Opening Day 2024!

Wednesday, January 17, was the opening of the 32nd Legislative Session. Mahalo to all our friends, constituents, community members, and colleagues who visited, talked story, and "hung out" at the State Capitol. We have a lot to accomplish in the next few months, and I am grateful for the support of each and every one of you. It truly takes a village to make proactive and positive change!

Monday, January 22nd was the Governor's State of the State Address. He discussed key topics such as the response to the Maui fires and its recovery efforts, building more affordable housing and returning short-term rentals to the local housing market, as well as addressing the cost of living with more tax relief. With that, he also discussed charging visitors a $25 climate fee and taking care of our homeless. Other issues that he touched upon were addressing the shortage of healthcare professionals and improving healthcare within the state; encouraging our aspiring local healthcare students to stay and work in our state; investing in education and addressing the teacher shortage; addressing the growing gun violence in Hawaii; reducing dependence on fossil fuels; and defueling Red Hill.

Today, January 24, is the final filing deadline for bills. I will update you soon on my Legislative Package and important legislation to watch. I have included a calendar of important deadlines in this e-newsletter and would be happy to answer any questions or provide more information about the legislative timetable.


This year, which is the second of our legislative biennium, I continue to serve as the Vice Chair of the House Water & Land Committee, a member of the Finance committee, as well as a member the Corrections, Military & Veterans Committee. We will begin hearings next week. If you haven't already done so, please register to receive hearing notices and bill updates by clicking here.


We recently mailed out our beginning-of-session Legislative Newsletter to District 13 constituents and hope you enjoy this brief update. Making sure your voice is heard at the Capitol is my top priority and personal visits throughout the year. 

Me ke aloha,


Meeting with Congresswoman Jill Tokuda

On Monday, January 22nd, we were able to have a productive meeting with the Congresswoman discussing transportation, including the airlines, the ferry, and air traffic control at Lāna'i Airport.

Constituent Corner

A few weeks ago, we received a call from Molokai Drugs with a concerning issue: they were unable to fill the prescriptions for some of their customers due to an insurance error. More specifically, those affected were customers who were insured by UnitedHealthcare under the Med-Quest program. After reaching out to the Department of Health, Department of Human Services, and the Governor's office, we were able to determine that there was a glitch in the insurance provider's system which prevented subscribers from being approved to fill prescriptions. Much mahalo to those in these departments who were able to determine and resolve the issue--within a few hours, we were able to help Molokai Drugs resume distributing medication to those affected. And mahalo nui to Molokai Drugs for bringing this issue to our attention and for taking swift action to ensure prescription access was restored.

DOBOR Shares Info on Humpback Whale Approach Regulations

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) has recently alerted boaters that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is finalizing an interim final rule. The rule, entitled “Approach Regulations for Humpback Whales in Waters Surrounding the Islands of Hawaiʻi under the Marine Mammal Protection Act," apply to humpback whales within 200 nautical miles from the shores of all Hawaiʻi Islands. The final rule will take effect on January 22, 2024.

The regulations continue to prohibit:

• Operating an aircraft within 1,000 feet of a humpback whale

• Approaching within 100 yards of a humpback whale by any means

• Causing a vessel, person or other object to approach within 100 yards of a humpback whale

• Approaching a humpback whale by interception (i.e., placing an aircraft, vessel, person, or other object in the path of a humpback whale so that the whale approaches within a restricted distance)

• Disrupting the normal behavior or prior activity of a humpback whale by any act or omission

Exceptions to the regulations include:

• Federal, State, or local government vessels, personnel, and assets when necessary, in the course of performing official duties

• Vessel operations necessary to avoid an imminent and serious threat to a person, vessel, or the environment

• Vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver that, because of this restriction, are not able to comply with approach restrictions

• Activities authorized through a permit or authorization issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service that may result in the taking of humpback whales

To learn more, please read DOBOR's alert here

Variety of Agricultural Resources Available for Local Farmers

A variety of educational and financial resources from federal and state agencies are available for local farmers to access. They include:

  • USDA Farm to School Grant Program - The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Patrick Leahy Farm to School Grant Program is intended to increase access to locally grown foods in schools and to help connect students with their food sources. Applications are currently closed as of January 12, 2024, however, the grant page with more information and future openings can be found here.
  • Indigenous Economic Development Community of Practice - The US Economic Development Administration (EDA) will be holding a new Indigenous EDA Communities of Practice (CoP) forum for knowledge-sharing between indigenous communities. The first event took place virtually on January 17, 2024. To receive updates on CoP-related activities, please fill out the interest form here.
  • University of Hawaiʻi AgConnect Project - UH's AgConnect Project matches interns/apprentices with ag producers to garner experience and contribute to the operations of producers, in a mutually beneficial experience. To learn more about the project, please click here.
  • Office of Hawaiian Affairs Mahi ʻAi Agricultural Loan Program - The Office of Hawaiian Affairs Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund has introduced a loan program for Native Hawaiian farmers that features low-interest rates and interest-free deferment of loan payments for six months. To learn more about the loan program, please click here.

To learn more about these resources and other opportunities that support rural, agricultural, and cooperative businesses, please visit The Kohala Center's newsletter here.

Akamai Internship Provides 10-Week Work Experience in STEM

Heads up local students! The Akamai Internship Program is still accepting applications through February 5, 2024. Undergraduate students studying in Hawai'i or from Hawai'i are eligible to apply for this 10-week STEM work experience. 

To learn more, please visit the PISCES newsletter here.

HMSA Kaimana Awards and Scholarship Program 2024

HMSA is celebrating the 19th anniversary of our Kaimana Awards & Scholarship Program. The program honors high school seniors and their schools for excellence in academics, athletics, community service, healthy activities, and sportsmanship.

Awards for students and schools:

  • Kaimana Scholarships for students, which awards scholarships worth $5,000 each to 15 outstanding high school seniors.
  • Kaimana Awards for schools, which awards $1,500 each and a trophy to nine top schools throughout the state.

Eligible students must:

  • be graduating from a Hawaii high school in 2024.
  • have a 2.75 or higher GPA verified by a school transcript submitted by a school faculty member.
  • have participated in at least one HHSAA league-sanctioned sport during one or more of their high school years.  
  • have participated in community service projects in addition to school activities during their high school years.
  • write a personal statement and an essay about community and well-being.
  • submit two letters of recommendation from school faculty, mentors, or coaches.

Click on the links below to view:

  • FAQs with information on how students can apply and how schools can earn points.
  • School Poster & Student Poster to promote the program.
  • Applications will be accepted online only at Direct link to the student application. Completed applications and all required elements must be received through the online application by 4 p.m., Friday, February 23, 2024.
  • Visit for information.

Come Visit the Capitol!

The Capitol is completely reopened to the public. However, it will continue to offer hybrid options for hearings and testimony. Following is specific information that may be helpful:

Capitol Hours: Building hours for the State Capitol are 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Photo identification is required for entry into the building. All guests will receive an entry wristband upon completing the security checkpoint.

Paid Public Parking: The Capitol parking lot has reopened for paid public parking.

Rep. Mahina Poepoe

District 13 House of Representatives

415 S. Beretania Street Room 331

Honolulu, HI 96813


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