Lawmakers Take Action on Top Priorities in Hawai‘i
The 2017 Hawai‘i State Senate adjourned on Thursday, May 4, taking action on priority areas throughout the state including homelessness, healthcare, education and the environment.
Legislators allocated funding for outreach and support services for the homeless, program funding for healthcare workers, guaranteed school lunches for students, and funding to fight invasive species and address Rat Lungworm disease.
Roughly $40 million will be allocated over the next two years to bolster homeless programs–a top priority of the Legislative Program outlined at the beginning of 2017. The allocation includes $500,000 each year to provide services for homeless individuals with serious mental health issues, as well as $800,000 for outreach and counseling services for chronically homeless families struggling with substance abuse. In addition, the approved funding includes $300,000 per year to provide clean and sober housing for homeless individuals.
In education, the Senate allocated $90 million for school facilities statewide, including guaranteed school meals for students, and $1 million in general funds appropriated in each fiscal year for the Early College High School Initiative.
Legislators also passed measures to address environmental issues. Funding will support the fight against invasive species like the Coffee Berry Borer, and support the effort against Rapid Ohia Death.The Senate also appropriated $1 million to address Rat Lungworm disease, a potentially devastating illness making headlines locally and nationally.SB559 will ensure statewide support for Hawai‘i’s green initiatives and measure climate change mitigation efforts throughout the state.
Hawai‘i is now the first state in the nation to pass a bill (HB607) to authorize a program supporting those who provide care for the elderly.
In his closing remarks, Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Dist. 8 -Kaua’i, Ni’ihau) said that despite the challenges of the 2017 Session, he was grateful and proud of his colleagues and Senate staff for “working as professionals each and every day.”
“I’m pleased with the work done over the last 60 days,” said Senate Majority Leader, Sen. J. Kalani English (Dist. 7 – Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, Kaho‘olawe). “There were certainly challenges throughout this session, particularly in the area of the budget, where tough choices had to be made. However, my Senate colleagues always kept in mind the best interest of the people of Hawai‘i. I’m hopeful that what issues remain unresolved at the end of this session, we can work together to find solutions and move forward.”
The Senate remains open to negotiate an agreement with the House on the funding for the rail project to provide adequate funding to complete the project while minimizing the impact on vulnerable citizens in the community.
Under Senate Rules and Senate Resolution 96, during the interim, the membership of each Standing Committee can be appointed by the President subject to action by the Senate. Should there be changes to a Standing Committee, the new assignments will be announced.
The Hawai‘i Senate Majority 2017 Legislative Program can be viewed on the website www.hawaiisenatemajority.com.
View all bills passed in during the 2017 legislative session at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.