Bills focused on domestic violence survivors, resident wellness, and child welfare become law
Governor Josh Green, M.D. signed numerous bills into law on Wednesday aimed at making life safer and better for Hawai‘i residents.
Bills relating to the ongoing battle against domestic violence and sexual assault as well as expanded support for survivors; and bills relating to residents’ wellness and resilience and to improving childcare for Hawai‘i families, now bear Gov. Green’s signature.
The governor said the legislation betters the day-to-day lives of many isle residents and keiki.
“What I’m signing today may appear to be simple words on paper, but it’s been said that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword,’ and so it is with this legislation,” said Gov. Green. “The bills I have signed today will provide resources for those who have endured domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, as well as improve the overall health, well-being, and resilience of our people.”
“Domestic violence and sexual assault are pervasive, life-threatening crimes that affect millions of lives across the country, without regard for their age, gender, economic status, race, religion or education level — each one of them needs protection and help,” he said.
“With the passage of these bills and the resources provided in the 2023 state budget, we hope that there will no longer be any more preventable deaths due to domestic violence and child abuse,” said Sen. San Buenaventura, (Senate District 2, Puna), Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in a news release. “With the Governor’s signing of today’s child welfare bills, we hope to address the failures that led to the abuse of children whom the state is supposed to protect.”
“The passage and signing of the eight bills represent a shared commitment to the safety and protection of individuals impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault,” said Rep. Linda Ichiyama, (House District 31 Salt Lake, Āliamanu, Makalapa), co-convener of the Women’s Legislative Caucus.
“The Women’s Legislative Caucus worked in close partnership with our House and Senate colleagues, the Green Administration, and community advocates to improve UH campus safety, combat human trafficking, and enhance training requirements for child custody evaluators. Collectively, these measures help ensure better support for survivors and their families,” she said.
Senate Bill 1267 expands the jurisdiction where petitions for domestic abuse protective orders and temporary restraining orders may be filed and it is based on the real-life experience of a woman who found local champions, including Domestic Violence Action Center CEO Nanci Kriedman, to take up her cause and see it through, Governor Green said. It is just one of several domestic violence-related bills being signed today.
“The importance of informed leadership cannot be overstated, said Kriedman. “The problem of abuse is too big and haunting for us to look the other way. Everyone has a role to play in bringing safety to island families. Safe families are at the core of a healthy community.”
Additional legislation signed by Gov. Green today seeks to address expanded ways to improve the lives of vulnerable communities.
Reports of child abuse in the state reached a record-high in 2021. It was a time during the pandemic, full of tension due to lockdowns, job-losses, economic uncertainty, and families finding themselves with few healthy outlets for their stresses.
“The Office of Wellness and Resiliency was created and I appointed Tia Hartsock as its first director to oversee the many efforts to assist impacted families and support and sustain our child welfare system,” he said.
House Majority Leader, Rep. Nadine Nakamura, expressed gratitude to her House and Senate colleagues for passing legislation that safeguards and supports the well-being of Hawaiʻi’s keiki.
“HB948 is a House Majority bill that establishes a two-year pilot program for a child and adolescent crisis mobile outreach team on O‘ahu and one neighbor island,” said Rep. Nakamura (House District 15, Hā‘ena, Wainiha, Hanalei, Princeville, Kīlauea, Anahola, Keālia, Kapa‘a, portion of Wailua, Kawaihau). “This legislation reflects our unwavering commitment to recognizing the vital importance of crisis outreach services and mental health support for Hawai‘i’s youth.”
Office of Wellness and Resiliency Director Tia Roberts Hartsock thanked Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz (Senate District 17, a portion of Mililani, Mililani Mauka, portion of Waipi‘o Acres, Launani Valley, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village) for championing the legislation.
“I share the concerns of our community to urgently address the tragedies and shortcomings of Hawaiʻi’s child welfare system, therefore, I was moved to action and introduced Mālama ʻOhana – SB295,” said Senator Donovan Dela Cruz. “This bill aims to reform the Child Welfare System by requiring the Department of Human Services to work with the community and various stakeholders to determine and address core structural and process failures within our system.”
Individuals who need assistance, can call for help 24/7 from the Domestic Violence Action Center: Text 605-956-5680 or chat online at www.domesticviolenceactioncenter.org; or the Sex Abuse Treatment Center: call 808-524-7273 or chat online at www.satchawaii.org.
All the bills are listed below.
