County Council approves legislative priorities

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HILO — Measures limiting lifeguards’ liability, giving counties more authority to regulate vacation rentals, loosening the Sunshine Law and requiring safety checks for mopeds are among a package of seven proposals approved by the County Council on Monday to be sent to the state Legislature.

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HILO — Measures limiting lifeguards’ liability, giving counties more authority to regulate vacation rentals, loosening the Sunshine Law and requiring safety checks for mopeds are among a package of seven proposals approved by the County Council on Monday to be sent to the state Legislature.

The measures, contained in Resolution 353, must be passed by all four counties before they are sent to the Hawaii State Association of Counties to be presented to the Legislature, which starts its 2016 session Jan. 20.

But even with the endorsement of all four local governments, the HSAC packages have historically had a poor batting average as far as the state lawmakers passing their measures, noted Hilo Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, HSAC executive vice president.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to move so much,” Onishi said.

He said he’s tried to push HSAC members to push measures through their respective county councils earlier in the year, so the Legislature won’t be receiving the package so late.

“I did mention it, but they never moved forward on it,” Onishi said.

The measures:

• A bill allowing counties through their zoning ordinances to phase out nonconforming single-family transient vacation rental units, sponsored by Kauai.

• A bill making permanent county lifeguards’ protection from lawsuits, sponsored by Kauai.

• A bill requiring mopeds to be subject the state’s safety check laws, sponsored by Honolulu.

• A bill allowing the counties to make short-term investments with similar authority as the state director of finance, sponsored by Maui.

• A bill permitting members of a county council to jointly attend and speak at a community, educational or informational meeting or presentation, provided the meeting or presentation is open to the public, sponsored by Maui.

• A bill allowing disabled people the option of indicating their disability on driver’s licenses or other state identification, sponsored by Maui.

• A resolution requesting the Legislature urge that Hawaii’s congressional delegation propose and pass an amendment clarifying that corporations are not people with constitutional rights, and that unlimited campaign spending is not free speech, sponsored by Hawaii County.

Council members had varying levels of support for the individual measures, but they agreed to support the package as a show of unity.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille in particular wanted lifeguards to have more liability protection.

“We need lifeguards,” Wille said. “We need them not to worry about someone bringing a lawsuit against them.”

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North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, as would be expected, approved of the Hawaii County resolution that tries to curb the ability of corporations to pump unlimited money into elections. The only Hawaii County contribution to the package was based on a resolution she sponsored. She also said the vacation rental bill is important.

“I think all of them have merit,” Eoff concluded.

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