2019 Legislative Session – Notable Bills

Over 3,000 bills were introduced in the House and Senate, but less than 300 bills will make it into law. Here are some themes from this year’s Legislative Session with bills that will be sent to the Governor to be vetoed or become law.

  1. Decriminalization – Criminal Justice Reform
    • HB 1383: Marijuana Decriminalization
      • This bill provides for the expungement of criminal records pertaining solely to the possession of three grams or less of marijuana. Decriminalizes the possession of three grams or less of marijuana and establishes that the possession is a violation punishable by a monetary fine of $130. Establishes a marijuana evaluation task force to make recommendations on changing marijuana use penalties and outcomes in the State.
    • SB 1539: Criminal Pretrial
      • This bills codifies the right to a prompt bail hearing upon formal charge and detention. Establishes right to counsel at the bail hearing.
    • SB 192: Unsecure Bail
      • Authorizes the court to release a defendant in custody on unsecured bail.

  2. Election Reform
    • SB 216: Mandatory Recount
      • This bill requires a mandatory recount of election votes and ballot measures when the margin of victory for election contests or tabulation for ballot measures is equal to or less than one hundred or one-quarter of one per cent of the votes cast, whichever is greater.
    • HB 1248: All-Mail Voting
      • This bill enacts voting by mail uniformly across all counties for all elections commencing in 2020. Establishes a limited number of voter service centers that would remain open from the tenth business day preceding an election through the day of the election to receive personal delivery of mail-in ballots, accommodate voters with special needs, offer same day registration and voting, and provide other election services. Allows for additional places of deposit for personal delivery of mail-in ballots. Appropriates funds for the implementation and administration of the election by mail program. Requires the Office of Elections to submit a report to the legislature before the convening of each regular session from 2020 through 2025, regarding the implementation of a vote by mail system.

  3. Hemp and Medical Cannabis 
    • HB 1353: Hemp
      • This bill requires the Department of Agriculture to establish a permanent industrial hemp program pursuant to federal law, and a corresponding special fund. Reduces or repeals certain regulatory requirements under the existing industrial hemp pilot program. Establishes monetary penalties for the unauthorized cultivation of hemp. Establishes authorized cultivation of hemp as an affirmative defense to certain criminal offenses pertaining to marijuana. Excludes hemp from statutory definitions of marijuana. Requires the Chairperson of the Board of Agriculture to prepare a state plan for approval by the federal Secretary of Agriculture and report on the approval process to the Legislature and Governor. Appropriates funds.
    • HB 290: Transportation of Cannabis – Inter island
      • This bill authorizes qualifying patients or qualifying out-of-state patients to transport medical cannabis between islands for their personal medical use.
    • HB 673: Transfer of License
      • This bill provides a process for the voluntary or involuntary sale or transfer of an individual dispensary license. Eases restrictions on allowable operating hours and location of licensed facilities. Expands allowable interisland transportation of medical cannabis products for laboratory testing.

Rep. Ward sends letter to President Trump encouraging him to hold summit in Hawaii

HONOLULU – Representative Gene Ward sent a letter to President Donald Trump encouraging the President to seriously consider holding a third summit between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Hawaii.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi

“Holding the first summit in Singapore showed the endless possibilities of an Asian country when economic freedom is at its core. Then choosing Vietnam for the second summit showed how a once third world Communist nation can also prosper when allowing market forces and freedom,” said Rep. Ward. “Hawaii would be the next best logical step for a third summit, moving the venue from Asian to American soil but still with an Asian majority population.”

Ward cites the fact that two elite diplomatic institutions are based here: The East-West Center and the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Ward’s letter also references the very successful APEC meetings which were held in Honolulu in 2011.

Meet the Caucus!

The House Minority Caucus is made up of five members.

photoRep. Gene Ward – Minority Leader (District 17)

Room 318
(808) 586-6420


photoRep. Lauren Matsumoto – Minority Floor Leader (District 45)

Room 315
(808) 586-9490



Rep. Bob McDermott – Asst. Minority Leader (District 40)

Room 330
(808) 586-9730


photoRep. Cynthia Thielen – Asst. Minority Floor Leader (District 50)

Room 443
(808) 586-6420


photoRep. Val Okimoto – Minority Whip (District 36)

Room 319
(808) 586-9460

Minority Caucus speaks against HB 1768

May 01, 2018 – Final reading debate prompted a necessary discussion on HB 1768 RELATING TO INFORMATION PRACTICES. On the same day, the Senate moved to recommit the bill in their Chamber which overall killed the bill. However, the Minority Caucus spoke against the measure leading to a motion to recommit.

Bill description: Permits public inspection and duplication of salary ranges, for legislative employees in incremental amounts of $15,000, rather than exact compensation amounts. Defines “legislative employees.” (HB1768 CD1)

For more information on this measure or any other measure, please visit capitol.hawaii.gov. Hawaiʻi House Minority Caucus does not own any rights to this video.

Rep. Cynthia Thielen motions to recommit SB 2609

Friday, April 6th, in a robust discussion, Representative Cynthia Thielen endeavored to recommit SB 2609 – relating to financial disclosure statements (please see video for the floor debate). In the Senate, this bill received seven noes and three ayes with reservations, and 12 noes and six ayes with reservations from the House.

On the floor when the motion to recommit was made, Representative Cynthia Thielen said, “Article 14 of our Constitution requires all boards and commission members who wield significant discretionary or fiscal powers to file financial disclosure statements to promote transparency and accountability. It doesn’t matter whether these board and commission members are non-paid volunteers, they still wield significant discretionary or fiscal powers. This bill will require the redaction or the hiding of all financial amounts on the financial disclosure statements. So in other words, the public would be able to look at a meaningless document.” In summary, Rep. Thielen finds this bill to be unconstitutional and thus her motion to recommit it to the Judiciary committee. The motion failed, but the discussion continued. See video for the full discussion.