Crossover at the Capitol

Published: Mar. 8, 2013 at 2:49 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gambling didn't make it this time around, but hundreds of other bills -- like same day voter registration -- still have a chance at becoming state law.

It's Crossover at the Capitol -- meaning hundreds of bills are moving from the House to the Senate and vice versa, as lawmakers reach the halfway point this legislative session.

Of the 1388 bills that were introduced in the Senate, only 384 of them are crossing over. 360 of the 1484 proposals introduced by Representatives will now be considered by Senators.

Among them, a GMO (genetically modified organism) bill that will require a label on all imported produce that's genetically engineered.

"Truth in labeling," explained Representative John Mizuno, co-authored House Bill 174.  "We believe that all consumers have the right to know what they're buying and what they're eating-- they're consuming. We really like to get more information out to the public."

HB 174 passed with Representative(s) Aquino, Cachola, Cullen, Fale, Fukumoto, Har, Hashem, Ichiyama, Johanson, Jordan, Kobayashi, Ohno, Onishi, Oshiro, Say, Takai, Tokioka, Tsuji, Yamane voting aye with reservations; Representative(s) McDermott voting no (1) and none excused (0).

Partially public-financed elections is now one step closer to becoming a reality after it passed the House.  Supporters say it would limit special interest influence and level the campaign playing field by making elections more about merit than money.

"We feel that it has merit and some are rather concerned about it how it's going to affect some of the legislator's races in the future, and of course, there's always the question of if there's sufficient revenue to take care of that particular problem," said House Speaker Joseph Souki, before adding it would allow for more participation in the election process.

HB 1481, House Draft 2 passed with Representative(s) Hanohano, Jordan, McKelvey, Tokioka voting aye with reservations; Representative(s) Fale, Har, Oshiro voting no (3) and none excused (0).

Another bill Representatives will be closely watching is House Bill 321, which would allow for same-day voter registration. Supporters say they hope it will improve voter turnout, which has been one of the lowest in the nation.  Advocates also believe it will significantly increase the number of minorities who turn up at polling sites.
Houe Bill 321 passed with Representative(s) Cheape, Fale, Fukumoto, Har, Ichiyama, Kawakami, Oshiro, Say, Tokioka, Tsuji, Ward voting aye with reservations; Representative(s) Coffman voting no (1) and none excused (0).
A proposal to grown industrial hemp, which passed unanimously in the House, has already been referred to the Senate's Agriculture committee. Representative Cynthia Thielen, who co-authored House Bill 154, believes it has the support it needs.

"Once people realize that industrial hemp is not a drug, it will 25-thousand things and products but it won't get you high," said Representative Thielen, before describing how the plant pulls contaminants from the soil and can be harvested for bio fuel and hemp crete, a fire-retardant and termite-proof building material.

Another bill that's expected to move through the Senate is a solar tax credit compromise aimed at keeping renewable energy affordable without risking a balanced state budget.

"It's gonna be a gradual step down that's going to be able to allow people to continue to put solar on their roofs today and as the cost of solar panels and everything else decreases in the future the solar credit will ramp down to match that," said Representative Chris Lee, who co-authored House Bill 497.

Often similar bills are introduced in both the House and Senate. This year, both chambers passed legislation that would require sexual assault victims access to emergency contraception.  They also both forwarded along a green infrastructure financing bill that would eliminate the high up front costs for solar and other renewable energies by allowing customers to repay loans on their electric bills over time.

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