In his opening day remarks, Speaker of the House Joseph M. Souki called on members of the House of Representatives to extend the general excise tax to finance rail, to find viable alternatives to prison incarceration and to provide human compassion to those who are mentally ill and terminally sick.
“We have a lot on our plate for this session. And the last revenue forecast by the Council on Revenues does not make our job any easier,” Souki told legislators. “But we’ve been there before, as lawmakers and as a community. And we will together find solutions to our most pressing issues.”
In his speech, Souki also supported making needed changes to our public education system and completing the privatization of Maui’s public hospitals.
He called on legislators “to look for solutions like rail to relieve traffic on our roads. It does come with a high cost, but make no mistake, rail is the key to the future of Oahu.”
Souki wants to remove the sunset date on the original general excise tax financing bill, but only if we reduce the tax rate with the city making up the difference. He also wants to reduce administrative costs from 10 to 5 percent.
He proposed a feasibility study to see if elevated toll roads would make sense for Honolulu.
“We must employ a multi-faceted approach, utilizing our buses, flex scheduling and technology that allows distance learning, tele medicine and alternative workplaces to reduce commuter travel,” he said.
With our prisons severely overcrowded and an estimated 10 years needed to build a new one, Souki suggests using electronic bracelets to confine those guilty of misdemeanor, white collar or non-violent crimes to their homes.
“With new technology, we can employ varying degrees of restrictions based on the crime committed, and monitor movements of those under supervision,” he said. “What I’m talking about is creating a whole new level of Non-Institutionalized Incarceration.”
Souki said human compassion is important to everyone in Hawaii and we can see our family members who are near death that need our support.
“Those who are suffering from a terminal illness and are of sound mind should be given the opportunity to decide how they will end their own lives,” Souki said.
He will submit a bill to allow medical aid in dying this session.
The House will continue to provide food and rental tax credits for low income families that are about to expire, Souki said.
“There is nothing more important to human dignity than food on the table and a roof over your head,” Souki said.
House Majority Leader Scott Saiki welcomed the five new members to the House and asked the returning representatives to draw from their aspirations to be constructive and find solutions to our most pressing challenges.
“The need for Hawaii to be functional has never been more critical. In just two days, the United States will undergo profound change,” Saiki said. “We need to be ready and we need to overcome differences so that we can make Hawaii more effective and viable.”
Saiki asked the representatives to heed the words of President Obama to not demonize each other but listen, fight for our principles and find common ground.