Legislative Wrap Up

The Chamber and GAC hosted State Senators Lorraine Inouye and Tim Richards along with State Representatives Greggor Ilagan, Mark Nakashima, and Chris Todd for a Legislative Wrap Up on May 30th. They discussed some of the accomplishments made in the 2024 Legislature as well as what they would like to focus on going forward.

Representative Chris Todd (Majority Whip and 2024 Committee Member of Transportation, Education, Higher Education & Technology, and Housing) led off by highlighting the passage of HB2024 which will cut state income taxes for the vast majority of residents. When later asked how the state would make up for the lost revenue, Chris said that had yet to be discussed. However, in my reading on the coverage of the bill, it sounds like they may not need to raise taxes elsewhere as there is excess revenue coming in at this time. Chris also discussed the work the legislature did on wildfire prevention and mitigation, including the appointment of a new State Fire Marshall.

Representative Greggor Ilagan (Vice Speaker and 2024 Committee Member of Health & Homelessness, Human Services, Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs, and Legislative Management) discussed funding that was appropriated for Puna infrastructure and health clinics in Keaau. He also highlighted a bill that passed making attacks by dangerous dogs a felony.

Representative Mark Nakashima (2024 Committee Member of Consumer Protection & Commerce) discussed the passage of a bill that would continue to allow pharmacists to test and vaccinate, thus extending the work they did during Covid. He also mentioned that the revitalization of the hurricane relief fund did not make it through this year.

Senator Lorraine Inouye (2024 Committee Member of Water & Land, Transportation and Culture & the Arts, and Ways & Means) discussed funding for several projects on the East side including expansion of the Hilo Medical Center and the Waiakea Peninsula Master Plan. She also highlighted the passage of SB1035 which will exempt private-practice doctors and dentists from having to pay the state’s general excise tax on care covered by Medicaid, Medicare and TRICARE starting in 2026. (This is a bill the GAC strongly supported!) Lorraine also talked about the limitations for DLNR on lease extensions. For example, the Department of Agriculture can negotiate with lessees, but DLNR does not have that authority. She is pushing to make changes through a couple of bills to make it easier to extend leases.

Senator Tim Richards (Assistant Majority Whip, 2024 Committee Member of Agriculture & Environment, Commerce & Consumer Protection, Education, and Hawaiian Affairs) discussed his focus on Agriculture, which makes up 4% of the Big Island’s GDP. Namely he touched on the need for infrastructure to allow farmers and ranchers to be able to produce more for the island and the state. He also touched on a new five car pull over law (if five cars are lined up behind you, you need to pull over to let them by), truth in labelling for Hawaii coffee and macadamia nuts, and funding for the Daniel K Inouye Highway extension EIS.

All five of our legislators asked for more engagement from the business community. When pressed on what is the best way to provide input, they basically said anything from emails, to calls, to testimony are all helpful. We need to make sure our voices are heard! To that end the Chamber is working on setting up more one-on-one time with our legislators. But know that you can always reach out to their offices as they welcome the feedback.

Additional thought – In 2024 over 3000 bills were introduced, 1000 made it in the first crossover, 500 made it to the second crossover, and 269 bills were sent to the Governor’s desk. These are amazing numbers to me. What I personally would love to see is our legislators getting rid of laws that don’t make sense, rather than always looking to add and making things more complicated. When in doubt, simplify!