Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SB2245 Passes After Seven Years

By Rep. Marilyn Lee

Finally—after 7 years, a bill which makes it unlawful to leave a child under 9 unattended in a motor vehicle has passed.

In 2007, media reports show that more than 35 children were known to have died across the nation from injuries sustained by being left alone in a car. These numbers do not include those who were left in a hot car and saved just in time, or those who have suffered but have not died as a result of being left in cars. Far too many children have lost their lives or suffered when it is completely preventable.

This bill will help protect innocent lives by prohibiting operators and adult passengers of motor vehicles from leaving the vehicle with an unattended child under the age of nine inside for more than five minutes, and makes such conduct a violation of the statewide traffic code.

This prohibition provides one more tool with which law enforcement, firefighter, or rescue team personnel may take concrete action in protecting Hawaii's children by allowing personnel to use whatever means necessary to protect and remove endangered, unattended children from the vehicles. Law enforcement, firefighters, or rescue team personnel will be required to immediately report this violation to the police if the guardian of the unattended child cannot be located within a reasonable time.

In addition, there is an educational component, which requires the examiner of drivers to test license applicants for knowledge of this offense. The requirements and penalties of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle shall be printed on a card, which shall be placed in the glove compartment of every rental motor vehicle offered to the public.

I am very happy that the children of our state will now have this measure of protection.

Reps. Wakai and Brower donate Shriner's clothes and toys to Tuloy Foundation

While in the Philippines, tourism committee members Reps. Glenn Wakai and Tom Brower spent the day with local kids from the Tuloy Foundation, a program that helps guide and change the lives of young runaways, orphans and criminals. A Hawaii charity helps support the school.
The House members handed out 7 boxes of stuffed animals, clothes and toys that were donated from Shriner's hospital.
More on their goodwill efforts on the KHNL website.
In Photo (L-R): Rep. Brower and Rep. Wakai help the children of the Tuloy Foundation program pick out their favorite stuffed animal.

Pharmacists Name Rep. Lee as Friend of Pharmacy

The Hawaii Pharmacists Association will be presenting the 2008 Friends of Pharmacy award on Saturday, May 3rd to Rep. Marilyn Lee. The award ceremony will be held at the Association's annual meeting at the Ihilani Resort at Ko'Olina. The Hawaii Pharmacists Association is a volunteer organization that represents the pharmacy practice in Hawaii. Congratulations Rep. Lee!

Women's Legislative Caucus - Successful Measures

The Women's Legislative Caucus (WLC) announced today that six of the bills introduced in its 2008 legislative package have been approved by the House and Senate. In addition, one concurrent resolution also received House and Senate approval.

"Considering the small percentage of bills that pass compared to the number introduced, I am proud that the Women's Legislative Caucus has accomplished so much this session," said Caucus Co-chair Marilyn Lee. "The bipartisan work of the Caucus has helped us move forward with our goal of improving the lives of women and children. I am glad I could be a part of that effort. The legislation we sponsored, while focused on women and children, will benefit society as a whole."

The WLC's measures that passed the Legislature include:

HB2770 Expands the Bridge to Hope Program by clarifying that participants be in the First-to-Work Program and allowing participants to be enrolled in vocational education programs.

HB2761 Improves the health and welfare of women between pregnancies by requiring the provision of not less than six months of post-partum and interconception care for female participants of child-bearing age under the QUEST program.

HB2763 Re-establishes the Children of Incarcerated Parents Task Force, which ceased to exist on December 31, 2007, for a new term to last until December 31, 2011, to require annual task force reports to the Legislature.

SB2212 Based on recommendations of the Hawaii Anti-Trafficking Task Force. Among the provisions included in the bill are making it a crime of kidnapping in the first degree to intentionally or knowingly restrain another person with the intent to unlawfully obtain the labor or services of the person, regardless of whether a debt collection is involved, and to define "labor" and "services" accordingly and clarifies the elements of the offense of promoting prostitution in the first degree by adding a reference to "force, threat, or intimidation" and deleting "criminal coercion"; and applying the offense to a person who knowingly advances or profits from prostitution of a person who is less than eighteen years old.

SB2218 Requires electronic monitoring of persons convicted of violating a domestic abuse temporary restraining order or protective order.

HB2772 Continues the efforts to address human trafficking by extending the Hawaii Anti-Trafficking Task Force from June 30, 2008, to June 30, 2010.

HCR51 Requests the Department of Health to assess whether to require cervical cancer vaccinations for young women before they enter the seventh grade.

Members of the Women's Legislative Caucus are: Representatives Karen Leinani Awana, Della Au Belatti, Lyla Berg,Ph.D, Rida T. R. Cabanilla, Mele Carroll, Corinne W. L. Ching, Cindy Evans, Lynn Finnegan, Faye P. Hanohano, Sharon Har, Marilyn B. Lee, Sylvia J. Luke, Barbara C. Marumoto, Colleen Rose Meyer, Hermina M. Morita, Kymberly Pine, Maile S. L. Shimabukuro, Cynthia Thielen, and Senators Rosalyn Baker, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Carol Fukunaga, Colleen Hanabusa, Lorraine R. Inouye, Donna Mercado Kim, Jill Tokuda.

Sine Die - Without Day

The 2008 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn sine die tomorrow. I never took Latin in school and have always been curious about the term. Everyone seems to pronounce it "SIGN-nee dye". According to Wikipedia, that is the popular and accepted pronunciation, but the proper pronunciation is "SIN nay DEE ay", and it means to adjourn without a day to reconvene. In other words, the final day of a session.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Final Reading

Of the 152 bills on the order of the day, 69 bills were placed on the consent calendar for passage.

Six friendly floor amendments, mainly technical changes, were offered on the following bills:

HB2293 on the Galbraith purchase, HB2872 regarding the leaseholders and permittees at Kokee state park, SB2198 on land conservation tax credits, SB2499 on effective date of taro as the state plant, SB6 clarifying which opihi can and cannot be picked, and SB2262 on VEBA trust sunset extension.

Two bills were recommitted back to conference:

SB2363 on sexual assault against a person who is mentally defective, and HB1832 on campaign signs.

Wednesday is a recess day. The House is back for the last day of the session on Thursday, May 1st at 10:00 a.m. There are 29 bills up for final reading, in addition to the 6 bills that were amended today. Included in the bunch are Turtle Bay acquisition, Ignition Interlocking Device, Pedestrian Safety appropriation, Important Agricultural Lands, Solar Energy Tax Credits, Absentee Voting, Biosecurity for Invasive Species, and more.

Top Five Reasons to Vote for the Budget

It's 11:30 a.m. and the House is voting on the HB2500, the executive budget bill. Rep. Marcus Oshiro, chairman of the Finance Committee provided these top five reasons to vote for the bill:

Number 5: This budget prioritizes education.

This budget provides 155% more money than the Governor provided for the repair and maintenance of our schools. The Governor included $26 million; while this budget provides $66.4 million.

This budget provides 42% more than the Govenor provided for the repair and maintenance of University of Hawaii facilities. The Govenor provided $50 million while this budget provides $71.2 million.

This budget provides a total of $57.7 million for the charter schools. That's $1.6 million more thanthe Governor provided in her budget and $6.1 million more than they are currently receiving.

Number 4: This budget prioritizes health and human services by providing:

$10 million for adult mental health;
$4.3 million for Emergency Medical Services;
$1.1 million for the Hawaii State Hospital
$5.7 million to draw down $7 million in federal funds for our hospitals that care for the uninsured;
$585,000 to insure that State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) coverage for children is protected from impending federal budget cuts;
$26 million for the completion of the Kukui Gardens purchase, thereby protecting its tenants from becoming homeless;
$3.8 million for homeless services for Bldg. 36 in Kalaeloa, Kahikolu in Waianae, and other existing services;
$15 million in general obligation bonds to the Rental Housing Trust Fund; and
$10 million in general obligation bonds to the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund.

Number 3: This budget prioritizes public safety by providing:

$240,000 for the Department of Justice compliance issues regarding mental health services at our prisons;
$271,000 for the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility to maintain compliance with their Department of Justice Memorandum of Agreement.

Number 2: This budget ensures that the Governor can release appropriations held hostage by the Governor.

