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Progressive Legislative Caucus hopes to raise minimum wage and legalize cannabis

AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy

When the Progressive Legislative Caucus formed right before last year’s legislative session, the group of 13 state representatives and five senators didn’t have enough time to prepare a bill package.

After a year of preparation, the caucus hopes to pass five bills covering a wide range of topics.

Two of the bills focus on the economy. One would raise the state minimum wage to $18 per hour over several years, and the other would add a conveyance tax on empty vacation homes.

State Rep. Matt LoPresti is co-chair of the caucus and authored the two bills.

"$18 an hour minimum wage — the bill proposes to reach that benchmark by 2027 to eliminate the tip credit, and then to link the minimum wage to inflation every year thereafter. For the empty homes tax, this is a conveyance tax on empty residential units," LoPresti said.

He says there are approximately 30,000 empty housing units just on Oʻahu.

Criminal pretrial reform is another priority for the caucus. Activists have argued that the cash bail system criminalizes those who cannot afford bail.

Under the proposed bill, bail and jail time would be removed for people charged but not convicted of a crime — as long as they are not a flight risk or danger to others.

Rep. Sonny Ganaden is primarily introducing this bill. Ganaden represents the areas surrounding the Navy’s Red Hill fuel storage facility, and is authoring an additional bill that would discuss renewing public lands lease for the U.S. military.

"Myself and others are drafting a bill to discuss the transfer of land that is currently used by the military back to the state. Most of these leases are up in 2029. This includes Pohakuloa, Kawailoa, Makua, and Kahuku," Ganaden said.

The caucus is also supporting a measure authored by Rep. Tina Wildberger that would legalize recreational cannabis use for adults 21 years of age and older.

The 2022 State Legislative Session begins Wednesday, Jan. 19.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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