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  • HAWAIʻI STATE SENATE CONFIRMS JUDICIAL APPOINTMENT TO THE FIRST CIRCUIT

    Today, the Hawaiʻi State Senate confirmed the judicial appointment of Michelle Comeau to the District Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaiʻi. The First Circuit is located on the island of O‘ahu. Michelle Comeau has been a Per Diem District Court Judge for the First Circuit beginning in 2017, and in that capacity has been assigned several thousand criminal and civil cases. Since 2019, Judge Comeau has also worked in an Of Counsel role to Nakashima Ching LLC, focusing on business litigation and contracts and property law. Previously she served in an Of Counsel role and as an Associate at Alston Hunt Floyd and Ing, and an Associate Attorney at Morrison and Foerster, LLP in Los Angeles. Additionally, Judge Comeau was a Law Clerk to Judge Susan Oki Mollway of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai‘i, and to Judge A. Wallace Tashima of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Comeau graduated magna cum laude from UCLA School of Law. "Judge Comeau brings varied and valued experience to our Judiciary," Senator Karl Rhoads (District 13 - Dowsett Highlands, Pu‘unui, Nu‘uanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Punchbowl, Pālama, Liliha, ʻIwilei, Chinatown, and Downtown), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee remarked. "After meeting with her and hearing her answers during her confirmation hearing, I am confident that our Judiciary will benefit from Judge Comeau's sharp legal mind and experience."

  • SENATE WATER AND LAND COMMITTEE CHAIR RESPONDS TO DECISION TO DEFER CRITICAL WATER BILL

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Senator Lorraine R. Inouye, (District 1, Hilo, Pauka‘a, Papaikou, Pepe‘ekeo) Chair of the Senate Committee on Water and Land, issued the following statement regarding the decision to defer House Bill 2690 HD2 SD1 (HB2690), a measure to address structural problems with Hawaiʻi’s Water Commission and fund remediation of pollution from Red Hill: "I am greatly disappointed in the outcome on HB2690. Despite agreement between both legislative bodies that this bill is urgently needed and very important – not just for Red Hill, but also for Lahaina. I was deeply touched by all of the students and others from Maui who flew to Oʻahu to learn about civics and our legislative process. I'd like to thank the UH Richardson School of Law students and the Lahaina Strong advocates who fought so hard to keep this bill alive. I will work tirelessly with these advocates over the interim to ensure we have a strong measure for the next legislative session." Significant provisions in the comprehensive bill include the creation of a Red Hill Special Fund for remediation, addition of staff positions for Red Hill WAI policy coordination, allowing the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) to elect its own chairperson, allowing the CWRM to hire independent legal counsel, and providing CWRM the authority to take action during an emergency water shortage.

  • INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENT FUNDS RELEASED FOR SOUTH MAUI SCHOOL

    State Senator Angus McKelvey (District 6, West Maui, Māʻalaea, Waikapū, South Maui) announced the release of $1,020,000 in funding for vital improvements at Lokelani Intermediate School in Maui. This capital improvement project will address crucial infrastructure needs including parking lot resurfacing, upgrades to gutters and drainage systems, air conditioning enhancements, and general repairs. "These funds are more necessary than ever," Senator McKelvey remarked. "They will help to address the overlong need of the parking lot, air conditioning, and other infrastructure which is being placed under more stress now due to the influx of new residents from Lahaina." The funding will also facilitate improvements to storm drains and other water management systems, which are critical in mitigating locally generated runoff that affects the school and surrounding areas. "Even though the focus has rightly been on fire, flooding is still one of South Maui's biggest challenges," added McKelvey. "Efforts like these show that every bit that can be done to address runoff and storm water will collectively help us address this issue." "I am thankful to Governor Green for advancing the funds needed to make these improvements possible," McKelvey said. “Now it is important to ensure that permitting and procurement can be done as expeditiously as possible so we can get this project done sooner than later.” This initiative not only addresses immediate infrastructure needs but also contributes to a safer and more sustainable environment for the kupuna, keiki, and all residents of Hawaiʻi. For more information on the improvements at Lokelani Intermediate School and other community projects, please contact Senator McKelvey's office at 808-586-6070 or senmckelvey@capitol.hawaii.gov.

