With the end of the 2012 Legislative session today, hundreds of measures now come to Governor Neil Abercrombie for his approval. Among these are priority bills that were addressed in his State of the State which are investments that will shape Hawai'i's future in critical areas including elderly care, early childhood education, environment and energy.
"From the start of the session to the end, there was a commitment by the Legislature to work collaboratively towards creating policies for the benefit of the State of Hawai'i,"said Governor Abercrombie. "I congratulate the House and the Senate for their dedication and support of priority measures that will have a lasting impact on generations to come."
One of the most progressive measures is SB 2785, which establishes a framework for any interisland cable proposal to be developed, financed and considered. The Public Utilities Commission would have approval authority for any proposed project.
"This is a long-term infrastructure investment that is needed now,"stated Governor Abercrombie. "An integrated grid will stabilize energy prices and equalize rates between the islands, which will benefit all of us. As I mentioned at the start of the session, there is no legislation more critical to our future."
In addition, two other Administration bills will work to increase the amount of renewable energy that can be used on our electrical grid. SB 2787 will give the Public Utilities Commission the ability to set reliability standards, and SB 2752 will make it easier for HECO to take on renewable energy projects.
Two of the Administration's Justice Reinvestment Initiatives also passed. These measures (SB 2776 and HB 2515) are aimed at making the state's criminal justice system more efficient and improve accountability. But most importantly, these initiatives increase public safety through evidence-based policy models proven in 14 other states that reduce recidivism and invest savings back into community programs and supervision.
Other Governor priority measures that were also approved by the Legislature include:
SB 2778 --Making an appropriation for early childhood health. This bill takes the first steps to help reverse the alarming trend of childhood obesity, which has increased by 38 percent in 10 years. This will be achieved by analyzing specific data to identify children at risk, establish awareness of early childhood obesity, promote best practices, and establish a task force for the prevention of childhood obesity.
SB 2779 --Relating to the aging and disability resource centers. This measure appropriates $1.4 million to create aging and disability resource centers in each county to streamline access to long-term supports and services for older adults with disabilities and family caregivers. These centers are "one-stop shops"for information and assistance.
SB 1269 and HB 2487 --These are critical measures that continue from last year's Act 163 towards addressing the state's significant unfunded liability. Prospectively, these bills will help to curb the future incursion of additional liability while not affecting current employees and their accrued rights and benefits.
The Legislature appropriated $300,000 for the Governor's Early Childhood Education goal to further develop and implement the components of our state's comprehensive early childhood system and to develop a phased plan for a public-private preschool program for 4-year-olds.
The state budget includes $5 million in funding for the Administration's Watershed Protection plan for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. This appropriation is for the immediate protection of priority watershed forests to replenish Hawai'i's water supplies and provide many other fundamental benefits to Hawai'i's environmental health.
Earlier this session, Governor signed HB 608, which appropriated state funds to The Queen's Medical Center to perform kidney and liver transplants and to the National Kidney Foundation of Hawai'i to maintain its chronic kidney management program. The Governor also enacted a bill that settles Office of Hawaiian Affairs'unresolved claims to income and proceeds from ceded lands and conveys parcels of lands in Kaka'ako Makai valued at $200 million to resolve the dispute.
"We can all be proud of the successes that were achieved by the Administration and the Legislature working in a spirit of cooperation and commitment to the public good,"stated Governor Abercrombie. "We set out to invest now for the future and I believe that's exactly what we have accomplished."