Hawaii lawmakers want to create two new divisions in the state Attorney General’s Office that would be responsible for investigating fraud and political corruption as well as sex trafficking.

The Senate Government Operations Committee voted unanimously Friday to formally introduce Senate Bill 2930, which would set aside $834,000 for the new units. It also would create nine new positions in the special investigations division, which would be reponsible for weeding out corruption in the state.

The bill also sets aside $754,000 and would allocate another nine positions for the new sex trafficking unit.

The announcement of the measure comes days after federal prosecutors charged two former state lawmakers with wire fraud for taking part in a bribery scheme to influence policy over cesspools and wastewater.

Capitol building.
Hawaii lawmakers want to beef up a crime fighting unit focusing on fraud and political corruption. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

“This measure also reinforces our commitment to ensure that the public’s trust in government is not undermined by those who abuse their positions of power,” Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, the Senate Government Operations Committee chairwoman, said in a press release.

On Thursday, House Speaker Scott Saiki said the House would cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation. Both he and Senate President Ron Kouchi condemned the actions of the two former lawmakers who allegedly took part in the bribery scheme.

In the Senate press release issued Friday, Kouchi also said he is working with Saiki and Gov. David Ige’s administration on plans to reopen the State Capitol to the public. He provided no timeline for when that might happen.

The building and legislative hearings have been closed to the general public for in-person visits since March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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