  • SENATE AND HOUSE MONEY COMMITTEES VOTE TO APPROVE THE STATE BUDGET BILL

    Last night, Senate and House conferees approved a final version of the State's Supplemental Budget (HB1800 HD1 SD1 CD1). This measure includes operating, capital improvement projects (CIP), and grants-in-aid monies for fiscal year 2024-2025 (FY25). The bill includes: An operating budget of $10,395,945,997 in general funds and $19,209,528,184 through all methods of funding (MOF) for FY25; A CIP budget of $1,452,550,000 in general obligation bond funds and $4,505,451,000 through all MOF for FY25; and $10,000,000 (operating) and $20,000,000 (CIP) in grants-in-aid. "The budget bill that we passed today balances the ongoing needs of Maui, while also preparing our State for future disasters and working to diversify our economy and workforce to keep our keiki in Hawaiʻi," said Senator Donovan Dela Cruz (Senate District 17 – Portion of Mililani, Mililani Mauka, portion of Waipi‘o Acres, Launani Valley, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "As with any budget, difficult decisions must be made, but we are confident that the strategic forward-thinking collaboration between the Legislature and administration resulted in a budget that is proactive in developing a diversified economy and stabilizes core services and programs to address the needs of our most vulnerable residents." "We approached the crafting of the state budget with careful consideration, reflecting the House's dedication to fiscal prudence, accountability, and transparency," said Representative Kyle T. Yamashita (House District 12 – Upcountry Maui), Chair of the House Committee on Finance. "As we commenced this legislative session, our immediate focus remained to address the Maui wildfire recovery efforts, prioritizing safety and rehabilitation of our communities while ensuring core services for our state were not neglected," Chair Yamashita continued. "Despite funding uncertainties, the fiscal year 2024-2025 budget reflects our shared dedication to ensuring adequate resources for mental health services, healthcare for the disabled and elderly, business and workforce development, childcare and education, affordable housing, and public welfare. Furthermore, we have 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." House Bill 1800 CD1 will be up for a final vote in both chambers before being transmitted to the governor for consideration. Notable budget highlights include appropriations for the following agencies: Department of Agriculture Converting 46.0 positions from special funds to general funds for biosecurity Converting 20.0 positions from revolving funds to general funds for biosecurity Converting position from permanent to temporary and increase trust fund ceiling by $93,434 for a grant writer Adding $1,500,000 for Da Bux Program Adding 3.0 positions and $1,000,000 for meat inspections Department of Accounting and General Services Adding $400,000 for menstrual products and dispensers Adding $102,200 in general funds and increase federal fund ceiling by $102,200 for the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Adding $17,000,000 in general funds for Insurance Adding $2,500,000 for Microsoft G5 licenses Department of Attorney General Adding $2,456,750 for Career Criminal and Victim Witness Assistance Programs Adding 4.0 positions and $462,134 for the Hawaiʻi Correctional System Oversight Commission Adding 4.0 positions and $336,800 for the Civil Recoveries Division Adding 5.0 positions and $525,796 for the Criminal Justice Division Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism Adding $5,000,000 for high pressure processing equipment Adding $250,000 to continue the Office of International Affairs Adding 30.0 positions and $63,000,000 for the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority Increasing special fund ceiling by $34,000,000 for the Hawaiʻi Convention Center Adding $6,000,000 for HTDC grant programs Adding $6,000,000 for geothermal energy exploration Adding 2.0 positions and $210,000 for the Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority Adding $5,000,000 for supportive housing Adding $25,000,000 to deposit into the Rental Housing Revolving Fund Adding 1.0 position and $132,126 Climate-Resilient Food and Product Innovation Network Manager Adding 3.0 positions and $750,000 for East Kauaʻi Irrigation System maintenance Adding $250,000 for a feed lot proof of concept Department of Budget and Finance Adding $13,356,628 for broadband access state match Increasing special fund ceiling by $49,730,000 for the Mass Transit Special Fund Adding $240,000 to upgrade senior managerial positions Adding $275,076 for budget analyst position upgrades Adding $126,000 for the procurement of a case management software for the Office of the Public Defender Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Increase special fund ceiling by $5,880,000 for the Kalakaua building rooftop renovations Increase special fund ceiling by $2,500,000 for website redesign and call center Increase special fund ceiling by $1,175,000 for increase in operating costs Department of Defense Adding $6,919,624 for Hazard Mitigation and $24,700,000 in matching federal funds Adding $1,430,900 for utilities at Joint Base Pearl Harbor, Kauaʻi, and Kalaeloa Adding $497,000 for utilities at Hawaiʻi Army National Guard facilities Department of Education Increasing federal fund ceiling by $130,000 and 2.0 positions for the Executive Office on Early Learning Adding $10,000,000 for workers' compensation Adding $14,925,959 for educational assistants and vice principals Adding $6,000,000 for weighted student formula for small and remote school Adding $413,915 for equitable participation in AP courses and exams Adding $12,931,380 for the Weighted Student Formula and English Language Learners Adding $579,450 to enhance middle school education Adding $150,000 for student conferences Adding $63,082 for JROTC travel for programs on neighbor islands Adding $1,300,000 for health technicians Adding $2,500,000 for Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher Differentials Adding $268,260 for CTE Seal of Biliteracy Adding $20,990,000 for summer learning hubs Adding $1,300,000 for speech-pathology services Adding $2,476,720 for workforce readiness Adding $400,000 for professional development for trauma-informed care Adding $500,000 for professional development for computer science Adding $1,700,000 for social-emotional surveys and mobile applications Adding $750,000 for environmental services Adding $3,250,000 for contract service increases Adding $15,000,000 for electricity Adding $18,000,000 for food services Adding $18,266,346 for bus contracts Adding $5,000,000 for safety and security Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Adding $808,204 for 6.0 Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act positions Department of Human Services Adding $260,000 for utilities at the Hawaiʻi Youth Correctional Facility Adding $15,525,000 for Medicaid Home and Community Based Service contract increases Adding $1,500,000 for rent supplement program Adding $1,320,000 for Homeless Programs Office contract increases Adding $10,500,000 for HPHA repair and maintenance Adding $611,850 for Post Adoption support services Adding $6,500,000 for Applied Behavioral Analysis Medicaid payments for children with autism Adding $3,000,000 for Mobile Treatment Clinics in ʻOhana Zones Adding $1,000,000 for youth mental health services Department of Human Resources Development Adding 7.0 positions and $872,112 for increased recruitment efforts Adding $50,000 for employee training Department of Health Adding $122,556 for 2.0 positions for Kalaupapa Adding $8,880,000 for new and existing group home services Adding $6,800,000 for psychiatric in-patient services Adding $2,150,665 and 4.0 positions to implement upgraded safety and security measures at the Hawaiʻi State Hospital Adding $6,657,400 for the ʻIwilei behavioral health crisis center and supportive housing services Adding $18,800,000 for contracts for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division Adding $4,212,751 for emergency medical services statewide Adding $17,400,000 for Maui Health Systems Adding $2,500,000 for general administration Adding $1,000,000 for electricity at the State Laboratory Adding $230,000 for the digitization of health records Adding $100,000 for an Early Intervention Working Group for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Adding $2,000,000 for a 2-year Rural Medical Air Transport Pilot Project Adding $200,000 for Language Interpreter Certification Classes Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Increasing ceiling by $2,200,000 for Unemployment Insurance Increasing ceiling by $300,000 for Labor Law Enforcement Special Fund​ Transferring 7.0 positions and $6,983,896 from the Workforce Development Division to the Workforce Development Council as LBR135​ Changing means of financing from federal to general funds for 4.0 Employment Service Specialists for the Hele Imua Internship Program Transferring 7.00 positions and $695,201 from various programs to re-establish the Research and Statistics Office as LBR901​ Increasing ceiling by $200,000 for Veteran career counseling Department of Land and Natural Resources Adding $5,850,000 for forest and resource management Increasing special fund ceiling by $800,000 for sport fishing Increasing special fund ceiling by $2,000,000 for State Parks Increasing special fund ceiling by $10,000,000 for State Parks Adding $1,500,000 for Act 90 land transfers Adding $475,000 for maintenance and operation of wells Adding 3.0 positions and $750,000 for the Red Hill Water Alliance Initiative (WAI) Adding $451,732 for DLNR's Administrative Office Adding 7.0 positions and $647,296 for DLNR's Human Resources Office Department of Law Enforcement Increasing interdepartmental transfer fund ceiling by $6,567,591 and 50.0 positions for security at harbors and airports Adding $1,265,600 for the Illegal Fireworks Taskforce Adding $825,000 for the gun buyback program Adding $1,500,000 for Law Enforcement Training Division Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Adding $50,000 for a Foster Pet Program Adding $317,000 for electricity Adding $42,864 for electricity Adding $75,000 for water and sewer Department of Taxation Adding $126,192 for 1.0 Senior Software Developer Adding $11,800 for the Multi-Factor Authentication System Adding $381,727 for office supplies, subscriptions, and license renewals Adding $98,000 for security equipment and vehicle contracts Department of Transportation Increasing special fund ceiling by $5,345,741 for security at airports Increasing special fund ceiling by $244,370 for security at harbors Increasing special fund ceiling by $244,370 for security at harbors Increasing special fund ceiling by $244,370 for security at harbors Increasing special fund ceiling by $244,370 for security at harbors Increasing special fund ceiling by $244,370 for security at harbors Increasing special fund ceiling by $900,000 for roadside maintenance contracts Increasing special fund ceiling by $3,000,000 for roadside maintenance Increasing special fund ceiling by $300,000 for Hawaiʻi County police services for State Highways Adding $5,000,000 for stored property and debris removal program University of Hawaiʻi Increasing special fund ceiling by $1,208,020 and 4.0 positions for campus safety systemwide Adding $510,000 and 6.0 positions for systemwide mental health services Adding $1,068,821 and 6.50 positions for a UHM-UHWO Nursing collaboration Adding $142,500 and 4.0 positions for an Education Studies and Indigenous Teacher Education Program Adding 4.00 positions and $925,000 for neighbor island health access and pathway extension Adding 3.0 positions and $250,528 an incarcerated students' program Adding $2,874,177 for Statewide Access Master Plans Adding $3,700,000 for Community College Hawaiʻi Promise Program Adding $1,000,000 for wildfire mapping and vulnerability assessments Adding $125,000 for ornamental red ginger research

  • CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP AT THE LEGISLATIVE REFERENCE BUREAU'S PUBLIC ACCESS ROOM

    The Legislative Reference Bureau's Public Access Room (PAR) will soon be getting a new leader. Virginia Beck, who has served admirably as the Legislative Reference Bureau's long-time Public Access Room Coordinator will retire effective May 31, 2024.  Virginia worked as a session hire in PAR for two legislative sessions, became a permanent PAR staff member in 2007, and became the PAR Coordinator in 2015. Under Virginia's leadership, PAR has achieved a high level of productivity and professionalism, with responsive and knowledgeable staff providing resources and services to enhance public participation in the legislative process. She led the effort to redesign the Public Access Room's website, which received national recognition as an Outstanding Website by the Web Marketing Association in 2020. Virginia smoothly guided PAR through the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to the challenges presented by working with her staff to develop numerous online workshops and making other resources available on PAR's website. "The Senate and the House of Representatives profoundly appreciates Virginia for her many years of public service, tireless dedication, patience, perseverance, enthusiasm, wisdom, warmth, and grace, and will be eternally grateful that public servants like Virginia exist," said Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (District 8, Kaua'i, Ni'ihau) and House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (D-25, Ala Moana, Kaka‘ako, Downtown). "While we know that the Legislature and the citizens of Hawai‘i will miss Virginia greatly, we are also confident that others will step up to continue the path she has paved to connect the public with the State's legislative process and ensuring accessibility for all." Succeeding Virginia Beck will be Andrea (Andy) Langhurst Eickholt, who has joined PAR for the last two legislative sessions.  Andy brings over 15 years of experience managing information resources, people, and budgets as an academic and research librarian at institutions including Eastern Washington University, the University of Notre Dame, and for the research arm of General Electric.  She's been a quick learner and is gratified to know that Assistant Coordinator Keanu Young, with his wealth of experience, will be continuing in his role.

  • SENATORS CALL FOR AN INVESTIGATION INTO HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC RELIABILITY ISSUES

    In light of the multiple power outages this weekend, Senator Glenn Wakai, Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection, and Senator Lynn DeCoite, Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development, and Tourism sent a letter to the Public Utilities Commission expressing concern about recent power blackouts. The letter, in part, highlighted the Public Utilities Commission's investigatory powers under State law, and requested the Commission to conduct investigations: "The PUC has the statutory responsibility to regulate Hawaiian Electric proactively in the public interest and can use its investigatory powers pursuant to Section 269-7, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to ensure that electric utility services are delivered in a safe and reliable manner. The lack of reliability due to insufficient energy generation, HECO’s aging equipment, unreliable oil-fired power generation, and immediate and long term solutions should be investigated." A copy of the letter's language is below. April 16, 2024 Via Email Honorable Chair and Members of the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission Kekuanao’a Building, First Floor 465 South King Street Honolulu, Hawai’i 96813 Re: Investigation into Hawaiian Electric Reliability Issues and Proposed Solutions Dear Commissioners: The recurring blackouts on Oahu and the Hawaii Island are distressful. These unplanned rolling outages and calls for conservation showcase Hawaiian Electric’s struggle to provide safe and reliable energy to customers. Even worse, HECO expects more blackouts in the months ahead, without any indication of when these energy reliability issues will be resolved. On Sunday night, some 13,000 Oahu utility customers were without power for several hours and some continue to be without power. These outages have forced four East Oahu schools to close. The Department of Health reported some 237,500 gallons of sewage were released into the ocean due to a lack of power at the East Honolulu Treatment Plant. At the same time 21,500 customers on Hawaii Island experienced an outage, and HECO issued another alert to expect more. The PUC has the statutory responsibility to regulate Hawaiian Electric proactively in the public interest and can use its investigatory powers pursuant to Section 269-7, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to ensure that electric utility services are delivered in a safe and reliable manner. The lack of reliability due to insufficient energy generation, HECO’s aging equipment, unreliable oil-fired power generation, and immediate and long term solutions should be investigated. We trust the PUC will look into this matter to clearly understand the nature, duration, and resolution of these outages. Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. Aloha, Glenn Wakai Senator Lynn DeCoite Senator Jarrett Keohokalole Senator

  • SENATOR ANGUS L. K. MCKELVEY THANKS GOVERNOR FOR RELEASING FUNDS TO IMPROVE THE MALA WHARF AND RAMP

    West Maui, Hawaiʻi – Today, Senator Angus L.K. McKelvey (District 6 – West Maui, Māʻalaea, Waikapū, South Maui) issued the following statement thanking Governor Josh Green for releasing $3,2000,000 in capital improvement project (CIP) funds to finance improvements at Mala Wharf and Ramp, including resurfacing of the roadway and parking areas, drainage and comfort station improvements, and new lighting: “The necessity for this funding has been keenly felt in the community, especially considering the ongoing challenges faced by the area,” McKelvey said, highlighting the timely nature of this initiative. “Given the overall infrastructure and repairs, the release of these funds couldn't come at a better time,” McKelvey said. He expressed hopes that County and Federal leaders will collaborate closely with the State to expedite these much needed repairs and improvements, further enhancing the area for the community's benefit. “I want to Mahalo Governor Green for releasing these funds now and hope that we can also address the area of immediate concern to the community which is the critical need for dredging at Mala Wharf. This action is essential to restore and maintain the functionality and safety of the wharf, which serves as a significant point of access and operation for the local community,” McKelvey said, adding that funding was secured for the Department of Land and Natural Resources previously for this effort. “Prioritizing dredging is critical in order to ensure that we can continue use the ramp and facilitate this important project the funding will be used for,” McKelvey said. According to McKelvey, the funds were secured as part of his CIP request to address the quality issues plaguing the local boating community trying to use the ramp.

