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  • SENATE PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO MEMBERSHIP ON SENATE COMMITTEES

    With the retirement of Senator Maile S.L. Shimabukuro (Senate District 22, KoʻOlina, Nānākuli, Māʻili, Waiʻanae, Mākaha, Mākua) from the Hawaiʻi State Senate effective today, Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Senate District 8, Kauaʻi, Niʻihau) announced changes to the composition of Senate Standing Committees. Effective June 1, 2024, Senator Herbert M. “Tim” Richards III (Senate District 4, North Hilo, Hāmākua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, North Kona) will be the interim Chair of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs. Senator Brandon J.C. Elefante (Senate District 16, ‘Aiea, ‘Aiea Heights, Hālawa, Pearlridge, Newtown, Royal Summit, Waimalu, Waiau, Momilani, Pacific Palisades, and Pearl City) will remain as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee through a special session to confirm judicial nominees in late June. After the special session to confirm judicial nominees ends, Senator Elefante will move from being a member of the Senate Committee on Judiciary Committee to a member of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

  • STUDENT SAFETY BILL AWAITING GOVERNOR'S REVIEW

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Recent investigations and reports of sexual abuse, physical assault, and other forms of harassment committed against students at public and private preschools and K-12 campuses throughout the State have exposed a loophole allowing keiki to be harmed. Predatory school personnel involved in these offenses have been reported as switching schools to harm new children by taking advantage of the inability of educational institutions to share information with one another. This year, to close this loophole and prevent these individuals from serving in any capacity that requires interaction with or close proximity to students, the Hawaiʻi Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 2475 CD1. SB2475 CD1 creates the Harm to Students registry for all preschools and K-12 educational institutions within the State. With the goal of preventing predatory individuals from subsequently gaining employment in any other public or private preschools and K-12 institutions in Hawaiʻi, this registry will contain information on school employees, contractors, or volunteers for whom, as a result of an investigation, a final finding has been issued that the individual has inflicted harm on a student. “The most important role of the Legislature is protecting our keiki. Our students have a right to pursue their education in safe, secure, and healthy learning environments statewide, and closing this loophole helps ensure that right,” said Senator Michelle N. Kidani, who serves as the Senate Vice President and Chair of Senate Committee on Education (District 18, Mililani Town, Waipiʻo Gentry, Crestview, Waikele, portion of Waipahu, Village Park, Royal Kunia). “Thanks to collaboration and support from our Department of Education and other educators and associations, SB2475 CD1 will make our schools a safer place.” During the legislative session, drafts of SB2475 received support from a wide cross section of education professionals, including the Department of Education, the State Public Charter School Commission, the Hawaiʻi Teachers Standards Board, the Early Learning Board, the Executive Office on Early Learning, Kamehameha Schools, Punahou School, the Hawaiʻi Association of Independent Schools, and Hawaiʻi Council of Private Schools. "The registry created under SB2475 would be an invaluable tool for both public and private schools, allowing us to share critical information and make informed employment decisions that prioritize the safety and protection of our children," said Superintendent Keith Hayashi. “We are very appreciative to the Education Committees and the Legislature for supporting this bill, as it would significantly enhance our ability to maintain healthy and secure learning environments." SB2475 CD1 is currently being considered by Governor Green to be signed into law. If approved by the Governor, SB2475 CD1 would go into effect on July 1, 2024. ###

  • SENATE COMMERCE AND CONSUMER PROTECTION COMMITTEE CHAIRISSUES STATEMENT REGARDING HAWAIʻI DEPARMENT OF AGRICULTURE’S INITIAL SURVEYS OF PUA LANI LANDSCAPE DESIGN

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Senator Jarrett Keohokalole (District 24, Kāne‘ohe, Kailua), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection, issued the following statement regarding the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture (HDOA)’s initial surveys of Little Fire Ants at Pua Lani Landscape Design: “It is encouraging to hear that the HDOA and Pua Lani are finally working together,” Senator Keohokalole said. “It should not have taken four months and a Senate investigation to get here.”

