Legislators look ahead

LIHUE — Kauai legislators are preparing district and shared concerns as they get ready for their first session Jan. 21.

“Policy to help make state government more efficient and effective will probably be priorities,” said District 16 State Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa, who won her third term as the Westside representative in November.

The problems with the state’s Medicaid program will be looked into more thoroughly this session, Morikawa said. There will also be a push for a bill to authorize non-resident property crime victims to testify in criminal proceedings by a live two-way video connection.

“The Hawaii State Hospital System will also need legislation to allow them to become more sustainable,” she said.

District 14 State Rep. Derek Kawakami said he could not agree more about the importance to sustain Kauai’s two state hospitals that serve the north, east, and west communities.

“Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital and Mahelona Hospital are an integral part of improving the quality of life for our island but they continue to be challenged with dire economic realities that we must address to ensure the long-term sustainability of these two institutions,” Kawakami said.

Other Kauai priorities include capital improvement projects and the money needed for schools, infrastructure and public safety. The Kapaa corridor is another district priority with short- and long-term traffic solutions that requires support from the Department of Transportation.

Illegal drug abuse continues to be a problem and one program that continues to show signs of measurable success is the Drug Court program.

“We will look into ways to provide much-needed support for a program that has truly been asked to do more and more over the years,” he said.

Kawakami chairs the House Committee on Economic Development and Business. Clusters that will receive assessments of existing infrastructure in terms of economic development include high technology and renewable energy, health and wellness, food and agriculture, arts and culture, and sports and recreation.

“We will be focusing on working with the private sector, various economic development boards, and our education system to ensure that we remain focused on economic diversification while continuing to support our visitor industry,” he said.

Information Technology capabilities must be up to date with the direction the state is moving as far as hi-tech job creation, he said. The K-12 and higher education systems must also be geared to meet future needs of students.

“If we want to slow down the infamous ‘brain drain’ syndrome where our best and brightest are moving away, we must move aggressively toward increasing our affordable housing inventory and manage our cost of living responsibly so that our residents can afford to live here,” he added.

Kauai’s State Sen. Ronald Kouchi, who did not face election last November, said he would refrain from commenting until the next Senate Majority Caucus on Friday.

“I will have a better idea of Senate priorities after that,” he said.

District 15 State Rep. James Tokioka, who won his fifth term in November, did not reply to questions about session priorities.

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