  • SENATE CELEBRATES CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION FOR CAREER READINESS

    On Friday, the Hawaiʻi State Senate Committee on Ways and Means visited two sites in Central Oʻahu to celebrate advancements in career and technical education. First, the Committee visited Leilehua High School where they listened to presentations by the Department of Education, Hawaiʻi P-20, Hawaiʻi State Teacher Association, the Hawaiʻi Teachers Standards Board, and Leilehua students on workforce development pathways from early childhood to post-secondary education. Afterward, the Committee attended the grand opening of the Wahiawā Value-Added Product Development Center, a joint project between Leeward Community College and the State. The Wahiawā Value-Added Product Development Center, a 33,000 square foot manufacturing facility for entrepreneurship and education, is one component of the Food and Product Innovation Network, a statewide network of facilities to support value-added businesses as they scale up and commercialize new products from research and development through to manufacturing and marketing. "I applaud Committee Chairs Kidani and Dela Cruz for their leadership in championing policies that advance our education, food sustainability, and economic development goals," said Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (District 8 – Kauaʻi, Niʻihau). "The Food and Product Innovation Network will support local entrepreneurs to promote the unique values and assets of each region across the State." The Committee was accompanied by executives from the Association for Career and Technical Education, the nation's largest non-profit association committed to empowering educators to deliver high-quality programs that position students for career success. Site visit guests from the Association for Career and Technical Education included LeAnn Curry, Executive Director, Fran Bromley-Norwood, Education Division Vice President, and Shani Watkins, Region V Vice President. "Industry partnerships are essential for the success of career and technical education programs," said Executive Director Curry. "ACTE applauds the efforts to engage industry stakeholders and government officials with learners and educators to help our nation’s students develop essential skills and fulfill workforce needs, pursuing strong and exciting career pathways. " The site visit comes at the conclusion of the 2024 Region V Association for Career and Technical Education Conference, which ran from April 9 – April 12 at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center. On April 11, Senate Vice President and Senate Committee on Education Chair Michelle N. Kidani (District 18 – Mililani Town, Waipiʻo Gentry, Crestview, Waikele, Portion of Waipahu, Village Park, Royal Kunia) and WAM Chair Donovan M. Dela Cruz (District 17 – Portion of Mililani, Mililani Mauka, portion of Waipi‘o Acres, Launani Valley, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village) were joined by Ken Kozuma, Future Farmers of America Advisor at Waipahu Intermediate School, and Dane K. Wicker, Deputy Director of the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism in a panel presentation to discuss Sister-School Relationships. The panel focused on the State's potential to leverage international relationships through career and technical education helps to break silos and bridge education industry for career readiness. "A number of our public school graduates do not attend college, so opportunities for student workforce development is a critical piece for Hawaiʻi's future," said Senate Vice President Kidani. "It has been my pleasure working with my Senate Colleagues and the Department of Education to ensure that our keiki have the skills necessary for good paying jobs here at home."

  • SENATE VICE PRESIDENT MICHELLE N. KIDANI THANKS GOVERNOR FOR RELEASING $7 MILLION FOR SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS ALONG KAMEHAMEHAMA HIGHWAY IN SENATE DISTRICT 18

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Today, Senate Vice President Michelle N. Kidani (District 18 – Mililani Town, Waipiʻo Gentry, Crestview, Waikele, Portion of Waipahu, Village Park, Royal Kunia) issued the following statement thanking Governor Josh Green for releasing $7 million in capital improvement project funds to finance design and construction for safety improvements along Kamehameha Highway from Kuahelani Avenue to Lanikuhana Avenue: “I’d like to thank Governor Green for releasing funding to finance design and construction for safety improvements along Kamehameha Highway from Kuahelani Avenue to Lanikuhana Avenue,” said Senate Vice President Kidani. “This crucial project not only enhances safety but also significantly contributes to the well-being and connectivity of our community. I am immensely proud of the State, legislators, stakeholders, and community members who continuously advocated for and supported these safety improvements. These investments create a more secure and accessible transportation infrastructure, allowing our kūpuna, keiki, and all residents to navigate and thrive together.”

  • SENATE COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS VOTES OUT BUDGET BILL

