Hawaii State Senate Highlights Job Creation in 2012 Session
By Wendy Osher
The Hawaii State Senate adjourned from session yesterday, passing bills that focused on job creation, education, shoring up the safety net and improving the state’s IT infrastructure.
The Senate was able to include in excess of $414 million for repair and maintenance CIP projects. Lawmakers say the funding will allow for the creation of more than 4-thousand shovel-ready jobs.
The Senate also approved $296 million in 2013 for the Department of Education, a large portion of which has been appropriated for classroom renovations and school building improvements to address the department’s repair and maintenance backlog.
Overarching themes and priorities of the Senate were in alignment with Governor Abercrombie’s “A New Day in Hawaii” plan.
“We advanced important measures with the citizens of Hawaii in mind, hoping to make our State a better place to live for everyone now and in the future,” said Senate President Shan Tsutsui in a statement.
“I commend everyone in the Legislature for their hard work this session and I thank those who came to be part of the process and let their voices be heard,” said Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria.
Highlights of the Senate Majority’s accomplishments this session include the following:
Job Creation & Creating a Sustainable Economy
The Senate made job creation and creating a sustainable economy a top priority through its flagship initiative, The Invest in Hawaii Act of 2012. To accomplish this goal, the Senate was able to include in excess of $414 million for CIP repair and maintenance projects for FY2013.
The projects focus on smaller repairs and maintenance to address aging infrastructures and to extend the useful life of existing state-owned assets and facilities; energy conservation and sustainable improvements; and health, safety and code requirements.
The funding includes:
- $296 million in FY13 for the Department of Education. This includes $116M for classroom renovations and school building improvements; $10M for electrical upgrades to support a rapidly evolving technology to keep students competitive in the global economy; and $30M in various lump sum appropriations for schools throughout the State to address Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, health and safety and special education needs.
- $80M for the University of Hawaii for capital renewal and deferred maintenance as well as health, safety, and building code requirements, system-wide. An additional $27.5M was provided to the community colleges, as well as $10M for Kapiolani Community College to begin construction of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific.
- $60M has been provided for Hawaii Public Housing Authority to continue to upgrade its units and help to shelter low-income families; $35M has been appropriated for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation to help tackle the repair and maintenance needs at community hospitals statewide; $26M has been provided to the Department of Agriculture and Department of Land and Natural Resources to allow them to continue their efforts to maintain the State’s irrigation systems, as well as rivers, reservoirs and dams statewide, including $1.1M to upgrade, repair and reinforce the Hanalei River breach which was made worse by the recent heavy rains.
- $20M was appropriated to shore up the state’s safety net. The funds will go to community programs run by non-profit organizations to assist them in the continuation of services and programs throughout the state.
Child welfare, domestic violence shelters, MedQuest, and various shortfalls across the Department of Human Services were addressed in the State Budget, House Bill 2012.
On Oahu, support was given to state hospitals in House Bill 304 to address an increase in volume of patient admittance since the closure of Hawaii Medical Center-West.
In the area of education, key areas of investment were made in the student weighted formula, student meals, Community Schools for adults and student transportation.
To strengthen Hawaii’s Charter School system, Senate Bills 2115 and 2116 were introduced to increase accountability in the governance of Hawaii’s Charter schools. Senate Bill 2115 clarifies lines of authority and relationships, responsibilities, and lines of accountability among stakeholders in the Charter System. Senate Bill 2116 appropriates funds to help with the transition.
Working in concert with the Governor’s Early Childhood Education Initiative, the Legislature also passed Senate Bill 2545, which establishes the Early Learning Council and the Early Learning Advisory Board.
Renewable Energy and Sustainability:
Senate Bill 2001 requires consultation and input from the Native Hawaiian community and general public when developing geothermal projects on public trust lands.
Senate Bill 3003 allows geothermal resources exploration and development in all state land use districts and all zones of the conservation districts, respectively. The bill was singed into law by the Governor in April.
Senate Bill 2695 establishes a livestock feed feasibility pilot project to help address the rising cost of feed and explore ways to increase the sustainability of local protein sources.
The State Supplemental Budget, House Bill 2012, makes significant investments in software upgrades, integration in information technology, and modernization of database and records. Among the departments slated to receive IT upgrades are: Hawaiian Homelands, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Accounting and General Services and Human Services.
Senate Bill 2236, assists Clearcom Inc., with the planning, designing, constructing, and operating of broadband infrastructure throughout the State.
Other Notable Bills:
House Bill 608, Relating to Health, Act 1 (2012): Governor Abercrombie signed the bill into law in February. The measure appropriates state funds to The Queen’s Medical Center to perform kidney and liver transplants and to the National Kidney Foundation of Hawai’i to maintain its chronic kidney disease management program. Act 1 helps ensure that organ transplant patients are able to remain in the islands and receive efficient and timely care.
Senate Bill 2783, Relating to the Public Trust Lands, Act 15 (2012): The bill conveys Kaka‘ako Makai lands to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The State and OHA agreed that an approximately $200 million settlement represents a reasonable compromise of the disputed claims. To satisfy the terms of the agreement, the State is conveying contiguous and adjacent parcels in Kaka‘ako Makai. Under this law, all disputes and controversies relating to OHA’s portion of income and proceeds from the public trust lands will be extinguished and discharged as well as bar all claims, suits, and actions for the period November 7, 1978 through June 30, 2012. Governor Abercrombie signed the bill into law in April.
Senate Bill 2776, Relating to Public Safety: A data-driven justice reinvestment strategy was created to bring out-of-state prisoners back to Hawaii, reduce spending on corrections, and reinvest savings generated in strategies that would reduce recidivism and crime and increase public safety. One of the outcomes of the Justice Reinvestment Initiatives was the passage of this bill. The measure establishes a statutory structure to improve the criminal justice system.
Senate Bill 2247, Known as Kelsey’s Law, Act 94 (2012): This bill was signed into law by the Governor in April. It will require cell phone or communication service providers to assist law enforcement agencies in determining the location of a cell phone in emergency situations. The bill was named in honor of Kelsey Smith, an 18-year-old Kansas woman who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2007. Supporters of the legislation believe that if Verizon Wireless had turned over cell phone records on the day Smith was kidnapped, she may be alive today.
House Bill 2030, Relating to Emergency Vehicle; Move Over: This bill requires motorists to move over and slow down their vehicles when passing a stationary emergency vehicle on a highway. If this measure becomes law, a violation against it will result in a civil fine, which will not impact the driver’s car insurance rates.
***Supporting information courtesy State of Hawai’i Senate Communications.