Who is Joy San Buenaventura?

Joy San Buenaventura

By: D. Kennedy

Joy San Buenaventura is a Democratic politician serving as a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives from the 2nd district. She ran in the general election November 3, 2020 to represent District 2 and beat candidate Ron G. Ka-ipo in a landslide of 14,225 votes to 4,694. She lives with her husband Sheldon and their two pets in Hawaiian Paradise Park. Joy currently serves as Majority Whip, Chair of the House Human Services and Homelessness Committee, and Vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

San Buenaventura earned her B.S mathematics at the University of Nevada and her J.D from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She worked as a per diem District Court judge, an attorney, and as a business law professor at the University of Hawaii in Hilo

San Buenaventura was first appointed to the Hawaii House of Representatives in the 2014 Democratic Primary, where she ran against representative Raye Hanohano, who had held the District 4 Democratic nomination seat since 2006. She won the primary carrying 43.4% of the vote and assumed office in January 2015. She went on to be elected for three more terms in the House seat before announcing in 2020 that she would be running for a District 2 seat in the Hawaii Senate. 

San Buenaventura helped sponsor the House Bill 1846 Energy that mandates all state facilities implement cost-effective energy efficiency measures by January 2024. This included all new state building construction designs to maximize energy and water efficiency, as well as energy. It also directed the Hawaii State Energy Office to make utility bill and energy usage data for state-owned buildings publicly available. The bill was vetoed due to an “unnecessary risk of litigation” and the state already being in the process of implementing energy efficiency changes that the bill addresses. 

“While the Hawaii State Energy Office is a staunch supporter of energy efficiency as a means of achieving Hawaii’s clean energy goals, the language in HB1846 unfortunately could be challenged in court, potentially costing the state further time and money and detracting from achieving our clean energy goals,” said Scott Glenn, chief energy officer of the State Energy Office. 

Besides sponsoring vague House Bills, Buenaventura has also had an ethics complaint filed against her by a group of Puna residents. They wrote a letter and filed a claim that Buenaventura allegedly supported a $100,000 grant for a nonprofit that lacks its necessary permits. The nonprofit, Kalani Oceanside Retreat, converts 11 cesspools into 12 septic systems. They have been operating without building permits since before the grant. San Buenaventura knew this but called the letter nothing but “negative campaigning,” since the complaint was filed in 2020 and the grant was approved in 2018. 

“I think it’s kind of a slap in the face to taxpayers. I don’t think the state should be rewarding people for things done with impropriety,” said John DuBois, the only complainant named in the letter.

DuBois hopes the letter will prevent the state from sending taxpayer dollars to businesses that are not operating in compliance. It’s not the first time a Democratic politician has shuffled in someone else’s pockets.