Friday, October 16, 2015

Finance Committee Visits Molokai

Members of the House Finance Committee, chaired by Representative Sylvia Luke, yesterday toured various sites on the island of Molokai to view first hand several projects and programs supported by the Legislature. The site visits provided committee members first hand insight into the status of ongoing projects and on other specific needs of the district.

Molokai Representative Lynn DeCoite (Molokai, East Maui, Lanai) serves as a member of the House Committee on Finance.

The committee conducted a wide range activities on the island including site visits to Kaunakakai Elementary School, Kaunakakai Library, the Molokai Dialysis Facility and Molokai Community Health Center, and areas impacted by invasive mangroves.

The committee also held a discussion with members of the Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance at the Lanikeha Community Center to learn about some of the issues and matters important to the district. The Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance received $1.75 million in 2014 for improvements and renovations to the Lanikeha Center and its certified kitchen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lawmakers Listen Community Meeting Draws Large Attendance in Haiku

Representative Lynn DeCoite (East Maui, Molokai, Lanai) and leaders from the Hawaii State House of Representatives held a Lawmakers Listen session at the Haiku Community Center last night where they heard a wide range of concerns from residents in the area.

Members of the community were invited to share their questions and concerns directly with Rep. DeCoite, Speaker of the House Joseph M. Souki, legislative leaders and Maui Representatives Yamashita, McKelvey, Ing and Woodson.

'Lawmakers Listen' is an ongoing series of community town halls across the state with district Representatives, members of the House Leadership, and Committee Chairpersons. The purpose of the meetings is for legislators to listen to the concerns of area residents and to discuss solutions.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Contest Asks Students to Be Conductors of Change in Hawaii's Renewable Energy Future

Lawmakers are calling on students to amp up their brain power and share bright ideas to make Hawaii a renewable energy leader in the second annual Hawaii: Next 50 Contest. All Hawaii students in grades 4 -12 are invited to create an essay, poster or video submission that answers the question, "Over the next 50 years, what can I do to help Hawaii reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal?"

"Last year we received more than 450 entries from keiki from across the state were amazed to see the innovative range of their ideas," said Representative Mark Nakashima, who spearheaded the revival of the Hawaii: Next 50 Contest. "This year we wanted to take that same enthusiasm and focus it on one of our state's most pressing issues: the necessity of renewable energy to end our dependency on oil."

The Hawaii: Next 50 Contest is inspired by former Governor George Ariyoshi's book, Hawaii: The Past Fifty Years, The Next Fifty Years, which provided a retrospective look into our islands' history as a state and prompts the next generation to think about what social, cultural, and economic roads we can take to keep Hawaii moving forward into the next century.

"It's imperative that young people know they don't have to wait to graduate or become an adult to join the conversation in shaping our state," said Ariyoshi. "The book was my vision of a progressive Hawaii and it's exciting to see what concepts the up-and-coming generation develops if we just ask."

Winners will be honored during a floor presentation at the Hawaii State Capitol, attend a luncheon with legislators, receive a monetary prize, and have their project published online.

The contest is a collaboration of the Hawaii State House of Representatives, Hawaii Future Caucus, and aio Foundation. More information can be found on the contest website at and questions can be directed to

Hawaii: Next 50 Contest

WHO: Students enrolled in grades 4 – 12 are eligible to enter.

WHAT: Students are asked to read Hawaii: The Past Fifty Years, The Next Fifty Years and respond to the question "Over the next 50 years, what can I do to help Hawaii reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal?"

Submissions will be accepted in two categories: essay and visual arts (poster or video).

Free copies of Hawaii: The Past Fifty Years, The Next Fifty Years are available by request at

WHEN: All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on January 31, 2016. Winners to be announced in March 2016.

