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  • MAUI SENATOR ISSUES STATEMENT THANKING PRESIDENT BIDEN FOR SIGNING BILL THAT ALLOWS COFA MIGRANTS TO ACCESS FEDERAL EMERGENCY AID

    In response to the August 2023 Wildfires, Senator Angus McKelvey (District 6, West Maui, Māʻalaea, Waikapū, South Maui) introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 223, urging the United States Congress to pass legislation that would allow COFA migrants to benefit from federal emergency aid.  On Saturday, March 9, President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024, into law, which in part, restores federal benefits to Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants. One specific result of the restoration of federal benefits is that COFA migrants will also have access to federal emergency aid. In light of this monumental bill being signed, Senator McKelvey issued the following statement: “Survivors of the Lahaina wildfire include COFA migrants, and the lack of access to federal emergency aid has limited the ways these survivors recover from tragedy. It's good to see the federal government set up and live up to their responsibilities to COFA migrants. I am confident and encouraged that this action by Congress and President Biden will hasten and broaden the recovery of our community as a whole. Funding aid for COFA residents since the tragedy has been a burden to our State and this action will help free up these funds to further assist our local residents.”

  • KAUAʻI LEGISLATORS MAHALO CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION, GOVERNOR GREEN, AND MAYOR KAWAKAMI FOR EFFORTS TO SECURE FUNDING FOR KAUAʻI

    Today, Kauaʻi legislators issued the following statements thanking the Hawaiʻi Congressional Delegation, Governor Josh Green, and Mayor Derek Kawakami for advocating for and securing critical federal funding for various projects on Kauaʻi. “I extend my gratitude for the collaboration demonstrated by the Hawaiʻi Congressional Delegation, Governor Green, Mayor Kawakami and his administration, Majority Leader Nakamura, Majority Floor Leader Morikawa, and Representative Evslin, in securing nearly $17 million in federal funding for projects on Kauaʻi,” said Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (District 8, Kauaʻi, Niʻihau). “Such a significant amount of money will help create jobs and housing, and improve infrastructure considerably. In addition to this federal funding, I will continue to look for opportunities within the State budget for opportunities for Kaua’i, as has been done for other counties.” “On behalf of the Kauaʻi delegation, I commend the coordinated effort to secure funding for Kauaʻi. I am particularly pleased that nonprofits and projects dedicated to addressing community needs will be addressed, and that our island's natural resources remain a priority,” said House Majority Leader Nadine K. Nakamura (District 15, Hā‘ena, Wainiha, Hanalei, Princeville, Kīlauea, Anahola, Keālia, Kapa‘a, portion of Wailua, Kawaihau). “When our federal, state, and county partners work hand-in-hand with the Legislature, we can get things done. I am pleased to see the island of Kauaʻi secure funding that will bolster our public infrastructure, housing, and address environmental impacts across our island,” said House Majority Floor Leader Dee Morikawa (District 17, Ni‘ihau, portion of ‘Ōma‘o, Kōloa, Po‘ipū, Lāwa‘i, Kalāheo, Ele‘ele, Hanapēpē, Kaawanui Village, Pākalā Village, Waimea, Kekaha). “The $3 million earmarked for the Kauaʻi County Housing Agency to design the Kilauea and Waimea affordable housing subdivisions exemplifies our shared dedication to tackling the top priority for Kaua’i– the urgent need for affordable housing for local families,” said Representative Luke A. Evslin, Chair of the House Committee on Housing (District, 16 Wailua, Hanamā‘ulu, Kapaia, Līhu‘e, Puhi, portion of ‘Ōma‘o). $16,844,000 in federal funds will go towards various Kauaʻi projects, including the Kauaʻi War Memorial Convention Hall ($3.3 million), an educational center at the Kawai‘ele State Waterbird Sanctuary ($900,000), engineering and design of infrastructure to enable Kilauea Affordable Housing Subdivision ($1.6 million), engineering and construction documents for the Waimea 400 affordable housing subdivision ($1.4 million), engineering and construction documents for a new wastewater treatment plant ($1.8 million), design and construction of a roadway, sidewalks and bike lanes for Kukui Street and Olohena Road ($3.2 million), refurbishment of a steam turbine generator into a low-energy synchronous condenser to facilitate grid integration of renewable energy, improve system safety and reduce overall energy costs ($1.3 million), modifications to the Waimea levee structure that would strengthen it to withstand increasing risks from extreme weather ($500,000), mosquito suppression through the “Birds, Not Mosquitoes” project, including production and release of mosquitoes ($2.5 million), and National Tropical Botanical Garden fern propagation lab ($344,000). “Millions in new federal earmark funding will go directly to Kaua‘i to help build affordable housing and a wastewater treatment facility, improve roads and sidewalks, and support clean energy across the island, among other things. That means more safe and affordable homes and stronger, more resilient infrastructure for the people of Kaua‘i,” said Senator Schatz, chair of the United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Development. ###

