Gearing up for the Legislature

LIHUE — Pesticides, alcohol, benefits, oh my!

Chinese visas and tourism taxes? Yep.

Education and bus stops, got that, too.

The Kauai County Council will tackle a number of proposals tonight as state counties decide what issues they want to send to the Legislature for lawmakers to consider in January.

In all, Kauai council members will weigh in on 16 proposals that could head the state’s way.

Councilman Mel Rapozo, who is also the president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties, will be present a set of 14 proposals, mostly coming from other counties.

The lone proposal from Kauai to be considered for inclusion in the 2014 HSAC Legislative Package relates to liability for county lifeguards. By repealing a sunset date for Act 82, the proposal would allow county lifeguards to work at state and county beaches without the threat of costly litigation for conditions or events outside the government’s control.

Here’s what other entities are proposing:

• Maui included proposals related to public meetings, intoxicating liquor and transportation.

• The city and county of Honolulu sent proposals related to helmets, mopeds, visas to Chinese visitors, health benefits, surcharge on state taxes and employee’s retirement system.

• The Big Island sent proposals on video-conferencing, health, education — and the state Transient Accommodation Tax.

State law adds a 9.25 percent tax, known as TAT, on the price of hotel rooms and other transient accommodations. The money goes to a statewide pool before being divided between the four counties, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the state government.

Kauai County Council chair Jay Furfaro said in the last three years, TAT revenues continued to grow as the average price for hotel rooms and occupancy rates climbed.

In 2011, the state collected $258 million in TAT; two years ago the TAT brought $320 million, and this year, the expected amount from the TAT is $352 million, he said.

Despite the increasing TAT revenues, the state capped the money for counties at $93 million, with Kauai’s share capped at $13.7 million, Furfaro said.

Another $81 million goes to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and the difference goes to the state, which should receive some $98 million this year.

• The Council will also look at two proposals to be included in the separate 2014 Kauai County Legislative Package.

One proposal comes from the administration, and asks for construction funds for the county’s bus shelter initiative, and for improvements to Kauai Veterans Cemetery.

The second proposal comes from Furfaro. He said former Gov. Linda Lingle cut several positions at the state Department of Agriculture. The bill appropriates $555,000 to fund three inspector positions at the DOA to administer state pesticide laws.

The justification for the bill is that many Kauai citizens continue to have concerns regarding the amount of Restricted Use Pesticides applied by major biotech companies.

“To properly address the concerns raised by the public, and in the interest of the public’s health, safety and welfare, it is of utmost importance that the appropriate staffing levels are committed and restored to properly regulate RUPs,” the proposal’s justification sheet states.

• The Kauai County Council will also consider a bill to add county-level regulations — including registration requirements and restrictions — for lobbyists hired by the County of Kauai.

Bill 2497, would make it mandatory for lobbyists hired by the county to “publicly and regularly” disclose their identity, expenditures and activities.

The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Historic County Building in Lihue.


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