Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kupuna Care Programs to suffer without more funding

During the first special session this year, the House and Senate chambers overrode a line item veto by Governor Linda Lingle which removed an appropriation of $500,000 to the Kupuna Care Program. County representatives from the Kupuna Care Programs reported to the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging in Place (JLCAIP) today on the impacts on the program and its clients and employees if these funds are not released. Committee chairs are Rep. Marilyn Lee and Sen. Les Ihara.

It was clear at the beginning of the meeting that all counties will suffer if they do not receive additional funding for their kupuna care services, including case management, home delivered meals, transportation, personal care, chore, homemaker, attendant care and adult day care services. How many will be affected statewide has yet to be determined.

Honolulu, with the largest population of elderly citizens, would probably be hit worst. According to a report from its Elderly Affairs Division, if the funds are not released, 341 fewer clients will be served and 82,231 fewer hours of service will be provided to the elderly on Oahu. In addition, the programs will not be able to address the growing wait list problem. On Oahu, of the 320 people named on the wait list, 210 of them are there specifically because of insufficient funds.

The Executive Office on Aging will compile all County reports into one cohesive account of the consequences and effects on Kupuna Care Programs without additional funding.

In other committee updates, take a look at my notes below:

Respite Inventory Project - Grandparents raising grandchildren will be able to use respite care services. The UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) and the UH Department of Family and Consumer Sciences are gathering a list of respite services by cost, waitlist number and criteria for new clients, among others. The combined product will be completed in October and reported to JLCAIP. It is possible that a handbook will be made from these lists of respite service in Hawaii for distribution to the public.

Cash and Counseling Project - The demonstration phase of the projects will cost $835,000 the first year in Phase 2 and $1.35 million the second year in Phase 3. The Executive Office on Aging does not know where the money to fund Phase 2 and 3 will come from.

Family Leave Work Group and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Task Force - Both are on its way to being established and it was confirmed that both groups are subject to the Sunshine Law.

Aging and Disability Resource Center - The site of ADRC in Hilo will be completed soon and its website will be open to surfers by the end of year.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Aging in Place today met to discuss the current projects that have stemmed from Act 220 (SB2830) and Act 243 (HB2520), laws that provide for a public policy program that supports family caregivers and kupuna.

Photo: Rep. Karen Awana, Rep. Marilyn Lee, Sen. Les Ihara, Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (left side of table),members of JLCAIP, listen to a report on the cash and counseling project.

The Vog in Wood Valley

Sabine Hendreschke lives in Wood Valley. She recently wrote to Rep. Bob Herkes on her personal account of what the residents are going through on the Big Island. She gave her permission to make this email public:

My name is Sabine Hendreschke. I am resident of Wood Valley located above Pahala in the Ka'u District.

We have been experiencing serious vog issues in our small community. The vog gets caught in the mountains which greatly intensifies its effects. Many of the plants are terribly burned; some of them are completely dead. Often, after a few hours of intense vog, the effects on the plants can be seen immediately. The leaves turn yellow, burn and drop on the same day. Even the trees are affected.

Lately it has been literally raining burned leaves. McCall Flower Farm as well as Stanley Mizuno's carnation farm have suffered losses, losing their flowers, laying off their workers and maybe having to shut down completely in the near future.

Animals are suffering also. Many calves have been stillborn on Kapapala Ranch. And what about us, the people. As of lately, I have become very concerned about my health. I often feel without energy. All I want to do is lie down and rest. Many people feel that way. In the heavy vog, even in the house with the doors and the windows closed, breathing is hard, our sinuses are affected. Many feel dizzy and disoriented. It is truly scary.

Looking at the plants and animals, I wonder what this air is doing to humans. Some of my neighbors have already rented houses in other areas. Some are thinking about completely moving away. I spend most of my nights in Pahala at a friend's house. We are hit pretty hard here. Changing the situation is out of our control. We can only pray and hope that it will stop. If it keeps going like this, living in our beautiful valley will become impossible.

All the right moves

Randy Prothero and Rep. Marilyn Lee

I got a sneak preview of Rep. Marilyn Lee's upcoming Kukui Connection show on Chess with guest Randy Prothero, President of the Hawaii Chess Federation. It's an interesting and informative half hour, scheduled to air this Sunday, August 3rd, 4:00 p.m. on Olelo, channel 54. The show will be repeated on August 17 and 31, same time, same channel.

Here's what they discuss:
  • A brief history of chess, an ancient game which many cultures claim credit for originating.
  • Chess as a game vs. chess as a sport.
  • Chess as a way of studying warfare.
  • How the clock really works.
  • Indicators of when a child is ready to learn chess.
  • Chess as a means of increasing intellectual capacity.
  • Chess as a math tool.
  • Chess as a means to develop sportsmanship and etiquette.
It's probably no surprise to hear that most children pick up chess initially as a computer game. Prothero says that 50% of first graders already know how to move the pieces because of their exposure to the computer. By the fifth grade, that percentage goes up to 80%.

