State Senator Tim Richards and Brad Knowlton from State Senator Lorraine Inouye’s office joined us at our last GAC meeting to discuss their priorities for the upcoming legislative session. That being said, both acknowledged that Lahaina will dominate the session and they didn’t expect a lot of additional legislation to be forthcoming.

Senator Richards’ main focus is agriculture, namely land access & tenure and water access & tenure. The goal is to push for a state farm bill that would address all aspects of supporting agriculture in the islands: infrastructure, leases, water, etc. By eliminating silos and working comprehensively, the goal would be to make the state more food self-sufficient, support value-added processing and increasing exports, all while addressing wildfire mitigation.

Senator Inouye is focused on legislation that would address some of the issues surrounding the Lahaina fire: electric grid resilience, water shortages and emergencies, managing lands to reduce fire risk, adequate evacuation routes, etc. In addition, she is looking to expand the Hilo High School parking lot project to 500 stalls while also reintroducing two bills.

  1.  SB1035 which exempts health care providers form the general excise tax to patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare.
  2. SB79 which repeals the requirement for Board of Land and Natural Resources approval for lease extensions in the Hilo Community Economic District and requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to use the current tax assessed value when offering lease extensions.

The GAC is working on the Chamber’s legislative priorities. We currently have a general outline from previous years that covers the economy, government, and education, but the goal is to provide our legislators with specific topics that we are interested in promoting. Examples include the continuation of astronomy on the mountain, making it easier for medical practitioners to thrive in the islands, simplifying the building code to make it less expensive for people to build new homes, etc. If you are interested in joining the GAC, please call Miles or Carla at the Chamber office, (808) 935-7178.