The Senate passed 318 bills on March 7, 2017. Previously, the Senate approved another 66, meaning 384 measures crossed over to the House for further deliberation. A similar, albeit smaller, number of bills crossed the other way. Two of the most prominent Senate bills in the news were the Rail Tax and the Death with Dignity Bill.
All Senators voted Yes on SB1183 SD2, which does not extend the rail surcharge end date, but will provide approximately $300 million to the rail budget by ending the 10 percent surcharge. Each year, the state takes about $30 million of the rail tax for its own purposes.
I voted for this bill because it is unfair for the state to skim Oahu taxpayer money for statewide purposes; plus, this bill forces the City to clarify how it will pay the remaining costs of the project and provide annual updates to the Legislature. That said, I am concerned the bill will be modified in the House to extend the rail surcharge. If that happens, I would most likely change my vote to No.
I considered the Death with Dignity / Assisted Suicide bill long and hard these past two months, drifting back and forth in support and opposition. Ultimately, I decided to vote against SB1129 SD2 after a compelling conversation with a friend who is an oncology nurse and a nursing professor at UH. Her insights into cancer treatment, care, and occasional cures, along with the inspirational story of my friend, Senator Breene Harrimoto, who survived pancreatic cancer, helped inform my decision.
SB221 SD2 will allow Red Light Cameras. The Van Cam fiasco cost the state more than a million dollars to cancel not too many years ago, and these camera programs have been repealed in a majority of jurisdictions that previously approved them because of irate citizenry.
SB664 will increase the minimum penalty for driving 80 mph from $500 to $1500. On portions of H1 and H2, the flow of traffic is often 65-70 mph, and it is not uncommon for several cars to reach 80 mph without any danger to other drivers. The $1500-$3000 penalty for driving 80 mph on a freeway seems exorbitant to me.
The teachers’ union is disappointed with my vote against their proposal to allow the state to collect property tax on investment properties. Teachers need to be a higher priority in our budget deliberations, but this tax idea is bad policy. Special funds get raided all the time. The problem is not the source of funds, but our commitment to support teachers.
Unknown to most residents, the vast majority of bills pass the Senate by unanimous consent. In fact, most Legislators rarely vote No. Except for the Rail Tax, all bills mentioned above were approved by super majorities of 22-3, or 23-2 or even 24-1. Ten Senators voted Yes for all 318 bills. My dozen No votes were more than the next two members combined. Was I wrong?