32nd Hawaiʻi State Legislature ends today; bills, resolutions that made it through

Listen to this Article
5 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

The 32nd Hawai‘i State Legislature will finish up its work today as the 2023 Legislative Session comes to a close.

“In just under five months we are already initiating major directional changes for Hawai‘i,” Gov. Josh Green said in a statement issued earlier this week. “In all, this has been one of the most active periods for government in recent memory and we are grateful to be able to make change for the better in the coming months and years.”

To mark the final day of the session, which began Jan. 18, Big Island Now put together a list of several bills and resolutions that were approved or adopted by one or both chambers of the State Legislature. A few already have been transmitted to or signed into law by Green.

For your reference: HB is House Bill, SB is Senate Bill, HR is House Resolution, SR is Senate Resolution, HCR is House Concurrent Resolution and SCR is Senate Concurrent Resolution.

Issues that have been in Big Island news:

House bill 579 would establishes a statewide human trafficking prevention program in Hawaiʻi.

HB579 establishes a statewide human trafficking prevention program within the Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General to provide services and assistance to victims of commercial sex exploitation of children.

“The Legislature recognizes that, in the last decade, the commercial sexual exploitation of children has garnered greater attention in Hawai‘i and throughout the United States,” the measure reads. “The Department of Human Services has received an increasing number of hotline calls involving witnesses or victims of child sex trafficking. However, because child sex trafficking is covert, it is difficult to accurately measure the scope of the problem, and exploited youth do not necessarily identify themselves as victims.”


Two of the bill’s introducers are Big Island Reps. Jeanné Kapela and Nicole Lowen.

SB36 clarifies that felony prosecutions can be initiated by one of three methods: complaint through the preliminary hearing process, grand jury indictment or by written information. It also specifies that multiple attempts to initiate a felony prosecution for the same offense — through the same initial charging method, an alternative method or in different forums — is not permitted.

The bill comes after a Hawai‘i Supreme Court decision last fall that invalidated the longstanding practice of initiating felony prosecutions by complaint upon a finding of probable cause after a preliminary hearing. SB36 became Act 1 with Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green’s signature in March.

Hawaiʻi State Senate bill 1230 deals with firearms and where they can be carried in the state. (Pixabay)

SB1230 prohibits firearms in certain locations and premises and requires possession and disclosure of a license to carry a firearm. It prohibits leaving an unsecured firearm in an unattended vehicle, being under the influence of an intoxicant while carrying a firearm, and carrying firearms on certain private property without express permission from the owner.

It also amends the disqualification of people from owning, possessing or controlling a firearm.
The bill comes after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year struck down a New York gun law that required people to demonstrate a specific need for carrying a handgun in public in order to get a concealed carry license. Hawai‘i is one of six states with similar laws.


The Hawai‘i County Council in November last year passed the first law in the state regulating where firearms can be carried. If SB1230 is signed by Green, it will take take precedence over the Hawai‘i County law.

Whale watchers observed a group of pilot whales interact with a juvenile humpback off Keāhole Point in North Kona on Jan. 24, 2023. (Photo credit: Naturalist Samantha Murphy with Hawaiian Adventures Kona)

SCR219 and SR157 request the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources to adopt rules requiring vessels within 1,000 yards of a humpback whale to travel at no more than 15 knots and those within 400 yards to reduce their speed to 6 knots. They also seek a rule to have someone on a vessel within 1,000 yards of a humpback to act as a lookout to prevent a collision.

The resolutions come months after Moon, a female humpback suffering from a severe spinal injury thought to be caused by a vessel strike, was spotted in waters off the Big Island.

Big Island Sen. Joy San Buenaventura was one of the resolutions’ introducers.


SR165 and SCR227 request the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources implement an immediate $10,000 fine for grounded vessels that cause damage to the environment or create a burden on the state for removal.

