Optimism Abounds Going into the 2020 Legislative Session

January 15, 2020, 5:50 PM HST (Updated January 15, 2020, 5:50 PM)
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Lawmakers and Gov. David Ige entered the first day of the 2020 legislative session with optimism and big goals.

“The opening is the best day for the session,” Ige said Wednesday. “It really is the day the State Capitol is the people’s building.”

The legislators this year have started the session united in solving various issues for the residents of Hawai‘i. On Tuesday, the Senate and House, with the support of Ige, announced a joint economics package bill that addresses minimum wage, affordable housing and education.

Ige believes the economic package provides a broad framework for what lawmakers want to accomplish. It allows them to address the “pressure points” and areas that will have the biggest impact.

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“I embrace the priorities that have been laid out,” the governor said. “They are very consistent with what we’ve been working on for a number of years. I certainly look forward to working with the legislature to work through the details.”

Ige said the challenge they heard in the community was incremental change isn’t good enough. This year, the hope is that lawmakers and the administration can be bold in a few select areas to really make a difference, to make changes that will have significant impacts in these three areas.

“I think that’s the opportunity that’s before us,” Ige said. “The coming together allows to do more than we have in the past. To be bolder, to take more decisive action.”

Nicole Lowen, represents Kailua-Kona, Holualoa and Kalaoa for District 6. She also chairs the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection. She believes the package proposed is a step in the right direction.

“I don’t think that we can expect to solve overnight problems that have been decades in the making, but I do think that the majority caucus package this year could make a big difference and will move us in the right direction. I’m confident that we will pass these proposals this session, but, of course, there is still a long way to go before the final vote.”

Ige said his goals obviously impact the state’s financial plan, which he continues to recalibrate.

On top of throwing his support behind the economics package, the governor hopes to implement new retention and recruitment strategies for the state’s teacher shortage. He announced in November with the Hawai‘i Department of Education a plan to make that happen, starting with proposed pay differentials that would increase compensation for classroom teachers in Special Education, Hawaiian Language Immersion programs and hard-to-staff areas.

Ige also addressed questions regarding Maunakea, saying there are diverse views about native Hawaiian perspectives regarding the mountain.

“Certainly we are looking at how we can find a way to move forward with a project that I think is important to all of Hawaii, including native Hawaiians,” the governor said.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.
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