  • SENATOR DONOVAN M. DELA CRUZ AWARDED CARL PERKINS COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD FOR CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi –  Today, Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz (Senate District 17, portion of Mililani, Mililani Mauka, portion of Waipiʻo Acres, Launani Valley, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village) was honored as the Carl Perkins Community Service awardee for the state. “Mahalo to the Association for Career and Technical Education for this award, which is an example of the paradigm shift supported by Senate Education Committee Chair Kidani and Superintendent Hayashi,” said Senator Dela Cruz, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I am proud to work with our educators to ensure that our keiki are prepared for high paying jobs.” This award recognizes individuals who have used Career and Technical Education to make a significant impact on their community and demonstrated leadership in programs and activities that promote student involvement in community service. The award was granted by the Hawaiʻi branch of the Association for Career and Technical Education, the nation’s largest not-for-profit association committed to empowering educators to deliver high-quality career and technical education programs that position students for career success. “Hawaiʻi ACTE is thrilled to recognize the vision and leadership of Senator Donovan Dela Cruz as a testament to his unwavering commitment to the community and the transformative impact Career and Technical Education can have on students,” said Ron Umehira, Executive Director, Hawaiʻi ACTE. “I know that education is a critical piece for Hawaii’s future. Without good paying jobs, we will continue to lose our current and future workforce to better job markets. Without certified teachers in our classroom, we will not have a workforce prepared for economic development,” said Senator Michelle N. Kidani, who serves as the Senate Vice President and Chair of Senate Committee on Education (District 18, Mililani Town, Waipiʻo Gentry, Crestview, Waikele, portion of Waipahu, Village Park, Royal Kunia). “It has been my great pleasure partnering with the Ways and Means Chair to ensure that we have good paying jobs for today and tomorrow, fully certified and qualified teachers in our classrooms, and creating a sustainable future for all keiki across the State.”

  • SENATOR LORRAINE R. INOUYE THANKS GOVERNOR FOR RELEASING FUNDS FOR HILO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    Hilo, Hawaiʻi – Today, Senator Lorraine R. Inouye (District 1 – Hilo, Paukaʻa, Papaikou, Pepeʻekeo), issued the following statement thanking Governor Josh Green for releasing $5,005,000 in capital improvement project funds to finance multiple projects at Hilo International Airport. “I am thrilled to share the news of these important investments for the Hilo Airport,” Senator Inouye said. “This funding injection will support enhancements aimed at bolstering infrastructure and operational efficiency. Additionally, these funds will facilitate essential design work for terminal infrastructure improvements, furthering the airport's capacity to accommodate growing passenger needs.” “I am grateful to Governor Green for recognizing the importance of investing in Hilo International Airport. Hilo International Airport is a vital economic hub for the city of Hilo and the outlying areas of Hamakua, Puna and Kaʻu. It is critical that the State continues to support Hilo International Airport.”