In February, a luxury yacht was grounded for days in Maui’s Honolua Bay, a conservation area, spilling diesel fuel and grinding coral into pieces while it was stuck. The resolution also says that since 2002, the Land Department’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation has removed nearly 100 grounded or abandoned derelict vessels from state waters, costing about $2.37 million.

The sailing vessel Hawai’i Aloha grounded on Jan. 3, 2015. (Department of Land and Natural Resources)

HR212, HCR208, SR216 and SCR141 request that each of the state’s four counties develop a comprehensive integrated wastewater management plan and financial strategy to upgrade, convert or connect cesspools by 2050.

There are about 83,000 cesspools throughout Hawai‘i, including more than 48,000 on the Big Island. Act 125, which became law in 2017, requires every cesspool in the state, excluding those granted exemptions by the state director of health, to be upgraded or converted to a wastewater system or connected to a sewer system by Jan. 1, 2050.

“Undertaking a massive infrastructure project, such as converting 83,000 cesspools by 2050, requires proper planning and administration across various stakeholders and governmental institutions, including those of the counties,” HR212 says.

Each county is requested to submit its plan and financial strategy to the Legislature no later than 20 days before the beginning of the 2024 Legislative Session.

In January, the state Cesspool Conversion Working Group advised moving up the deadline for converting the worst cesspool offenders by 20 years, to 2030.

The House resolutions were introduced by Lowen.

Reproductive and equal rights issues

SB1 became Act 2 after it was signed into law by Green in March.

It expands access to reproductive health care services in several ways, clarifies that the state will not deny or interfere with a pregnant person’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, and protects Hawai‘i health care providers from legal action for legally providing reproductive health care services. Additional protections, prohibitions and requirements also are included.

HCR200 and HR204 urge U.S. President Joe Biden to publish the Equal Rights Amendment as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Equal Rights Amendment is a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal legal rights for all Americans regardless of sex. It seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment and other matters. Both houses of U.S. Congress in 1972 adopted the proposal by a two-thirds majority. It was quickly ratified by 35 of the 38 states needed for it to become part of the Constitution, but it could not get three more states to ratify it before the 1982 deadline.

Big Island Reps. Kapela, Lowen, Mark Nakashima and David Tarnas were part of the group that introduced both resolutions.

Food labeling issues

SB746 expands the state’s coffee labeling and advertising requirements to include ready-to-drink coffee beverages and the inner packages and inner wrapping labels of roasted coffee, instant coffee and ready-to-drink coffee beverages. It also specifies that labeling and advertising requirements apply if the products are produced in whole or in part from green coffee beans grown and processed in Hawai‘i

Furthermore, the bill requires disclosure of the geographic and regional origins of coffee blends on their labels along with the percent of weight of the blends. It also prohibits use of the term “All Hawaiian” in labeling or advertising for roasted or instant coffee not produced entirely from green coffee beans grown and processed in Hawai‘i.

Ninety percent of the state’s coffee farms are on the Big Island, and in 2014, the Hawai‘i County Council adopted a resolution requesting the State Legislature adopt provisions for truth in labeling for Hawai‘i-grown coffees.

Big Island Sen. Dru Kanuha, the Senate’s majority leader, was one of the bill’s introducers.

HR132 and HCR131 request that the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture conduct a study to recommend appropriate labeling requirements for Hawai‘i-grown tea. The resolutions state that tea grown in Hawai‘i is a relatively new crop for the state’s agriculture industry. In 2015, there were about two dozen tea farms in the islands, a small fraction of which operated as steady businesses consistently producing high-quality tea.

Most of the locally-grown tea comes from East Hawai‘i on the Big Island, which grows and processes 100% Hawai‘i teas. As Hawai‘i-grown tea has the potential to become a premium commodity like Kona coffee, the resolution seeks to protect and promote the viability of the state’s budding tea industry.

Big Island Rep. Kirstin Kahaloa was one of the resolutions’ introducers.

Criminal justice issues

HCR51 and HR53 urge Green to initiate a clemency program for people who have been prosecuted for some marijuana-related offenses. They come after U.S. President Joe Biden in October last year pardoned 6,500 people convicted between 1992 and 2021 for federal simple marijuana possession offenses. Biden urged the nation’s governors to follow his lead and provide similar relief in their states.

