To view a PDF of Representative Johanson's 2020 Mid-Session Newsletter, click link.
2020 LEGISLATIVE SESSION CAPITOL UPDATE
ADDRESSING HAWAII'S COST OF LIVING
Historic joint House-Senate-Governor package to address income inequality, childcare, and affordable housing.
More of our residents are leaving because they simply cannot afford Hawaii; nearly 50% of Hawaii residents live paycheck to paycheck. Cost of living has been a top priority of Rep. Johanson and our district over the years. The Legislature agrees and has proposed an historic joint legislative package supported by the House, Senate, and the Governor. The package proposes solutions to address the major contributors to Hawaii’s high cost of living: income inequality and lack of affordable housing and early learning opportunities.
In order to tackle income inequality, the package implements a phased minimum wage increase from the current $10.10 to $13 by 2024. Additionally, the Earned Income Tax Credit – widely regarded as the most effective form of working class tax relief – would become more generous and permanent, putting over $70 million back into the pockets of our hard working families and individuals.
Hawaii’s affordable housing shortage is well known. The package addresses this crisis by utilizing state lands to create 99-year leasehold units for the working class, thereby creating more housing stock for local residents. The proposal encourages developers to build around rail infrastructure in West Oahu to leverage existing public investments.
Childcare is extremely expensive in Hawaii and workers often need to rely on extended family or remain out of work to care for their children. Currently, over 20,000 three to four year-olds do not receive any form of early learning prior to kindergarten. The package expands Pre-K facilities at existing public schools and utilizes a new public-private partnership model to increase capacity at private preschools statewide for those who may not be able to afford early learning presently.
The Legislature has rightly focused on reducing Hawaii's high cost of living and in so doing, ensuring a higher quality of life for our local working families and individuals.
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
Illegal fireworks plague many of our neighborhoods, often for months. In order to reduce the supply of aerial and other black-market fireworks, the Legislature is proposing an expansion of cargo inspections using explosive-sniffing dogs and increasing the maximum fine for certain violations of the fireworks law.
EMPOWERING OUR COMMUNITY
The new Aloha Stadium district affords so much potential to create opportunity and build the fabric of our community. Rep. Johanson would like to make sure that our surrounding communities' concerns and perspectives on the new district and its developments are heard. Accordingly, he's introduced a measure that adds two residents—one from Aiea and one from the Stadium area—to the decision-making authority for the newly created Aloha Stadium District.
ENSURING PAY EQUITY FOR ALL
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in Hawaii earn 82.6% of their male counterparts’ median income. In order to create more pay equity and compensation transparency within Hawaii's workplace, the Legislature would require companies to protect workers against wage and employment discrimination based on existing protected classes and would also require companies to provide notice of pay ranges for similar positions and types of compensation in the company to employees.
REDUCING YOUTH VAPING
Nearly 95% of all smokers start before the age of 21. Flavored tobacco and the popularity of electronic cigarettes promote the use and appeal of tobacco to the youth by reducing or masking the natural, harsh taste of tobacco smoke. Hawaii's use of e-cigarettes is higher than the national average; 42% of public high school students have tried vaping. This bill would make it illegal to sell any kind of flavored tobacco product. It would also create an amnesty program for students to drop off vaping products without penalty, and would allow confiscation of devices at school.
REDUCING COSTS 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 seniors, spouses, or children in Hawaii. This measure, authored by Rep. Johanson, would also raise the cap on the amount of expenses that can be claimed by Hawaii’s taxpayers.
INCREASING SAFETY ON OUR ROADS
The Legislature is considering a pilot program to install these cameras at busy intersections, focusing on the Downtown Honolulu area.
ENHANCED RED HILL FUEL TANK MONITORING
The Navy's Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility and its past leaks necessitates continued vigilance. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers the Navy's remediation proposals, Rep. Johanson has proposed mandating the legislatively-established Fuel Tank Advisory Committee to meet publicly multiple times a year to consider the long-term effects of the leaks, groundwater testing, and potential relocation of the facility.
PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITY'S SENIORS FROM:
Hawaii's seniors are increasingly vulnerable to financial abuse, sometimes by those they trust. Representative Johanson’s proposal makes it a crime to financially exploit a senior over the age of 62 through enhanced penalties. The Dept. of Human Services would be required to share suspected financial abuse with police or the prosecutors.
In light of the awful recent attacks on the elderly, the Legislature wants to protect more of Hawaii's vulnerable seniors by lowering the age of senior victims of various crimes (including assault, theft, and forgery) to sixty years old and would make penalties apply regardless of whether the perpetrator knows the victim's age.
COVID-19 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
As a preventive measure, consistent with the Center for Disease Control and the State Department of Health guidelines, the Legislature has suspended the 2020 legislative session indefinitely—enabling government to focus on COVID-19. Additionally, the Governor has mandated that all non-essential government workers remain at home. Accordingly, the State Capitol and our office will be functioning in a reduced capacity. Our office will make every effort to continue to address your needs and to remain in touch. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact our office (808) 586-9470 or email us at [email protected] Mahalo for your patience and understanding.