HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers opened a new session of the state Legislature on Wednesday with music, speeches and chants.
The state Senate has an opposition party for the first time in two years after voters in Ewa Beach elected Republican Kurt Fevella to be their senator. The 25-member chamber was all-Democrat from 2016 to 2018.
The state House has five Republicans and 46 Democrats — the same breakdown as last session.
Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki returned to their jobs. They were both expected to speak on opening day.
Lawmakers say they expect to address a housing shortage and persistent homelessness problem during the session.
The state in 2015 predicted the state’s population growth would drive the need for 65,000 new housing units by 2025.
Last year, lawmakers passed legislation that would provide $570 million in loans, grants and tax breaks to promote the construction of 25,000 affordable housing units by the year 2030. Gov. David Ige signed the measure.
Education funding, the minimum wage, the detention of defendants before trial and bail reform are also expected to be top issues.
Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn on May 2.