HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.B. NO.

6

THIRTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2021

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

relating to green fees.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


SECTION 1. The legislature finds that each year, Hawaii's reefs, oceans, beaches, and forests provide billions of dollars in value to the economy through tourism, supporting the wellbeing of our communities and visitors alike. For our tourism industry, our ecosystems are vital. Inseparable from our culture, our environment is integral to our visitor experience.

The legislature additionally finds that even though these natural resources are critical for the visitor industry and resident communities, Hawaii invests less than one per cent of its state budget into those assets. A recent study conducted by Conservation International, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental nonprofit, concluded that the State needs to spend at least $886,000,000 per year to preserve our ecosystems and biocultural resources, but our current conservation spending is only $535,000,000 per year, leaving an approximately $350,000,000 annual conservation spending gap.

The legislature further finds that our State's vital ecosystems and the resources they harbor continue to decline, due to lack of adequate investment in proven and effective conservation approaches. Data demonstrates growing concern that tourism's positive contribution to the economy may not outweigh the impact that visitors have on the environment. Ten million visitors enjoyed the benefits of Hawaii's ecosystem and natural environment in 2019. Increased demand on our natural resources requires innovative conservation financing mechanisms focused on reversing the decline in our ecosystems and the associated risks for our visitor industry and communities.

The legislature also finds that innovative financing mechanisms such as green fees are trending around the globe to better manage visitor impacts on ecosystems and natural resources. In general, green fees require mandatory payments by visitors to government entities for the explicit purpose of supporting conservation and natural resources management. Palau instituted a pristine paradise environmental fee of $100 in 2018. Fourteen other destinations have green fee programs that vary from $1 per night to a $100 entrance fee, including the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, the Maldives, Cancun, and Venice. According to a report published by Conservation International in 2019 entitled "Green Passport: Innovative Financing Solutions for Conservation in Hawaii", Palau's investment in its natural environment is $92 per tourist, New Zealand's is $188 per tourist, and the Galapagos Islands' is $373 per tourist. In contrast, Hawaii invests only $9 per tourist in conservation initiatives.

The legislature notes that the virus known as "SARS-CoV-2" causes a disease named "coronavirus disease 2019" (COVID-19), which spread globally and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. Upon reaching Hawaii's shores, the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted the local economy, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents unemployed, underemployed, or facing financial hardship. Hawaii's high pandemic-related unemployment rate is largely a result of the State's dependence on tourism to drive economic growth. To ensure economic stability, it is necessary to preserve Hawaii's natural resources from environmental degradation and diversify the islands' economy, including by investing in high-growth opportunities in the renewable energy industry that advance the State's goal of becoming one hundred per cent reliant on clean energy.

The purpose of this Act is to establish a green fees program to close Hawaii's conservation funding gap and meet the State's goals of mitigating and adapting to climate change, preserving natural resources, and transitioning to a clean energy economy.

SECTION 2. Chapter 201, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding two new sections to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"201-A Environmental surcharge on visitor accommodations; levy; assessment. (a) There is levied and shall be assessed and collected each year on all visitor accommodations in the State an environmental surcharge.

(b) The environmental surcharge shall be $5 per day for each visitor accommodation furnished by an operator or plan manager.

(c) On or before the final day of each calendar month, every operator or plan manager subject to an environmental surcharge on visitor accommodations during the preceding calendar month shall file a sworn return with the director of finance using a form that the director of finance shall prescribe, together with a remittance for the amount of the environmental surcharge required by this section.

(d) Notwithstanding subsection (c), the director of finance, for good cause and in writing, may permit an operator or plan manager to file a return required by this section and make payments thereon:

(1) On a quarterly basis during the calendar or fiscal year, the return and payment to be made on or before the final day of the calendar month after the close of each quarter; or

(2) On a semiannual basis during the calendar or fiscal year, the return and payment to be made no later than the final day of the calendar month after the close of each six-month period;

provided that the director of finance is satisfied that the grant of the permit will not unduly jeopardize the collection of the surcharge due thereon or the operator's or plan manager's total surcharge liability.

(e) The director of finance, for good cause and in writing, may permit an operator or plan manager to make monthly payments based on the operator or plan manager's estimated quarterly or semiannual surcharge liability; provided that the operator or plan manager files a reconciliation return at the end of each quarter or each six-month period during the calendar or fiscal year.

(f) If an operator or plan manager filing a return on a quarterly or semiannual basis, as provided in this section, becomes delinquent in either the filing of the return or the payment of the environmental surcharge due thereon, or if the liability of an operator or plan manager who possesses a permit to file a return and make payments on a quarterly or semiannual basis exceeds $5,000 during the calendar year, or if the director of finance determines that a quarterly or semiannual filing of a return would unduly jeopardize the proper administration of this chapter, including the assessment or collection of the environmental surcharge on visitor accommodations, the director of finance, at any time, may revoke an operator or plan manager's permit, in which case the operator or plan manager shall then be required to file an immediate return and make payments thereon as provided in subsection (c).

(g) Payments collected under this section shall be deposited into the green tourism special fund established by section 201-B.

(h) For the purpose of this section:

"Operator" shall have the same meaning as in section 237D‑1.

"Plan manager" shall have the same meaning as in section 237D‑1.

"Resort time share vacation unit" shall have the same meaning as in section 237D‑1.

"Transient accommodations" shall have the same meaning as in section 237D‑1.

"Visitor accommodation" means all transient accommodations and resort time share vacation units and any other dwelling or lodging located in the State and let by an owner or operator for less than one hundred eighty days.

201-B Green tourism special fund. (a) There is established within the state treasury a special fund to be known as the green tourism special fund to be administered by the department and into which shall be deposited:

(1) Proceeds of the environmental surcharge on visitor accommodations established under section 201‑A;

(2) Appropriations made by the legislature to the fund;

(3) All other grants, donations, and funds received by the department and legally available for the purposes of the green tourism special fund; and

(4) Interest accrued on all amounts in the green tourism special fund.

(b) Moneys in the fund shall be used for:

(1) Creating jobs and expanding access to workforce development relating to environmental conservation, renewable energy, sustainability, and other economic sectors aligned with the State's transition to a clean energy economy;

(2) Advancing programs that conserve, preserve, sustain, or restore the State's natural resources;

(3) Establishing initiatives that promote solid waste reduction, recycling, bioconversion, and landfill diversion;

(4) Increasing local food production and distribution;

(5) Improving the resilience and energy performance of the State's built environment; and

(6) Delivering education on climate change, sustainability, and āina-based stewardship in public schools.

(c) The department shall submit a report to the legislature on the sources of moneys deposited into the fund and expenditures of the moneys in the fund no later than twenty days prior to the convening of each regular session."

SECTION 3. In codifying the new sections added by section 2 of this Act, the revisor of statutes shall substitute appropriate section numbers for the letters used in designating the new sections in this Act.

SECTION 4. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2021; provided that the environmental fee established pursuant to this Act shall take effect on January 1, 2022.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

_____________________________

 

 


 


 

Report Title:

Green Fees; Environmental Surcharge on Visitor Accommodations; Green Tourism Special Fund

 

Description:

Establishes an environmental surcharge on visitor accommodations. Establishes the green tourism special fund to invest in the State's transition to a clean energy economy, conservation of natural resources, and sustainability and resiliency.

 

 

 

The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.