Categorized | Featured, Government, News

House adjourns 2015 regular session

State House of Representatives adjourns 2015 regular session. (Photo courtesy of House of Representatives)

State House of Representatives adjourns 2015 regular session. (Photo courtesy of House of Representatives)


The House of Representatives adjourn the 2015 regular session, which provided the opportunity for the House, together with the Senate, to pass some landmark legislation over gnarly issues that in one instance go back 15 years.

During the session, the House approved a five-year extension of Oahu’s rail tax surcharge, provided funding to purchase and preserve lands at Turtle Bay, created a mechanism to allow Maui’s public hospitals to pursue public-private partnerships, and provided for the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state.

“From our transportation infrastructure to healthcare, you took on the challenges, even when there seemed to be little hope for success,” House Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu) told state representatives in his closing remarks.

“Building Honolulu’s rail system has been frustrating. The little distance traveled for the price seems high indeed. But the cost for not taking this first step is even higher and future generations will thank you for your far sightedness and courage,” he said.

Souki thanked House members for thinking “outside the box” in resolving Maui hospital’s financial crisis and for working collaboratively with the Administration and Senate on Maui Hospital and a range of other measures.

“Good solutions are always collaborative and identified, not by one person’s signature, but by many fingerprints,” Souki said. “Together with the Governor, we’ve come up with a fair resolution for all concerned, including the people of Maui.”

On finalizing the purchase of North Shore lands for preservation, Souki said:

“You also took steps to complete the job of preserving the lands around Kawela Bay for future generations—a task that seemed daunting a year ago. You not only completed that job but re-fashioned a better deal that looked out for the best interest of the people of Hawaii.

“You also heard the pleas of those who depend on medical marijuana to make it through each day and provided them with legal access to dispensaries throughout the state,” he said referring to the passage of HB321, CD1, which creates a statewide distribution system for medical marijuana and establishes the parameters for individuals and entities to apply to set up the dispensaries.

The Speaker also noted that the Legislature provided more than $28 million in grant-in-aid for nonprofit organizations who reach out to the community with invaluable services and provided over $2.45 billion for a wide range of capital improvement projects, which will continue to support state services and economic growth on all islands.

In addition, he applauded the Legislature’s the fiscal restraint in CIP spending and in addressing the state’s unfunded liabilities.

“As we move further from the last economic recession, it becomes easier to slip into past practices of borrowing from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and the Hurricane Relief Fund, and spend more freely during good times. You not only refrained from that temptation but continued to address the state’s unfunded liabilities in a responsible and prudent manner,” Souki said.

“Together, with the Senate and the Ige administration, we did all this and more. We did it not to make headlines, but to make Hawaii the kind of place we are all proud to call home.”



On the last day of the 2015 regular session, the House passed on final reading HB321, CD1, which creates a statewide distribution system for medical marijuana and establishes the parameters for individuals and entities to apply to set up the dispensaries.

“There are an estimated 13,000 qualifying patients throughout the state who are desperately looking to find a safe, reliable and convenient access to medical marijuana. This bill is a reasonable and compassionate response to the needs of our citizens,” said Rep. Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully Pawaa, Manoa), who co-introduced the bill along with House Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu). Both are long-time supporters of medical marijuana dispensaries.

“While the Legislature made legal the medical use of marijuana on June 14, 2000, the law has remained silent for 15 years on how patients can obtain medical marijuana if they or their caregivers are unable to grow their own supply,” Souki added. “There has been a desperate need for a safe and reliable dispensary system statewide for medical marijuana for a long time. This bill finally answers that need.”

The measure follows closely the recommendations of the Task Force commissioned by the Legislature in 2013 to study the implementation of medical marijuana dispensaries. It also provides for opportunities to improve the system and correct any shortcomings on a go-forward basis.

The bill, which also passed the Senate, now goes to the Governor for his signature, veto or passage without his signature.


