Senate legislative focus: Unfinished business

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jan 15 2014 06:00:00 PM HST

The Senate agenda outlined today focused on "unfinished business" of the last session. Following the turmoil of the recent special session on same sex marriage, the Senate tried to keep controversy to a minimum.

HONOLULU -

Lawmakers marked the 55th anniversary of statehood honoring the work of legislators who served before them.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's story.

Several dozen senators and representatives took up the invitation many moving across the Senate floor much slower these days.

The issues may not have changed much in five and a half decades but the tone is distinctly that of election year.

"I am happy to say we will be revisiting the proposal to raise the minimum wage,"said Senate President Donna Kim.

There is growing pressure to do just that following the lead of 9 other states-- even with the push back from small business.

 "When you are in business when your base wage goes up so does your unemployment comp your TDI and your Social Security. It's not just a couple dollars," said Sen. Sam Slom, the lone Republican.

Outside in the rotunda anti-GMO groups jockeyed for space although the tone was far more subdued than last year.

Labeling issues are expected to resurface but lawmakers they hope they have had enough of a jump start to tackle them head on.

The Senate plans to take a closer look at the delays around solar hookups to the electrical grid while trying to find ways to keep the growing number of solar panels out of the landfill.    

"What are we going to do with all these panels in 20 years when they have to be replaced. That's an issue we have to be proactive about," said Kim.

Senators are exploring options to deal with the homeless-including setting aside property to use as temporary or permanent shelter for the homeless.

But Slom again cautioned against prolonging a culture of entitlements.

"Taxpayers expenditure now exceed expenditures for government education. We must refuse to support those who chose not to work or who are financially irresponsible," aid Slom.

And lawmakers plan to wrestle with the dilemma of the growing backlog of repairs at the University of Hawaii and the competing requests for funding for new construction with limited funds. 

Kim made a point to highlight the efforts of individual lawmakers.

One thing to note: three of the most powerful senators are running for higher office.

Kim, as well as Judiciary chairman Will Espero have their sights set on Congress. Ways and Means Chair David Ige is running for governor.

 

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