Hawaii Legislature OKs green energy loan plan

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Associated Press

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 11:03 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 11:03 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Legislature spent a full day Tuesday voting on dozens of bills to send to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, including a new loan program to encourage green energy and a plan to stimulate entrepreneurship.

The push to vote on most of the remaining bills comes with only one more session on Thursday before the 2013 session ends.

The Legislature unanimously passed a $23.8 billion budget that provides millions for capital improvement projects and the state's unfunded liabilities. Lawmakers also approved budgets for the judiciary and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Both chambers approved the governor's initiative to provide loans to help people afford solar panels and other green energy equipment. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has been pushing for the green energy infrastructure loans as part of his plan to help Hawaii move away from fossil fuels.

Lawmakers also passed Abercrombie's $6 million plan to provide resources for entrepreneurs and encourage innovation. Abercrombie originally asked for $20 million for the proposal.

The Legislature also approved Abercrombie's proposal for a new school readiness program to help late-born 4-year-olds from low-income families. The proposal has received much less funding than Abercrombie's original request, but advocates said this is a building block for a more expansive early childhood education program in the future.

In addition, lawmakers passed a bill requiring background checks for people who bring guns to Hawaii from out of state and a pilot project for developing school lands to raise money for school infrastructure repairs.

Lawmakers disagreed on a proposal to extend the state shield law. The Senate approved a version that made the law permanent but limited its scope. The House chose to amend the measure to keep the existing law for two more years. The law will likely expire in June because both chambers have to agree on one version in order for the bill to pass.

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