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Legislature passes historic bills on taxation, housing, healthcare

Photo by Charley Myers

Important bills backed by Grassroot — including a big tax cut — received legislative approval and now go to Gov. Josh Green

The Hawaii State Legislature formally concludes its 2024 session today, having passed a flurry of bills supported by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii that aim to lower taxes, remove red tape for housing and improve healthcare access.

Perhaps most important — and sure to be signed by Gov. Josh Green since it was his idea — was HB2404, aka the Green Affordability Plan 2.0, which garnered unanimous support in both the House and Senate.

House Finance Committee Chairman Kyle Yamashita said it will be the biggest tax cut in state history, and the state Department of Taxation issued figures showing that by 2031, it will lower the taxes of a median-income family of four by 69%.

One of the most highly debated of the bills was SB3202, intended to provide more affordable housing options. If signed by Green, it will require the counties to allow at least two accessory dwelling units on all qualifying residential lots.

After facing late but stiff opposition from NIMBY (not in my backyard) forces, the bill cleared the necessary legislative hurdles, passing the House by a narrow margin of 29 to 22 and the Senate 16 to 9.

A housing bill that everybody endorsed was HB2090, which stands to remove bureaucratic red tape for mixed-use and adaptive-reuse housing projects. This measure, which also gained unanimous approval in both chambers, is poised to expedite development projects, offering immediate relief to initiatives waiting for the proper permits and approvals.

Henry Honorof, director of the national pro-housing group Welcoming Neighbors Network, said in an email to Grassroot and other local groups that these two measures are likely the first major pro-housing zoning reform bills passed by state legislators in the country this year.

Another bill unanimously approved Wednesday was SB1035, which aims to exempt private practice doctors and dentists from paying the state general excise tax on care covered by Medicaid, Medicare and TRICARE — a great victory for improving healthcare access in the islands.

Lawmakers also passed SB63, which would grant temporary six-month licensure to nurses looking to move to Hawaii, and which also would bolster Hawaii’s healthcare access.

Numerous individuals, groups and organizations were instrumental in getting many of these bills across the finish line — including the many lawmakers who demonstrated their commitment to addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing the state and removing barriers to Hawaii’s prosperity.

Green has until July 10 to approve or veto these bills. Anything he doesn’t sign or veto by that date will automatically become law.

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