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.

2019 Caucus Package

Calling all Kama‘aina!

We want to make Hawaii more affordable for you and your family! Our 2019 Caucus Package focuses on economical, educational, and medical efforts to make Hawaii a reasonable place to live.

How you can get involved!

The 2019 legislative session begins in January. We need your help! If these bill ideas resonate with you:

  • Voice your support! Contact your representative and encourage them to vote in support of these bills.
  • Suggestions! Make an appointment with a Republican legislator to discuss the bills.
  • Testify! Attend the hearings during the legislative session and testify in support of the bill or submit testimony online at capitol.hawaii.gov.


More about the bill ideas:

Kama’aina Come Home
The cost of living in Hawaii is one of the highest in the nation and as a result, more of our families are relocating out of state for better financial security. This bill establishes a qualified returning resident down payment program funded by revenues collected from real estate investment trusts. With the return of our Kama’aina, it will strengthen our local economy through social, economic, and cultural growth.

Building Wealth For Renters
The path to home ownership becomes out of reach for families in Hawaii when a large portion of their income goes to paying high rents instead of going towards saving for a down payment on a house. In order to assist local renters, this rent-to-equity bill requires that developers receiving any publicly funded tax breaks or incentives to create a profit sharing agreement between the developer and tenant to eventually get families on the road to home ownership.

Cultivating Successful Futures
A little more than half of our high school graduates pursue college degrees while the rest look for other opportunities. This bill will encourage more vocational training at the high school level and give students the opportunity to learn trade skills, such as carpentry, computer technology, and photography to name a few. By expanding funding and facilitating these types of learning opportunities, we’ll be giving our young men and women a head start to their futures.

Steering Resources To Students
The Works of Art Special Fund is used to acquire and store pieces of art for State buildings. However, we see an opportunity to put these funds to better use by steering these resources to student art programs. In doing so, students will receive invaluable experiences for a well-rounded education and cultivating creativity.

Curbing The Doctor Shortage
There are limited residency programs offered at our Hawaii hospitals. As a result, our local medical school graduates are forced to pursue residency programs on the mainland and some don’t return. In order to tackle our current doctor shortage, this bill will provide state matching funds to local teaching hospitals so Hawaii can increase the number of residency spots and encourage our graduates to continue their medical practice here at home.

Making Hawaii More Affordable
Expenses definitely add up. This bill aims at making Hawaii more affordable by eliminating the General Excise Tax (GET) on food, medical services, and feminine hygiene products. This could save the family household hundreds of dollars a year – far more measurable than the current low-income tax-credit.

See the info sheet for more information on other bills in our caucus package.

2019 caucus package - final

The Mike Buck Show with guest Rep. Tupola May 22, 2017 -Audio Only

May 22, 2017 MIKE BUCK with Rep. Andria Tupola

Mike Buck discusses the issues at the Hawaii State Legislature with his guest Representative Andria Tupola, Minority Leader, (R – H District 43 Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei,

This week topics include; Rail, Unfunded state liability, HB451 HD1 SD2 CD1- The bill addresses  Hawaiian Home Lands; Successors; Blood Quantum, renewable energy, landfills and  the Marijuana Dispensary Town Hall with Reps. Har, Tupola, Cullen is on May 30th.

Contact: reptupola@capitol.hawaii.gov


A Banner Year For Secrecy, Behind-The-Scenes Maneuvering At The Legislature

By Representative Gene Ward – May 25, 2017 – Civil Beat

From reducing poverty to increasing affordable housing, lawmakers could have done much better for the people of Hawaii.

In the wake of the 2017 legislative session, some commenters have given the Legislature an undeserved pat on the back. The truth is that we could and should have done much better for the people of Hawaii this session.

The heart of a strong, healthy democracy should be vigorous debate. Unfortunately, outside observers agree that this was a banner year for secrecy and behind-the-scenes maneuvering at the Legislature.

As former Speaker Rep. Joe Souki – who wasn’t “former” until the final hours of the 2017 session – recently admitted, “We are always secretive. It’s part of being a legislator.”

When it came to doing the people’s business, the Legislature repeatedly dropped the ball.

Reducing Poverty — But Not Enough

The Legislature finally passed a version of a state earned income tax credit to help low-income working families (House Bill 209), but it is unfortunate that it took so long and only resulted in a half-measure. The federal EITC is the most efficient and effective federal program to reduce poverty. That’s why the Republican caucus introduced a more fiscally responsible bill to create a state EITC in each of the past two sessions.

The majority’s version unwisely increases taxes on high-earning job creators, threatening the jobs of the very same working families they claim to help. In addition, because the credit is non-refundable, the poor will only really benefit from half of the tax increase while the state coffers keep the rest.

The Republican caucus has introduced measures to eliminate general excise taxes on food and medical services for years. Unfortunately, the majority has not given a fair hearing to these proposals to reduce the heavy burden of our state’s unusually regressive tax system on the working poor. To be frank, the only real cost-of-living reductions experienced by the people of Hawaii have come from Walmart, Costco and Target, not policymakers in the Legislature.

Doing Little On Affordable Housing

The Legislature’s actions on housing this session amount to only a single drop in the ocean of Hawaii’s affordable housing shortage, which has now reached over 45,000 units.

There are two real ways to increase the affordability of housing, but the Legislature did neither of them.

First, the state could actually pay for significant amounts of affordable housing construction — but there’s no money in this budget to accomplish that.

Second, the state could help the market meet demand by clearing away the restrictions and red tape that too often prevent private developers from taking action to increase the housing supply.

Instead, the majority wasted time considering just how much more red tape to add in transit-oriented development zones around the rail project. It refused to even consider selling development rights along the rail corridor – something that Japan and Hong Kong do all the time to raise private sector funds.

Threatening The Judiciary And Faith-Based Organizations

Unfortunately, one thing the Legislature actually did accomplish this year was threatening the majority’s enemies. The majority caucus in the House insisted on passing a measure that would have cut judges’ pensions (Senate Bill 249), against the advice of the Salary Commission and every sense of decency to the Judiciary.

All minority members spoke out, loud and clear, against this measure. Thankfully, it finally died in conference committee.

The Legislature also took aim at faith-based organizations with an unconstitutional bill that will force pro-life pregnancy centers to put signs in their windows to advertise programs that provide free abortions and contraception (Senate Bill 501). This ill-conceived and malicious bill goes even further than a similar California law currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In summary, according to some veteran observers, the 2017 Legislature was one of the worst sessions in the past 40 years. Anyone who claims the 2017 session wasn’t an embarrassment would need a very large fig leaf to cover all of the Legislature’s errors and omissions.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.

About the Author

  • Gene Ward
    Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) is a Vietnam veteran and former presidential appointee as a senior democracy officer in the U.S. Agency for International Development.