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Community support is critical in moving state bills

CHAIR’S 3 MINUTES

In last Sunday’s column, I made a case for the counties to receive a greater share of the transient accommodations tax, also known as TAT or hotel room tax, to cover the increasing costs of services for environmental protection, police, fire, roads and parks maintenance.

I continue to urge Maui County residents to contact

their state legislators to support both House Bill 317 and Senate Bill 1290, which would increase the counties’ share of the TAT. I also urge all to strongly oppose HB 1586, which would phase out and eliminate the counties’ share of the tax.

Community support is critical at this juncture, as March 9 is an important legislative deadline for the first crossover. This is when a bill must pass final reading from its committee and move, or “cross over,” to the other chamber. Successful House bills are sent to the Senate and Senate bills are sent to the House for further consideration.

The majority of bills introduced at the start of the legislative session will not make it past this point and will not be considered any further.

Aside from TAT bills, other notable bills I continue to track include HB 1410, which originally proposed transferring the regulation of ambulance services from the state Department of Health to the counties and allocate a portion of the TAT for ambulance regulation and operation.

This measure has since been turned into a pilot program, but the concept of using TAT funds instead of the state fully funding ambulance services is still being proposed. The current structure and relationship between the county and state with Emergency Medical Services has worked well and should not be altered. This is why I urge our legislators to defer HB 1410.

Another bill I’m monitoring is HB 1359, which would allow each county to enact and enforce ordinances to prevent, investigate, control or eradicate invasive species on any public or private premises.

Currently, the county works closely with the Maui Invasive Species Committee in the fight against invasive threats to native plants and the fragile ecosystem. At times, MISC is hampered by its inability to access private property where invasive species are reported. Providing this access, following necessary notice requirements, will help avoid costly and time-consuming processes, such as securing warrants through the courts to gain property access.

This tool is critical for counties to be true partners in the fight against invasive species and to fulfill the broader goal of preserving the environment for future generations. I urge support for HB 1359.

I encourage you to continue monitoring what is taking place at the state Legislature. Go to mauicounty.us/2017statelegfor copies of testimony I’ve submitted and you can easily track state bills at capitol.hawaii.gov.

In other news, the process of reviewing the Molokai Community Plan has begun. The Planning Committee, chaired by County Council Member Kelly King, is working on a timeline to gather community input and has proposed the review to be completed by the end of 2017.

The Molokai Community Plan is the second of nine plans the council needs to review.

Public input is critical at these community plan meetings and is encouraged.

For more information on council and committee meetings, visit mauicounty.us.

* Mike White is chair 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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