OHA Advocacy Recap of the 32nd Legislature Part 1

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By Zuri Aki, OHA Public Policy Manager

Aloha mai kākou. OHA was founded, in significant part, with the kuleana (responsibility) to ever-seek the betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians. OHA has steadfastly upheld this kuleana in countless ways and for us, here in OHA’s Public Policy Program, we do that through advocating the betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians in the laws, regulations, and actions taken by the government.

I like to think of OHA’s public policy advocates as nā koa (warriors), wielding their expertise in law and politics like ihe (spears) on the kahua kaua (battlefield). To be sure, navigating the tumultuous currents of governance, especially for Native Hawaiians, who have long-endured unresolved historical and ongoing injustices, can undoubtedly seem like fighting on a chaotic battlefield.

Be that as it may, advocacy is also an art form practiced and perfected by a great many advocates who have contributed to the betterment of conditions of Native Hawaiians, from grassroots activists to elected officials. One of the greatest canvases for the expression of this art is the annual legislative session, where our legislators advance public policy through the development of laws that impact each and every one of us.

The State of Hawaiʻi has a biennial (two-year) legislative session commencing on an odd number year and carrying over into the following even number year. Each regular session convenes from the third Wednesday of January through 60 days, typically ending in early May. This year, the regular session ended on May 4, 2023, with a variety of proposed laws that will be enrolled to Gov. Josh Green for final approval (enactment) or disproval (veto).

Through our advocacy efforts this year, OHA has tracked a grand total of 890 measures, providing support testimony for 99 measures, offering amendments on 43 measures, commenting on 80 measures, and providing opposition testimony for 31 measures. Of all these measures, only 25 were finally enrolled to the governor.

In our follow-up article to this OHA advocacy recap of the 32nd Legislature, we’ll provide you with an update on the OHA-tracked measures that were enrolled to the governor, as well as what’s on the horizon for the upcoming 2024 legislative session.