KEIKI CAUCUS OUTLINES PRIORITIES FOR 2023 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Hawaiʻi state legislators were joined by community advocates to announce the 2023 Keiki Caucus Bill Package and priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
In partnership with the Hawaiʻi Children’s Policy Agenda, legislators identified five top priority bills that will be championed this session, including: providing educators with resources and training to combat sex trafficking of youth; implementing a flavor tobacco ban to fight the epidemic of youth vaping; implementing a pilot program to increase wages for early childcare providers; prioritizing the need for prevention-oriented child sexual abuse education in schools; and investing in more public preschools in our state.
"Community advocates and legislators have worked diligently over the legislative interim to craft proposals that provide holistic responses to the needs of Hawaiʻi’s children and youth," said Keiki Caucus Co-Convenor and Representative Amy Perruso. "We will also be supporting youth-requested action on Vote 16, strengthening the child welfare system, ensuring that childcare provision is accredited, and elevating civic education in our public schools."
Community advocates echoed their support for the priorities outlined in today's press conference. In attendance was Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network Speaks! (HCAN Speaks!), who reiterated their commitment to working with state legislators on uplifting policy for Hawai‘i's youth.
"Now is the time for lawmakers to show up for keiki and families. Together, let's move these policies forward to make Hawai‘i a place where all keiki can thrive,” said Deborah Zysman, HCAN Speaks! Executive Director.
Others expressed the urgency in implementing Erin's Law, which requires public schools in each state to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program. The law has been enacted in thirty-eight states across the United States, and Parents And Children Together President Ryan Kusumoto hopes that Hawai‘i will be the thirty-ninth to take action.
“Implementing Erin's Law is critically important. Most victims never tell anyone until several years after the abuse has taken place, if they ever tell at all. Erin's Law provides education and support to keiki on the issue of sexual abuse," said Mr. Kusumoto. "Oftentimes, the perpetrator is unfortunately the only one providing education to the child. It is time we passed Erin's Law."
Community advocates joined hands in asking the Legislature to make a commitment to not only listen to the voices of the family and children, but also enable the joint collective problem solving to address the urgent needs of Hawaiʻi's keiki.
“The system is complicated and solutions are not simple. But there is wisdom and guidance in the voices of parents who have navigated the system, foster parents who open up their homes, grandparents who worry for the safety of their grandchildren, children who feel forgotten, and workers who are over-burdened, and we ask the legislature to listen,” said Laurie Tochiki, Epic ‘Ohana President and CEO.
The Keiki Caucus is a collaboration between Hawaiʻi state legislators, community leaders, and youth-centered organizations who come together to propose, draft, support, and implement policy changes that will improve the lives of Hawaiʻi’s young people. The Keiki Caucus is co-convened by Rep. Amy A. Perruso, Rep. Lisa Marten, and Rep. John M. Mizuno.