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FURTHER PRIORITIES 

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Continuous Legislative Session

The single most important good government reform Hawaii could undertake would be to establish a continuous, year-round legislative session, like all four county councils currently use.  A continuous legislative session would greatly promote transparency, predictability, and accessibility to the public.

 

Today’s limited legislative session from January through May is simply too short and too filled with deadlines for thoughtful, deliberative decision making.  Because the deadline for bill introduction is at the start of the session in January, legislators are forced to dump every conceivable idea into the hopper at the start.  Legislators are also prevented from introducing a new bill to address issues that come up after January, such as natural disasters.

 

As a result, thousands of bills are introduced at the beginning of every session.  The remainder of the session is a perilous obstacle course of deadlines.  If a bill misses any one of them, it dies, and nothing can be done until the following year.  In addition, the public has as little as 24 hours to submit testimony for a hearing, because the session is simply too short to allow for greater advance notice.

SB149 (2023) 

  • Establishes a continuous Legislature. 

  • Requires the Legislature to convene at least once a month. 

  • Removes language regarding special sessions, adjournment, and recesses. 

  • Creates a two-year deadline for a bill to be submitted for gubernatorial consideration. 

  • Standardizes the number of days that the Governor must approve or veto a bill submitted for consideration. 

  • Requires bills returned by the Governor to be heard by the Legislature within 30 days for the bill to be further amended. 

  • Requires the passage of the legislative budget within 45 days before the end of each fiscal year. 

  • Makes members of the Legislature subject to the sunshine law. 

  • Prohibits members of the Legislature from having employment other than their work as members of the Legislature.

Mental Health

Mental health is becoming a pressing issue that needs to be addressed. It affects any and everyone, especially in a post-pandemic world. We are now focusing on providing better mental health resources to Hawaii’s youth, homeless, inmates, and police. I introduced SB857 (2023), which permits manufacturers of investigational drugs or biological products to make these drugs and products available to terminally ill patients under certain conditions. I plan on introducing many more bills this coming legislative session regarding mental health. 

Homeless Mental Health

In annual constituent surveys we conducted, homelessness is consistently the most commonly identified area of concern. The great majority of the chronically homeless struggle with mental health issues. Only by funding drug treatment and recovery services in Hawaii as well as creating more Ohana Zones with wraparound services can the problem be solved.

Youth Mental Health

Due to the growing use of social media, increasing academic pressure, limited access to mental health care, health risk behaviors (alcohol/drug use), and broader stressors (rising income inequality, racism, the pandemic), an increasing number of our youth are now dealing with mental health issues. According to a 2021 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis, 44 percent of high school students reported having persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the last year. I support increases in mental health literacy for our students; Utah and New Jersey have successfully developed mental health curricula directly into their public education. I also call for schools to employ more mental health professionals, which includes an appropriate number of psychologists, social workers, counselors, and nurses per student. Almost every state has less than 1 counselor per 250 students, the ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association. These professionals are critical for universal mental health crisis prevention in schools, relieving pressure on higher levels of care. Other initiatives I support include mandatory mental health days and legally permitted mental health leaves.

Bills I've Introduced

SB339 (2023)

Requires all health insurers in the state, including medicaid managed care programs, to cover annual mental health wellness examinations.

SB732 (2021)

Directs the legislative reference bureau to conduct a study examining the efficacy of the Hawaiʻi CARES program offered by the department of health's behavioral health administration adult mental health division. 

SB2204 (2020)

Provides that certain pregnant women receiving substance abuse treatment are eligible for substance abuse treatment and mental health services for an additional twelve months following childbirth.

SB147 (2023)

Requires the Department of Education to administer annual mental health or behavioral health screenings to all students, faculty, and staff members at public schools. Appropriates funds. 

SB343 (2023)

Establishes provisional or associate-level licensure requirements for marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, and psychologists and authorizes insurance reimbursements in certain circumstances. Allows psychologist license applicants to sit for the licensing examination before completing certain other requirements. Allows the Board of Psychology to grant licensure waivers in certain circumstances for psychologists. Authorizes insurance reimbursements for services provided by a supervised social work intern in certain circumstances.

Youth Leadership

Young people are among the only legally disenfranchised demographic groups. For example, 16 and 17 years olds can drive, marry, work, and pay taxes, but they are prohibited from taking part in the most fundamental aspect of democratic representation: voting. A United Nations report surveying 13,000 respondents from 186 countries concluded that youth had limited opportunities for effective participation in decision-making processes. Participating in our democracy is every American’s civic responsibility, and it’s crucial to eliminate barriers to this for our youth. In fact, higher levels of civic engagement can help communities weather economic downturns and lead to lower unemployment rates. More community integration for youth has also been connected to increased academic performance and improved social-emotional well-being. 

Bills I've Introduced

  • SB1220 (2017): Establishes a youth advisory commission within the office of youth services to advise the governor and legislature on issues relating to youth. Appropriates funds.

  • SB231 (2019): Establishes that the youth commission administrator shall administer the youth commission. Makes an appropriation to fund one full-time equivalent (1.0 FTE) permanent youth commission administrator position.

  • Act 135 (2023): Clarifies that a majority of the members appointed to the Youth Commission shall constitute a quorum to do business.

  • State Youth Commission

  • Provide internship opportunities for youth who are interested in law and policy.

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