Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Opening Day 2012

Like last year's Opening Day, the start of the 27th Hawai'i State Legislature was not ushered in with much fanfare. The brevity of speeches and lack of lavish food spreads and entertainment reflects the financial austerity that has resulted from the Great Recession. Despite being a low-key event taking place while the economy is still recovering, the Aloha Spirit was alive and well in the capitol. Recently appointed Rep. Tom Okamura's return to the House floor certainly added to the positive tone of the day.

In his opening remarks, Speaker Say stated the goals for the session: to maintain a steady, gradual economic recovery, while not increasing the burden on the people and businesses of Hawai'i. The Speaker conceded that while lawmakers would like to make our state energy independent and provide affordable healthcare and housing to everyone, our economic reality puts these goals out of reach for the current session. While we are fortunate not to be facing a budget crisis as we have for the past three sessions, the state's financial future is still not secure. Although it may not make for the most interesting news headline, the looming burden of funding public employees' retirement and health fund systems must be resolved to prevent catastrophe for future generations.

Despite the serious work ahead in the session, the atmosphere in the House was upbeat, positive, and convivial. Opening Day presents an opportunity for constituents - as well as lobbyists - to access Representatives, talk story, and have a bite to eat. The capitol has many new faces, including my own, and the returning members and staffers were warm, friendly, and more than welcoming.

January 18, 2012 was an Opening Day with abbreviated, but pleasantly appropriate celebration that, hopefully, is a reflection of the legislative session it convened. Budget crisis and an increased burden on taxpayers may be a thing of the past, but we are by no means out of the water yet. Building off of its realistically grounded optimism, the 27th Hawai'i State Legislature will hopefully maintain the recovery of this fragile economy while laying the foundation for a bright future for Hawai'i.

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