HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Tuesday signed five bills in a series of afternoon ceremonies at the Capitol, including one to establish a state homeland security office and another to transfer control of the state's medical marijuana program from the Public Safety Department to the Department of Health.
The other measures clarify laws for professional employer organizations, give county fire chiefs power on building permits, and limit owner-builders applying for contract licenses.
The homeland security office will operate within the state's Department of Defense. The bill says the goal will be to provide a comprehensive program to protect Hawaii's people, infrastructure and government from terrorism.
The law requires state officials to coordinate their plans as much as possible with the federal government.
"The increasing sophistication of terrorist groups, transnational criminal organizations, and others who would threaten the peace and security of Hawaii greatly complicate the state's ability to protect its residents and prevent attacks," lawmakers said in the bill introduced by Sens. Will Espero and Josh Green.
The marijuana law comes three years after a working group recommended the program's transfer. Lawmakers say the medical marijuana program is more appropriate as a public health program because the health department is more experienced working with patients and doing outreach and education for public health programs.
The transfer should be complete by Jan. 1, 2015, according to the bill.
The other laws:
— Clarify authority of county fire departments regarding building permits, authorizing county chiefs to require plans or documentation showing compliance with fire codes.
— Require professional employer organizations to meet certain qualifications to be exempt from state general excise taxes, including obtaining a bond or irrevocable letter of credit.
— Limit owner-builders who are not required to get contractors licenses, which usually are required to get county building permits. The bill attempts to stop unlicensed contractors who advise owners to get an owner-builder permit so the contractor can use unlicensed employees.
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