Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 6 - Sine Die

The House passed the Superferry bill, SB1, SD1 today by a vote of 39 ayes, 11 noes, and 1 excused. The noes were Reps Berg, Carroll, Hanohano, Morita, Marcus Oshiro, Saiki, Shimabukuro, Sonson, Takamine, Takumi, and Tokioka. Here are some highlights:

Photo: House members give Blake Oshiro a round of applause

Speaker pro tem Blake Oshiro gaveled the House to order shortly after 12 noon. Anticipating many lengthy floor speeches, B. Oshiro reminded the members of House Rule 50.1 limiting floor debate to 5 minutes. Members may voluntarily yield their time to others, but he was not going to encourage or solicit them to do so. And then they were off...

Many members, both for and against the bill, reflected on the divisiveness in their communities and the need for the state to heal on this issue. Rep. Bob Herkes (Puna, Ka'u, South Kona) said that he has had three threats of recall if he voted for the bill. Rep. Roland Sagum (Waimea, Kauai) voted up on the bill on behalf of the overwhelming majority of residents in his district who favor the Superferry.

Rep. Ryan Yamane (Mililani, Waipahu) spoke in favor of Section 14 of the bill, which requires the State Auditor to conduct a performance audit. Section 14 says in part: The auditor shall conduct a performance audit on the state administration's actions in exempting certain harbor improvements to facilitate large capacity ferry vessels from the requirements of conducting an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under chapter 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes. The audit shall also include the state administration's actions in not considering potential secondary environmental impacts of the harbor improvements prior to granting the exemption from these requirements.
Rep. Sharon Har (Kapolei) voted for the bill but expressed concern that Section 16 does not adequately protect the state from future claims. The section releases and waives the Superferry from any claims that arise from the effective date of the Act, and the Superferry indemnifies the state from claims brought through any of their actions, employees or agents.

Rep. Kyle Yamashita (Upcountry Maui) voted for the bill. He said the majority of people in his district favor the Superferry, but to the person, they were concerned about the invasive species issue. They believe that invasive species are already coming to Maui through other means, so it's not just a Superferry issue. He suggested that individuals need to become more aware of how they could be carriers of invasive species, and to start self-policing their own actions, such as washing down their own cars, and inspecting their clothes and shoes prior to transport.

We've included excerpts from Rep. Hermina Morita's floor speech and Rep. Kirk Caldwell's floor speech in a separate post.

The vote was taken around 2:30 p.m. Given that it was Halloween, Rep. Caldwell rose to thank the Minority for leaving candy on the desks, but that now he wasn't feeling so he was leaning more to the right (joke). With that, Blake Oshiro returned the gavel to Speaker Say. Rep. Oshiro received a round of applause from the floor and compliments on running a smooth and time-efficient session.

Speaker Say pounded the gavel and adjourned the Special Session, Sine Die.
Photo: Returning the gavel to Speaker Say

Rep Caldwell's Floor Speech

A few closing observations for the record. Thank you to all members of the House, the public and the administration who participated in making this the best bill possible, that includes everyone, even the harshest critics. Not one of us is completely comfortable with being here. A special session should be reserved for unique situations – a last option. This is not the optimum way to do the public's business.

The title of the Honolulu Star Bulletin's editorial today is "Superferry legislation makes the best of a bad situation." I would agree. Through focused leadership, the House supported a carefully crafted measure that set a firm foundation and established the necessary basics for balanced action. The Senate made several amendments. All actions we can accept.

The bill allows the ferry to sail so long as it meets certain conditions and until a full EIS is completed and accepted. No more and no less. In our lengthy joint committee hearing Monday, we received a commitment from the Governor that the protocols and conditions she adds will be
more than the Superferry wants and less than the critics desire.

Our measure also calls for an audit to determine how and why the exemption for an environmental assessment was granted. The reason is simple. We need to know what went wrong before we try to fix it legislatively or we could do more harm than good. There is a big difference between a flaw in the law and a flaw in the administration of the law. We are expecting full cooperation from the administration in completing a comprehensive review so that we can prevent something like this from happening again.

On the Supreme court decision… it's important to look beyond the Superferry at how the court decision and the social experience will change the way we do business and the way we interact with each other. There are two big takeaways from the Hawaii state supreme court decision:

First, proposed projects covered by the law must include secondary impacts when conducting an EA or EIS.

Second, the court underscored that public participation in the review process of an EA/EIS benefits all parties and society as a whole.

Therefore, going forward, the government and the private sector, in laying out plans, need to work from those assumptions, rather than play chicken with the law or the court.

Community sentiment. For a relatively compressed period of time we have heard a lot from the community during this session. Whether you agree with him or not, Maui Council Chair Riki Hokama summed it up this way in Monday's House hearing:

"When are we saying enough is enough?" and "Who are we building for?"

Those words should resound in everyone's mind. In the future they must be asked and answered, before any concrete is laid, before the new technology is introduced and before the building goes up. Are we building for quality rather than volume? Are we creating self-contained communities where people can live, work and enjoy life without continually burning away hours having to travel elsewhere? Are we using the remarkable resources of these islands in respectful stewardship? For those who say those questions are too much to ask, wait until there is a project that comes along and impacts you to see how you feel if it is planned entirely behind closed doors.

Working within these assumptions and in a community that is demanding increased transparency, we must still strive for progress and excellence in this state and not slide into backwaterism. That is why I -- and I think most of us -- supported ferry legislation in this special session.

Thank you all again.

Rep. Morita's floor speech

Here are excerpts from Rep. Hermina Morita's floor speech, in opposition to the bill with a link to an opinion piece by Chief Justice Ronald J. Moon:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this measure. The constitution of the State of Hawaii grants this body the power to enact legislation that is not inconsistent with the constitutions of the United States and Hawaii. We generally make laws to protect the health, safety and welfare of Hawaii's people and its environment. We should not be making laws to correct political fixes gone bad which is what Senate Bill 1, Senate Draft 1 attempts to do. I want to emphasize, in this bill this body is not making a new policy or protecting the public interest. Rather, Senate Bill 1, Senate Draft 1 establishes a process to circumvent existing laws to facilitate a permitting process.

Furthermore, our State Constitution, Article XI, Section 9 states:

Each person has the right to a clean and healthful environment, as defined by laws relating to environmental quality, including control of pollution and conservation, protection and enhancement of natural resources. Any person may enforce this right against any party, public or private, through appropriate legal proceedings, subject to reasonable limitations and regulation as provided by law.

In Sierra Club v. Department of Transportation, Civil No. 05-1-0114(3) (Declaratory Judgment), October 9, 2007, Judge Joseph Cardoza found and concluded "that the balance of irreparable damage favors the issuance of a permanent injunction in this case as Plaintiffs have demonstrated the possibility of irreparable injury with respect to the environmental impacts of Hawaii Superferry operations on natural resources, protected species, increased introduction of invasive species and causing social and cultural impacts." Furthermore, the Court also found and concluded that "the public interest in implementing the environmental review process supports the granting of a permanent injunction in this case."

There is no dispute that the legislative intent of Chapter 343, specifically HRS 343-5(b) requires that the "acceptance of the requested final statement shall be a condition precedent to the implementation of the proposed action." And, simply put, Senate Bill 1, Senate Draft 1 clearly abrogates the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs in Sierra Club v. Department of Transportation.

There is no effort in this measure to "strike a balance between the issues of public interest and concerns for the environment" by allowing the Hawaii Superferry to operate. The public interest is served only when the rule of law is followed, not by changing the law to serve the interests of one company, especially after a judicial ruling and injunction against said company.

This body's own committee report states "Your Committees believe that State officials should have been more vigilant in the interests of protecting the environment while seeking to enhance the economy of the State and that more due diligence is required when making decisions that may have significant environmental impacts for future generations." Well, will someone please explain to me how you all can pass this measure and honestly say we are acting in the public's interest when the committee report clearly states otherwise and that the Administration was clearly derelict in its responsibilities to follow the law and protect the public's interest.

We can learn some important lessons from history. I mentioned several days ago on this floor that arrogance and speed led to the sinking of the Titanic. Much like the Titanic, in our quest to embrace new opportunities for economic development, we are acting solely on the information provided by the Hawaii Superferry without heeding red flags or performing due diligence to assess the acceptable amount of risk to the State and its resources in this endeavor.

