Ka Wai Ola

Another legislative session full of hopes, plans, controversy and compromise has wrapped up for the year. Below is a summary of several key bills—some that passed, others that did not—each raising or seeking to address issues of great concern for the Hawaiian community. Each of these measures, now passed by the Legislature, awaits the Governor’s approval (or veto). For updates on the status of any of these measures, visit www.capitol.hawaii.gov.


  • HB172, OHA Budget: Offers an opportunity to continue a long and successful partnership between the State of Hawaiʻi and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). Most recently, this partnership has enabled the State to more than quadruple the impact of the general funds that it appropriates to OHA for community programs, through OHA’s strategic leveraging efforts. As a result of its passage, OHA can continue leveraging state general funds with OHA trust funds in the areas of legal services, social services and education.
  • SB192, Unsecured Bail Option: An OHA package measure, offers judges the option to allow a defendant to satisfy their cash bail requirement by signing a promissory note instead of paying large sums of cash. Under this option, the financial consequences of bail would only burden a defendant and his or her family if the defendant actually failed to appear in court as required. It is aimed at reducing the severe and disproportionate consequences of cash bail on indigent defendants, their ʻohana and their communities, relieving the overcrowding of our detention facilities and saving significant taxpayer dollars. This option does not restrict judges’ power to deny bail where there is a risk of flight or danger.
  • HB1552, Public Safety Oversight Commission/Bail Reform: Establishes a staffed commission to provide research support and oversight for the Department of Public Safety, to facilitate a transformation of our current punitive incarceration system into a rehabilitative and therapeutic model. This measure also contains an array of changes to our bail-setting system to make it more efficient and effective.
  • Photo: Eddie Aikau SurfingSB1459, Surfing Commission: Establishes a temporary commission to assist in creating a statewide program to promote the sport of surfing, improve surfing safety and educate local people and visitors alike about surfing’s Hawaiian roots.
  • HB820, ALOHA Homes Program: Directs the Hawaiʻi Housing and Finance Development Corporation to formulate a plan for a program to provide low-cost condominium homes to be available for long-term leases to Hawaiʻi residents on state-owned lands near planned rail stations.
  • SB78, Charter School Pre-K Funding: In addition to establishing responsibilities of the executive office on early learning, appropriates $4M over two fiscal years to keep open 18 Pre-Kindergarten classrooms in charter schools, most of which are in Hawaiian-focused and Hawaiian Language Immersion Program schools.
  • Photo: 'Ōhia TreeHB1548, Rapid ‘ōhi‘a Death Funding: Appropriates $750,000 for DLNR to study and develop strategies to combat rapid ‘ōhi‘a death.
  • HB1248, Vote by Mail: Establishes voting by mail statewide for future elections, starting with the 2020 election. OHA notes that there will be voter service centers in all counties to accept personal delivery of ballots, allow for same-day voter registration, and offer assistance to voters with special needs.
  • SR146, ‘Olelo Hawai‘i Plan: In recognition of the U.N. declaration of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, requests that the ʻAha Pūnana Leo bring together a coalition of Hawaiian-serving organizations and educational institutions to develop goals, strategies and measures for the next 35 years, to build on the successes of the ʻOlelo Hawaiʻi revitalization movement and accelerate the normalization of ʻOlelo Hawaiʻi.

Not Passed

  • HB1326, Water Rights: Would have allowed holders of controversial month-to-month revocable permits to continue their long-term diversion of large amounts of water, threatening the public’s interest in the valuable resource as well as Hawaiian practices and subsistence-based lifestyles dependent upon mauka-to-makai stream flow.
  • HB173/SB191/HB402, OHA’s Pro Rata Share of Public Land Trust Revenue: HB173 and SB191, companion measures proposed in OHA’s package, proposed to codify and strengthen reporting requirements for state agencies holding Public Land Trust lands and collecting Public Land Trust revenues to which Native Hawaiians (via OHA) are entitled a share. HB402, a measure offered by the Hawaiian Legislative Caucus, would have immediately updated the amount of revenues directed to Native Hawaiians as their constitutional fair share of the Public Land Trust proceeds. For more information on this issue, see www.oha.org/plt.
  • HB174/SB193, Hawaiian Health Practices Expert Membership on the State Council on Mental Health: Would have required a minimum number of seats on the Hawai‘i State Mental Health Council to have experience with Native Hawaiian concepts of well-being, traditional healing and health practices and culturally-grounded mental health methodologies to guide the state in addressing the unique mental health challenges faced by the Hawaiian community including high rates of childhood abuse, suicidal ideation and depression.
  • HCR3/SCR2, Charter School Facilities Funding: An OHA package measure, would have requested the Charter School Commission to develop criteria for distribution of charter school facilities funding to highlight the state statute related to charter schools facilities funding, and move the state forward toward resolving the longstanding needs of the charter school community for adequate facilities funding.

Governor’s Nominations – Passed

  • GM667, Confirming William Ailā as Deputy Director of DHHL
  • GM571, Confirming Alapaki Nahale-ā to the U.H. Board of Regents
  • GM740, Confirming Damien Barcarse as the Hawai‘i County member on the State Board of Education
  • GM573, Confirming La‘akea Poepoe to the Moloka‘i Island Burial Council
  • GM574, Confirming Lurline Naone-Salvador to the O‘ahu Island Burial Council
  • GM575, Confirming William Mills to the O‘ahu Island Burial Council
  • GM583, Confirming Randall Higa to the Hawai‘i Island Burial Council
  • GM610, Confirming Leahi Hall to the Maui and Lāna‘i Island Burial Council
  • GM669, Confirming Dane Maxwell to an additional term on the Maui and Lāna‘i Island Burial Council

#IManaKaLeo: Legislative Session Tutorial Video Series

Interested in learning more about our legislative process and how you can get involved? Whether you’re a seasoned session veteran, or newly inspired to engage, our new video series can help prepare you for the next legislative session.

Legislation 101 Video ScreenshotLegislation 101: How a Bill Becomes Law

Figuring out the legislative process can be a headache, but we’re here to help! In this short video, we break down Hawai‘i’s policy-making process and legislative session timeline so you can understand how bills move through the Capitol and eventually become law.

Legislation 102 Video ScreenshotLegislation 102: Kauleo “Give your voice.”

Many are intimidated by the thought of participating in the legislative process – but you don’t have to be! In this brief tutorial, we explain how to track bills, submit written testimony, present oral testimony and engage your friends and family on the issues you care about.

You can find these videos at www.oha.org/imanakaleo. If you like them, feel free to share them with your family and friends! Would you like to see video tutorials on other parts of the process or topics? We’re all ears – let us know what you want to see in the comments.