  • SENATE PASSES TWO BILLS AIMED TO REDUCE SPEEDING IN SCHOOL ZONES

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – On Tuesday, March 5, Senate Bill 2443 (SB 2443) and Senate Bill 2308 (SB2308), two measures that seek to protect pedestrians in school zones by addressing speeding motorists, passed Third Reading in the Senate. Both bills were introduced by Senator Brandon J.C. Elefante (District 16, ʻAiea, ʻAiea Heights, Hālawa, Pearlridge, Newtown, Royal Summit, Waimalu, Waiau, Momilani, Pacific Palisades, and Pearl City) in response to growing concerns from his community that excessive speeding in school zones has gotten out of hand. “I would like to thank Rep. Ichiyama for her perseverance and dedication to making this legislation come to fruition,” said Senator Elefante. “These measures give us another tool to keep our keiki safer and make our roads and neighborhoods increasingly more pedestrian friendly. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that speed limits are adhered to and enforced.” “Highway safety is not just engineering, you need education and enforcement to encourage everyone to do their part in making our system safer,” said Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation Director Ed Sniffen. “A well-thought out automated speed enforcement system could improve safety by supporting fair enforcement that emphasizes reduction in dangerous behaviors. We’ve already seen crashes decrease by twenty percent at our Red-Light Safety Camera locations and we appreciate Senator Elefante’s leadership in seeking to apply a similar program to address speeding.” SB 2443 would establish the Automated Speed Enforcement Systems Program for up to ten school zones. Automated speed enforcement programs can be powerful tools to reduce motor vehicle crashes and fatalities, using cameras, vehicle sensors, and speed measuring devices to identify and record vehicles going above the speed limit. “The safety of all users on the road is a major priority for HDOT,” said Sniffen. “I sincerely thank Senator Elefante and the other legislators that introduced SB2308 to create a stronger deterrent for drivers speeding in our school zones. We know that vehicle speed is the major factor in survivability for those involved in crashes and we support this measure to get people to think twice about how they drive especially when there are keiki around.” SB 2308 would establish additional fines and penalties for convictions of speeding in a school zone. The Senate Committee on Transportation and Culture and the Arts has made reducing of traffic fatalities and increasing safety for pedestrians a priority of the Committee. According to the Department of Transportation, speeding has always been one of the top contributing factors in motor vehicle fatalities for the past decade, and in 2023, speeding was a major contributing factor in half of the motor vehicle fatalities in Hawaiʻi. “For too long, we have come to accept fatalities on our roads as an inevitable consequence of living in Hawaiʻi, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” said Senator Chris Lee (District 25, Kailua, Waimānalo, Hawaiʻi Kai), Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Culture and the Arts. “Communities around the world have taken steps that have successfully reduced traffic fatalities to zero in some places, and reducing speeding in areas with keiki and kūpuna is a proven way to save lives.” Senate Bill 2443 and Senate Bill 2308 now move to the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives for consideration.

  • SENATE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE ADVANCES BILLS RELATING TO WILDFIRE RECOVERY, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AGRICULTURE, HOMELESSNESS, AND HOUSING

    This week, the Hawaiʻi State Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed out several bills aimed at addressing key priorities for the Senate, including bills to assist in wildfire recovery, agriculture, economic development, homelessness, and housing. Wildfire Recovery The Committee on Ways and Means continues to support bills that aid and assist the people of Maui, and the survivors and victims of the August wildfire. Senate Bill 2831 Senate Draft 1 would authorize the Department of Taxation to assist with the collection of Maui County's Transient Accommodations Tax, which will allow Maui County's administration to focus on core services and the needs of their wildfire impacted communities. This bill received testimony in support from the County of Maui’s Office of the Mayor and the Maui Chamber of Commerce. Housing, both temporary and permanent, continue to be major themes and needs for West Maui. Senate Bill 2836 Senate Draft 2 would create an interagency council of housing and development agencies within the State and the County of Maui to ensure that housing is prioritized in a coordinated and meaningful manner. Testimony in support was received from the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance and Development Corporation and the Hawaiʻi Public Housing Authority. Senate Bill 3068 Senate Draft 1 would commit over $230 million in operating funds and $178.5 million in general obligation bonds to support on-going recovery efforts as well as housing and infrastructure for displaced residents for fiscal year 2025. This is on top of the already over $600 million spent and obligated that the State has put forward to support displaced residents in non-congregate sheltering, interim housing, and wrap around services. These costs represent a significant investment in the West Maui area and its residents. The Committee remains concerned that without a clear plan from the Administration on interim and long-term housing, these investments will not give residents a path to true recovery and rebuilding. This bill received testimony in support from the Hawaiʻi State Library System, the Department of Defense, the Department of Human Services, and Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee. There has been a clear desire for those in Lahaina to have their rebuilding effort led by residents of Lahaina. The Committee supports this desire for self-determination and seeks to empower the Lahaina community to control how their community is rebuilt. Senate Bill 3381 Senate Draft 2 would create the Lele Community District, run by an elected board of Lahaina residents, to create a community master plan that incorporates the unique geography, history, and culture of Lahaina. To address community concerns and feedback over election integrity, Ways and Means amended the bill to restrict donations that can go to a candidate to $100 in each two-year term to promote grassroots efforts and elections. Additionally, the Committee clarified that the use of eminent domain can only be used for the greater public good and as it conforms to the community master plan. The Committee encourages further discussion on this opportunity to empower the Lahaina community as the bill progresses. Testimony in support of this measure was received by various State agencies and members of the West Maui community. Agriculture Local meat producers face many challenges, including a lack of having certified meat inspectors resulting in costly delays of meat processing. The inspection of livestock prior to slaughter is a critical step to ensuring the quality and safety of the State's locally produced meat supply. The State's meat inspection program was discontinued in the mid-1990s and since then, the State has been wholly relying on the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service to perform meat inspection services statewide. Senate Bill 1590 Senate Draft 1 would establish three new meat inspector positions to assist with the growing local meat industry. The Department of Agriculture, Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Cattlemen’s Council, Inc., Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau, and Ulupono all expressed support of this bill. Economic Development The Committee on Ways and Means remains committed to encouraging investment and innovation in Hawaiʻi. One way to do this is to provide businesses and entrepreneurs with tax credits to perform research activities that can lead to valuable intellectual property and local businesses. The Legislature had previously placed an annual cap of $5,000,000 for the income tax credit for research activities, and this cap was reached almost as soon as online applications were opened.  In 2022, out of the twenty-six companies that applied for the tax credit, only nine have received the credit due to the existing annual cap. Senate Bill 2497 Senate Draft 2 would extend the sunset date of the existing research activities tax credit and increase the total credit amounts. The Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, Hawaiʻi Technology Development Corporation, Hawaiʻi Food Industry Association, Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi, Nalu Scientific Enabling Innovation, and Oceanit submitted testimonials in support of this bill. Homelessness and Housing As homelessness continues to be a pressing issue across the State, the Committee continues to review ways to help move people off the streets and into sustainable housing. One strategy that has seen great success are triage centers that help direct homeless households to connect with wrap around services and a housing solution. The ʻImi Ola Piha Homeless Triage Center, piloted by the Institute for Human Services and operating since June 5, 2023, has been successful in moving homeless from the street to permanent housing.  Within six months of operation, through collaborating with police, outreach specialists, and other community providers, the eight-bed service site has triaged over one hundred fifty referrals.  Of the eighty-three clients in intake, the Homeless Triage Center has detoxed sixty-three clients and stabilized the mental illness of thirty-five clients.  The Homeless Triage Center has also transitioned those detoxed and stabilized into housing or shelter, enabling continued treatment in the community.  Senate Bill 2885 Senate Draft 2 would establish a working group to coordinate expansion of triage centers statewide. The Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, Partners In Care, State Health Planning and Development Agency, Aloha United Way, all expressed support for this bill. In addition to the State, the Counties have opportunities to expand affordable housing through their zoning, planning, and permitting requirements. Senate Bill 2337 Senate Draft 2 would provide Counties the opportunity to utilize the same authorities and powers as the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance Development Corporation to facilitate the development of mixed-use developments. The Office of Planning and Sustainable Development, City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting, City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Housing, Hawaiʻi Regional Council of Carpenters, County of Maui’s Office of the Mayor, and the Maui Chamber of Commerce supported this bill. "As we reach the half-way point of the legislative session, the Committee on Ways and Means is encouraged by the progress we have made on advancing the priorities of the Senate Majority for the benefit of Hawaiʻi," said Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, (District 17-Portion of Mililani, Mililani Mauka, portion of Waipi‘o Acres, Launani Valley, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village), Chair of the Committee of Ways and Means. "We look forward to continuing the people's work and reviewing the bills we will receive from the House next week." Each of these bills will be voted on by the entire Senate on March 5, and if approved, will be transmitted to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

