Published in The Maui News, September 4, 2016
By MIKE VICTORINO, for The Maui News
With more than four months to prepare, county council members throughout Hawaii will make every effort to keep counties’ priorities top of mind during the 2017 state legislative session.
The Maui County Council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee will consider state bills to include in the Hawaii State Association of Counties’ 2017 legislative package on Tuesday at 9 a.m. As chair of the committee and president of HSAC, I’m helping to compile the package.
A bill that would return to the counties a fair share of revenue from the transient accommodations tax is on the agenda. As recently reported in The Maui News (“State has record $1 billion surplus,” Aug. 28), the state government has an unprecedented cash surplus, which strengthens the case for the counties to receive more TAT revenue.
Another bill would give council members a seat at the table in negotiations for new labor contracts with county workers. With most collective-bargaining agreements expiring next year, a new round of negotiations is already underway.
The councils are counted on to fund collective-bargaining agreements. It’s prudent for council members to know the status of labor negotiations so they can make sound budget decisions.
Sunshine Law reform is again being contemplated. The committee will consider the reintroduction of a bill from the 2016 HSAC package to allow council members to attend public educational meetings, while another bill would allow council members to transmit government records to their colleagues without legal risk.
The committee will also debate whether HSAC should formally seek $250,000 in state funding to help identify important agricultural lands. Another bill proposed for the HSAC package would encourage the state Land Use Commission to work with the counties after general plan updates to promote consistency in land use designations.
A proposal to allow individuals to indicate their disabilities on driver’s licenses or state identification cards was part of the 2016 HSAC package. A revised version of the bill – incorporating suggestions contained in testimony submitted to the Legislature – may be included in the counties’ package of bills again.
Having disabilities listed on an official government identification card would allow convenient access to certain public services and provide relevant information to medical personnel in case of emergency. Illinois and New Jersey have enacted similar legislation.
Other possible HSAC package bills would allow for automatic voter registration for driver’s license applicants for driver’s licenses and fund counties’ affordable-housing programs through a 1 percent conveyance tax on residential properties sold for more than $700,000.
Any state bill the committee recommends for inclusion in the HSAC package will be reviewed again at the council meeting of Sept. 16. The HSAC executive committee will receive proposals from the four county councils, and then send the slate back to all the councils for final approval, ideally in October. Unanimous support by all four councils is required for a bill to be in the HSAC package.
Early adoption of the 2017 HSAC legislative package will allow council members sufficient time to educate the public, the media and legislators about the counties’ goals well in advance of the Legislature’s opening day on Jan. 18, 2017.
Testimony for Tuesday morning’s meeting may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Mike Victorino is president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties, presiding officer pro tempore of the Maui County Council and chair of the council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. He holds the council seat for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.