Categorized | Energy, Government, News

Governor signs bill to help reduce energy usage

MEDIA RELEASE

Honolulu – Governor Neil Abercrombie today signed into law House Bill 1520, which is intended to help more homeowners and renters access and afford clean energy. The measure directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to investigate how an on-bill financing program could operate in Hawai’i and gives the PUC the discretion to implement such a program.

On-bill financing allows an electric utility company customer to purchase a renewable energy system or device on their electric bill and pay for it over time through energy savings. On-bill financing has been implemented in other states, and Governor Abercrombie has advocated for its implementation in Hawai’i because of the potential to advance clean energy goals while creating green jobs.

Although he supports on-bill financing, Governor Abercrombie placed HB 1520 on his intent-to-veto list along with other unfunded mandates, because it requires the PUC to complete an investigation without any additional resources. All state agencies, including the PUC, have had to deal with severe cutbacks over the years.

However, after hearing about the Governor’s intent, private partners led by the Blue Planet Foundation, have offered to work with the PUC to cover costs and lessen the burden to fulfill the requirements of HB 1520. The spirit of problem-solving and partnership exhibited by the parties prompted him to sign the bill.

“If this partnership can come together as envisioned, a docket on on-bill financing can be opened right away. We can determine whether and how an on-bill financing program can be designed so that more people can participate in Hawai’i’s clean energy future,” said Governor Abercrombie. “Working together, we can advance our clean energy goals with the kind of urgency and determination that these times demand.”

Other measures that were signed into law today include:

Senate Bill 1348 establishes a non-profit health insurance exchange (the Hawai’i Health Connector) to facilitate the purchase and sale of qualified health plans and to facilitate the regulation of health plans in compliance with Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bill also appropriates $750,000 in federal funds for operations of the Connector’s interim board.

Senate Bill 229 prohibits employers from discriminating against victims of domestic or sexual violence in certain employment-related situations if the victim notifies the employer of such status or the employer has actual knowledge.

Senate Bill 298 establishes an organizational and regulatory framework for sustainable business corporations.

House Bill 331 extends the fixed rental period for initial land leases and any extensions to 65 years.

House Bill 227 strengthens the criminal trespass law so that farmers are better protected.

House Bill 389 establishes the He’eia community development district in Ko’olaupoko, O’ahu, to restore the He’eia wetlands.

Bills enacted earlier this week include:

Senate Bill 1277 updates the laws regulating legal service plans by (1) allowing the Insurance Commissioner to examine legal service plan records; (2) requiring a certificate of authority for legal service plans to operate in the state; (3) requiring that legal service plans provide notice of any intention to terminate the plan; and (4) allowing the Insurance Commissioner to take enforcement action against legal service plans for failing to comply.

Senate Bill 903 preserves affordable rental housing units by establishing an affordable rental housing development program within the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC). This program will provide assistance for rehabilitation, acquisition, or preservation of multifamily housing units for person and families with incomes at or below 80 percent of the median family income.

Senate Bill 758 extends the use of the Hawai’i compliance express for small business vendors for all contracts and procurements of $2,500 or more. This saves the state from producing three paper certificates versus an online “certificate of vendor compliance.” It also allows the vendor to receive payment from the state more quickly. Currently the Hawai’i compliance express is used for vendors who have contracts greater than $15,000.

House Bill 616 clarifies that in child custody proceedings that involve a minor child, the family court may award visitations by electronic communication, including communication by telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, video conferencing, and web camera. The bill also authorizes the courts to establish guidelines for visitation by electronic communication.

Senate Bill 1221 authorizes a contractor to withdraw a bid prior to an award of a contract if the contractor finds that it is unable to comply with the 80 percent Hawai’i resident workforce requirement. It also requires general contractors and subcontractors for construction procurement to file certifications of compliance with Chapter 103B, with the notice of final completion of the contract.

Senate Bill 1519 amends the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act to improve the efficiency of licensing and to clarify regulatory oversight. The bill requires all mortgage loan originators to work under a licensed or registered entity, clarifies the procedures for administrative review of license denials, and establishes procedures to address applications for licensure.

House Bill 1566 allows the Department of Land and Natural Resources to lease fast and submerged lands at Ala Wai Boat Harbor using the request for proposals process. It permits the limited issuance of commercial use permits for vessels with assigned moorings in Ala Wai and Keehi boat harbors and provides for future moorage fees to be established by appraisal by a state-licensed appraiser.

House Bill 519 helps small business employers reduce their overhead costs by allowing owners to opt out of mandatory workers’ compensation coverage, although they can still participate if they so choose to.

For more information on these or all measures that have been signed into law, please visit capitol.hawaii.gov/session2011….

Governor Abercrombie has enacted 210 bills into law so far. His deadline to sign bills into law or veto bills is July 12, 2011.

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