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Today, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means unanimously passed House Bill 1800 Senate Draft 1, the Executive Branch State Budget. The Senate Draft primarily includes appropriations for the State's operating and capital improvement budgets in Fiscal Year 2024-2025, allocating $10,323,624,848 in general funds and $19,099,424,059 in all means of financing. Additionally, due to the August 2023 Maui Wildfires, Ways and Means unanimously approved other emergency appropriation bills, House Bill 679 Senate Draft 2 and House Bill 2610 Senate Draft 2, to allocate funding to address ongoing and escalating costs to non-congregate sheltering, development of temporary and permanent housing, and other needs. To increase public transparency of the legislative and budgetary process, proposed drafts of House Bill 679 Senate Draft 2 and House Bill 2610 Senate Draft 2 were posted on the capitol website in advance of today's hearing, and include reporting requirements for when the funds are ultimately spent. The Committee on Ways and Means passed Senate Drafts of these bills to show as comprehensive a picture as possible of what the Green Administration has requested in relation to the August 2023 Wildfires. To support the initial anticipated costs for the State to address the August 2023 Wildfires, the Green Administration moved $164 million into the Major Disaster Fund from other departments and $30 million from the Governor's Discretionary Fund to provide a total of $200 million to cover expenses in Fiscal Year 2023-2024. However, costs have quickly escalated, primarily for non-congregate sheltering. The State's contract with the American Red Cross went from $200 million in August, to $300 million in September, to $400 million in November, and to $500 million in February 2024. This increasing cost, as well as the State's decision to provide extended sheltering for FEMA ineligible households beyond the Safe Harbor period, has resulted in drastically increased costs to the State. The Department of Budget and Finance typically limits Executive Departments spending by five percent as an accounting best practice. During an Informational Briefing held by the Committee on February 29, the Department of Budget and Finance informed the Committee that it would be using the restricted five percent on Department budgets to cover the shortfall of funds that the Administration has initially projected for Maui recovery. On March 5, in Governor's Message 4, Governor Green requested an additional $297 million in Fiscal Year 2023-2024 to cover non-congregate sheltering for households that may be FEMA ineligible, as well as another $65 million for the State's share of the One ʻOhana Trust Fund. As the Committee voted today, the Administration had not yet set forward a plan to move households out of non-congregate sheltering or to fund non-congregate sheltering beyond June 2024. The Committee noted that should non-congregate sheltering continue beyond June, the State will have to continue to cover one hundred percent of the cost for FEMA ineligible households if families are not transitioned into temporary and permanent housing options. Today was not the first time that Ways and Means or the Senate has taken action on bills relating to wildfire recovery. Earlier this session, the full Senate passed Senate Bill 582 Senate Draft 2 and Senate Bill 3068 Senate Draft 1 and moved each to the House as potential funding vehicles for wildfire recovery. Both bills have yet to be scheduled by the House Committee on Finance. Developing a state budget that addresses the immediate and future needs associated with wildfire recovery efforts is a nuanced and complex undertaking. House Bill 1800 Senate Draft 1 is the culmination of diligent work by the Ways and Means Committee and various stakeholders to align the State's position to support the wildfire survivors and the future development of West Maui. Additionally, the Committee recognized that numerous other priorities necessitate funding via the budget bill as well, and Senate Majority priorities relating to Emergency Preparedness, Recovery and Resilience; Workforce Development and Education; Economic Development and Infrastructure; Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resource Management; and Housing and Homelessness were included in House Bill 1800 Senate Draft 1. The Senate Draft lays out an executive budget that creates a responsive, proactive, and cost-effective state government that stabilizes essential services and programs to address the needs of our most vulnerable residents, while ensuring a solid financial future should the State be faced with another unforeseen disaster. "The Senate continues to prioritize investments that safeguard our island home and diversify our economy and workforce to reverse the brain drain," said Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz (Senate District 17, portion of Mililani, Mililani Mauka, portion of Waipiʻo Acres, Launani Valley, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "The Senate budget prioritizes diversifying our economy and making strategic investments into our state's infrastructure to facilitate the development of more affordable housing for our local residents." "The Capital Improvements Projects (CIP) section of HB1800 SD1 also includes projects that align with the priorities the Senate," said Senator Sharon Y. Moriwaki (Senate District 12, Waikīkī, Ala Moana, Kaka‘ako, McCully), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "The CIP Budget prioritizes the development and rehabilitation of critical infrastructure and facilities, focusing on repairs to promote the health and safety of Hawaiʻi's residents. At the same time, the Senate Draft includes funds to address the needs of the Maui wildfire recovery efforts." Highlights for the operating budget from the Senate Draft include the following: Department of Agriculture Increase the Animal Quarantine Special Fund ceiling by $733,076 for IT improvements to the Animal Integration System Add $1,000,000 for the Farm to Food Bank Program Add $1,000,000 for DaBux Program Increase the trust fund ceiling by $93,434 for a Grant Writer salary Add $52,500 as non-recurring for critical software upgrades Department of Accounting and General Services Add $2,500,000 for Microsoft G5 licenses Add $1,650,000 to replace the State’s Financial System Add $400,000 for menstrual products and dispensers Add $1,000,000 as non-recurring for increase in electricity cost Add $470,000 for telecommunications radio site leases, maintenance, and operations Add $17,000,000 for State Risk Management Revolving Fund Department of the Attorney General Add $2,456,750 for Career Criminal and Victim Witness Assistance Programs Add 4.0 positions and $693,375 for the Hawaiʻi Correctional System Oversight Commission Add 4.0 positions and $336,800 for the Civil Recoveries Division Add $266,648 for the Criminal Justice Division Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism Add 30.0 positions and $63,000,000 for the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority Increase Convention Center Special Fund ceiling by $45,000,000 as non-recurring for deferred maintenance Increase Aloha Stadium Special Fund ceiling by $49,500,000 as non-recurring for operations and development Add 2.0 positions and $230,230 for property and water system management on Kauaʻi Increase Creative Industries Special Fund ceiling by $475,000 for State-County Memorandum of Agreements Department of Budget and Finance Increase the Unclaimed Property Trust Fund ceiling by $4,000,000 for disbursement of payments Add $13,356,628 for broadband federal matching Add $126,000 as non-recurring for the procurement of a case management software for the office of the public defender Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Increase special fund ceiling by $1,175,000 for increase in operating costs Increase special fund ceiling by $2,500,000 as non-recurring for website redesign and call center Increase special fund ceiling by $550,000 as non-recurring for cloud migration and data center closure Department of Defense Add $6,919,624 for Hazard Mitigation and $24,700,000 in matching Federal funds Add $1,430,900 as non-recurring for utilities cost at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Kauaʻi, and Kalaeloa Add $497,000 as non-recurring for utilities at Hawaiʻi Army National Guard facilities statewide Add $139,909 for State Warning Point and sirens Add $7,000 as non-recurring for utilities at Starbase Department of Education Add $12,931,380 as non-recurring for the Weighted Student Formula to support English learners Add $413,915 as non-recurring for AP exam and course subsidies Add $3,600,000 to provide work-based learning for students with severe disabilities Add $20,990,000 as non-recurring for summer learning hubs Add $15,000,000 as non-recurring for electricity Add $5,000,000 for security Add $18,000,000 for food services Add $18,266,346 for bus contracts Add $10,000,000 for workers’ compensation Add $14,925,959 for collective bargaining for vice principals and educational assistants Add $2,500,000 for career and technical education teacher differentials Add $1,700,000 to enhance the Department's mobile platforms that provide student mental health support Office of the Governor Reduce 2.0 vacant positions and $176,816 Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Increase the federal fund ceiling by $808,204 for 6.0 Temporary Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) positions Department of Human Services Add a total of $213,979,324 in non-general funded ceiling increases for federally mandated services Add $15,525,000 for Home and Community Based Service contract increases Add $1,320,000 for a 5% increase to Homeless Programs Office contracts Add $1,000,000 for youth mental health services Add $543,677 for maintenance and operation of the Benefits Eligibility Solution System Add $1,500,000 as non-recurring for the State Rent Supplement Program Add 2.0 positions and $252,360 to put the Deputy Director and Private Secretary into base budget Department of Human Resources Development Add 7.0 positions and $872,112 to expedite the hiring process and increase recruitment efforts Add 1.0 position and $35,508 for the employee benefits and telework programs Add $20,000 for employee training Transfer 1.0 position and $260,352 in FY24; and 1.0 position and $262,116 in FY25 for workers’ compensation services for the Hawaiʻi State Public Library System Department of Health Add $29,000,000 for emergency aeromedical services Add $14,800,000 as non-recurring for bed contracts for the Hawaiʻi State Hospital Add $13,000,000 as non-recurring for Locum Tenens contracts at the Hawaiʻi State Hospital Add $10,800,000 for Child and Adolescent Mental Health contracts Add $8,880,000 for new and existing Group Home contracts Add $6,657,400 for the ʻIwilei Behavioral Health Crisis Center and supportive housing services Add $4,962,487 for early intervention services Add $2,878,240 for Emergency Medical Services collective bargaining contracts Add $2,500,000 as non-recurring for Kīnaʻu Hale asbestos remediation and professional services Add 10.0 Forensic Psychologists and $971,119 for court evaluations for Hawaiʻi State Hospital admissions and referrals Add 1.0 Plumber, 1.0 General Laborer, and $61,278 for Kalaupapa Settlement Department of Law Enforcement Add 50.0 positions and $6,567,591 to increase law enforcement at airports and harbors Add $2,600,000 to continue security guard services and security camera monitoring Add $1,500,000 for the Law Enforcement Training Center Add $1,265,600 to continue the Illegal Firework Task Force Add $825,000 as non-recurring for the Gun Buyback Program Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Add $10,000,000 for Grants-in-Aid pursuant to Chapter 42F Increase revolving fund ceiling by $51,914 to provide pay equity for 3.0 Boiler Inspectors Increase federal fund ceiling by $2,200,000 for Unemployment Insurance Increase special fund ceiling by $300,000 for Labor Law Enforcement Special Fund Increase federal fund ceiling by $200,000 for Veteran career counseling Department of Land and Natural Resources Add $5,500,000 as non-recurring to improve forest and resource management for wildlife and invasive species Increase State Parks Special Fund ceiling by $2,000,000 as non-recurring for equipment and motor vehicles Increase State Parks Special Fund ceiling by $10,000,000 for repair and maintenance activities at state parks statewide Add 7.0 positions and $484,448 for DLNR HR recruitment and retention Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Add $50,000 to establish a Foster Pet Program Add $434,864 as non-recurring for utilities across various facilities Department of Taxation Add 1.0 Senior Software Developer and $63,096 Add $98,000 for security equipment and vehicle contracts Add $11,800 for the Multi-Factor Authentication System Department of Transportation Add $5,000,000 as non-recurring for the Stored Property and Debris Removal Program Increase Special Fund Ceiling by $10,000,000 as non-recurring to renovate airport terminals Increase Special Fund Ceiling by $3,000,000 for roadside safety maintenance Increase Special Fund Ceiling by $1,250,000 as non-recurring for Google safety analytics University of Hawaii Add $17,526,848 as non-recurring to restore funds from COVID Add 5.0 positions and $506,555 for CTAHR Extension Agents Add 6.5 positions and $1,068,821 for a nursing collaboration between UH Mānoa and UH West Oʻahu Add 4.0 positions and $925,000 for enhancement of the neighbor island health access and pathway program Add 4.0 positions and $1,208,020 for increased campus safety Add $3,700,000 as non-recurring for the Promise Program at UH Community Colleges

