2016 Hawai’i Legislative Outlook
Join us and hear the priorities your state representatives have set for the upcoming 2016 legislative session.
This West Hawai’i Forum is your opportunity to speak directly with your State and West Hawaii County representatives… Share your thoughts on the issues and priorities for Hawai’i that’s important to you, your family , and the Community.
Join us Thursday, November 19th to hear the event’s featured state legislators:
- Senator Josh Green, District 3
Senator Josh Green currently serves as Majority Floor Leader and Majority Whip. He is a member of the Committees on Housing, Human Services, and Tourism and International Affairs.
- Representative Richard Creagan, District 5
Representative Creagan is Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Health. His other committee assignments within Hawaii State House of Representatives include: Consumer Protection and Commerce, Housing, Human Services, and Judiciary.
- Representative Nicole Lowen, District 6
Representative Lowen is Vice Chair of Energy & Environmental Protection, and a leading member of the following other Hawai’i state house committees: Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs, Finance, and Water and Land.
- Representative Cindy Evans, District 7
Representative Evans serves as the Majority Floor Leader and is a member of the following House Committees: Energy & Environment Protection, Legislative Management, Water & Land, and Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs.
West Hawaii Today Forum Article
KAILUA-KONA — A new hospital or free-standing emergency facility in North Kona, more programs for the homeless and a hard look at alternative ways to structure the state’s utilities — those are just some of the plans West Hawaii lawmakers will discuss at a legislative outlook to be held in Kailua-Kona Thursday.
Kona Rep. Nicole Lowen said the public has shown a lot of interest in local control and public ownership of utilities — a discussion sparked by the ongoing merger of Hawaiian Electric Industries with Florida-based NextEra Energy and the formation of the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative.
“We need to examine this issue, and now is the time to do it,” Lowen said. “Decisions we make today about energy will have long-lasting implications, so we need to get it right.”
With the new Hawaii Community College — Palamanui campus now open, it is time to seek funding for the second phase, Lowen said. She also plans to push for new federal inspection stations at Kona International Airport so that international flights can land here instead of routing to customs facilities in Honolulu. New programs to aid the homeless are also needed, Lowen said.
She’ll likely be working on homelessness initiatives with Kona Sen. Josh Green, who plans to tackle the state’s burgeoning homelessness problem with a housing plan that builds on Housing First and includes comprehensive support services for the mentally ill and drug addicted. The initiative would be funded by taxes on luxury housing, Green said.
Housing First breaks from old paradigms that require clients to first demonstrate sobriety and agree to other treatments as part of their being placed in housing. Recognizing that these goal can be impossible while a person is still on the streets, Housing First puts the homeless in permanent housing and then offers home visits by support services. Mainland cities have reported good results with the initiative.
Green plans to introduce what he calls a “modernization bill” that would allow state hospitals to either enter public-private partnerships or have a guarantee of “baseline funding for essential services.” With that, Green plans to help foster a partnership between the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and The Queen’s Medical Center to build a free-standing ER near the Kona International Airport. Green said he also wants to begin work on creating a health care training institute to increase the number of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and social workers.
Green and Lowen said it is key to keep ongoing projects moving ahead — including the Kona Judiciary Complex and the expansion of Hawaii Community College — Palamanui. Mandatory helmets for motorcyclists and moped riders under age 25, pesticide buffers around schools and a repeal of the general excise tax on health care and basic foodstuffs are other measures Green is likely to float this coming session.
Kona, Kohala Rep. Cindy Evans said she will introduce a bill to begin redevelopment of the Upper Hamakua Ditch. The irrigation system is running at less than 30 percent of capacity — compromised by age, leakage and vegetation, she said. Evans said she will support analysis and the development of a reservoir and distribution system to benefit Waimea agriculture.
Evans will also work to gain housing for the mentally ill specifically on Hawaii Island.
“I believe it is best to go in and focus on segments that are really challenged,” she said. “This year, I’d like to look at the mentally ill and see if we can get their housing needs addressed, and what we can learn from that process.”
“Some of our schools are just so old they either need to be fixed and maintained, or they need new infrastructure,” she said.
Evans said she will press for funds to upgrade the Kona airport and will be looking at coral bleaching and the effects of the aquarium fishing industry on reef health.
Naalehu Rep. Richard Creagan’s top goal is to get the ball rolling on a new hospital above the Kona airport. Creagan said he has the support of key figures in the House and an endorsement of the concept of a teaching hospital from the John A. Burns School of Medicine on Oahu.
Ensuring adequate school facilities is also high on Creagan’s list. He will be touring schools within District 5, asking administrators what they need and trying to influence the placement of projects on the Department of Education’s capital improvements list.
“If we provide support for a project, we can influence the DOE’s priorities,” Creagan said.
Creagan will also introduce legislation to prevent large-scale commercial solar operations from setting up shop in residential areas that are zoned agricultural. The Hawaiian Ocean View Ranchos subdivision is set to become the home of 30,000 solar panels installed on lots in a commercial venture by SPI Solar — a project heavily opposed by Ocean View residents. The project is legal under state laws that allow the solar farms on agricultural land.
Also on Creagan’s list is expansion of rural housing by giving landowners the ability to build multiple houses on agricultural land. This would allow farmers to build a vacation rental that would help offset the cost and difficulty of making a living on a farm, Creagan said.
West Hawaii County Council members will also make brief statements at the legislative outlook.
The forum, sponsored by Community Enterprises, is from 6 to 8 p.m. at the West Hawaii Civic Center Council Chambers.
This forum took place on November 19, 2015, at 6pm at West Hawai'i Civic Center, Council Chambers.
The event's featured speakers were:
Senate, District 3
House, District 6
House, District 5
House District 7
Forum Session Video
View the recorded session here: