Hawai’i Senate Majority Releases 2016 Legislative Priorities
The Hawai’i Senate 2016 Legislative Session will get underway on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
On Friday afternoon, the Hawai’i Senate Majority released its priorities for the 26th session.
The Senate Majority, whose members are Democrats, say they are committed to a vision and future for Hawai‘i that is economically viable and sustains local communities for generations to come.
This is the second year of the legislative biennium.
“This is an opportunity to build upon the achievements of the 2015 Regular Session,” said Senate Majority Leader, Sen. J. Kalani English. “We are working under the theme ‘Mālama No Ke Ola Pono’, which means ‘creating a better life.’ As we move forward this session, we will be mindful of the options in which we can improve our livelihood and the well-being of our State.”
The Hawai‘i Senate Majority has adopted four priorities for legislation that embrace Hawaiian values and aim to improve the quality of life for children, seniors, and families who are most in need.
The following are the priorities of the Democratic Majority of the Senate during the 2016 Regular Session:
Mālama ‘Ohana (Providing for our Families)
- Housing – We will focus on strengthening our communities by identifying the State’s affordable housing supply and prospective housing alternatives for individuals who are experiencing homelessness or transitioning from homelessness. We will also identify and prioritize strategies to supply sufficient levels of housing for Hawai‘i’s residents.
- Resources – We will commit to allocating specific financial resources intended to increase the supply of housing for certain homeless individuals and families within the next twelve months. We will explore options to support nonprofit providers and state and county initiatives to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families, while minimizing the dislocation of homeless individuals, families, and communities.
- Health and Social Services – Since homelessness is a multi-faceted issue caused by social, economic, educational, and health factors, addressing this issue will require a creative coordination of several social service and educational strategies. We will support efforts that prioritize the empowerment of homeless individuals through social services that specialize in mental health, employment, housing, and other critical needs. We will also explore alternatives that facilitate and enthuse our public high school students to enroll in college.
- Education – We will support ways to make education accessible for our keiki from pre-school through higher education. We will explore alternatives that facilitate and enthuse our public high school students to enroll in college.
Mālama Honua (Nurturing the Earth)
- The Democratic Majority of the Senate will aim to set specific benchmarks for satisfactory levels of local food production and consumption. We will also ensure that Hawai‘i is well-prepared for any disaster, economic disruption, or other external factor by encouraging the production and consumption of locally grown and locally raised food through good agricultural practices and support of local farmers.
- Ensuring a sustainable future for Hawai‘i will continue to be a priority. Improving energy resiliency and continuing progress in food self-sufficiency will have positive effects on our local job market and economy.
- We will continue to focus on renewable energy alternatives that are practical and economical and take into account Hawai‘i’s unique geographical and topographical characteristics and environment. As Hawai‘i makes progress in this area and with our overall clean energy goals in mind, we will further encourage the availability of renewable energy, facilitate processes for the development of renewable energy, and advance projects to improve energy efficiencies.
Mālama Kaiāulu (Sustaining our Communities)
- We will strengthen our social safety net to ensure that our keiki, kūpuna, and family care givers are healthy, safe, and supported, while continuing to use the community development process to address housing, agricultural, environmental, and health concerns that arise during proposed development. We believe that relying on smart growth principles will lead to development that balances competing interests for land and maximizes the use or preservation of various types of land.
- We will further explore opportunities to protect Hawai‘i’s natural resources through preservation and protective measures, such as improving agricultural practices, mitigating climate change impacts, and alleviating zoning concerns. Hawai‘i’s unique geographical features, including coastline, volcanoes, and watersheds, open doors to innovative processes and procedures, as well as new technologies and application to existing systems, to accommodate Hawai‘i residents.
- We will focus on efforts to create a holistic overview and understanding for community development in the State, such as transit-oriented development. Because comprehensive community development presents an opportunity for the State to solve many socio-economic challenges, understanding the issues from various perspectives will further synergize the development to meet housing, critical infrastructure, and community needs.
Mālama Aupuni (Good Governance)
- We will support efforts to enhance the provision of safe, fair, and effective government services. We will work toward greater efficiency, security, and accountability for government leaders and also for those serving to protect Hawai‘i residents.
- We will encourage effectiveness, transparency, and accountability across all branches of government by insisting on high standards of conduct, proper training, and fair and reliable systems and procedures.
- The Democratic Majority of the Senate will strive to infuse the Hawaiian culture throughout government by fostering the use of the Hawaiian language on certain government documents and records.
- We will strengthen and protect government infrastructure by upgrading technology and services to meet the demand of Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors. We will continue to promote the enhancement of the State’s information technology services and incentivize the use of technology to potentially create revenue streams. We will continue to focus on the establishment and expansion of the State’s critical technology infrastructure, including broadband.