Many bills, both bad and good, still have chance at Legislature
from Grassroot Institute, March 24, 2022
The 2022 legislative session is halfway to the finish line, but there is still much work to do before we can lay claim to any victories
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has been extremely active at the state Legislature this year, as Institute President Keli'i Akina noted in his "President's Corner" column last Saturday.
Many of the worst bills introduced for consideration by the 2022 state Legislature have been jettisoned, thank goodness, as have some of the good ones, unfortunately. But the dust hasn't settled yet.
As the legislative session enters its critical second half, there still are many bills, both good and bad, that the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has been bird-dogging, in an effort to either block or mitigate their damage or help push them over the line.
In the last week alone, "bad" bills we testified on included:
>> SCR192 and SR185, which would create a working group to "develop the language of a deliberative process exemption" from Hawaii’s open-records law. "Our concern," we said, "is that such an exemption would be little more than a loophole by which state agencies could evade records requests," and thus open a Pandora's box.
>> HCR170 and HR170, which would encourage the counties to impose a tax on “empty homes,” in the hopes of increasing affordable housing. The proposal is similar to Bill 9 before the Honolulu City Council, which on March 1 we advised would "have the effect of penalizing homeowners, driving up already sky-high taxes, implementing privacy-invasive and severe enforcement measures, and providing little to benefit to Oahu residents in need of affordable housing."
>> HB2510 HD1, which, among other things, would increase Hawaii’s minimum wage to $18 an hour by 2028. We said the bill will likely hurt more than help Hawaii's businesses and low-income working families. We recommended giving everyone a raise by lowering the cost of living through "a combination of tax relief and a reduction in the obstacles that the state places in the way of business and entrepreneurship."
>> HB1840 HD2, which started out with promise because it would give the counties more authority to amend district boundaries. But our advice to delete an inclusionary-zoning provision has been ignored, and now the bill even has language that would give the state Land Use Commission final say over any county amendments, thus additionally defeating the purpose of the bill.
>> HB2108 HD1 SD1, which would establish a byzantine licensing and regulatory structure for cryptocurrency companies in Hawaii, thus likely doing more harm than good in helping Hawaii residents participate in the worldwide digital currency market.
Good bills we've weighed in on include:
>> SB2922 SD2 HD2, which would let counties increase dwellings in rural districts from one per half-acre to one per quarter-acre, provided that the ordinances are consistent with the county general plan and community development plan. Subject to one word change, the bill shows promise for helping ease the state's housing shortage.
>> SCR30 and SR25, which would urge the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to extend the Digital Currency Innovation Lab pilot project for two more years. We like this bill only because efforts to exempt cryptocurrency companies from the state's Money Transmitters Act — which would have been the best option for cryptocurrency in Hawaii — failed.
>> Most important: HB1585 HD1, which would amend the state’s emergency-management statute to clarify that the powers granted for emergency purposes should not be inconsistent with the Hawaii Constitution, require justification for the suspension of laws and place parameters on such suspensions, and allow the Legislature to terminate an emergency, in part or in whole, by a two-thirds vote.
"If enacted," we said, "this bill will take an important step toward addressing an oversight in the state’s current emergency-management law that was not apparent until the COVID-19 pandemic: the lack of a meaningful legislative check on the governor’s emergency powers."