With Maui boys Shan Tsutsui and Joe Souki holding down important positions in the state (Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House, respectively), island residents have predicted a louder voice in the seemingly Oahu-centric Hawaii government. But now, according to a Jan. 28 Hawaii state Senate press release, Maui constituents can now weigh in this legislative session using the Senate’s new Neighbor Island Video Conferencing Pilot Project, which allows users to participate in the legislative process without having to travel to Oahu. That’s right, video chat isn’t just for Skype and ChatRoulette anymore.
The project is being piloted by the Senate Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Technology and the Arts, meaning that there are limitations on how many individuals can participate. After this legislative session, the project will be evaluated, expanded and edited as needed. State and county departments are also free to use this new technology for testimony from their home islands.
“This is an exciting new initiative for the Senate that will allow our constituents to participate in a meeting without actually having to fly to Oahu,” said Senator Roz Baker, who represents South and West Maui. “We hope many residents will take advantage of this opportunity.”
New state Senator Gil Keith-Agaran, who represents Wailuku, Waihe‘e and Kahului, agreed.
“Videoconferencing is a great tool that’ll close the distance between our constituents on Maui and what’s happening at the State Capitol,” he said in the Jan. 28 Senate press release. “It’ll certainly connect them with issues they’re interested in.”
Specific instructions and information about how the videoconferencing system will work have not been released and will be given in hearing notices for the pilot project. Reservations for providing video-conference testimony will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and participants will still have to provide written testimony.
Those interested should visit capitol.hawaii.gov/videoconf.aspx for more information and application forms.