This article is for all the young progressives out there looking to make a difference here in Hawaii but might not know where to start or what to support. Consider this article your tool kit, with a list of some of the most exciting bills being heard and concrete steps on how to support them from home. Let’s dive in!
1. HB1382/SB726: Breonna’s Law
As we bring Black History Month to a close, there is no better time to remind everyone that antiracist work should and must extend past just this month. One concrete way you can support BIPOC community members in Hawaii is by writing testimony in support of HB1382, or Breonna’s Law. This bill, if made into law, would explicitly ban no-knock warrants in Hawaii and would further require police officers to wait a minimum of 30 seconds before entering a residence even with a warrant. Additionally, when executing warrants police officers must be in uniform. Although it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to demilitarizing the police, passing Breonna’s Law would be a huge step forward in protecting our communities, particularly BIPOC communities. If you’re interested in police reformation bills, check out HB666 (Qualified Immunity), HB1381 (Demilitarization), and SB742 (Policing Data).
2. HB703: No further development of Mauna Kea
As many of you probably know, the planned construction of the TMT telescope on Mauna Kea sparked a long chain of protests in 2019 and onward. Mauna Kea is a sacred place to the Kanaka Maoli, and as residents on stolen Native Hawaiian land it is our duty to protect it from further development. This bill, if made into law, would end development on Mauna Kea summits on the basis of it being sacred land, to protect native endemic organisms that grow only on Mauna Kea, and to protect Mauna Kea’s aquifer systems.
3. HB1096/SB618: End Queer Parent Penalties
This bill, if made into law, would add an amendment to the Hawaii Uniform of Parentage Act allowing legal recognition of parenthood status to both parties of a birthing couple regardless of gender identity or biological contribution. This bill is particularly important for trans and non-binary parents who want legal parental rights with regards to their children. Although Hawaii was one of the first states to legalize gay marriage in 1994, Hawaii still has a long way to go in becoming a truly LGBTQ+ friendly state. If you are looking to support another LGBTQ+ issues bill, check out HB285 which supports anti-discrimination in health insurance and supports the Hawaiian trans/two-spirit community.
4. HB322/SB497: Incentivize Food Manufacturing and SB1319 Incentivize Food Production
Every college student in Hawaii has surely noticed the high cost of groceries here, and that’s because almost all the food in this state is imported from the mainland. These bills aim to incentivize local food production and reduce costs by establishing tax credit for local food manufacturers and farmers. Other bills such as SB1319 (Increase Fishpond Aquacultures) and HB702 (Allow Farm-to-School) all aim to increase sustainability while decreasing our reliance on imported goods. Not only would these bills be good for the local economy but if these bills were passed into law they would also support the environment.
5. HB576: Expand Access to Abortion in Hawaii
HB576, if made into law, would allow advanced practice nurses (APRNs) to perform early stage abortions. This bill is critical because as it stands abortions must be performed by registered providers, of which there are only three, all local on Oahu. This means that women seeking abortions from Hawaii, Lanai, Molokai, and Kauai must travel to Honolulu, and residents on Maui must wait valuable weeks for providers to fly to them. This can be not only traumatic but also costly, and many people in Hawaii will not be in positions to travel at all for the care they need. Abortion is a time sensitive procedure and nobody should be forced to travel across oceans for it, particularly during a global pandemic where travel poses risk. Passing this bill is vital for women in this state.
Please note, these are only a small number of progressive bills being heard this legislative session. There are also bills on taxing the rich, legalizing recreational use of marijuana, reforming criminal justice, reforming healthcare, and COVID-19 relief that are being heard. Bills can be searched in the Hawaii Capitol website, capitol.hawaii.gov, which will give information on each bill as well as the bill’s status. You can even turn on notifications for bills you want to follow to know when they are being heard.
The capitol website is also where you go to submit testimony, the easiest way to support a bill from home, and you do not need to be a registered Hawaii voter to do this. To write testimony, you will need to create an account on the capitol website and then just search the bill you want to write testimony for or against. From there it will give you the option to submit testimony. When you submit testimony ALWAYS SAVE IT! Bills need to pass through multiple committees and are heard many times, and you will need to submit testimony each time it is being heard. This is super important. It is also important to know that testimony is part of the public record, so whatever you write you consent to it being made available to the general public. It important to share your story with legislators if you are willing, but only share what you’re comfortable sharing with everyone.
Don’t forget, even when elections are over there are easy ways for us to show up and hold those we elected to office accountable for getting done what they promised to. Mahalo for reading, and here’s to a more progressive future for Hawaii!