HONOLULU(KHON2) —  The 2022 legislative session kicked off Wednesday, Jan. 19, with not much celebration due to the ongoing pandemic but lawmakers were optimistic.

Even the customary Star-Spangled Banner and Hawai’i Pono’i were done remotely for safety reasons.

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Lawmakers also held a moment of silence for Tonga and prayed for all those impacted by COVID-19.

Hawaii Sen. Laura Acasio said she missed having people there for the opening session but she still felt good about how the day went.

“To me it felt very hopeful that we are going to be able to push legislation to help our community in ways that are needed because of a lot of the impacts of the pandemic. The energy was high. I know our offices are hard at work. My colleagues are hard at work, reading bills that are coming through that will be introduced before Friday and next week. It feels very hopeful that we can have some good bills this year and make sure that voices are represented.”

Laura Acasio, Hawaii senator

“I think that the House members see that we have great opportunities this year to address some of the issues that, need to be fixed,” said Scott Saiki, Hawaii’s House Speaker. “We’re fortunate that we’ll be seeing unanticipated tax revenue collection this year that gives us a lot of flexibility to address some of these long-standing problems.”

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Saiki said they have two key proposals this session. The first is to raise the minimum wage to $18 an hour, and the second is to tackle the housing problem with a $600 million proposal to help the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands assist beneficiaries in purchasing homes.