Aloha Rising: Legislative Updates and Submitting Testimony in 2021

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In January, we provided an overview of the measures included in this year’s OHA 2021 Legislative Package. As we are midway through the legislative session, here are status updates as of February 15 on measures included in our package.

OHA—1: OHA Biennium Budget Bill FY22-23 (HB204 / SB389)

The House version of the bill still needs to be heard; the Senate version of the bill has been heard by the Hawaiian Affairs Committee and will be heard next by the Ways and Means Committee.

OHA—2: Supporting Sustainable Diversified Agriculture, Cultural Protection in Wahiawā (HB203 / SB390)

Both versions of this measure are alive and moving along to different committees.

OHA—3: Clearing the Path Home for People Experiencing Homelessness (HB202 / SB391)

The House bill was heard by the House Committee on Health, Human Services & Homelessness on February 9, and unfortunately was deferred. However, the Senate version is still alive and will be heard next by the Judiciary Committee.

OHA—4: Data Governance Resolution (HCR3 / SCR5)

The House version has not yet been referred to a committee(s). However, the Senate version has been referred to the Government Operations and Ways and Means Committees.

OHA’s Public Policy Team also engages in coordinated advocacy with other Native Hawaiian organizations. For example, HB546/SB1384 would allow for ʻAha Pūnana Leo to become a standing voting member with the Early Learning Board. Another example is HB628/SB899 that would ensure Native Hawaiian traditional and cultural representation and expertise as part of the Mental Health Council. This was part of OHA’s legislative package in 2019, and has since been revived!

Providing Testimony in the Pandemic

The Hawaiʻi State Capitol and Legislature look a bit different this year as a result of safety protocols taken due to the pandemic. The Capitol is closed to the public and testimony must be submitted online.

Legislators have asked for the cooperation of those providing oral testimony to keep their comments brief (two minutes or less), and/or to stand on their written testimony alone to ensure an efficient schedule of hearings.

Despite these changes, there are also increased opportunities, particularly for those on the neighbor islands, to participate in the legislative process. All hearings are held virtually, and can also be accessed after the hearing is over since the hearings are recorded.

If you haven’t already done so, go to the Capitol’s website and create an account to enable you to submit testimony. When submitting testimony, be sure to select your position on the bill: support, oppose, or comment.

Identify who the legislators are for your community, and make your voice heard! They want to hear from you!

Here are some resources and links: