Hot-button issues of the Hawaii state legislature

Hot-button issues of the Hawaii state legislature
Published: Jan. 20, 2015 at 8:15 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2015 at 11:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wednesday marks the opening of the 2015 State Legislative session. Several hot-button issues will be taken by lawmakers.

State Senator Josh Green plans to introduce a bill on pesticide use and restrictions by February 1.

"All this bill does is it asks for us to have buffer zones around schools and health care facilities where we won't spray, and also transparency - who's using how much chemical," he said.

Green also said it'll be important to cleave the pesticide discussion from another polarizing topic; genetically modified organisms, or GMO's.

"I wanted to bring down the heat of the fight on GMO's. I wanted to find common ground and common sense legislation."

The Transient Accommodations Tax will be another hot topic. The tax is derived from income on hotel rooms, vacation rentals, and other short term rentals. The funds are then dispersed between the counties and the state.

"Last year the legislature capped the counties portions, which originally we should be getting 44.8%. With the cap, it really limits the funding we are receiving," said Hawaii State Association of Counties President Mel Rapozo.

An uphill fight is expected in getting more funding. However, those inside the issue say patience is key.

"If we get what they've promised for this year - we accept that, and look to next year to make the corrections in the percentages. So that's our hope, we're not going to press it real hard," said Maui County Councilman Mike Victorino.

One issue that will be pressed hard: a proposed extension of the half-percent general excise tax increase that's being used to fund rail, beyond the sunset date of 2022.

"It should not be extended. HART and the City have not been truthful to the taxpayers about the cost and the timing," said Republican State Senator Sam Slom.

The opening of the session begins at 9:45am. It is free and open to the public.

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