2019 Legislative Session Wrap Up

To view a PDF of Representative Johanson's 2019 Legislative Session Summary, click here.

2019 LEGISLATIVE SUMMARY


Reforming State Government to Achieve Results

How many times have you stood in seemingly endless lines for government services or experienced a delay in the processing of your payment or form? Those interactions negatively impact our lives and often have a direct root cause in understaffing and an agency’s inability to recruit appropriate talent.

Reforming government is a catchy slogan, but in practice is often neglected by the Legislature because it requires tedious work, overcoming bureaucratic hurdles, and focusing on better results for taxpayers. Governmental reform has some of the greatest potential to improve our lives which is why Representative Johanson, a former Executive Recruiter, authored House Bill 867—a major change to the way government staffs state agencies.

House Bill 867, signed into law by the Governor, restructures the Department of Human Resources Development—the state’s central recruitment agency—by establishing several top recruiter positions (the agency presently has none) with the singular mission of facilitating the appropriate and qualified hiring of civil servants as well as having a new power to abolish vacant positions that are no longer needed, but nonetheless encumbering taxpayer monies. This significant reform is meant to ensure better delivery of services and greater budgetary transparency.

How you are negatively impacted now: Delayed or Lacking State Services, Bad Accounting & Lack of Budget Transparency

When state agencies lack appropriate staff and have long-term vacancies, their delivery of services to citizens is often compromised, no matter how hard existing employees work. That can mean delays in services or agencies eliminating services or functions. If the Legislature appropriates monies for employees and positions that only exist on paper and go unfilled, taxpayer dollars end up being tied up when it could be better utilized for a real need.

How this reform will help you: More Efficient, Effective Delivery of Services & Funding of True Needs

Appropriately staffed agencies would be equipped with the personnel and resources needed to better perform their critical services and functions for taxpayers. Not only would the state budget become more transparent, but the true needs of government would be funded more appropriately, better and more responsibly utilizing taxpayer monies.


Session Summary

These bills represent some of the issues most likely to affect our community. The Legislature tackled numerous difficult issues and made significant progress in passing helpful legislation. However, many issues will take additional time to resolve. Out of 3142 bills introduced, 283 measures ultimately passed and await the Governor’s action.

Reducing Our Opioid Crisis

There is a growing trend of opioid abuse across the nation, including Hawaii. In order to arrest this trend, pharmacists, acting in good faith and with reasonable care, are authorized to prescribe and dispense opioid antagonists (medications) to at-risk patients and family members and caregivers of patients at risk of overdose.

Reducing Youth Tobacco Use

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death. In Hawaii, 95% of all smokers start before the age of 21.  Public school educators will now be able to confiscate e-cigarettes from any student under age 21. The law also creates a safe harbor for students to dispose of e-cigarettes with no penalty. Fines may now be enforced.

Protecting Local Communities & Tourism Fairness

The rise of vacation home rentals begs the question of how to incorporate these new innovations into our existing tourism industry and how to balance the concerns of affected communities who host these rentals in their residential areas. Transient vacation rental platforms will be required to centrally collect and pay taxes on behalf of their hosts.

Protecting Our Unique Environment

Hawaii is a small land mass and a place where the environment is paramount to our health and our economy. Plastics constitute a large majority of the waste stream and only a fraction of plastics are actually recycled. To combat the problems of litter, pollution, wildlife harm, a plastic source reduction working group will develop plans and strategies to reduce and recover plastic from Hawaii’s waste stream.

Honoring Our Filipino-American Veterans

In appreciation and respect for our Filipino-American World War II veterans and their service, the State would provide previously denied veteran benefits of funeral and burial services, including transporting the remains of those qualified to the Philippines.

Illegal Fireworks Accountability

Each year, the illegal fireworks problem seems to grow. Currently, in order to cite the offender, police officers must actually witness the event. Violators will now be held accountable as police officers will be allowed to make arrests based on witness statements from neighbors or community members, which may include videos and/or photographs of the illegal fireworks activity.

Expanding Hawaii’s Film Industry

The Legislature increased the cap on the successful film production tax credit that has helped to lure countless movies and regular TV shows such as Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum P.I. Increasing the cap enables more projects to be filmed in Hawaii.

Increasing Hawaii’s Minimum Wage

Balancing the high cost of living and the high cost of doing business in   Hawaii is difficult. The Legislature attempted to reconcile these challenges by increasing the minimum wage incrementally to $15 by 2024 for workers who do not receive employer-subsidized health insurance. The Legislature also recognized the significant cost imposed on employers by currently mandated employer-sponsored healthcare for employees. In recognition of that cost and healthcare's important benefit, the proposal would have increased the minimum wage in smaller amounts to $12.50 by 2024 for employees who receive employer-sponsored healthcare. ALL workers would have seen their pay increase with less risk of compromising their health insurance coverage. Ultimately, the Legislature was unable to agree on a bill this session.

Addressing Hawaii’s Homelessness

The Ohana Transition Zones pilot program—modeled on successful public-private partnership housing working homeless families—was extended and given broader authorities to help homeless individuals transition to self-sufficiency.

Assisting Our Seniors

So many of our loved ones suffer from Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases. The Legislature funded the statewide Alzheimer’s & Dementia Services Coordinator.