But more importantly, we need to understand and respect the importance of judicial independence. I would like to submit to the journal an opinion piece by Chief Justice Moon dated July 24, 1999 which appeared in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin where the 1930's Massie alleged rape case and the subsequent murder of Joseph Kahahawai illustrated the need for an unfettered judiciary that would not bend to political pressure.

Finally, I think it is really appropriate that we are voting on this measure on Halloween. Senate Bill 1, Senate Draft 1 dressed in the facade of the toothless conditions is still one ugly bill that reeks the horrors of political favors gone awry and should be haunting this Legislature on how cheap we sold the credibility and respectability of this institution and our moral compass.

Adjournment Sine Die - Some Observations

Photo: Watching from the gallery are Superferry supporters and opponents.

The Special Session rather quietly came to a close this afternoon as the House voted 39-11 to pass SB1 SD1, a bill that would allow the Superferry to resume service while an environmental impact statement is conducted.

Although the end of the session was quiet, the floor debate was lively. Gov. Linda Lingle joined the scant crowd in the gallery for the opening of the floor session and sat through remarks from the first several speakers.

"We are one state, one Hawaii, not a divided Hawaii," said Rep. Joseph Souki, standing in support of the bill.

He continued, "The water is our highway, the air is our highway...why should we put barriers between the water and air?"

"[The legislature] shouldn't be making laws to correct political fixes gone bad," said Rep. Hermina Morita, who rose in opposition to the measure, describing it as "one ugly bill" that would haunt the legislature in the future.

"The public interest is served only when the rule of law is followed," she said.

Rep. Faye Hanohano also stood, as she did yesterday, to speak in Hawaiian about her opposition to the measure.

Many spoke in support, but with reservations. Rep. Angus McKelvey, described the bill as a "very imperfect measure," but added that he believed the public good that would come from its passage outweighed the negatives.

The debate continued for several hours with reps rising both in support and in opposition. Acting Speaker Blake Oshiro kept each speaker to his or her five minutes. He was applauded for his 6-day term as Speaker by all the members after taking his seat after the final vote. Rep. Calvin Say then reassumed the position of Speaker of the House.

In the end, after all the excitement and late hours over the last week, just a handful of die-hard legislature-watchers, several reporters and camera crews, a few legislative staff members (two in costume), some curious members of the public, and Superferry CEO John Garibaldi and ferry supporters watched from the gallery as the Special Session came to a close. The bill will now go before the Governor, who is expected to sign it into law.

Capitol Ghost Stories - The Walking Books

Happy Halloween from the House Blog Team!

The following story, submitted by Laura Figueira, is my favorite in the Capitol Ghost Stories series. There is something a little more chilling about a story when it happened to someone you know in current time. Laura is from Senator Robert Bunda's office and was his chief of staff when Bunda was Senate President. He once told me the mysterious story about Laura's bookshelf and how the volumes of the Hawaii Revised Statutes would be moved out every morning, even though they were pushed back every day. A few weeks ago, I asked Laura if it was true. She writes:
True story. When Senator Bunda became Senate President in 2000, we decided to utilize the basement storage room behind the outer office reception desk. It had the advantage of being accessible from the President's office, the Senate Chamber and the Clerk's office. There were several file cabinets along the back wall on the left side of the curved hallway leading to the Senate Clerk's office. I used the tops of the cabinets as a book shelf where I placed a row of the latest HRS books and Supplements. Several books simply refused to stay put along the wall. We would push them all in at night and find them out an inch or two again in the morning. One book would even "walk out" farther than the rest.
After a few episodes of this, I checked with the former occupant of the front office who told me she used the back office only during session. There had been no bookshelf back there previously, but other strange things had happened, the spookiest of which was her computer keyboard typing without being touched. Other people in the basement have reported hearing children's voices laughing or crying. Staff in the clerk's office claimed they had found things misplaced on some mornings such as certain items falling off the shelves at night.

Although totally unsubstantiated, some sources say there are sites close by that were used as mass graves following the 1848 measles epidemic, and the site closest to the Capitol was used for children who died from the disease. We could never find a logical cause for the walking books, but interestingly enough, the volume that would stand out every morning was #6, Title 19, dealing with Health.
Photo: Queen's Hospital, located near the site of the future state capitol, during the time period of the 1848 measles epidemic. Approximately 10,000 residents died in the outbreak.

Editor's Footnote: The office is now back to being a storage room, and the current occupant of the outer reception office, claims he hasn't seen or heard anything unusual...yet.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Former Rep. Harbin loses appeal

The HI Supreme Court blog today posted news on former Rep. Bev Harbin.

Students become "Leaders for a Day" on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Big Island

As part of the 2007 Hawaii "Leader for a Day" Program, 91 middle and high school students from across the state will get to see first-hand how elected officials address Hawaii's biggest issues. They'll shadow Gov. Lingle, Lt. Gov. Aiona, the Mayors of all four counties, Dept. of Education Superintendent Pat Hamamoto and members of the legislature.

This is the first year that at least one student will shadow each member of the House of Representatives and Senate during the legislative session.

Over 349 essays were received for the "Leader for a Day" Essay Contest. The winners were chosen based on their essays about issues of particular concern to their communities and how they would address those issues if they were in charge.

The winners will get certificates of recognition from the House and have been invited to a ceremony in the Governor’s Executive Chambers this week and a reception at Washington Place with the recipients of Hawaii’s Outstanding Advocates for Children and Youth.

"Leader for a Day" is an annual program sponsored by the House and Senate as part of Children and Youth Month (October).


Day 5 - Superferry Bill passes 2nd Reading

Day 5 has been a relatively quiet day on the House side, with much of the media attention gravitating toward the failed confirmation (9 ayes, 16 noes) of Randal Lee to the Intermediate Court of Appeals by the state Senate. During the House floor session this afternoon, members voted to pass SB1, SD1, the Superferry bill, by a voice vote on second reading. The following members stood to indicate their vote. Reps Morita, Hanohano, Carroll, Shimabukuro and Tokioka voted "noe", Reps McKelvey, Green, Berg, Belatti, Manahan, Har, Sonson , M. Oshiro, Ching, Yamane, Bertram, and Waters went WR - with reservations, and Reps Caldwell, Pine, and Ward voted in favor of the bill.

Rep. Hanohano, the only member of the caucus who speaks Hawaiian, rose to give her comments in the Hawaiian language. Speaker Emeritus Souki requested a translation in English. Speaker pro tem Blake Oshiro stated that since both English and Hawaiian are official languages of the state, the translation was not required. However, Rep. Hanohano agreed to send Speaker Joe a translation at a later time. The House stands adjourned until 12 noon tomorrow. It will be cablecast on Olelo (awaiting a channel #). If you plan to watch, anticipate a lengthy session with many floor speeches on the Superferry bill as it comes up for third reading.

How much will the Special Session cost taxpayers?

Can't speak for the Senate, but based on figures provided by the House Chief Clerk's office, the only non-budgeted item related to the Special Session is the per diem cost, $150 per day, for our 16 neighbor island representatives. If the session ends tomorrow, October 31st, that will mean 8 days X 16 members X $150, for a House of Reps total of $19,200.

Photo: The print shop crew working through the Special Session

Capitol Ghost Stories: A Dedicated Worker

In the mid 70's, some security guards who patrolled the building in the evening experienced strange happenings in the Chamber Level, around the corner from where we've been having the Superferry bill hearings recently.

In the hallway leading out by the back entrance to the Senate Print Shop near the Senate Clerk's Office, some guards would hear the running of what sounded like a mechanical, belt-driven, off-set press. This was odd because there were copiers in the print shop and it was during the interim when the Legislature was not in session.

When a guard would open the door, the lights would be off and the copiers were not on. In fact, a couple of guards who touched the surface of the copiers found them to be cold. This happened on several occasions for single guards on patrol.

On one evening shift, a couple of guards got together and went on patrol after reports of hearing the running of the presses. As they heard the sounds, they split up to coordinate and enter through two separate doors, hoping to trap a prankster or perhaps someone using the copiers illegally. When they entered, the room was dark except for the light coming in from the hallway door. One guard immediately checked the copier that was cold to the touch and he caught a glimpse of what he believed to be an older Chinese woman moving away from the light. His partner didn't see the woman at all and they were both flustered by the incident. But that night was the last night the incident occurred.

