Category Archives: Miscellaneous

SB 2150 HD 1

SUBJECT:  MISCELLANEOUS, Authorize DHS to Provide Housing Assistance Subsidies to TANF or TAONF Participants

BILL NUMBER:  SB 2150 HD 1

INTRODUCED BY: House Committees on Housing and Health, Human Services & Homelessness.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:   Authorizes the Department of Human Services to provide housing assistance subsidies of up to $500 per month to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Temporary Assistance for Other Needy Families participants who are participating in the First-To-Work program.

Our view is that we have been leaving too much TANF/TAONF money on the table and need to put that money to good use here. Continue reading SB 2150 HD 1

HB 2233 SD 1

SUBJECT:  MISCELLANEOUS, Authorize DHS to Provide Housing Assistance Subsidies

BILL NUMBER:  HB 2233 SD 1

INTRODUCED BY: Senate Committees on Human Services

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Authorizes the department of human services to provide housing assistance subsidies of up to $500 per month to TANF and TAONF program participants who are participating in the first-to-work program. Appropriates funds. Continue reading HB 2233 SD 1

SB 3289 HD 1

SUBJECT: MISCELLANEOUS, Hawaii Retirement Savings Program

BILL NUMBER:  SB 3289 HD 1

INTRODUCED BY: House Committee on Labor & Tourism

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:   Establishes the Hawaii retirement savings program, administered by the Hawaii retirement savings board, in consultation with the department of labor and industrial relations and department of budget and finance, to provide a state-facilitated payroll-deduction individual retirement savings plan to private sector employees who do not have access to employer-sponsored retirement savings plans beginning on an implementation date to be determined by the board. Requires an implementation and evaluation study, followed by an implementation strategy and timetable, prior to implementation of the program. Appropriates funds. Effective 7/1/2050. Continue reading SB 3289 HD 1

SB 3040 HD 1

SUBJECT:  MISCELLANEOUS, New User Fee for Automated Procurement System and New Special Fund

BILL NUMBER: SB 3040 HD 1

INTRODUCED BY: Senate Committee on Government Operations

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Establishes the state procurement automation system special fund. Authorizes the state procurement administrator to develop and administer procurement automation systems and assess, charge, and collect a transaction fee from all vendors using the procurement automation systems.

Our view is that the end game of this bill is to milk those from whom the State buys goods or services and squirrel away the resulting fees in a special fund that could largely avoid legislative scrutiny. Continue reading SB 3040 HD 1

SB 2150 SD 2

SUBJECT:  MISCELLANEOUS, Authorize DHS to Provide Housing Assistance Subsidies to TANF or TAONF Participants

BILL NUMBER:  SB 2150 SD 2

INTRODUCED BY: Senate Committee on Ways & Means

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:   Authorizes the Department of Human Services to provide housing assistance subsidies of up to $500 per month to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Temporary Assistance for Other Needy Families participants who are participating in the First-To-Work program.

SYNOPSIS:  Amends section 346-261, HRS, to allow DHS to provide eligible households receiving benefits under the temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) or temporary assistance for other needy families (TAONF) programs with housing assistance subsidies of up to $500 per month during their participation in the first-to-work program.  Any plan for expenditure of TANF funds developed pursuant to section 346-51.5 shall be updated to account for expenditures for housing assistance subsidies.  Expenditure of funds for the administration of housing assistance subsidies shall be exempt from chapters 103D and 103F.

EFFECTIVE DATE:  December 31, 2050.

STAFF COMMENTS:  One of the ways our government provides a safety net for those less fortunate is through a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.  TANF was enacted in 1996 as a program that replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which used to provide cash assistance to families with children experiencing poverty.  Under TANF, the federal government provides a block grant to the states, which then use these funds to run their own programs.  To receive federal funds, states must also spend some of their own dollars on those programs and face severe fiscal penalties if they fail to do so.  This state-spending requirement, known as the “maintenance of effort” (MOE) requirement, replaced the state match that AFDC required.