Big Island Rep. Kapela was one of the introducers on both resolutions.

Native Hawaiian issues

SR12 and SCR14 request the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to establish and maintain Hawaiian cultural centers throughout the state.

“Native Hawaiian culture is the foundation of all aspects of life in Hawai‘i,” the resolutions say. “This culture influences Hawai‘i’s government, businesses, tourism industry, families and individuals.”

Despite that cultural foundation, there are no public spaces dedicated to the practice and perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. So the resolutions seek the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to develop Hawaiian cultural centers that can serve as places where residents and visitors can learn about Hawaiian culture, history, tradition and practices.

SCR104 and SR93 urge Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., to re-introduce and support passing the Hawaiian Home Lands Preservation Act, which was introduced in December of last year by former Hawai‘i U.S. Congressman Kai Kahele of the Big Island. It would lower the required minimum blood quantum for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands successors of homestead beneficiaries from 1/4 Native Hawaiian blood to 1/32.

The state already made the move in 2017 and now wants the federal government to follow suit. The Hawai‘i Supreme Court found in 2020 that all waitlisted Native Hawaiian beneficiaries were entitled to damages because of the state’s breach of trust in placing beneficiaries on the long waitlist instead of on homestead lots, resulting in a more than $320 million settlement approved last year by lawmakers.

There are nearly 29,000 beneficiaries still on the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands waitlist for residential, agricultural or pastoral leases. The resolutions seek to ensure that future lessee successors can continue to qualify as beneficiaries.

Environmental issues

SCR41, HR85, HCR80 and SR35 designate the state’s coral reefs as critical natural infrastructure and strongly support nature-based solutions, including coral reef restoration for risk reduction.

“The islands of the state include environmental resources such as coral reefs that, if healthy, effectively managed and functioning, can help mitigate the risks and related loss and damage from floods and the effects of climate change and natural disasters,” says HR85. “Studies have shown that healthy coral reefs can absorb up to 97% of wave energy, protecting coastal properties from the power of the sea by reducing wave energy, trapping sediments and attenuating storm surge, and one study has estimated that Hawai‘i’s coral reefs protect $836 million worth of coastal infrastructure from flooding annually.”

Furthermore, 10 million visitors each year experience the beauty of the state’s beaches, reefs, oceans and other natural resources. Those travelers contribute nearly $17 billion to the state’s economy annually.

Big Island Reps. Kapela, Lowen, Nakashima and Tarnas were part of the group that introduced the House measures. Big Island Sens. Tim Richards and Buenaventura were part of the group that introduced the Senate resolutions.

SR106 and SCR113 urge the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources to determine priority locations throughout the state where minimizing human interaction immediately after cauliflower coral spawning could contribute to greater coral reef formation. They also request that the Land Department take action to support healthier coral reefs, including public education, to minimize human interaction following spawning periods.

The Kohala Center’s Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center on the Big Island educates visitors to minimize their interaction with cauliflower coral during spawning events, resulting in increases in juvenile cauliflower corals in the bay, according to SCR113. The success of the Kahalu‘u Bay program led the state Land Department to order brief spawning closures at another park and provides a strong foundation for extending closures to other suitable areas.

The resolutions were introduced by Big Island Sen. Lorraine Inouye.

SR215 and HCR50 request that the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources investigate the causes of the decline of the critically endangered palila, a honeycreeper endemic to Hawai‘i, on Maunakea on the Big Island. They also ask the department to update and make public information, including facts and statistics, related to the bird’s decline on the mountain. There are only about 1,000 mature palila left on Maunakea.

Big Island Reps. Nakashima, Kapela and Richard Onishi introduced the House measure. Big Island Sens. Inouye, Richards and Buenaventura introduced the Senate resolution.