A few days later, when picking up their paychecks, they saw a staff member coming out of the print shop area and told her about the incidents. She asked the guard to describe the woman that he saw that night. After he finished she said she thought that sounded like a former worker who started working from the time the legislature held sessions in 'Iolani Palace, when they had off-set presses to print bills and reports.

When pressed to find out what happened to her, the staff member explained that the woman left because of medical reasons, which made her sad because she loved her work and spending time with her co-workers. The staff member further explained that the woman recently died just over a month ago.

One of the guards, startled by her statement said that was around the time the incidents had started and told the staff member that the incidents only stopped the past week.

The staff member paused. That was an odd coincidence, she said, because that would have been around the time the woman officially retired.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day 4: House TRN/FIN committees vote up Superferry bill

After nearly 10 hours of testimony from speakers that included the Governor, the House committees on Finance and Transportation voted to pass SB1 SD1 unamended. The bill now goes before the full House which will decide tomorrow whether or not the bill should pass Second Reading.

For the Committee of Transportation, there were 10 ayes, 0 noes and 3 excused. The votes were as follows: ayes: Nakasone, Pine, Evans, Lee, Nishimoto, Souki; ayes with reservations: Har, McKelvey, Sonson, Takamine; noes: none; excused: Meyer, Luke, Takumi.

For the Committee on Finance, there were 13 ayes, 2 noes and 3 excused. The votes were as follows: ayes: Lee, Brower, Chong, Magaoay, Mizuno, Nakasone, Sagum, Rhoads, Awana, Ward; ayes with reservations: Har, Manahan, M. Oshiro; noes: Carroll, Hanohano; excused: Tokioka, Meyer, Belatti.

The House will convene at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

A tense exchange

Rep. Marcus Oshiro turned up the heat in the icebox, aka Capitol Auditorium, this afternoon. In a tense exchange with Governor Lingle, Chair Oshiro questioned the governor on why the legislature should pass a bill specifically to save the Superferry. The governor explained that she doesn't believe that the purpose of the bill is to save one company; it's about saving the service that the Superferry provides for the people of Hawaii.

Oshiro also had questions on the relationship between the Superferry legislation and the Supreme Court decision on the interpretation of the environmental review statute (chapter 343). He pointed out that the bill before the legislature does not address the Supreme Court decision, and that there is still uncertainty about the application of the law. The governor agreed that the legislature should review the statute next session, but that it was not necessary to make changes to that section of the law in order to save the Superferry service.

Oshiro's hard line of questioning led up to his final point which was to question why the Superferry needed to be "saved" when the Hawaii Superferry is not a "mom and pop" operation; indeed, it is a company with great political and financial resources. "I'm not convinced that this company needs to be saved," said Rep. Oshiro. "This is a company that is well-heeled, well-financed, well-connected that does not need the Hawaii state legislature to save it." Speaker Emeritus and Transportation Chair Joe Souki called a recess when it became apparent that Rep. Oshiro and Governor were going to continue to be in disagreement on that point.

Late this evening, Chair Oshiro expressed appreciation that the governor appeared today after receiving his letter, as did OEQC Acting Director Larry Lau. As the chair of Finance, he recommended that the committee vote aye with reservations, but also encouraged members to vote their conscience on the issue.

TRN/FIN welcome testifiers, including Gov. Lingle

The House Transportation/Finance committee joint hearing on the Senate version of the Superferry legislation (SB1, SD1) is currently underway in the Capitol auditorium.

Gov. Lingle spoke briefly and will remain to answer questions from committee members starting at 3 p.
m., along with other testifiers including Superferry CEO John Garibaldi and First Deputy Attorney General Lisa M. Ginoza.

Earlier in the day, Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro sent a letter to Gov. Lingle requesting
her presence at the hearing, especially to respond to testifiers' concerns last week about her willingness and ability to establish conditions and protocols "to mitigate significant environmental effects" of the ferry, as is stated in the current legislation.

Kauai County Council member JoAnn Yukimura also testified, expressing her concerns that the Superferry would threaten Hawaii's environment statewide and could change the character of the neighbor islands. Yukimura also offered her support for elements of the amendment proposed by Rep. Hermina Morita on Friday which included reducing the ferry's speed in waters of a certain depth and requiring the vessel to do an undercarriage wash before sailing.

Watch the hearing live on 'Olelo, Ch. 49.

Chair Marcus Oshiro sends requests to Governor, Thielen and Lau to appear at today's hearing

Late this morning, Chair of Finance Marcus Oshiro sent letters to Governor Lingle, DLNR Interim Director Laura Thielen and Acting Director of OEQC, Lawrence Lau, to appear before the joint Transportation/Finance committee hearing. Oshiro acknowledged the lateness of the request, but wondered why the three have not appeared before the hearings at the special session.

Excerpts from the letter to the Governor: The legislation requires you, the Governor, to establish conditions and protocols "to mitigate significant environmental effects". During a recent hearing on the House version of this legislation, several citizens of the state of Hawaii expressed concerns about your willingness and/or ability to create such conditions and protocols.....At this point in time, it does not appear that you have submitted testimony nor are planning to appear at the hearing. I respectfully request that you attend the hearing to help allay the fears of those expressing concern in the establishment of these protocols.

Excerpts from the letter to DLNR Interim Director: The legislation requires you, or your designee, to be one of the thirteen members of the temporary Hawaii inter-island ferry oversight task force. In addition, conservation and resources enforcement personnel of your department may be tasked with additional duties as a result of this legislation....At this point in time, it does not appear that you have submitted testimony nor are planning to appear at the hearing. I respectfully request that you attend the hearing as this proposed legislation has a direct effect on your department.

Excerpts from the letter to Acting OEQC Director: Your office, the Office of Environmental Quality Control, has a direct responsibility in the review and evaluation of an environmental impact statement law and the current Supreme Court decision. In addition, a previous hearing on the House version of this legislation brought up questions regarding the environmental review process and your office's advisory role to the Governor.....At this point in time, it does not appear that you have submitted testimony nor are planning to appear at the hearing. I respectfully request that you attend the hearing as this legislation has a direct effect on your office.

House Hearing on Olelo, Ch. 49

The House hearing at 1:30 p.m. will be on Olelo, Ch. 49.

Day 4 - Senate Session this morning

Today is a critical day for the special session, hinging on the Senate third reading votes on SB1, SD1, and SB2, whether these bills this morning crossover to the House unamended, and what the House Transportation and Finance committees do with these bills at the end of the day.

Here's what happened in the Senate: SB1, SD1 Relating to Transportation (Superferry bill) passed third reading with 20 ayes and 5 noes. Ayes: Chun-Oakland, Espero, Hemmings, Inouye, Slom, Whalen; Ayes with reservations: Bunda, Fukunaga, Gabbard, Hanabusa, Hee, Ige, Ihara, Kim, Menor, Nishihara, Sakamoto, Taniguchi, Tokuda, Trimble; Noes: Baker, English, Hooser, Kokubun, Tsutsui. Click here for bill status.

SB2 on Extended Sentencing was not on the agenda. Come to think of it, the Senate did not hold a hearing on SB2, so looks like they are going with the House vehicle.

Extended Sentencing Information

There's a helpful post, click here, on the Hawaii Opinions and Legal News Blog on the extended sentencing issue, including legal background and million dollar question going forward.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Day 3 - HB1 and HB2 pass critical third reading

Speaker pro tem Blake Oshiro called the House to order at 3:00 p.m. today. It has been a relatively quiet day after the 12-hour public hearing yesterday. Recess was called after the roll call, and both majority and minority met in caucus for less than an hour.

HB2 Extended Sentencing: After the recess, about 4:00 p.m., the House came back to address HB2 - the Extended Sentencing bill - up for third reading. There was a brief discussion, and then the House voted to pass the bill on third reading, with Rep. Joe Bertram from Maui being the only "noe" vote.