· Allows for eight (8) dispensary licensees in the state: three (3) on Oahu, two (2) on Big Island and two (2) on Maui County; one (1) on Kauai;

· Each licensee may own, operate or subcontract up to two production centers and up to two retail dispensing locations; prohibits dispensary from being located in same place as production center;

· Requires the Department of Health to engage in public education and training regarding medical marijuana;

· Requires the Department of Health to adopt interim rules by Jan. 4, 2016, for the establishment and management of the medical marijuana dispensary system;

· Tasks the Department of Health with accepting applications for dispensary licenses from Jan. 12, 2016, to Jan. 29, 2016, and announcing licensees by April 15, 2016;

· Tasks the Department of Health to select licensees based on minimum requirements and merit based factors including: the capacity to meet the needs of patients; ability to comply with criminal background checks, inventory controls, and security requirements; ability to operate a business; and financial stability and access to financial resources;

· Allows the Department of Health to license additional operators after Oct. 1, 2017, based on qualifying patient need;

· Dispensaries must comply with all zoning regulations and will not be permitted within 750 ft. of a playground, public housing or school;

· Licensees may begin dispensing marijuana and manufactured marijuana products on July 15, 2016, with the approval of the Department of Health;

· Licensed applicants must pay (a) $5,000 non-refundable application fee, (b) an additional $75,000 fee for each license approved, and (c) a $50,000 annual renewal fee;

· Establishes the criteria for license applications to require that an individual applicant: be a legal resident of the State for not less than five years, be over the age of 21, and have no felony convictions;

· Establishes the minimum criteria for license applications to require that an entity applicant: be organized under the laws of the state and have a Hawaii tax ID number, have a 51 percent or greater Hawaii based ownership stake, have at least $1,000,000 under its control for each license applied for with an additional $100,000 available for each retail dispensing location;

· Imposes regular general excise taxes onto the sale of marijuana and manufactured products within the dispensary system and does not include any additional taxes;

· Allows qualifying patients to obtain medical marijuana from primary caregivers who cultivate or by personally cultivating marijuana until Dec. 31, 2018;

· Allows a primary caregiver or legal guardian to cultivate marijuana after Dec. 31, 2018, if qualifying patient is a minor or adult lacking legal capacity or who is located on any island with no dispensary;

· Expands the definition of “debilitating medical condition” for the purpose of authorizing use to include post-traumatic stress disorder;

· Expands the Department of Health’s authority to conduct criminal background checks;

· Requires dispensaries to allow announced and unlimited unannounced inspections and to conduct annual financial audits; and

· Requires the Department of Health to file annual report to Governor and Legislature on dispensaries.

Additional details of the measure can be found in the bill text and the committee report at the links below:

· Committee Report:

· HB321 Text:



A bill signed into law by Gov. David Ige will make Hawaii the first state in the nation to mandate accommodations for the hearing and visually impaired at movie theaters statewide.

HB1272 requires anyone that operates a motion picture theater in more than two locations in the state to provide open captioning during at least two showings per week of each motion picture that is produced with open movie captioning. It also requires them to provide an audio description of any motion picture that is produced and offered with audio description.

The measure takes effect Jan. 1, 2016 and sunsets Jan. 1, 2018.

“This law makes Hawaii the first state in the nation to mandate broader accommodations to allow equal access to movie theaters for our deaf, blind, deaf/blind and hard-of-hearing communities,” said the bill’s introducer Rep. James Tokioka (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao). “In addition, it will bring Hawaii closer to achieving full inclusion for our deaf and blind communities that was first initiated with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.”

The law removes communication barriers and provides equal access to persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have poor vision through reasonable accommodations at movie theaters. It will also help seniors who have trouble hearing, as well as individuals who are learning English as a second language by providing the written dialogue on screen.

Tokioka also added, “I would like to thank Governor Ige and my colleagues in both the House and Senate for their support and for recognizing the need for this law.”



