As new legislative session kicks off, lawmakers eye minimum wage of $18 an hour
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The new legislative session kicked off Wednesday with lawmakers pledging to take up issues aimed at improving the lives of residents hit hardest by the pandemic.
“We are very focused on working families,” said House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti.
“We really want to focus on ... looking at tax relief that will target them like the earn income tax credit. We’re also looking at the minimum wage.”
House Speaker Rep. Scott Saiki agreed it’s time to boost Hawaii’s minimum wage of $10.10 an hour.
“We had to defer the increase in the minimum wage during the pandemic, but now that conditions have improved, the House will propose to increase the minimum wage to $18 an hour,” said Saiki.
That proposal wouldn’t be an “all at once” increase but a gradual rise in wages over time.
Meanwhile, Neighbor Island lawmakers like Senate President Ron Kouchi and Kona Sen. Dru Kanuha say they’ll work to continue expanding broadband internet access to their communities.
“As important as in-person instruction is, are we going to have enough people to deliver that? If we don’t, then what are the digital platforms available to us and what are the ways that we may add additional instructors?” said Kouchi
Kahuna says enticing good teachers and giving them incentives to stay in Hawaii is key to strengthening our public school system.
“How do we improve our teacher professional of development? Ultimately, we want to get our kids back into school, but I think now we see with the pandemic going through and a lot of cases coming up, how do we deal with the evolving crisis,” added Kanuha.
East Maui Sen. Lynn DeCoite says her office will continue to fight for local ranchers and farmers and push legislation to bring more resources to her district to help mitigate the axis deer problem.
“This year, I am drafting legislation trying to get some appropriations in there to help DLNR. They’ve been doing a really good job in helping to mitigate the invasive species but the impacts to farms have been decimating,” said DeCoite.
New this session, lawmakers hope to make the largest investment ever in the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands, working to get Native Hawaiians off the long wait list.
“We will be putting aside $600 million to significantly help all those people on the wait list. It’s a tragedy that they waited so long to get a home and we have to address,” said House Finance Committee Chairperson Rep. Sylvia Luke.
Last session, lawmakers looked into limiting Gov. David Ige’s emergency powers relating to the pandemic. Saiki says that is still something he’s exploring.
“Nobody disputes that the governor should be able to pull the trigger when there is a pandemic or a natural disaster,” he said.
“The questions really floated around were more about the length of time that these orders were in effect and in situations where the governor’s orders were confusing or conflicted with county orders.”
Lawmakers noted that the State Capitol building is still closed to the public but say input from the community is more important now than ever before.
Hawaii residents can provide public testimony on bills and resolutions virtually by clicking here.
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