Lingle pops in for hearings on energy, housing issues
Today is Day 12 of the session. There are 48 days remaining in the session.
Gov. Linda Lingle made unexpected appearances last week at committee hearings, sitting in as lawmakers discussed alternative energy and affordable housing, two of the issues the Republican governor and majority Democrats have agreed are priorities for the session.
Lingle's visits down from the fifth floor, which were rare last session, were seen by some as another hint the governor is more willing to work with lawmakers in areas where they share common ground.
Lawmakers dived into hundreds of bills as the session had its first full week of hearings. Some of the interesting items to watch include a tax credit to help people afford long-term care and new steps to prepare the state for a natural disaster such as a hurricane.
Other talkers are bills that would put more restrictions on fireworks and ban smoking in public places.
Education: Lawmakers suggested they would likely help some of the public schools expected to lose money under a new student-spending formula that takes effect with the new school year this summer. But lawmakers remain committed to the formula — which is based on student need, rather than school enrollment — as a way to make school spending more transparent and equitable.
Affordable housing: Dozens of advocates for the homeless staged a rally at the Capitol to urge more spending for shelters and low-cost rental housing. Some advocates are encouraged that both Lingle and majority Democrats are interested in substantial spending increases for the homeless this session.
Tax relief: Insiders are now saying the fate of tax relief may be decided after the state Council on Revenues releases its next economic forecast in March. If the numbers for a budget surplus remain strong, expect more pressure for tax relief this session. If the numbers stagnate or decline, expect lawmakers to favor infrastructure improvements first.
Alternative energy: The Sierra Club and other environmental and Hawaiian groups released their conservation agenda for the session, which includes new investments in renewable energy, money to fight invasive species and stronger protections for beaches, farmland and historic sites.
Their priority is for the state to use local, renewable resources for 20 percent of electricity and transportation fuels by 2020.
"I thank you very much, deeply, from the root of my heart, because I believe this is what my mission is in life, to share this practice and to create a dialogue with others."
— Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a Buddhist and actor from the television show "Lost," who read the 23rd Psalm in a Senate invocation last Wednesday.
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