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Wednesday, January 10, 2024
State Senate Democrats Announce Legislative Priorities for 2024
By News Release @ 4:58 PM :: 1385 Views :: Hawaii State Government

HAWAIʻI SENATE MAJORITY ANNOUNCES PRIORITIES AHEAD OF THE 2024 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

News release from Senate Democratic Caucus, January 10, 2024

On November 6, 2023, Senate Majority Leader Dru Mamo Kanuha (District 3 - Kona, Kaʻū, and Volcano) hosted a Senate Majority Retreat to identify and discuss legislative priorities that aim to improve the quality of life for all residents in Hawai‘i.

With the Thirty-Second Legislature set to convene on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, the Hawaiʻi Senate Majority is focused on addressing a range of issues in the upcoming Legislative Session, with a key focus on supporting ongoing disaster recovery efforts following the devastating Maui wildfires.

The following priorities will be the primary areas of focus for the Senate Majority during the 2024 Legislative Session:

Emergency Preparedness, Recovery, and Resiliency

In response to the Maui wildfires and other recent disasters, the Senate is committed to improving the State’s emergency preparedness, recovery, and resilience by ensuring departments and agencies have access to education and resources, including personnel necessary to prepare for and mitigate damage; supporting ongoing Lahaina relief efforts, including examining insurance delivery, increasing insurance premiums, and fire sprinkler requirements; developing a statewide wildfire mitigation plan and fire risk assessment; funding the Division of Forestry and Wildlife; establishing programs to better prepare the electrical grid and other critical infrastructure for emergencies; revisiting the authority of the Commission on Water Resource Management; forming a fire risk task force; and seeking permanent funding for the Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization.

Other areas of interest include establishing a local community land trust in West Maui, with a structure to provide control to the community; re-establishing a Chief Fire Marshall; supporting disaster-impacted artists; and exploring captive insurance for the State.

Workforce Development and Education

The Senate is committed to addressing challenges with and enhancing workforce development in the State. In 2024, the Senate intends to conduct a comprehensive review of minimum qualifications and equivalencies to fill vacant State positions; pursue workforce development targeting growth in blue collar jobs such as commercial driver license (CDL) drivers and alternative energy jobs; review career and technical education pathways; and support workforce pipeline certification programs with shortages, especially for Neighbor Islands and other underserved areas of the State.

The Senate recognizes that our healthcare industry in particular requires additional workforce development, and the Senate is committed to increasing the support for the State's long-term care workforce; growing the State's medical and nursing staff workforce; and investigating what barriers prevent recruitment of out-of-state healthcare professionals.

Further, the Senate is committed to expanding education and our education workforce. During this session, the Senate will work to expand access to quality early childhood education; create incentives for attracting qualified teachers, including teacher housing; and improve the University of Hawaiʻi system with a focus on student needs.

Economic Development and Infrastructure

The Senate remains committed to diversifying and expanding Hawai‘i’s economy, as well as improving infrastructure throughout the State. In 2024, the Senate will focus on utilizing private-public partnerships and off-balance sheet financing proposed by the Department of Budget and Finance to identify alternative revenue streams for programs and projects; increasing investments in repairs of State facilities on each island; exploring renting out vacant State-owned facilities to generate revenue; investing in emerging industries to diversify the economy, such as film and technology; improving access to potable water; improving transit-oriented development infrastructure; improving and maintaining aging school structures; expanding alternative energy infrastructure through the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and the wheeling of electricity;  exploring energy alternatives for self-sufficiency; funding new jail, prisoner, and reentry programs; and legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis.

Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resource Management

Fostering sustainability and reliability in food production are a significant area of focus of the Senate. The Senate is committed to restoring and preserving local agriculture for State residents by exploring sustainable foods; restoring healthy soils; establishing food security efforts; mitigating the effects of and eradicating invasive species; and improving the Agribusiness Development Corporation.

The Senate also remains committed to protecting Hawaiʻi’s unique environment and resources. The Senate’s priorities in protecting the natural environment include investing in biosecurity; exploring the feasibility of visitor impact fees and carbon taxes; supporting carbon capture initiatives; continuing to support the environmental protection of State Parks; relocating government infrastructure away from shorelines; and expanding the ways in which the State Parks Special Fund can be used.

Housing and Homelessness

The Senate is committed to increasing access to housing for local residents. Efforts to support housing include pursuing two additional 10,000-unit RFQs from the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance and Development Corporation and Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority; expanding housing into business and industrial zones;  increasing access to affordable housing with income-blind housing and a reform of private developer subsidies; continuing to support permanent housing for homeless individuals; revisiting the landlord-tenant code; investing in housing infrastructure and broadening housing financing options; implementing property insurance requirements and exemptions; and supporting existing and innovative homeless outreach and intervention.

"The Senate's legislative priority areas for 2024 reflect the issues and concerns that were brought forth by the twenty-two members of our Majority Caucus present during our convening in early November, and in conversations with the newly-appointed Senator Troy N. Hashimoto," said Senate Majority Leader Kanuha.  "The Senate Majority is confident that, through hard-work and collaboration with our colleagues in the Senate Minority and House of Representatives, we will make significant progress on these important issues and provide much-needed assistance to our Maui Nui ʻohana as we navigate this recovery process together."

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