- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - The Latest on the start of the 2017 session of the Hawaii Legislature (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

Hawaii House Speaker Joseph Souki says he wants to study whether it would make sense to install tolls on roads to reduce heavy traffic.

He’s also highlighting the importance of privatizing Maui hospitals to improve access to health care on Hawaii’s neighbor islands.

Souki is outlining his legislative priorities on the first day of the Hawaii’s 2017 session, which began Wednesday.

Souki says rail travel is the key to the future of Oahu. He says the general excise tax should be extended to finance the growing cost of the rail transit project.

Souki also wants to reduce the state’s prison population by allowing people convicted of some non-violent crimes to be confined to their homes using electronic bracelets. He says it would revamp the prison system and reduce the cost of incarceration.

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11 a.m.

The Hawaii Legislature is beginning its 2017 legislative session with vows to tackle homelessness and housing.

Lei-draped lawmakers are singing songs and snapping photos as community members chant and pound taro into food outside.

The Senate began by electing President Ron Kouchi to lead the chamber for another year.

Kouchi says tackling the homelessness crisis is one of the Senate’s top priorities. He also says the state is spending more money than ever on affordable housing.

Kouchi says the Honolulu’s financially troubled rail transit project will take up a lot of the lawmakers’ time. He says lawmakers need a lot more information to find the path forward.

The House is beginning its session by welcoming new members.

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