112 GIA applicants with grants totaling approximately $9 million in Operating Funds and $24 million in CIP funds that were appropriated last year still wait for their money to be released by the Governor. Why haven't the monies been released for: the Honolulu Symphony, Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Charities, Easter Seals or the Salvation Army?

This budget allows the Governor to release those moneys and support these non-profits that support our communities.

The Governor has refused to release about $43 million in appropriations and valuable initiatives passed by the Legislature last year. For example,

Act 272 provided $250,000 to increase transparency in state government;
Act 147 provided $200,000 for perinatal care;
Act 284 provided $8 million to increase Medicaid reinbursements to doctors providing health care to the underinsured and uninsured;
Act 237 provided $500,000 to increase low and moderate income family home ownership; and
Act 178 provided $84,000 for screening and referral to substance abuse services.

This budget allows those innovative programs to proceed without further delay.

Number 1: Finally, this budget appropriates $44.7 million less in operating general funds than the Governor's budget.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 59

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is Day 59 of the 60-day 2008 legislative session. It will be a long day of voting for bills up for final reading in both the House and Senate. The House begins at 10 a.m., and you can watch the proceedings LIVE on Olelo, Channel 49. The Senate also begins at 10 a.m., and they will be broadcast on Channel 53. We'll do a post on dates/times for the rebroadcast schedule when that becomes available. If you want to follow along, the order of the day (O.D.) should be available on Tuesday morning on the capitol website,, under bill status.

There are 152 bills up for Tuesday, and 29 bills up for Thursday. Wednesday is a recess day. The O.D. will include a consent calendar, bills for which members have consented to vote in one motion with no floor debate. Members are able to vote aye or noe, but they will not be able to rise and speak on any bill on the consent calendar.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

At the stroke of midnight

Some found their glass slipper, some turned back into pumpkins. Thursday evening, the House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee met and agreed on HB2500, CD1, the Executive budget bill. Friday evening, the House and Senate leadership and chairs gathered in Room 309 to sign conference committee reports and vote on the last of the conference drafts for the session. By the midnight deadline, room 309 was still packed with lawmakers, staffers, media and public. Take a look:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More bills survive conference

Today was the deadline for non-fiscal bills to pass out of conference. The bills will go into final reading on both chamber floors for one last vote and if enough support is garnered for the measures, they will be sent to the Governor for review. The Governor can sign the bills and enact them into law, not sign them and the bills become law after 45 days, or veto the bills. Here are some of the measures that survived this week (date in parenthesis is when bill passed out):

Protecting Children

RELATING TO FAMILY COURT SB2054 SD2 HD2 CD1 (4/21) passed with amendments. The bill establishes criteria for the best interests of the child, to specify what factors the courts shall consider in making a custody or visitation determination concerning a minor child.

RELATING TO CHILD PROTECTION SB2730 SD2 HD2 CD1 (4/21) passed with amendments. This bill establishes a preference for placement of children needing child protective services.

RELATING TO CRIMINAL HISTORY BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR SOCIAL SERVICES PROGRAMS SB3051 SD2 HD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill authorizes the Department of Human Services or its designee to conduct criminal history record checks for those providing services to vulnerable adults and children.


RELATING TO CRIME SB2212 SD1 HD2 (4/21) passed with amendments. This bill defines "labor" and "service" in the context of extortion promoting prostitution and eliminates distinction between minors under 18 and minors under 16 for purposes of promoting prostitution.

RELATING TO PSEUDOEPHEDRINE SALES SB2373 SD1 HD2 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill requires pharmacies and retailers to maintain an electronic log of sales of pseudoephedrine and related products and transmit the information to the Department of Public Safety Narcotics Enforcement Division on a monthly basis.

RELATING TO PROSTITUTION HB3002 HD1 SD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill creates a new offense of habitual solicitation of prostitution, a class C felony, if the person pays, agrees to pay, or offers to pay a fee to another person to engage in sexual conduct, and has two or more specified prior offenses related to prostitution within ten years of the instant offense. Sunset 6/30/2010.

RELATING TO HAWAII PENAL CODE HB3383 SD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill requires that multiple terms of imprisonment to run concurrently unless the court orders or the law mandates that the terms run consecutively. Prospective application from 1/1/09.

RELATING TO MENTAL HEALTH SB2396 SD1 HD3 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill requires the Department of Health to submit an annual report on forensic patients; requires yearly court status hearings for individuals ordered to be conditionally released or hospitalized as an inpatient by the mental health court; reduces the minimum length of hospitalization from ninety to thirty days for individuals who are recommitted after conditional release; makes appropriation for mental health court operations.

RELATING TO ENDANGERING THE WELFARE OF A MINOR (4/21) HB2346 HD2 SD2 CD1 (4/21) passed with amendments. This bill expands the crimes of endangering the welfare of a minor in the first and second degrees to include situations in which an adult causes or permits a minor to inject, ingest, or inhale certain controlled substances that were not prescribed for the minor by a physician.

RELATING TO ANIMAL HOARDING SB3203 SD1 HD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill makes it a misdemeanor to hoard pet animals and establishes elements of the offense.

RELATING TO HARASSMENT SB2456 SD2 HD1 CD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill creates a new misdemeanor offense of harassment by impersonation.

Prison and Public Safety

RELATING TO PUBLIC SAFETY SB2341 SD1 HD1 (4/23) passed with amendments. This bill requires out-of-state detention facilities holding Hawaii prisoners under a contract with the State to make public information about the operation of the prison.


RELATING TO INSURANCE SB3023 SD2 HD2 CD1 (4/21) passed with amendments. This bill authorizes the creation and regulation of special purpose financial captive insurance companies (SPFCIC), establishes confidentiality provisions applicable to captives, including SPFCICs. The bill also provides clarity on sponsored captive insurance companies.

REALATING TO THE HAWAII COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY SB3166 HD1 CD1 (4/22) passed with amendments. This bill requires at least two members of the Hawaii Community Development Authority to represent small businesses and allows them to vote on matters concerning small business; directs the Governor to initially designate the small business representatives from among the current members of HCDA.


RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES HB2550 HD2 SD2 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill requires the public utilities commission to ensure that a percentage of the total rated generating capacity produced by eligible customer-generators be reserved for electricity produced by eligible residential or small commercial customer-generators. It allows public utilities commission to define maximum capacity for eligible residential or small commercial customer-generators and to evaluate, on an island-by-island basis, the applicability of the generating capacity requirements and, in its discretion, exempt an island or a utility grid system from the generating capacity requirements.

RELATING TO LAND USE HB2450 HD1 SD2 CD1 (4/21) passed with amendments. This bill establishes conditions for the granting of approval of petitions for boundary amendments where lands in the petition area are contiguous or adjacent to lands in the agricultural districts. Final reading will be on Tuesday, 4/29.

RELATING TO AGRICULTURAL LOANS HB2261 HD2 SD1 (4/23) passed with the House agreeing to the Senate amendments. The bill will include farm sustainable projects in the existing agricultural loan program, and aquaculture sustainable projects in the existing aquacultural loan program.


RELATING TO INVASIVE SPECIES HB2977 HD1 SD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill requires the Hawaii invasive species council to give priority to eradicating coqui frogs in the coqui frog eradication plan.


RELATING TO HEALTH CARE HB2519 HD2 SD2 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill requires the legislative reference bureau to study student loan repayment and stipend payment programs in other jurisdictions to encourage physicians and dentists to serve shortage areas. Funds are appropriated. In addition, the bill creates a temporary pilot project with the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism's enterprise zone program to grant tax and other benefits similar to those in an enterprise zone to physicians and dentists who establish or maintain practices in shortage areas.

RELATING TO CANCER SURVEILLANCE SB2040 SD1 HD2 (4/21) passed with the Senate agreeing to the House amendments. This bill allows a cancer patient to be contacted directly without initial physician contact for purposes of cancer surveillance. Pre-cancerous conditions are authorized for data collection. Biological specimens may be collected to assist cancer research.

RELATING TO LONG-TERM CARE HB2062 HD1 SD2 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill allows persons eligible to receive Medicaid funds for care at nursing home facilities to remain at home and receive home- and community-based long-term care. It requires the Department of Human Services to apply for necessary waivers and grants to allow funds to be used in that manner.

