Thank you for the enthusiastic response to our 2011 Legislative Survey. Your input is extremely valuable as we make decisions at the Legislature that directly affect our community and State. As in past years, we received a double-digit percentage rate of response. Please see inside for the full results of our survey.
Amidst the complexity of leadership changes and a struggling economy, the 2011 Legislative Session proved to be extremely taxing in every meaning of the word. Although many measures which would have significantly benefited Hawai‘i did not survive the Session, thankfully we did succeed in stopping some harmful potential legislation from negatively impacting our State.
As we worked to pass a balanced budget in these challenging economic times, I strongly and successfully opposed increasing the General Excise Tax (GET) and taxing retirees' pensions. On Oahu, residents already pay a higher GET due to the 0.5% extra collected for the rail transit project. And retirees planned for their retirement not anticipating this new tax, and many have few options to increase their income.
The budget bill (HB200, HD1, SD1, CD1) used a number of methods to balance the budget including increased fees on virtually everything, such as raising automobile registrations from $25 to $45 (SB1328), doubling the car weight tax (SB1329), taxing rental cars at $7.50 per day (HB1039), imposing pyramided taxes on contractors which raises their tax rates by an estimated 300-400% (SB754), and broadly expanding the scope of taxes on local airlines, which will result in higher airfares for everyone in Hawai‘i. I voted against those fee and tax increases.
On a positive note for improving education, early in the Session we passed Act 5 that set up the procedure for appointing Board of Education members. The Governor named his new slate in April and there are high hopes the new BOE will focus on improving student learning. Also we passed SB1485 that allows the Superintendent to restructure poorly performing schools at which the majority of students are not able to meet basic reading and math levels. The 2011 Legislature also approved a bill to make permanent an interstate arrangement to help children of the military transfer into and out of schools in Hawai‘i (HB4).
A measure that seeks to end inhumane puppy mills passed unanimously. It directs the State Auditor to examine how large scale pet breeders should be licensed to operate. Please see the more detailed article inside this Report.
Finally, I am pleased that a few pro-small business measures did make it through the 2011 Legislature including HB519 that allows sole proprietors and partnerships to forego workers compensation taxes, SB758 that expedites State government purchases from local vendors, and HB1333 that makes it easier for small businesses to collect past due amounts.
Laws that help protect local jobs are welcome in these difficult times, and I will continue to support good legislation that helps our families and local companies recover. In addition, as we implement the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative, more good paying "green" jobs will be created. By switching to renewable energy systems, we can keep much of the seven billion dollars here that we now send to foreign countries to buy oil.
Sometimes success is measured by what is prevented rather than what is implemented. This Session was largely characterized by knocking down poorly crafted measures in order to protect the well-being of our State. I am glad that good reasoning prevailed on some critical issues, and look forward to tackling certain items again when they come before us next Session.
With warm aloha,
2011 Legislative Survey Results
This year, more people than ever before responded to our Legislative Survey and I thank you! Education, environment and our economy were all paramount concerns. Your thoughts and input are always so important to the legislative process, and I'm pleased to share a summary of the results with you.
Starting with the first question, responses were closely divided between the Governor appointing Board of Education members directly versus having a seven member nomination committee select names to submit to the Governor. Since the survey mailing, a bill has been passed authorizing the Governor to appoint BOE members, which he has done. I supported this legislation because it provides more direct accountability over the Board's performance.
On the next question, over two-thirds of those who answered the survey supported a Sunday ban on commercial activities in City beach parks because of congestion. I agree with reserving Sundays for noncommercial enjoyment of Kailua Beach and have asked the City & County to consider this change.
Moving on to the climate change question, over 80% were "very concerned or somewhat concerned" with climate change. As an island State, Hawai‘i must do its part to lessen the potential impacts of climate change by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and focusing on renewable energy. By developing renewable energy systems, we will keep money in our economy (instead of paying for foreign oil) and provide new "green" jobs.
An overwhelming majority of you support banning plastic bags, which harm Hawaii's environment and overburden our landfills. SB1363 SD2, which establishes that stores collect a fee for the distribution of single use plastic bags, made it to Conference Committee where it stalled until next Session.
Another survey question addressed Target coming to Kailua. A majority of residents either opposed or were resigned to Target's arrival. Traffic on Hahani Street and feeder roads is already extremely congested. Many have asked the City & County to do a comprehensive traffic study before it issues a building permit for the 130,000 sq. ft. "big box" store.
Seventy percent of those responding to the survey supported the Department of Education working within its budget to meet increased minimum instructional hour mandates. Act 167 can be adequately funded within the current contracted seven hour teacher day, but it has been a challenge determining how this requirement will be met in multi-track schools.
Most of you feel that economic recovery, although slightly improved from last year, is precariously weak. As you have read in the media, a variety of new taxes and fees have been proposed to balance our ever increasing State budget. My position is, as it always has been, that we need to live within our means, cutting back expenses to meet our current income while avoiding increases in taxes or fees.
Lastly, 90% said that you would or might support legislation to prohibit constructing homes on accreted (growing) beachfront property. The problem with accreted land is that it also can erode, endangering improvements which have been built on the property and damaging our coastal resources. The bill I introduced this Session is still alive and will be worked on during the interim for action during the next Legislative Session.
Across the Generations in Our Legislative Survey
We offered students participating in our Legislative Roadshow the opportunity to respond to this year's Legislative Survey. Although some of the answers were similar to replies received from adults, there were two responses which were very different between the generations.
Most adult responders supported banning commercial activity on city beach parks on Sundays. Students were divided almost equally between supporting the ban, opposing the ban and being undecided about weekend commercial activity.
Representative Cynthia Thielen • State Capitol, Room 443 • 415 South Beretania Street • Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 • Phone: (808) 586-6480