Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Island Lawmakers Discuss Priorities and Attendance

West Hawaii Today carried this story today on the Big Island legislators and their priorities for the session. Here's what some of the House members had to say:

Rep. Josh Green, D-North Kona, Keauhou, Kailua-Kona, the Legislature's only physician and chairman of the House Health Committee, is proposing a Rural Health Act -- a package that includes health enterprise zones, increased reimbursement rates, lawsuit reform and a Hawaii Health Corps to lure doctors.

More incremental steps are being forwarded by Rep. Bob Herkes, D-Ka'u, South Kona, who wants a mobile medical van based at Kona Community Hospital to provide clinical services to rural communities, and Rep. Faye Hanohano, D-Puna, Pahoa, Hawaiian Acres, who's seeking a comprehensive health center for the Makuu Hawaiian Home Lands project in Puna.

Rep. Clift Tsuji, D-South Hilo, Puna, Keaau, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, believes invasive species control has to be part of the mix. He's proposing funds to support the Department of Agriculture's invasive species strategic plan and a joint state-federal bio security facility near Honolulu International Airport.

Slow piecemeal legislation is not effective and usually reactionary," Tsuji said. "All these invasive species are the single greatest threat to our economy and the lifestyle we enjoy as Hawaii's people."

Education issues remain on the front burner as well. They include capital requests, such as a new gym for Hilo High School and new regional library for Keaau and earmarking general revenues for University of Hawaii facilities repair and maintenance. Increasing the number of charter schools in rural areas is another of Herke's priorities. Ocean View, for example, has two elementary schools 40 miles apart."Kindergartners should not be forced to take a 20-mile bus ride," Herkes said.

Rep. Jerry Chang, D-South Hilo, will be focusing on university issues in his role of chairman of the House Higher Education Committee. He thinks Aloha Stadium could be better managed to make money, and he's offering legislation to do just that. "There's a lot of potential revenue that's not being tapped right now for Aloha Stadium," Chang said.

The Hawaii-Tribune Herald does an annual review of attendance records for Big Island lawmakers. Nancy Cook Lauer from Stephens Media compiled the data for her story on the 2007 session. Click here to see who has the best and worst records.

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