Domestic Violence – Sexual Assault-related bills:
- SB933 SD1 HD1 CD1, Relating To Temporary Restraining Orders: Authorizes the family courts to allow petitioners to attend TRO hearings remotely upon request. Requires the courts to consider certain factors. Requires the courts to allow petitioners who allege domestic abuse to attend TRO hearings remotely. (CD1)
- SB1267 SD1 HD1, Relating To Protective Orders: Expands the jurisdiction for where petitions for domestic abuse protective orders and temporary restraining orders may be filed. (HD1)
- SB1527 SD2 HD1 CD1, Relating To Address Confidentiality: Changes the governmental entity responsible for the administration of the Address Confidentiality Program from the Office of the Lieutenant Governor to the Department of Law Enforcement. Allows the Department of Law Enforcement to contract with a third party for the mail forwarding and acceptance of service of legal process aspects of the program. Appropriates funds for full-time equivalent positions, operating costs, and equipment to support the Department of Law Enforcement in administering the Address Confidentiality Program. Effective 1/1/2024. (CD1)
- HB554 HD2 SD2 CD2, Relating To Campus Safety: Requires that the University of Hawaiʻi ensure that any individual who participates in implementing the University’s disciplinary process has training or experience in handling sexual misconduct complaints and the University’s disciplinary process. Requires that the University provide mandatory annual trauma-informed, gender-inclusive, LGBTQ+-inclusive sexual misconduct primary prevention and awareness programming for students and employees of the University. Prohibits the University from taking certain disciplinary action against individuals reporting sexual misconduct unless certain exceptions apply. Establishes positions and appropriates funds. (CD2)
- HB579 HD2 SD1 CD1, Relating To Human Trafficking*: Establishes the statewide human trafficking prevention program within the Department of the Attorney General to provide services and assistance to victims of human trafficking and victims of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Requires reports to the legislature. (CD1)*
- HB580 HD1 SD1, Relating To Victim-Counselor Privilege*: Expands the victim-counselor privilege under the Hawaiʻi Rules of Evidence to include confidential advocates employed by the University of Hawaiʻi. Increases the minimum number of hours of training a domestic violence victims’ counselor must complete to be considered a victim counselor. (SD1)*
- HB581 HD2 SD2, Relating To Child Custody*: Requires certain individuals attempting to serve as child custody evaluators to complete a training course on the dynamics of domestic violence every three years. Requires individuals to submit a letter or certificate of completion to the family court. (SD2)*
- SB406 SD1 HD1, Relating To Child Visitation: Allows the court to award reasonable visitation rights to a petitioning grandparent of a minor child when the child’s parent is unable to exercise parental visitation due to death or incarceration and denial of reasonable grandparent visitation rights would cause significant harm to the child. Requires the court to follow best interest of the child procedures, considerations, and standards when granting grandparent visitation rights. Specifies that any person who violates the terms and conditions of a court order granting reasonable grandparent visitation rights are subject to sanctions. (HD2)
* – asterisk designates Women’s Legislative Caucus bills
Wellness and Resiliency and Child Welfare Bills:
- SB295 SD2 HD2 CD1, Relating To Child Welfare Services: Establishes within the Office of Wellness and Resilience the Malama ʻOhana Working Group to seek, design, and recommend transformative changes to the State’s existing child welfare system. Allows the Office to contract with an administrative facilitator to provide necessary support for the working group. Requires the Malama ʻOhana Working group to report to the Legislature. (CD1).
- SB712 SD2 HD1 CD1, Relating To Corrections: Establishes a trauma-informed certification program at the Windward Community College campus of the University of Hawaiʻi for adult corrections officers. Requires the curriculum to include a level I trauma-informed care course designed for adult corrections officers. (CD1)
- SB894 SD2 HD2 CD1,, Relating To The Office Of Wellness And Resilience: Transfers the Office of Wellness and Resilience from the Office of the Governor to the Department of Human Services on 7/1/2025. Extends the Trauma-Informed Care Task Force dissolution date to 6/30/2025 and establishes the Task Force as an advisory board to the Office of Wellness and Resilience until its dissolution. Reconstitutes the membership of the Trauma-Informed Care Task Force into a permanent advisory board to the Office of Wellness and Resilience to be called the Wellness and Resilience Advisory Board. Effective 1/1/2024. (CD1)
- HB349 HD2 SD1 CD1, Relating To Children: Expands the original jurisdiction of family court to include proceedings for declarations of emancipation of minors. Specifies the rights of an emancipated minor. Establishes procedures for the emancipation of minors. Effective 1/1/2024. (CD1)
- HB350 HD2 SD1, Relating To Child Abuse Reporting: Establishes that the exemption from mandatory reporting by members of the clergy does not apply when the clergy member believes that there exists a substantial risk that child abuse or neglect that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity, may occur in the reasonably foreseeable future. (SD1)
- HB777 HD2 SD2 CD1, Relating To Background Checks: Authorizes the department of human services to conduct background checks for current and prospective employees, volunteers, contractors, contractors’ employees and volunteers, subcontractors, and subcontractors’ employees and volunteers whose position places them or would place them in close proximity to certain minors, young adults, or vulnerable adults. Clarifies that any state law permitting a more extensive inquiry into an individual’s criminal history by the state and any of its branches, political subdivisions, agencies, or semi-autonomous public bodies corporate and politic will prevail over conflicting conviction record inquiries under thestate’s employment practices law. (CD1)
- HB948 HD2 SD2 CD1, Relating To Child And Adolescent Mental Health: Establishes a two-year child and adolescent crisis mobile outreach team pilot program on Oʻahu and one neighbor island site to expand existing crisis response services. Appropriates funds. Sunsets 12/31/2025. (CD1)