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The State Legislature ended the 2021 session as scheduled on April 29. It faced

substantial difficulties in resolving issues associated with the State budget, but

finally completed it.

However, many community advocates were disappointed in what they considered

to be the Legislature’s inadequate response to many other issues facing Hawaii, such

as climate change, affordable housing, housing security, living wage, agriculture,

food security, public education, homelessness, gun safety, and government

transparency. The outcome of the 2021 legislative session shows that not enough

legislators are truly committed to a long-term vision of a thriving and equitable


Housing NOW! Task Force

Faith Action’s Housing NOW! task force backed several bills advanced by Senate

Housing Chair Stanley Chang. None passed. Sen. Chang’s comprehensive ALOHA

Homes housing plan is based on Singapore’s success in housing a population six

times Oahu’s on an island less than half Oahu’s size. Chang’s bill would develop tens

of thousands of homes near rail to be sold on State leased land targeted at $300,000

to Hawaii residents who owned no other property and who guarantee they will

occupy the units. The proposal would be financed through revenue bond sales

covered by the purchasers’ monthly mortgage-like payments.

During the 2021 legislative session, ALOHA Homes drew additional support from a

State-subsidized study completed by the nonprofit Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law

& Economic Justice. It found that both Vienna and Helsinki — with high-cost

construction like Honolulu driven by strong unions — could build housing at the

ALOHA Homes target price. The study also recommended financing needed housing

infrastructure via “Community Facilities Districts.” Nevertheless, the State House of

Representatives showed little interest in either ALOHA Homes or in several bills

containing ALOHA Homes concepts that Sen. Chang sent their way.

The Housing NOW! task force continued Faith Action’s legislative effort to have Real

Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) taxed. Here, it achieved some success. While the

major bill that would have taxed REITs died, the Legislature did pass HB 286,

which forces REITs to declare their Hawaii-based revenue. Bill passage means we

will finally document how much in total corporate taxes REITs would pay.

The Housing NOW! task force was less successful with SB 33, which would have

required each county to estimate its housing need, develop a plan to meet that need,

and identify sites for the needed housing. The bill embraced a community planning

concept that the task force will pursue with the Honolulu City Council in the coming


Environmental Justice Task Force

The Environmental Justice Task Force sponsored a carbon fee and dividend bill that

they called “Carbon Cashback.” This bill would have put a price on fossil fuels and

distributed all the revenue generated to Hawaii’s residents in equal shares.

Unfortunately, the bill died before a UH study was issued, which showed that this

concept would substantially reduce Hawaii’s greenhouse gas emissions, while giving

financial benefits to low- and middle-income households.

After that bill died the task force supported several bills and a resolution SCR 44,

which declares a climate emergency in Hawaii. The resolution was passed, making

Hawaii the first state to declare a climate emergency. At a press conference

announcing the passage of this measure, advocates emphasized the necessity of

follow-up with concrete action to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

HB 1142 is another bill passed by the Legislature that addresses climate change. It

creates a funding mechanism for the installation of electric vehicle charging systems

in order to encourage people to purchase electric vehicles. The electric utilities in

Hawaii are still using fossil fuels to generate electricity, but renewable energy is

steadily replacing those fossil fuels.

Long Term Care Task Force

The Long-Term Care Task Force was part of a coalition supporting SB 838, which

would provide greater flexibility in the implementation of the Kupuna Caregivers

Act. The bill did not pass.

Living Wage Task Force took a pause this session, but will pursue this issue next


Final words

Faith Action realizes that very few bills get passed in their first legislative session. It

usually takes years, and that is why advocates must be persistent if they hope to

ultimately be successful. Faith Action looks forward to the 2022 legislative session

and is already making plans for it.

Meanwhile, even the bills which passed the Legislature will not become law until

signed by the Governor. So stay tuned.

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