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State representatives outline session agenda

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Legislative leaders from the Hawaii House of Representatives say they plan to focus on fixing infrastructure, encouraging business and increasing participation in government in the new legislative session.

"There are some issues and challenges that face our state that have been somewhat festering for the past few years, and these are areas we really want to focus on over the next year," House Majority Leader Scott Saiki told reporters Thursday. "We know that these are more long-term challenges that cannot be resolved quickly or even over the course of a year."

The House aims to tackle the problems over the biennium, working collaboratively with the Senate and the governor, Saiki (D, Downtown-Kaka­ako-McCully) said.

On infrastructure, the House hopes to make the state hospital system sustainable and to modernize the state’s electrical grid and prisons.

Rep. Della Au Bellati, chairwoman of the Health Committee, said the House will continue discussions about the Hawai‘i Health Connector and Kolea, the online system that the Department of Human Services uses to determine eligibility for subsidies.

Both systems have been plagued with technical problems.

"We’re going to be looking to the governor’s office for a road map as his department chairs begin to take the lead … and we’ll also be working closely with our federal partners," Bellati (D, Moiliili-Makiki-Tantalus) said. "As things develop in the national scene with regards to the Affordable Care Act, we may have to respond to the rules and regulations that are changing at the federal level."

The House shares Gov. David Ige’s goal of modernizing the tax collection system and contends that will boost business. Along those lines, legislative leaders said they hope to ensure appropriate transit-oriented development, increase local food production, protect military bases and continue to pay off unfunded public liabilities.

House leaders said they hope to increase participation in government by boosting ethics and campaign spending laws, and they want to improve technology so people on neighbor islands can testify from afar.

The House and Senate both passed resolutions Thursday saying they strongly oppose the Army’s plans to eliminate 16,606 active-duty soldiers from Schofield Barracks and 3,786 soldiers from Fort Shatter on Oahu.

"Here we are in the middle of the Pacific with one of the strongest bastions of military, and we’re talking about cutting back," said Rep. Gene Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Queen’s Gate-Hawaii Kai).

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