Emotional testimony in support of a bill requiring Hawaiian language interpreters to be available in court struck a chord with state lawmakers Tuesday.
Senate Bill 2687 passed its first hearing and will advance.
Dozens, including the state judiciary support the measure. Many opted to testify in the Hawaiian language.
University of Hawaii Hilo Hawaiian Language professor Kaliko Beamer-Trapp was on hand to translate.

The newly introduced measure would require the state judiciary provide an interpreter to anyone wanting to express themselves in Hawaiian. But the judiciary says it needs funding so it can hire a permanent Hawaiian language translator.  

"We have done translation services, interpretation services by telephone when we can't get someone to court. So from that standpoint, having a dedicated staff person with that background would be helpful," said Rod Maile, Hawaii State Judiciary.

The bill was authored after a controversial court order triggered protests.  
Last week, Kaleikoa Ka'eo was issued a bench warrant after choosing to speak Hawaiian.

Lawmakers praise demonstrators who rose up and demanded to be heard.

"Many people out there think their voice doesn't count. Their vote doesn't count. It does and this is a demonstration of that," said Senator Maile Shimabukuro.

The key now is finding enough interpreters and the money to pay them.

Renowned Hawaiian language professor Puakea Nogelmeier pleaded with lawmakers for their support for the Hawaiian language.

"They predicted it would go away and it didn't. There's your first success. There's 25 to 30,000 people that can 'olelo, who can speak at some level," Nogelmeier said.