A bill passed by the Legislature makes Hawaii the first state in the nation to adopt a 100 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard, which means Hawaii utilities will generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2045.

HB623, CD1—which increases renewable portfolio standards to 30 percent by December 31, 2020, 70 percent by December 31, 2040, and 100 percent by December 31, 2045—will boost the state’s local energy industry and save ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars in years to come.

“As the first state to move toward 100 percent renewable energy, Hawaii is proving to the rest of the country that renewable energy can be cheaper, cleaner and can help consumers to cut their electric bills down to near-zero,” said Rep. Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimanalo) who introduced the bill. “These big steps forward will accelerate the savings consumers are seeing around the state and will speed the growth of jobs in our local renewable energy industry.”

“Local renewable projects are already cheaper than liquid natural gas and oil, and our progress toward meeting our renewable energy standards has already saved local residents hundreds of millions on their electric bills. Moving to 100 percent renewable energy will do more to reduce energy prices for local residents in the long term than almost anything else we could do.”

Hawaii has been transitioning from a near-total dependence on imported fossil fuels, doubling its renewable energy production in the last decade. The state currently produces about 21 percent of its power from renewable energy.

Hawaii’s current renewable portfolio standards call for 40 percent renewable energy by 2040, which will now grow to 100 percent by 2045. Progress in meeting the existing renewable portfolio standards has saved local consumers hundreds of millions of dollars in avoided energy costs, including more than $67 million in 2012 alone.

Renewable energy from new projects currently proposed in the state is now coming in cheaper per kilowatt hour than fossil fuel energy. Accelerating the rate of renewable energy adoption will help advance savings for consumers as the state eliminates its dependence on fossil fuels subject to increasingly expensive and volatile prices.

The measure also requires the Public Utilities Commission to include the impact of renewable portfolio standards, if any, on the energy prices offered by renewable energy developers and the cost of fossil fuel volatility in its renewable portfolio standards study and report to the Legislature.

Other groundbreaking energy related bills passed this session include:

HB 1509, CD1 makes the University of Hawaii system the first university in the nation to have a goal of being 100 percent renewable and generate all their own power by 2035, according to Lee. Achieving this goal will save students about $40 million in tuition every year that is now used to pay the university’s electric bill. It will also save taxpayers countless millions by encouraging the use of innovative energy-savings financing to pay for campus upgrades, instead of the state paying the bill.

SB1050, CD1 establishes the nation’s first state-wide community renewables program which will allow any resident to buy into a solar PV or other renewable project off-site and receive credit for it on their electric bill as though it was installed on their own roof. This opens the renewable energy market to condo owners, renters, and countless others who previously could not take advantage of renewable technology to save on their electric bill.



Big Island legislators secured more than $200 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for various projects across the island in HB500 CD1, the state budget bill for the next fiscal biennium.

The proposed budget includes funding for various highway improvements, monies for Big Island schools, and continued financial support to complete the Kona Judiciary Complex. The measure is scheduled next week for final reading in both the House and Senate.


“Our Hawaii Island Legislative delegation has worked very hard to secure funding for many of the much needed projects throughout our island,” said Rep. Richard Onishi (Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano). “Although we didn’t get everything we asked for and that is needed for our communities, our residents can be assured that we will continue to work hard during the interim to secure funding for those projects.”

“We have been successful in securing funds for Capital Improvement Projects for Hilo although we were faced with fiscal restraints,” added Sen. Gilbert Kahele (Hilo).

“For the last several years, I have been working with the tech community to increase the availability of jobs for Hawaii Island residents,” said Rep. Mark Nakashima (Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo). “The $8.5 million available for the purchase of a Workforce Development Facility to support tech activities demonstrates the state’s commitment to growing this important economic sector.”

“House District 2 will see funding for schools, infrastructure improvements, and major construction for our airport, harbor, and roads,” added Rep. Clift Tsuji (Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea).