HB1 Superferry Amendment offered: Rep. Hermina Morita offered Floor Amendment No. 1, seconded by Rep. Faye Hanohano. (See Kim's post on the details of the amendment.) Many of the representatives who stood up to speak on the amendment, for and against, praised Rep. Morita for the substance of her work. Rep. Angus McKelvey from Lahaina said his objections were mostly procedural, but that Rep. Morita offered good ideas that should be considered as the House goes forward with the existing bills. Majority Leader Caldwell pointed out that two points in the amendment could be considered "deal breakers" for the Superferry, namely the slower speed, 13 knots in most waters around the Hawaiian islands, and requiring the Superferry to do an undercarriage wash prior to sailing. Caldwell said that "we can't support the amendment if we want the ferry to sail." (Rep. Ward added allegorically that "it turns the superferry into a carwash and a slowboat to the neighbor islands".) The amendment failed.

HB1 Superferry Third Reading: There was less discussion on the HB1 up for third reading, as many of the representatives opted to submit written comments to the House Journal. Rep. Joe Souki said, in support, that the ferry "will be the glue that will bind the state together." Rep. Bertram, in support, believes it will be necessary to provide more resources for the Department of Land and Natural Resources in order to monitor the environmental impact of the ferry. Rep. Sharon Har from Kapolei, in support, emphasized the importance of the release and indemnity clause of the bill and cited the need to protect the taxpayers who would ultimately pay for any litigation. The bill passed third reading with 9 members voting "noe" - Belatti, Berg, Carroll, Hanohano, Morita, Saiki, Shimabukuro, Takamine and Tokioka.

On Monday: The Senate is scheduled to go into session at 9:00 a.m., and it is anticipated that the SB1, SD1 will pass third reading and crossover to the House unamended. The House will go into session at 12 noon, and pass the bill on first reading. The House will then hold a public hearing on the Senate bill at 1:30 p.m. in the capitol auditorium.

Day 3: House amendment offered by Rep. Morita

The House floor session ended just now with the Reps voting to pass HB1 unamended. The bill now crosses over to the Senate side.

On the floor, Rep. Hermina Morita rose to propose a floor amendment that would impose certain conditions on the Superferry's operation not currently in the House bill, such as speed limits in waters of a certain depth and measures to prevent invasive species from moving between islands via the ferry. The amendment also tasked the Public Utilities Commission, not the governor, with evaluating the efficiency of the regulations and gave the PUC the responsibility of imposing any other necessary conditions to further protect the environment.

This would also eliminate the need for a Task Force (proposed in the current bill) to monitor the Superferry's operations, Rep. Morita said.

The amendment to the current bill would give the legislature a chance "to sideswipe, rather than go full speed ahead" into the metaphorical iceberg that the Superferry situation has become, she added.

Several of her colleagues spoke in favor of the amendment, including Rep. Sylvia Luke, Rep. Lyla Berg and Rep. Della Au Belatti. Rep. Luke favored the idea of giving the duty of oversight to the PUC and said that even though the amendment would make the House bill look more like the current Senate bill, that would mean that the House and Senate were moving closer to finding a compromise on legislation that is acceptable to both chambers.

Rep. Caldwell, Rep. Souki, Rep. Ward and Rep. Meyer spoke in opposition to the amendment, but commended Rep. Morita for proposing the amendment. Rep. McKelvey also rose to oppose the amendment, but applauded Rep. Morita, saying "Ho'oponopono is about coming together in the spirit of compromise."

The House voted and the amendment was defeated, 11 ayes, 35 noes and 5 excused.

The House then voted to pass HB1 unamended and cross the bill over to the Senate. The motion passed with 9 reps voting no (Reps. Belatti, Berg, Carroll, Hanohano, Morita, Saiki, Shimabukuro, Takamine and Tokioka) and 5 excused.

Acting Speaker Blake Oshiro adjourned the House until noon on Monday.

House hearing on amended Senate bill set for Monday

The House Finance and Transportation committees will hear input on the recently amended Senate version of a bill (SB1 SD1) to allow the Superferry to sail under new operating conditions while an environmental assessment is being conducted. The House will convene in a floor session at noon on Monday to accept the Senate bill and the hearing will begin at 1:30 p.m. Click here for the hearing notice.


Monday, October 29, 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium, Chamber Level

The draft bill can be found on the Hawaii State Capitol Website. A hearing notice will be posted soon.

There are two ways to submit testimony – by hard copy delivered to the House Chief Clerk's Office (State Capitol, Room 027) or by Email. Either way, testifiers will be given a registration number, which will serve as their place number on the testifier's list. Testimony should be less than 5 pages in length.

Paper Hard Copy: One (1) original document may be hand-delivered to the House Chief Clerk's Office on the Chamber level of the State Capitol (Room 027). The testifier will be given a registration number for the testifiers' list.

Email: (**Please note that email addresses have changed for this hearing**) Testifiers should first determine whether they want to testify in person or just submit testimony for the record and not testify in person. To testify in person, email testimony to: Testifiers will receive a reply confirming acceptance of the testimony and their assigned registration number.

To submit testimony for the record, send email testimony to Testimony will be accepted until the end of the hearing, however, the earlier one submits testimony, the earlier they will be called to testify at the hearing as their registration serves as their placement on the testifier's list. The Chairs will go in numerical order.

After the start of the hearing, and once the chairs start to move through the testifier list, testimony that has been presented will be posted for public viewing online at the capitol website. After the hearing, testimony will be PDF-searchable.

Metered stalls at the State Capitol (Miller Street entrance), Iolani Palace, U.S. Post Office, Kalanimoku Building (entrance from Punchbowl Street or Beretania Street), City and County parking lot (entrance from South Street or Beretania Street), Department of Health (Punchbowl street entrance) and street parking along Richards Street. There are numerous public parking lots downtown, but the closest is at Alii Place (Alakea Street entrance)

The hearing will be live on Olelo, public access television, Channel 53.

Located directly outside the Auditorium for help with general information and questions, to track testifiers, confirm registration numbers, etc.

HI House Blog featured on 'The Thicket'

We're thankful for the kudos the Hawaii House Blog has received recently -- and not just from local bloggers. Earlier this week, Meagan Dorsch, who blogs at the NCSL blog The Thicket, interviewed House Communications Director Georgette Deemer about getting our blog project going.

Read the post at The Thicket and listen to the podcast of the interview here.

Georgette (the brains behind this blog) talks about some of the benefits and challenges of blogging about the House, like opening up to criticism and keeping the content interesting, and offers some tips for others who might want to start similar statehouse blogs.

Capitol ghost stories - The Fallen Construction Worker

The Hawaii State Capitol was commissioned by Governor John A. Burns and built in the late 1960's, officially opening on March 15, 1969. During construction, a worker fell to his death while working on the capitol roof structure. As you can see, the architectural design opens to the elements, with the interior roofline curving up and braced by concrete slabs. The blue mosaic tiles create a seamless transvision between building and sky.

The concrete slabs were guided into the struts of the roofline using a crane with guide wires. Sheets of plexi-glass served as placeholders before the slabs were installed. One day, a construction worker, who did not secure his safety harness properly, was struck by one of the guide wires that was set in motion by a gust of wind. He fell to his death landing on the floor of the rotunda. After his publicized death, people started to sneak onto the capitol site curious about the new building, so security guards began patroling the floors at night. Several security guards began to report the same odd sound from the top floor - the sound of creped-sole boots crunching on plexi-glass above them. When they looked up, no one was there.

The contractor held a Hawaiian blessing on the site, and no further incidents were reported.

Lege recognized for helping HI's film industry

The Hawaii International Film Festival, one of the world's premier international film festivals, announced its 2007 awards yesterday at the Royal Hawaiian.

Speaker Calvin Say accepted the City and County of Honolulu Vision in Film Award, which was presented to the Legislature by Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

The Legislature is being recognized for its long-term efforts in supporting Hawaii's film industry.

Click here for the full list of awards and recipients. Visit HIFF's website for details about the fall film festival happening now through Oct. 28.

Photo (from L to R) - On the red carpet are Jeff Chung, General Manager, KBFD-TV and Chairman of the HIFF Board of Directors; Chuck Boller, HIFF Executive Director; Speaker Calvin Say; Mayor Mufi Hannemann; Walea L. Constantinau, Film Commissioner, Honolulu Film Office. Courtesy of HIFF.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

End of Day 2 - Session

Great photo from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The caption, however, identified Rep. Mike Magaoay on the left (correct) and Rep. Pono Chong on the right (don't think so). That's Rep. Mele Carroll.

It appears that the Senate has amended SB1 although the Senate Draft 1 is not posted at this hour. The SB1, SD1 was passed out of the joint committee: Judiciary (5 ayes, 1 noe)/Transportation (4 ayes, 3 noes)/Energy and Environment (3 ayes, 2 noes). A significant number of the ayes were with reservations. See the status here.

The House Transportation/Finance committee passed HB1 unamended after a 12-hour hearing. At 9:00 p.m., the House went into session. HB2 Extended Sentencing passed second reading and was placed on the calendar for third reading. HB1 Superferry passed second reading and was placed on the calendar for third reading. There were 6 noes for HB1 - Morita, Carroll, Shimabukuro, Hanohano, Berg and Tokioka.

The House session for Friday is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Capitol Ghost Stories - The Spirit of Governor John A. Burns

Former Governor John A. Burns is one of the most beloved spirits to supposedly inhabit the State Capitol. He passed away while still in office in 1975, so there are folks at the Capitol who may have worked for Governor Burns or met him in person. Shortly after he died, staff and security guards began to smell cigar smoke in the evening, on the lanai fronting the Governor's office on the fifth floor of the Capitol. Mysteriously, there were never any cigar butts in the sand ash receptacles or on the ground. The staff began to suspect that the cigar smoke was coming from the spirit of the late governor whose habit was to go outside to smoke his cigar, not wanting to bother his staff inside. (These were the days when you could smoke inside public buildings.) The staff came up with a solution to the cigar smoke mystery. When they smelled the smoke, they would say, "Good evening, Governor", and the smoke immediately cleared. His staff knew that the Governor was sensitive to others and would not want to smoke around a person who might be offended.

The legend has grown over the years, so whenever people smell cigar smoke here, they believe it's Governor Burns watching over us at the Capitol.

HB2 Extended Sentencing passes unamended

HB2 passed, unanimously, out of the Judiciary committee around 5 p.m. today unamended. Testifiers included Mark Bennett - Attorney General, Jack Tonaki - State Public Defender, Peter Carlisle - Honolulu Prosecutor, Major Nishimura - HPD Criminal Investigation Division, and Kelli Rosati - Hawaii Family Forum. All of the testifiers supported the bill. Mr. Tonaki, however, objected to the "retroactivity" clause. He believes that the old law was ruled unconstitutional, and the new law should not apply to pending cases or cases that occured prior to the enactment of the law.

AG Bennett testified that the proposed law is constitutional and that it should be made retroactive. Going back to 2002, the law would affect over 100 cases, with 43 scheduled motions to be heard as of October 24th. Prosecutor Carlisle drove home the fact that extended sentencing is reserved for the worst of the worst, and only about 20% of motions filed are granted the longer term sentences.

Day 2 Superferry Hearing - Rep. Marcus Oshiro explores a "settlement"

In today's hearing, Finance Chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, asked Attorney General his opinion on whether a settlement between the plaintiffs and defendants in the Superferry case on Maui was a possibility. Rep. Oshiro was exploring the use of a settlement as a resolution rather than new legislation (reminiscent of the Hokulia case on the Big Island).

Attorney General Bennett's response was skeptical..."Can't say that there is a possibility of a resolution through a settlement that would satisfy both sides." "Zero belief that the parties could agree."

Chair Oshiro pursued the issue and asked AG Bennett if he was willing to look into it. The AG said that he would ask the lawyers from the two sides if they would enter an agreement that allows the Superferry to do what the bill allows. Oshiro said, "It's worth a try.

Superferry CEO testifies; Day 1 photos (Senate side)

The Superferry is likely to leave Hawaii if the company becomes enjoined by another lawsuit, Superferry CEO John Garibaldi told members of the House Finance and Transportation committees just before he finished answering a long line of questions this afternoon.

Rep. Sharon Har asked Garibaldi what the Superferry would do if it faced another lawsuit and was banned by the courts from operating.

"I think we'd set sail for California right then, to be quite blunt," Garibaldi said.

"I apologize for saying we'd be off to California," he said after, explaining that the company could not afford to go through another lawsuit and would have to search out other plans.

Finally, we've now moved on to Testifier #9 ... after only 6.5 hours. The House is scheduled to reconvene in a floor session at 8 p.m.

New photos from yesterday's Senate session and public hearing on the Superferry are now up on the Senate Majority Blog's Flickr site.

Watch the hearing on Olelo, Channel 53, or come on down to the Capitol auditorium. But bring a jacket (or parka) if you're planning to be in the auditorium, as it's positively polar down there.

Photo courtesy of the HI Senate Majority blog.

Day 2: House Superferry hearing creeping into Hour 6

As of 2 p.m., 206 people have signed up to testify at the House public hearing on the Superferry legislation.

Unfortunately, whomever is hanging on to No. 206 is going to have to wait a while, as the Finance and Transportation committees are five hours into the public hearing without a break and are only on testifier No. 6 -- Superferry CEO John Garibaldi.

Reps. Mele Carroll and Faye Hanohano opened the hearing at roughly 9:15 a.m. with an oli or chant before a crowd of 50 or 60 people. Click here to read the public testimony.

Transportation Chair Joseph Souki has requested that the questions and answers remain brief. Even so, Attorney General Mark Bennett spent more than 90 minutes this morning answering questions from the members.

In his testimony, Bennett put down claims that legislation to allow the Superferry to sail after the Maui court ruled that an environmental assessment must be completed is unconstitutional or illegal.

Bennett drew a distinction between two questions he said are often blurred in the current debate: the question of whether the legislation is good policy and the question of whether the legislature has the constitutional right to pass such legislation. To the second question: "There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about this," he said, adding that he believes the bill is "a fair compromise."

Several representatives questioned Bennett thoroughly after his initial testimony, including Rep. Hermina Morita, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and the Environment, who pointed out the explicit commitment to environmental protection outlined in Hawaii's constitution. She also expressed "common sense" concerns with the ferry running without first giving the "full disclosure" an environmental assessment would provide.

Between questions, Bennett paused to say, "You know, I was with the Senate yesterday and they didn't ask any questions."

"They had all the answers," quipped Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro.

Extended sentencing bill - what it's all about...

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that the state's extended sentencing bill is unconstitutional because it violates the sixth amendment right to a jury trial. The law, as currently written, allows judges, rather than juries, to determine what facts warrant longer sentences. What the ruling means is that judges cannot apply the extended sentencing law in current cases, and that even felons who were previously sentenced but are appealing those sentences now have the right to a jury trial (and could have their sentences reduced.)

Attorney General Mark Bennett declared that there was no immediate public danger because of the court's ruling. The long term effect, however, is that certain felons will serve shorter sentences and will be back out in the community, perhaps sooner than they should be.

HB2 Related to Sentencing amends Hawaii's extended term sentencing law to address the issues raised in the court ruling on the right to a jury trial. The bill is expected to be supported by the law enforcement community.

The description of the bill is: Requires jury to deterine facts necessary to impose an extended term of imprisonment under section 706-662, HRS, unless right to jury determination is waived, in which case determination is to be made by judge. Requires facts to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is unlikely that the legislature would have reconvened just for the extended sentencing bill, but the Superferry issue provided a timely opportunity for lawmakers to make the fix. We'll be posting on the outcome of the 4 p.m. Judiciary hearing, chaired by Rep. Tommy Waters, later today.

Hawaii Psychological Association names Rep. Herkes as Legislator of the Year

The Hawaii Psychological Association today named Rep. Robert N. Herkes as the 2007 Legislator of the Year. The award was presented to Rep. Herkes for "Outstanding contributions to psychology and mental health in the State of Hawaii."

House hearing on Olelo, ch. 53

Contrary to an earlier post, the House hearing on the Superferry bill will be on Olelo, Ch. 53, not Ch. 54. It starts at 9:00 a.m. with an oli.

