Soda Tax Gets Dumped
When one party controls both the executive and legislative branches–as the Democrats do in Hawaii–there’s legitimate concern that each will act as a rubber stamp for the other. That doesn’t appear to be the case with Gov. Abercrombie and the legislature–at least when it comes to soda taxes.
Hiking fees on soft drinks and alcohol isn’t merely something Abercrombie supports; he cared enough about the idea to mention it in his inaugural State of the State address. And two companion bills–SB1289 and HB1062–were introduced to do exactly that.
This week, however, the Senate bill was stripped of language concerning “sugary beverages,” which would have been taxed at 10-25 cents per container. Now only alcohol taxes–which haven’t changed since 1998–remain on the table, meaning the bill will pour far less than the originally projected $52 million into state coffers. And that’s if it passes at all.
It has the Governor’s weight behind it–but clearly that won’t always be enough.
Pot In Our Name
If you went shopping at the Kahului Wal-Mart this week, you might have been handed an anti-marijuana pamphlet by a member of the Maui Police Department. The fliers were meant to send “an important message” to the public, Chief Gary Yabuta told The Maui News.
Specifically, MPD is concerned about a pair of bills being considered on Oahu. The first (SB58) would increase the amount of cannabis a medical marijuana patient can possess, to 10 plants and 5 ounces. The second (SB175) would transfer jurisdiction over medical marijuana from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to the Department of Health (DOH). (It’s worth noting that both DPS and DOH oppose the bill.)
The bottom line is that Hawaii’s medical marijuana law is a mess. More than a decade after it was passed, it remains murky and ill-defined, leaving patients, doctors and, yes, law enforcement in a hazy no man’s land between state mandate and federal prohibition.
It’s government’s job to fix that, and last year then-candidate Abercrombie told us he would. “If it’s medically sanctioned for use, for relief of pain or any other symptoms, then of course it should be utilized,” he said. Should be, sure; how is another question.
“The task is daunting,” said Councilmember Gladys Baisa, chair of the newly formed General Plan Committee, which is tasked with updating islandwide planning ordinances beginning with the Maui Island Plan.
She wasn’t kidding. Last year, the Council managed to get through only the first seven chapters of the 10-chapter document, though Baisa said she’s “confident” it will be enacted this year.
In addition to streamlining the laborious General Plan update, the committee will allow the Planning and Land Use committees to focus on more immediate tasks like land-use approvals and zoning applications, according to a County release.
The General Plan Committee meets February 17 in Council chambers; for an agenda and more information, visit mauicounty.gov.