Hawai'i State News

Senate ways and means committee advances bills on wildfire recovery, agriculture, more

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The Hawai’i state Capitol in Honolulu. (Big Island Now file photo)

This week, the Hawaiʻi State Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed out several bills aimed at addressing key priorities for the Senate, including bills to assist in wildfire recovery, agriculture, economic development, homelessness and housing.

Wildfire Recovery

The Committee on Ways and Means continues to support bills that aid and assist the people of Maui, and the survivors and victims of the August 2023 wildfire. Senate Bill 2831 Senate Draft 1 would authorize the Department of Taxation to assist with the collection of Maui county’s Transient Accommodations Tax, which will allow Maui county’s administration to focus on core services and the needs of their wildfire impacted communities.

Housing, both temporary and permanent, continue to be major themes and needs for West Maui. Senate Bill 2836 Senate Draft 2 would create an interagency council of housing and development agencies within the state and the County of Maui to ensure that housing is prioritized in a coordinated and meaningful manner.


Senate Bill 3068 Senate Draft 1 would commit over $230 million in operating funds and $178.5 million in general obligation bonds to support on-going recovery efforts as well as housing and infrastructure for displaced residents for fiscal year 2025. This is on top of the already over $600 million spent and obligated that the state has put forward to support displaced residents in non-congregate sheltering, interim housing and wrap-around services.

Senate Bill 3381 Senate Draft 2 would create the Lele Community District, run by an elected board of Lāhainā residents, to create a community master plan that incorporates the unique geography, history and culture of Lāhainā.


Local meat producers face many challenges, including a lack of having certified meat inspectors resulting in costly delays of meat processing. The inspection of livestock prior to slaughter is a critical step to ensuring the quality and safety of the state’s locally produced meat supply.


The state’s meat inspection program was discontinued in the mid-1990s and since then, the state has been wholly relying on the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service to perform meat inspection services statewide. Senate Bill 1590 Senate Draft 1 would establish three new meat inspector positions to assist with the growing local meat industry.

Economic Development

The Committee on Ways and Means has stated a commitment to encouraging investment and innovation in Hawaiʻi. One way to do this, it claims, is to provide businesses and entrepreneurs with tax credits to perform research activities that can lead to valuable intellectual property and local businesses.

The Legislature had previously placed an annual cap of $5 million for the income tax credit for research activities, and this cap was reached almost as soon as online applications were opened.  In 2022, out of the 26 companies that applied for the tax credit, only nine have received the credit due to the existing annual cap. Senate Bill 2497 Senate Draft 2 would extend the sunset date of the existing research activities tax credit and increase the total credit amounts.

Homelessness and Housing


The ʻImi Ola Piha Homeless Triage Center on O‘ahu, piloted by the Institute for Human Services and operating since June 5, 2023, has been successful in moving homeless individuals from the street to permanent housing. Within six months of operation, through collaborating with police, outreach specialists and other community providers, the eight-bed service site has triaged over 150 referrals.

Of the 83 clients in intake, the Homeless Triage Center has detoxed 63 clients and stabilized the mental illness of 35 clients. The Homeless Triage Center has also transitioned those detoxed and stabilized into housing or shelter, enabling continued treatment in the community.

Senate Bill 2885 Senate Draft 2 would establish a working group to coordinate expansion of triage centers statewide.

In addition to the state, the counties have opportunities to expand affordable housing through their zoning, planning and permitting requirements. Senate Bill 2337 Senate Draft 2 would provide counties the opportunity to utilize the same authorities and powers as the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance Development Corporation to facilitate the development of mixed-use developments.

Each of these bills were voted on by the entire Senate on March 5. Those approved were transmitted to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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