Legislature wrap up: what bills survived

KITV - April 27, 2018
Brenton Awa

All of their work this legislative session came down to today.

Some lawmakers watched as their bills were shelved, put off for another year, others saw them die.

Bills that passed conference today means it's only missing the governor's signature from becoming law.

One of the big bills throughout the entire session has been how to help the homeless. Lawmakers agreed to put millions of dollars towards the issue just a few hours ago.

"I think this is the greatest year ever for the Hawaii State Legislature in dealing with homeless and affordable housing," Rep. John Mizuno said.

The $50 million includes $30 million in state funds to the Governor's office to create "Ohana Zones" or "Safe Zones" to give the homeless a place they can live without fear of having to constantly move due to "sweeps."

"The governor and his team would be out of their mind not to accept this opportunity of $30 million to solve the homeless crisis," Sen. Josh Green said.

Lawmakers say three safe zone sites would be located on Oahu, one on Kauai, another on Maui and one on Hawaii Island. Lawmakers also told Island News the Ohana Zones could include hygiene centers, secure dwelling places and support services. It's been ten years in the making for this bill.

A care homes bill also passed, focusing on unlicensed operations, which will soon be prohibited. This bill puts regulation on those unlicensed homes. It also allows the Department of Health to investigate care facilities reported to be operating without appropriate certificates or licenses. There are more than 2000 licensed care homes in Hawaii. Some of them said they were contemplating giving up their licenses and providing illegal underground care if this bill didn't pass.

"We did the right thing, this is two words, consumer protection," Mizuno said.

Getting paid to take family leave, supporters of this bill were hoping for six weeks of paid time off for family care. The bill that passed calls for a study so state lawmakers can determine how to better set up a paid family leave program for the State of Hawaii. The study is a precursor to creating a program. Lawmakers want to make sure they know how mandating paid time off will affect both employers and employees before implementing any new standards.

"You want to make sure you do this right so at the end of the day, people can get the progressive leads they need at a cost that is right for the taxpayer," Sen. Jill Tokuda said.

An equal pay bill passed just before that, it would prohibit employers from asking a job applicant's wage or salary history during a job application process. It also prohibits wage secrecy meaning lawmakers want employees to know what each other are making to help close the gap.

A major bill on pesticides also passed. Hawaii could become the first state ever to ban a type of pesticide chemical called chlorpyrifos. The bill is meant to protect people from the effects of pesticides. It would require disclosure of who is spraying what chemicals and where. It also creates a buffer zone of 100 feet around schools where no one would be able to spray chemicals during school hours.

"It's a good first step compared to being able to spray anything you want right outside the window while the kids are in there, it's protecting our kids," Sen. Russell Ruderman said.

The chemicals we put on our skin when heading to the beach will likely have to be redeveloped. Lawmakers voted to ban all sunscreens containing oxybenzone. The ban goes into effect in 2021. Island News was told 95 percent of all sunscreens contain the chemical.

"This is huge and it's another example of Hawaii setting the standard for taking care of marine life as well as human life," Sen. Mike Gabbard said.

To the roads, illegally passing a school bus in the near future will result in a more costly fine. Lawmakers have agreed on a bill to increase the fine for passing a school bus while it's stopped and using it's hazard lights from $500 to $1000.