LIHUE — Kauai’s four lawmakers sponsored fewer pieces of legislation compared to their colleagues in the state Legislature during the past session.
In total, about 3,000 bills were introduced by lawmakers in the state House and Senate during the 2015 legislative session, which wrapped up in May. Of those, 252 were approved by the full Legislature and sent to Gov. David Ige for his decision. The governor has already said he will sign or otherwise allow all but eight of those to go into law.
The governor has until Tuesday to make a final decision on how he will handle those remaining eight bills.
The Garden Island did an analysis to see how many bills were introduced by the island’s four state lawmakers, and how many of those will become law. The answer is seven. This analysis only includes bills for which the lawmaker was the “first primary introducer,” meaning the measure originated with that individual lawmaker. It does not include other pieces of legislation they may have worked on, or the importance of the individual bills.
The number of bills sponsored isn’t a very meaningful measure of lawmaker productivity, some said.
“The important thing about legislation is that you have to sponsor or introduce bills that you think are going to make an impact,” said Rep. Dee Morikawa, noting that many lawmakers introduce bills for purely political reasons, even if they do not have a realistic chance of being signed into law.
Morikawa, who represents District 16 (Niihau, Lehua, Koloa and Waimea), introduced 15 bills, of which one was sent to the governor and signed into law. That makes her No. 38 out of 51 representatives in terms of the number of bills sponsored.
H.B. 1332 earmarks $10,000 for maintenance and improvement of the Peekauai ditch irrigation system, commonly known at the Menehune ditch. The funds were included in the Capital Improvement Projects budget.
Morikawa said that as chair of the Committee on Human Services, she has the added responsibility of working on those issues.
Out of 51 lawmakers in the Hawaii House of Representatives, only state Rep. Derek Kawakami ranked in the top half in terms of number of bills introduced.
Kawakami, who represents District 14 (Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa and Wailua), sponsored 28 bills, which makes him tied for 19th out of 51 state representatives.
Of those 28 bills, two were approved by the full Legislature and were sent to the governor. House Bill 775 allocates funds for an international marketing program to recruit more international students to study in Hawaii. Kawakami said that in addition to helping foster global understanding of different cultures and fostering peace, there is a financial benefit: the higher tuition rate paid by international students helps offset some of the financial burden on resident students. The bill is now Act 157.
H.B. 1069 expands the state’s Small Business Innovation Research program to award grants to help businesses during the prototyping and manufacturing phases. Currently, the grants may only be awarded for the research and development. The bill was signed on Tuesday and is now Act 216.
“All these entrepreneurs were caught in a cycle of R&D but were not able to bring their jobs to fruition,” Kawakami said. “This should help to create more high-tech opportunities that create jobs in that sector.”
State Rep. Jim Tokioka, who represents District 16 (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi and Old Koloa Town), introduced six bills, ranking him tied at 48th.
However, despite introducing the fewest number of bills, he also had the highest success rate: three will become law.
“I don’t focus on who gets credit,” Tokioka said, noting that he’s not put his name on many bills during his time in office. The lawmaker said that when he does introduce bills, it is usually at the request of a constituent.
Tokioka’s success stories:
w H.B. 1272 requires movie theaters that have at least two locations in the state to offer showings with captions in order to accommodate the deaf and hard of hearing. The bill was signed into law by the governor and is now Act 39 of 2015.
w H.B. 1275 designates the ukulele and the pahu as the state’s official musical instruments. The bills is now Act 6 of 2015.
w H.B. 1273 allows agricultural lands to be used for hydroelectric power generation in certain circumstances.
Tokioka also said that he focuses on getting capital improvement funds to help with school and road projects.
Senate President Ron Kouchi, 8th District – Kauai, Niihau, introduced 15 bills, putting him at No. 22 out of 25 senators in terms of bill sponsorship. Of those, eight were introduced on behalf of someone else as a courtesy, which is common for those in leadership positions. One of those was signed into law.
Senate Bill 1305 provides a Grant-In-Aid to Kauai’s Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. The funds will be used for the Career Criminal Prosecution Unit and Victim Witness Assistance Program. S.B. 1305 is now Act 83.
Typically, those in leadership positions introduce fewer bills of their own, but are heavily involved in deciding what legislation sees action, Kouchi said.
Kouchi moved up from the role of Senate vice president to the powerful position of Senate president in a surprise reorganization that resulted in the ousting of then-Senate President Donna Mercado Kim in late May.
Bills that were introduced but were not sent to the governor will carry over into the next legislative session that begins in January.