Tobacco tax increase, red light camera bills moving

  • A bill that would increase the tax on cigarettes and little cigars continues to roll. Senate Bill 887 would raise the tax on cigarettes and little cigars from 16 cents per unit to 21 cents per unit, an increase of $1 in price per pack of 20 cigarettes. It would bump the total tax on a standard pack of cigarettes to $4.20. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
  • A bill in the state Legislature would fund red light cameras. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Passengers arrive at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole. State House reps are set to take up a bill that would authorize the state to issue up to $50 million in special purpose revenue bonds to assist in developing the Kona Jet Center at the North Kona airport. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — West Hawaii Today’s following a lot of bills in the state House of Representatives and Senate this legislative session, from funding to widen Kuakini Highway and acquire ambulance for Makalei to protecting sharks and rays and prohibiting commercial aquarium fishing.

The following is part two of two lists providing an update on those measures as of Friday evening. To submit testimony on any of the bills, visit capitol.hawaii.gov and enter the bill number in the bill status/measure status box. From there, select submit testimony.

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• Red light camera bill awaiting committee referrals

A Senate bill proposing a red light detector system program has crossed over to the House for further consideration.

The measure, SB 663, passed a third reading in the Senate and was transmitted to the House where it passed a first reading. It’s been referred for a trio of hearings before the Committee on Transportation, Committee on Judiciary and Committee on Finance.

• Tobacco tax increase on the roll

An increase in the tax on cigarettes and little cigars continues to roll.

Senate Bill 887 would raise the tax on cigarettes and little cigars from 16 cents per unit to 21 cents per unit, an increase of $1 in price per pack of 20 cigarettes. It would bump the total tax on a standard pack of cigarettes to $4.20.

The measure passed a full Senate vote Tuesday and crossed over to the House for consideration. After first reading, it was assigned to the Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce and Committee on Finance.

• House to consider prohibiting commercial aquarium fishing

The full Senate voted Tuesday to transmit a bill to the House that would impact commercial aquarium fishing in Hawaii.

Senate Bill 931 has been referred for a trio of hearings after passing first reading in the House. The bill is set to go before a Joint Committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs and Energy and Environmental Protection, the Committee on Judiciary and the Committee on Finance.

SB 931, in its current form, would prohibit possessing a fine-mesh net/trap and place a two-year moratorium on the commercial capture of aquatic life for aquarium purposes or under a commercial marine license through use of fine-mesh nets or fine-mesh traps. It would also require an environmental impact statement to evaluate the impacts of commercial aquarium permits on the island of Oahu and West Hawaii and cultural impact assessment; and establish a marine aquarium fishing advisory group.

• Police misconduct disclosure bill heads to Senate

A House measure that would require Hawaii’s four county police chiefs to disclose in annual reports to the state Legislature the identity of an officer upon an officer’s suspension or discharge from a county police department has moved to the Senate for further consideration.

Currently, the reports outline misconduct, discipline and whether the grievance procedure has concluded; however, there’s no disclosure of identity.

House Bill 285 crossed over to the Senate after succeeding on a third reading on the floor Tuesday. After passing first reading, the bill’s awaiting hearings before the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs and the Committee on Judiciary.

• Senators taking up higher fine for no 4×4 on Waipio Valley Road

A House bill that would increase the fine five-fold for not using a four-wheel-drive vehicle on Waipio Valley Road passed its first reading in the Senate on Tuesday. It’s been referred for hearings before the Committee on Transportation and Committee on Ways and Means; no dates have been set. House Bill 529 would increase the current $50 fine to $250.

After passing a third reading in the House, the bill was transmitted to the Senate for consideration where the floor voted to pass it on first reading. It’s now awaiting hearings before the Committee on Transportation and the Committee on Ways and Means.

• House taking up general excise tax increase

A bill to increase the general excise tax to help fund education passed through the Senate and a first reading in the House and is now awaiting committee referral in the House.

Revenue from the half-percent surcharge proposed under Senate Bill 1474 would go to the state Department of Education and University of Hawaii. The Senate voted Tuesday to transmit the bill to the House where it passed a first reading. It’s been referred for hearing before the Committee on Lower and Higher Education and Committee on Finance.

If a county bill seeking to increase its surcharge to the full half-percent as allowed by law and the state GET bill pass, the tax on Hawaii Island would be 5 percent on the retail level, up from 4.25 percent.

Teacher housing voucher program bills moving

Measures remain alive to authorize the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. to implement a housing voucher program for full-time teachers employed by the state Department of Education or at public charter schools.

Both Senate Bill 12 and Senate Bill 114 passed third readings on the Senate floor. Each passed a first reading on the House floor.

SB 12 was referred for a trio of hearings before the Committee on Housing, Committee on Lower and Higher Educational and Committee on Finance. SB 114 was referred for a hearing before a Joint Committee on Lower and Higher Education and Housing and then the Committee on Finance.

• No additional funding for county Career Criminal Unit

Senate Bill 407 and House Bill 53, which sought increased funding for the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office Career Criminal Unit, died in their respective chambers after failing to secure committee hearings.

• No widening for Kuakini Highway

Senate Bill 1517, which would have funded widening Kuakini Highway between Lako Street and Kamehameha III Road to alleviate traffic congestion, died in mid-February died after not securing hearings before the second committees to which they were referred.

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• Makalei ambulance deferred

At the request of the state Department of Health, legislators shelved Senate Bill 877, which would have funded two ambulances for Hawaii Island, including one at the Makalei Fire Station in North Kona.

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