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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 1, 2006

New laws start today

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer


Laws also going into effect today:

  • Require commercial and passenger-carrying vehicles to have a safety inspection the same month that their vehicle registration is issued.

  • Allow landlord-tenant disputes to be handled completely in regular claims court, instead of having to file separately in small claims court for security deposits.

  • Authorize an alternative nonjudicial process for timeshare owners who have fallen behind or defaulted in payments.

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    Workers earning the minimum wage will get a 50-cent raise today to $6.75, the first of two increases that will raise the state's hourly minimum wage $1 by 2007.

    Other laws going into effect today will give drivers more time to pay for traffic tickets and will change the way candidates for public office raise money for campaigns and disclose their finances.

    In all, seven laws passed by the state Legislature last year go into effect today, with three more to follow in the coming weeks.

    The traffic-ticket law will give offenders three weeks, rather than 15 days, to pay their fines. Those with credit and debit cards also can save time and postage by filing over the phone or Internet.

    While several people said the six-day extension would not make much of a difference, the alternative payment options are welcomed.

    As Cary Kondo of Hawai'i Kai put it, "Any way you don't have to go in person to pay is helpful."

    Kondo's 17-year-old son, Grant, was more affected by another law that will not go into effect until Jan. 9: a graduated driver's license for teens that will prevent them from earning full driving privileges until they are at least 17.

    Grant was taking a road test for a regular driver's license on Friday. As of Jan. 9, however, he would have to get a provisional license for 180 days first, which would limit him from carrying other minors or driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a licensed parent or guardian in the car.

    But Grant was more motivated by getting a license before he returns to school from vacation than he was about slipping in under the law. "It's not too bad," he said about the upcoming changes.

    Cary Kondo said even without the law, he didn't plan to allow Grant to drive during those hours.

    "That's his restrictions anyway," Cary Kondo said.

    Gloria Hong, 16, arrived at the Kalihi driver's licensing station at 5 a.m. on Friday to try to get a road test that afternoon. She said she wanted to get a regular license before the law took effect, but in reality, it would not make much of a difference, since her parents will not let her drive unaccompanied until she is more experienced anyway.

    "I just want to get this out of the way," she said.

    Two other laws will take effect on Jan. 18, the opening day of the 2006 Legislature. They increase the legislator allowance from $5,000 to $7,500, as well as increase the daily allowance for lawmakers traveling on official business.

    Legislators running for re-election will find campaigning this year a little different under a reform bill they passed last session that will affect everyone seeking office:

  • Candidates will be prohibited from fundraising on state or county property unless the facility permits public use for a reservation or a fee.

  • Campaign contributions from nonresidents will be limited to 20 percent of all contributions for each filing period.

  • Government contractors will not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns.

  • All candidates will have to file their campaign spending reports electronically.

    "Certainly, anyone who is a candidate will be affected," said Linda Smith, the governor's senior policy adviser.

    The governor and some other officials already had been required to file electronically, but it was optional for those holding other offices.

    Gov. Linda Lingle stepped up her Mainland fundraising efforts in the past few months, before the cap on Mainland contributions sets in, although fundraising outside the state won't stop just because the limit is in place.

    "The cap would be applicable each time a candidate files their report with the Campaign Spending Commission," Smith said.

    Those already in office will also see changes in the way they disclose their finances, including a required "exit" disclosure when leaving office, reporting of ownership and interests of business outside of as well as within Hawai'i, and greater privacy by allowing everyone required to file financial disclosures to withhold their home addresses. This includes state officials, employees, board and commission members, and delegates to the constitutional convention.

    Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.