A Session in Review: The 2018 Legislative Session Wraps Up

To view a PDF of Representative Johanson's 2018 Legislative Session Summary, click here.


Making Hawaii More Affordable – Victories for the Working Class

In 2010, when I first met our neighbor and Aiea resident, Marchell Tugadi, she asked me what I would do help alleviate the crushing burden that so many of our working families face in caring for their loved ones and keeping up with Hawaii’s overly high cost of living.  Her question, asked on behalf of so many families, has become my charge to keep and one my highest legislative priorities.  Consequently, each session, I author legislation that works to make Hawaii more affordable.  Thanks to the advocacy and partnership of so many, these ideas that will help to bring down the cost of living for working families have become law:

Re-Establishing the Exit & Retention Bonus Program for Welfare Recipients - Incentivizes recipients to transition into the workforce & achieve economic self-sufficiency by rewarding exiting & remaining off of public assistance.  (2018)

Creating the Earned Income Credit for Middle & Low-Income Workers - Effectively reduces the taxes for those who need relief the most.  (2017)

Increasing the Dependent Care Tax Credit for Middle & Low-Income Workers - Offsets the costs paying for a loved one’s care.  (2016)

These bills represent some of the issues most important to our community.  The Legislature made significant progress in passing landmark legislation.  However, many issues will take additional time to resolve.  Out of the 3000 bills introduced, 229 measures ultimately passed.  They now await the Governor to enact them into law.

All-Mail Voting

Over the years, the number of registered voters who choose to vote prior to Election Day has increased dramatically.  Although many prefer to vote by mail, the Legislature approved an all-mail voting pilot program for the 2020 elections in Kauai County.  Depending on the results of the pilot, all-mail voting may be implemented statewide.

 Medical Aid in Dying

The bill known as Our Care, Our Choice was enacted into law during the session.  The bill creates a process for adult Hawaii residents with a medically confirmed terminal illness and less than six months to live to have the choice to obtain prescription for medication that will end the patient’s life.  Two doctor certification and multiple verifications as well as mandatory counseling have been built into the bill as some of the strongest safeguards in the Nation.

Paid Family Leave

Implementing paid family leave in Hawaii would represent the most significant benefit for the workforce since the enactment of the Hawaii Prepaid Healthcare Act (the basis for worker’s employer-funded health insurance plans).  The corresponding potential impacts on employers as well as the many important outstanding questions on how to effectively implement such a complex program led the Legislature to fund an actuarial review and analysis of the existing paid family leave programs in other states, costs, and methods of implementation.

Protecting the Environment

Coral reefs are a critical part of Hawaii’s unique environment.  Preservation of those reefs is necessary to ensure our health, our economy, and our special way of life.  The chemical oxybenzone – a primary ingredient in most sunscreens – has been proven to kill off coral.  Hawaii becomes the first in the Nation to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone by the year 2021.

Educational Funding ConAm

Voters will have the choice this coming election to decide whether to give the State Legislature the authority to enact a surcharge on investment real property to fund public education.  If the Constitutional Amendment is approved by voters, this surcharge would be in addition to City & County property taxes already paid.  A person’s primary residence would not be covered by this additional tax; it is specific to investment properties.

Affordable Housing

The Legislature is trying to make a significant dent in our affordable housing crisis by appropriating $200 million to generate approximately 1600 affordable rental housing units for low-income families and expanding the tax exemption for construction or substantial rehabilitation of approximately 24,000 affordable rental units for low-income families.

Tackling Homelessness

Ohana transition zones modeled on Kahauiki Village – the successful public-private partnership housing working homeless families – were approved along with $50 million to develop the sites, supporting infrastructure, and fund homeless services out outreach.  The goal of these transition centers is to not only provide housing, but also the equally critical services to help people transition back to a life of self-sufficiency from homelessness.

