House and Senate pass bills to extend rail tax

Medical marijuana, homeless rights advance in Legislature
Updated: Mar. 10, 2015 at 8:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of bills passed out of the House and Senate on Tuesday, ahead of a key deadline. The measures now cross over from the chamber in which they originated to the other side.

Each chamber approved a measure to extend Honolulu's rail tax. Mayor Kirk Caldwell wanted the 0.5% General Excise Tax surcharge to be permanent to help deal with the project's $900 million shortfall. The Senate version, however, would only extend the funding for five additional years to 2027.

"I plead with my colleagues here to hear the pleas of the thousands of people who live on the west side. We suffer through this daily gridlock," said State Sen. Breene Harimoto (D-Pearl City).

"This should not be an argument about pro-rail or anti-rail. I'm not opposed to the completion of the project. I am opposed to giving them whatever they want," said State Senator Gil Riviere (D-Kaneohe, Hauula, Laie).

The House bill would make the surcharge permanent, but cut it in half to 0.25% in 2017. Both bills would allow neighbor island counties to create a similar GET surcharge.

The House also passed a measure to create at least 26 medical marijuana dispensaries across the state.

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