States can use federal TANF and state MOE dollars to meet any of the four goals set out in the 1996 law: (1) assisting needy families so children can be cared for in their own homes or the homes of relatives; (2) reducing the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage; (3) preventing pregnancies among unmarried persons; and (4) encouraging the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

These goals are broad, giving states lots of freedom to use these federal dollars in a way that they think brings about positive outcomes.

So what have we done with the federal TANF money?

We’ve let lots of it pile up unused.

ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power, recently published an unflattering article that calls out several states for doing nothing at all with large sums of money.  It reports:  “According to recently released federal data, states are sitting on $5.2 billion in unspent funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF. Nearly $700 million was added to the total during the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years, with Hawaii, Tennessee and Maine hoarding the most cash per person living at or below the federal poverty line.”

As this graph shows, the “unobligated balance” of the federal block grants, meaning federally authorized money that we haven’t spent, has been rising steadily over the last five fiscal years.  In federal fiscal year 2020 (the year starting Oct. 1, 2019, and ending Sept. 30, 2020), our unobligated balance was $364 million, equivalent to almost $3,000 per person living in poverty.

Certainly, we have been using part of the TANF money.  But we have been spending quite a bit of our own funds:

According to ProPublica, a Hawaii state spokesperson said that our state government plans to use its surplus to extend employment services like job coaching and placement for noncustodial parents who have children receiving TANF and to provide diaper assistance to families that are eligible for the program.  The state is also considering increasing benefits and offering monthly housing assistance.

The question, however, is why has it taken so long for our bureaucrats to come up with ways to put that money to good use?  It certainly won’t help alleviate poverty if it’s sitting in some bank somewhere.

Digested: 3/16/2022

SB 3289 SD 2

SUBJECT: MISCELLANEOUS, Hawaii Retirement Savings Program

BILL NUMBER:  SB 3289 SD 2

INTRODUCED BY: Senate Committee on Ways & Means

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:   Establishes the Hawaii Retirement Savings Program, administered by the Hawaii Retirement Savings Board, in consultation with the Department of Budget and Finance and Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, to provide a state-facilitated payroll-deduction automatic enrollment individual retirement plan to private sector employees who do not have access to employer-sponsored retirement savings plans beginning 7/1/2024. Appropriates funds. Continue reading SB 3289 SD 2

HB 2511 HD 2

SUBJECT:  MISCELLANEOUS, Establish Hawaiian Home Lands Special Fund

BILL NUMBER:  HB 2511 HD 2

INTRODUCED BY: House Committee on Finance

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Appropriates funds into and out of the native Hawaiian rehabilitation fund for DHHL to fulfill its fiduciary duties to beneficiaries. Requires DHHL to submit an annual report to the legislature

SYNOPSIS:  Appropriates $600 million to the native Hawaiian rehabilitation fund, to be spent by DHHL to fulfill its fiduciary duties to beneficiaries.

EFFECTIVE DATE:  July 1, 2022

STAFF COMMENTS:  The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) administers about 200,000 acres of public lands to be leased to native Hawaiians, upon which they may live, farm, ranch, and engage in commercial or other activities.  The department, led by a nine-member commission, must provide financial and technical assistance to native Hawaiians (those with at least 50 percent Hawaiian blood), which enables them to enhance their economic self-sufficiency and promote community-based development.  According to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, by doing this, the traditions, culture, and quality of life of native Hawaiians will be self-sustaining.

We all would like to think that by throwing $600 million at DHHL, we could make a significant dent in the production of Hawaiian homestead lands and getting people off the decades-long wait list into Hawaiian homesteads.

But there are apparently issues with getting DHHL to spend the money it now has.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program.  DHHL is the sole recipient of such grants.  One year ago, DHHL was sitting on about $55 million in federal funds unspent, as a result of which HUD stopped providing additional funding.  Recent news reports say that the federal money is still not flowing.  DHHL’s website, http://dhhl.hawaii.gov/nahasda/, shows its current grant status:

PY 13 2014 14HBGHI0001 $9,700,000 $7,736,927.94(80%) expended
PY 14 2015 15HBGHI0001 $8,700,000 $59,575.66 (0.007%) expended (58% encumbered)
PY 15 2016 0 No federal appropriations
PY16 2017 17HBGHI0001 $2,000,000 No expenditures/encumbrances
PY17 2018 18HBGHI0001 $2,000,000  No expenditures/encumbrances
PY18 2019 19HBGHI0001 $2,000,000  No expenditures/encumbrances

To make a dent in the problem, we really need to understand why DHHL can’t spend the money it now has.  If we can’t fix that problem, giving them a slug of additional funds can’t be expected to solve much.