RELATING TO WOMEN'S HEALTH HB2761 HD1 SD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill requires at least 6 months post-partum and interconception care for women who participate in the Hawaii QUEST health insurance program.

RELATING TO MENTAL HEALTH SB1802 HD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill provides an exception to the confidentiality of mental health records and allows disclosure of diagnosis and prescription information if it is made by the person's most recent healthcare provider to a subsequent health care provider for the purpose of continued care or treatment.

RELATING TO MENTAL HEALTH SB2396 SD1 HD3 (4/24) passed with amendments This bill requires the department of health to submit an annual report on forensic patients; requires yearly court status hearings for individuals ordered to be conditionally released or hospitalized as an inpatient by the mental health court; reduces the minimum length of hospitalization from ninety to thirty days for individuals who are recommitted after conditional release; makes appropriation for mental health court operations.


RELATING TO EDUCATION SB2879 SD2 HD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill establishes a power of attorney for special education and establishes the process to appoint an educational representative for an adult student who lacks capacity. It clarifies the authority of a guardian of an adult student.

RELATING TO EDUCATION HB2971 HD1 SD2 (4/21) passed with the House agreeing to Senate amendments. This bill requires the Department of Education to implement recommendations of the online learning task force.

RELATING TO TEACHER LICENSURESB2080 SD2 HD2 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill allows the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board to suspend a teacher's license when the teacher has been convicted of certain sexual offenses and to initiate proceedings to permanently revoke the teacher's license.

RELATING TO EDUCATION SB2879 SD2 HD1 (4/24) passed with amendments. This bill establishes a power of attorney for special education and establishes the process to appoint an educational representative for an adult student who lacks capacity. It clarifies the authority of a guardian of an adult student.


RELATING TO EMPLOYMENT SECURITY SB2876 HD2 (4/24) passed with amendments. Appropriates funds for fiscal year 2007-08 in Reed Act funds for the Hawaii work force investment board and one-stop career center.


RELATING TO SPECIAL PURPOSE REVENUE BONDS TO ASSIST INDUSTRIAL ENTERPRISES HB2661 HD2 SD2 CD1 (4/21) passed out of conference with amendments and will go to final reading on Tuesday, 4/29/2008. The bill authorizes special purpose revenue bonds to Hui Mana ‘Oma‘o for the establishment of facilities to convert renewable energy resources into electrical energy.

AUTHORIZING THE ISSUANCE OF SPECIAL PURPOSE REVENUE BONDS TO ASSIST OCEANLINX HAWAII LLC SB2034 HD2 (4/21) passed with the Senate agreeing to the House amendments. The bill authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds for planning, designing, and constructing a wave or hydrokinetic power facility on Maui.

RELATING TO THE ISSUANCE OF SPECIAL PURPOSE REVENUE BONDS TO ASSIST SOPOGY INC., IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY ON THE ISLAND OF OAHU SB3190 HD1 (4/21) passed with the Senate agreeing to the House amendments. The bill authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds in an amount not exceeding $35,000,000 to assist Sopogy, Inc. with planning, designing, construction, equipping, and operating a solar farm power plant on Oahu to produce electricity from solar power.


RELATING TO WATER RATES HB2810 HD1 SD1 CD1 (4/18) passed with amendments, authorizes the public utilities commission to establish preferential potable water rates for agricultural activities in a public utility's service area. The bill goes to final reading tomorrow.

MAKING AN EMERGENCY APPROPRIATION TO THE HAWAII PUBLIC HOUSING AUTHORITY HB3140 SD2 (4/21) passed with the House agreeing to Senate amendments. This bill appropriates emergency funds for the Hawaii public housing authority to repay the Department of Budget and Finance for a loan made to cover payroll and risk management costs for liability insurance for fiscal year 2006-2007, and to address a critical funding shortfall for operational costs of its public housing programs for fiscal year 2007-2008.

RELATING TO ELECTRONIC PERMITTING FEES HB3151 HD2 SD1 (4/23) passed with the House agreeing to the Senate amendments. This bill allows certain Department of Health environmental programs to conduct business electronically and withhold sufficient moneys to cover the cost of electronic and credit card provider services.

RELATING TO ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENTS SB2808 SD2 HD1 (4/23) passed with the Senate agreeing to the House amendments. This bill clarifies that when two or more agencies have jurisdiction, the office of environmental quality control shall determine which agency has the responsibility of preparing an environmental assessment after consultation with and assistance from the affected state or county agencies. It also makes clarifications to the rulemaking powers of the environmental council.

"It's late, but please forgive us."

Those were the sentiments of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye on the action take today by the U.S. Senate. They passed a bill restoring benefits for Filipino veterans of World War II, which was loudly applauded by the Hawaii House Filipino Caucus. The Senate authorized $221 million over the next decade for Filipino veterans living in the Philippines. The funds would go toward housing assistance, life insurance, and burial costs, and includes pensions of about $3,600 a year for low-income veterans.

"This is a landmark victory for the courageous Filipino veterans who fought bravely in World War II," said Rep. Michael Magaoay, chairman of the House Filipino Caucus. "We want to thank our two U.S. Senators, Senator Daniel K. Inouye and Senator Daniel K. Akaka, without whom this bill might never have passed."

It is estimated that 470,000 Filipinos fought in the war for the United States against the Japanese. Of that number, about 20,000 Filipino veterans are still alive, with 2,000 living in Hawaii and 13,000 in the Philippines.

"Even though many of the veterans have passed, we believe it is important to honor their memory and give them the recognition they deserve," added Rep. Magaoay. "It's an important lesson that we pass on to our children, that our Filipino ancestors played a role in fighting for the United States of America in the name of freedom, and that our country found it right and just to give Filipinos a place in history."

About last night...

In addition to closing out the operating side of the budget bill, HB 2500, the chairs addressed two issues that have been in dispute and will have a critical impact on segments of our community. One is the funding levels for Hawaii's charter schools, and the other is the reserve levels for TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Charter Schools: Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro explained to conference members that the legislature will provide an additional $1.6 million for the charter schools. He realized that it is less than they wanted, but given the lack of financial resources this year, most state agencies will be taking a cut in their budgets by comparison.

In mid-December of 2007, Governor Lingle and her staff performed the initial calculation for the Charter Schools budget. In fiscal year 2008, Charter Schools received $51.6 million. While Charter Schools came in for an increase of $19 million, the administration reduced the amount to $4.5 million. Still, Charter Schools would be getting more money than last year, while many other state programs will be forced to cut their budgets.

Rep. Oshiro took care to emphasize that this is a one-time-only expenditure and that it should not be added to the baseline budget of the charter schools. In addition, he made it clear that the Governor and her administration gave no indication that they supported the charter schools' budget increase request. In fact, the two chairs asked the charter schools to have the Governor send down a Governor's Message to restore a larger increase, and that message never came.

Further, it was troubling that the charter schools voted to approve a new school just last month. The new school will add 250 students to the system at a time when financial resources are not available. Oshiro questioned the management decision.

TANF: The Advertiser has a story outlining the TANF restrictions here. Here are some additional comments.

The administration receives $98 million per year from the federal government for TANF, but they have been spending $138 million per year resulting in a $40 million deficit which is taken from the reserve. As stated in the Advertiser story, the administration would like to spend the reserve down to zero. The Legislature is concerned that a)the reserve level will deplete rapidly and b)we are going into a recession which will result in even more people dependent on welfare funds.

How much should states keep in reserve? According to Jack Tweedie, the Director of the Children and Families Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures, who responded to an inquiry by House Finance staff:

"There is no federal or generally accepted standard as to how much of their TANF block grant states should keep in reserve for potential increases in cash assistance caseloads. NCSL did an analysis of changes in state's TANF caseloads and concluded that most states would be able to cover increased costs of cash assistance for two years out of TANF reserve fund if they kept 50% of the most recent year's basic assistance spending (which includes, but is not limited to, cash assistance spending) in reserve.

We recommend being able to cover the costs of increased cash assistance out of a TANF reserve fund (rather than increased state spending or cuts in other uses of state or federal funds), because increases in cash assistance caseloads virtually always come in bad economic times when spending in other state assistance programs (especially Medicaid) are also increasing and state revenues are going down."

