The 2018 legislative session officially kicks off Wednesday.

That means lawmakers will begin reviewing thousands of measures and soliciting public input on bills.

Engaging in the political process might seem intimidating or overwhelming, so here are some tips to keep you on track this session.

Lei bedecked bronze hand of Queen Liliuokalani on the makai side of the Hawaii State Capitol building.

Whether you can make it to the Capitol or not, you can make your opinion known on pending legislation.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

1. Know Your Lawmakers

If you don’t already know who your elected representatives in the House and Senate are, type your street name into this box at the upper right corner of the Capitol website: capitol.hawaii.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a list of names and contact information for big players in the House and Senate:

Position Name Phone Number Email
 Senate President Ronald Kouchi 808-586-6030 senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov
Senate Majority Leader Kalani English 808-587-7225 senenglish@capitol.hawaii.gov
Senate Ways and Means (Budget) Committee Chair Donovan Dela Cruz 808-586-6090 sendelacruz@capitol.hawaii.gov
House Speaker Scott Saiki 808-586-6100 repsaiki@Capitol.hawaii.gov
House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti 808-586-9425 repbelatti@Capitol.hawaii.gov
House Minority Leader Andria Tupola 808-586-8465 reptupola@Capitol.hawaii.gov
House Finance (Budget) Committee Chair Sylvia Luke 808-586-6200 repluke@Capitol.hawaii.gov

For a list of all lawmakers’ contact information, click here.

2. Find Bills

If you’re interested in a specific issue, search for bills by keyword (such as “education”) or bill number (such as “HB1 for House Bill 1”) in the upper left corner of the Capitol’s homepage.

To see all bills introduced by a particular lawmaker, go to their homepage by clicking a name on this list.

Once you click on a bill, you can see the full text, testimony on the bill, its introducers, committee votes on the bill and more.

3. Follow Hearings

A list of all upcoming hearings can be found here. These public meetings offer a chance for the public to give testimony on a bill and hear what lawmakers have to say on the issue.

Olelo broadcasts certain hearings online and on TV. Videos are also available in the Olelo archives, but it can take weeks for files to be uploaded.

The Hawaii State Public Access Network, an on-demand video service, is available on Channel 50 for Spectrum customers.

4. Testify

Each tesifier was given 2 minutes to testify during WAM committee hearing meeting on rail at the Capitol auditorium. Once the two minutes were up, an alarm sounded with a person holding a sign for 'stop'. Over 60-people testified followed by questions.

If you exceed your allotted testimony time limit, you might see a sign like this.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your opinion does matter.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ll have been looking through testimony on a bill and it highlights a question that I might not have picked up because I don’t know enough about it,” said Sen. Laura Thielen at a Civil Beat event last week. “So please keep your testimony coming in. Don’t get cynical, it is very helpful.”

To submit written testimony online, create an account on the Capitol site and follow these instructions — whether you plan to speak at a hearing or not. If you don’t know what to say, here’s a template. Be sure to send it in 24 hours before the hearing.

If you’re testifying before the committee, first state your name and group affiliation, if any. Committee chairs tend to limit testimony to a few minutes, and even less time may be allowed in crowded hearings.

For neighbor island constituents wishing to testify online, it’s not quite so easy. The Senate has a videoconferencing program, but it’s only available for select hearings in a certain room. The program isn’t utilized much, a Senate spokeswoman said, but more information can be found here.

5. Understanding Jargon

Lawmakers don’t always speak in plain English. Check out this glossary to understand what’s actually going on.

Acronyms are explained here.

legislature 4000 testifiers Kaniela Ing chair. 11 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Legislative session can be hard on a lot of folks — even staffers.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

6. Mark Your Calendars

Don’t lose track of important dates. Keep checking this calendar to keep tabs on what’s next.

Jan. 24, for example, is the last day that new bills can be introduced. The first “decking” date, March 2, is the final day that bills can be submitted for a floor vote.

7. Still Confused?

The Capitol’s Public Access Room is a great resource whether you’re charging your laptop or writing testimony.

If you’re looking to learn more about a particular bill, call the office of a lawmaker who introduced it. For more on committee decisions or amendments, call the chair’s office.

Click here for more information on all committees.

To find the Public Access Room, look for the potted plants and colorful fliers on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

Courtney Teague/Civil Beat

8. Be Alerted

To set up email alerts, create an account on the Capitol site. Log in and you’ll see this menu:

Click “hearing notification” to track committees and be notified of important dates. To track changes in certain bills, click “measure tracking” and type in the bill number.

If you’re into social media, follow Civil Beat on Twitter and Facebook. To make sure you see more of our posts, follow this guide to add us to your “See First” Facebook list.

On Twitter, you can track the hashtags #HILeg, #HIgov and #HInews for more information.

For all of Civil Beat’s coverage on the 2018 Legislative session, click here.

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