To view of PDF of Representative Johanson's 2019 Mid-Session Report, click here.
CAPITOL UPDATE 2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Re-Imagining the Future of Our Community
Unleashing the potential of the 98-acre Aloha Stadium property and maintaining our public infrastructure in a fiscally responsible way is closer to becoming a reality. Representative Johanson and Senator Wakai have authored advancing legislation that would create a stadium development district encompassing the entire Aloha Stadium property. This legislation—the culmination of years of community ideas and input—envisions the creation of a vibrant, multi-use property anchored by a new stadium and surrounded by restaurants, retail, museums, theaters, housing, and office space. Instead of continuing with a standalone stadium, the State can recoup taxpayer investment in the stadium and accompanying infrastructure by enabling a public-private partnership that catalyzes private sector development of the stadium parcel. The development of the Aloha Stadium property would enrich our community and also generate economic opportunity and growth for the entire region.
Reinventing the way government builds and manages public infrastructure is also a key part of this plan. For too long, taxpayers have had to solely shoulder the burden of building and maintaining public infrastructure. The State has had to make substantial investments to maintain the existing Stadium and it will need this kind of investment in the future just for basic upkeep. Continuing to do things the same way needlessly wastes taxpayer dollars.
The concept of using the Hawaii Community Development Authority—a state agency that works with the private sector to help develop state lands—to maximize the potential of the Aloha Stadium property is likely to yield quality developments with a financially sustainable, revenue-generating model to recoup taxpayers’ investment on underlying infrastructure and the stadium facility. Taxpayers and our community deserve not only a stadium concept reimagined, but also a public infrastructure development and financing model as well.
Legislative Hot Topics
As we move further through the legislative process, it can be difficult to discern some of the most notable topics out of the thousands of ideas we consider each session. Although not an exhaustive list, these highlighted issues represent some of the most relevant, ongoing legislative discussions.
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. The Legislature seeks to fine property owners who allow individuals to set off fireworks on their property and allow police officers to arrest the offender based on statements from witnesses such as neighbors or community members, which may include videos and/or photographs of the illegal fireworks being set off.
More Effective Delivery of State Services
Long wait times at state agencies' service counters or lack of services due to chronic understaffing frustrates everyone. To enhance the efficient and effective delivery of government services, the position of Chief Recruitment Officer is being established. The Chief Recruitment Officer will facilitate the hiring of necessary personnel to staff open positions in departments, ensure hiring of necessary staff is done in a timely manner, and hold each department accountable for failing to do so by eliminating long-vacant, non-critical positions.
Reducing Our Opioid Crisis
There is a growing trend of opioid abuse across the nation, including Hawaii. Tighter controls and accountability for the prescribing and dispensing of opioids by physicians and pharmacists, including a time limit for filling opioid prescriptions by qualified patients, are needed to help curb opioid abuse, avoid over-prescribing of opioids to qualified patients, and deter improper distribution of opioids.
Reducing Youth Tobacco Use
Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States and in Hawaii, and 95% of all smokers start before the age of twenty-one. Flavored tobacco and the popularity of electronic cigarette products promote youth initiation and appeal of tobacco use by reducing or masking the natural, harsh taste of tobacco smoke. The Legislature is moving to regulate these products to address the youth vaping epidemic by banning the sale of flavored tobacco products and prohibiting the mislabeling of e-liquid products containing nicotine.
Coping with Hawaii’s High Cost of Living
Balancing the high cost of living and the high cost of doing business in Hawaii is difficult. The Legislature is attempting to reconcile these two significant challenges by increasing the minimum wage incrementally to $15 by 2024 for workers who do not receive employer-subsidized health insurance. The Legislature also recognizes 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 increase the minimum wage in much smaller amounts to get to $12.50 by 2024 for employees who receive employer-sponsored healthcare. This is a net win for minimum wage workers as their pay would increase with less risk of compromising their health insurance coverage.
Statewide All Mail Voting
To encourage greater voter participation, the Legislature is again considering whether to enact voting by mail statewide beginning with the 2020 primary election.
Reducing Cost of Caring for Family
The Legislature recognizes both the difficulties of raising and caring for a family in Hawaii. As such, the Legislature seeks to increase the dependent care tax credit which helps to offset the exorbitant costs of caring for a kupuna, spouses, or children in Hawaii. This bill authored by Representative Johanson would also raise the cap on the amount of expenses that can be claimed by taxpayers.
Protecting Local Communities & Tourism Fairness
The rise of vacation home rentals has called into question how to incorporate these new tourism innovations into our existing tourist industry and how to balance the concerns of affected communities who bear the burden of hosting these vacation rentals in residential areas. Taxing transient vacation rentals is a first step in incorporating these non-hotel entities and regulating them through the counties.
Hawaii’s Special Concept of Ohana
Hawaii's concept of ohana and family has always been very inclusive. With the growing number of grandparent primary caregivers raising or caring for their grandchildren, Hawaii's family leave law should be expanded to include the care of a grandchild as a permissible use of family leave.