Hawaii Session Preview: Lawmakers return today to talk cooling schools


A paddle boarder looks our over the Pacific Ocean as the sun sets off of Waikiki Beach, in Honolulu. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press )

Hawaii’s 76 legislators get back to work on Wednesday, joining colleagues in 32 other states this year.

Legislators will conclude the second half of a two-year session, considering some policies familiar to many states, like what to do with a surplus and how to implement Obamacare. But there are also some decidedly unique issues on tap. Like many other states, Hawaii’s lawmakers are expected to talk education this year, but with a twist.

“Legislators on the education committees expect classroom cooling to get some buzz during the upcoming legislative session, which kicks off Jan. 15,” Honolulu Civil Beat reports. “Both the governor and the Hawaii Department of Education have requested $25 million for air conditioning in their supplemental budget proposals, a sign that a grassroots Campbell High School-led campaign urging the state to relieve schools of their sizzling temperatures is paying off.”

Cooling, the paper reports, could cost up to $1 billion to set up and maintain. The state may also consider setting up public preschool—it’s one of the few states without them—and freeing up funds for charter schools, Civil Beat reports. Voters in November will decide on whether to allow taxpayer funds to go to private preschools.

Hawaii’s legislature will also take up a debate common to many states, the Associated Press reports: what to do with an $844 million surplus. The state’s Democratic governor wants to save it for tough times, while Republican leaders argue it should be returned to taxpayers.

This session in Hawaii will also see a lobby trying to insert itself even further into the legislative process. The local Chamber of Commerce plans to push its own set of bills, for the first time ever. The group’s new CEO told Hawaii Business Magazine that the group would seek sponsors for a package of pro-business bills. Rather than simply react to legislation, the group plans to try to shape it,” the chamber’s new CEO, Sherry Menor-McNamara told the magazine.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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Niraj Chokshi | January 14