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Thursday, September 18, 2014         

ON POLITICS


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Nothing escapes the unwavering gaze of our legislators

By Richard Borreca

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You worry about your taxes, you worry about your pension and you worry about your kid's school. All that concern is nothing compared with what your Legislature has been up to.

This is the week when lawmakers have to start putting their cards on the table. Today and Thursday are reserved for floor sessions where the House and Senate vote on bills on third reading. If you don't see the bill today or Thursday, it is most likely a goner.

There is very little that has not escaped the Legislature's unwavering gaze. For instance, the Senate's Human Services Committee wants a new law saying that disabled parking tags shall hang from the rearview mirror, unless you don't have a rearview mirror, then you put it on the dashboard.

Of course this is already what the state rules for using disabled tags say -- but now the committee held meetings about it, people from the state testified, and now the Senate may set it on its way to becoming a new law.

Whew, that was a close one.

Somehow, after marching leaf blowers up and down the aisle last year, you would think we have already fearlessly regulated those noisy machines. Today they can be used only between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and not on Sundays or holidays except between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Now, Sens. Suzanne Chun Oakland, Mike Gabbard and Josh Green are urging that leaf blowers be used for only 15 minutes per day per one-quarter acre parcel of property. The Abercrombie administration's health director and land and natural resources director both essentially said, "Are you kidding? You want us to send out a deputy sheriff with a stop watch and time how long someone is running a leaf blower and then get a tape measure to make sure the lot is just one-quarter acre? No way, buddy."

They didn't really say that; they said it would impractical to enforce, but that's what they wanted to say.

In the "Will wonders never cease?" category, there is a Senate bill that would prohibit nepotism in state hiring. The state Ethics Commission said it regularly gets complaints about state officials hiring relatives or family members. About half the states already say you can't hire cousin Bobby, but Hawaii is silent on the issue.

"This practice engenders charges of favoritism and preferential treatment, and erodes public confidence in government hiring practices," the commission said in written testimony.

Good for the Legislature if it can actually get this passed.

Finally, consider what to do about Moku o Loe, also known as Coconut Island, which was used as the location shot of "Gilligan's Island" in the famed TV show. The place, controlled by the University of Hawaii, is falling apart, and UH wants to make repairs to its marine laboratory on the island.

Because it is in a marine and conservation district, the last time UH wanted to put up a new lab on the island, it says, it took 13 years to get the permits and cost more than $600,000 in consulting fees.

"Funding does not generally have infinite timelines that can be put on hold until permits are obtained," Jo-Ann Leong, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at UH, said in testimony, asking that UH be exempt from permitting requirements for the lab.

This is needed because there are falling sea walls, failing bridges and roads, she said.

There's no word whether Ginger or Mary Ann or the Skipper are also exempt.

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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. He can be reached at rborreca@staradvertiser.com.






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