For more info on chess in the schools, and chess in Hawaii, go to The Hawaii Chess Federation is always looking for volunteers and are in need of coaches.

Rep. Joey Manahan Letter on Chief Election Officer

Rep. Joey Manahan is a former elections administrator. In this morning's Honolulu Advertiser...

Failure to register to vote is very disturbing

I have grave concerns about our chief election officer not being registered to vote in the state of Hawai'i until last Friday. Had your political reporter not called him to ask the question, he would probably still be unregistered and ineligible to vote, not to mention in violation of the law. If he cannot account for his own voter registration, how can we hold him accountable for the hundreds of thousands of registered voters in the state?

In addition, there are many details and duties of this job that require meticulous monitoring, such as overseeing ballot operations, counting operations, poll workers, observers, as well as all the needs of 339 precincts and polling places statewide.

For Kevin Cronin to overlook something so fundamental is appalling, especially when the requirements of his job are clearly stated in the first section of Chapter 11, the statue that governs elections.

Perhaps most disturbing was his cavalier attitude to such a serious oversight. His response, "Thanks for reminding me," and that it was something that he "didn't get around to doing," is alarming. Mr. Cronin has been on the job since February and seems to have been in violation of the law since that time.

Executing the law properly is essential to maintaining the integrity of our elections, which are at the very heart and soul of our democracy. We deserve a chief election officer with whom we can place our trust and confidence.

Rep. Joey Manahan D-29th (Sand Island, Kalihi, Kapalama)

Senate Confirms Kelsey Kawano

This morning, in a Second Special Session of 2008, the State Senate confirmed the nomination of Kelsey T. Kawano as District Court Judge, Second Circuit, by unanimous consent. 23 ayes, 2 excused.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fixing Our Schools

We hear about monies being appropriated for the repair and maintenance of our public schools, but we never seem to hear about what happens next or the status of the jobs. Here is a list of recent contract awards to signal the work being done in our schools around the state by House member:

Representative Mele Carroll - District 13
School: Haiku Elementary School
Project: Building D, Renovate Restrooms
Amount: $62,200
Vendor: Site Engineering, Inc.
Date Awarded: June 16, 2008

Representative Alex Sonson - District 35
School: Waipahu High School
Project: Resurface Playcourts
Amount: $103,500
Vendor: Henry's Equipment Rental & Sales, Inc.
Date Awarded: June 24, 2008

Representative Joe Bertram - District 11
School: Kihei Elementary
Project: Various Buildings, Air Conditioning System, Phases 2 & 3
Amount: $1,168,055
Vendor: Arisumi Brothers, Inc.
Date Awarded: June 24, 2008

Representative Blake Oshiro - District 33
School: Red Hill Elementary
Project: Admin. Building, Air Conditioning Upgrades
Amount: $122,677
Vendor: HSI Mechanical, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 9, 2008

Representative Mele Carroll - District 13
School: Molokai High School
Project: Buildings A & B Re-roof, Building Q Lower Roof
Amount: $345,210
Vendor: Hi Tec Roofing, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 9, 2008

Representative Kyle Yamashita - District 12
School: Makawao Elementary School
Project: Miscellaneous Repair and Maintenance
Amount: $114,600
Vendor: Central Construction, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 9, 2008

Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu - District 41
School: Waikele Elementary School
Project: Additional lighting on Lower Campus
Amount: $51,250
Vendor: Standard Electric, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 17, 2008

Representative Faye Hanohano - District 4
School: Pahoa High & Intermediate School
Project: New Gymnasium
Amount: $8,200,000
Vendor: Primatech Construction, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 17, 2008

Representative Mele Carroll - District 13
School: Kaunakakai Elementary School
Project: Buildings A & F Reroof
Amount: $96,913
Vendor: Certified Construction, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 17, 2008

Representative Dwight Takamine - District 1
School: Kalanianaole Elementary & Intermediate School
Project: Buildings A, B & D Air Conditioning
Amount: $2,757,300
Vendor: Stan's Contracting, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 17, 2008

Representative Scott Nishimoto - District 21
School: Jefferson Elementary School
Project: Building S - Replace AC Equipment
Amount: $169,335.50
Vendor: HSJ Mechanical, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 17, 2008

Representative Bob Nakasone - District 9
School: Maui High School
Project: Building Q - Repair Exterior Walls
Amount: $114,900
Vendor: Central Construction, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 18, 2008

Representative Joe Bertram - District 11
School: Lokelani Intermediate
Project: Heat Abatement, Campus Air Conditioning
Amount: $3,594,110
Vendor: Arisumi Brothers, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 18, 2008

Representative Joe Souki - District 8
School: Wailuku Elementary School
Project: Building A, B, P1 & P2 - Add outlets, Building J - Replace Ceiling Fans
Amount: $43,088
Vendor: Lite Electric, Inc.
Date Awarded: July 29, 2008

USDA approves disaster declaration for farmers impacted by VOG

US Senator Dan Akaka put out a news release today announcing that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a disaster declaration paving the way for farmers affected by VOG to apply for low-interest emergency loans to cover their losses. Farmers can apply for up to 100% of their production and physical losses, not to exceed $500,000.

