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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 9, 2006

Emergency flood aid, affordable housing gain steam

Advertiser staff

The money committees in both chambers had a busy week as they heard dozens of bills in advance of a key deadline on Friday.

Still alive are bills that could raise monthly welfare payments, provide housing assistance to those who will be affected by the Del Monte Fresh Produce closure and give a tax credit to Manoa flood victims.

Senators on the Ways and Means Committee heard requests to add $20 million in emergency flood assistance to the $14.3 million already proposed by the governor and passed by the House. The committee kept the bill alive, and lawmakers in both chambers will settle on a final amount in the coming weeks.

The Ways and Means Committee also pulled $10 million for harbor improvements meant to help the Hawai'i Superferry, but could return the money in conference committee if the company adequately answers lawmakers' questions.

Impassioned pleas by some local dirt-track fans have so far failed to kill a bill that would give a $50 million tax credit to investors wanting to build a world-class racetrack here. While many in Hawai'i support a new motorsports complex, some dirt-track regulars worry that a new track will not accommodate their needs. A dozen House members spoke against the bill on the floor on Friday, in advance of the crossover vote on Tuesday.

KEY ISSUES

Education: The House Finance Committee advanced for further discussion a bill that would allow substitute teachers to form their own collective bargaining unit.

Alternative energy: The House Finance Committee passed with amendments the Senate's affordable housing package, ensuring that there are still two vehicles for the Legislature to promote renewable energy resources.

Affordable housing: In addition to considering bills to increase the number of affordable housing units around the state, the House Housing Committee will have an informational briefing at 9 a.m. Wednesday so those interested in building affordable homes can discuss strategies and resources.

Tax relief: A resolution calling for a study of state and county tax structures moved through the Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday but still has one more hurdle to clear the Senate Ways and Means Committee if it is to make the crossover deadline on Thursday. The original resolution was drafted by the community group Democrats for Real Property Tax Fairness.

OVERHEARD

"It is not the government's job to subsidize racetracks."

Rep. Brian Schatz, D-25th (Makiki, Tantalus), on a bill that would give a $50 million tax credit to those who invest in a new motorsports complex

COMING UP

  • Thursday is "second crossover" when the chambers will again exchange the bills they want to keep alive. The House and Senate will vote on the last of these bills on Tuesday, in floor sessions that start earlier than usual: 8:30 a.m. in the House and 10 a.m. in the Senate.

  • John Garibaldi, chief executive officer of Hawai'i Superferry, will brief lawmakers on Superferry initiatives at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The hearing will be broadcast live on Channel 49.

    Have a tip for the Capitol bureau? Call 525-8070 or e-mail ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com or tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.


    Correction: The House Finance Committee last week passed with amendments the Senate's alternative energy package, ensuring there are two vehicles for the Legislature to promote renewable energy resources. Information in a previous version of this story was incorrect.