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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 26, 2006

Coalition urging passage of expanded smoking ban

By Derrick DePledge and Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writers

The Legislature is in the midst of a five-day recess. It will reconvene Thursday for the 24th day of the session.

Anti-tobacco advocates last week lobbied lawmakers to pass a bill that would ban smoking in workplaces and public places. About 150 members of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai'i testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and visited other lawmakers to generate support.

The Judiciary Committee passed the bill (Senate Bill 3262), which is now likely to cross over to the House. Rep. Sylvia Luke, who did not hear the companion bill in the House, will decide whether to hear the Senate version.

Another bill that could generate some debate on the Senate floor would repeal a law that makes criminal trespass a petty misdemeanor. Those in favor of the bill argue that the current law criminalizes homelessness at a time when the Legislature is seeking remedies to the homeless problem.

However, those who oppose repealing the law say that to do so would take away law enforcement's power to prevent the homeless from "squatting" on public property.

After hearing a number of bills this week, the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees will be deciding the fate of many budget-related bills.

ISSUE WATCH

Education: The House Finance Committee will hear a number of bills related to education at 3 p.m. tomorrow, including those that would provide money to the public schools and the University of Hawai'i for repair and maintenance and operations.

Affordable housing: While waiting for the Finance Committee to hear its bills, the House Housing Committee is waiting for approval to hold an informational briefing on innovative ideas people have come up with to help alleviate the affordable housing and homeless problems. The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hear affordable housing and homeless bills at a 9 a.m. hearing tomorrow.

Tax relief: Gov. Linda Lingle's proposals to provide tax relief by raising the standard deduction, widening the tax brackets and providing a refund are still alive in both chambers, but no hearing was scheduled as of Friday afternoon.

Alternative energy: The Senate Ways and Means Committee at 9 a.m. tomorrow will hear the bipartisan energy proposal backed by the administration and majority leaders.

OVERHEARD

"It matters. Those kinds of rebates matter to people who live paycheck to paycheck."

House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, R-32nd (Aliamanu, Airport, Mapunapuna), making the case for Gov. Linda Lingle's tax rebate.

COMING UP

By Friday, the "first decking" deadline, all bills that are to be considered for crossover to the other chamber must be ready for consideration on the House and Senate floors. Bills will cross over on March 9.

Have a tip for the Capitol Bureau? Call 525-8070 or e-mail depledge @honoluluadvertiser.com.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com and Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.