Committee legislative package forward

LIHUE — In three months, state legislators will return to the state Capitol to mow through thousands of proposed bills in a four-month period. Many of those bills are introduced by request of the Hawaii State Association of Counties, which sends a package approved by all four county councils.

The Kauai County Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee reviewed Wednesday 14 proposals to be included in the 2014 HSAC Legislative Package, approving support for 11 bills — two were voted down and one got stuck on a tie.

The proposals now move to the full council for final decision by all seven council members before being sent back to the HSAC.

One of the most ambitious proposals would double the amount of money the counties receive from the Transient Accommodation Tax — a 9.25 percent tax on hotel rooms and other visitor units.

In 2010, the Legislature capped the counties’ share of the TAT at $93 million. Kauai receives about $13.48 million, or 14.5 percent, of that money.

In the last three years, however, the total TAT collection statewide went from $258 million to $352 million, according to Council Chair Jay Furfaro.

The proposal approved by the committee would increase Kauai’s share of the TAT to $26.97 million.

• A resolution urging the federal government to ease visa restriction on Chinese visitors only got support from Council Vice Chair Nadine Nakamura. Committee Chair Gary Hooser and committee members JoAnn Yukimura and Ross Kagawa voted against it. The fifth committee members, Mel Rapozo, was absent at the meeting.

Yukimura said the resolution seems like a good idea on the surface, but she didn’t know enough on the subject to support it.

Nakamura said if the state is trying to extend the reach of the visitor industry, this is the way to do it.

“I know that the Legislature has set aside specific marketing funds for South Korea and for China,” she said. “I think this goes hand in hand with that policy.”

• A bill that would fund $38 million to build permanent infrastructure facilities for the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy was unanimously voted down by the committee.

• A bill easing the state Sunshine Law requirements received unanimous approval.

• The committee approved a proposal to authorize the county Liquor Commission to provide funding for alcohol abuse treatment, by using revenues from fines against licensees and license fees, without a 10 percent limit.

• Committee members gave their approval to a bill enabling county and state governments to maintain roads in limbo — roads whose ownership is unclear — without assuming automatic liability.

• Other bills approved Wednesday include removing a sunset date for liability for county lifeguards on state beaches; funding $2.8 million for the training of rural health care providers at Hilo Medical Center on the Big Island; allowing videoconferencing for public testimony from neighbor islands during the Legislature; adding county representation on the Hawaii Employer Union Health Benefits Trust Fund Board of Trustees and on the Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees; and reducing from 10 to 2 percent what counties can collect as surcharge on state tax, a measure that had passed years ago to help fund the Honolulu Rail.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or lazambuja@thegardenisland.com

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