The State Legislature convened yesterday for its Opening Day ceremonies.
Senator Ron Kouchi was re-elected Senate President. In his opening day remarks, Kouchi vowed to support recovery efforts following lava flows on the Big Island and flooding on Kaua’i and in East O’ahu. He also plans to focus on growing more food to be consumed locally, something he’s passionate about.
“The Department of Education serves 100-thousand meals a day. The largest restaurant in the State of Hawai’i. We have prisons that we run and feed inmates. And we have state-run hospitals. And I’m frustrated and tired of hearing about why we cannot do it and I would like to go to work with people who can tell me how we’re gonna do it.”
Kouchi said the Senate also formed a separate committee on technology development and he intends to work with governor to collect online vacation rental money, build affordable housing… increase the minimum wage, and election reform. After his speech, Kouchi was asked if his support for the Governor’s primary election opponent, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, would affect his work with the executive branch.
“They supported Hanabusa so they’re just not gonna do it. I don’t know what else I can say to tell you that I am committed to work together to move Hawai’i forward. And I hope we can now put an end to this and move forward and evaluate everything on its own merit.”
The lone Republican Senator, Kurt Fevella, says he favors a pilot program to first increase the minimum wage for government workers. He also supports an independent airport corporation, cutting taxes for kupuna and cracking-down on illegal vacation rentals.
“I will work hard with all of my colleagues to collect taxes for currently illegal rentals that is in our community. Because of this kind of lack of taxing and lack of accountability, these homes are popping all over the communities.”
Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, House Speaker Scott Saiki says it’s time for lawmakers to revisit wage disparity. He referred to a 2017 study on residents who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed or ALICE.
“There are 165-thousand ALICE households in Hawai’i, which represents 37 percent of total households. There’s another 47-thousand households that live below the federal poverty level, which represents 11 percent. This means that 48 percent of Hawai’i households are ALICE and below.”
House Republican Minority Leader, Gene Ward, has an economic plan of his own but supports the House Speaker’s initiative.
“When we say 57 percent of the people in this state have fathers who can’t send their kids to school with money for lunch. So I’m really glad that you presented an economic revival for these families who you say cannot make it.”
The Governor’s State of the State address to the legislature is January 22nd. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.