Legislatively Speaking

So far, 2017 has been a year of transformation. One of our colleagues, Representative Clift Tsuji, passed away and Representative Chris Todd was appointed by Governor Ige to serve out his term. At the end of the session, the Speaker of the House changed from Joseph Souki to Scott Saiki. I have been named the new Majority Leader and I am excited about the change in responsibility.

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So far, 2017 has been a year of transformation. One of our colleagues, Representative Clift Tsuji, passed away and Representative Chris Todd was appointed by Governor Ige to serve out his term. At the end of the session, the Speaker of the House changed from Joseph Souki to Scott Saiki. I have been named the new Majority Leader and I am excited about the change in responsibility.

The debate over the tax to fund the Honolulu rail project dominated the second half of the session. The Senate and the House could not reach an agreement. The City and County of Honolulu is asking for more funds so a special legislative session may be called if an agreement from both chambers is reached.

The Legislature passed a state budget that appropriates $14.1 billion in total operating funds for fiscal year 2018, i.e., July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. Our House District 7 received over $130 million for infrastructure and additional funds to support organizations in our district that will improve the quality of life for our community. We have funds for our schools, highways, airports, harbors, hospitals, Hawaii Community College at Palamanui and Hapuna Beach State Park. The list of organizations include West Hawaii Mediation Center, Kipuka O Ke Ola, Ka Ahahui O Ka Nahelehele, Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, Habitat For Humanity, Waimea Nui Community Development Corporation, Kailapa Community Association, Hamakua Health Center, Hulihee Palace and Lai-o-Pua 2020.

The session ended with 230 bills sent to the governor for action. To check what bills passed go to www.capitol.hawaii.gov, click on reports and lists and then Bills that Passed Legislature. If you need assistance, call our office at 586-8510. We are here to assist.

Your Legislature passed bills to address the ongoing challenges of homelessness, opioid abuse and preparing our children for the workforce. For farmers, we provided assistance in paying for the costs of complying with food safety regulations, funds for industrial hemp pilot program, and pesticide regulation expenses and studies.

Regarding our environment, we approved funds to control coffee berry borer, little fire ants, rat lungworm disease and rose-ringed parakeet. In addition, we authorized the counties to enter private property to control invasive species and pests. We passed the Clift Tsuji Act to implement a biosecurity program, including development of pest-management practices and quarantine-treatment options, and improved productivity in inspection capacity.

We addressed the needs of an aging population by funding elderly housing facilities, aging and disability resource centers, kupuna care, and chronic disease prevention and management.

To protect consumers of long-term care insurance we provided the Insurance Commissioner with express prior approval authority over long-term care insurance rates. We established the Kupuna Caregivers Program to assist community members in obtaining care for elders while remaining in the workforce.

Finally, I wish to highlight transportation improvements. The Department of Transportation is negotiating the purchase of the right of way to improve the intersection at Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Kawaihae Road, proceeding on the environmental assessment for the replacement of Waiaka Bridge and building of Kawaihae Mini Bypass Road, and design and construction funds for runaway truck ramp on Kawaihae Road.

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There are other projects impacting the district. Please go to goo.gl/JyVKkY to view my end of session newsletter to see the entire list of highway projects. If you want us to mail or email the newsletter, call the office at 586-8510.

Mahalo for your support, suggestions and comments during this past session. I hope you have a wonderful summer and keep safe. Drive defensively and be prepared during Hurricane Season.