Therefore, the money committees decided to keep $44 million in reserve, and drop the annual level of funding from $138 million to $116, or a restriction of $22 million.

It has been 12 years since former President Clinton and the U.S. Congress ended the traditional "welfare" programs and started the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as a way to help people get out of poverty. Tweedie goes on to say that,

"Nothing that I have seen suggests that Hawaii has developed a strategy for using TANF funds in ways to reduce poverty or help move families toward self-sufficiency. Spending on youth programs does not contribute directly to reducing poverty....As your Auditor pointed out a few years ago, there does not seem to be much of a strategy in the funding of youth programs. Hawaii has also not tracked the families leaving TANF effectively, so you do not know how well they are doing or what has worked in your efforts to move them into jobs and off welfare."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Closing in on the budget

Tonight, the House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee finished the operating side of HB2500, the state budget bill. They return tomorrow to address CIP and any other matters.
HB2700, the Judiciary budget, was passed with amendments. Here are House Co-Chairs Rep. Tommy Waters and Rep. Marcus Oshiro.

Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro addressed the Legislature's response to the Charter School funding issue, and Senate Chair Rosalyn Baker addressed the TANF issue. Details tomorrow.

Rep Takamine questions B&F on release of funds for HCEOC

Rep. Dwight Takamine is trying to help the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council (HCEOC) in getting the Lingle administration to release funds for their transportation program. He sent out a news release yesterday explaining that he has written to Georgina Kawamura, Director of the Department of Budget and Finance, reminding them that the legislature appropriated $227,651 in 2007 for this needy program.

On the Big Island, public transportation does not provide services off the highway. HCEOC operates a transportation program that helps the low-income elderly, the disabled, dialysis patients, and low-income pre-school children with transportation needs.

To date, the administration has released $100,000 of the total amount, and this is creating such a hardship that the program is in jeopardy. The director of the Council has been working at three-quarters salary since February and may be forced to start layoffs.

“As House Finance Chair during the economic crisis of the 1990's and post September 11, I understand the hard decisions that need to be made when faced with an economic downturn," said Rep. Takamine. “But I believe we should always look out for the most vulnerable of our citizens. HCEOC acts as the lifeline for these people, and we need to support their efforts."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Electronic monitoring expensive

Unsure of the estimated cost of electronically monitoring persons convicted of violating a temporary restraining order, lawmakers will wait until tomorrow to decide the fate of SB 2218. In previous hearings the budget cost was determined to be $200, 000 per year, but in a recent study the state Judiciary predicted $1.4 million. The cost prediction provides for all convicted defendants not just indigent persons. Rep. Shimabukuro suggested changing the language of the bill to include a predetermined money cap. The Department of the Attorney General questioned language that would require a defendant to wear an electronic monitoring device even if the location of the protected person is unknown.

Precious Earth - Recycle

Today is Earth Day. As the legislature draws to a close next week, a significant number of bills on recycling are alive. For instance:

HB639 is a carryover from 2007. Introduced by Rep. Hermina Morita, the bill requires that redemption centers and dealers in high density areas remain open for at least 35 hours per week. It allows dealers in the same shopping center to coordinate the operation of a redemption center. And for those who seek the convenience of a redemption center, it requires the Department of Health to encourage the facilitation of agreements between shopping center managers, store owners and dealers to establish redemption centers. The bill is scheduled for another conference on Thursday, 4/24.

SB651 is another carryover from 2007. Introduced by Senator Gary Hooser, the bill establishes a statewide, at-store, plastic bag recycling program. It requires certain retailers to collect plastic bags at their store and recycle them. The bill is scheduled for another conference on Wednesday, 4/23.

SB2843 is about recycling electronic devices. The bill is part of the Joint House/Senate Majority package. It requires manufacturers of electronic devices to collect and recycle the devices. It establishes the Electronic Device Recycling Fund. Electronic device means "a computer printer, computer monitor, or television, whether cathode ray tube-based or flat panel-based, or a portable computer, with a screen size greater than four inches measured diagonally." The bill is scheduled for its next conference on Wednesday, 4/23.

Open call for poll questions

Rep. Tom Brower is offering constituents an opportunity to provide question ideas for his monthly automated telephone poll. The results are conveniently posted on his website immediately after the telephone poll.

This month's questions included issues on death with dignity, tax rebates, rail transit and civil unions. Read more about the website and automated telephone poll in a past blog post and in a blog post from the guys at the Advertiser's Capitol Notebook.

Brower is looking for questions on issues that appeal to the entire island. Future questions may range from medicinal medicine to early education.

On which issues do you want lawmakers to know your opinion? Share your ideas with us in our comment box.

Getting tough on contractors who violate public procurement law

SB3087 may not make headlines, but it's an important bill that will help level the playing field for private contractors who compete for public works projects. The bill passed out of a conference committee today with amendments and is headed for a full floor vote in both bodies.

SB3087 gives the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations the authority to immediately suspend and begin debarment proceedings against contractors who purposely defraud the State on public works projects. This includes falsification of records or delaying an investigation under the wage and hour law. Violators will be suspended for a period of three years.

According to the bill, "there is currently no method to debar contractors who cheat and get caught unless they fail to pay back wages, which rarely happens." The bill supports the intent of Chapter 104, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which is a law that evens the playing field for those bidding for public works jobs, and requires a prevailing wage for workers.

Women. Worth an average 23 cents less than men.

Rep. Cindy Evans, a longtime advocate of women's rights, gave a floor speech in session reminding colleagues that today is Equal Pay Day, a public awareness event that illustrates the gap between men's and women's wages. On this day everyone is encouraged to wear red.

This is what she had to say:

Time For Equality
By Rep. Cindy Evans

My fellow Legislators…

Today is Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996. RED is worn on Equal Pay Day to symbolize how far women are "in the red" with their pay.

Observed on a Tuesday in April, Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. In fact in general Tuesday is the day on which women's wages catch up to men's wages from the previous week. The gap between men's and women's wages is real and well documented.

We've come along way. It's hard to believe, but in 1932 the Federal Economic Act was passed to ban the wives of federal employees from holding government positions. The act also declared that women with employed husbands be first on the lists for firing. Two years later in 1935 the National Recovery Act officially required women who held jobs with the government to receive 25 percent less pay than men in the exact same job.

The “Equal Pay Act of 1963’ was supposed to rectify this disparity.

I'm pleased to note there has been progress….

*Women’s wages have risen in all states since 1989.

* Women with four-year or graduate college degrees have almost achieved parity with men.

* Today Hawaii ranks 12th in states narrowing the gap and received an honorable mention from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2006-2007 for our state’s progress in addressing the equal pay issue. In 2005 the Hawai'i state legislature passed ACT 35 promoting equal pay for equal work in Hawaii nei.

But 40 years after the Equal Rights Amendment we are not there yet. Today millions of women still struggle to make ends meet while doing the exact same jobs as men under similar working conditions with equal skill, effort and responsibilities, while earning less.

Since 1995, the poverty rate among women in 15 states has increased. At our present rate of progress it will take 50 years for women to achieve earnings parity with men.

The work to solve wage inequity must continue and the message to the next generation of women wage earners is…don’t rest on the work done by those before you. Working towards equal pay is the right thing to do!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lawmakers rally to support CKD bill

U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie spoke at the "Rally for Life" at the Capitol today in support of measures related to Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) that are going through the final stages of the legislative process.

Lawmakers and advocates of HB 2913, a bill that would provide a grant to St. Francis Healthcare System to support the modified home care and community health demonstration project and requires $1,000,000 in matching funds, gathered in the Rotunda to raise awareness about CKD, an epidemic that already affects nearly 20 percent of Hawaii's population.
The rally was sponsored by the Filipino Caucus and hosted by chairman Rep. Michael Magaoay.
Update: HB2913 is dead, but funds for chronic kidney disease may still be alive in the budget bill through a grant-in-aid. The AP story is here.

