Hawaii lawmakers wrap up legislative session with several key bills heading to governor’s desk

Hawaii lawmakers wrap up legislative session with several key bills heading to governor’s desk

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thursday marks Hawaii’s the last day of the 2021 legislative session — with a number of important bills heading to Gov. David Ige’s desk.

One of the most notable bills: the Transient Accommodations Tax that would take tourism revenue away from the counties.

Currently, there is a 10.25% tax on all Hawaii transient accommodations like hotel rooms and vacation homes.

House Bill 862 would give all that money to the state rather than the counties.

Under this bill, counties would lose about $103 million.

However, to make up for the lost funds, counties would be able to impose their own additional hotel tax of up to 3% — bumping the total hotel room tax to more than 13% per night.

County mayors have spoken out against this bill.

“Instead of continuing to go to our tax base, our local residents, what we really need to do shift that burden from local residents to tourists,” said State Rep. Sylvia Luke, House Finance Chair.

“The $103 million that comes back to us, we still need to invest in our trails, our parks, other infrastructure that the residents and the tourists use,” said State Sen. Ron Kouchi, Senate President.

Lawmakers also put money in the pockets of public school teachers.

“One of the things we did do was to include $2,200 dollars for every public school teacher, charter school, full-time and half-time which would amount to almost $30 million dollars,” said State Sen. Michelle Kidani, Education Committee Chair.

Lawmakers approved funding for a red light camera program, with a fine of more than $100.

The state Department of Transportation would put them in at 14 intersections on Oahu as early as this summer.

Those intersections, mostly in the downtown and Chinatown areas, were identified as “high risk” based on crash history.

Opponents say the program could open the state up to lawsuits and is flawed because the owner of the car gets the fine instead of the person who was driving at the time.

Another bill introduced again this session removes the requirement for reconstructed vehicles to obtain a special inspection and certification.

If signed by the governor, it would go into effect on July 1 of this year.

A bill that would have limited Gov. Ige’s emergency powers — things like travel restrictions and other actions to address the public health crisis — died in the legislature this week.

200 bills are now on Governor Ige’s desk. He has until June 24 to inform the legislature if he intends to veto any bills.

“I am concerned about the bill that impacts the Hawaii Tourism Authority, taking away the dedicated funding,” said Ige.

On this last day of the state legislature, there was chanting and lei for State Senate Majority Leader Kalani English from Hana who’s retiring after more than 20 years at the State Capitol to focus on healing after battling long-term symptoms from COVID-19.

“I literally grew up in this building. It’s been a major part of my life. It’s been the beacon for me,” he said.

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