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Senate progresses bills on campaign finance, sexual harassment and rental discrimination

FILE - Hawaiʻi Senate
Catherine Cruz
FILE - Hawaiʻi Senate

The Senate Committee on Judiciary passed nine bills with amendments for a second hearing. The bills cover a wide range of topics from campaign finance, sexual harassment confidentiality, and discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders.

SB212 & SB665 (electoral finance)
SB212 increases the amount of fines for violations of the campaign's organizational report requirements. SB665 will make knowingly providing false information concerning the name or address of a person paying for a campaign advertisement a class C felony.

SB741 (electoral college)
A "faithless elector" is when someone in the electoral college does not vote for the U.S. President and Vice President the elector pledged to vote. SB741 makes faithless voting illegal, and will find an alternate to vote in the place of the original elector if they fail to vote for the proper candidate.

SB416 (witness reimbursement)
This bill promises to reimburse witnesses of a crime for airfare and lodging. The purpose of SB416 is to provide expert witnesses for prosecutors and public defenders.

SB832 (sexual misconduct confidentiality)
University of Hawaiʻi currently provides confidential advocates at each campus to support victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

However, if the perpetrator of the sexual harassment or violence is a UH employee, the advocate must report it to the university – therefore giving up confidentiality. This limits many victims who are also employees of the university to reach out for counseling.

Senate Bill 832 expands the victim-advocate privilege and allows university employees the same confidential services as students.

SB777 (criminal destruction of trees)
The bill establishes a criminal statute for the criminal destruction of a tree on state or county property punishable as a misdemeanor.

SB573 (native wildlife)
Requires all habitat conservation plans to include an agreement for plan participants to enter into and maintain an annual service contract with a stand-by and response facility available to provide emergency medical and rehabilitation services to native wildlife affected by activities undertaken within the plan area.

SB988 (unpaid internship)
The bill prohibits all unpaid internships except educational internships. SB988 clearly defines an educational internship as a student receiving training under an educational program.

SB206 (rental discrimination)
This bill prohibits landlords from denying a prospective tenant for using a Section 8 housing voucher.

Matthew Ua is a housing locator for Hope Services Hawaiʻi. He made an emotional testimony at the hearing, saying, "I'm sad to say that this morning I found a total of 18 ads on Craigslist and another 17 ads on realtor’s websites that again state no Section 8. That's a sad and frankly disturbing increase that all of us here today should be concerned with."

"While these ads are frustrating for me as a housing locator, again, I can only imagine how heartbreaking it is for a family who holds one of those housing vouchers. I communicate with these people on a regular basis and when they first are awarded the voucher, they’re elated and full of promise. Within a short amount of time, those positive expressions are turned into hopelessness, fear, desperation and sometimes anger."

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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