Maui Business

Senate WAM advances bills on ag, environment, workforce development, education and housing

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WAM Public Hearing on SB2133 (2.23.24). PC: Hawaiʻi State Senate / Youtube

The Hawaiʻi State Senate Committee on Ways and Means on Friday advanced several bills aimed at addressing key priorities for the Senate. These bills cover areas of supporting the local agriculture industry, protecting the environment against invasive species, building the workforce for the future through public education, and addressing the affordable housing shortage.

Agriculture, the Environment, and Natural Resource Management

Throughout the year, the Senate has seen ongoing issues that farmers face due to invasive species. On the Ways and Means neighbor island site visits, the Committee visited a banana farm and heard from farmers about the impacts that invasive species like little fire ants and coconut rhinoceros beetles are having on their crops and workers. The Committee advanced four bills to address these concerns. 

Senate Bill 572 Senate Draft 2 would give the Department of Agriculture the ability to declare a biosecurity emergency and implement new requirements for the importation of agricultural commodities. All testimony for Senate Bill 572 Senate Draft 2 was submitted in support, including from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau, and the Hawaiʻi Cattlemen’s Council. 

Senate Bill 3365 Senate Draft 2 would create new treatment requirements for incoming biomatter, including compost, a major factor in the importation of invasive species. All testimony for Senate Bill 3365 Senate Draft 2 was submitted in support, including from the DOA. 


Senate Bill 2362 Senate Draft 1 would appropriate funds directly to addressing threats to ornamental crops. Nearly all testimony for Senate Bill 2362 Senate Draft 1 was submitted in support, including from the University of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau, Hawaiʻi Floriculture and Nursery Association.

Biosecurity requires not only immediate response, but thorough planning and research to prevent and effectively combat these threats, according to committee leaders. To this end, Senate Bill 2419 Senate Draft 1 would appropriate funds to the Department of Agriculture to develop and implement projects for clean plant material, treatments of agricultural products, and pest management. All testimony for Senate Bill 2419 Senate Draft 1 was submitted in support, including from the DLNR, DOA, Honolulu City Council, HFB, Ulupono, and HFNA.

“The State has ambitious goals to increase the amount of food we produce locally and to diversify the economy through value-added agricultural products,” said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. “However, if we do not take the necessary steps to protect farms against invasive species, we will lose that opportunity forever.”

Workforce Development and Education

Creating a workforce that meets the demands of local employers is critical to keeping future generations home and sustainably employed, according to a committee update. Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs have provided students the opportunity to pick up job skills and certifications in areas like computer science, skilled trades and natural sciences. 


Senate Bill 2070 Senate Draft 1 would provide the Department of Education more flexibility in purchasing goods and services related to CTE programming to allow schools to be more responsive to the needs of students in these programs. Nearly all testimony for Senate Bill 2070 Senate Draft 1 was submitted in support, including from the Hawaiʻi State Energy Office, Department of Education, and Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism.

Senate Bill 2257 Senate Draft 3 would provide the Hawaiʻi Teacher Standards Board additional opportunities to certify CTE teachers who come directly from the fields in which they are teaching. All testimony for Senate Bill 2257 Senate Draft 3 was submitted in support, including from the DOE, Hawaiʻi P-20 Partnerships for Education, and HTSB.


Affordable housing remains an issue that the Senate committee members say they are committed to addressing statewide. “Transit-oriented development allows for density and walkability for communities in areas where public transportation is easily accessible. On Kauaʻi and Maui, there is ongoing development between the State and County to take advantage of the County civic centers and adjacent State land to create new housing to reduce traffic congestion and promote live-work-play living spaces,” according to a committee news release.

Senate Bill 2133 would authorize the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance and Development Corporation to issue bonds for infrastructure necessary for infrastructure projects, especially in areas that could be developed for transit-oriented development.


“Infrastructure is often a critical factor for housing projects, especially on neighbor islands. Providing HHFDC the authority to utilize bonds for infrastructure can provide greater opportunities for affordable housing development in these areas,” according to the committee.

All testimony for Senate Bill 2133 was submitted in support, including from HHFDC and Office of Planning and Sustainable Development.

Each of these bills will be voted on by the entire Senate no later than March 5 to approve and send to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

View Fridayʻs hearing below:


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