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The Debrief: An inside look into Hawaiʻi’s 2023 legislative session


While the 2023 legislative session ended in May, the work hasn’t ended for state lawmakers who are hoping to move forward a variety of measures.


State Sen. Chris Lee and state Rep. Nadine Nakamura sat down with HNN on “The Debrief” to discuss some of the highlights from the session, breaking down topics such as affordable housing, tax rebates and education.


Among the issues the lawmakers also discussed was the impact of climate change on Hawaiʻi’s infrastructure.


“We’re looking at about $19 billion in coastal infrastructure that’s going to have to move because of climate,” Lee said.


“If we don’t do anything and we don’t plan ahead, it’s going to be way more expensive to deal with that later on, which means taxpayers are going to be paying a lot more for it than if we start and plan ahead beginning today. And that’s really what this is all about. How do we plan for the future to reduce the impact on everybody, to reduce the cost and to preserve our way of life for future generations.”


Nakamura added that one of the big winners for this year’s budget was the natural environment.


“This is for divisions that have been underfunded in the past, and we used a portion of our surplus to help improve our natural environment, because really our environment is our economy. And the more we can do to improve our economy, our environment, both residents and our visitors will benefit,” she said.


Hawaiʻi's state lawmakers are now in interim and will reconvene in January 2024 — but while this year’s session is over, the lawmakers emphasized their work is far from over.


“It’s funny because people think we’re part-time legislators, so nothing happens from the end of session until the next one, but it’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Lee said. “In reality, it doesn’t work that way. There is so much community engagement that happens. We hear from people 24/7 around the clock, and we are working on all those community issues in addition to the task forces and other working groups to implement policies we pass.”


Meanwhile, Nakamura explained some of the areas the state House is working on, including a special committee focused on remediation efforts in response to the Red Hill fuel spill and moving a bill forward regarding recreational marijuana.

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