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Hawaii Has 80 New Laws; 161 Bills Await Action

May 28, 2014, 5:52 PM HST (Updated May 29, 2014, 12:37 PM)
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So far this year, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed into law 77 bills from this year’s Legislature, while another 161 await action.

According to spokesman Justin Fujioka, the governor has until July 8 to either veto or sign the remaining bills or they will become law without his signature.

The latter has already occurred with three bills which were passed early in the legislative session.

One dealt with arbitration during collective bargaining, another involved selection of members to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board, and the third made arbitration and other awards against real estate appraisers a matter of public record.

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Abercrombie also has a June 23 deadline to inform lawmakers of his intent to veto any bills.

So far, he has not indicated his intention to cast any vetoes.

Among the new laws are two that deal with illegal contractors.

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House Bill 570, which Abercrombie signed into law as Act 32, deals with illegal contractors who target the elderly.

It increases the fine from $10,000 to $20,000 for anyone who commits unlicensed contracting violations against anyone 65 or older.

A violation consists of construction work amounting to more than $1,000 done by someone who is not a licensed contractor, with some exceptions.

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs told lawmakers that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to such actions. The DCCA’s Regulated Industries Complaints Office testified that it has investigated at least 47 contracting complaints involving the elderly in the past five years.

Senate Bill 2475, which is now Act 29, makes a licensed contractor who conspires with an unlicensed contractor subject to additional discipline by the Contractors License Board.

It was previously a misdemeanor for a licensed contractor to violate state law pertaining to contractors, but that law required an actual contract. The new law allows the state to deal with violations administratively.

According to a joint Senate committee report, “this measure will also enhance enforcement and consumer protection efforts by dissuading licensed contractors from recommending unlicensed contractors to unwitting consumers.”

This was the third year in a row that the Legislature toughened laws dealing with home contracting or construction.

In 2012, lawmakers made it a class “B” felony to falsely claim to be a licensed contractor.

Last year, the Legislature passed a bill that required those with an “owner-builder” building permit who hired non-licensed workers to help build the home to take on the legal roles of an employer. Those roles include providing worker’s compensation insurance and withholding payroll taxes.

Other new laws include:

  • Act 60, which prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for smoking medical marijuana unless the rental agreement also prohibits smoking tobacco, or if community or condominium association rules specifically ban the medical use of marijuana.
  • Act 6, which allows those who have served in the military to have the designation “veterans” noted on their driver’s license.
  • Act 66, which authorizes the state insurance commissioner to collect, and publish online, information about the cost of health insurance offered in Hawaii. The commissioner already has the authority to collect and publish premium information for motor vehicle and home insurance policies.
  • Act 18, which gives the state and counties greater leeway to conduct criminal background checks on employees, prospective employees, volunteers and contractors in certain positions, including those that involve the use of firearms other than for law enforcement purposes.
  • Act 38, which authorizes the state to conduct criminal background checks for individuals seeking a real estate appraiser license.

Lists of bills Abercrombie has signed, and those still awaiting action, are available here.

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