HONOLULU — Bills that would provide for mental health care, affordable housing and invasive species research are advancing in the Hawaii legislature.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday pushed forward dozens of bills on a range of issues. Their next stop will be the Senate floor for a vote.
Among the highlights was a bill (SB 2228) aimed at preparing Hawaii residents for the costs of aging and hiring a "fall prevention and early detection coordinator." Another (SB 2533) would increase affordable housing in the state by building micro-apartments and housing projects for veterans. Other bills that advanced include:
— MANDATORY KINDERGARTEN: Five-year-old children would be required to attend kindergarten under SB 2768. The bill also provides for a kindergarten readiness program.
— ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The state would designate an area in west Oahu for a "creative film and media park" under SB 2776, with the intention of attracting film projects and stimulating startups. Similarly, SB 2399 would establish a geriatric research and technology park to support advances in elder care. SB 2397 would establish an agricultural technology park aimed at developing local farming techniques and supporting agricultural tourism.
— PUBLIC SAFETY: The state would move many of its emergency operations to a central spot in the tall middle of Oahu to protect against storms and flooding if SB 3054 becomes law.
— PSYCHIATRIC CARE: The health department would study and develop an inpatient psychiatric facility to cope with what the bill says is "the growing need" of psychiatric patients at state hospitals under SB 2579.
— BREADFRUIT WORLD DOMINATION: Producers and marketers of ulu, or breadfruit, would get a boost under SB 3023, which aims to develop ways to grow, process and market the fruit. A selling point the bill proposes: breadfruit flour is gluten-free, and makes legitimate pasta.
— INVASIVE SPECIES: The state's invasive species council would get $5 million next year under SB 2343, to keep battling the uninvited scourges of Hawaii's coffee (the coffee berry borer beetle) and its front yards (the little fire ant).
— RENEWABLE FUELS: SB 2198 would establish a task force to study how the state might incorporate more locally produced renewable fuels and biofuels into its gas and diesel.
Sam Eifling can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sameifling.