HONOLULU (AP) - Lawmakers are introducing dozens of measures that aim to solve Hawaii’s homelessness crisis and increase affordable housing, including a proposal to issue $2 billion in state-backed bonds to develop public housing, shelters and apartments.
They are rushing to file hundreds of bills ahead of a legislative deadline as they head into their first full week of the 2017 session.
The week will begin with Gov. David Ige outlining his priorities in his State of the State address Monday. Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald on Wednesday will deliver the State of the Judiciary speech.
Lawmakers also are seeking to address greenhouse emissions, marijuana and the minimum wage. Here’s a sampling of measures that have been proposed:
Senators are pushing a bill that would direct the state to issue $2 billion in bonds to build more housing and chip away at a projected statewide shortage of 60,000 housing units. Sen. Will Espero says the goal is to distribute the funding for a variety of housing, including transit-oriented development, shelters, expanded public housing and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
Hawaii’s booming feral cat population is blamed for multiple problems, including killing endangered birds and infecting Hawaiian monk seals with an illness that spreads through their feces. Rep. John Mizuno is introducing a bill that would give an unspecified sum of money to the Department of Health to hire contractors to trap, spay and neuter the roaming felines.
SAVING CORAL FROM SUNSCREEN
Many sunscreens contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which researchers say contribute to coral bleaching. Eighteen senators co-introduced a measure to ban the sale of sunscreens that contain those ingredients. Another proposal would prohibit using sunscreens that contain those ingredients while lying on the beach.
Hawaii has a goal to reduce its greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020, but Sen. Karl Rhoads does not think that goes far enough. He wants to double down and reduce the state’s emissions to zero by the year 2030. He also wants to require those traveling for state business to buy carbon offsets for air travel.
With high food, housing and energy costs, it’s hard to get by in Hawaii. The state minimum wage is $9.25 an hour, and it’s set to rise to $10.10 next year. But many lawmakers feel that’s not enough. Rep. Kaniela Ing wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 and then $22. Senators have a counterproposal to raise the minimum wage to $12 in 2020 and $14 in 2022.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate, including House Speaker Joseph Souki, are introducing bills to decriminalize marijuana this session. However, it’s unclear whether there is enough political will for the measure - introduced every year - to pass.
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