The Legislature’s Ups And Downs
Wednesday - May 14, 2008
It was a very average legislative session - average meaning it was just as close to the bottom as it was to the top. Not a lot of significant proposals became law, and a lot of other political issues of dubious concern failed to generate much interest. For that reason, it’s very difficult to single out any legislative accomplishments worthy of profound thought.
On the plus side, Gov. Linda Lingle’s address at the opening of the state Legislature was probably the biggest surprise to everyone in attendance, including the legislators. You may recall she announced that she was going to attempt to keep the North Shore from further development by having the state of Hawaii purchase Turtle Bay Resort and the surrounding shoreline acreage. By the time the session was over, the Legislature had passed a bill that not only encouraged Lingle to go forward in the attempt to purchase the North Shore property, they agreed that if she failed to do so, the Legislature should use its power of “eminent domain” and complete the purchase. It was an almost shocking success for the Republican governor; even her closest supporters were speechless. It was the most brilliant legislative accomplishment in the governor’s two terms in office.
But the stalled bill on the settled deal on ceded lands debt to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was the low point. Five senators representing the concerns of several Native Hawaiian groups torpedoed the effort. After so many years of negotiation, it was the Legislature’s saddest effort.
Trying to summarize the effect of the session is almost impossible, because everyone has a different opinion on what the important proposals were to begin with. To the medical profession, the tort reform for malpractice insurance was devastating. To those not involved with the medical profession, it was a simple battle between defense attorneys and MDs. They believe the lawyers won because they know how to lobby more effectively.
For some, the failure of the moratorium on opihi picking was a real blow. For many of our residents who have never heard of opihi, it was a lot of talk about nothing.
In my case, because I have lived in dormitories, barracks, townhouses and condominiums most of my adult life, the bill that surprised me the most was Senate Bill: 2933, S.D. 2, H.D. 2, C.D.1, Relating to Household Energy Demand.
The bill was hotly debated and went right down to the wire before passage. The debate was over the amount of electricity clothes dryers use. Someone accused electric dryers of using more than 10 percent of many households’ total energy demand. The argument was that reducing the use of clothes dryers in the state could substantially decrease the amount of electricity that households use, and thereby reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to generate electricity. I’m not joking here. That’s what the recently passed legislation asserts.
The stated purpose of the new bill is to prohibit contracts and other binding agreements from precluding the erecting and use of clotheslines on the premises of single-family residential dwellings and the placement of clotheslines from being unduly or unreasonably restrictive.
Furthermore, any provisions in any lease, instrument or contract contrary to the intent of the new law shall be void and unenforceable. The new law also pertains to the placement of solar energy devices.
Be warned, “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no person shall be prevented by any covenant, declaration, bylaws, restriction, deed lease, term, provision, condition, codicil, contract or similar binding agreement, however worded, from installing a solar energy device or erecting and using a clothesline for the purpose of drying clothes. Any provision in any lease, instrument or contract contrary to the intent of this section (S196-7) shall be void and enforceable.”
The legislators didn’t mince words on this bill. They also defined “Private Entity” to mean any association of homeowners, community association, condominium association, cooperative or any other non-governmental entity with covenants, bylaws and administrative provisions with which the homeowner’s compliance is required.
It would seem this law presents a lot of work of associations, because most of them have strict rules on hanging clothes on lanais and in windows. Some inventor, maybe whoever invented the clothes dryer, will have to go back to the drawing board and invent some kind of clothesline device to help condo owners hang their clothes. And because I am a skeptic of invasive legislation, I am currently investigating how many legislators who pushed this bill through have stock or ownership in solar energy or clothesline technology.
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