Important county bills moving at Legislature

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

Although this past week has been relatively quiet for the Maui County Council, I have been closely monitoring many bills being scheduled for consideration at the state Legislature with potential impact on the counties.

Two important bills are Senate Bills 2963 and 2999, relating to taxing online brokers such as AirBnb, Homeaway and VRBO.

These online brokers have played a big role in the prevalence of illegal transient vacation rentals. Estimates suggest that thousands of illegal units are operating throughout the state, with over $100 million in general excise tax and transient accommodations tax going uncollected.   

At the current time, the counties have severe difficulty in preventing illegal listings. Operators conceal their rental locations and are not required to prove compliance with local ordinances. By ignoring these concerns, online brokers continue to facilitate the breaking of both county and state laws. 

The proposed bills create a clear process for the collection of taxes and require compliance with all pertinent land use and tax laws.

Key contact information on operators will also be available to the state and counties, but the Legislature needs to amend the bills to notify the counties when an online operator registers with the state to help promote quicker county enforcement efforts.

These bills are critical in assisting Maui County in maintaining the character of residential neighborhoods and ensuring all short-term rentals are included in the county’s short-term rental cap.

SB 2245 and 2888 are also being monitored closely, as they provide specific funds for both the Lahaina and Paia bypasses, respectively. These areas continue to experience heavy traffic that only gets worse year after year. The Senate Transportation Committee passed both measures, but they now face a hurdle in being scheduled before the Senate Ways and Means Committee. 

Public support of these two measures is important to ensure legislators who may not know of these Maui-specific issues will help to move the bills along.

Bus riders may also be unaware that the county has received a formal notice that the lease for the current transit hub at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center will expire and the premises must be vacated by Jan. 31, 2020.

As a result, SB 2255 was introduced to obtain state assistance in the issuance of general obligation bonds and funds for the planning, design and construction of a new central Maui transit hub. The transit hub is planned to be co-located adjacent to the Kane Street Affordable Housing project near Queen Ka’ahumanu Center and will be a part of a transit-oriented development.

Aside from transportation, creating affordable housing remains a top priority. Demand is far outpacing supply and creative solutions and resources are needed for each county to uniquely address the dire shortage of housing. 

House Bills 1683, 1786, and SB 2188 propose placing an additional conveyance tax rate on the sale of certain condominiums or single-family residences over $2 million in value and allocating the revenue collected to the respective county’s affordable housing fund.

Without a drastic change in the way affordable housing is supported, the ongoing housing supply crisis will not be resolved.

This proposal adds another tool to supplement the counties’ current efforts and will help to purchase existing housing units and other interests in real property, and will allow for investment in public infrastructure.

Literally thousands of bills are pending before the Legislature and I encourage you to stay engaged. Your voice is needed to ensure that the needs of Maui County residents are properly addressed. View all bills at capitol.hawaii.gov and read testimony from the Maui County Council at mauicounty.us/2018stateleg.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is chairman of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao 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. 

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