  • SENATOR LORRAINE R. INOUYE ISSUES STATEMENT THANKING GOVERNOR GREEN FOR RELEASING $50,000,000 FOR HILO MEDICAL CENTER

    Hilo, Hawaiʻi – Senator Lorraine R. Inouye (District 1 – Hilo, Paukaʻa, Papaikou, Pepeʻekeo) released the following statement thanking Governor Josh Green for releasing $50,000,000 in capital improvement project funds to finance the design, construction, and equipment for a new facility to expand the Intensive Care Unit and Medical Surgical Unit at Hilo Medical Center: “I’d like to thank Governor Green for releasing funding to finance design, construction, and equipment for a new facility to expand the Intensive Care Unit and Medical Surgical Unit at Hilo Medical Center,” said Senator Inouye. “I am so proud of the State, legislators, stakeholders, and community members who continued to advocate for and support the development of the new Hilo Community Medical Center expansion projects. As the Hawaiʻi Island population ages, it is imperative that our healthcare infrastructure stays up-to-date. Projects such as the new Hilo Community Medical Center Building Extension signal to the community that the State is determined to meet Hawaiʻi Island’s healthcare needs.”

  • US TRADE REPRESENTATIVE TAI MEETS WITH SENATE PRESIDENT KOUCHI AND SENATOR HASHIMOTO AND HEARS REQUEST FOR PERMANENT FEMA HOUSING ON MAUI

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – On Wednesday, February 21, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (District 8, Kaua'i, Ni'ihau) and Senator Troy Hashimoto (District 5, Wailuku, Kahului, Waihe‘e, Waikapu Mauka, Wai‘ehu), and the leaders at Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) at the MEO offices in Wailuku on Maui, to discuss housing and recovery efforts for West Maui after the August 2023 wildfire. "It is an honor to be invited by Ambassador Tai to meet with her to discuss recovery efforts on Maui after initially meeting her last year, and we mahalo her for personally coming to visit to see first-hand what is needed to restore Lahaina," said Senator Hashimoto. "We have been grateful for the federal assistance provided by the Biden Administration, and we trust that Ambassador Tai will continue to advocate for the people of Lahaina, Maui, and the State of Hawaiʻi." Ambassador Tai, serving as the principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on United States trade policy, and as the co-chair of the President's Advisory Commission and White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, was on Maui touring the Lahaina impact area and Disaster Recovery Center, receiving a briefing on efforts to rebuild schools and get keiki back in the classroom, and meeting with those leading recovery efforts. "Six months on, I was heartened to see the progress being made here in Lahaina, from the physical rebuilding to the intentional outreach to the community’s more vulnerable members," said Ambassador Tai. "The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to ensuring our federal response continues, for as long as it takes." During their meeting, Senate President Kouchi and Senator Hashimoto urged Ambassador Tai to recognize the unique situation that West Maui is in as it attempts to recover from the wildfire, and to advocate for the construction of one-thousand permanent FEMA-built housing units to house the wildfire survivors. "Ambassador Tai's compassion was evident as she heard and saw what Lahaina is going through," said Senate President Kouchi. "Keiki need stability in both school and housing. I understand that typically FEMA does not build permanent housing structures, but the wildfire and its resulting impact is not a typical disaster. For the stability of our families, and the stability of Maui's rental market and overall economy, we need permanent housing structures in West Maui as soon as possible. I think that Ambassador Tai understood the urgency, sincerity, and severity of our request for the construction of one-thousand permanent FEMA housing units, and that she will carry that message on and fight for us." L-R Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi, Senator Troy Hashimoto, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and Maui Economic Opportunity CEO Debbie Cabebe.