“I am a strong supporter of alternative learning for our young men and women, and so I am grateful that an additional $1.7 million is being invested for the Youth Challenge Academy in Keaukaha. The Hilo Airport and Harbor continue to receive funding for necessary improvements.

“Other smaller projects are just as important, like Waiakea High School’s batting cage and pipeline replacement along Nohea Street and Santos Lane. Regardless of the amount, project dollars will improve our quality of life and provide continued economic activity.”

Kohala, Waimea

“Two of my priorities are farming and agriculture and I am pleased that three projects in Senate District 4 have received funding,” said Sen. Lorraine Inouye (Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona). “After being invited to visit the Kohala Ditch to witness the damage in December, improvements and repairs to the ditch became my top priority for the future of agriculture. With the collaboration of many constituents and the State Department of Agriculture, we submitted a CIP request and were approved for $1.5 million.

“The Kamuela Vacuum Cooling Plant, is another project and my office staff and I have met with them to clarify their needs” she added. “This operation is vital to the farmers in the greater Waimea community. A CIP for $1 million to help repair their equipment has also been awarded. And finally, for Waipio Valley, and specifically Ha Ola o Waipio Valley, a GIA in the amount of $150,000 has been approved for flood control and stream bank stabilization work.”

“I’m pleased the budget contains funding for North Kohala and South Kohala and makes progress on locally grown produce and much needed improvements for our public schools,” said Rep. Cindy Evans (North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala).

Puna, Ka’u

“For Puna & Ka’u districts, I’m happy to announce that our district schools will receive $2.3 million for laptops and the school infrastructure needed to implement the ‘One on one’ computer learning program, starting with Pahoa and Mountain View public schools,” said Sen. Russell Ruderman (Puna, Ka’u).

“This will expand the program that has been so successful in Keaau Elementary & Intermediate schools. Our Puna public school students, many of whom are extremely challenged economically, will have the tools to compete in our modern computer-based workplace.”

“Lower Puna is the fastest growing district in the State and I appreciate that the current budget recognizes our road and traffic problems by allocating $15 million for improvements to Highway 130,” added Rep. Joy San Buenaventura (Puna).


“After many years fighting for projects like the Kona Courthouse, I was so pleased to see our team’s collaboration pay off for the Big Island,” added Sen. Josh Green (Kona, Ka‘u).

“The Kona Courthouse was a top priority for me and I’m very thankful that we now have full funding and the project will move forward,” said Rep. Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau). “The funds in the budget for the airport are also really important for Kona’s future—the federal inspections stations will cement Kona as a destination for international arrivals to the state, and the planned regional ARFF training facility will serve as a source of revenue to keep our airports systems sustainable.

“We were gratified the two projects in District 5 received grant-in-aid money,” said Rep. Richard Creagan (Na’alehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona). “The community kitchen project at Kona Pacific Charter School will receive $1.2 million. This project will help provide healthy food and value added products to the Kona community.

“The Community Enrichment and Historical Center in Precinct 3 will receive $800,000 which should help complete this very important and long-awaited project.”

Notable CIP funding highlights for Hawaii County include:

· $55 million in continued funding for the design and construction of a Judiciary Complex in Kona

· $4.99 million for photovoltaic projects for East Hawaii HHSC region

· $1 million for the design and construction of a Kamuela post-harvest facility and vacuum cooling plant

· $1.5 million for improvements to the Kohala ditch irrigation system

· $30.212 million for the construction of a new combined support maintenance shop complex for Hawaii Army National Guard at the Keaukaha military reservation

· $1.675 million for Youth Challenge Academy renovations and improvements at Keaukaha military reservation

· $300,000 for parking improvements at Kealakehe Elementary School

· $1 million for the plans, design, construction and equipment for the transition from Keaau Elementary School to Keonepoko Elementary School

· $230,000 for the construction of drainage improvements and a raised covered walkway at Mountain View Elementary School

· $2.3 million for laptop computers and the installation of necessary infrastructure for laptop use in Senate District 2 schools, especially at Pahoa High and Intermediate School and Mountain View Public Schools

