House Sends Several High-Profile Bills to Senate Prior to Crossover Deadline

March 3, 2020, 4:49 PM HST (Updated March 3, 2020, 4:49 PM)
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The Hawai‘i House of Representatives on Tuesday sent several well-known initiatives to the Senate for consideration.

Two days ahead of the Legislature’s crossover day on March 5 — the deadline for bills to move from one chamber to the next — the House sent drunk driving legislation, a bill to fund the looming fight against Coronavirus, and a measure to provide tax relief to working families and raise the minimum wage to its Senate counterparts

House Bill 2464 HD1 would lower the drunk driving threshold from a blood alcohol level of .08 to a BAC of .05, implementing a fine of up to $1,000 for operating a vehicle over the new legal limit.

Introduced by O‘ahu Rep. Henry Aquino, the measure received only one nay vote, as well as two votes of aye with reservations.

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Also heading to the Senate is House Bill 1629 HD1, which would appropriate an unspecified amount from the state’s general revenues to support the Department of Health and Department of Defense efforts to “detect, contain, mitigate and respond to the Coronavirus, or COVID-19.”

Introduced by O‘ahu Rep. Sylvia Luke, the measure leaves the amount of funding appropriated blank — a typical strategy early on the legislative process to allow for future maneuverability.

However, the state Senate last week sent a similar measure to the House, SB 75 SD2, which specifies the appropriation of several millions of dollars to combat Coronavirus.

For instance, the bill sets aside $2.5 million for disease outbreak surveillance and response, along with $1.3 million for laboratory testing. It does leave one amount blank — the funding for “other personnel expenses related to COVID-19 response, including overtime, travel and supplies.”

According to a release from the Senate distributed last week, the Sen. Kalani English’s bill aligns closely with a request from Gov. David Ige to appropriate $10.5 million to fight the virus, $6.6 million of which would head directly to DOH.

Ige recommended the bill, which includes funding for the Department of Transportation absent from the House measure, be passed immediately.

A third measure that made its way from the House to the Senate Tuesday was HB 2541 HD1, introduced by House Speaker Scott Saiki. It would provide up to $72 million in tax relief for working Hawai‘i families by making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable and permanent.

The bill will also raise the minimum wage to $11 in 2021, $12 in 2022, $12.50 in 2023 and $13 in 2024.

To date, the House has sent 355 bills to the Senate for consideration.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter, and radio talk show personality covering college athletics in Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing, and his work as a sports columnist.

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