Governor signs bills to extend rail tax, establish medical marijuana dispensaries


Gov. David Ige signed two bills into law Wednesday, including one that extends a tax to pay for Oahu’s $6 billion rail transit project.

HB134 authorizes the counties to extend by another five years the half-percentage point surcharge on state tax. The surcharge will be effective until Dec. 31, 2027.

“The primary reason I signed this bill is because we made a commitment years ago, and we must keep this commitment to see rail to its completion,” Ige said. “I, too, have concerns about cost overruns. The excise tax is an investment by the taxpayers of Hawaii and my job is to ensure that their hard-earned money is being spent efficiently, effectively and productively.”

The governor said he has tasked the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to submit an annual progress report on revenue, costs and progress of the rail project. It will be used as a tool to guide policy makers in the future to ensure the project stays on schedule and on budget, and to inform the public of the status of their investment.

“This report will be shared with not only my administration, but with the legislature and the public, and it will be measured against specific goals and targets,” Ige said.

Dan Grabauskas, HART’s executive director and CEO, released the following statement in response:

“We appreciate the support of both the governor and the legislature and their commitment to providing the funds needed to complete the rail system, and we look forward to working with the mayor and the City Council to see this process through. We are committed to transparency and will continue to meet regularly with our state and city leaders and with the public to share information on our progress and our finances.”

Ige also signed into law HB321, which establishes a licensing system for medical marijuana dispensaries.

“I support the establishment of dispensaries to ensure that qualified patients can legally and safely access medical marijuana,” he said. “We know that our challenge going forward will be to adopt rules that are fair, cost effective and easy to monitor. The bill sets a timeline. We will make a good faith effort to create a fair process that will help the people most in need.”

The new law also prohibits counties from enacting zoning regulations that discriminate against licensed dispensaries and production centers; allows the legal transport of medical marijuana in any public place, under certain conditions by qualified patients, primary caregivers or owners/employees of medical marijuana production centers and dispensaries.

The following bills become law without the governor’s signature:

  • HB541 Relating to the University of Hawaii Tuition and Fees Special Fund: Requires each UH campus to prepare an operations plan, to be reviewed by the President and VP for Budget and Finance and CFO of UH, for each fiscal year.
  • SB1092 Relating to the Repeal of Non-General Funds: Repeals or reclassifies various non-general funds in accordance with the Auditor’s recommendations in Auditor’s Report Nos. 14-05 and 14-13.
  • SB1297 Relating to Disposition of Tax Revenues: Amends the cigarette tax and tobacco tax law by changing the amount allocated to the trauma system special fund, and establishing maximum dollar amounts that shall be distributed among certain non-general funds after 6/30/2015.
  • SB118 Relating to Real Estate Investment Trusts: Requires, and appropriates funds for, DBEDT, with the assistance of DOTAX, to study the impact of real estate investment trusts in Hawaii.

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