Members of the Hawai‘i State Senate convened the 29th Biennium Legislative Session reaffirming their commitment to work collaboratively in addressing the state’s most pressing problems and ready the state to be sustainable and prepared for the future.
Today’s opening session commenced with an oli by kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao and included an invocation by Kahu Curt Kekuna, Pastor of Kawaiahao Church. The National Anthem was performed by Ms. Nalani Brun and Hawai‘i Pono‘i by Mr. Nick Castillo. The Kahaluʻu ʻUkulele Band and Nā Hōkū Hanohano nominee Shar Carillo and Kaua‘i artists Loke Sasil and Shay Marcello also provided entertainment during today’s program.
Among the honored guests in the Senate Chamber were government officials from the Fukuoka Prefecture, Consul General Yasushi Misawa of Japan, Commander Ulysses Mullins, United States Coast Guard, Hawai‘i State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, Governor David Ige, Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, and former Governors George Ariyoshi, John Waihe‘e, Ben Cayetano, and Neil Abercrombie, and mayors from the neighbor islands.
In his remarks, Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi pressed his Senate colleagues to work towards building our economy and creating educational opportunities for the younger generation in Hawai‘i.
Senator Kouchi recognized Chenoa Farnsworth, managing partner of Blue Startups, a Honolulu-based startup support program, for her efforts in supporting entrepreneurship and creating jobs to build the economy in Hawai‘i. Farnsworth also manages the Hawai‘i Angels investment network, which has invested over $40 million in startup companies. She also co-founded Kolohala Ventures, a Hawai‘i-based venture capital firm that invested $50 million into Hawai‘i-based technology start-ups.
In highlighting the successes of Hawaii’s education system, Senator Kouchi mentioned Waimea High School principal and Masayuki Tokioka Award winner, Mahina Anguay. The Senate President said Anguay represents the best of Hawai‘i’s school administrators and under her leadership, a record number of students at Waimea High School are now the first in their family to attend college.
Senate President Kouchi also introduced Sarah Kern, who is currently a teacher at Wai‘anae High School. Kern was Valedictorian at Kaiser High School and graduated with a degree in Biology from Tufts University where she made the Dean’s List throughout her four years. The Senate President said Kern was a shining example of Hawai‘i’s young people who come home to pursue noble, but not necessarily high-paying careers, such as teaching.
“We need to create the economy to support all of our citizens,” said Senator Kouchi. “We need to support principals like Mahina and just as importantly we need to support teachers like Sarah who are on the frontline, so that we can create the educational opportunities for our young people.”
Senator Kouchi went on to say, “the only equalization that we can offer our children is a quality education to ensure that they get the tools and the skills to compete in the global market that they are going to enter.”
The Senate President introduced Mr. Kevin Johnson, the former Mayor of Sacramento and professional basketball player, whom he lauded for his work in establishing award-winning after school programs, reading programs and programs for the homeless.
Senate President Kouchi said he has been meeting with Johnson and hopes to work with him to address many of the concerns in Hawai‘i that mirror those of the Mayor’s hometown. “Our problems are not unique to the rest of the world. Where we have others who have found success why not find those who can help us solve our problems,” said Senator Kouchi.
The Senate President also referenced the Senate Majority Legislative Program which outlines the main themes for the State Senate.
“The Senate Majority Legislative Program serves as a guide as to where we will focus our work over the next 60 days and continue to build upon the work from the previous session,” said Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English.