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Here are the opening remarks from the state Senate and House for the 2022 legislative session

Daniel Ramirez
Flickr / CC by 2.0

The new legislative session always begins on the third Wednesday of the year. For 2022, that was Jan. 19.

The state Senate and House of Representatives gave their opening remarks to kick off the 2022 legislative session on Wednesday.

The state Senate’s opening day was relatively subdued.

Senate President Ron Kouchi highlighted some of the priorities of the coming session, listing several issues that have worsened during the pandemic.

Those ranged from the need for mental health services to supporting strategies that work to fight homelessness, which he says could take different forms on different islands.

Kouchi says other priorities for the legislative session include affordable housing, teacher pay, raising the minimum wage, and supporting local agriculture by getting local produce to schools, hospitals and prisons around the state.

But Kouchi says the issue that keeps him up at night is finding ways to address the learning loss suffered by students during the pandemic.

Senate Minority Leader Kurt Fevella also talked about mental health services and support of agriculture, as well as the hospitality industry.

He signaled he was open to increasing the minimum wage and supporting what he called “reasonable living wages.”

Over in the House, Speaker Scott Saiki spoke about three main goals the legislative leadership wants to achieve this year — economic, environmental, and cultural justice.

"Cultural justice requires the restoration of cultural practices. The House will expand community-based efforts to restore fish ponds and lo'i; repatriate cultural artifacts; teach financial literacy; and provide cultural training to the military. Related to this is the issue of tourism management. We need to take action now before our visitor count again reaches 10 million," Saiki said.

The House plans to revisit increasing the minimum wage and providing more tax relief for low to moderate-income households.

The House will appropriate $600 million to the Hawaiian Home Lands trust for Native Hawaiians who were hit hardest by the pandemic’s economic downturn.

Saiki also emphasized achieving environmental justice by defueling and decommissioning the Red Hill fuel storage facility, with all costs coming under the responsibility of the federal government.

Several senators and representatives attended the opening session remotely, while others sat at their desks on a socially distanced Senate and House floor amid multiple lei and flowers.

The Senate closed the session by standing for a moment of silence, recognizing the damage and suffering of the people in Tonga from the recent volcanic eruption.

Representatives opened their session with remarks and prayer for Tonga.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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