New legislative session opens with little fanfare, lots to get done

The state Legislature started its new session Wednesday, but Opening Day ceremonies were muted.
The state Legislature started its new session Wednesday, but Opening Day ceremonies were muted.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Jan. 20, 2021 at 11:24 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers started the new legislative session Wednesday, but there wasn’t much of the usual fanfare.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, members of the public could not attend and plexiglass separated lawmakers. There were also no performances as in years’ past.

“This is a sign of the times,” said House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti.

Instead, lawmakers got right to work, underscoring the gravity of the challenges ahead of them.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said “the house is going to operate like a laser beam this year” by focusing on COVID-19 response and recovery.

“The ability for us to find a safe way for children to return to school so their parents can focus back on their jobs,” said Senate President Ron Kouchi.

Saiki said there will be security precautions taken at the state Capitol going forward in the wake of the attack in Washington, DC.

Permanent concrete barricades will replace temporary ones already up at the state Capitol building and Saiki hopes they’ll be install this session.

“We do not want to short-change public access,” said Saiki.

“We have the most unsecured capitols in the nation,” said Kouchi.

From pro-Trump to to pro-farming, the political message on the street was peaceful.

“This barricade is not to keep the community out. It’s to keep all their workers in,” said Daniel Anthony of Hui Aloha Aina Momona, which organized an event to give away 10,000 taro starters and 10,000 Hawaiian flags.

Despite being closed to the public, lawmakers believe hearings posted on line and zoom testimony make the legislative process more open.

“We are probably the most accessible than we have ever been,” said Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English.

“The fact that we are going to be allowing remote testimony is in fact opening up access,” said Belatti.

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