  • SENATE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE ADVANCES BILLS RELATING TO AGRICULTURE, THE ENVIRONMENT, WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION, AND HOUSING

    Today, the Hawaiʻi State Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed out several bills aimed at addressing key priorities for the Senate. These bills cover areas of supporting the local agriculture industry, protecting the environment against invasive species, building the workforce for the future through public education, and addressing the affordable housing shortage. Agriculture, the Environment, and Natural Resource Management Throughout the year, the Senate has seen firsthand the ongoing issues that farmers face due to invasive species. On the Ways and Means neighbor island site visits, the Committee visited a banana farm and heard from farmers about the impacts that invasive species like little fire ants and coconut rhinoceros beetles are having on their crops and workers. Today, the Committee advanced four bills to address these concerns. Senate Bill 572 Senate Draft 2 would give the Department of Agriculture the ability to declare a biosecurity emergency and implement new requirements for the importation of agricultural commodities. All testimony for Senate Bill 572 Senate Draft 2 was submitted in support, including from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Department of Agriculture (DOA), Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau (HFB), and the Hawaiʻi Cattlemen's Council. Additionally, Senate Bill 3365 Senate Draft 2 would create new treatment requirements for incoming biomatter, including compost, a major factor in the importation of invasive species. All testimony for Senate Bill 3365 Senate Draft 2 was submitted in support, including from the DOA. Senate Bill 2362 Senate Draft 1 would appropriate funds directly to addressing threats to ornamental crops. Nearly all testimony for Senate Bill 2362 Senate Draft 1 was submitted in support, including from the University of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau (HFB), Hawaiʻi Floriculture and Nursery Association (HFNA). Biosecurity requires not only immediate response, but thorough planning and research to prevent and effectively combat these threats. To this end, Senate Bill 2419 Senate Draft 1 would appropriate funds to the Department of Agriculture to develop and implement projects for clean plant material, treatments of agricultural products, and pest management. All testimony for Senate Bill 2419 Senate Draft 1 was submitted in support, including from the DLNR, DOA, Honolulu City Council, HFB, Ulupono, and HFNA. “The State has ambitious goals to increase the amount of food we produce locally and to diversify the economy through value-added agricultural products,” said Donovan Dela Cruz, Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. “However, if we do not take the necessary steps to protect farms against invasive species, we will lose that opportunity forever.” Workforce Development and Education Creating a workforce that meets the demands of local employers is critical to keeping future generations home and sustainably employed. Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have provided students the opportunity to pick up job skills and certifications in areas like computer science, skilled trades, and natural sciences. Senate Bill 2070 Senate Draft 1 would provide the Department of Education more flexibility in purchasing goods and services related to CTE programming to allow schools to be more responsive to the needs of students in these programs. Nearly all testimony for Senate Bill 2070 Senate Draft 1 was submitted in support, including from the Hawaiʻi State Energy Office, Department of Education (DOE), and Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism(DBEDT). Additionally, Senate Bill 2257 Senate Draft 3 would provide the Hawaiʻi Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) additional opportunities to certify CTE teachers who come directly from the fields in which they are teaching. All testimony for Senate Bill 2257 Senate Draft 3 was submitted in support, including from the DOE, Hawaiʻi P-20 Partnerships for Education, and HTSB. Housing Affordable housing remains an issue that the Senate is committed to addressing statewide. Transit-oriented development allows for density and walkability for communities in areas where public transportation is easily accessible. On Kauaʻi and Maui, there is ongoing development between the State and County to take advantage of the County civic centers and adjacent State land to create new housing to reduce traffic congestion and promote live-work-play living spaces. Senate Bill 2133 would authorize the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) to issue bonds for infrastructure necessary for infrastructure projects, especially in areas that could be developed for transit-oriented development. Infrastructure is often a critical factor for housing projects, especially on neighbor islands. Providing HHFDC the authority to utilize bonds for infrastructure can provide greater opportunities for affordable housing development in these areas. All testimony for Senate Bill 2133 was submitted in support, including from HHFDC and Office of Planning and Sustainable Development. Each of these bills will be voted on by the entire Senate no later than March 5 to approve and send to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

