January 21, 1999
Contact:House Majority Staff Office
HOUSE DEMOCRATS TO FOCUS EFFORTS ON ECONOMIC REVIVAL
The members of the Democratic majority in the State House of Representatives today announced their package of initiatives that target long-term economic vitality as the focal point for the 1999 Legislative Session.
Majority Leader Rep. Ed Case (D - Manoa) said, "Our mandate is change. Our business climate and its ability to produce jobs for our people must come first. But to truly change our economy, we must also accelerate our efforts in all other areas – government operations, education, justice and public safety, healthy families and communities, and our environment."
The package represents a general consensus of the 39 members of the Democratic Caucus, Case said, and is the result of weeks of intense discussion. The proposals center on measured, long-term improvements to the structural facets of the economy – taxes, regulations and infrastructure – as well as addressing more immediate needs such as support for tourism, agriculture and small business.
The Majority also renewed its pledge to honor the Democrat’s "social contract" with the people by including specific measures that strengthen families and ensure the wellbeing of women, children, the elderly, the poor and the disabled.
House Speaker Calvin K. Y. Say (Palolo Valley-Kaimuki) reiterated his Opening Day remarks that the proposals represent a balanced approach. "It (House Majority Legislative Package) recognizes the primary of economic revival while remembering that government is defined by how well it cares for its neediest citizens," Say said.
Key economy-related items in the package include:
- Support efforts to reduce or eliminate the corporate income tax, the "pyramid" effect of the General Excise Tax (GET), and the GET on exported services;
- Implement tax credits on targeted industries as an incentive to generate economic activity;
- Remove obstacles to small business by fully effectuating the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1998 through funding of the Small Business Defender position and assuring establishment of the Small Business Regulatory Review Board;
- Disallow Workers’ Compensation claims for stress;
- Encourage improvements to tourism infrastructure by expanding tax credits for investments in hotel construction and renovation;
- Assist in the marketing and export of Hawaii-grown products through the Commodity Advisory Group;
- Authorize public-private partnerships for the development of public infrastructure projects; and
- Require the Employees Retirement System to make investments in economically targeted areas that directly benefit Hawaii.
The package also addresses crucial items relating to government efficiency, such as:
- Creation of a Task Force to review State laws on civil service, collective bargaining, benefits, arbitration and the right to strike, etc., and make recommendations to the 2000 Legislature;
- Explore ways to further privatize government services;
- Limit the amount of overtime pay used in calculating retirement benefits for public employees; and
- Fund the Office of the Legislative Analyst.
Other major initiatives to be pushed by the House Democrats include:
- Request specific performance standards and greater accountability from the Department of Education;
- Support an appointed Board of Education;
- Encourage more research activity at the University of Hawaii by removing barriers to entrepreneurial activities by researchers and others;
- Study the transfer of administration and operations of military base schools from the Department of Education to the federal government;
- Support the construction of a new prison;
- Strengthen penalties for repeat offenders;
- Provide carefully structured alternatives to incarceration;
- Re-institute landing fees at Honolulu International Airport and reimburse airlines when fee revenue exceeds requirements;
- Allow the state and counties to recover search and rescue costs;
- Reform elections by tightening candidates’ residency requirements; requiring the reporting of "last minute" campaign contributions; and minimize "soft money" contributions;
- Require employers to offer long-term care insurance to employees and allow state income tax deductions on premiums for long-term care insurance;
- Support the unanimous recommendations of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Living & Dying with Dignity;
- Expand health care coverage to uninsured low-income children through the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIPS);
- Create a special fund for health education and prevention with 50 percent of the monies resulting from the settlement with U.S. tobacco companies;
- Simplify the granting of temporary restraining orders to combat domestic violence and strengthen penalties for child abusers;
- Aggressively prevent and eradicate alien species by creating an Alien Species Coordinator;
- Provide the state Department of Land & Natural Resources with authority to implement flexible fisheries management; and
- Establish additional Marine Life Conservation Districts and fisheries management areas.
The entire package reflects the House Majority’s conclusion that economic health and core government services are interdependent – each relies heavily on the other.
A number of high-profile issues were not included the Majority Package because of the lack of a clear consensus, Case said. Some of the items include a statewide fireworks ban, same-gender marriage issues, and a settlement on ceded lands.
"Nonetheless," Case said, "the majority members of the House of Representatives, despite great diversity, are united by party affiliation and by the obligations of leadership."
House Speaker Say said he was pleased by the active participation of members in formulating the package and vowed to continue pressing for even more openness and constructive debate in the legislative process.
The 1999 Session of the 20th Hawaii Legislature opened January 20 and is scheduled to adjourn May 4.