By Jay Fidell
The legislature opened on January 20th and will close on April 29th. We’re a month in, and in the thick of it, right now. It’s a great time to take a look at what’s pending in tech, energy and entertainment.
It’s a budget crisis year and leadership is again focused on balancing the budget, especially because last year’s budget was never balanced. No one wants to make it worse.
And, of course, this is an election year. The whole House and some of the Senate have to run. No one wants to stand out as a budget wrecker or the supporter of something unpopular.
We haven’t heard much from the administration on tech, energy and entertainment, and although it’s possible that they’ll make headlines on some mid-term issue, more likely they’ll wait until veto-time.
After the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum Legislative Report on January 8th and Crucible 2010 on January 19th, quite a few bills were introduced and a number of them are working there way through the process.
Thanks to Senator Carol Fukunaga and Rep. Angus McKelvey for following up on earlier discussions among the Tech Coalition, and for following through on so many tech, energy and entertainment bills.
Thanks to each of them and their respective staffs for posting an excellent spreadsheet at www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2010/lists/Rptpkg.aspx?pkg=72. And thanks to Yuka Nagashima, CEO of HTDC, for her comprehensive listing.
Here are some brief descriptions of only a few of the ones worth tracking:
There are a number of State Private Investment Fund bills. These are directed at incentivizing private investment. Although they are not all the same, the legislature is paying a lot of attention to them, and there’s a fair chance one will pass. That’s a good thing – we need venture capital in Hawaii. One big issue seems to be who will manage the money – HSDC or a new SPIF agency.
There is an “enabling environment” bill that gives a 5% preference for high tech goods and services provided by Hawaii business. This is a good and important bill that should be passed.
Although 221 will sunset this year, there’s a bill that extends the R&D tax credit to 2011. The bill also creates a High Tech R&D Task Force to draft legislation to improve or propose alternatives to the credit. A recent amendment would also repeal all other 221 tax credits, as if 221 weren’t dead enough.
One energy bill expands the income tax credits for renewable energy projects on commercial properties, reduces the credit reduction for taxpayers seeking a refundable credit, allows the tax credit to be transferred, and amends the law to allow insurance companies to claim renewable energy income tax credits.
There’s an energy bill that permits renewable energy projects in State Enterprise Zones, and another that allows them in State Conservation Districts. And there’s a one that requires state agencies to accept renewable energy project applications for processing within 10 days.
Another energy bill requires that applications for exemption of renewable energy facilities from subdivision requirements be deemed approved if not disapproved within 90 days. I like that one a lot.
One film bill creates a Media Task Force to develop legislation to incentivize development of projects in film, TV, recording and digital media. Another renames the Hawaii Television and Film Development Special Fund to the Hawaii Film Office Special Fund, and requires a certain portion of film tax revenues to be deposited in that fund.
A telecom bill carried over from 2009 would create the Hawaii Broadband Commission in order to promote and maximize availability of broadband services in the state. This bill was considered a “mess” last year, and it’s important that we finally get to it this year.
And finally there’s the bill that would rewrite Chapter 343, the Hawaii Environmental Protection Act. That’s ambitious, and complex, and it’s also in trouble. I wrote about this in my ThinkTech column last week. There’s more work to be done on this before things settle down.
If you care about any of these, you’ll check up on them at capitol.hawaii.gov and submit testimony when they come up for hearing. A number of them are coming up for critical hearings in the next few days, so it’s all a moving target. If you don’t care, other people will surely decide their fate without you.
These are only some of the bills affecting tech, energy and entertainment. There are more, some good and some bad. Many of these bills have gotten through a committee or two and could become law.
The increased number of bills affecting tech, energy and entertainment is impressive, and could indicate more active constituencies and greater legislative interest than before. It remains to be seen whether those constituencies are effective and whether that interest will ripen into thoughtful policy and good law. We can only hope.
But things seem more organized this year, largely because of the efforts of Carol Fukunaga and Angus McKelvey. In any event, the legislature is the legislature and the process is the process. You can’t avoid a certain level of fragmentation and, as hard as you try, it still feels a lot like the Wild West.
We’ll know more about the success of these efforts in early March at crossover.