WHY: To challenge the up-and-coming generation to become stakeholders in shaping our future. Winners will be honored during a floor presentation at the Hawaii State Capitol, attend a luncheon with legislators, receive a monetary prize, and have their project published online.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rep. Chris Lee Meets with President Obama on Nation's Economic Agenda

Rep. Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimanalo) was among 50 Democratic state lawmakers from around the country to meet with President Barack Obama today at the White House. The President urged the lawmakers to adopt his domestic economic agenda at the state level because he doesn’t expect Congress to take much action for the remainder of his presidency.

The discussion focused on the need by the states to tackle the issues of raising the minimum wage, ensuring paid sick leave for workers, family leave, pay equity and enhancing college affordability.

After the meeting with the President, Rep. Lee joined seven other state lawmakers including Assemblyman Michael Blake of New York and Rep. Pricey Harrison of North Carolina in a press conference to talk about the meeting and the issues discussed.

During the media availability Rep. Lee said, "Issues like paid family leave and medical leave aren't red or blue issues. They will benefit everyone and are overwhelmingly supported by people around the country, but Congress has been unable to take action.

Families in our community are hurting. I have friends just starting families who are being forced to choose between caring for their newborns or keeping their jobs. That isn't right. The United States is the last developed nation in the world without meaningful paid family leave. If Congress won't act to fix that, then it's up to us at the state level,” Lee said.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lawmakers Call for Exploration of Publicly Owned Utilities for Hawaii

Today, more than forty state and county leaders representing all islands -- including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- joined together to commit to putting the best interests of the public first and called for moving forward to examine the potential of public utilities owned by the people.

“Public utilities don’t need higher rates to make profits for shareholders, and as a result they tend to have significantly lower rates than for-profit utilities across the country. We have an obligation to explore this option, especially if it can save residents a lot more money in the long run.” said Rep. Chris Lee (D-Kailua, Waimanalo) and Chairman of Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

“As Republicans and Democrats we have differences. But, we can all agree that the skyrocketing cost of electricity is detrimental to local families. Until NextERA provides a framework for customer savings, it would be irresponsible not to explore options like co-ops and other alternatives,” said Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto-Chang (R-Mililani, Mililani-Mauka).

“As more and more people seek ways to become energy self-sufficient, we need to rethink our traditional electrical power distribution. As the future heads towards decentralized systems, now is the time for us to explore public ownership as an option that could best serve the needs of Oahu residents,” commented Oahu City Council Chair Ernie Martin.

In addition to state legislators from every island, key county officials seeking to examine the potential of locally-owned public utilities such as co-ops include Oahu City Council Chair Ernie Martin, Big Island County Council Chair Dru Kanuha, Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo, Maui County Councilmember Don Guzman, Chair of the Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture, & Recreation Committee, Big Island County Councilmember Margaret Willie, Chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability, Big Island County Council, Big Island Councilmember Karen Eoff, Chair of the Committee on Finance, and many others.


Legislators in Support
As of 9/3/15

Oahu Representative Chris Lee, Chair, Energy and Environmental Protection Committee
Oahu Representative Della Au Belatti
Oahu Representative and Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto-Chang
Oahu Representative Matt LoPresti
Oahu Representative Cynthia Thielen
Oahu Representative Tom Brower
Oahu Representative Takashi Ohno
Oahu Representative Lauren Matsumoto
Oahu Representative Bert Kobayashi
Oahu Representative Feki Pouha
Oahu Representative Jarrett Keohokalole
Big Island Representative Nicole Lowen
Big Island Representative Cindy Evans
Big Island Representative Mark Nakashima
Big Island Representative Richard Creagan
Maui Representative Kaniela Ing
Maui Representative Lynn DeCoite
Kauai Representative Dee Morikawa
Maui Representative Justin Woodson
Oahu Senator Glenn Wakai
Oahu Senator Gil Riviere
Oahu Senator Laura Thielen
Oahu Senator Mike Gabbard
Oahu Senator Maile Shimabukuro
Big Island Senator Gil Kahele
Big Island Senator Josh Green
Big Island Senator Russell Ruderman
Oahu Council Chair Ernie Martin
Oahu Councilmember Ikaika Anderson
Oahu Councilmember Kym Pine
Oahu Councilmember Trevor Ozawa
Maui Councilmember Don Guzman, Energy Chair
Big Island Council Chair Dru Kanuha
Big Island Councilmember Margaret Willie, Energy Chair
Big Island Councilmember Karen Eoff
Big Island Councilmember Greggor Illagan
Big Island Councilmember Maile David
Kauai Council Chair Mel Rapozo
Kauai Councilmember Gary Hooser
Kauai Councilmember Ross Kagawa
Kauai Councilmember Mason Chock