Bill appropriating funds to housing authority moves out of conference

House conferees today agreed to the Senate Draft of HB 3140, SD2, which appropriates the sum of $3,067,955 to the Hawaii public housing authority to repay the department of budget and finance for a loan to pay for liability insurance and payroll costs and to address the budget deficits for the state family public housing program and federal low rent program.

The funds must be allocated as follows:

(1) $1,600,000 for repayment to the department of budget and finance for a loan made to address risk management costs billed by the department of accounting and general services and a payroll shortfall;
(2) $1,080,000 for the payroll shortfall of the state single family housing program;
(3) $17,607 for unbudgeted increases in state single family housing program insurance costs; and
(4) $370,348 for unbudgeted increases in federal low rent program insurance.

Rep. Takumi Addresses Early Childhood Education on Island Insights

Rep. Roy Takumi, Chairman of the House Education Committee, will be a special guest on "Island Insights", Thursday evening, at 7:30 p.m. The show airs LIVE on PBS - Hawaii Public Television. The subject is Early Childhood Education in Hawaii and the status of legislation this year. Mark your calendars.

Not all breast-feeding mothers exempt from crime

Senate conferees agreed to House amendments on HB2346, HD2, SD2 that would exempt breast-feeding mothers who recklessly introduce a controlled substance to their infants from criminal charges. The bill expands the crime of endangering the welfare of a minor to include situations in which an adult causes or permits a minor to inject, ingest, or inhale certain controlled substances that were not prescribed for the minor by a physician.

Rep. Tommy Waters said all breast-feeding mothers should not be excluded from the law because a mother who intentionally gives her child breast milk contaminated with a controlled substance should be charged with a crime.

Senators Chun Oakland and Brian Taniguchi voted yes and Senator Fred Hemmings voted no.

Candidacy Recipe: 2 cups capability, 5 cups life experience

A Senate bill (SB966) that would amend the constitution to change the age qualification for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor from 30 to 25 went up to the Governor on April 9th. The Governor has 10 days to review a constitutional amendment proposal prior to the legislature's voting. The bill passed the House on final reading today. The proposed amendment will now go onto the November ballot, and Hawaii residents will be able to vote for or against the change in the next election.

Why are there minimum age requirements for election to office? The Framers of the U.S. Constitution argued that the stability of character can only be realized with age and that youth lack the maturity to serve in office.

In spite of this, many states have voluntarily lowered age requirements for governor. The minimum age is 21 in South Dakota, and in several other states such as California there are no specified minimum age.

So, how young is too young? When I asked a 21-year-old friend about his opinion on this issue, he retorted, "So, I can vote and get shot at in war, but I can't run for office." Well, just not for governor and Lt. governor.

After sending out a mass email to friends asking whether they would agree to lower the age of candidacy to 25 in Hawaii, I was surprised to see the varied points of views.

Those who would not support the change in the constitution argued that 25-year-olds just seem too young to govern because of their "lack of experience." Those words came from individuals as old as 35 and as young as 20.

Experience is the word, isn't it? The way I see it, it isn't about job experience, legislative experience or political experience, but rather life experience. Choosing an arbitrary number like 30 is pointless and tells me that people who have great ideas, the capability to govern and the aspirations will be rejected before having the opportunity to try because they weren't born on or before the required year.

Of course certain 18-year-olds, 21-year-olds, 25-year-olds (and even a handful of 30-year-olds) may, in fact, be too young and immature to hold office, but aren't constituents smart enough to factor in maturity level, regardless of age, when voting?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Conference 2008 - 17 down, hundreds to go

Here's a list of the bills that have passed out of the conference committees over the past week:

Tuesday, April 15

SB2170 was passed with amendments. The bill is part of the Hawaii State Association of Counties package. It protects counties from liability as a result of natural conditions on or near a public beach park by including public beach parks in the definition of "improved public lands."

Wednesday, April 16

HB2460 was passed with the House agreeing to the Senate amendments. This bill allows condominium associations to invest funds in certificates of deposit through the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service network.

HB2894 was passed with the House agreeing to the Senate amendments. This bill allows for the restatement of planned community association documents.

Thursday, April 17

HB2589 was passed with the House agreeing to the Senate amendments. This bill requires scrap dealers and recyclers to pay for copper purchases by check.

HB3331 was passed with amendments. This bill specifies dispute resolution parameters related to the interpretation or enforcement of a condominium association's bylaws, house rules, or certain other matters. Allows parties whose dispute is not resolved by mediation to file for arbitration no sooner than 30 days from the termination date of mediation. Makes more widely available the option for an administrative hearing.

SB2245 was passed with amendments. This bill makes it a violation of the statewide traffic code to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle. Requires the examiner of drivers to test driver's license applicants for knowledge of this offense. Requires notice of law in rental cars.

SB2454 was passed with amendments. This bill amends the mortgage foreclosures law to ensure that consumers and others receive important information regarding a foreclosure in a timely manner.

SB2584 was passed with the Senate agreeing to the House amendments. This bill recognizes honey as an agricultural commodity.

Friday, April 18

HB2085 was passed with the House agreeing to the Senate amendments. This bill requires members of the board of the agribusiness development corporation to have knowledge, experience, and expertise within certain secondary industries related to agriculture. Requires the agribusiness development corporation to develop a five year strategic plan to be presented to the legislature prior to the 2009 Regular Session.

HB2238 was passed with the House agreeing to the Senate amendments. This bill requires public housing projects and affordable housing funded by county or state funds to remain affordable in perpetuity.

HB2511 was passed with amendments. This bill is part of the Joint House/Senate Majority package. It provides qualified rental assistance applicants up to six months to find a qualified rental dwelling.

HB2698 was passed with the House agreeing to the Senate amendments. This bill clarifies compensation rates for court-appointed attorneys and Guardians Ad Litem.

HB2810 was passed with amendments. This bill authorizes the public utilities commission to establish preferential potable water rates for agricultural activities in a public utility's service area. Requires public utilities, upon application and proof of qualification, to provide preferential rates for potable water used only for agricultural activities.

SB2196 was passed with amendments. This bill adds regulatory function over commercially permitted use of government and private boating facilities and commercial activities in private marinas.

SB2464 was passed with amendments. This bill designates the Hawaiian monk seal as the state mammal.

SB3019 was passed with the Senate agreeing to the House amendments. This bill amends current provisions of the insurance investment statutes allowing insurers more investment flexibility without significantly lessening protection to insurance policyholders and to reflect more current regulatory standards.

SB3030 was passed with amendments. This bill establishes a revised fee structure to fund mixed martial arts regulation.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Chronic Kidney Disease Rally Monday

A "Rally for Life" will be held at the State Capitol in support of measures funding Chronic Kidney Disease care in Hawaii. The House Filipino Caucus, chaired by Rep. Michael Magaoay, will host the rally.

U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie will give the keynote speech asking the state to support measures to address Chronic Kidney Disease immediately. State Lawmakers, St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii, the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii, and the Organ Donor Center of Hawaii cosponsored the rally.

WHEN: Monday, April 21, 2008
1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: State Capitol Rotunda

HB2913 would award Saint Francis Healthcare System with a grant, requiring $1,000,000 in matching funds, to build the infrastructure needed for a stable facility that provides care for acute dialysis patients.

Consider the following statistics on the CKD epidemic in Hawaii:
  • About 20 percent of Hawaii’s population is affected by Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).
  • Over 156,000 already have it with another 100,000 predisposed to contract it.
  • Hawaii has the highest rate of CKD in the nation per capita (1 person in 7 versus 1 in 9 across the country).
  • About 2,500 Hawaii patients are in Stage 4 or 5, undergoing dialysis treatments three to four times per week for the rest of their lives or waiting for a kidney transplant. Of the five stages, Stage 1 concerns minor abnormalities, while stage 5 concerns severe kidney failure.

Constitutional Amendments

Today is the deadline for final form of constitutional amendments. One was already sent up to the Governor on 4/9. That is SB966, proposing to amend the constitution to change the age qualifications in order to run for Governor or Lt. Governor from 30 years to 25 years.

The other, SB3202, appears to be dead as it has not been scheduled for a conference committee. That bill proposes to amend the constitution to extend the retirement age of state justices and judges from 70 years to 80 years. It would have applied to appointments after Nov. 4, 2008 as a means of taking the politics out of the amendment. The Advertiser has a story here.

Rep. Marilyn Lee's take: "Eighty is the new sixty!"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Show me the money

Rep. Blake Oshiro has a long list of priorities this year. One of them is to secure capital improvement project (CIP) funds for several schools and community projects in his district (33-Aiea, Halawa Valley, Halawa Heights, Aiea Heights).

Oshiro will urge his House colleagues to support HB 2995, a bill that includes the following projects:
  • $10 million for plans and construction to relocate Aiea Library
  • $2.4 million for design and construction improvements at Aiea High School
  • $1.7 million to construct and expand Aiea Intermediate School's cafeteria stage
The bill also identifies Aiea Intermediate School, Aiea High School, Gus Webling Elementary School, Pearl Ridge Elementary School, and Waimalu Elementary School as recipients of funding for various projects from electrical and air conditioning upgrades to building improvements and expansion.

Funds were allocated to purchase land for a new library in 2003, and this year Oshiro hopes that the planning and construction of the Aiea Library will be realized with the state's approval.

Do you want to see these projects manifest? Call Rep. Blake Oshiro at 586-6341 or email at for more information on submitting written testimony in support.


Residents and businesses in downtown Honolulu may be relieved to know that HB1978, HD1, SD1 also came out of conference today, with the House conferees agreeing to the Senate draft. This is a bill introduced by Rep. Karl Rhoads. It extends the sunset date from Dec. 31, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2012 of the prohibition against urinating or defecating in public within the boundaries of downtown Honolulu. (Not sure if this means it's okay outside the boundaries of downtown Honolulu?)


It is still relatively early in the conference period, therefore, only a few bills are being voted upon. One that came out is SB2584, SD2, HD1 Relating to Honey. The Senate conferees voted to agree to the House draft today.

The bill recognizes honey as an agricultural commodity under HRS Chapter 147. What this means is that honey would be supported as an industry under the Hawaii Grades and Standards law. Hawaii beekeepers, in their testimony, claim that the market is filled with "unnaturally cheap, adulterated, contaminated and mislabeled honey." This bill will allow the industry to develop a standard of identity for honey and to establish rules enforceable at the state level.

"All we are give bees a chance," the beekeepers said. Today, lawmakers obliged.

Earth Day at Waikalua Loko Fishpond

Need something to do during "Earth Day" weekend? Couldn't get your hands on Kokua Fest tickets? Well, don't worry about that because I've got the thing for you.

Join Reps. Pono Chong, Ken Ito and Sen. Jill Tokuda in Kaneohe for "La Hana Loko I'a," a Work Day at Waikalua Fishpond. The event will include cultural learning tours, activities for children, clean-up of the fishpond and surrounding area, and more. A light lunch will be provided for all who attend.
Where: Waikalua Loko Fishpond. Located at the end of Kulauli St., makai of Puohala Elementary School.

When: Saturday April 19, 2008 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The Waikalua Loko Fishpond Preservation Society, an organization whose mission is to preserve the beauty and stability of the pond, and Windward lawmakers are cosponsoring the "Earth Day" celebration.

Contact Ka'ohua Lucas to pre-register your group.
Phone: 808-843-1217

Aloha found online at

State Representative Ryan Yamane, Chair of the House Tourism and Culture Committee, thanked and congratulated Valerie Sugawa, a veteran of Aloha Airlines, for taking the initiative to create a website that collects donations and offers encouragement for the employees of Aloha Airlines who lost their jobs.

"I like Aloha helping Aloha." said Rep. Yamane. "Seeing former employees take the initiative to give back to their friends and colleagues really shows me the true spirit of Hawaii. They are using their own time to help those impacted and that alone proves the real meaning of Aloha."

Photo: Valerie Sugawa gives free haircuts to former Aloha Airlines' employees at Wellspring Covenant Church in Halawa.

Sugawa, 38 of Moanalua Valley, left the airlines last year to take care of her two children, but she still considers herself part of the Aloha ohana. Eager to do something to help the employees recently laid off after the swift shut-down of Aloha Airlines passenger service, Sugawa and her husband decided to build ShareAloha, a website where people can make donations, and former Aloha employees can make specific requests for items like diapers, formula, new or gently used business attire, canned goods, non-perishable foods, gift cards for gas, or groceries.

A mother of two, ages five and three, with another due in less than a month, recently asked for baby diapers, wipes, baby shampoo, baby ointment and lotion. Once a request comes in via email, Sugawa posts it on the website for island residents to see what is needed.

So far, the website has helped 14 employees with specific requests as of April 2, two days after the official shut down of the passenger service. Sugawa hopes to increase the number of people the website can assist once more employees hear about this alternative avenue for aid.

"With the word spreading, we are having more people writing in for aid," said Sugawa. "The need is great because they are getting turned away from different organizations."

The website also has a message board for concerned citizens wanting to help or offer support by leaving messages, miscellaneous information, or job opportunities for the Aloha community to view.

Donations and support from everyone has been incredible, says Sugawa. Each time they receive a new item, whether it be a gift card, canned goods or monetary donations, she and her husband are overwhelmed with joy at the kindness of Hawaii's people.

The website is co-sponsored by the Wellspring Covenant Church in Halawa, and every Tuesday workers of Aloha Airlines are invited to "Haircut Tuesday" at the church to get free haircuts, enjoy coffee, pastries, or lunch, and receive assistance with resume writing.

If you would like to help or need assistance and don't have access to a computer or internet, please call the Wellspring Covenant Church at 484-8880.

Hawaii Superferry Audit

Here's a link to the Hawaii Superferry Audit report released yesterday. The Advertiser story is here. The AP story is here. No word yet on followup action, if any. The audit was conducted in accordance with Act 2, passed in the 2nd Special Session of 2007.

The performance audit conducted by the Office of the Auditor is only Phase I. Phase I focuses on the administration's action to exempt the Department of Transportation from the requirements of the state's environmental impact statement law related to harbor improvements in order to accommodate the Hawaii Superferry. Phase II will focus on the whether this decision "will cost the state more than its environmental policy."

Coming up on Rep. Lee's "Kukui Connection"

Rep. Marilyn Lee continues her informative series "Kukui Connection" on Oceanic, Ch. 54, aired Sundays at 4:00 p.m. This month, Rep. Lee talks to her colleague, Rep. Mark Takai, on the Hawaii Medal of Honor. That show airs Sunday, April 27th.

Rep. Lee also talks to Dr. Michael Kliks, a spokesman for the Hawaii Beekeepers Association. Learn the latest on how Hawaii's bee community and honey production have been negatively impacted by infestation by the varroa mite. That show airs this Sunday, April 20th.

Photo: Beekeeper Michael Kliks, Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

House Finance Passes Aloha Airlines Keiki Care Bill

The House Finance Committee passed SB69, proposed HD3 with technical amendments. This bill expands the Keiki Care program to include children of former Aloha Airlines employees, as noted in the post below. The Advertiser story is here. The SB story is here. The bill now goes to the House floor for a final reading.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Expanding Keiki Care for Aloha Airlines

House and Senate members held a press conference today to announce a proposal that would expand the Keiki Care health insurance pilot program for the children of former Aloha Airlines employees. Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (at podium) estimated that around 800 children would participate in the program, at a cost of about $23,000 per month.

The bill is SB69, SD2, HD3 (proposed). It comes up for hearing tomorrow in the Finance committee. The bill would allow the children of former Aloha Airlines employees, from the age of 31-days to 18 years, to receive health insurance coverage at no cost. The cost would be shared by the Department of Human Services and HMSA. The free coverage would be in effect from the date of approval to December 31, 2008, or until the parent gets a new job and is covered under a pre-paid health plan.

Capitol says Mahalo Aloha

Halau Lokahi performed native chants, songs and dance for the former employees of Aloha Airlines.
Aloha Airlines employees and family members line up for kalua pig, rice, cake and ice cream.

Pilioha serenaded the guests while they ate dinner, talked with lawmakers and former colleagues.
Reps. Joe Bertram, Karen Awana and John Mizuno organized the event to show the State's appreciation for the 61 years of service Aloha Airlines has provide Hawaii's people.

Charter Schools funding

Rep. Joe Bertram (D11 - Makena, Wailea, Kihei) and charter school children

Charter school children visited the State Capitol today for a rally to advocate for increased funding from the Legislature. While no one disputes the value of charter schools in our community, lawmakers responded that money is tight. Most state agencies will see a reduction in their general fund budgets. In fact, the charter schools are one of the few entities that may get more money this fiscal year than they did last year.

In FY08, charter schools received $51,635,990. The House and Senate have both budgeted an increase to $56,150,695.

Charter schools project an enrollment increase and estimate that they will require an increase of around $19 million, as opposed to the Legislature's increase of $4,514,000. It should be noted that regular schools will be taking a reduction in funds of $8,455,255 in the House draft and $7,328,346 in the Senate draft.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lawmakers to honor Aloha employees

Aloha Airlines and its employees will be honored tomorrow during a special reception in the Capitol Rotunda at 4 p.m. Lawmakers will recognize the airline's 61 years of service to the islands.

"I think the people of Hawaii want a chance to show their appreciation and fondest farewell to the workers of Aloha Airlines," added Rep. Joe Bertram. "I don't think a letter to the newspaper editor can truly express our gratitude to Aloha Airlines for the 61 years of service they provided the people of Hawaii."

Aloha was the tenth largest employer statewide and in the wake of one of the worst mass layoffs in Hawaii, over 1,900 employees lost their jobs.

State Representatives Karen Awana, Joe Bertram and John Mizuno joined together to bring employees and family members together to show Hawaii's deepest appreciation and fondest aloha for their dedication to excellent service. Guests will be provided with ono refreshments and enjoyable entertainment.

"I think the Capitol provides us with a venue for the people of Hawaii to truly express their 'mahalo and aloha' to a part of our 'ohana, to a part of history, and to a beloved company," said Rep. John Mizuno.

Public invited to Waianae Coast beach clean-up

Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (D45-Wai'anae, Makaha, Makua) will host a beach clean-up on Saturday, April 26 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. as the first step towards creating a "People's Path" along the beach from Maili Point to Nanakuli McDonald's.

The event is part of Nani O Wai'anae's "Keep Hawaii Beautiful Day" and will start at Maili Point, located across from the Union 76 Station on Farrington Hwy. and Hookele St., and end at Hakimo Road.

The "People's Path" is a dream and personal project of Shimabukuro's mother, Karen Young, who hopes that this walking path on the beach will connect to the State's planned bicycle path, and someday extend along the entire Wai'anae Coast. Shimabukuro will be working with the City and County to make this dream possible.

Volunteers are needed to join Shimabukuro and family to pick up trash and debris along the beach, as well as participate in the planting of beautiful native plants and trees. In a YouTube video on Shimabukuro's blog, Young and Shimabukuro documented preliminary planning of the beach clean-up and surveyed what needs to be done.

"There's is a lot of potential for this area," said Shimabukuro. "It could be similar to walking Kaena Point. This is a gorgeous coastline with beautiful views and it's pretty far off the road that it could potentially be a beautiful two-mile walk. We need a lot of volunteers to come out and help make this possible."

Individuals and groups interested in participating in the beach clean-up should call the Office of Rep. Maile Shimabukuro at 586-8460 or 696-4677 for more information. Gloves and trash bags will be provided for the volunteers, and it is optional to bring swimwear, native plants and planting tools.

Nani O Wai'anae, which was the first official "Keep America Beautiful" participant in the state, organizes beach clean-ups throughout O'ahu on April 26. The Makaha Hawaiian Civic Club is also participating and will meet at the Makaha Marketplace for a clean-up on the same day. More volunteers are needed to host and help with other clean-ups. For more information, call Katy Kok or Lori at 696-1920 or 484-1000.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thoughts for the last weeks of the session

Members of the House are invited to give an invocation prior to the start of each floor session. The following was provided by Rep. Jerry Chang on April 8th, to reflect on what has transpired since Opening Day, and to shore up as the Legislature heads into its final weeks of the 2008 legislative session and all that that entails.

A Prayer for the Session
By Representative Jerry Chang
District 2 - South Hilo, Waiakea Kai, Kaumana, Keaukaha

On Opening Day we vowed to do the very best for the people of Hawaii; to set aside petty politics and always do what is right for those we represent.

We introduced bills and resolutions that we believed in--and pushed for their passage during the process.

We honored members of our community that we are proud of and learned that there are so many extraordinary people amongst us.

We experienced illness and loss of friends and family members, bringing us to a deep realization that life is short and too precious to waste.

That our relationships in this chamber reflect our relationships in life, and that we should foster our friendships based on honor and respect.

As we enter into the last quarter of the 2008 Legislative Session, let us continue the process that will result in good legislation to benefit all the people of our beautiful state of Hawaii, from support for our families to improving our quality of life and economy.

And as we end the Session and go back to our communities, let us be thankful and humbled by the honor bestowed upon us to represent our constituents in this honorable institution.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

VOG Alerts demonstrate need for Medical Van

When the volcano erupts on the Big Island, the level of sulfur dioxide emitted creates an emergency condition for residents (birds and animals) in the area, especially those with asthma and other respiratory ailments.

Rep. Bob Herkes sent out a memo yesterday to the Speaker and Senate President re-emphasizing the critical need for a Medical Van on the Big Island as evidenced by the recent VOG levels that forced closure of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the set up of emergency shelters for those who chose to evacuate. The problem is compounded by the sheer size of the island, with communities scattered throughout isolated and remote rural areas.
"The Med Van could have been dispatched to provide immediate help to people suffering respiratory distress caused by noxious gases and ash. A critical health and safety issue could have been addressed immediately if we could just get an emerency response system available to isolated areas of the island," said Rep. Herkes.

There is $500,000 allocated in the budget for Kona hospital to acquire and administer the Emergency Medical Van. The emergency and basic medical clinical services would be provided to the South Kona, Ka'u, and upper Puna areas. The budget bill, HB2500, HD1, SD1 is headed for conference committee next week.

Coming Up - Monday, April 14th

Conference committees start on Monday, but there are still a few regular committee hearings scheduled on resolutions. Here's what caught my eye for Monday:

Committee on Labor & Public Employment, Room 325, 11:00 a.m.
Chair: Rep. Alex Sonson

SCR222 Requesting State Departments to convert exempt employees to civil service in accordance with Act 253, Session Laws of Hawaii 2000, and Act 300, Session Laws of Hawaii 2006.

Committee on Labor & Public Employment/Committee on Education, Room 329, 2:00 p.m.
Chair: Rep. Alex Sonson/Chair: Rep. Roy Takumi

SCR72, SD1 Requesting that the Department of Education conduct a feasibility study to examine various impacts of a longer school day and increasing the number of days in the school year on Kindergarten through Grade Twelve students.

Committee on Education only

SCR84, SD1 Requesting the Department of Education and the Hawaii public school food service to develop nutritionally sound public school menu plans that include vegetarian and vegan meals.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cold medicine purchases may be tracked electronically

A Senate bill going to conference next week will make it easier for the Narcotics Enforment Division to track the sale of pseudoephedrine, a chemical in many cold and allergy medicines that is often used to make crystal meth.

SB2373 HD2 would amend an existing law by requiring pharmacies and retailers to maintain an electronic log of sales - instead of a written log - of pseudoephedrine and related products to be transmitted to the Department of Public Safety Narcotics Enforcement Division on a monthly basis.

Common products containing the chemical include Sudafed, Tylenol Cold, Advil Cold, Drixoval, Benadryl Allergy and Cold tablets, Robitussin Cold Sinus, and generic brands.
The current law under Act 171 enacted in 2006 requires purchasers to produce identification and sign a log when buying these types of products to ensure that no more than 3.6 grams is purchased per day and no more than 9 grams is purchased within 30 days.

In spite of the introduced regulations, large amounts of pseudoephedrine products can be obtained through "smurfing," a common form of diversion which involves the retail purchase of sub-threshold amounts by organized groups of individuals that either send in multiple purchasers into the same location or visit a large number of different locations.

