Hawaii Legislature 2017

Opening Day at the Hawai‘i State Legislature
Several hundred people gathered at the state Capitol on January 18 for the opening of this year’s legislative session. Wearing fragrant lei, Senate and House lawmakers opened the new session with prayers and speeches. A full gallery of spectators enjoyed music by Taste of Harmony, Raiatea Helm, Kahaluu Ukulele Band, Shar Carillo and Kauai artists Loke Sasil and Shay Marcello. Photos by StarAdvertiser.com

It has been an honor to serve you and the people of Maui County alongside the members of the Maui delegation. I thank you for the opportunity and responsibility you have entrusted me with over these past many years. 

Aloha and Mahalo nui loa.
Speaker Joe Souki

Speaker Joe Souki’s Priorities

Solving Gridlock
With Joe leading the House of Representatives his primary legislative agenda will be topped by the pressing need to fund the Rail Project, Oahu’s solution to ever increasing traffic gridlock.

Joe Souki supports plans to make the half-percent excise tax surcharge for the rail project permanent to help finance construction of the line, but also said he wants to reduce the surcharge. To make up the difference, Joe believes the city should help pay for the construction from its own treasury.

However, Joe also supports reducing the 10 percent administrative fee the state charges the city for collecting the excise surcharge to 5 percent.

“It does come at a high cost, but make no mistake, rail is the key to the future of Oahu,” he told the Star Advertiser, speaking only for himself because his fellow Democrats have not yet taken a formal position on the rail excise tax.

Solutions for the Homeless
Maui non-profits are receiving $4.4 million towards helping those unable to afford the simplest rental.

The funding will help Maui cope with homelessness by assisting those with minimal incomes get into living spaces. The process of moving people off the street into housing stabilizes peoples’ lives, allowing them to learn skills that earn sufficient income to become self-sustaining.

Housing in Hawaii needs innovation. By 2025 the state will be short nearly 65,000 housing units and, without creating more affordable housing, many local families will be priced out of their communities.

Hawaii’s Millennials in particular need to be empowered with jobs and opportunities for inexpensive housing as they are Hawaii’s citizen workforce of the future.

Supporting Diversification of HC+S Agriculture
Former HC+S employees received an extension of unemployment benefits. Efforts are underway to find new jobs for those displaced workers. A+B innovates new agriculture opportunities taking advantage of Maui’s climate and available water, more jobs will again become available in the ag sector.

Prison Sentencing Reform
Advances in online technology can transform the penal system and help Hawaii overcome the serious problem of overcrowded jails.
Joe believes prison overcrowding can be relieved by allowing non-violent inmates and those convicted of minor offenses to be released while being monitored electronically.

Death with Dignity
In opening remarks, Joe also urged his colleagues to approve a “death with dignity” measure. He promised to introduce his own bill for what he  describes as “compassionate choices.” The bill would provide a way to provide legal medical aid in dying for mentally sound people who are terminally ill.

Joseph M. Souki is currently Speaker of the House. Rep. Souki has served in the Hawaii State Legislature since 1982. He represents the 8th District that includes Wailuku, Kahului, Waihe‘e, Waiehu, Pu’uohala, Kahakuloa and Waikapu.