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rep. Clift Tsuji Recovering After Successful Procedure for Sebaceous Carcinoma

State Representative Clift Tsuji (Keaukaha, Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea) underwent successful Mohs micrographic surgery this month for skin cancer. The specialized procedure’s published cure rates range up to 99% for previously untreated cancers, and was performed on an outpatient basis at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu in August.

“One becomes more aware of the lack of specialized surgeons on the Big Island when such a delicate procedure is necessary,” said Rep. Tsuji. “I truly believe we have amongst the best of health care providers and facilities. Unfortunately, in such procedures as mine, the surgery must be performed by a surgeon in Honolulu.”

Tsuji added, “I am aware that keeping healthy is very important. But also as a public official, I’m committed to serve our community under various conditions. I will continuously strive to do both.”

The prognosis for the Big Island lawmaker is favorable and he is resuming full activity and work schedule.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ewa Lawmaker Calls on Businesses to Help Cool Schools

Rep. LoPresti signs letters to local businesses seeking donations
State Representative Matthew LoPresti (District 41 - Ewa, Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe) is starting a community program to tackle the problem of high temperatures in our classrooms. The program, Cool Schools 4 Ewa, encourages local businesses to donate large fans or high capacity portable air conditioning units to schools in the Ewa area.

The ‘Cool Schools 4 Ewa’ program is off to a strong start with an initial donation of 54 large fans, with six provided personally by Representative LoPresti and another 48 from an anonymous contributor. The cooling fans were purchased with a discount provided by City Mill.

In addition to the program, Lowe’s Home Improvement has already donated 35 fans directly to Campbell High School.

Currently, many of the state’s public school classrooms are not equipped with air conditioning or cooling equipment. Temperatures in Honolulu have risen considerably which has resulted in high temperatures in our classrooms. In the Ewa district—one of the hottest regions on Oahu—classroom air temperatures have reached in excess of 100 degrees. Four of the top five schools on the Department of Education air conditioning priority list are in Ewa Beach.

Schools assisted by the program include Ewa Elementary, Ewa Beach Elementary, Holomua Elementary, Kaimiloa Elementary, Ilima Intermediate, and Campbell High School.

“Countless concerns have been expressed by the community regarding the temperature of our classrooms,” said LoPresti. “This is a significant problem that needs to be addressed, and I believe this program will engage our local businesses to step up and support the education of our children. With their help, we can create a comfortable and positive learning environment for our keiki.”

“As an educator and a father of two young children, this issue is near and dear to me. I gladly wanted to donate several units on my own and I hope to see more donations follow,” added Representative LoPresti. “I also want to thank and truly express my gratitude to those who have already contributed to this worthy and much needed cause.”

Since taking office, LoPresti, a member of the House Education Committee, has worked to secure $8 million total in funds for air conditioning in Ewa Schools including Ilima Intermediate School, Ewa Beach Elementary School and Ewa Elementary School. He also successfully petitioned Governor Ige to release $2.3 million in funds for air conditioning upgrades at James Campbell High School.

Businesses or individuals interested in donating can contact the Office of Representative LoPresti at 586-6080 for more information.

LoPresti Praises DOE Plan for Air Conditioned Portables at Campbell High School

State Representative Matthew LoPresti (District 41 - Ewa, Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe) was pleased to learn today that James Campbell High School will receive eight portables with built in air conditioning amounting to 15 classrooms for their campus to address heat and capacity issues.

“I am pleased that these fully air-conditioned portable classrooms will be coming to Campbell High School towards the end of this year. I have heard constant concerns regarding overcrowding and classroom temperatures of over 100 degrees and this is becoming a serious health risk for students and teachers. This is a big step, but if we don’t do even more soon, we will continue to put the health of students and teachers at risk,” said LoPresti.

Since taking office this year, over the past eight months, LoPresti, a member of the House Education Committee, worked tirelessly to secure $8 million total in funds for air conditioning in Ewa Schools including Ilima Intermediate School, Ewa Beach Elementary School and Ewa Elementary School. He petitioned Governor Ige to release, and he has released, $2.3 million in funds for air conditioning upgrades for James Campbell High School. LoPresti also pushed for $4 million for James Campbell High School to address the capacity crisis there, to design more classroom space, and this money was included in the last budget.

“These 15 new classrooms killed two birds with one stone,” said LoPresti.

The portable classroom structures were originally used during the emergency lava evacuation for Keonepoko Elementary School. When it became clear these portables would not be needed, Representative LoPresti requested (May 6, 2015) that they be sent to James Campbell High School.

“I am pleased at the quick turnaround from my request in May to getting a commitment for these 15 air conditioned classrooms just 3 months after,” said LoPresti

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hawaii's Public Access Room Attracts International Attention

As the legislature’s Public Access Room (PAR) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, the Swiss Broadcasting Company (SBC) is in Honolulu to find out more about Hawaii’s Public Access program, the only one of its kind in the United States. The SBC has been focused on the concept of ‘Direct Democracy’ and has been highlighting organizations across the world that demonstrate good practices in connecting legislation with the public.

The Public Access Room is a free public service that provides members of the public with a full range of information resources, facilities, and services needed to aid their participation in the legislative process. The office offers regularly scheduled workshops and training in the State Capitol and on the neighbor islands to acquaint members of the public with the legislative process and to provide resources for effective communication with lawmakers.

For more information, go to or call 808-587-0478.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Maui Lawmaker Outlines Plan to Address Cane Burning

State Representative Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) responded to a lawsuit that the group “Stop Cane Burning” filed last Thursday against the state Department of Health (DOH) seeking an injunction to prevent cane burning by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S) on Maui.

“Stop Cane Burning’s lawsuit is a reminder to policy makers of what happens when we ignore an issue for too long. If we don’t craft solutions that work for everyone, the result is messy litigation that divides our community. The Legislature’s intermediary role is to craft solutions that unites people and prevents this from happening. If we can help HC&S find a more profitable crop and end cane burning, then it’s a win-win.”

Ing said that cane-burning is the number one issue in his district and has received over two thousand phone calls and emails regarding cane burning since assuming office in 2012. Ing claims that while HC&S’s previous pilots toward alternative crops and harvesting methods were unsuccessful, the State could help make these efforts more prolific.

“Sugarcane and pineapple are beautiful, but so are sunflower and hemp fields, which require no burning. Not many people would be opposed to this sort of transition if it made economic sense. Already, pineapple is gone, and sugarcane is facing yearly losses of over $11 million. So we must act now. I have set out a plan to work with HC&S, its employee union (ILWU), and the broader community to ameliorate tensions and lead us to solutions that we can all support.”

Ing outlined a three-point plan:

1. First, focus on improving meteorological data collection to better predict weather changes and prevent events like the May 27 burn, when smoke stifled our schools and other public places.

Protecting public health should be our foremost focus. The legislature should support and fund DOH’s efforts to ramp up its data collection and reporting. The legislature could further facilitate HC&S’s already expressed cooperation with DOH in tightening up its no-burn criteria.

2. Secondly, identify plots suitable for mechanical, no-burn harvesting and the associated costs. Create a sensible public-interest-driven economic incentive for conversion.

HC&S already owns mechanical harvesters that it has used in a 10,000 acre pilot project years ago, but insufficient yield precluded permanent conversion. The legislature should expand the 5-year tax credit already provided to Important Agricultural Land designated areas to include the landscaping and infrastructure costs of converting plots to mechanical, no-burn, and environmentally-friendly harvesting practices.

3. Lastly, incentivize HC&S to convert or lease out land for biofuel or food crop. Make alternative crops and harvesting methods make economic sense.

HC&S has received millions of dollars in grants to identify more profitable alternative crops, all to no avail. Some have come close, but require a small boost to compete with federal sugar subsidies. The legislature should further expand Important Agricultural Land tax credits to reduce costs for farmers looking to lease HC&S sugarcane land to grow food or energy crops like kalo, sunflower, or hemp. As long as the result is more profitable, it would make sense for HC&S to act immediately to help diversify our agriculture industry and create a more independent and sustainable future for Hawaii.

“The children of HC&S employees breathe the same air as everyone else, and no one wants to see a neighbor lose their job. It’s time for leaders to craft solutions that unite, not divide, our community like mechanical harvesting and alternative crops. We all want to keep Maui green, so let’s move forward together.”

Ing has been meeting with all stakeholders involved to draft a bill package that will be ready for introduction in the 2016 legislative session. He is also exploring immediate solutions that can be done administratively or at the County level.

New Law Helps Children Born with Facial Abnormalities

The measure signed into law today by Governor Ige dramatically impacts the lives of several dozen Hawaii families that include children born with cleft palates or other facial abnormalities.

In Hawaii, approximately one in every 500 babies is born with what is called an “orofacial anomaly.” For example, between 2007 and 2012, 61 babies were born with a cleft lip or palate and 83 were born with other craniofacial defects at the Kapiolani Medical Center.

Rep. Della Au Belatti, House Health Committee Chair, said it’s crucial to correct these defects, not just for visual appearance, but because this condition affects basic functions such as eating, chewing, speech and breathing. The complicated treatment to correct these kinds of birth defects usually requires multiple surgeries ranging from about $5,700 to $20,000 or more.

House Bill 174, introduced by Rep. Gregg Takayama (D-Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades), requires health insurers to cover such orthodontic treatment, as do 16 other states.

“For families whose children have a cleft lip and palate, the range of medical, dental and other services can exceed $100,000 from birth until late adolescence,” testified Eileen Matsumoto, a registered nurse for more than 35 years.

The cost of reconstructive surgery is covered by medical insurance but not the full cost of the medically necessary orthodontic procedures required to prepare for these surgeries, which usually amount to more than $10,000 over a child’s lifetime.

These treatment costs are already fully covered by Med-QUEST for poor families but not by private health insurers for Hawaii’s working families.

The State Legislative Auditor reports the cost to all policyholders would be minimal – probably increasing premiums by two cents to four cents per member per month, based on the experiences of California and Massachusetts.

The measure has been called “Anya’s Law” after one of its active supporters, 6-year-old Anya Maga, who testified for the measure along with her parents, who are residents of East Honolulu.

$29 Million in CIP Funding Slated for Windward Oahu

With the close of the 2015 legislative session, Windward Oahu legislators secured $29.635 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for various projects in their districts.  Significant infrastructure funding was provided for public school renovations, local community organizations, and substantial highway improvements.

Notable CIP funding highlights for Windward Oahu include:

  • $186,000 for renovations and facility improvements at the Kahaluu Multi-Purpose Community Center (Grant-in-Aid)
  • $4.117 million for cafeteria expansion at Castle High School
  • $240,000 to rewire the fire alarm system at Kalaheo High School
  • $350,000 for Building C repair and maintenance at King Intermediate School
  • $3.35 million for STEM Building renovations at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School
  • $500,000 for the construction of a new two story outpatient care facility at the Waimanalo Health Center (Grant-in-Aid)
  • $1.5 million to the Pacific American Foundation Hawaii, Inc. for the construction of a new facility for education, research and employment programs (Grant-in-Aid)
  • A total of $2.7 million for the Kawainui Environmental Restoration Project
  • $1.5 million for the design of a shared use pathway at Hamakua Marsh
  • $192,000 for the installation of a waste water treatment system at Heeia Pier
  • $5.25 million total for highway widening and other improvements along Kahekili Highway from Likelike Highway to Kamehameha Highway
  • $4.15 million for the widening of Keaahala Road from Kahekili Highway to Pookela Street
  • $1.5 million for improvements along Kalanianaole Highway from Olomana Golf Course to Waimanalo Beach Park. Improvements include the design of turning lanes, sidewalks, curb ramps, bike paths, upgrading traffic signals, utility relocation, and other miscellaneous improvements
  • $4.1 million for the widening of Castle Hills access road from Keaahala Road to Kupohu Street

For more information, please contact:
Representative Jarrett Keohokalole (Kaneohe, Heeia, Ahuimanu, Kahaluu, Haiku Valley, Mokuoloe)

Representative Ken Ito (Kaneohe, Maunawili, Olomana)

Representative Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimanalo)

Over $91 Million in CIP Funding Slated for West Oahu

With the close of the 2015 legislative session, West Oahu legislators secured over $91 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for various projects in their districts.  Significant infrastructure funding was provided for the construction of a new building at UH – West Oahu, with additional support for air conditioning and head abatement improvements for the area’s public schools.

Notable CIP funding highlights for West Oahu include:
  • $24 million for the construction of the University of Hawaii – West Oahu Allied Health and Administration Building
  • $5 million for air conditioning and heat abatement improvements at Ilima Intermediate and Kaimiloa Elementary School
  • $2 million for air conditioning and electrical upgrades at Ewa Beach Elementary School
  • $780,000 for air conditioning and electrical upgrades for Buildings C & D at Ewa Elementary School
  • $500,000 for the construction of the Kapolei Community Development Corporation Center multi-purpose facility
  • $750,000 for electrical upgrades at August Ahrens Elementary School
  • $2.373 million for Phase 1B of the administrative building construction at Honowai Elementary School
  • $1.45 million for the construction of a new covered walkway from the cafeteria to Building D at Kaleiopuu Elementary School
  • $1.9 million for the design and construction of additional parking, new bus lanes, and drop off zones at Kapolei Middle School
  • $1.045 million for ADA accessibility improvements at Makakilo Elementary School
  • $750,000 for the construction of an administration building at Waianae Elementary School
  • $2 million for the renovation, expansion, and/or the connection of two existing Searider Productions media buildings (SP and T) at Waianae High School
  • $2.5 million campus wide electrical upgrades and site improvements at Waipahu Elementary School
  • $350,000 for upgrades to the culinary academy at Waipahu High School
  • $50,000 for technology equipment upgrades at the Filipino Community Center (Grant-in-Aid)
  • $250,000 for flood control and drainage improvements to Eku Stream
  • $2.5 million to replace piers at the Waianae Small Boat Harbor
  • $54 million total for the construction of a new fuel pier facility and other improvements at Kalaeloa Barbers Point Harbor
  • $7 million total for H-1 improvements along the Makakilo to Palailai interchange and to construction a new Kapolei interchange
  • $400,000 for Farrington Highway improvements between Honokai Hale and Hakimo Road
For more information, please contact:
Representative Henry Aquino (Waipahu)

Representative Ty Cullen (Royal Kunia, Village Park, Waipahu, Makakilo, West Loch)

Representative Matthew LoPresti (Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe, West Loch)

Representative Sharon Har (Kapolei, Makakilo)

Representative Jo Jordan (Waianae, Makaha, Makua, Maili)