  • LEGISLATURE PASSES BIOSECURITY BILL TO SUPPORT MITIGATION OF INVASIVE SPECIES

    In an historic response to increased awareness and concern about the invasive species crisis in our state, and the need to eradicate the widespread damage they cause statewide, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature voted unanimously to pass House Bill 2619 HD1 SD1 CD1 in a final reading in both the Senate and House last Wednesday. The bill explicitly requires the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) to lead and coordinate the State's invasive pest control and biosecurity efforts. It also requires the HDOA to post on its website real-time updates on pest infestations, including date, location, actions performed, and names of staff and organizations involved, so that the public knows exactly who to contact at the HDOA, if the problem isn’t being addressed. The bill also provides funding to each county as a grant-in-aid, subject to a county match, for the implementation of feral chicken control programs. The bill commits nearly $20 million to the HDOA to assist in the administration and implementation of their Biosecurity Program, including forty-four new positions. The bill also adds twenty-two new Plant Quarantine Branch inspectors to oversee plant materials, which is critical in order to mitigate the transportation of these invasive pests. In his eighth year as the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee Chair, Senator Mike Gabbard, who introduced the companion bill (SB2419) in the Senate, said, “I’m excited to see this biosecurity bill on its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. I applaud WAM Chair, Senator Dela Cruz and his staff, and his counterpart, House FIN Chair Yamashita, the Legislature, HDOA, and all the farming/ranching/agriculture stakeholders who collaborated to craft this comprehensive Biosecurity package that reflects the extreme urgency of this critical issue. After many years of demanding our state do more to support agriculture and help the people of Hawai‘i regarding invasive species, we’re finally putting our money where our mouth is. In my humble opinion, this bill is a masterpiece… indeed, it’s been a long time coming.” Under current law, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, the HDOA is required to implement a comprehensive biosecurity program to control and prevent increasing threats of pests and prohibited or restricted organisms without a permit from spreading throughout the State. While inspections are critical, increasing the State’s ability to prevent the entry of high-risk products would enhance its ability to mitigate and manage invasive pests. This is vitally important not only to protect the State’s fragile environment, but also to grow Hawaiʻi’s local agricultural industries and to increase levels of self-sufficiency and sustainability. “This year, the Legislature has made significant investments in biosecurity to protect our land and natural resources, which reinforces the urgency of safeguarding our environment against invasive pests that endanger Hawaiʻi's native species and communities. Designating a centralized agency to bolster the defense of our lands and shores will protect our natural habitat and preserve the well-being of our state,” said House Committee on Finance Chair Kyle T. Yamashita (D-12, Upcountry Maui). “This bill honors the work of former State Representative Clift Tsuji, who fought tirelessly for biosecurity during his tenure as the House Agriculture Committee Chair,” said Representative Kirstin Kahaloa (D-6, Hōnaunau, Nāpō‘opo‘o, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Keauhou, Hōlualoa, Kailua-Kona). “It recommits Hawaiʻi to protecting its environment, food security, and way of life against invasive species by placing the leadership of all biosecurity efforts on the Department of Agriculture. It funds nearly $20 million in staffing and programming to manage and eradicate invasive species like coconut rhinoceros beetles, little fire ants, two-lined spittle bugs, and more. This legislation will let our keiki play free without the fear of being bitten by little fire ants. It will keep our picturesque Hawaiian scenes with coconut trees proudly displayed across Hawaiʻi.  This effort helps our state make biosecurity a priority.” HB 2619 will advance to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

  • STATE SENATOR MAILE SHIMABUKURO ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION FROM HAWAIʻI STATE SENATE

    Senator Maile Shimabukuro (District 22, Ko ‘Olina, Nānākuli, Mā‘ili, Wai‘anae, Mākaha, Mākua) issued the following statement announcing her resignation from the Hawaiʻi State Senate, effective May 31, 2024: "After much soul-searching, I have decided to resign from the Senate, effective May 31, 2024.  It has been an amazing journey, and such a privilege, to serve as an elected official since 2003. From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of my fellow Legislators, Capitol staff, passionate advocates, constituents, and of course my family and friends, for all the support, teamwork, mentorship, and camaraderie that you have gifted me over these past 21 years.  I am so proud of the many things we have accomplished together, such as, the Nānākuli contraflow lane; MA‘O Organic Farms’ expansion; buildings for Searider Productions, LCC Wai‘anae Moku, Papahana O Kaiona, E Ala Voyaging Canoe, Nā Kama Kai, and Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, to name a few.  Bills such as legalizing pa‘i‘ai, extending the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims, eliminating the reconstructed car inspection, transfer on death deeds, prohibiting the removal of sand from our shorelines, beach brown water testing, and requiring counties to maintain DHHL infrastructure, will have a tremendous positive impact on the generations to come. After my departure, I look forward to tending to my mother and son, spending time with family and friends, focusing on my legal services work, volunteering for nonprofits, and enjoying the healing powers of nature and the ocean. Thank you again for providing me with the immense privilege of serving in this august body." Senator Shimabukuro grew up on the Wai‘anae Coast and graduated from ‘Iolani School. She completed her undergraduate studies at Colorado College and received a Juris Doctor from the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law. Maile Shimabukuro was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 2002, representing Wai‘anae, Mākaha, Mākua. In 2010, Shimabukuro was appointed to replace then Senate President Colleen Hanabusa when she was elected to Congress and has served as a Senator since. Beginning in 2013, Shimabukuro has been the Chair of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs. While in the House of Representatives, Shimabukuro served as the Chair of the House Committee on Human Services and Housing from 2005-2006. In accordance with State law, Democratic Party officers will identify three names that will be transmitted to Governor Green for consideration. The Governor will have sixty days to fill the vacancy.

