Welcome to Capitol Watch. The Hawaii Legislature is in full swing and Gov. Neil Abercrombie is delivering straight talk that’s not always welcome. Civil Beat is reporting on all of it.

HTA Again Invokes Marketing Secrecy

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has scheduled a regular board meeting at 8:30 a.m. at the Hawaii Convention Center.

The agenda includes discussion of the HTA’s strategic initiatives “in response to the competitive tourism market,” as a meeting notice states.

HTA plans to go into executive session — i.e., no public or media allowed — for that discussion, believing that talking in public could hurt Hawaii’s visitor industry.

It’s not the first time HTA has gone into executive session, by the way, and it won’t be the last. HTA thinks such practice has helped the state enjoy nine consecutive months of double-digit increases in overall visitor spending, including $1.2 billion in January.

Lawmakers Plan Big Isle Trip

Malama Solomon is taking several other state senators and two representatives to the Big Island over the weekend for “a fast paced, two-day informational site visit,” according to a press release.

Legislators expected to participate in the site visit include Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, Sen. Clarence Nishihara, Sen. Gilbert Kahele, Sen. Pohai Ryan, Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland and Sen. Glenn Wakai, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Technology. Also participating will be Rep. Jerry Chang and Clift Tsuji, who, like Solomon, represent the Big Island.

Cabinet and administration members joining the tour are Big Island Russell Kokubun and Guy Kaulukukui

The group will visit Kamuela Vacuum Cooling Plant, the telescopes on Mauna Kea, Puna Geothermal Venture’s power plant in Pohoiki, Kanoelehua Industrial Area Association, Green Point Nursery, Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, Hu Honua bioenergy power plant in Pepeekeo and Hamakua Springs Farms.

Bills: Taxes, Benefits and Revenue

House Finance has a lengthy list of bills to hear, many of them affecting benefits to government workers, taxes and revenue streams. All the hearings are in Conference Room 308:

• At 10 a.m. the agenda includes bills making adjustments to the Employees’ Retirement System and the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund.

• At 11 a.m. the agenda includes bills dealing with the conveyance tax, income tax business and itemized deductions and high technology business investment tax credits.

• At 12:30 p.m. the agenda includes bills levying the GET on out-of-state business that sell on the Internet and raiding the Hurricane Relief Fund.

• At 3 p.m. the agenda includes increasing the motor vehicle registration fee, vehicle weight tax and the liquid fuel tax.

• At 4 p.m. the agenda includes more tweaking of the conveyance tax and requiring the DLNR to consider the sale or exchange of Sand Island parcels to leaseholders.

• At 5 p.m. — yes, 5 p.m. — the agenda includes bills imposing the TAT on resort fees and increasing the time share TAT rate.

• At 6 p.m. — yes, 6 p.m. — the bills include measures that would temporarily suspend some GET exemptions, impose the GET on a life insurance policy settlement, ask the Taxation Department to evaluate some tax credits and exemptions that could lead to their repeal, and increase the liquor tax.

Bills: Electric Guns

House Judiciary will hear, at 2 p.m. in Conference Room 325, two bills regarding the use of electronic guns.

House Bill 551 permits county liquor authority investigators to possess electric guns. The bill is not clear on what an “electric gun” is, but we presume it refers to a taser or stun gun.

House Bill 1107 authorizes the Hawaii National Guard to use non-lethal weapons, including electric guns, “when assisting civil authorities in disaster relief, civil defense, or law enforcement functions.”

Bills: Childhood Obesity

Senate Ways and Means has a whole bunch of bills to hear tomorrow, including Senate Bill 1506, which establishes a childhood obesity pilot program.

SB 1506 will be heard by WAM at a hearing that begins at 9 a.m. in Conference Room 211.

Bills: Consumer Complaints

House Judiciary — the committee with the extremely long agenda (see above) will also find time to hear House Bill 1141, which “clarifies circumstances under which complaints submitted to agencies shall be made available to the public.”

Common Cause Hawaii says HB 1411 “would hide consumer complaints from the public.”

Other opponents include the Office of Information Practices, DCCA and Kokua Council. The bill is supported by the Hawaii Dental Association, Building Industry Association of Hawaii, Hawaii Association of Realtors and Hawaii Lumber Products Association.

The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. in Conference Room 325.


Catch up on our previous week’s coverage:

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