Governor Abercrombie Signs Bill Advancing Hawaii’s Clean Energy Goals

As outlined in the 2013 State of the State address, Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed Senate Bill 1087, which establishes a green infrastructure financing program for Hawaii. The Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program is an innovative financing model that is designed to make clean energy improvements more affordable and accessible to underserved community members.

“This new measure allows us to bring clean energy improvements within reach for a broader segment of the community,” said Gov. Abercrombie. “More of Hawaii’s residents will be able to take advantage of green devices that will ultimately lower electricity bills and contribute to the state’s clean energy growth.”

Senate Bill 1087 creates the framework for a financing structure that will fund this clean energy financing program. Under GEMS, Hawaii’s underserved markets, including low- and moderate-income homeowners, renters and non-profits will be able to finance the purchase and installation of energy saving devices without the typically high upfront costs. Payment for the devices would be made over time through one’s electricity bill and paid for with the energy savings. The state’s Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) will facilitate the GEMS financing program via the Hawaii State Energy Office.

“GEMS promotes the democratization of clean energy,” explained DBEDT Director Richard Lim, who was the legislation’s architect. “We are taking a proven rate-reduction bond structure and using it in an innovative way to provide low-cost financing to utility customers.”

The next step for GEMS is for DBEDT to file financing order and program order applications for review by the Public Utilities Commission. GEMS is targeted for implementation in 2014.


Governor Signs Healthcare Transformation Bill
Enacts Other Measures Related to Kupuna, Housing, and State Service Access

Gov. Abercrombie also signed House Bill 656, establishing the Health Care Transformation Program within the Governor’s office to advance the transformation.

“Improving health and the quality of care while bending the cost curve are among my administration’s top priorities,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Addressing these concerns requires a new systematic approach that affects health care statewide.”

HB656 (Relating to Health Care Administrative Uniformity) also sets specific responsibilities for creating a strategy and timeline for statewide healthcare transformation that includes developing standards to measure quality and costs, reducing administrative burdens for providers and insurers, and improving and expanding the use of information technology to support transformation.

The measure explicitly gives the Governor the authority to obtain information by consulting with any stakeholders, individually or in groups, as part of the foundation for transformation. This is crucial since the healthcare sector cannot make systematic, coordinated changes of its own volition because:

  • antitrust issues preclude many kinds of concerted group action that are not mandated and/or supervised by government authority;
  • while insurers, hospitals, and provider groups can all make sweeping changes within the scope of their own organizations, these changes may have little effect on the rest of the system; and
  • private sector health organizations agree on improving health, quality and cost, but implementing strategies without regulation or at least industry coordination is difficult because such organizations may have mixed motivations in a competitive environment.

“The cost of health care affects every resident and business in Hawaii,” said Beth Giesting, the state’s Healthcare Transformation Coordinator. “While health insurance premiums in Hawaii are relatively modest and offer good coverage, the inflationary trend – on average about 6 percent per year – results in wage stagnation and limited opportunities for business expansion.”

More than any other entity in Hawaii, the state is directly impacted by the effectiveness of the healthcare system as it purchases coverage for nearly 40 percent of the population, and that percentage will grow when new eligibility provisions and requirements under the federal Affordable Care Act result in Medicaid expansion. Med-QUEST programs now cover more than 20 percent of the state’s population with a budget of nearly $2 billion. The Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund covers nearly 15 percent of the population (Its annual budget is $523 million and it carries an unfunded liability of $14.4 billion). The state budget also supports the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, emergency and trauma services at other facilities, behavioral health care, federally qualified health centers, and more.

In addition, Gov. Abercrombie signed the following other measures in separate bill signing ceremonies:

Kupuna Bills
Individuals 65 years or older account for 14.7 percent of Hawaii’s population, which makes Hawaii the eighth in the nation in terms of the greatest percentage of older Americans. The following bills provide protections and resources needed for Hawaii’s growing kupuna population.

  • HB529 (Relating to Care Homes)
  • HB120 (Relating to Health)
  • SB106 (Relating to Aging)
  • HB398 (Relating to Human Services)
  • SB102 (Relating to the Elderly)

SB102 specifically requires that financial institutions report instances of suspected financial abuse of an elder directly to the appropriate county police department (via 911) and the state Department of Human Services via Adult Protective Services:

Oahu – 832-5115
Kauai – 241-3337
Maui – 243-5151
East Hawaii – 933-8820
West Hawaii – 327-6280

Other Health-Related Bills
These bills protect consumers, ensure qualified professionals provide medical treatment, and help families who have loved ones suffering from a severe mental illness obtain treatment.

  • HB847 (Relating to Enforcement Tools to Improve Patient Safety)
  • SB1074 (Relating to Physical Therapy)
  • SB310 (Relating to Mental Health Treatment)

Housing Bills
The following bills address housing needs and recognize that one size does not fit all when finding a solution to end homelessness.

  • SB515 (Relating to Housing)
  • HB536 (Relating to Public Housing)

State Service Access Bills
These bills eliminate barriers to state services and assist Hawaii residents who are deaf, blind or have limited-English proficiency so they can fully participate in the community.

  • HB266 (Relating to Language Access)
  • HB1430 (Relating to Human Services)

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