  • STATE BUDGET CONTAINS $190 MILLION IN CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS FOR KAUAʻI

    Members of the Kauaʻi Delegation are pleased to announce that $190 million in funding for Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) and $365,000 for Grant-in-Aid (GIA) have been secured in the 2024 Legislative Session to bring improvements and funding for resources and facilities throughout the Garden Isle. Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (D-8 Kaua'i, Ni'ihau) stated, "These state funds will deliver significant and sustainable investments into important projects that address the community's needs." The State Budget Bill (HB1800 CD1) was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 1, and by the Senate on Friday, April 26. Upon passage from the House and Senate, the bill now heads to the governor's desk for signature. House Majority Floor Leader Dee Morikawa (D-17 Ni‘ihau, portion of ‘Ōma‘o, Kōloa, Po‘ipū, Lāwa‘i, Kalāheo, ‘Ele‘ele, Hanapēpē, Kaawanui Village, Pākalā Village, Waimea, Kekaha) sits on the House Finance Committee and was one of the conferees representing the House during budget negotiations with the Senate. "We have again been very successful with projects for Kauaʻi. Kauaʻi Veteran's Memorial Hospital is a critical hospital on the westside, and it is very important that we designate funds to upgrade our emergency room and rehab department to modernize and improve efficiency for our community's healthcare needs," said Representative Morikawa. "I am also pleased to be able to work with the County of Kauaʻi to obtain matching funds to resurface our westside basketball and tennis/pickleball courts. Additionally, food stability is contingent on supporting our agricultural initiatives, which this budget does as well as funding the maintenance of many parks and forest reserve facilities." Representative Luke A. Evslin (D-16 Wailua, Hanamā‘ulu, Kapaia, Līhu‘e , Puhi, portion of ‘Ōma‘o said, "We're thankful for a successful year of Capital Improvement Projects on Kauaʻi. These projects focus on improving transportation, increasing access to clean water to enable more housing options in Līhu‘e, and improving public access to state forest reserves." House Majority Leader Nadine K. Nakamura (D-15, Hā‘ena, Wainiha, Hanalei, Princeville, Kīlauea, Anahola, Keālia, Kapa‘a, portion of Wailua, Kawaihau) joins her colleagues in commending the productive legislative session that has delivered critical funding for the Garden Isle. "We entered this session understanding that our immediate focus remained to address the Maui wildfire recovery efforts, prioritizing safety and rehabilitation of our communities while ensuring core services throughout the rest of the state were not neglected," said Representative Nakamura. "I am pleased to see critical projects receive funding, such as $8,000,000 for track and field upgrades and site improvements at Kapa‘a High School. Funding is critical to ensure track and field meets can be held while the Vidinha Stadium is undergoing major renovations." FY25 Funding for Kauaʻi State Infrastructure: ·       $1,000,000 for construction to improve and strengthen the bridge approaches, supporting structures and appurtenant work at Christian Crossing Bridge, Kalepa. ·       $500,000 for construction for road and infrastructure improvements in Līhu‘e-Kōloa Forest Reserve. ·       $500,000 for construction for improvements to the marina building facilities in the marina area at Wailua River Park. ·       $20,000,000 for plans, land, design, construction, and equipment to include the assessment, site selection, land acquisition, and financial and project delivery to relocate the existing Kauaʻi Community Correctional Center and replace it with a new KCCC and Community Transitional Center. ·       $2,500,000 for construction for replacement of 18-inch water main along Kūhiō Highway (Hardy to Oxford St.) provided that no state funds shall be expended unless the County of Kauaʻi contributes