Hawaiʻi Legislature Opens for 2023 Session



Issues concerning education and affordable housing were raised at the Hawaiʻi State Legislature’s new year session.

On Thursday, Jan. 18, 2023, Hawaii’s legislature opened for the new year session. Tax reform, early education, and affordable housing were some of the many topics discussed at the opening. The opening housed many individuals including some Kamehameha students and even a Native Hawaiian activist, Samson Souza, who tried to disrupt the session but ultimately got dragged out by sheriff deputies. He now faces a misdemeanor charge for disrespect a House of the Legislature. During his interruption, he said “This our home. We first kanaka maoli, we first you guys talking about money.”

In both houses, there were large spending pledges which included tax breaks for middle-class families, free public preschool education, and more money for affordable housing. Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke proposed a preschool plan which would need more than $200 million in funding. He said that families who pay for preschool and early education will save money. Ronald Kouchi, senate president, showed support for this proposal saying, “the price should not be an obstacle to giving your child a fair start and ability to compete on equal ground.” However, he then shot down the governor’s plan to tax tourists on arrival, saying that fees should be collected at popular parks, which could raise up to $20-40 million.

Republicans on the other hand pushed for addressing the cost of living and for broader tax reform, such as eliminating the income tax. Lauren Cheape, House Minority Leader, said, “I think what people in Hawaii are looking for is almost everybody is living paycheck to paycheck.” Chaepe said that her caucus wants to play an important role. This year’s opening was jam-packed and Hawaii legislators hope to make a change during this new year.