Published in The Maui News, February 7, 2016
By MIKE VICTORINO, for The Maui News
Much attention is currently being paid to the state Legislature, now in the midst of its annual legislative session, which began on Jan. 20 and ends May 5.
But it’s important to remember the four county councils in Hawaii are always in session. Council members are the policymakers closest to the people and are always accessible, whether in Council Chambers, online or even at the local supermarket.
As president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties, I’m working to make council members even more responsive to constituents. In addition, I want to enhance HSAC’s capabilities to promote best practices in local government and to ensure counties’ concerns are heard at the state Capitol and in Washington.
The HSAC executive committee, composed of representatives from the Kauai County Council, the Honolulu City Council, the Maui County Council and the Hawaii County Council, holds its next monthly meeting on Friday at 10 a.m. at Honolulu Hale.
HSAC meetings are open to the public and agendas are posted on HSAC’s new website at hicounties.com. The website also provides a way for council members and members of the public to track the progress of the HSAC legislative package, previously outlined in this space on Jan. 24 (“County councils statewide unite to lobby state Legislature”).
At Friday’s meeting, the HSAC executive committee will get an update on the counties’ lobbying efforts at the Legislature and receive reports on current council business from across the state. Council members from all counties have much to learn from each other, as we face many of the same policy issues.
For instance, the Kauai County Council is studying the county manager form of governance, just like the Maui County Council. Staff and council members from the two bodies are sharing research results.
In addition, we can learn from the Honolulu City Council’s work on homelessness and the Hawaii County Council’s efforts to address dengue fever. Through HSAC, we can get insight on what’s gone right – and what hasn’t – on an array of county policy decisions.
In addition, HSAC offers opportunities for council members and staff to receive training and education via conferences organized by the National Association of Counties. NACo’s Legislative Conference is scheduled for Feb. 20-24 in the nation’s capital, with speakers including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Obama administration Cabinet officials.
The conference will also include workshops and discussions on substance abuse, unfunded federal mandates, emergency management, social media and cybersecurity. More important, this legislative conference unites the nation’s counties in one voice to lobby federal officials.
I’m also organizing meetings with the Hawaii delegation on Capitol Hill during the NACo conference. Later, I will look forward to presiding over HSAC’s annual conference, hosted by Hawaii County, scheduled for June 23-24.
* Mike Victorino is president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties, presiding officer pro tempore of the Maui County Council and chair of the council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. He holds the council seat for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.