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Residents Rally to Voice Displeasure at State Capitol

Wayne Yoshioka

This year’s legislative session ended last Thursday without providing future funding for Honolulu’s rail transit project.  But there were other issues important to community groups.   HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.    

(Chant:  “We voted you in, we can vote you out!”) 

These residents aren’t happy.  They rallied at the State Capitol last week because House and Senate members introduced nearly 3-thousand bills at the beginning of the session in January, and four months later, sent 230 measures to the governor for consideration.  That’s less than an 8 percent pass rate.   Gretchen Losano from Maui holds her 9-month old son, Ka’iwiloa.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
(L-R) Gretchen Losano and Lauren Rego from Maui protested against legislative inaction.

“We’re here because this session the legislature didn’t pass pretty much every single bill that was introduced to protect our keiki.  For me the most important one was HB 790 which was the pesticide disclosure bill.  We weren’t asking for big companies to stop spraying.  We weren’t asking for anything except disclosure for them to let us know when and where they were going to be spraying.”

There were dozens of bills relating to homelessness and affordable housing.   But, Reverend Bob Nakata, a former State Representative with Housing Now says initial appropriation requests were not met.

“Legislatively, what happened this year was not very good.   The Governor asked for something like $200-million for various housing programs like the rental housing trust fund; the DURF which is for infrastructure.  The cuts at the legislature are more than 50 percent compared to last year.”

A Constitutional Amendment initiative to fund public education by taxing wealthy property owners and visitors stalled in both Houses and failed.  Teacher’s union president, Corey Rosenlee, says the effort was worth it but the arbitrated contract agreement before the legislative session ended was the real victory.

“The contract was about 13.6 raise over the next 4 years.  The good news is by the end of this contract beginning teachers in Hawai’i will make over $50-thousand for the first time.  We also worked on improving teacher evaluation that’s more supportive of teachers rather than punitive but we also put in things like there to make sure we help out our students.”

There were other bills that failed following decades of debate, including Death with Dignity, to allow physician assisted dying for terminally ill patients and drug prescription authority for non-medical doctor licensed clinical psychologists who treat patients with serious mental illness.   Gary Hooser, a former Kaua’i state senator and county councilmember, says the legislative session is not about passing bills but about solving problems.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Former Kaua'i senator and county councilmember Gary Hooser rallied to voice displeasure with legislature.

“I believe that this is the worst legislative session in recent memory.  The legislature failed to regulate pay day lending, they failed to regulate Styrofoam single use containers, they failed to pass minimum wage $15 an hour.  The list goes on and on and this is a message about 2018.  The people are not happy with the results of the legislature and we’re looking at 2018 and the elections for 2018.”

The governor has until June 26th to notify the Legislature of his intent to veto any of the bills.  The legislature can then convene in special session to override any vetoes and consider the bill to extend funding for the Honolulu Rail Transit project.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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