Many good bills at Legislature still alive, many bad ones killed

Lawmakers are now halfway through the 2023 legislative session and quite a few bills supported by the Grasssroot Institute of Hawaii made it past the “crossover” deadline, which is when the House and Senate exchange the bills they like — and leave the ones they don’t like behind.

Ted Kefalas, Institute director of strategic campaigns, said the good bills still alive include:

>> Much of Gov. Josh Green‘s tax plan, the “Green Affordability Plan,” as embodied in bills such as HB493, HB954and HB1049, which if approved in full would comprise the largest tax cut in state history.

>> SB1035 which would remove the GET from medical services paid for by Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE patients. These bills are narrower in scope than another bill that unfortunately died that would have removed the GET from all medical services, but if signed into law they would still be a positive step forward.

>> SB674, which would allow certified doctors from other states to practice in Hawaii and help alleviate the state’s doctor shortage. Similar bills were approved for other medical professionals, though they were amended to only create working groups to study the issue.

>> HB719, which would improve government transparency by reducing fees to access public records.

>> SB767 and HB522, which would limit the governor’s emergency powers. Under current law, the governor can suspend public records requests as well as electronic communications during an emergency.

>> HB670 and SB937, which would make it easier to get approval from the state Land Use Commission to construct new homes.

>> HB814, which would allow charitable organizations such as churches to build homes on their own properties.

>> SB756, the so-called “cottage foods” bill, which would help entrepreneurs get started by removing regulations preventing people from selling homemade food.

Regarding the many bills that did not “cross over,” a lot of them deserved to be stopped in their tracks. They included most of the major tax-hike proposals, such as:

>> An increase in the capital gains tax that likely would have discouraged business investment.

>> A logistically complicated wealth-asset tax that likely would have driven people and businesses out of Hawaii.

>> A increase in the state carbon tax that would have pushed the price of gasoline up by more than 70 cents a gallon.

>> A bill that would have more than doubled the state transient accommodation tax on short-term vacation rentals to 25%.

>> An increase in the withholding rate for nonresidents selling real property to 75%.

The Grassroot Institute testified against all of these bills, although two or three other tax bills that could cause great damage still are in the hopper.

Legislation the Institute supported that did not make the crossover deadline included:

>> Various proposals to exempt groceries from the state general excise tax. Getting rid of the GET on groceries would have been a simple, specific action that lawmakers could have taken to immediately lower the cost of food. Instead, they let the bills die in committee without even giving them an up-or-down floor vote.

>> Two bills that would have helped fix the state’s housing shortage by allowing more construction of duplex, triplex, and fourplex housing. The bills didn’t even get a hearing.

>> A bill that would have lowered the price drivers pay at the pump by temporarily suspending the state’s gasoline tax of 16 cents a gallon.

>> A bill that would have reformed Hawaii’s abusive civil asset forfeiture laws.

Kefalas said that despite some of the good measures dying, the outlook for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session is bright.

“There is a lot to be optimistic about this session with so many surviving bills aimed at lowering the cost of living, removing regulations and increasing government transparency. Of course, some great ideas didn’t make it, but we are glad that lawmakers killed a lot of bad bills.”

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