Hawaiʻi State Senate announces priorities for 2022 Legislative Session
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present new challenges for the state, the Hawaiʻi State Senate is focused on addressing these concerns and more in the upcoming legislative session. On Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, Senate Majority Leader Dru Mamo Kanuha (District 3 – Kona and Kaʻū) convened a Full Senate Caucus with all 25 members of the Senate to identify and discuss legislative priorities that aim to improve the quality of life for all residents in Hawaiʻi.
The following priorities were announced as the main areas of focus by the Senate for the 2022 Legislative Session:
Housing and Real Estate Development
The Senate is committed to addressing the statewide shortage of housing by increasing the development of affordable housing, providing greater access to affordable housing for Native Hawaiians, promoting clean and safe communities, increasing potable water resources and upgrading key infrastructure (specifically wastewater treatment systems), improving the real property condemnation process, and developing and promoting the Aloha Stadium entertainment district.
The Senate is committed to responding to the State’s economic downturn that has been exacerbated by the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic. Such responses include the diversification of economic drivers to lessen the economic dependence on tourism; developing opportunities for the local workforce by investing in training programs in occupations that support an adequate income; increasing the minimum wage for workers to allow local workers to stay in Hawai’i; supporting local agricultural productions to move towards food sustainability, and developing the technological infrastructure to support the expansion of a home-based workforce.
The Senate is committed to improving Hawaiʻi’s education system by providing funding for improvement and construction of school facilities, ensuring equity in educational opportunities, developing an effective distance learning program, restoring direct funding to schools, addressing teacher shortages through programs such as dedicated affordable housing, supporting early childhood initiatives, and expanding programs to promote success as adults such as workforce readiness and financial literacy.
The Senate’s education priority also includes higher education, such as identifying funding that can be used for the University of Hawaiʻi system, reforming procurement processes, improving the oversight of revenue generating activities, and prioritizing health care workforce development.
Agriculture, Aquaculture and Food Security
Promoting agriculture, aquaculture, and food security by supporting local food production and sustainability initiatives, further developing the farm-to-state program, establishing food hubs, mitigating the spread of invasive species, updating agricultural water infrastructure, supporting a high-tech agricultural industry, and developing and promoting aquaculture.
Improving the health of Hawaiʻi’s residents by protecting and strengthening women’s reproductive rights, assisting persons with mental illness by destigmatizing mental illness, allowing for rapid interventions and safe drop-off locations, and developing procedures for involuntary treatments. The Senate’s health priority also includes addressing the shortage of health care workers, including doctors, physician assistants, nurses, and social workers.
Business, Communications Infrastructure, Economic Development, and Energy
Expanding economic opportunities in Hawaiʻi by partnering with the counties to identify key industries and economic drivers that can be properly aligned with education and workforce development in each specific county, promoting digital equity by addressing access to broadband, computer literacy, and leveraging opportunities to develop a digital workforce, supporting small businesses to drive the State’s economic recovery, diversifying each county’s energy portfolio by incentivizing renewable energy production, and developing the State’s aerospace industry.
Public Safety and Law Enforcement
Improving the safety and well-being of all residents by updating current laws to address the increase in domestic violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic and expanding the scope of domestic violence laws; supporting programs to prevent recidivism and promoting re-entry and second chance assistance; and investing in training to deal with the mentally ill and homeless.
Ending homelessness by supporting the immediate creation of low-income rentals, providing appropriate (independent or assisted) housing, promoting the increase of mental health stabilization beds for the chronic mentally ill, and developing pathway programs, community service, and job training assistance in transition from homelessness.
Environment and Climate Change
Urging statewide collaboration to address the need to restore a safe climate for the people of Hawai’i. As the first state in the United States to declare a climate emergency, Hawai’i has joined approximately 2,000 jurisdictions in 34 counties in this important call to action. The climate emergency resolution sets the stage for statewide collaboration among government, business, and community members to address the growing climate crisis.
“These legislative priorities are reflective of the issues and concerns that all 25 Senate members deliberated during the caucus,” noted Senate Majority Leader Kanuha. “By working together, we are hopeful that these priorities will be highlighted and adopted by both chambers during the upcoming legislative session.”