matching county funds for state funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis. ·       $96,829,000 for land acquisition and construction for improvements to terminals, systems, facilities, and land acquisition at Līhu‘e Airport. This project is deemed necessary to qualify for federal aid financing and/or reimbursement. ·       $24,000,000 for plans, land acquisition, design, and construction of capital improvement program projects that will provide for safer, more efficient use of existing and/or additional operational areas throughout Nawiliwili Harbor. This project is deemed necessary to qualify for federal aid financing and/or reimbursement. ·       $1,650,000 for design and construction for resurfacing of tennis courts at Kekaha Faye Park (including basketball court), resurfacing of basketball courts at Waimea Athletic Field, and resurfacing of tennis courts at Hanapēpē Stadium, provided that no state funds shall be expended unless the County of Kauaʻi contributes matching county funds for state funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis. ·       $2,000,000 for plans, design, and construction for a post-harvest processing center in Kekaha (Kekaha Agricultural Association) ground and site improvements; equipment and appurtenances. ·       $2,500,000 for construction to improve interior access road and Kekaha Ditch Crossing - Kekaha Bridge. ·       $5,000,000 for plans, design, and construction for Kawaikōī stream and Waikoali stream crossing repairs and improvements in the Nā Pali-Kona Forest Reserve. ·       $500,000 for design and construction for improvements and repair of electrical systems and infrastructure at Kokeʻe State Park Baseyard. ·       $1,000,000 for design and construction for phase 2 road and parking improvements at Kokeʻe State Park. ·       $1,000,000 for plans, design and construction of Waimea Canyon lookouts, hazard mitigation improvements for health and safety. ·       $1,000,000 for construction to complete ongoing projects at Polihale State Park including but not limited to roadway improvements, security for cultural and environmental resources, comfort stations, and pavilions.  This project is deemed necessary for Federal aid financing and/or reimbursement. ·       $3,000,000 for design, construction, and equipment for modernization of operating room at Kauaʻi Veteran's Memorial Hospital Emergency Department. ·       $1,183,000 for construction to renovate the rehab department to modernize suites and improve efficiency at Kauaʻi Veteran's Memorial Hospital. ·       $8,000,000 for Kapa‘a High School Track and Field Upgrades. ·       $2,400,000 for Kapa‘a Homesteads Well No. 4 Site Development and Connecting Pipeline. The water from this improvement will provide fire protection for Kapa‘a Elementary School and Kapa‘a High School, and is needed to support the implementation of affordable housing, new pre-K classrooms, police substation, and hospital improvements on the grounds of the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital. ·       $2,400,000 for Kapa‘a Homesteads 313' Tanks (two- 0.5 MG tanks). Water from this improvement will provide fire protection for Kapa‘a Elementary School and Kapa‘a High School, and is needed to support the implementation of affordable housing, new pre-K classrooms, police substation and hospital improvements on the grounds of the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital. FY25 Capital Improvement Projects for Kauaʻi organizations: $300,000 for Easterseals Hawaiʻi $500,000 for Kauaʻi Habitat for Humanity $150,000 for Hale Halawai ʻOhana o Hanalei $50,000 for Hui Makaʻāinana o Makana $400,000 for Kapaʻa Business Association, Inc. $75,000 for Kauaʻi Economic Opportunity, Inc. $230,000 for Kauaʻi Food Bank, Inc. $100,000 for Kauaʻi Humane Society FY25 Operating Grant-in-Aid: $150,000 for Hanalei River Heritage Foundation $100,000 for Kauaʻi Humane Society $40,000 for Kauaʻi Philippine Cultural Center $75,000 for Kauaʻi Planning & Action Alliance, Inc.

