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Legislative Update

One of the most fascinating aspects of being a legislator is the diversity of ideas that people suggest to improve our way of life in Hawaii. Many of the bills I introduced this session come from discussions with fellow Big Island residents. My hunting bills reflect Hawaii’s outdoor heritage and will have a positive impact on the quality of life on all islands. Hunting is both a subsistence and recreational activity that has long been an integral part of our national and state cultures. Many hunters do so to feed their families, and they pass their skills and knowledge down from generation to generation. Hunters are conservationists. Because they are on the ground, they are our eyes and ears, and so play a critical role in our state’s fish and wildlife management.

As chair of the House Water and Land Committee, many interesting bills are being heard in my committee that will have an impact on our lives. Water, public land liability, historical preservation, geothermal energy, climate change, ocean recreation, irrigation, and community development are among the issues we are listening to as we assess the measures that may become law. I concur with the optimism of Speaker Joe Souki. Hawaii’s robust financial condition gives us the opportunity to further strengthen our economy and protect our fragile environment, whether it’s from damaging climate changes or from invasive species, or others. A strong economy allows us to sustain both without having to choose one over the other.

The work the Legislature will do in 2014 builds on accomplishments from last year. The Legislature will consider key initiatives spearheaded by the Abercrombie Administration and vote on the state budget. Gov. Neil Abercrombie states his priorities this year are senior citizens, early childhood education, raising the minimum wage, developing renewable energy, and protecting our environment. As we say at the Legislature, it’s all in the details and how much it costs.

One of the bigger initiatives discussed at your State Capitol is moving Hawaii toward self-sufficiency. Last year the Legislature created a new position, the state sustainability coordinator. Jacqueline Kozak Theil recently took on the role, which is to move our state forward by building on three pillars: environment, economy, and equity. Increasing our agricultural production to make food affordable is one example of how these intersect. Expanding renewable energy resources to lower people’s electricity bills is another.

The other House members from the Hawaii Island are Rep. Mark Nakashima (Hamakua, Hilo), Rep. Clift Tsuji (Keaukaha, Panaewa, Waiakea, parts of Hilo), Rep. Richard Onishi (Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Waiakea), Rep. Faye Hanohano (Puna), Rep. Richard Creagan (Na’alehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona), and Rep. Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau). We are working together to fight invasive species; expand access to healthcare; lower the cost of our electricity bills; improve our roads, harbors, and airports; and get more funds for UH-Hilo and Palamanui Community College in Kona, and our school facilities.

Don’t let the distance from the Hawaii Island to Oahu stop you from participating in the legislative process. Hawaii’s nationally award-winning website, www.capitol.hawaii.gov, makes it easy to see what bills have been introduced, keep track of the bills you’re interested in, find out when hearings are, and submit testimony all from the convenience of your home computer. To learn more about how to navigate our pioneering online legislative system, you can find informative discussion sheets on http://Hawaii.gov/lrb/par/legfyi.html, or call the Public Access Room information desk at 587-0478.