  • MAKIKI-PUNCHBOWL-PAPAKŌLEA LEGISLATORS TO HOST COMMUNITY FORUM

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi –  On Tuesday, February 27, 2024, a community forum will be held where critical issues including wildfire prevention, homelessness, and property crime will be discussed. The event is jointly sponsored by Senator Carol Fukunaga (Senate District 11, Mānoa, Makiki/Punchbowl, Tantalus, and Papakōlea), Representative Della Au Belatti (House District 26, Makiki, Punchbowl), and Councilmember Calvin Say (Council District 5, Pālolo Valley, St. Louis Heights, Mānoa, Mōʻiliʻili, McCully, Ala Moana, Makiki, and portions of Kakaʻako). WHAT: Makiki-Punchbowl-Papakōlea Community Forum WHEN: Tuesday, February 27, 2024, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. WHERE: Stevenson Middle School Cafeteria, 1202 Prospect Street, Honolulu, HI 96822 Constituents are invited to bring questions, concerns, and to share ideas with area legislators and learn about pending legislation in the State Legislature. For more information, please contact the office of Senator Fukunaga at (808) 586-6460.

  • SENATE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE ADVANCES BILLS RELATING TO WILDFIRE EMERGENCIES AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

    Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Today, the Hawaiʻi State Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed out several bills aimed at addressing key priorities for the Senate. These bills cover areas of wildfire preparedness and workforce development. Wildfire Preparedness In addition to spending time this week asking State and County officials for clarification of financial and housing plans for Maui recovery, the Committee on Ways and Means committed to moving bills that focus on wildfire preparation. Senate Bill 2143 Senate Draft 1 would address current wildfire prevention needs by providing additional funding to the Department of Land and Natural Resources for grants to local nonprofits for effective and efficient wildfire mitigation and pre-suppression work. Senate Bill 2842 Senate Draft 1 would establish a dedicated Wildfire Safety Advisory Board to make recommendations to State agencies on wildfire safety and prevention. Both bills were supported by the County of Maui Fire and Public Safety Department and the Honolulu Fire Department. Senate Bill 2284 Senate Draft 2 and Senate Bill 2502 Senate Draft 2 would utilize the University of Hawaiʻi as a wildfire prevention resource. Specifically, these bills would have the University develop a wildfire forecasting system utilizing artificial intelligence and create wildfire vulnerability maps for the State. This would provide better information and understanding for the public on areas of potential risk and what areas of critical infrastructure may need to be hardened to withstand future fire risks. The University of Hawaiʻi submitted testimony in favor of each bill. "The State needs to be better prepared for wildfires," said Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. "Our Committee believes these forward thinking bills make sure we are not as susceptible to another catastrophic wildfire, and that we stand ready to efficiently and strategically respond if we find ourselves facing fire again." Workforce Development The Committee on Ways and Means remains committed to expanding workforce development opportunities within the state, as means of keeping citizens in Hawaiʻi with good paying jobs and diversifying our economy, and today the Committee passed two bills that deliver on these priorities. The State faces several specific workforce shortages. One that is increasingly difficult to recruit for are drivers with a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Most prominently, this has affected how many school bus routes can be managed as the companies contracted to drive these routes have reported a severe lack of drivers available to manage all the routes needed. Senate Bill 2943 Senate Draft 2 would require the Department of Transportation to look at ways to address this workforce shortage. The Department of Transportation and the Hawaii Food Industry Association offered testimony in support of this measure. Another field in which there currently are significant workforce shortages is in State jobs. During Informational Briefings held by the Committee this January, State departments reported job vacancy rates of up to thirty percent, which is in part due to qualified applicants removing themselves from consideration during a required, time-consuming, multiple-level applicant review process.  To reduce the number of vacancies in State jobs, Senate Bill 3007 Senate Draft 2 would allow State departments to conduct minimum qualification reviews to cut down on the time-consuming multiple-level process. The Committee received testimony in support of this bill from various State departments, including the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, the Department of Transportation, the Hawaiʻi Housing and Finance Development Corporation, and the Hawaiʻi State Public Library System. "Too many of our neighbors are moving away from Hawaiʻi because of a lack of stable good-paying employment, but we are failing to recruit qualified applicants for good-paying jobs that are needed here at home," said Senator Dela Cruz. "These two bills, SB2943 and SB3007, demonstrate the State's commitment to keeping citizens in Hawaiʻi with good jobs and delivering important services to the community." Each of these bills will be voted on by the entire Senate no later than March 5 to approve and send to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

  • SENATOR LORRAINE R. INOUYE THANKS GOVERNOR FOR RELEASING OVER $6,000,000 FOR MULTIPLE PROJECTS IN SENATE DISTRICT 1

    Hilo, Hawaiʻi – Today, Senator Lorraine R. Inouye (District 1, Hilo, Paukaʻa, Papaikou, Pepeʻekeo), issued the following statement thanking Governor Josh Green for releasing over $6,000,000 in capital improvement project funds to finance multiple projects in Senate District 1. “I am thrilled to share the news of this important investment in our community,” Senator Inouye said. “These funds will address essential needs at Hilo Medical Center, enhance the Wailoa River State Recreation Area, and support the continued growth of the Island of Hawaiʻi YMCA.” The funding breakdown is as follows: • $1.5 million for boiler replacement at Hilo Medical Center, ensuring reliable heating and hot water for patients and staff. • $4.5 million for roof repair and replacement at the Acute Hospital section of Hilo Medical Center, safeguarding patient safety and facility integrity. • $600,000 for land acquisition and construction at the Island of Hawaiʻi YMCA, enabling site improvements and enhanced security measures. • $350,000 for upgrades at the Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo, including the installation of a pathway and flag poles for the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. “These projects will not only improve the quality of life for our residents but also contribute to the economic vitality of our community,” Senator Inouye added. “I am grateful to Governor Green for recognizing the importance of these investments and look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition.”

  • SENATE APPROVES PUBLICLY FINANCED ELECTIONS BILL AND SENDS TO HOUSE FOR CONSIDERATION

    Today, the Hawaiʻi State Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 2381 Senate Draft 2 (SB2381 SD2), which would establish a comprehensive system of public financing for candidates seeking election to state and county public offices, beginning with the 2028 general election year. Hawaiʻi became a leader in public funding programs when it added language to the Hawaiʻi State Constitution in 1978 that established the partial public funding program, which candidates continue to use today.  Other comprehensive public financing programs, sometimes termed "clean elections", were established in 1996 in Maine, in 1998 in Arizona, and have since also been adopted in Connecticut and New Mexico. "Fully funding the elections of candidates for state and county offices who voluntarily agree to abide by campaign fundraising and expenditure guidelines will have significant public benefit," said Senator Karl Rhoads, Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and introducer of SB2381 SD2. "Comprehensive publicly-funded campaign programs allow candidates to compete without reliance on special interest money and by also allowing elected officials to make decisions without the influence, or appearance thereof, of private individuals, lobbyists, political parties, political action committees, unions, corporations, and other entities.  If passed by the House and signed by the Governor, this bill will increase public confidence in the State's candidates and elected officials." SB2381 SD2 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where its companion bill, House Bill 2321, was introduced by Speaker Scott Saiki.

  • SENATOR LORRAINE R. INOUYE THANKS GOVERNOR FOR RELEASING $692,480 FOR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS AT HILO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

    Today, Senator Lorraine R. Inouye (District 1 – Hilo, Paukaʻa, Papaikou, Pepeʻekeo) issued the following statement thanking Governor Josh Green for releasing $692,480 in capital improvement project funds to finance the replacement of cesspools with individual wastewater septic systems at Hilo International Airport: “This project will enhance the water infrastructure at Hilo International Airport. I am grateful to Governor Josh Green for releasing the funding for this critical project. The Hilo International Airport is the primary gateway for travelers to and from the east side of Hawai‘i Island."

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