Also, thanks to Doug to pointing out the confusion on the links to the current bills. Do not make the same mistake I did by assuming that the "latest draft" can be found on the front page of the Capitol website. There are three House bills - HB1 (and companion SB1) is the Superferry bill, HB2 (and SB2) is the Extended Sentencing bill, and HB3 is another Superferry bill introduced by Rep. Belatti. Click on Bill Status and Documents and type in the bill you're interested in for the latest action.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here's to Health!

On Monday, Reps. Marcus Oshiro and John Mizuno were each presented with a Kulia Award from the Hawaii Primary Care Association for their work towards promoting better healthcare for the people of Hawaii.

Rep. Oshiro, Chair of the House Finance Committee, was recognized for his work on community health issues by "not only understanding rural hospitals but also supporting critical healthcare financing issues for community health centers." As Finance chair, Rep. Oshiro provided grant-in-aid support for HPCA's Medicine Bank Program and for numerous individual health center initiatives.

Rep. John Mizuno, a freshman legislator who serves as Vice Chair of the House Health Committee, won the Kulia Award for being a "champion of the most vulnerable, including abandoned infants, uninsured children, and the needs of communities served by health centers." Last session, Rep. Mizuno co-introduced legislation to provide universal healthcare for all of Hawaii's children. He also serves as co-chair of both the Kupuna and Keiki caucuses.

Kulia Awards were also presented to Senate Health Committee Chair David Ige and Star Bulletin Health reporter Helen Altonn, who has been with the Bulletin for over 50 years.

Senate Superferry hearing nears Hour 6

State senators are approaching their sixth hour of testimony on the draft Superferry legislation in the state Capitol auditorium downstairs.

A medium-sized (not huge) group gathered in the auditorium, moving in and out throughout the day. Some spoke passionately; others offered more measured testimony both for and against allowing the ferry to sail.

They included Attorney General Mark Bennett, Department of Transportation director Barry Fukunaga, state officials, small business owners, Superferry employees, students and teachers among others.

If you've got some time on your hands (or are just really interested in the Superferry issue), over a thousand pages of today's testimonies are available online here.

As of this post, 164 people have signed up to testify in person at tomorrow's House public hearing, and 2200 people have submitted written testimony just for the record, according to the House Chief Clerk's Office.

To testify in person, send testimony to: To simply send testimony for the record (and not appear at the hearing) send testimony to Testimony will be accepted until the end of the hearing, but the earlier testimony is submitted, the earlier the person will be called to speak.

After the start of the hearing, and once the chairs start to move through the testifier list, testimony that has been presented will be posted for public viewing online at the Capitol website.

Capitol ghost stories - The Queen Helps a Child

Gail Sagara, office manager for Senator Russell Kokubun, recalls an incident many years ago, in the early 1980's, when she worked in the House Sgt. at Arms office. She was working a little late into the evening, and she had her young daughter with her. Gail's husband was going to pick them up, so she was waiting for his phone call in the office. Her daughter asked to be taken to the restroom, so Gail hurriedly took her to the women's restroom. She didn't want to miss her husband's call, so she told her daughter to walk back through the corridor when she was finished, and to look for the lighted doorway, which she would leave open.

Time passed and her daughter had not returned. Gail got very worried, searched both the men's and women's restroom on the chamber level, and could not find her daughter. She called security, and they instructed Gail to go back to the Sgt. at Arms office while they looked for the daughter on the various floors.

Soon after, Gail's young daughter appeared in the doorway and spoke to someone whom Gail could not see. She said that she had found her mommy and that she'd be alright. Gail rushed to scoop up the child, called her husband and security, closed up the office, and went up to the Entry level to the Iolani Palace parking lot. As they crossed the mall, they passed by the statue of Queen Liliuokalani, and the daughter said to Gail, "Look mommy, that's the lady who helped me."

Today, Gail's daughter is 33 years old, and she still believes that the woman who helped her was the Queen.

Court administrator issues "highly unusual" news release

The Administrative Director of the Courts issued a news release today criticizing the Lingle administration for insinuating that the Supreme Court timed its Superferry decision to coincide with the controversial launch. Knowledgeable sources in the House said it was highly unusual for the court to issue this type of statement, so we thought we'd share it on this blog. The release reads:


In the Honolulu Advertiser’s Oct. 13 article, "3-way Superferry remedy urged," and in other media reports, Governor Linda Lingle is quoted as saying, "The Supreme Court, for whatever their reason was, decided to wait over a year-and-a-half to reach a decision and to do it two days before this service was set to begin." The implication that the Hawai`i Supreme Court deliberately timed its decision to occur "two days before" the Superferry was scheduled to start is wrong and does a disservice to the people of Hawai`i by undermining their trust in the justice system.

The Superferry officials - and not the Supreme Court - shortened the time frame to the two days between the Supreme Court’s decision and the commencement of service by advancing the start date. The Supreme Court issued its ruling on Aug. 23, five days before the Superferry’s original start date of Aug. 28. The day after the court’s decision was issued, Superferry officials moved up the ferry’s start date from Tuesday, Aug. 28 to Sunday, Aug. 26, and announced that $5 per passenger and $5 per car fares were available for purchase beginning Saturday, Aug. 25.

When the Supreme Court first notified the parties that oral argument will be held on Aug. 15, online Superferry reservations were being accepted for travel beginning Sept. 5. On Aug. 11, however, Superferry officials moved up the inaugural service from Sept. 5 to Aug. 28. Therefore, it was the Superferry officials who shortened the time frame between the date of oral argument and the Supreme Court’s decision on Aug. 23 to the date the Superferry commenced travel by moving up the start date twice; first from Sept. 5 to Aug. 28 and, after the Supreme Court ruled, from Aug. 28 to Aug. 26.

Furthermore, the resultant decision in the Superferry case was delayed due to a request from the Superferry’s attorneys to postpone oral argument. Their attorneys asked the Supreme Court to push back oral argument from Aug. 15, 13 days before the Superferry’s Aug. 28 start date, to Aug. 28 or later, citing scheduled vacations to the mainland as the reason. Although the attorney for the Sierra Club objected to the Superferry’s request to delay the hearing, the request was partially granted in that oral argument was postponed to Aug. 23. The Supreme Court issued its decision that same day.

As for why it took the Supreme Court a year-and-a-half to reach its decision, the Judiciary’s Public Affairs Officer, Marsha Kitagawa, wrote a letter published in several newspapers explaining that there was ongoing activity throughout the Superferry appeal and, when court deadlines were extended, it was at the request of a party. Moreover, from the time the case was assigned until the decision on Aug. 23, the Supreme Court decided more than 300 other appeals, focusing first on cases involving children in the State’s custody and incarcerated persons, as well as 90 original proceedings, 150 applications to review decisions of the intermediate appellate court, and 1,300 motions. In short, while the Superferry appeal was pending, the supreme court decided many cases.

Special Session: Day 1

It's "Opening Day" here at the legislature for a special session to consider legislation to allow the Hawaii Superferry to sail while an EIS is conducted.

A Senate hearing on the Senate bill is currently underway in the Capitol auditorium at the Chamber level. The House will hold its public hearing on the House bill tomorrow at 9 a.m. (See our previous post for info on how to submit testimony.)

Some things from the floor session this morning:

After a recess, Speaker Say let the members know that Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu had submitted his letter of resignation from the Vice Speaker position. Instead of accepting the resignation, Speaker relieved Rep. Karamatsu from his duties until Opening Day of the 2008 session. Rep. Karamatsu may or may not reassume the Vice Speaker position during the 2008 Legislative session, depending on his court proceedings scheduled for late December and, ultimately, the feeling of the majority caucus as to whether he should continue to serve in that capacity.

Speaker also announced that he will not be presiding as Speaker during the special session because he felt that discussion about his son, an entry level account executive with the Hawaii Superferry, had become a distraction from the real issues the House is being asked to consider. The House later decided that Speaker does not have a conflict of interest because of his son, meaning that he'll be allowed to vote on any actions on the Superferry legislation.

Because neither himself nor Rep. Karamatsu would preside over the special session, Speaker requested Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell to act as Speaker. Rep. Caldwell, however, declined, wishing to stay on the floor and debate the issues with his colleagues. Majority Floor Leader Blake Oshiro was then asked to preside over the special session. He accepted and stepped up to the rostrum to finish the House's business for the rest of the session.