In prior testimony, DHHL has acknowledged that its federal appropriations had been less than prior years, in part because of its inability to spend down its appropriations at the time, but has argued that it has turned around its operation and is now able to spend the money appropriated to it.  We think that lawmakers should make the effort to understand what was wrong and how the operations were turned around.

This testimony should not be interpreted as opposing an effort to solve the problem.  We are very interested in seeing any dysfunction cleared and relief going to those who deserve it.  If, for example, the problem is that most of the trust lands are uninhabitable due to location, then this bill should be amended to include language allowing DHHL to negotiate appropriate land swap, with DLNR if necessary, to acquire habitable land in place of uninhabitable land.  Thought should go into what other tools than money are needed to accomplish the mission and get people off the waiting list.

Digested:  3/12/2022

SB 3192 SD 2

SUBJECT:  MISCELLANEOUS, Visitor Impact Fee

BILL NUMBER:  SB 3192 SD 2

INTRODUCED BY: Senate Committees on Ways and Means

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  Establishes within the Department of Land and Natural Resources a visitor impact fee program to collect a fee to allow visitors to visit a state park, beach, state-owned forest, hiking trail, or other state-owned natural area. Establishes the Environmental Legacy Commission to allocate the revenues from the visitor impact fee to protect and manage Hawaii’s natural resources. Establishes the visitor impact fee special fund. Appropriates moneys.

SYNOPSIS:  Adds a new part to chapter 171, HRS, to establish a visitor impact fee program.

Defines a “resident of Hawaii” as an individual who has:  (1)  Filed or paid state income taxes for the previous tax year; or (2)  Established domicile in the State, as evidenced by documentation showing the individual’s address, including any of the following:  (A)  A valid Hawaii driver’s license; (B)  A valid Hawaii state identification card; (C)  A valid school identification card; or (D)  Any other official document issued to the individual within the last thirty days by a government agency, financial institution, insurance company, or utility company in the State.

Defines a “visitor” as a person who is not a resident of Hawaii.

Requires visitors to pay a visitor impact fee of $___ to obtain a license to visit a state park, beach, state-owned forest, hiking trail, or other state-owned natural area on state-owned land.  Civil fines up to $_____ may be applied to visitors who visit such a resource without a license.

Establishes a special fund into which visitor impact fees will be deposited.

EFFECTIVE DATE:  July 1, 2050.

STAFF COMMENTS:  This fee may be subject to challenge as unconstitutional.  The Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires that “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”  Although it has been held that a state may treat out-of-state residents differently in some situations, such as in granting licenses for recreational hunting, Baldwin v. Fish & Game Commission of Montana, 436 U.S. 371 (1978), the Court indicated that the result may be different when the nonresident is not given access to any part of the State to which they may seek to travel.  Id. at 388.  This is because the Court has recognized that the Constitution protects the right of citizens of the United States to travel freely throughout the land.

“We are all citizens of the United States,” the Court stated in Crandall v. Nevada, 75 U.S. 35 (1867), “and as members of the same community must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own states.  And a tax imposed by a state for entering its territories or harbors is inconsistent with the rights which belong to citizens of other states as members of the Union and with the objects which that Union was intended to attain.  Such a power in the states could produce nothing but discord and mutual irritation, and they very clearly do not possess it.”

For these reasons we are concerned that the State is without power to limit access of visitors to places where residents are allowed.

We also are concerned about the definition of “resident” offered in the bill.  The bill calls a person a resident if that person filed a Hawaii tax return or paid tax; nonresidents file Hawaii tax returns and pay income tax too, if they have Hawaii source income.  The bill also allows a person to be classified as a resident if they have a utility bill or similar document showing a Hawaii address; the Hawaii address could be that of a second or third home.

Digested: 3/12/2022