April 5 cutoff for bills approaches

KAILUA-KONA — Time is ticking down for a handful of bills that would impact the Big Island to secure their final committee hearings in the state Legislature.

All the legislative proposals must emerge from House and Senate committees by April 5. The deadline provides for a mandatory 48-hour period allowing chamber members to review the bills before third reading in their non-originating chamber.

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One of the three bills introduced this legislative session to secure funding for four full-time lifeguards at Kua Bay remained alive Friday. House Bill 558 needs to be heard and reported by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means by April 5 to bring life-saving personnel to the perilous North Kona Beach.

HB 558 cruised the House and was passed by the Senate Committee on Water and Land earlier this month. It’s been awaiting a hearing before Ways and Means since being reported March 15.

Meanwhile Senate Bill 875, which was passed by Senate Ways and Means before crossing over to the House, failed to secure any committee hearings in the chamber, effectively killing it. The third bill, Senate Bill 654, died in the Senate.

Another bill addressing public safety, House Bill 529, which would increase the fine for not using a four-wheel-drive vehicle on Waipio Valley Road, is looking to snag its final committee hearing.

The measure to increase the current $50 fine to $250 needs to be heard by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. No hearing had been set as of press time Friday.

A measure that quickly flew through the Senate and its first committee in the House, Senate Bill 887, has been waiting since March 22 for a hearing before the Committee on Finance. No hearing had been set for the proposal calling for an increase to the tobacco tax as of press time.

The bill 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.

A bill authorizing issuing special purpose revenue bonds to build and operate solar-powered saltwater desalination plants on Hawaii Island is also awaiting a critical hearing.

The measure, Senate Bill 1440, would allow the state to issue $100 million in bonds to assist Trevi Systems Inc. and Kona Coast Water in bringing operational two or more plants to desalinate water using 100 percent renewable solar energy and supply it to customers on Hawaii Island, and potentially other islands as well.

After crossing over from the Senate to the House, the bill was passed by the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection. It’s been referred to the Committee on Finance, which hadn’t set a hearing as of press time Friday.

Meanwhile, proposed legislation that would require coffee blend labels to disclose more details about origins and limit the use of a geographic origin in labeling and advertising is scheduled for public decision making after passing its first Senate committee earlier this month.

A Senate joint committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health and Ways and Means will take up House Bill 144 on April 2.

Public decision making is also set for a bill that would prohibit anyone convicted of DUI or habitual DUI from purchasing or publicly consuming alcohol for a period of three years following conviction or administrative license revocation.

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House Bill 703 was passed by a Senate joint committee on Transportation and Public Safety and Military Affairs and is to go before a Senate joint committee on Judiciary and Ways and Means on April 3.

While the bills above are still alive, several bills that crossed over from their originating chambers but did not secure a single committee hearing, effectively leaving them dead on arrival. Those bills are Senate Bill 931, which would have placed a moratorium on commercial fish collecting, and Senate Bill 1474, which would have increased the general excise tax to fund education.

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