Homelessness, health care among priorities for 2016 legislative session

Local News

Singing and chanting outside the State Capitol marked opening day for the 2016 legislative session.

Both the House and Senate have their own agendas this year, which include health care, education, and homelessness.

“What is the holdup in having public housing? How do you generate turnover in public housing to make room for people to transition?” said Rep. Sylvia Luke, D, House Finance Committee Chair.

“We cannot just say put more money towards the housing issue, but it has to do with looking at mental health, looking at access to resources, looking at even wages,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, D, Senate Majority Leader.

Lawmakers say they’re also trying to help workers on Maui, who are losing their jobs because Alexander & Baldwin’s sugarcane operations are coming to an end.

“Alleviate the pressure to develop the land, I certainly agree with the majority leader. We’d still like to see it in some kind of active agricultural use,” said Sen. Ron Kouchi, D, Senate President.

Lawmakers are also pushing their own individual agendas. Rep. Matt LoPresti, D, Ewa, Ewa Beach, introduced a package of bills to protect privacy.

One measure focuses on police and citizens during their interactions. LoPresti wants to create regulations for body cameras worn by police officers.

“If you’re recorded in an interaction with the police, you should have a say if that data is released or not,” LoPresti said.

The regulations would determine who has access to the video, when the access is available and how long that data can be stored.

“One of the things that the bill does, it actually protects officers as well. It doesn’t allow their superiors to randomly check what they were doing at 11:33 in the morning,” LoPresti said.

LoPresti said regulations would also protect the counties and state from any liability.

Lawmakers will also consider a proposal to prevent employers from requiring, or even asking, for access to your social media accounts, like Facebook or Twitter, as long as it’s not related to your job.

Another proposal addresses privacy issues when students are loaned a computer or tablet. If the student owns the mobile device, he or she would be protected from having a school official take it away or look through it.

“As we increasingly use computer tablets and other electronic devices at schools, we need to realize that legislation has not kept up with technology,” said LoPresti. “We should be able to keep our social media profiles private if we choose, and limit who has access to our children’s data and who has access to it.”

LoPresti says the social media bill was introduced last session and everyone voted in favor of it, but because of a scheduling error, it didn’t make it through conference committee.

The regular session of the legislature runs through May 5.

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