Tuesday | October 17, 2017
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Hawaii finance committees approve dozens of bills

HONOLULU — The state Senate Ways and Means Committee is advancing a proposal that would make it easier for people to rock-climb in Hawaii, one of some 150 bills the committee considered in a two-day sprint ending Friday.

Many of the proposals sailed through, with the body’s only Republican acting as a lone voice of dissent.

Sen. Slam Slom challenged a bill to increase the fee for solid waste left in landfills or shipped out of state.

“All we can think of is taxing and penalizing people more, so I’ll be voting no,” Slom said.

He also opposed the governor’s proposal to make dietary supplements subject to the same recycling fee as other drinks. He said he couldn’t see how the bill jibes with the governor’s other proposal to tax sugary drinks to decrease obesity.

“Now which is it? Fat or thin?” he said.

The committee approved both bills.

The senators also advanced a proposal to make it easier for people to do extreme sports in Hawaii by limiting the state’s liability for people involved in rock climbing, mountain climbing and rappelling on government land.

Advocates say their ability to exercise and enjoy Hawaii’s beauty through climbing is being hindered by the state’s fear of lawsuits.

The committee pushed forward a bill Thursday allowing the state to partner with private companies to develop public school land. The proposal has been criticized as an offshoot of the state’s land agency that has the power to develop public land without regard to county rules, much to the anger of county leaders.

The committee also advanced a bill providing affordable loans for green energy infrastructure and a bill to decrease the liquor tax for local breweries.

Senators deferred several important measures until next week, including proposals to reform the University of Hawaii, a bill to lower renewable energy tax credits and the governor’s proposal to create a statewide preschool program.

The committee’s counterpart in the House has also been reviewing dozens of bills this week.

The House Committee on Finance is considering Friday proposals to add a fee to single-use checkout bags and require labeling on some genetically modified food.

The representatives also heard testimony Friday about a proposal to increase the minimum wage.

The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce opposes the move along with local businesses, which worry about the potential impact on bottom line.