  • LEGISLATURE PASSES SILVER ALERT BILL TO PROTECT VULNERABLE COMMUNITY MEMBERS

    On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 2305 SD2 HD2 CD1 to establish a Silver Alert Program to help locate and safeguard missing persons who are particularly vulnerable, including community members who are elderly or are cognitively impaired or developmentally disabled. “Establishing a Silver Alert program will provide many benefits to our community and especially for our kūpuna who go missing,” said Senator Brandon Elefante (Senate District 16, ‘Aiea, ‘Aiea Heights, Hālawa, Pearlridge, Newtown, Royal Summit, Waimalu, Waiau, Momilani, Pacific Palisades, and Pearl City), introducer of SB 2305. “I am grateful to collaborate with Representative Cory Chun who introduced the House companion bill and all the advocates who have supported this bill throughout the legislative process. With an aging population in Hawaiʻi, this is an important tool that can be used to locate our kūpuna.” More than half of states nationwide have established Silver Alert programs modeled after the AMBER Alert program. There are many emergency situations where the use of these broadcast systems could save lives by helping to identify missing individuals with cognitive impairments, or developmental disabilities, or who are the elderly.  However, there is currently no statutory process that requires its use. “The Silver Alert is a step forward in prioritizing safety for our kūpuna and vulnerable individuals.  Losing a loved one who wanders off can be the most terrifying situation for families and caregivers, but today we are not only giving them hope – but also the tools needed to locate their loved ones,” said Representative Cory Chun (House District 35, Portions of Pearl City and Waipahu, Crestview.) “I want to thank the Alzheimer's Association of Hawaiʻi for championing this measure along with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, Executive Office on Aging, as well as many other community and governmental agencies who have supported this cause for years.” SB 2305 now advances to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

  • LEGISLATURE PASSES HB2144 HD1 SD2 CD1 UNANIMOUSLY, SUPPORTING VALUE-ADDED PRODUCTION ACROSS THE STATE

    In a landmark move aimed at bolstering economic resilience and promoting local industries, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature has successfully passed HB2144 HD1 SD2 CD1, a bill focused on expanding value-added production throughout the Aloha State.  The bill now goes to Governor Josh Green to sign into law. The passage of HB2144 HD1 SD2 CD1 underscores the Hawaiʻi Legislature's commitment to fostering a vibrant and diverse economy that benefits all residents of the state and marks a significant milestone in Hawaiʻi's efforts to diversify its economy, improve access to locally sourced foods and support local entrepreneurs.  By prioritizing value-added production, the state aims to capitalize on its unique resources and expertise, fostering innovation and sustainability in key sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing. HB2144 requires the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Health to amend the definition of "homemade food products" in its Hawaiʻi Administrative Rules, and to adopt certain rules regarding the sale and delivery of homemade food products, which pragmatically expands opportunities for cottage food producers and consumers without compromising food safety. By broadening the types of shelf-stable food that can be sold and where producers can sell them, the bill ensures that local entrepreneurs have the chance to thrive while maintaining high standards of food safety.  The provisions included in HB2144 underscores Hawaiʻi's commitment to supporting its cottage food industry while prioritizing consumer welfare. Representative Kirstin Kahaloa (D-6 Hōnaunau, Nāpō‘opo‘o, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Keauhou, Hōlualoa, Kailua-Kona), the introducer of HB2144, expressed her enthusiasm for the positive impact it will have on Hawaiʻi's economy and communities. "Today's passage of HB2144 is a triumph for Hawaiʻi's economic diversification and local entrepreneurship. As a representative from the vibrant community of Kona, I've witnessed firsthand the ingenuity and dedication of our local producers. This bill is a testament to their hard work and vision. By expanding opportunities for value-added production and cottage food businesses, HB2144 will not only showcase the richness of our island's resources but also create avenues for economic growth and resilience. I commend my colleagues for their support of this vital legislation, which will undoubtedly benefit Hawaiʻi for generations to come." "I am immensely proud of the passage of HB2144, especially considering its humble origins from local producers in South Kona," said Senate Majority Leader Dru Mamo Kanuha (D-3 Kona, Kaʻū, Volcano), who introduced the companion measure in the Senate.  "This legislation represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to empower local entrepreneurs and bolster Hawai'i's economy. By supporting value-added production and cottage food businesses, we are not only harnessing the abundant resources of our islands but also providing much-needed opportunities for our communities to thrive. I am confident that HB2144 will pave the way for a brighter future for Hawaiʻi and its residents." “HB2144 is a great step forward for our statewide cottage food industry,” says Ken Love, President of the Hawai‘i Master Food Preservers, who led community advocacy efforts for the measure throughout the legislative session. “It promises to help producers and growers be more sustainable while creating local food industry employment and alternatives to imported brands. Mahalo nui loa to Senators Kanuha and Gabbard and Representative Kahaloa.” “This bill will provide more opportunities for fruit growers to sell raw produce for use in value-added products such as jams, jellies, syrups and sauces,” says Mark Suiso, president of Hawai‘i Tropical Fruit Growers. “Ultimately, it enables Hawai‘i to better feed our community.” As Hawaiʻi continues to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century economy, today's legislative action stands as a testament to the State's vision to build a brighter future for generations to come.  Following today's votes, HB2144 was transmitted to Governor Josh Green for final consideration.  The Governor has until July 10, 2024, to act on the measure.