On the floor, Rep. Hermina Morita, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, requested that the Superferry bill be heard before the House Finance, Transportation and Energy and Environmental Protection committees, instead of just the House Finance and Transportation committees as is scheduled right now. The motion was defeated, 29 nays to 17 ayes, 5 excused.

Rep. Oshiro, presiding as speaker, adjourned the House.

The House will hear public testimony tomorrow on both the Superferry legislation (9 a.m., State Capitol auditorium, Chamber level) and a bill to address the state's extended sentencing law (4 p.m., Rm. 325) before reconvening at 8 o'clock tomorrow night.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gov. calls Special Session

Gov. Lingle has officially called the legislature back into a special session to address matters related to the Superferry and extended term sentencing.

The House and Senate will convene tomorrow at 9 a.m.

The Senate has scheduled a hearing for 10:30 a.m. in the State Capitol auditorium tomorrow to hear public input on legislation that would require the Dept. of Transportation to perform an EIS while the Superferry sails.

On Thursday, the House Finance and Transportation Committees will hold a joint public hearing at 9 a.m. in the State Capitol auditorium to consider the House bill (click here to view the bill).

Also on Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. in Rm. 325 to consider legislation responding to the state Supreme Court's ruling a few weeks ago that the state's extended sentencing law is unconstitutional. (click here to view the bill).

Lawmakers are currently meeting with Big Island residents in a public hearing in Kona about the draft Superferry legislation.

Capitol Ghost Stories: A Picture with the Queen

In anticipation of Halloween next week, we're posting a collection of tales of different spooky sightings around the State Capitol.

A figure often reportedly spotted around these halls is Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Her statue stands on the makai side of the Capitol building, often draped in lei, and sometimes visitors will leave offerings of food or flowers at the base of the statue.

This one actually happened to Baron from Rep. Jon Karamatsu's office:

In the early 80's, I just finished giving a tour to a group of visiting college students from Canada when they began organizing a group photo. As I looked back at them before heading to the elevators, I saw that the photographer couldn't get the whole group in front of Queen Liliuokalani's statue. So instead, he asked the group to assemble facing the Punchbowl St. border as he stood on the base of the statue (with his back to the Queen's figure) for more elevation. He took pictures with several cameras.

Several months later, I received a letter from one of the group members saying that they had had a party at which they all brought pictures from their visit to Hawaii. As they were passing pictures around, one of the girls asked the male photographer, "When you were taking the group picture at the statue, where were you standing?"

He reminded her that he was standing on the base to be able to get all the group in with the group facing the statue with the backdrop of downtown Honolulu behind them.

"That's what I thought," she said. "Take a look at this picture."

It was the group, with the backdrop of downtown Honolulu and the Richards Street border behind them facing Diamond Head. It was clearly an elevated angle looking down at the group. But, clearly in the back behind the group was Queen Liliuokalani.

The moral of the story: The Queen will not be ignored.

(Unfortunately, I never got a copy of the picture.)

Superferry hearing at the Capitol set for Thursday; How to Testify

The House Transportation and Finance committees will hear public testimony on the draft Superferry legislation this Thursday at 9 a.m. in the State Capitol Auditorium (chamber level). Click here for the hearing notice and here for a copy of the draft legislation.
Deliver hard copies of testimony to the House Chief Clerk's Office (State Capitol, Room 027) OR send testimony by email. Either way, testifiers will be given a registration number, which will serve as their place number on the testifier's list. Testimony should be less than 5 pages in length.

Paper Hard Copy: One original document may be hand-delivered to the House Chief Clerk's Office. The testifier will be given a registration number for the testifiers' list.

Email: Testifiers should first determine whether they want to testify in person or just submit testimony for the record and not testify in person. To testify in person, send testimony to: Testifiers will receive a reply confirming acceptance of the testimony and their assigned registration number.

To simply send testimony for the record (and not appear at the hearing) send testimony to

Testimony will be accepted until the end of the hearing, but the earlier testimony is submitted, the earlier the person will be called to speak at the hearing. The Chairs will go in numerical order according to registration numbers.

After the start of the hearing, and once the chairs start to move through the testifier list, testimony that has been presented will be posted for public viewing online at the Capitol website.

Metered stalls are located at the State Capitol (Miller Street entrance), Iolani Palace, U.S. Post Office, Kalanimoku Building (entrance from Punchbowl Street or Beretania Street), City and County parking lot (entrance from South Street or Beretania Street), Department of Health (Punchbowl street entrance) and street parking along Richards Street. There are numerous public parking lots in downtown Honolulu, but the closest to the Capitol is at Alii Place (Alakea Street entrance)

The hearing will be broadcast live on Olelo, public access television, Ch. 54.

An information desk will be located directly outside the Auditorium. You may go there for general information and questions, to track testifiers, confirm registration numbers, etc.

More photos; Maui hearing draws over 400 people

Per Disappeared News, photojournalist David Allio's gallery of photos from Sunday's informational briefing on the draft Superferry legislation on Kauai is definitely worth a look.

Rep. Josh Green is co-sponsoring the third neighbor island Superferry public hearing this afternoon in Kona at Kealakehe High School cafeteria from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Rep. Cindy Evans is also planning to be at the meeting.

Over 400 people packed the Baldwin High School auditorium yesterday for an info briefing on the Superferry in Wailuku, Maui. Read more about that meeting today from the Star Bulletin, Advertiser, KGMB9 and KHON2.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Maui Superferry hearing update; streaming live

The second public hearing on the draft Superferry legislation is two hours underway in Wailuku, Maui. The meeting is currently streaming live on Akaku: Maui Community Television's website.

A breaking news report from the Advertiser describes a "raucous crowd of 400" people, including the head of the Maui County Council who told the panel of senators that the proposed Superferry legislation which would allow the ferry to sail while an environmental review was being conducted would "spark 'a social and political revolution' unlike any seen since the 1950s movement that brought Democrats to power in Hawai'i."

Other speakers were concerned about the process, as well as the environmental impacts of the ferry, and cautioned against a special session.

Reporter Tim Sakahara of KGMB also reported on the hearing during the 5 o'clock newscast and described instances of people "yelling, trying to drown out the speakers, especially the ones in support of the Superferry." The hearing is supposed to last another few hours.

Capitol Ghost Stories

What's scarier than the Superferry Special Session? Halloween approaches and we've been collecting Capitol ghost stories which we'll post between now and October 31st. Thanks to the Capitol staffers who have contributed stories. If you have one to share, we'd love to hear from you. Here's a classic one from the 1980's...told to many people (including me) by former State Senator Eloise Tungpalan.

The Senator was taking a nap in her private office on a fold-away mattress on the floor behind her desk. It was late at night and she was waiting for her husband to pick her up. Suddenly, the door from the outside public office opened, and she saw the shape of a man. She thought it looked like a Capitol security guard standing in the doorway. Being nearsighted, she said "Wait a minute," while she reached for her glasses on the floor. When she put them on, still lying on the floor, she realized that the figure before her had no feet.

Being part-Hawaiian, Senator Tungpalan understood that a person floating without feet was the sign of a Hawaiian spirit. She had the presence of mind to take a seat at her desk and asked the spirit, "Can I help you?" The man stared at her expressionless and did not answer. She then said, assertively, "If there is nothing I can help you with, please leave." With that, the man turned around and appeared to dematerialize as he went through the doorway.

Her husband arrived and they went down to the security office to report the incident. She described the man as a balding, Hawaiian security guard. The description sounded familiar, and the officer got out the file of former security guards with their picture ID's and pulled out one that he thought matched the description. Senator Tungpalan confirmed that that was the man she saw in her office. The officer said that was impossible because the old security guard had died some time ago.

Kauai residents react to Superferry draft

Legislators kicked off a series of neighbor island hearings on the draft Superferry legislation yesterday with a six-hour informational briefing in Lihue, Kauai.

According to reports, over 300 community members attended the hearing at the King Kaumualii Elementary School cafeteria. Most of those present had strong concerns about the Superferry or the draft legislation, or both.

Lawmakers will meet with Maui residents this afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Baldwin High School Auditorium in Wailuku. Tomorrow they'll meet with Big Island residents at 3 p.m. at Kealakehe High School in Kailua-Kona.

Here are the stories about yesterday's hearing from The Garden Island, the Star Bulletin and the Advertiser.

First-hand accounts from the blogs ... Kauai resident Charley Foster attended the meeting and wrote about it in his blog, Planet Kauai. Joan Conrow, of Kauai Eclectic, also attended and recorded her impressions of the briefing.

See more photos from the hearing at the HI Senate Majority blog's Flickr site.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Latest Superferry draft online

The latest draft of the proposed Superferry bill is now online at the state capitol website.

Superferry weekend

Neighbor island info. briefings on the proposed Superferry legislation are now officially scheduled. Kauai on Sunday - 2 p.m. at King Kaumualii Elementary cafeteria in Lihue. Maui on Monday - 3 p.m. at Baldwin High School Auditorium in Wailuku. Big Island on Tuesday - 3 p.m. at Kealakehe High School in Kailua-Kona. Tuesday's meeting is co-sponsored by Rep. Josh Green.

Wireless at the Legislature - Phase II

Internet wireless connection is now available in all working and public areas under the jurisdiction of the legislature at the State Capitol. Last year, Phase I covered House and Senate conference rooms, the Capitol Auditorium, central corridors along the railings on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors, and the House and Senate Printshops.

Recently completed Phase II expands public accessibility. You will now be able to get wireless connectivity in all House and Senate member offices, House and Senate Chambers, and the inner corridors from member offices on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors.

With the completion of this project, the Hawaii State Capitol becomes the first state government building to offer its occupants and visitors free wireless service.

Hawaii-grown puppet artist works his magic at the Met

Rep. Lee's son, Tom, is a professional puppet artist whose talents are being featured in Anthony Minghella's "Madama Butterfly" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this season. Tom grew up in Hawaii but now lives in Brooklyn. (In the pic, he's the one on the left with the beard.)

Tom, 34, will be the puppeteer behind Butterfly's young son, "played" by a bunraku-style puppet in this major production. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle featured Tom in an article in September.

Hawaii residents may eventually be able to see a sample of his talents in a project he's working on now. In "Ko'olau: A True Story of Hawaii," Tom uses puppetry to tell the story of Native Hawaiians who contracted leprosy in the 1800s and were forced to leave their families and live in exile.

Live coqui, fire ants, nettle caterpillars, oh my!

If you're in the Hilo area this Sunday, stop by the "Taste of Hilo" event at Sangha Hall, 1-3 pm, and visit the Invasive Species exhibit coordinated by Agriculture Chair, Rep. Clift Tsuji. Some of Hawaii's most renowned entomologists will be on hand, and they will bring with them live coqui, fire ants and nettle caterpillars for viewing. They will also be able to talk to folks on problems with varroa mites and apple snails. Joining Rep. Tsuji will be Dr. Jack Fujii - Emeritus Dean and Professor of Entomology at UH - Hilo, Dr. Arnold Hara - Entomologist at UH Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture, based in Hilo, and Kyle Onuma - Plant Pest Control Branch, Dept. of Ag.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Superferry today

Environmentalists opposed to the Superferry's launch prior to completion on the environmental review were at the Capitol today. Led by Isaac Hall, attorney for Maui Tomorrow, Inc., the group claimed that it would be "irresponsible of us to leave the protection of the environment to the same administration that has been dedicated to minimizing concerns about the Superferry project." Nearly two weeks ago, the legislature did ask environmental groups to submit recommendations for conditions of operation that could be incorporated into proposed legislation. The Sierra Club and others declined on principle because they believe the legislature should not convene a special session to benefit the Superferry. Now that the special session will likely start next Wednesday, Hall said that "We are forced to recommend conditions, not because we agree that the Superferry can operate (we do not), but because it is now necessary to protect Hawaii from the impacts of the improvident actions of the Lingle administration and the Legislature if they were to allow the Hawaii Superferry to operate, even after a month long trial amply demonstrated that this would be unlawful and would cause irreparable harm in multiple fashions."

Also, the Speaker and Senate President met with Attorney General Mark Bennett on the current draft. The House is scheduled to caucus tomorrow, Friday, at noon.

Draft Superferry legislation now online

Just in case you missed the links from the last post, both Star Bulletin and Advertiser articles this morning about last night's caucus link to the draft Superferry legislation.

Again, this is just a draft and it could be changed before a special session that is likely to start next Wednesday.

We're also looking into getting the most recent draft up on the Capitol website. Unfortunately, the operators of this blog are not the ones who usually handle such matters on the main site, but we recognize the importance of involving the public in the process and are working on it. Just give us a bit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

After the caucus tonight...

Speaker Say and Majority Leader were interviewed by media tonight around 6:15 p.m. on the results of the caucus. Regarding the Superferry, the members reviewed the latest draft prepared by the House and Senate attorneys. The caucus will regroup some time on Friday to agree on a final draft. It looks likely that the special session will convene on Wednesday, October 24.

In answer to questions on Vice Speaker Jon Riki Karamatsu, Majority Leader explained that Rep. Karamatsu made a brief statement to the caucus explaining his DUI arrest on Monday night, and he apologized to his colleagues for any embarassment brought upon the House. Speaker told press that he wanted a day or so to speak with Rep. Karamatsu and other members before making any decision on the Vice Speaker's leadership position.

Superferry update

Members of the House majority meet in caucus at 4:30 p.m. to mull over the most recent draft of legislation that would let the Superferry resume service while an environmental review is conducted. They'll also be talking about a possible date for a special session.

The current draft would permit the Superferry to operate while a full environmental impact statement is being conducted. It would also authorize the state auditor to investigate how the ferry was allowed to sail without having done an environmental assessment.

The House hasn't yet decided whether they'll hold informational briefings on the neighbor islands prior to the start of a special session in addition to hearings that would be held at the Capitol during the session.

Read more in today's Advertiser and Star Bulletin.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rep. Brower: Lack of precedent compels lawmakers to act on ferry

Rep. Tom Brower has an op-ed in this morning's Star-Bulletin about finding a remedy to allow the Superferry to resume service while an environmental assessment is conducted. He also expresses concern about overdevelopment on the neighbor islands, having just visitedMaui and Kauai on a site tour:

Within the past month I visited Maui and Kauai and met with their city and state departments. I believe the Superferry is not nearly as major a growth concern when compared with other transportation projects occurring on these islands. I am very concerned about overdevelopment.

Consider Maui's Honoapiilani Highway expansion, new Lahaina bypass road and the Upcountry 10-mile highway project, as well as Kauai's new lane additions to Kuhio Highway and Kaumualii Highway, and the permanent Kapaa Bypass Road, to name a few. These projects are designed to ease congestion but will ultimately lead to increases in building, population and sustainability challenges.

In addition, more mainland and international flights are scheduled to arrive at these islands, bringing even more people. August 2007 -- DBEDT's most recent statistics -- show that Maui and Kauai collectively received nearly 300,000 mainland visitors while Oahu received 250,000.

An alternate transportation option, like the Superferry, is needed to expand the economy, unite families and promote business opportunities while complementing our tourism industry. We must be mature enough and visionary to help the Superferry set the precedent of environmental accountability and fair development standards. If it's done right, residents will soon want competing Superferry price wars.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Volunteers collect thousands of lbs. of recyclables

Congrats to all who participated in the huge recycling event at Kaimuki High School on Saturday!

With a steady stream of cars passing through the parking lot from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., volunteers collected 45,000 pounds of scrap metal; 75 refrigerators; 10 air conditioners; a shipping container each of green waste and tires and 2 shipping containers of newspaper, cardboard and beverage containers; two truckloads of computers; dozens of cell phones and printer cartridges; 150 batteries; 500 telephone books; 20 gallons of cooking oil and lots of household items for Goodwill stores.

Speaker Say and Reps. Caldwell, Nishimoto, Saiki and Belatti and their office staff pitched in to help.

Proceeds go to Kaimuki High School, Kapahulu Center and Moiliili Community Center.

Look for more recycling events in your area at McKinley High School (11/10/07) and Kapolei High School (12/1/07).

Top photo: Rep. Caldwell adds a tire to the pile, making it look easy.