Equal Pay

Women are often paid less than their male counterparts for performing the same work.  Women’s advocates have noted that past salary history can perpetuate that inequality.  Beginning January 2019, prospective employers will be prohibited from requesting or considering a job applicant's wage or salary history as part of an employment application process or compensation offer.  Employers will also be prohibited from retaliation or discrimination against employees for discussing wage information or for the exercise of equal pay rights.

College Affordability

The establishment of the Hawaii Community College Promise Program provides scholarships for qualified students demonstrating unmet financial need at any Community College campus of UH.  This Promise Program helps to make college more affordable for everyone in Hawaii.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

Opioid addiction has become one the most significant substance abuse-related problems.  In order to educate and inform patients on the effects and potential for addiction to these powerful pain killers, these prescription drugs will be required to have warning labels and medical providers will be required to maintain a written informed consent policy with the patient.

Pesticide Regulation

Long-standing agricultural policies must be re-evaluated when the promotion of public health necessitates it.  Because the health effects of large-scale pesticide use near population centers have created greater public concern and controversy, the Legislature has prohibited the application of restricted use pesticides within 100 feet of a school during school hours and the use of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos (largely banned in most of the world).

Our Community Comes Together

Fishponds in early Hawaiian history were used to farm fish, providing food for the surrounding communities. There were originally 22 fishponds in the Puuloa region, but now only three remain. Of the three, Loko Pa'aiau, Aiea’s fishpond off of McGrew Point, is the most accessible and remains one of the better preserved fishponds.  However, even up until several years ago, overgrown by mangroves and relatively inaccessible because it was on Navy property, this local historical, cultural, and environmental treasure remained hidden.

The restoration of Loko Pa'aiau Fishpond began in September 2014 and remains a shining example of how much can be accomplished when people come together.  Through the partnership and the hard work of the Ali`i Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club and the U.S. Navy, the fishpond’s restoration has flourished.  Aiea residents and lineal descendants of the Puuloa region, Winston and Kehaulani Lum, have taken a lead role in helping to build community by encouraging stewardship of the fishpond by neighbors, community groups, including the Aiea Community Association, local students, environmental groups, U.S. Military personnel, and McGrew Point residents.  The ultimate goal is not only to restore the fishpond back to its original condition, but also to bring our surrounding community together.

Others have taken notice of this project and the spirit of unity that it has engendered.  This work by our broader community was recently acknowledged by Nainoa Thompson, Master Navigator and President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, who made a historic voyage into Pearl Harbor and passed by the Loko Pa'aiau Fishpond with the Hokule'a and its crew.  “We want to celebrate this place and the movement taking place by the Puuloa community and the Navy to restore the Native Hawaiian history, sites and cultural identity of Pearl Harbor. We hope Hokuleʻa’s visit will open the doors for our young people to learn about the extraordinary history and culture of this very special, sacred place,” said Nainoa Thompson.

Mahalo to the U.S. Navy for their partnership in this endeavor.  A special mahalo to the Lum Ohana, Shad Kane, Jeff Panteleo (U.S. Navy Cultural Resource Manager), Kim Moa and Erica Vargas, and Uncle Bruce for your leadership, your dedication, and your inspirational work in helping to restore this local treasure…and in so doing, to strengthen and build the fabric of our Aiea community.

2018 Legislature Funds Our Community Projects

FY 2018-2019:

Aiea High School ROTC Fitness Facility:                                                                       $250,000

Aliamanu Elementary School Traffic and Parking Lot Improvements:                            $2,000,000

Aliamanu Middle School Roof and Covering for an Open Courtyard:                            $1,500,000

Radford High School Irrigation System for Practice Fields:                                            $410,000

Moanalua Gardens Foundation, Inc:                                                                           $890,000

Aiea High School New P.E. and Athletic Facility:                                                         $1,600,000

Moanalua High School Performing Arts Center:                                                       $15,000,000

H1 Airport Viaduct improvements (Valkenburg to Middle St):                                   $42,000,000