Inside the Hawaii State Legislature Opening Day

HONOLULU, HI — The Hawaii state legislature’s opening day, every third Wednesday of January, showcases how the 50th state stands out when it comes to setting the tone for the year’s legislative session.

Along with both the State House of Representatives and Senate announcing their priorities, the day is highlighted by true-to-Hawaii local elements like chants, hula, poi pounding, and the spirit of aloha.

The day-long event – with an official floor session in both chambers in the morning–brings together legislators, lobbyists, interest groups, and students to the Hawaii state capitol in Honolulu.

One group present for the legislature’s opening day is the Adult Foster Homecare Association of Hawaii. With about 800 member providers – a significant number of them Filipino – the trade association is the largest in Hawaii, lobbying for caregivers. AFHA members provide year-round 24-7 care to clients on Medicare.

“Our bill for this year is that… for our pay to get increased, because it’s been over ten years that our caregivers didn’t have any increase in pay.”

Filipino-American legislator Rida Cabanilla Arakawa says FHER 2019 priorities include taking care of the schools and improving infrastructure in her district, along with bringing equity to Filipinos. She also calls on the community to be more active in government.

Some issues that the state legislature will focus on this year include addressing wage disparity in Hawaii, affordable housing, technology development, and recovery efforts from the lava flows that affected the state in the past year.

The Hawaii state legislature is in session until May.

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