Hundreds of bills are now under review and on their way to my desk for signature. These include priority bills--many addressed back in January in my State of the State-- that will shape Hawai'i's future in critical areas, such as early childhood education, elderly care, the environment, the economy and energy.
One such measure establishes the framework needed for consideration of an interisland cable, which will help stabilize energy prices and equalize rates statewide. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will have approval authority for any proposed project.
Also moving our state toward energy independence are two other priority bills that will work to increase the amount of renewable energy that can be used on our electrical grid: SB 2787 will give the PUC the ability to set reliability standards; and SB 2752 will make it easier for HECO to take on renewable energy projects.
Hundreds of bills are now under review and on their way to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature.
Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor
As I've previously stated about our energy future, we can only truly make progress by moving away from insufficient, island-by-island energy silos and toward a reliable, statewide power network connecting all our island grids.
The Legislature also passed several other important measures that will have an impact far beyond my administration.
Two Justice Reinvestment Initiatives were approved that will make our criminal justice system more efficient and accountable. While increasing public safety through evidence-based policy models proven in 14 other states, these measures will reduce recidivism and invest savings back into community programs and supervision.
The Legislature also made an appropriation for early childhood health. This takes the first steps to help reverse the alarming trend of childhood obesity, which has increased by 38 percent in 10 years. We will be able to analyze specific data to identify children at risk, establish awareness of early childhood obesity, promote best practices, and create a task force for the prevention of childhood obesity.
In addition, the House and Senate passed a bill that 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 will be "one-stop shops" for information and assistance.
The Legislature further appropriated $300,000 for my administration's Early Childhood Education goal to further develop and implement the components of our state's comprehensive early childhood system. This includes development of a phased plan for a public-private preschool program for 4-year-olds.
And, the state budget now includes $5 million in funding for my 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 the islands' environmental health. For example, the West Maui mountain watersheds are a top protection priority because they provide water resources to drier south shore communities like Kihei and Wailea.
From the start of the session to the end, there was a commitment by the Legislature to work collaboratively toward creating policies for the benefit of the entire state. I congratulate the House and the Senate, including Maui's own representatives and senators, for their collaborative spirit and commitment to serving the people of Hawai'i.
Together, we set out to invest in our future. That's exactly what we have accomplished.