Legislative Session Wraps Up


Talking Story …Sen. Mike Gabbard

Aloha e Friends,

As you probably already know, the 2014 Legislative Session ended May 1.

Here are some highlights from my perspective: We passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018. We also included $40 million in funding to preserve 665 acres of land at Turtle Bay forever.

I was especially pleased that we included $5 million in the budget for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, which will be dedicated to the detection, prevention, control, outreach and research of invasive species. I’m sure you saw in the news that little fire ants have invaded Waimanalo, and aggressive measures will be taken to eradicate the colony.

Please let me know if I can ever help you or your family in any way. I can be reached at 586-6830 or by email at sengabbard@capitol.hawaii.gov.

My Legislation

As chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee (ENE), four bills that I authored made it through to the end of the legislative process. SB 2175 already has been signed into law. The other bills are in the governor’s hands.

Here is a brief summary of the bills:

SB 2175 (Act 56) authorizes the Dean of UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to establish a two-year hemp remediation and biofuel research project. This starts us on the path of growing our own hemp, an incredible crop that is used in more than 27,000 products.

SB 2196 extends the barrel tax to 2030, which was scheduled to end in 2015. Some of these funds are dedicated to energy and food security. The bill also would reinstate the Energy Systems Development Special Fund, which helps the UH-based Hawaii Natural Energy Institute to secure federal funding for their important research.

SB 2657 sets up procedures for the continuation of roof guarantees and warranties when solar PV panels are installed on the roof of a home. There have been disagreements in some situations in the past, and this will make things work more smoothly.

SB 2658 allows solar projects to be located on parcels of Class B and C lands greater than 20 acres, as long as a special use permit is obtained through the Land Use Commission. A provision in the bill requires the solar developers to lease additional lands to farmers at 50 percent lower than the market rate to make it easier for agriculture to thrive.

Jessica Wooley Appointed Director of OEQC

I’m very pleased to announce that on April 29 the state Senate confirmed Rep. Jessica Wooley as the next director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC). The office has the responsibility to help stimulate, expand and coordinate efforts to maintain the optimum quality of Hawaii’s environment.

Wooley is well-qualified to be director of the OEQC, and I believe that she will do a great job. I wish her much success in this new role.

Listen-Story Meeting

My next “Listen Story” meeting will be held from 9 to 10 a.m. June 28 at Ewa Mahiko District Park.