Homelessness and affordable housing will be key topics as the Hawaii Legislature begins its 2016 session.
The House and Senate began their legislative session Wednesday, talking about the need to create a more economically viable community.
People sang and chanted outside the chambers about protecting Hawaii’s delicate environment, and students and families lined up to get a seat before the session began.
Democratic House Speaker Joe Souki began the session with a moment of silence for the 12 Marines who are missing after a helicopter crash last week.
“Let’s pause to remember that those Marines and their families have all sacrificed so much and have put their lives on the lines in service to our country in times of peace and war,” Souki said.
As Senate President Ron Kouchi began the chamber’s first official meeting of the year, the senators sang “Hawaii Ponoi,” a song about Hawaii, while wearing flower lei.
Kouchi talked about the importance of creating more affordable housing, relaying how during his own childhood his family did not own a home.
“The problem isn’t just here on Oahu,” Kouchi said. “The problem is statewide, and we need to look at it in that particular fashion”
The Rev. Bob Nakata, a housing advocate, said he’s hopeful that the Legislature will provide more money for affordable housing this year.
“The crisis is so bad it can’t really be shifted to the side,” Nakata said.
Senators also talked about the need for more oversight about how the state is spending the taxpayers’ money.
On the House side, Democratic Rep. Matt LoPresti said he planned to introduce legislation to regulate police body cameras and to protect online privacy for students and adults.
“We need to realize that legislation has not kept up with the technology,” LoPresti said in a news conference. “We should be able to keep our social media profiles private.”