Statewide All Mail Voting

To encourage greater voter participation, the Legislature enacted voting entirely by mail statewide beginning with the 2020 primary election. Several voter assistance centers and ballot deposit sites will also be set up.


Investing In Our Community: Aloha Stadium 2.0

The Aloha Stadium has long been a mainstay of Hawaii's public places. The iconic venue has hosted a variety of major events, from graduation ceremonies to the Pro Bowl, the thriving Swap Meet and more recently, the homecoming of Bruno Mars. However, since its construction in 1975, structural integrity and upkeep costs of the Stadium have brought us to the point of embracing a new vision for the property—from merely maintaining an aging athletic facility to generating economic growth and community enrichment through a multi-use development. Taxpayers shouldn't spend hundreds of millions of dollars to upkeep a deteriorating stadium and surrounding parking lot.

Representative Johanson and Senator Wakai authored legislation establishing a Stadium development district that would allow for redevelopment, improvement, and maximization of all the lands within the 98-acre Aloha Stadium property. Our bill has passed the Legislature and is awaiting the Governor's signature in order to become law.

This legislation is the culmination of years of community ideas and input. The project not only provides a major reinvestment in our community, but is also likely to generate significant economic activity from construction and operations. "The creation and funding of the Stadium development district is the single biggest thing the Legislature has done in recent years to spur economic development and job creation," noted House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke.

The Aloha Stadium Authority will be assisted by the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), a state agency that works with the private sector to help develop state lands. Through public-private development and investment partnerships, the State can more wisely ensure that public infrastructure with income-generating potential doesn't fall solely on the shoulders of the taxpayer. The Legislature deliberately crafted this legislation to pioneer a different public finance model…to be a model for sustainability and fiscal responsibility.

Multi-use equates not only to the use of a new stadium for concerts, professional sporting events, and other large showcases, but also the development of the surrounding area with retailers, theaters, restaurants, museums, housing, and office space. The development's guidance policies direct the stadium authority to seek to promote economic development and employment opportunities and to coordinate with existing state and county plans, including the transit-oriented development plan for the Aloha Stadium rail station. The stadium area redevelopment has the potential to connect the Pearl Harbor Historic sites, the rail, Pearlridge Center, and the many existing retail, cultural, and historical gems found in the Aiea and Pearl Harbor areas.

Our community has long hosted much of the state's critical infrastructure including freeways, highways, harbors, military bases, airports, and prisons. It is time for our community to have its share of a renaissance. The creation of the stadium development district and the ensuing changes are likely to transform much of the Pearl Harbor, Stadium, and lower Aiea area for generations to come.

Involving Community

The Stadium Authority currently has a public hearing process for decision-making. Because the Authority remains in charge of the project and has the final approval of any development plans, members of our community can utilize the existing public hearing process to share their opinions, express concerns, and/or ask questions.

Smarter Financing

Instead of being solely taxpayer funded, more than half of the development costs will be born by developers. Lease income from the developments will pay off the bonds used to finance much of the project. This differs from traditional public infrastructure projects in that the entire cost is not born by the taxpayer.

Preservation

The legislation explicitly mandates that Hawaiian archaeological, historic, and cultural sites as well as endangered plant and animal species shall be preserved and protected. Inclusion of these important categories ensures these necessary safeguards in the development process.


Legislature Funds Our Community's Critical Projects

At long last, the final phase of the Central District Performing Arts Center, located at Moanalua High School, has broken ground! The 650-seat auditorium’s construction is underway with a two-year timeline for completion. The Moanalua, Radford, and Aiea Complexes’ success in building their music programs requires greater space to accommodate our elementary, middle, and high school programs. Currently, the only suitable spaces for large-scale performances are the Pearl City Cultural Center and the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall. Representative Johanson, along with fellow legislators, educators, students, and administrators, had the privilege of breaking ground on the new, state-of-the-art auditorium that completes the 3-phase Performing Arts Center project. Thanks to our students’ excellence, our faculty dedication, and the many community partners’ support, your legislative delegation was able to secure the funding to make this over $50 million, 3-phase Performing Arts Center a reality. The Center is sure to be our newest regional treasure.

Aiea High School - Girls’ Locker Room Construction

$5,400,000

Aiea High School - Grounds Improvement

$600,00

Alvah Scott Elem. School - Reroofing

$548,000

Pali Momi Medical Center - Grant for ER Expansion

$250,000

Radford High School - Girls’ Locker Room Construction

$6,250,000

Radford High School - Multi-Purpose Rm Equipment

$65,000

Aliamanu Middle School - Reroofing

$750,000

Aliamanu Elem. School - Covered Play Court

$500,000

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum - Ford Island Tower

$150,000

Pacific Fleet Submarine Assn - USS Bowfin Renovation

$150,000

Moanalua High School - Stadium Lights Construction

$2,100,000

Moanalua Middle School - Central Drop-Off Area

$1,500,000

Moanalua Elem. School - Electrical A/C Upgrades

$100,000

Red Hill Elem. School - Safety Improvements

$390,000

Moanalua Gardens Fdn - Valley Road Improvements

$300,000

TOTAL    

$19,053,000