Senate Resolution 85 calls for the Department of Agriculture, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Health Department, City and County of Honolulu and Hawai’i County to collaborate on establishing and implementing a 5-year pilot program to mitigate and control feral chickens, roosters and pigs. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

SR85 requests that the Hawai‘i Departments of Agriculture, Land and Natural Resources and Health along with the City and County of Honolulu and Hawai‘i County to collaborate on establishing and implementing a five-year program to mitigate and control “the significant increase” in feral chickens, roosters and pigs. SCR92 goes further and requests those agencies create a working group to do so.

SR85 says feral chickens and roosters have become a persistent nuisance, particularly in suburban and urban residential communities, wandering into yards and gardens and digging up plants, damaging food crops and jeopardizing native plants and resources, along with crowing at all times of the day and night, leading to numerous nuisance calls throughout the state. Their droppings are unsanitary and create a health concern, plus they carry diseases that threaten other animals, including native birds.

The population of feral pigs also has significantly increased in the state, with the non-native animals migrating into suburban and urban residential communities, causing damage to properties; creating unsafe environments in backyard lawns, public parks, golf courses and cemeteries; bellowing, snorting and even screaming in the night; depositing foul-smelling excrement; scavenging food in trash cans; and multiplying at a significant rate.

“To protect Hawai‘i’s ecosystem, natural resources and the health and safety of its residents, it is critical that the state work together with the counties and the affected communities, including hunters, farmers and natural resource managers, to identify and implement collaborative solutions to control the significant increase in the population of feral chickens, roosters and pigs,” the resolution says.

Big Island Sen. Buenaventura was one of the introducers for both measures.

HCR81, HR86, SR107 and SCR114 set Aug. 8, 2023, as Hawaiian Honeycreepers Celebration Day.

Of the more than 50 species of honeycreepers endemic to Hawai‘i, only 17 remain, 12 of which are designated as critically endangered or threatened. People, organizations and government agencies are encouraged to observe Hawaiian Honeycreepers Celebration Day with appropriate activities and ceremonies to deepen the pilina (relationship/connection) with the native birds and strengthen support for efforts to restore them to abundance.

Senate resolutions co-introduced by Big Island Sens. Inouye, Richards and San Buenaventura. Big Island Reps. Kapela, Lowen, Nakashima, Onishi and Tarnas were part of the group that introduced them.

SB1173, which adds a new section to Part 1 of Chapter 291 of state law, prohibits anyone from causing a diesel- or gas-powered vehicle to discharge clearly visible smoke, soot or other exhaust emissions onto another person or motor vehicle and establishes a minimum $500 for those found in violation.

Co-introduced by Big Island Sen. San Buenaventura.

HB192 prohibits the sale of certain fluorescent lamps as a new manufactured product, with some exemptions.

“All fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, a toxic pollutant that bioaccumulates in the environment, can pollute air and water and causes harm to wildlife and human health,” the bill reads, adding alternatives exist for most of the thousands of products that contain mercury components. “Phasing out the sale of mercury-containing bulbs in Hawai‘i will prevent additional toxic pollutants from being brought into the state’s ecosystem, reduce energy use and save consumer dollars.”

Co-introduced by Big Island Reps. Kapela, Lowen, Nakamura and Chris Todd.

Other issues

HB1329 requires the Hawai‘i Department of Education to work with the the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association, Hawai‘i Government Employees Association and United Public Workers to develop and implement an active shooter training program in all of the state’s public and charter schools, but allows students to decline to participate if they so choose.

“The Legislature finds that in 2022, there were 51 school shootings nationwide that resulted in injuries or deaths,” the bill says. “These incidents included situations where a firearm was discharged and an individual other than a suspect or perpetrator was wounded by a bullet. Nationally, school shooting incidents have also occurred on K‑12 school property, on a school bus, while school was in session and during a school-sponsored event. The second deadliest K-12 shooting in United States history occurred in 2022.”

Lawmakers think training for school staff should reflect what is happening in the country.
Big Island Reps. Nakashima, Onishi, Tarnas, Todd, Lowen and Kahaloa were part of the group that introduced the measure.

