Kona Town Meeting on Wednesday night, January 12 featured a legislative update from County Council Member Angel Pilago (North Kona), State Representative Denny Coffman (South Kona), State Representative Cindy Evans (North Kona to Waimea), and State Senator Josh Green. More than 65 people gathered to hear the legislators talk at Kona Old Airport’s Makae’o Event Pavilion. Pilago said finally the Makalei Fire Station is out to bid, with the funds allocated. He said the County Council takes its budget responsibility seriously and have put the Mayor’s request for a $56 million bond for multiple islandwide projects on hold until they can review it more thoroughly. He also said the County Council will lobby directly with the State Legislature and the Governor and not rely on the Mayor and Administration to do so.
State Rep Evans said she sees the main issue for the legislature this year as creating jobs. Most legislators do not want to raise the General Excise Tax (currently 4% for Hawaii County) and are in hearings with all the state departments to understand their needs. Evans said she and Rep Coffman are working together on how to improve Honokohau Harbor, possibly with management a combined state and nonprofit effort.. She’s also focusing on getting a Veterans Center in Kona. She and State Rep Coffman both said they see the need to better address our island’s drunk and impaired driving issues and to get the state to move Kona Airport upgrade work to a higher priority.
State Senator Green said he is introducing legislation to increase the license suspension penalty for the first DUI from 3 to 6 months and make the second offense a felony. Green is this year’s Senate Health Committee Chair, and is introducing legislation to recruit and retain more healthcare providers by paying their school loans, to enhance children’s health care by addressing childhood obesity, autism, cleft palates, and neonatal resuscitation. One way to fund these initiatives is to impose a higher tax on tobacco use and on sugary drinks and snacks.
The three state legislators also want to focus on bringing capital improvement projects to the island, including a new Kona Courthouse, expansion of West Hawaii Community Health Center, and West Hawaii Community College.
Listen to what Councilmember Pilago, State Representative Coffman, and State Senator Green had to say to Big Island News Center reporter Sherry Bracken.
State Rep Denny Coffman interview
State Senator Josh Green interview
County Council Member Angel Pilago interview