East Hawaii News

Legislature Adjourns 2013 Session

May 2, 2013, 4:52 PM HST
* Updated May 3, 11:31 AM
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Hawaii’s Legislature adjourned today, completing its 2013 session.

Lawmakers had already wrapped up their biggest duty, the state’s $23.8 billion budget for the next two fiscal years, as of last week.

On Tuesday and today they took up dozens of measures requiring floor votes on the House and Senate. They included:

  • Senate Bill 102, which requires financial institutions to report instances of “financial abuse” of the elderly to the county police department and to the state Department of Human Services. Current state law requires reporting only to DHS.
  • Senate Bill 1349, which re-establishes the income tax credit for research activities to promote job growth in research and development.
  • House Bill 726, which increases the income tax credit for motion picture and other media production in Hawaii.
  • Senate Bill 593, which appropriates up to $1.5 million to subsidize feed costs for the agricultural industry.
  • Senate Bill 1077, which stiffens the requirements for those choosing the owner-builder route for building homes. The bill requires that the owner-builder withhold payroll taxes from – and provide workers’ compensation for – anyone hired to help in the construction other than licensed electricians and plumbers. It also establishes penalties of up to 50% of the value of the construction for violations of the law.
  • Senate Bill 9, which prohibits anyone who has been convicted of first-degree animal cruelty from possessing any pets for a minimum of five years.

The Legislature this week also approved Senate Bill 1256, which provides $400,000 for the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems located in Hilo.

PISCES recently signed agreements with a variety of organizations to develop technologies needed to allow humans to live in outer space, such as on the moon or Mars. The organizations include the International Society for Terrain-Vehicles Systems in New Hampshire and the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research at the University of New South Wales.

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Originally under the auspices of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, PISCES last year was given a state appropriation of $2.3 million and placed under the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

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The center’s activities have included testing of technologies on the slopes of Mauna Kea where geologic conditions similar to the moon and Mars can be found.

One bill that failed to gain approval this week was House Bill 622, which would have extended what has been described as the nation’s model “shield law” for journalists, which protects them from having to reveal their sources except under certain conditions.

The bill, which was originally proposed to repeal the “sunset” provision that would have allowed the law to expire on June 30, was amended by Sen. Clayton Hee to exclude from protection nontraditional journalists such as those using digital or online-only media (such as BigIslandNow.com).

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First Amendment attorney Jeff Portnoy, as well as Sen. Les Ihara, had argued that excluding such media from protection would have a chilling effect on the public’s “right to know.”

Portnoy argued that it would be better to have no law at all than to have Hee’s version.

However, the Senate on Tuesday passed the weakened version of the bill on a 16-9 vote. Those voting against the measure included Ihara and Big Island Sens. Russell Ruderman and Josh Green.

That same day, the House amended the bill to restore the bill’s original intent and approved it unanimously.

Today, the Senate declined to take up the House’s amended version, which means the measure is dead for the session.

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