Council to vote on legislative priorities
Changes to special management area permit exemptions, county control over tobacco products and a younger retirement age for police are among nine priorities Hawaii’s four counties plan to present to the state Legislature.
The legislative session doesn’t start until Jan. 18, but the Hawaii County Council is gearing up to approve the counties’ recommendations compiled by the Hawaii State Association of Counties. The council will vote on the HSAC package at its meeting Wednesday.
Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball, the county’s HSAC representative on the board, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. But she has in the past touted the process as a good way for county issues to get aired at the state level. The process of having all four counties approve the package also makes sure everyone is on the same page, she said.
“It was vetted at the council level and it was vetted at the HSAC executive committee,” said Kimball.
The counties offered up these five bills:
• Allows police officers to receive retirement benefits after 25 years of service, regardless of whether they have turned 55 or not. (Proposed by Maui County)
• Clarifies that traditional fishpond and agricultural practices are exempt from the requirement for special management area permits, as are public pedestrian and bike paths, installation of fencing for invasive species control or preservation of native habitats on conservation land. Lowers the minimum size of a single-family residence that would trigger a special management area permit from 7,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet. (Proposed by Maui County)
• Requests that the state Department of Health formulate rules relating to discharges of pollutants into navigable waterways that would require a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, taking into account the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund governing functional equivalent sources of discharge. (Proposed by Hawaii County)
• Removes that portion of state law enacted in 2018 that declared the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products, and electronic smoking devices a matter of statewide concern and nullified any existing local ordinances or policies that restricted the sale of these products. (Proposed by Hawaii County)
• Adds county highways to the current law governing state highways where stopping, standing or parking of vehicles is restricted or prohibited, such as at scenic overlooks. (Proposed by Hawaii County)
In addition, HSAC is advancing these four general priorities:
• Legislation related to increasing the availability of affordable housing and infrastructure on lands administered by the Department of Hawaiian Homelands
• Legislation related to workforce development for both civil service and green job positions
• Legislation related to wastewater infrastructure funding and programs to assist in the conversion of cesspools
• Legislation that will increase the availability of mental health and substance abuse.