House passes an empty bill

As published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on April 13, 2016:

"Members of the state Senate and House of Representatives are likely headed for a contentious showdown over bills involving water rights, vacation rentals, renewable energy, the homeless and each county’s share of the transient accommodations tax.

Among the hundreds of bills that lawmakers gave preliminary approval to on Tuesday, those bills touched off some of the most spirited debate on the floor of the two chambers at the state Capitol.

Most of the measures — including a mysteriously blank bill that House members passed over the objections of a handful of members — will now advance to conference committee negotiations in the final weeks of this year’s session...

ʻSignificant issues that come before this body deserve the transparency that comes with a public discussion on the merits of the issue,ʻ Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole (D, Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe) told his colleagues. He was one of six House members to vote against the bill’s passage."

Read more here.

Lawmakers want decriminalizing drugs researched

As published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on March 30, 2016:

"Lawmakers in the House of Representatives want to study whether it would be feasible or wise to decriminalize possession of small quantities of illicit drugs for personal use in Hawaii.

House lawmakers Tuesday passed House Concurrent Resolution 127, which requests that the state Legislative Reference Bureau study the experience of Portugal. That European nation officially abolished all criminal penalties for possession of drugs for personal use in 2001.

Portugal still prosecutes major drug traffickers, but has made possession of small amounts of drugs an administrative violation that is handled without any criminal prosecutions. People who are caught with small quantities of drugs may be fined, referred to drug treatment or required to do community service.

The resolution was co-introduced by state Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole along with House Speaker Joe Souki (D, Waihee-Waiehu-Wailuku) and House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke (D, Punchbowl-Pauoa-Nuuanu), meaning it has significant political clout behind it.

Keohokalole (D, Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe) said he isn’t sure decriminalization is right for Hawaii, but said he wants to know more about that approach to the drug problem.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, studied the result of decriminalization in Portugal seven years ago and found it was ʻa resounding success,ʻ he said. Portugal has the lowest drug addiction rates in the European Union, which is being attributed to the decriminalization framework, Keohokalole said.

ʻThey were able to take resources that they had previously devoted to the criminal (justice) system and reallocate them toward treatment and other social services,ʻ Keohokalole said. ʻUltimately, the war on drugs in America is not working. It’s not working in Hawaii.ʻ

The resolution cites the annual survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which found that in 2013 an estimated 24.6 million people, or more than 9 percent of the population, had used an illicit drug within the previous month.

Keohokalole also said he believes other community issues in his district such as homelessness are related to the drug issue. ʻThey sent me here to look into new ideas, and we’ve been fighting this drug war for over 40 years and it’s not working,ʻ he said."

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House Kills Statewide Training Board For Law Enforcement Officers

Published in Civil Beat on March 16, 2016:

"On Tuesday, the House Labor Committee, chaired by Rep. Mark Nakashima, deferred Senate Bill 2755, which would have created a statewide police standards and training board.

Hawaii is the only state without such an agency....

Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole, the author of HB 2460 and Nakashima’s vice chair on the Labor Committee, said his bill seeks to address the alleged assault of a Big Island teenager by a Department of Land and Natural Resources law enforcement officer.

He said he is frustrated that a number of positions in different state agencies that have police powers can only recruit people with law enforcement backgrounds — even if that background is checkered, as it was in the DLNR case."

Read more here.

House Approves $13.5B Budget Bill

From the Civil Beat article on March 16, 2016:

"Ward opposed the bill because it does not award the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands an additional $19 million above its current funding of $9.6 million.

ʻI will vote against this until they make it the full $28 million as ordered by the court and as mandated in the Constitution, which says Hawaiian Home Lands shall be funded sufficiently,ʻ he said. ʻOtherwise they will take it back to court and there will be another uprising of the blue T-shirts. We’ve got to do the right thing and stop dragging our feet. It grieves me to see Souki sticking it in the eyes of Hawaiians.ʻ

The blue T-shirts refers to supporters of DHHL funding that have shown their colors around the Capitol.

But Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole, a Democrat, suggested it was hypocritical of Ward to be complain about DHHL funding now.