HR55, SCR34 and SR28 urge the Hawai‘i Department of Education to create a priority list for repairing fire alarm systems in public schools. The Senate resolutions also want the department to study acceptable alternatives.

As of 2022, the average age of public school buildings throughout the state was 72 years old, according to the Education Department, with about 20% of Hawai‘i’s 257 public schools older than 100 years.

The National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code requires schools to have functioning fire alarm systems. In his resolution, Kanuha cited that teachers at Konawaena Elementary School on the Big Island reported in 2022 that the school’s fire alarm system has been out of service for two years. A fire broke out at at the school shortly after its fire alarm system became inoperative in 2020.

“Properly functioning fire alarms can be the difference between life and death should a fire break out at a public school,” SR28 says.

The Senate resolutions were introduced by Kanuha, who is also the Senate majority leader. The resolutions in the House were co-introduced by Big Island Reps. Kapela, Lowen, Nakashima and Tarnas.

House Resolution 34 calls for Nov. 22 to be “Kimchi Day” in the State of Hawaiʻi. (The Spruce Eats)

HR34 and HCR33 designate Nov. 22, 2023, as Kimchi Day in Hawai‘i.

Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish made with salted and fermented vegetables, is increasingly found at many major retailers throughout the United States and becoming an international staple, particularly as it is used in the place of slaws, pickles and sauerkraut in fusion cuisine. It also is an excellent source of probiotics, folate, beta-carotene, choline, potassium, calcium and vitamins A, C and K. Many of these nutrients can contribute to lower rates of stroke, cancer and diabetes.

South Korea celebrates National Kimchi Day on Nov. 22 each year as a day of kimchi festivities. California passed a resolution in 2021 designating Nov. 22 as Kimchi Day and Virginia passed a similar resolution in last year. This year marks the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first Korean immigrant workers in Hawai‘i, and about 50,000 residents of the state consider themselves to be Korean.

The House resolutions were co-introduced by Big Island Reps. Kahaloa, Lowen, Onishi, Tarnas and Vice Speaker Greggor Ilagan.

SCR179 and SR123 urge the U.S. Congress to begin a discussion about the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence, or AI technologies.

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize the way we live, work and interact with each other,” says SCR179. “With the rapid advancements in AI technology, machines are becoming smarter and more autonomous, leading to the emergence of new applications and services.”

However, there are potential risks and dangers posed by AI, including the loss of jobs because of automation, bias and discrimination and issues with security and privacy.

“Knowledge of the fact that in a matter of seconds, artificial intelligence software generated all of the above whereas clauses in this resolution in response to the question: ‘write an essay explaining the potential dangers of artificial intelligence,’ should alert policymakers to the power and potential dangers of these technologies,” the resolution says, adding yesterday’s solutions to curbing overreach by software are quickly becoming obsolete. “As a result, thorough evaluation of potential checks on AI technology is needed.”

HB541 requires proper headlight specifications in accordance with existing state law for vehicle safety inspections.

State law says headlights should be securely mounted, not less than 22 inches or more than 54 inches above the road surface when measured to their center, on a rigid part of the vehicle designed for headlight installation and arranged, adjusted and constructed so that when the vehicle is fully loaded, any pair of headlights produce a light sufficient to reveal any person, vehicle or substantial object on the highway directly ahead of the vehicle for a distance of 200 feet.

The measure also amends Hawai‘i Department of Transportation administrative rules to allow vehicle owners whose registration and safety inspection are expired to obtain a safety inspection without evidence of a registration before registering a vehicle.

The bill was co-introduced by Big Island Rep. Todd.

SB1166 allows Hawai‘i drivers to renew their licenses online in addition to doing so via mail or in person. If signed into law, drivers would be able to renew their license via any electronic or digital means provided by the examiner of drivers as long as they are eligible.

This measure was co-introduced by Big Island Sen. San Buenaventura.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
Read Full Bio

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments