Saturday, March 8, 2008

Hundreds show up for Grant-in-Aid briefing

The State Capitol Auditorium started to fill up early on this Saturday morning. For the first time, the House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee decided to open up the review process and invite all the applicants for Grants-in-Aid to come before the money committees to discuss their request and answer any questions in person. Today was set aside for Oahu applicants; Wednesday is the day for Neighbor Island applicants.

They came from the arts, human service organizations, health care facilities, business development, and even a Franciscan monk.

Due to the sheer number of testifiers, applicants were taken in alphabetical order and limited to 3 minutes. Many took much less than that, standing on their written application. After about 10 to 15 testifiers, the committee broke to ask questions, and then proceeded with the next group.

Deena Dray, Diamond Head Theater, was first to get a laugh. "Diamond Head Theater is perhaps best known for the Grid Iron Show," she said, referring to the successful theatrical review by Hawaii journalists, satirizing and roasting local politicans. "I want to assure you that we have nothing to do with putting on that show, or those nasty journalists."

Chair of Finance Marcus Oshiro asked all applicants that if they received an appropriation last year, what is the status of those funds. Almost all the applicants responded that they are still waiting for the money to be released by the Governor.

Here are some random comments heard throughout the day:

"We are requesting the funds because of the suddenness of the appearance of varroa mites and the urgency to contain it. The Department of Agriculture has no program to address the problem." Michael Kliks, Hawaii Beekeepers Association.

"Other than antibiotics, today's pharmaceuticals address the symptoms of disease, but they don't cure them. We are a society that spends billions of dollars on disease care, not health care. Why not spend a few hundred thousand for preventive healthcare, rather than millions for pharmaceuticals that cure nothing." Terry Shintani, Hawaii Institute of Integrative Health.

"We currently save about 65-70 lives through organ donors. We believe we can increase that number by 35-50 more lives with a statewide organ donor online registry." Hawaii Organ Procurement Organization.

"My great grandfather was a houseboy at Iolani Palace during the reign of Queen Liliuokalani, and my grandfather, Ellery Chun, was the founder of the Aloha Shirt." Dan Chun, Hawaiian Island Ministries.
"Since opening, we've had 120,000 visitors and 6,000 school children visiting the museum. We've moving from a Hawaii level project to a national level." Pacific Aviation Museum.
"The Hokulea - today is her 33rd birthday. She's sailed over 125,000 miles and is on her third generation of sailors, trained navigators, and a whole host of community supporters." Bruce Blankenfeld, Polynesian Voyaging Society.
"The Sisters have determined that the best thing they can do to help people is to be more pro-active rather than reactive to healthcare." St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii.
"We are in the computer age, and the world is passing me by during my incarceration." Representative from TJ Mahoney & Associates, on the comment of a woman prisoner, regarding their request for computer technology funding.
"My heart has been warmed by hearing about the many organizations who are working to help others." Waianae Coast Christian Women's Job Corps representative, after complaints about the room being so cold.
In closing, Chair Oshiro mentioned that there are three state agencies that have not yet responded with their reviews of the grant applications, which is part of the legislature's criteria for selection. They are Department of Health, Department of Human Services and Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The briefing started at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 2:00 p.m.


Doug said...

...and now what?

Is it a) The entire committee debates which applicants will get grants and the amounts of each grant;

or b) the fiscal committee staff comes up with a list (guided by the chair) and the committee votes once (up or down) on that proposed allocation scheme?

Hawaii House Blog - GD said...

I spoke with the Finance Chair. He said that he wants all of the committee members to first weigh in on their priorities after reviewing the applications and hearing the testimony. On Wednesday, the Council on Revenues will provide a new projection on state revenues which will have a great impact on the overall budget. The budget crosses over to the Senate on Wednesday as well. The Senate will have their own priorities for grants, and towards the end of the session, the Chair will start discussions with the Senate.

Doug said...

Thanks for checking.

Does he mean "weigh in on their priorities" privately, or during a public committee hearing?

Hawaii House Blog - GD said...

He did not specify. I don't believe there will be another public hearing, other than the neighbor island one on Wednesday.