52 Statehouse Reporters Review the Top 5 Public Policy Issues in Each State
by Ann Dermody, CQ Roll Call, May 3, 2016 (excerpts)
Everyone knows public policy in the states is more active than in Congress.
So far this year states have passed 19,313 bills to Capitol Hill’s 150.
That’s a lot of legislation.
But what issues are the statehouses so busy with?
We recruited more than 52 local reporters and policy observers and asked them one question:
“What are the top 5 policy issues in each state?”
Their insights offer a comprehensive breakdown of national policy trends, and we’ve listed them all below in a collection we call the 50 State Project….
HAWAII – TOP 5 ISSUES
#1 HOMELESSNESS: Top priority for Hawaiian residents
Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the United States and Gov. David Ige has declared a state of emergency. Respondents of a January Hawaii Poll for the Star-Advertiser ranked homelessness their top issue. The city’s “sit-lie” prohibition in Waikiki appears to have pushed some of the homeless population there, into shelters, or into other areas of the island. Meanwhile state and city leaders continue to address the problem with new shelters, transition housing and hygiene centers. But critics say homelessness continues to be a problem and that the government has not responded quickly enough.
#2 HOUSING: Lack of inventory plagues home seekers
Hawaii has been a notoriously expensive place to live, and with the average price of a single-family home rising above $700,000, there appears to be a larger number of multi-generational households across the state. Thus, the call for housing has been elevated. On Oahu, the most populated island, the city estimates 26,000 units are needed to fill the void, and that three-fourths of those will need to be for those making 80 percent of median income or less. The housing crunch is also believed to be contributing to the increased number of homeless.
#3 TRANSPORTATION Gridlock frustrates motorists while the island awaits completion of rail
Horror stories abound from commuters who need to endure traffic jams as they to travel into Honolulu from suburban neighborhoods in central and west Oahu. City officials are banking on Oahu’s upcoming, 20-mile rail line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana to help ease the situation, but the project has provoked a lot of angry residents as its price tag rises and its timetable is pushed further back. The project is now anticipated to cost $6.57 billion, up more than $1 billion from just a year ago, while completion now is expected in 2022.
#4 ECONOMY: Debate continues over the future of Kakaako
Long known as a sleepy industrial district between downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, Kakaako has taken center stage in the development game. As construction cranes dot the region, many question whether enough of the highrise units will be within reach of local home buyers, or if most will be luxury investment properties accessible only to high-end, out-of-state buyers.
#5 STATEHOOD: Native Hawaiians and the future
Native Hawaiians continue to disagree on the future of the sovereignty movement, or even whether there should be one. A constitutional convention in February was fraught with conflict, disagreement and protests. Some want a “nation within a nation” model, while others seek an international tribunal.
BONUS ISSUE -- AGRICULTURE: Diminishing land for farmers
The loss of needed farmland to development combined with clashes over pesticide use, biotech/GMO projects and water rights continue to be a huge issue in much of Hawaii.
read … CQ Roll Call