· $450,000 for a new baseball batting cage at Waiakea High School

· $1.58 million for the design of a new classroom building at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School

· $300,000 for parking improvements at Kealakehe Elementary School

· $2 million for the design of Building A phase 1 renovations at Hilo Intermediate School

· $8.5 million for the land acquisition, design, construction and equipment for a multi-purpose workforce development processing facility

· $330,000 for improvements to the research campus in the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park

· $1 million for the design and construction for Pu’u Wa’awa’a structure improvements and dam compliance

· $400,000 for the plans and design for improvements at the North Kawaihae small boat harbor

· $600,000 for the land acquisition and design for a community center in Waiakea Uka

· $550,000 for the replacement of water lines and service laterals along Nohea Street and Santos Lane

· $3.5 million for airfield improvements at Hilo International Airport

· $3.89 million for the demolition of existing structures at the west ramp and construction of site improvements at Hilo International Airport

· $61 million for the design and construction of a new airport rescue firefighters regional training facility at the Kona International Airport at Keahole

· $2.5 million for the plans and design of a federal inspection station at Kona International Airport at Keahole

· $50,000 for a feasibility study of constructing a small commercial airport in south Puna

· $1.425 million for physical modifications to improve navigational safety and operational efficiencies at Hilo Harbor

· $660,000 for land acquisition to extend the Daniel K. Inouye Highway from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway

· $15 million for repair and maintenance of feeder roads and alternate routes for Highway 130

· $2.45 million for Keaau-Pahoa Road improvements to widen the two lane highway to four lanes or implement alternate alignments

· $3.6 million for Kohala Mountain Road drainage improvements by mile post 10.60

· $8 million for the rehabilitation of Ninole Bridge along Mamalahoa Highway (route 11)

· $1.5 million for the construction of portable trailers at Hawaii Community College

· $800,000 to the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council #1 for the construction of Milolii community enrichment and historical center (Grant-in-Aid)

· $150,000 to the Panaewa Community Alliance for the design of the Kamoleao Laulima Community Resources Center (Grant-in-Aid)

· $285,000 to the Friends of the Volcano School of Arts & Science for the design and construction of a certified commercial kitchen (Grant-in-Aid)

· $1.2 million to the Friends of Kona Pacific Charter School for the design, construction and equipment for community food kitchen for Friends of Kona Pacific Public Charter School (Grant-in-Aid)

· $315,000 to the Kailapa Community Association for the design and construction of the Kailapa community resource center (Grant-in-Aid)



House and Senate budget conferees funded $28 million in Grant-in-Aid (GIA) for local organizations serving the public and working to improve the state of Hawaii.

The total appropriations, amounted to nearly $20 million in capital improvement projects (CIP) funding and $8 million in operating funds.

The funding agreements were made as lawmakers agreed on House Bill 500, relating to the state budget.

Lead by House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Chair Jill Tokuda, the two sides focused on developing a responsible financial plan that lawmakers hope will create a continuing mindset in state government of “spending within its means.” That’s why lawmakers are looking to control government growth and spending even in good years.

“This year we received over 280 applications for Grant-in-Aid assistance. It was tough to make a decision from the many worthwhile requests, but the decisions that we made fit into what we could afford in this year’s state budget and our conservative fiscal plan,” said Rep. Ty Cullen (Royal Kunia, Village Park, Waipahu, Makakilo, West Loch), lead House GIA manager.

“Fortunately, the House and Senate were able to put together just over $28 million to support our local community and service groups, who assist a wide range of individuals within our community and are an integral part of our social safety net providing essential services for our state.”

The agreement culminated nearly two weeks of discussions on a wide range of issues such as social services, mass transit, healthcare, education, the environment and support for statewide government services. HB500, CD1 will now go before the full House and Senate for a final vote.

All GIA applications received this year and the full list of operating and CIP appropriations are available on the Capitol website at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.