Hawai‘i House Ends Productive 2019 Legislative Session
The House of Representatives on Thursday, May 2, adjourned the 2019 regular legislative session sine die having passed a total of 298 bills, including measures to make reforms in our prison and bail systems, streamline fair elections and increase voter turnout, fund kupuna caregivers and community college students, and continue the effort to end homelessness.
“The House took the lead in taking on the big initiatives this year which were successful,” said House Speaker Scott K. Saiki. “The House has re-defined the Legislature’s role as the policy making branch of state government. There is more to be done, and we will use this interim to develop priorities for next year.”
Saiki said at the beginning of the session, lawmakers prepared to reaffirm their oversight role and ensure transparency and accountability by closely scrutinizing the administration’s budget, carefully listening to public testimony, and approaching bills with a receptive mind ready to compromise.
This past election cycle made it clear that Hawaiʻi needed an automatic recount law. Without one, the integrity and confidence in our election process could easily be shaken.
SB 216 SD2 HD1 CD1 was passed to require an automatic recount of any office or ballot question in any election if the margin of victory is equal to or less than 100 votes or 0.25 percent of the votes cast, whichever is greater.
HB1248 HD1 SD2 CD1 was passed to make it easier to vote by establishing voting by mail for all elections statewide beginning with the 2020 primary election and expanding in-person voting and ballot drop-off hours
This House passed a State Budget that appropriates $16 billion in total operating funds for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The budget includes $3.4 billion for critical capital improvement projects in all counties across the state.
The House passed the budget for state operations more than a month earlier than in previous sessions, parsing out department budget requests to their respective subject matter committees. This approach allowed lawmakers more time to closely scrutinize department budgets and other important issues.
To address overcrowded prisons and bring equity to our system of bail, lawmakers passed HB1552 HD2 SD2 CD1. The bill establishes a Hawaiʻi Correctional System Oversight Commission and a Criminal Justice Institute within the office of the Chief Justice, and implements recommendations from the Criminal Pretrial Task Force.
SB192 SD1 HD2 takes on the issue of bail reform. Under this measure, the court is authorized to release a defendant in custody on unsecured bail, which means the defendant signs a contract and agrees to appear before the court, and if the defendant fails to appear, they pay the agreed bail bond amount.
Kupuna Care provides services to vulnerable older adults and helps them maintain their ability to live healthy, independent, dignified lives in their communities. HB 465 HD1 SD2 appropriates $4,145,695 to fund Kupuna Care to serve more than 250 additional adults.
SB 1025 SD1 HD2 appropriates $1.5 million to the Kupuna Caregivers program for fiscal year 2019-20 (an increase of $300,000 from last year) and changes the maximum allocation from $70 per day to $210 per week to increase flexibility and options for caregivers.
Because higher education has become very expensive and students who are at an economic disadvantage are disproportionately affected, lawmakers passed SB316 SD2 HD2 and SB50 SD2 HD1, which appropriates $700,000 to continue the Community College Promise Program and directs the University of Hawaiʻi to collect data on the program’s effectiveness, and continues funding for the Hawaiʻi Nutrition and Training Program, respectively.
Homelessness is one of the most pressing problems in the state and there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. The Legislature allocated unprecedented levels of investment in 2018 in proven-effective low-income housing and homelessness initiatives. Lawmakers continued to fund core homeless services this session by passing SB471 SD2 HD1 CD1 which appropriates $10,800,000 for each of the next two fiscal years to fund the Outreach Program, the Rapid Re-housing Program, the Housing First Program, the Family Assessment Centers, and homeless outreach and civil legal services. The bill also appropriates $3 million to fund Stored Property and Debris Removal Services, and $1 million for the state Rental Supplement Program.
Continued support for the Ohana Zones Pilot Program has been provided in HB257 HD2 SD1 CD1. Ohana zones are designated to provide temporary housing along with social and health services that aim to transition homeless people to affordable housing.
The bill authorizes the use of private lands for the Ohana Zones and the use of off-grid technologies that can provide drinking water, electricity, and process sewage without existing infrastructure. It also appropriates $2 million for fiscal year 2019-20 for construction needs for temporary housing and extends implementation of the Ohana Zones Pilot Program to June 30, 2023.
In moving Hawaiʻi towards a clean energy future, lawmakers passed several measures including HB1585 HD1 SD2 CD1, which creates a rebate program for the installation or upgrade of electric vehicle charging stations in publicly accessible areas, workplaces, and multi-unit dwellings, and HB556 CD1, which adopts minimum appliance efficiency standards for certain products sold in the state.
To provide disaster relief, lawmakers passed HB 1180 HD1 to provide $60 million in relief funding for Hawaiʻi Island following the Kilauea eruption which covered nearly 14 square miles in Puna in lava, and SB 1091 SD2 HD2 which makes an emergency appropriation of $7 million to the Department of Transportation to mitigate landslide damages and install rockfall protection structures on the Pali Highway on Oʻahu and Honoapiʻilani Highway on Maui.
On the final day of the 2019 session, the House passed 16 bills including:
HB1453 HD1 SD1 CD1, which takes a multi-faceted approach to benefit homeless people, kupuna, ambulance services and local hospitals.
Previously, 911 emergency patients could only be transported to facilities designated as hospitals, and emergency services could only be reimbursed for transport to such a facility. Patients – including those who are elderly or homeless – do not always need to go to the hospital to receive the care they need. This measure authorizes transportation by ambulance to medical facilities other than hospital emergency departments, and authorizes Medicaid programs to provide coverage for health care provided by emergency medical services personnel.
Click on this link for all bills passed during the 2019 session.