Ulupono Initiative highlights key priorities as 2024 legislative session kicks off

Jan 29, 2024

The 2024 legislative session is well underway, following Opening Day on Jan. 17.  Members of the Ulupono team recently shared several policy priorities with the overall goal to help make Hawaii more sustainable and resilient. Highlights cross several sectors, including local food production, clean transportation choices, renewable energy, and freshwater resource management:

Local Food Production — Jesse Cooke, Vice President, Investment & Analytics

“We will be working to increase purchases of local food by helping to secure recurring State funding for “DA BUX” Double Up Food Bucks, a program that doubles the purchasing power of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program families who purchase Hawaii-grown produce.  This program will support local farmers by increasing their customer base. In addition, State funding will unlock millions of dollars of federal and philanthropic funds to continue to grow the program, including on Maui where there is great opportunity for expansion. We also support funding for Hawaii Department of Agriculture grant-writer positions to secure additional federal funding and the department’s capital improvement project funding requests relating to agriculture infrastructure.”

Clean Transportation Choices — Kathleen Rooney, Director of Transportation Policy & Programs

Our Ulupono team will be working with our public- and private-sector partners to build on last year’s successes, such as ensuring that the Safe Routes to School Advisory Group is set up for success to achieve long-term transformation as well as helping support the State’s Highway Safety and Modernization Council. We also hope to improve the State’s e-mobility device rebate program to reach more people and help transform their lives through this growing mode of transportation.”

Renewable Energy — Michael Colón, Director, Energy

“There is an immense opportunity to accelerate deployment of renewable energy generation by streamlining the residential photovoltaic permitting process. We also support smart solutions to address resiliency planning and investments to ensure our investments balance the numerous critical priorities facing our energy sector. In addition, there is value in expanding the conversation around geothermal resources, as supporting the exploration and analysis of potential geothermal resources across the state and looking at the financial and environmental benefits of geothermal energy projects going forward. This is important because geothermal is a significant yet barely tapped renewable energy resource.”

Fresh Water Management — Jeremy Kimura, Director, Fresh Water
“We will support the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) this session as they request the ability to transfer funds between their state revolving fund accounts. This will offer DOH the flexibility to direct funding from these low-interest loan accounts to address water infrastructure needs created by crisis, such as the Maui fires. Also, it’s time to lay the groundwork to support water reuse projects, including recycled water system for major government and private projects that will offset the demand on our precious potable water supplies in Urban Honolulu.”

Leading the charge on Ulupono’s policy advocacy is Government Affairs Director Micah Munekata, along with Associate Mariah Yoshizu. If you would like to be added to our eAlert list or more information on the topics above, please contact our team here.