Arguing in opposition, the American Civil Unions Society of Hawaii submitted testimony claiming the bill "violates purchasers' rights to privacy and due process because it forces purchasers to give out their private information and place themselves on a list of what essentially constitutes a list of criminal suspects in order to purchase these legal medications."
In current state and federal laws, purchasers are already required to provide such information when purchasing products.
The new law would make the process more efficient by closing the gap of reporting. Tracking and identifying repeat purchasers smurfing excessive amounts of methamphetamine precursors.

Bizarre Bazaar Raises $2K in 2 Hours

Nothing bizarre about the fact that Hawaii State Capitol folks are generous with their time and money for a good cause. The offices of Reps Pono Chong, Clift Tsuji and Kyle Yamashita put on a successful bazaar on Wednesday, with food, produce, books, CD's and tapes, and miscellaneous items, and the tables were nearly cleared in two hours. They raised $2,000 for the Hawaii Foodbank.

Penny War Prizes Inspired by Sumo

Today, at the end of the floor session, Rep. Blake Oshiro congratulated House members for collecting over $1600 in pennies to help feed Hawaii's hungry. The competition was stiff and the drama was high, therefore, no ordinary awards would do. Rep. Oshiro took his inspiration from the world of Sumo, and named the top three places using Sansho, literally "three prizes".

First Place: Shukun-sho - Outstanding Performance
Winner: Office of Rep. Colleen Meyer
Description: The Shukun-sho is typically awarded to the wrestler who displays outstanding performance relative to his rank.

Second Place: Gino-sho - Technique Prize
Winner: Sergeant-at-Arms
Description: The Gino-sho goes to the wrestler who displays the most skillful technique.

Third Place: Kanto-sho - Fighting Spirit Prize
Winner: Office of Rep. Pono Chong
Description: The Kanto-sho is given to the wrestler who has fought tenaciously to the best of his abilities.

And, while it's not part of Sumo culture, Rep. Oshiro gave out a Consolation Prize, the Zannen-sho, literally translated as "unfortunately, you didn't win, but here you go." That award went to the Office of Rep. Scott Nishimoto, for the stress and trauma of being victims of theft among other theatrics.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Veterans invited to share concerns with lawmakers

Lawmakers will hold a series of "Talk Story" community meetings with Hawaii veterans across the state. Rep. Cindy Evans, Public Safety and Military Committee Chair , and other legislators will kick off the series of meetings in Maui.

Rep. Evans organized the meetings to allow veterans to share their concerns and problems with state lawmakers, who will get a better idea of veteran needs and apply the information to next year's legislative session.

“Our veterans have served our country and deserve the very best we can provide in services and support," Evans said. “These meetings will help us understand the needs of today's veterans better so we can educate the legislature for next year's budgets and legislative agenda."

The meetings will focus on issues such as the efficiency of the Hawai'i Office of Veterans Affairs and whether or not veterans could be better served in another state agency, as well as homelessness, unemployment and access to health care.

May 5
9-11 a.m.
J.W. Cameron Center, 95 Mahalani St.

May 6
9-11 a.m.
UH at Hilo Room UCB-1

May 7
5:30 p.m -7:30 p.m.
Molokai Veterans Compound

May 8
5-7 p.m.
Kauai Veterans Center, 3-3367 Kuhio Hwy, #101

May 13
9-11 a.m.
Kona Veterans Cemetery

Leeward Oahu
May 17
9-11 a.m.
Kapolei High School, 91-5007 Kapolei Pkwy.

Windward Oahu
May 17
1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Ko’olau Golf Club

Bringing the hammer down on affordable housing

Photo (L-R): Max Kopper, a bills researcher in the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and Tom McAuliffe, a community affairs specialist in Rep. Cindy Evans' office, fought tooth and nail for the title of fastest nail driver at a Habitat for Humanity awareness event at the Hawaii State Capitol today.

In an effort to hammer in the importance of addressing the state's affordable housing issue, Hawaii Habitat for Humanity held an awareness event in the Capitol Rotunda this afternoon.

Lawmakers and staff members were invited to participate in a contest to see who could pound in the most nails in 30 seconds.

The non-profit organization that builds homes for impoverished and home-less families recently requested an amendment to SB3174, a bill that would:

(1) Extend the sunset date of the 50 percent conveyance tax allocation to the Rental Housing Trust Fund (RHTF) from June 30, 2008, to June 30, 2013;

(2) Appropriate funds for third-party review and certification of building permits for affordable housing projects;

(3) Establish and appropriating funds to the Self-help Housing Fund to assist with technical assistance expenditures up to $20,000 per self-help housing unit; and

(4) Change the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation's (HHFDC) revenue bond ceiling from $400,000,000 to an unspecified amount.
During a Committee on Finance hearing, Hawaii Habitat for Humanity asked committee members to allow the Self-Help Housing Fund to also be used for land acquisition, infrastructure and construction.

The Finance committee did not amend the bill, instead opting to extend the effective date to July 1, 2020 to encourage further discussion and deliberation on the organization's request during committee conference with Senate members next week.

Refueling in Mid-Air

And they thought politics was a delicate dance? Yesterday, members of the legislature were treated to a special tour of F-15 fighter jets and a demonstration of refueling in mid-air. The visit was hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard and took place 105 miles off the coast of Honolulu.

Legislators who took the tour were Rep. Ryan Yamane, Sen. Norman Sakamoto, Rep. Barbara Marumoto, Rep. Tom Brower, Rep. Mark Takai, Rep. Kymberly Pine, Rep. Karen Awana and Rep. John Mizuno, accompanied by Adjutant General Robert Lee, National Guard members and legislative staff members. Photos provided by Rep. Tom Brower.

Surfer Girls Catch a Political Wave

According to Betty DePolito, aka Banzai Betty, women's surfing advocate and legendary surfer based on Oahu's North Shore, women's surfing is on the rise. In fact, she figures that the split between the genders within the sport of surfing is 60% women/40% men, yet the men's events continue to dominate the industry, and it's difficult for the women to get permits for "women only" surf events held in Hawaii.

Rep. Mike Magaoay, who represents the North Shore, paddled out to help. Even though the permitting for surf and shore water events is a City and County issue, Rep. Magaoay introduced HCR278 to help the women bring their concerns before the legislature, if only to create greater awareness and get a dialog going with City officials. The resolution was before the House Tourism and Culture committee this morning.
The City has a tough job. They must balance the needs of the surfing events, the recreational surfers, and the impacted community. They are forthright in explaining that City rules and regs allow for a maximum of 16 shore water events on each site of the North Shore per year. There is a holding period not to exceed 15 days, and a cooling off period of at least 10 days between meets. In addition, the evaluation of the permit requests includes the consideration of opportunities for women, a variety of ages, and a range of skill levels. Needless to say, about 50% of the requests for events cannot be accommodated.

After questioning, it appears that the problem has nothing to do with any discrimination within the city's permit process. The problem is more that event promoters often say they are including a women's component within the tournament and then fail to do so. Plus, there are only so many permits granted per year. The bottom line is that there were no professional women's surfing events on the North Shore this year, including the Women's Pipeline.

Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who inspired all of Hawaii after surviving a shark attack, losing her left arm, and having the courage to get back in the water to compete, offered the following testimony:

To whom it may concern:

I really hope to be able to compete at Pipeline again - just the girls. It's one of the best waves and all of us girls have been honored to have the spot to ourselves for those few years that the contest was on...something that pretty much every surfer dreams of. I can speak for the other girls too in saying that we love surfing and competing at Pipe!

Bethany Hamilton, #2 on Girls ASP Tour at Present, World Tour.

Tourism and Culture Vice Chair, Rep. Joey Manahan, and Chair Ryan Yamane, deferred the measure because it is a City and County issue, and it appears through the discussion that the City Parks and Recreation and the surfing community have a good working relationship. Greater consideration must be taken for women's only events, and a greater understanding is needed on how the women's components are built into the men's events; those two points were made and the parties will continue to work on a schedule sensitive to gender equality.

Chair Yamane thanks his committee
Prior to decision making, Chair Yamane took the time to thank his committee for their hard work and support during the past two years. As a first time chair, he appreciated the opportunity to chair Tourism and Culture, and was grateful for having former Chair, Rep. Jerry Chang, on the committee for institutional knowledge and guidance. He also thanked the two Republican members of the committee for their cooperation. It was the last time the committee would meet during this session, as next week is the start of the Conference period.