Newly-Created Caucus Within State Legislature to Address Progressive Ideals

January 12, 2021, 3:22 PM HST (Updated January 12, 2021, 3:22 PM)
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Jeanné Kapela

Lawmakers a part of a newly-created caucus within the State Legislature hope to enact bold changes to address equality and justice among Hawaiʻi’s people.

The Progressive Caucus, made up of 16 State representatives and senators, will be pushing an agenda that works to develop and empower public leaders to improve the economic and social conditions in Hawaiʻi.

“The reality with this caucus is giving members the opportunity to talk about more progressive legislation,” said Rep. Jeanné Kapela, who represents Na‘alehu, Ocean View, Captain Cook, Kealakekua and Kailua-Kona. “We’re in a time where incremental change isn’t helping anyone and people need bold, big change to move people forward.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting everyone’s way of life, Kapela said, there is an added urgency for such ideals.

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“We watched so many parts of our economy collapse,” she said. “There’s urgency to protect Hawaiʻi’s people and lift Hawaiʻi’s people.”

Unlike most legislative caucuses, the Progressive Caucus does not have a package of bills to be introduced this year. Kapela said lawmakers will meet to talk about what bills each of them are introducing and how as a caucus they can support each other and not double up.

Kapela has several bills she plans to introduce to the legislature that she believes has a good chance of passing. A few of the bills include addressing paid sick leave and family leave, increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, legalizing marijuana, taxing the rich and more.

The members will meet periodically during the 2021 session to review current policies, debate proposed changes, and to promote progressive legislative priorities. The caucus plans to introduce its first package of bills during the 2022 legislative session.

“This group will be a resource that encourages members to build up one another, have real policy discussions and debates, and find ways to empower progressive legislative voices and ideas that most Americans in general and Hawaiʻi State residents in particular support,” said Caucus Chair, Representative Matt LoPresti (D-41, ʻEwa Villages, ʻEwa Beach, ʻEwa Gentry, Ocean Pointe).

Big Island lawmakers Rep. Nicole Lowen and Sen. Joy A. San Buenaventura are also a part of the Progressive Caucus.

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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