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West Maui lawmakers discuss priorities for upcoming legislative session

By Staff | Jan 15, 2015

LAHAINA – The State of Hawaii’s 28th Legislature convenes on Jan. 21 on Oahu, and the clock starts ticking on the 2015 Legislative Session.

South and West Maui Sen. Roz Baker and Rep. Angus McKelvey met with constituents in Lahaina on Saturday, Jan. 10, at the West Maui Kaunoa Senior Center to explain how to navigate successfully through the heavily trafficked legislative process and avoid gridlock.

It’s a fast-paced and complicated business introducing a bill, so be aware of the deadlines.

The 2015 calendar is posted at www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2015/docs/SessionCalendar.pdf.

“Bills can only be initiated by legislators,” Baker advised.

Once introduced and filed, bills are assigned a number.

The introduction and filing process begins on Jan. 21, and the “bill intro cutoff date is January 29,” according to the state timetable.

“There’s about 3,000 bills introduced every session,” the House lawmaker added. “Pretty much anything you can think of will be introduced, but in the end… very few bills make it out in spite of all the bills being introduced.”

“It is a very long process. There are more ways to kill a bill than to pass it,” McKelvey observed.

Both lawmakers advocated for using the state website (capitol.hawaii.gov) as an effective tool to track measures and provide testimony.

“You need to set up an account with the website. That’s how they can communicate with you. It makes it easy to submit testimony. Once you set up an account, it’s one click to submit testimony,” McKelvey commented.

Archives are available as well, “so you can see the bills that did or did not make the past sessions,” Baker added.

There were about a dozen citizens attending the meeting last weekend.

Lee and Saman Dias of Kahana are the owners of Pedego, an electric bike company – sales, rentals and tours.

A measure will be introduced on their behalf.

“Their bill is to basically conform state law to federal law for electric bicycles, so they can be used on the highways; and making it clear they are not motorcycles or mopeds, which seems to be the issue,” Baker said.

Peggy Robertson is very concerned about a concealed weapons bill that will be introduced during the upcoming session by Sen. Mike Gabbard (Senate District 20).

“I feel so safe that we don’t have any law like that in Hawaii,” Robertson said.

She urged the community to call Gabbard’s office at (808) 586-6830 in protest of the legislation.

Baker is hopeful that this bill would crash and dive.

“We have pretty strict gun laws here, and I don’t see any traction in this state for a right to carry a concealed weapon,” she commented.

Dr. Stuart Kahan of Lahaina asked for an update on medical marijuana issues.

McKelvey was positive: “The decriminalization of marijuana is the priority of the House this year. In particular,” McKelvey remarked, “the Speaker of the House, Joe Souki, wants to see a (decriminalization) bill passed this year.”

Sen. Baker was a member of the Marijuana Dispensary Task Force. She recognized the diversity of the committee’s makeup.

“There was law enforcement and the attorney general. There was transportation; there was narcotics; there was Drug-Free Hawaii. There were advocacy groups for use of medical marijuana, and there were all kinds of people engaged and involved, so it was a pretty good representative sample of the community. The task force report will be posted on our website when it comes out, so people will have an opportunity to read it,” she said.

“There would be lots of rules and regulations for the growers, the growing centers and the dispensaries,” Baker advised, “both from a health and safety point of view and also from wanting to make sure that the people engaged in this business know there is going to be heavy-duty license fees, annual registration and inspections.”

The legislators have priorities.

Baker’s major concern is Maui Memorial Medical Center. The goal is solvency. The fiscal health of the facility directly impacts West Maui as well as all of Maui, she said.

“It’s time to act,” she stressed. “I’ve asked Governor Ige to consider sending us an emergency appropriation. The legislature cannot initiate emergency appropriations in the current fiscal year. That can only come from the governor. I believe he is favorably inclined, because that’s gonna make a huge difference,” she said.

Honolua Bay/Lipoa Point is near and dear to the heart and soul of the West Side lawmaker-surfer.

“For me to have funding for a full blown EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and CIS (Cultural Impact Statement) to go along with the public planning process is critical,” McKelvey said.

“The bill is just a starting point for the conversation. That is really important, so that group has legal support, staff support as well as the expertise to do the EIS. It is going to be all public-driven every step of the way, but nothing is going to happen at all except for just the bare bones to keep it open,” he assured.

There are other important matters on the chamber floor this year, such as protecting Kahoolawe, the invasive species pilot project, more classrooms for West Side elementary school students and the West Maui Hospital.

Baker and McKelvey are accessible and responsive.

E-mail is an effective communication tool.

“You would be amazed how our colleagues respond to e-mail,” Baker said.

Baker, chair of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, can be reached toll-free at 984-2400, extension 66070, or at senbaker@capitol.hawaii.gov.

McKelvey is the chair of Consumer Protection and Commerce. His e-mail address is repmckelvey@capitol.hawaii .gov, or call him at (808) 586-6160.

“Where really the rubber hits the road is with you guys – with the public’s involvement. If the measure doesn’t get any public support or testimony, that’s usually the one that will be deferred or die,” McKelvey reasoned.