick

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