  • LEGISLATURE PASSES BILL TO EXEMPT CERTAIN MEDICAL SERVICES FROM GENERAL EXCISE TAX

    Today, the Legislature passed a bill to provide relief to the healthcare system in Hawaiʻi. Senate Bill 1035 SD2 HD1 CD1, introduced by Senator Lorraine R. Inouye (Senate District 1, Hilo, Paukaʻa, Papaikou, Pepeʻekeo), exempts hospitals, infirmaries, medical clinics, health care facilities, pharmacies, and medical and dental providers from General Excise Tax (GET) on goods or services that are reimbursed through Medicaid, Medicare, or TRICARE. If approved by the Governor, this law will go into effect on January 1, 2026. Under current law, there is incongruity in the way medical services are treated with regard to GET. Only medical services rendered at a nonprofit hospital, infirmary, or sanitarium are exempt from GET, but services rendered by individual or group practices or clinics are fully taxable. Government health programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE, do not compensate for the tax differential, which requires some providers to cover added costs. “At the behest of my constituents from Hilo who are local medical practitioners, I proudly introduced Senate Bill 1035 to address the issue of unsustainable taxation on healthcare services in Hawaiʻi, particularly impacting underserved populations covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare,” said Senator Inouye. “With a dwindling number of providers able to accept these essential insurances, the bill aims to relieve financial burdens and stimulate economic growth by exempting healthcare and dental services from the General Excise Tax. This measure especially benefits rural healthcare providers and patients, who often face challenges in accessing quality care due to limited resources and funding. Additionally, SB1035 promotes equity and access to healthcare, strengthens our healthcare infrastructure, and ensures compliance with federal regulations. With endorsement from over one-hundred and fifty-five healthcare professionals, I could not be more thrilled that SB1035 has passed the Legislature – this transformative bill will enact meaningful change in our healthcare system.” The State already faces a shortage of nearly eight-hundred physicians, and a recent survey of physicians by the John A. Burns School of Medicine found that the elimination of GET on medical services could be an effective means of recruiting and maintaining more physicians. “We have not passed a GE tax exemption bill ever since I have been in office and thus, the passage of SB1035 to benefit medical providers who care for our kūpuna and ALICE families, is a momentous occasion,” said Senate Committee on Health and Human Services Chair Senator Joy San Buenaventura (Senate District 2, Puna). “Ever since Senator Inouye brought this bill to my attention as Health and Human Services Chair , I have championed it.  Unlike store owners who are allowed to pass on General Excise Tax to consumers, the federal government makes it illegal for medical providers of Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare services to pass on General Excise Tax to their patients. Thus, by requiring these medical providers to pay General Excise Tax, we are actually dismissing them by increasing their costs. With this bill's passage, we remove a major disincentive in servicing the underserved community and hope we can prevent the further loss of physicians, dentists and other medical providers, and save the health industry approximately $74 million per year.” “For the medical community in Hawaiʻi, May 1, 2024 will be marked as an historic day. Today, we see the passing of SB1035, which brings crucial tax equity to Hawaiʻi’s independent medical providers,” said Hawaiʻi Medical Association president, Elizabeth Ann Ignacio, MD. “This legislation returns fairness to the taxation of medical practices, allowing more physicians to work in Hawaiʻi and increasing access to care for Hawaiʻi’s most vulnerable populations. The members of the Hawaiʻi Medical Association thank our government leaders for their foresight in passing this important legislation; this is a critical step in creating the medical infrastructure needed for a healthier Hawaiʻi.” Senate Bill 1035 now advances to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

