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Council considers legislative priorities: Lifeguards, fees, fines, Juneteenth top list

Increasing several fees and fines, limiting lifeguard liability and adding Juneteenth to the list of 13 state holidays are among eight priorities Hawaii’s four counties plan to present to the state Legislature.

The legislative session doesn’t start until Jan. 19, but the Hawaii County Council is gearing up by approving the counties’ recommendations compiled by the Hawaii State Association of Counties. The council will vote on the HSAC package Wednesday, and also that day, hear from Mayor Mitch Roth’s administration on his particular priorities.

“I am very happy with this package because I think it was really well vetted. It was vetted at the council level and it was vetted at the HSAC executive committee,” said Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball, the county’s HSAC representative on the board. “Not everything that was supported by the councils made it through. … We were really selective about choosing things that we thought would be successful.”

Of the approved priorities, Hawaii County submitted one priority, the City and County of Honolulu submitted one, Maui submitted three and the HSAC executive board submitted three, according to Resolution 263, which is scheduled for its final reading at the council meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday. The package must be approved by all four counties before being represented to legislative leaders.

Roth’s administration is scheduled to address the council Committee on Governmental Operations, Relations and Economic Development at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz praised the process.

“This package is really representative of the issues the counties are sharing,” Kierkiewicz said. “These are all things we really care about.”

• A lifeguard liability bill has been a perennial priority for counties and is included in the current package. It would exempt lifeguards and the counties from liability in lawsuits as long as they didn’t arise from gross negligence. The priority was submitted by the HSAC board.

The state contracts with counties to provide lifeguard protection at the state’s busiest beaches. But the roughly 350 county lifeguards lost their liability protection in 2017, when a law expired that had protected them for the past 15 years.

Another perennial issue, changes to the state Sunshine Law to give county boards more flexibility, was not included in the HSAC package but is still under negotiations, Kimball said.

Other proposals in the package:

• Tourism impact fee: Assesses a climate change mitigation impact fee for tourism-related vehicles. (Submitted by Maui)

• Traffic fines: Authorizes counties to impose additional fines beyond the fines provided by the state to be applied to the counties where the violations occurred. (Submitted by Honolulu)

• Motor vehicle registration fees: Removes the $10 cap on the registration fee for highway beautification and disposal of abandoned vehicles. (Submitted by Hawaii County)

• Chop shops: Establishes criminal penalties for chop shop activities. (Submitted by Maui)

• Coastal Zone Management: Lowers the size threshold for homes that are considered a development under the Coastal Zone Management Act. (Submitted by Maui)

• Transient accommodations tax: Clarifies administration and enforcement of the county surcharge to the transient accommodations tax and authorizes the state to assist with administration. The bill responds to Gov. David Ige’s objections when he vetoed the bill allowing the county surcharge that has been overridden by the Legislature earlier this year. (Submitted by HSAC board)

• Juneteenth Day: Urges the governor and Legislature to make Juneteenth a state holiday or encourage government branches to grant administrative leave to observe Juneteenth. (Submitted by HSAC board)

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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