“Gene voted for Republican budgets when Gov. Linda Lingle kept DHHL at zero funding,” he said. “That’s what led to the lawsuit. Where were all the floor speeches back then? Nine million is a lot more than zero.”

Read more here.

House bill pins state agencies against the state employee's union

As published by Hawaii News Now on February 29, 2016:

"A House Bill that has been sailing through the Finance Committee is pinning state agencies against the HGEA, the union for state employees.

House Bill 2008 would get rid of temporary, 89-day hires after two terms, or 6 months. Currently, the 89-day hire can be renewed indefinitely.  

Many state and county agencies hire the temps and dozens of departments have submitted testimony opposing HB 2008.  If it becomes law, the Attorney General's office would be the hardest hit.  Of the 50 investigators there, 43 are temporary, 89-day hires.  Many are retired police detectives who repeatedly take the positions because it allows them to still collect their county pensions...

Representative Jarrett Keohokalole -- who also voted in favor -- says the bill is not about revenge, but reform.

ʻWe have already budgeted funds for these permanent positions and the agencies aren't hiring them,ʻ says Keohokalole, ʻWe have agencies not utilizing the money to hire permanent people, instead they're circumventing the civil service system.ʻ"

Read more here.

Bill would tweak law on slow left-lane drivers

As published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on February 18, 2016:

"Some state lawmakers want to strengthen the law against ʻvehicular lollygagging,ʻ a term that describes motorists who drive slowly in the left lane as faster-moving traffic stacks up behind or streams around them on the right.

House Bill 2746 was introduced by state Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole (D, Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe), who commutes regularly from Windward Oahu, and was approached by constituents who are unhappy with the driving habits of some of their fellow travelers.

Many Hawaii highways have signs instructing slower traffic to move to the right, but ʻjust from experience, nobody follows this law, and it’s never been enforced,ʻ Keohokalole said.

A state law has been on the books for 45 years requiring that vehicles move right if they are traveling more slowly than “the normal speed of traffic,ʻ Keohokalole said. Violators face fines of up to $200 for a first offense, but the existing law doesn’t define the term “normal speed of traffic.ʻ

That means any citation for ʻlollygaggingʻ could be challenged, and would likely be dismissed when it gets to court, Keohokalole said. Keohokalole’s bill would require that vehicles in the left lane of a two-lane highway move to the right if they are traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic, and have three or more vehicles stacked up behind them."

Read more here.

Hawaii Future Caucus targets solutions to affordable housing, voter turnout, education access

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

Members of the Hawaii Future Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of legislators under 35, have announced that its package will focus on initiatives for affordable housing, absentee voting, and community college tuition this legislative session.  HFC works for future-oriented, pragmatic solutions to key issues facing Hawaii's millennial generation. Read more here.

Back To Hawaii’s Future Caucus


Here’s what’s important to young lawmakers at the Hawaii Legislature and the Honolulu City Council this year:

  • Creating an outline of state goals, timeline and funding mechanisms to revitalize the Kapalama area and develop affordable housing units with coordination between state and city agencies, private landowners and residents;
  • Amending Hawaii’s tax increment financing law to provide the counties with the power to issue bonds to fund improvements made to specific communities. Bonds will be repaid through the increase in property tax assessments caused by improvements;
  • Requiring state departments to offer 75 year leases for affordable housing developments;
  • Implementing a tax on real estate investment trusts, with an exemption for affordable housing developments; and
  • Increasing the cap on amounts deposited into the Rental Housing Revolving Fund to $100 million.

Read more here.

Who’s Who: The State of Hawaii 2016 Legislature

As published by the Honolulu Star Advertiser here:

Jarrett Keohokalole (D)

District 48 — Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe


Vice Chairman: Labor & Public Employment


Public Safety


Other Income:

UH William S. Richardson School of Law, legal fellow ($1,000 – $10,000)


(808) 586-8540

[email protected]

OC16 GO Spotlight: Representative Jarrett Keohokalole

OC 16 TV provides a spotlight on Representative Jarrett Keohokalole. Watch the clip here:

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