  • LEGISLATURE PASSES COFFEE LABELING STANDARDS BILL

    A coffee labeling bill to protect local farmers and preserve the authenticity of Hawaiʻi -grown products has passed the 2024 Legislative Session and is expected to become law upon the governor's signature. House Bill 2298 CD1, introduced by Representative Nicole E. Lowen, mandates that beginning July 1, 2027, any coffee labeled or advertised with a Hawaiʻi geographic origin must consist of at least fifty-one percent coffee by weight from that geographic region. The current requirement, set at ten percent, means that coffee products can be labeled as a specialty product from a specific region when in fact ninety percent of what is being sold is not from that region. This measure aims to protect Hawaiʻi's origin products, combat deceptive labeling, and ensure that products that bear regional names contain at least a majority of product from that region. "This initiative is about protecting Kona's world-renowned coffee and ensuring that local farmers receive the prices they deserve for their products, and that dollars stay in Hawaiʻi's economy," said Representative Nicole E. Lowen (D-7 Kailua-Kona, North Kona, South Kohala). "The percentage of Kona Coffee required for it to be labeled Kona should be 100 percent, but given that this is the first progress made on this in more than thirty years, it’s a huge win." For over three decades, the debate over the required percentage of coffee originating from the geographic area to qualify as Hawaiian coffee has persisted, with existing regulations set at a minimum of ten percent. In 2022, the Legislature passed Act 222, which requested that the HDOA conduct a study on the impact of coffee labeling laws on coffee farmers and to determine the economically ideal proportion of Kona beans in products marketed as Kona coffee. "By gradually implementing an increase in minimum standards, this bill protects the integrity of all regional coffee brands in Hawaiʻi, like Kona and Kaʻū, and supports our local farmers," said Representative Kirstin Kahaloa (D-6 Hōnaunau, Nāpō‘opo‘o, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Keauhou, Hōlualoa, Kailua-Kona). On January 18, 2024, the HDOA submitted the Final Report on the Economic Study on Changes in Coffee Labeling Law. The report highlights that increasing the minimum amount of Kona coffee from 10 percent to either fifty-one percent or one hundred percent would be advantageous for local farmers, with a higher increase providing the most benefit. Additionally, the report anticipates that proposed labeling changes could result in a price increase for Kona coffee while seeing minimal impact on quantities grown or sold. “For too long, we have allowed products that are not Kona coffee to use the Kona coffee name and reputation for profit at the expense of farmers. This law is a step forward in doing the right thing for Hawaiʻi's farmers and supporting their economic growth,” said Representative Jeanne Kapela (D-5 Portions of Kea‘au and Kurtistown, Mountain View, Glenwood, Fern Forest, Volcano, Pāhala, Punalu‘u, Nā‘ālehu, Wai‘ōhinu, Hawaiian Ocean View, Ho‘okena). "HB2298 CD1 is a pivotal advancement in our ongoing commitment to safeguarding the integrity of Hawaiʻi’s cherished agricultural industries. By requiring a majority percentage of coffee from the specified geographic region in labeled products, we’re not only protecting our farmers’ livelihoods but also ensuring that consumers receive authentic, high-quality coffee synonymous with our beloved regions like Kona and Kaʻū. This legislation reflects our dedication to fostering a sustainable and transparent agricultural sector, one that honors our traditions while promoting economic prosperity for generations to come.  I look forward to continuing the work ahead to further strengthen and preserve the rich heritage of Hawaiʻi’s coffee industry for all," said Senate Majority Leader Dru Mamo Kanuha (D- 3 Kona, Ka‘ū, Volcano). "This session, the Legislature was able to pass out a bill that ultimately supports our coffee farmers and in reality, the whole coffee industry in the State of Hawai‘i. By increasing the required percentage of Hawai‘i regional coffee to fifty-one percent for the use of geographic monograms, we are raising standards, enhancing transparency in labeling, and will ultimately advance the coffee industry over time. Mahalo to the coffee processors and farmers who worked together to find middle ground," said Senator Tim Richards (D-4 North Hilo, Hāmākua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, North Kona).

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