Thursday, May 7, 2015

2015 Session Closing Remarks by Speaker Joseph M. Souki


We adjourn today sine die. And yet we all understand that our work is not yet done; that it continues on quietly beyond the limelight.

From our transportation infrastructure to healthcare, you took on the challenges, even when there seemed to be little hope for success.

First steps are always awkward and seemingly small.

Building Honolulu’s rail system has been frustrating. The little distance traveled for the price seems high indeed. But the cost for not taking this first step is even higher, and future generations will thank you for your far sightedness and courage.

And they will also thank you for thinking outside the box to resolve Maui Hospital’s financial crisis. Good solutions are always collaborative and identified, not by one person’s signature, but by many fingerprints. Together with the Governor, we’ve come up with a fair resolution for all concerned, including the people of Maui.

You also took steps to complete the job of preserving the lands around Kawela Bay for future generations—a task that seemed daunting a year ago. You not only completed that job but re-fashioned a better deal that looked out for the best interest of the people of Hawaii.

During this session, as the Hawaii Health Connector ramped up from its slow start, you moved to ensure its viability. The seamless integration of the Affordable Care Act into our landmark prepaid healthcare is key to ensuring the future health of all of our citizens. You took measures to protect Hawaii’s Prepaid Health Care Act, the bedrock of our people’s healthcare infrastructure.

You also heard the pleas of those who depend on medical marijuana to make it through each day and provided them with legal access to dispensaries throughout the state.

Education is the key to lifelong success. Knowing this, you invested heavily in our schools, from early learning to higher education.

You gave children who are at risk a chance to go to preschool and gave them a leg up in succeeding in their schooling and in their lives. At the same time, you provide the University of Hawaii with the fiscal flexibility to better support its students and campuses throughout the state.

For those who need a helping hand, you provided more than $28 million in grant-in-aid for nonprofit organizations who reach out to the community with invaluable services.

In addition, you provided over $2.45 billion for a wide range of capital improvement projects for our infrastructure, which will continue to support state services and economic growth on all islands.

As we move further from the last economic recession, it becomes easier to slip into past practices of borrowing from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and the Hurricane Relief Fund, and spend more freely during good times.

You not only refrained from that temptation but continued to address the state’s unfunded liabilities in a responsible and prudent manner.

Together, with the Senate and the Ige administration, we did all this and more. We did it not to make headlines, but to make Hawaii the kind of place we are all proud to call home.

We did it for our families and our communities.

We did it for the poor and the frail.

We did it for today’s kupuna and tomorrow’s keiki.

We did it for Hawaii.

To the leadership team, the chairs, vice chairs, and every member of the House, thank you for your unwavering commitment to do your best for the people of Hawaii.

Because of you, this was not only a productive session but a good start on the biennium marked by significant accomplishments.

I would like to especially thank Majority Leader Scott Saiki, Vice Speaker John Mizuno, Majority Floor Leader Cindy Evans and Finance Chair Sylvia Luke for their tremendous contributions and tireless efforts in moving us forward to this day.

To our minority leader, Beth Fukumoto Chang, and the Minority Caucus, thank you for bringing your constructive ideas and perspectives to the table.

To the permanent and session staff of the House, thank you for your professionalism and tireless efforts in supporting the work of the House.

I would also like to thank former Senate President Donna Kim, her leadership team, the senate chairs and members who worked with us and collaborated as we worked to craft legislation for the people of Hawaii.

Again, I am deeply grateful to all of you for your trust, your hard work and commitment to the people of Hawaii.

One final thought: the Speaker’s closing remarks are rightfully about what we accomplished during the session. Rarely, is it about bills that did not make it through the rigorous process of lawmaking.

We all know the amount of work that goes into shepherding a bill through this legislative process. We all know how much sweat equity we pour into it.

When a bill dies, especially in the eleventh hour, we sometimes feel like a part of ourselves died with it. When it fails, we feel like we’ve failed.

But the real truth is you haven’t.

If we only took on issues that we knew would succeed, Hawaii would be a poorer society because of it.

We are richer, when there is no fear of failing, but only the fear of not doing our best. That means sticking your neck out when you know that is the right thing to do.

I saw a lot of that this session: very hard and determined work, regardless of the outcome.

And so I say with pride, based on not only our collective accomplishments but our collective efforts: I am honored to have served as your speaker, and I look forward to working with you again next session.

Thank you and aloha.

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