J.Kalani English

State lawmakers advance Maui bills

Measures include a study of medical marijuana, a pilot conservation program

The Maui News
Thursday, March 6, 2008

By CLAUDINE SAN NICOLAS, Staff Writer

HONOLULU — Maui's state lawmakers advanced a number of proposals this week, including one to help better manage the island's "unique and treasured natural and cultural resources."

Senate Bill 2154, introduced by Maui Democrats Roz Baker, J. Kalani English and Shan Tsutsui, was among hundreds of bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House for review.

The measure would create a pilot community conservation program, using partnerships on Maui.

The program would train volunteers in land resource laws and enforcement, educate members of the public about natural resource enforcement regulations and coordinate "makai watch" groups interested in managing natural and cultural resources in their ahupuaa, or land division.

The program would be managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement.

The bill also calls for hiring up to 10 full-timers in the Maui District Office of the Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement. These include three conservation resource officers, an education specialist and a research statistician.

Baker said the senators drafted Bill 2154 with the help of state conservation officials on Maui and The Nature Conservancy.

"We wanted to engage the community on how we can malama the land and get more community ownership of our natural resources," Baker said.

The Maui senators also successfully backed bills to upgrade harbors, including Kahului Harbor and facilities in Hana; approve revenue bonds for Maui Memorial Medical Center's planned heart, brain and vascular tower; and establish a working group to draft a plan for access to West Maui when Honoapiilani Highway is shut down during emergency situations.

This week's legislative crossovers from the Senate to the House and the House to Senate provide an opportunity to advance proposals that still face changes before the session closes in May.

"I think we've got a lot of good vehicles in play. Some are works in progress and others may not pass until next year," Baker said.

On the House side, West Maui state Rep. Angus McKelvey said he was ecstatic about the passage of House Bill 2401. It authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds for planning, designing and constructing a wave-energy facility planned off Maliko Gulch.

"This company is making a major commitment to Maui," McKelvey said.

He originally had hoped the wave energy project would be established in Lahaina, but a site off Maliko Gulch was determined to be more feasible.

McKelvey said most of the legislative pieces he wanted to see passed in the House were approved. There were a few exceptions, including a bill that would have allowed county fire chiefs to designate areas in which fireworks would be prohibited.

Given West Maui's dry conditions, McKelvey said he believed the no-fireworks zone would have protected his district from fires.

"It takes it out of politics and puts in in the hands of the experts," McKelvey said.

South Maui state Rep. Joe Bertram III said he was disappointed that none of the reform proposals for the state certificate of need process were approved in the House or in the Senate.

Maui residents have been lobbying for the last two years for changes to a requirement that new medical facilities or service proposals obtain a permit from the State Health Planning and Development Agency.

Some residents wanted an outright repeal of the law, and others, such as the Maui Health Initiative Task Force, recommended legislation that would provide for more home rule for proposed new medical facilities or services.

While the certificate of need bills didn't advance, Bertram's House Bill 2675 to create a medical marijuana task force did move forward.

The task force would be charged with discussing various issues related to medical marijuana, including how qualified patients could maintain access to adequate supplies of the drug.

"You can't quite go down to the pharmacy and get a refill," he said.

Bertram said that while he would have liked legislation that provided the means for legally authorized medical marijuana users to build facilities to address their needs, he's pleased a task force would study the issue.

"It's a major step ahead," he said.

Fact Box CROSSING OVER

Bills approved by one house of the state Legislature must "crossover" by today to be considered by the opposite house. Information on legislative actions can be found at: www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/docs/docs.asp. Some bills of local interest approved for crossover today include:
• HB 114: Allows juveniles charged with drug offenses to choose between detention in a youth correctional facility or drug counseling with their parents or guardians.
• HB 602: Requires $90 million for a State Educational Facilities Improvement Special Fund.
• HB 2323: Establishes a Resort Beach Restoration Fund for resort beach restoration projects including Kaanapali Beach.
• HB 2401: Authorizes revenue bonds for a wave-power generator on Maui.
• HB 2503/SB 2849:?Permits agricultural-energy facilities on ag land.
• HB 2675: Creates a medical marijuana task force.
• HB 2757: Loan program for a private hospital in regions with a high percentage of uninsured, Medicaid and Medicare patients.
• HB 2857: Tax credit to assist the victims of the December 2007 flood/wind storm in Upcountry.
• SB 1789: New procedures to designate a managing organization for public access channels on cable television.
• SB 2047: Tax credit for home modifications for the disabled.
• SB 2156: Establishes a West Maui transportation replacement working group.
• SB 2557: Establishes jurisdiction of island burial councils over inadvertent discoveries of Hawaiian burials.
• SB 2768: Authorizes $150 million revenue bond for Maui Memorial Medical Center's Heart, Brain & Vascular Center.
• SB 2764: Extends tax credit for ethanol facilities.
• SB 2816: Provides priority on moorings and fuel tax credit for "intra-county" ferry operations in counties of at least three islands.
• SB 2817: Establishes a Honolua Bay Advisory Council.
• SB 2835/SB 2836: Deals with public access issues.
• SB 3215: Enables biodiesel fuel crops.


Ą Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at claudine@mauinews.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Maui News.

Original article URL: http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/501164.html

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