  • WOMEN'S LEGISLATIVE CAUCUS GIVES BACK TO THE COMMUNITY WITH ANNUAL EASTER BASKET COLLECTION

    Over 100 Baskets Collected for Local Families in Need (L-R) The Women's Legislative Caucus Co-conveners are Minority Leader Lauren Matsumoto, Representative Linda Ichiyama, Senator Lynn DeCoite, and Senate Vice President Michelle N. Kidani. Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – On Wednesday, members of the bipartisan Hawaiʻi Women's Legislative Caucus (WLC) held the 25th Annual Easter Basket Drive at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol, which is organized yearly to collect donations for local families in need. Members from both the House and Senate, along with dedicated staff, gathered to present over 100 baskets filled with essential household items, such as laundry soap, utensils, dishware, toiletries, and towels. These baskets will assist clients of the Domestic Violence Action Center, Institute for Human Services, the Mohala Mai Women's Prison Project, Parents & Children Together, and the Salvation Army Hawai‘i. In keeping with Easter tradition, Representative Tyson K. Miyake and Senator Brandon J.C. Elefante participated as the surprise guests Easter Bunny and Duck, respectively. These legislators were voted by their colleagues to fulfill these roles. "What a remarkable tradition it is, basking in the spirit of camaraderie with members from the House and the Senate alongside the Women's Legislative Caucus. We celebrated our 25th Annual Easter Basket event. Together, we've rallied to assemble over 100 Easter baskets that went to support women's non-profit organizations including Mohala Mai Women’s Prison Project, Parents and Children Together (PACT), Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC), Salvation Army Hawaii, Institute for Human Services (IHS). Thank you to everyone who helped make this event successful," said Minority Leader Lauren Matsumoto. "We are celebrating our 25th year for the Women's Legislative Caucus' Annual Easter Basket Drive, a long-standing tradition of giving in the Capitol. I continue to be grateful for the unity and compassion displayed in this collective effort," expressed Representative Linda Ichiyama. “This longstanding tradition of giving exemplifies the compassion and unity that defines our legislature. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all who have generously donated,” said Senate Vice President Michelle N. Kidani. “The generosity of the people of Hawai‘i remains inspiring, especially knowing that these contributions will make a meaningful difference in the lives of women and children in need.” “It is an honor to participate in this event every year, and to work with the many fantastic organizations, including those present today, dedicated to the wellbeing of women throughout our state,” said Senator Lynn DeCoite. “I am incredibly grateful for the many who have shown up to support women and children in Hawai‘i.” Hawaiʻi Women's Legislative Caucus is a bipartisan coalition of women legislators from the Senate and House of Representatives to advocate for bills benefiting women and girls in our state. In the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, there are 21 women Representatives among the 51 members, and 8 women Senators among the 25 members. The Hawaiʻi Women’s Legislative Caucus co-conveners for 2023-2024 are Senators Michelle Kidani (D-18, Mililani Town, portion of Waipi‘o Gentry, Crestview, Waikele, portion of Waipahu, Village Park, Royal Kunia) and Lynn DeCoite (D-7, Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, Kaho‘olawe and Molokini), and Representatives Linda Ichiyama (D-31, Salt Lake, Āliamanu, Makalapa, Pearl Harbor) and Lauren Matsumoto (D-38, Portions of Mililani and Waipio Acres, Mililani Mauka). RESOURCES: (All images/video courtesy: Hawaiʻi State Legislature) Photos: (Click here to access photos) Videos: (Click here to access videos) (0:00 – 0:05) Over 100 baskets were collected at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol for families in need. (0:05 – 0:16 ) Legislators and staff formed an assembly line to deliver Easter Baskets to the cars delivering donations to community organizations. (0.17 - 0:24) The Legislature's Easter Bunny (Representative Tyson K. Miyake) loads baskets into the car. (0:24 – 0:35) Assortment of donations. (0:36 – 0:42) Group shot of WLC Co-Convenors. (0:43 – 0:54) Group shot of WLC Members at the Hawaiʻi State Legislature. (0:55 – 1:03) Advocates stand with WLC members for a photo.

  • LEGISLATORS RECOGNIZE ANNUAL EDUCATION WEEK AT THE HAWAIʻI STATE CAPITOL

    The Hawaiʻi State Legislature will host the Annual Education Week, a longstanding celebration at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol, from March 18 – 22, 2024. Co-sponsored by Senate Vice President Michelle N. Kidani (Senate District 18, Mililani Town, Waipiʻo Gentry, Crestview, Waikele, Portion of Waipahu, Village Park, Royal Kunia) and Representative Justin H. Woodson (House District 9, Kahului, Puʻunēnē, Portion of Wailuku), Education Week will honor Hawaiʻi’s educators, students, counselors, principals, and staff. “Each year, we designate a week to invite educators and students to our State Capitol to be recognized for their contributions to education,” said Senate Vice President Kidani. “It is our honor to celebrate administration, teachers, students, and staff for making a difference in the classroom. We are thrilled to welcome our special honorees to the Capitol to celebrate their achievements in educational excellence.” “It is with great honor to be a part of Education Week, a tradition that was implemented to celebrate our students, teachers, faculty, and staff for their outstanding contributions to Hawaiʻi schools and our community at large. The distinguished individuals and schools we will recognize go beyond, dedicating their creativity, outstanding skill, and countless hours to inspire and invoke change. On behalf of the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives, mahalo nui loa to all of you for joining us this week to honor these exemplary individuals,” said Representative Woodson. “I'm excited to celebrate the amazing achievements of our students, teachers, faculty, and employees during Education Week,” said Superintendent Keith Hayashi. “As we work to ensure that all of our graduates are globally competitive and locally committed, I'm looking forward to continuing to partner with our lawmakers to build on the positive academic trajectory our students are on coming out of the pandemic. Mahalo to our legislators for their continued support and investment in our public schools.” Each day of Education Week will feature various activities, including a student showcase and career pathway expo. Awardees will be recognized during Senate and House floor sessions throughout the week. WHAT: Education Week at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol WHO: Senate Vice President Michelle N. Kidani, Senate Committee on Education Chair Representative Justin H. Woodson, House Committee on Education Chair Members of the Hawaiʻi State Legislature WHERE: Hawaiʻi State Capitol 415 S. Beretania St. Honolulu, HI 96813 WHEN: Monday, March 18 – Friday, March 22, 2024 Senate Floor Session – 11:30 a.m. House Floor Session – 12:00 p.m. Awardees will be recognized daily on the floor respectively by Senate and House. Education Week Events taking place at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol: MONDAY, March 18 Friends of the Library Book Fair Conference Room 224 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. TUESDAY, March 19 Department of Education Student Showcase State Capitol 4th Floor Lanai 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. WEDNESDAY, March 20 Student Career Pathway Expo State Capitol 4th Floor Lanai 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. THURSDAY, March 21 Department of Education Leadership Institute Presentation State Capitol Auditorium 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. FRIDAY, March 22 Early Learning Day State Capitol Rotunda 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. From March 12 – March 28 Art Exhibit: Not All Backpacks Carry the Same Weight Chamber Hallway The 2024 Awardees include the following:

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