FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 11, 2017

Media Contacts:
Scott Ishikawa – (808) 227-2350
scott.ishikawa@beckercommunications.com

Counties call for fairness, collaboration in 2017 legislative package

The Hawaii State Association of Counties, which represents the four counties of Kauai, Maui, Hawaii and City & County of Honolulu, calls for fairness and collaboration with 10 bills introduced in its 2017 legislative package.

“During each legislative session, HSAC submits a package vetted and approved by all four county councils of the state,” said HSAC president and Maui County Councilmember Stacy Crivello. “The measures help maximize the effectiveness and performance of county governments to improve the quality of life of our constituents – the same residents and visitors the counties and state serve.”

An informal briefing for state legislators and community leaders will be held on Tuesday, January 17 at 12 noon at the State Capitol to discuss the organization’s legislative package.

Crivello said HSAC will continue to advocate for a fair share of the transient accommodations tax, also known as hotel tax, or TAT, and urge legislators to permanently provide legal immunity for county lifeguards.

Fair Distribution of TAT Between State and Counties
Over the past years, HSAC has sought for a more equitable distribution of the TAT between the state and counties. To provide a comprehensive study, the Legislature convened a State-County Functions Working Group to review and make recommendations on what would be a fair distribution.

HSAC’s bill mirrors legislation introduced by the State-County Functions Working Group recommending the Legislature to provide a fair 55-45 percent split between the state and counties.

However, the Legislature this past session decided not to use the working group’s recommendation and instead settled for an arbitrary cap of $103 million for all the counties.

“We want the public to understand that each year the counties don’t receive its fair share of the TAT, the residents are burdened by paying for expenses the visitors should be paying for,” Crivello said. “Operational costs for county-maintained services like water and sewer service; police, fire and ocean safety protection; development and upkeep of most roads; and park development and maintenance have increased dramatically.”

Crivello said the shift of burden to the county tax payers is unsustainable, so the counties will seek to lift the cap and support its bill’s fair formula for the distribution of TAT.

Repealing the Sunset of Beach Liability Law
Each time a county lifeguard responds to a call for help, current law provides them legal immunity and protection. This law is set to sunset in June, exposing county lifeguards to liability risks.

The counties seek to permanently provide legal immunity for county lifeguards by repealing the sunset date in the law, which will ensure civil liability protection for county lifeguards – a benefit state lifeguards currently have.

“Our bill allows the counties to be protected at the same level as the state against frivolous lawsuits,” Crivello said, “Lifeguards already risk their lives to save others, and exposing them to further liability is unjust.”

The 2017 HSAC Legislative Package includes:

1. A bill for an act relating to government records. To allow certain government records to be shared among councilmembers where no commitment to vote on the matter is made or sought.

2. A bill for an act relating to important agricultural lands. To allocate $250,000 to the counties in the next two fiscal years for the identification and mapping of Important Agricultural Lands.

3. A bill for an act relating to collective bargaining. To allow a representative of each county council to participate as a non-voting member in bargaining unit negotiations, to allow each county council to receive updates on relevant bargaining unit negotiations, and to change the allocation of votes for Bargaining Units 11 and 12.

4. A bill for an act relating to tort liability. To delete the sunset provision for the liability exceptions for county lifeguards.

5. A bill for an act relating to unadjudicated traffic fines. To direct the traffic fines and forfeitures collected for uncontested traffic infractions to the county in which the citation was issued.

6. A bill for an act making an appropriation for emergency medical services. To appropriate funds to the Department of Health for Fiscal Year 2018 for the purchase of ambulance vehicles and the operational costs for ambulance units, including equipment, supplies, and personnel costs for State-certified emergency medical services personnel, for a 24-hour ambulance units for Kauai and Hawaii counties.

7. A bill for an act relating to unmanned aerial vehicles. To regulate operators of unmanned aircraft systems.

8. A bill for an act relating to community meetings. To enable councilmembers to freely attend community and educational meetings.

9. A bill for an act relating to identification cards for persons with disabilities. To allow persons with disabilities to indicate on their identification cards their disability.

10. A bill for an act relating to transient accommodations tax. To implement the recommendations of the State-County Functions Working Group relating to the transient accommodations tax.

Bills in the package are available online at www.hicounties.com.

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The Hawaii State Association of Counties (HSAC) consists of the councils and mayors of each county. HSAC advocates for county programs and services and represents the county government before the Hawaii State Legislature, administrative agencies and federal government. Its executive committee includes representatives from Kauai County Council, Hawaii County Council, Maui County Council and Honolulu City Council.