"Humongous" problems in the long-term

Roundtable discussion of the House Special Committee on Vog Effects

That's how Rex Johnson, Hawaii Tourism Authority Director, described the impact of Vog on the Big Island at today's meeting of the House Special Committee on Vog Effects. The focus was the impact of Vog on the economy, including tourism, real estate, and general business. Here are some notes:

Rep. Bob Herkes: We are getting reports that there is an increase in the number of psychological problems. Perhaps Dr. Green can comment on that.

Rep. Josh Green: Yes, in addition to the physical effects of Vog, there seem to by psychological conditions related to the vog, including depression and suicide. People are "freaked out".

Pearl Imada Iboshi, DBEDT Director of Research and Economic Analysis: It's difficult to separate out the impact of Vog to the economy from the ongoing downturn.

Rex Johnson: Organizers of the Ironman are sending people to monitor air quality. The athletes are concerned, just like they are in Beijing.

John Monahan, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau: I grew up in Los Angeles in the 50's and 60's. When I vacationed on the Big Island recently, it reminded me of growing up in Los Angeles, and not in a good way.

Rex Johnson: The Big Island will have major problems. Investors don't like that kind of thing. Visitors don't like that kind of thing.

Rep. Robert Herkes, Chairman (District 5 - Puna, Kau, South Kona, North Kona) and Rep. Clift Tsuji (District 3 - South Hilo, Panaewa, Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown)

John Monahan: You can't put a positive spin on this; you have to tell the truth. People save for a vacation and it's not good if they get here and have a bad experience because no one told them about the Vog. And they tell that to their travel agent, and news travels.

Kelly Wakayama, Hawaii Island Board of Realtors: We know of sales losses due to view planes. When people can't see the ocean, they go somewhere else. What are the realtor's obligations? Education, more disclosure.

Diane Ley, County of Hawaii, Research and Development: We see an increased use of energy because of the need to use the air-conditioning. Solar systems are operating at less efficiency because the Vog blocks the sun. We're seeing erosion of fencing materials, and other infrastructure deterioration. People are buying more bottled water because they don't trust the water source. There are reports of greater absenteeism, which can be a problem for small businesses. On the positive side, businesses that promote health products and fitness clubs are showing an increase in business.

Rep. Herkes: Please send a message to the Hawaii County Council for me. The members each have a $100,000 discretionary fund, that's $900,000 total, that they can use to help people who are badly hurt economically from the Vog. Why aren't they using these funds? What about real property tax relief? Can't the County Council do that?

For new information and updates on the volcano eruptions , visit

Federal Shield Law Stalled

Fernando Pizarro writes in his Advertiser blog that the Federal Shield law bill has stalled in the U.S. Senate today.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

HWPC honors Rep. Lee as role model for women

Rep. Marilyn Lee will be honored by the Hawaii Women's Political Caucus (HWPC) at its annual membership meeting and candidates' reception, Aug 12. She is being recognized for serving as a role model for other women seeking public office. Lee has been a registered nurse for over 30 years and has been at the Legislature representing the Mililani area since 1996. She is currently the vice chair of the the House Finance Committee.

Karamatsu honored for economic development efforts

In a special ceremony last week at the NCSL conference in New Orleans, Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu was honored by the National Coalition for Capital (NCFC) for his continuous efforts in promoting economic development in Hawaii.

According to a press release from the NCFC, Karamatsu "was honored for taking a leadership role in several key legislative efforts to foster capital investment in traditionally underserved regions across the state."

Specifically, Karamatsu was recognized for sponsoring the Hawaii High Tech Investment Tax Credit and playing a significant role in diversifying Hawaii business and economy through promotion and fostering of Hawaii high-tech companies that help create more revenue and jobs.

The National Coalition for Capital (NCFC) is a non-profit, nationwide coalition of leaders supporting economic development and job creation through long-term access to capital for entrepreneurs and emerging companies.

National pollsters tell state lawmakers what to expect

On the closing day of NCSL, two national pollsters sat down with state legislators and laid out the top issues on the minds of American voters, per this story from NCSL NEWS. The two, Kellyanne Conway and Celinda Lake, made the following points:
  • The top two concerns are the cost of energy and a troubled economy.
  • There is a dramatic rise in people who think the economy is in bad shape.
  • 75% think we are in a recession.
  • Obama is leading McCain by 2-6 percentage points, but no one has a clear advantage.
  • Housing, mortgage foreclosures, have dropped down in the list of priorities. People are starting to blame the victims, not the lenders.
  • 91% of voters have health insurance.
  • While they do not expect state lawmakers to solve the war in Iraq, they are critical of the lack of services and support for veterans and look to the states to address this issue.
  • Voters are in the mood for a change. They do not have confidence in Washington, so they are looking to their state legislatures to solve problems.

Mililani and Waimanalo Newsletters Online

You can now download newsletters from Reps. Tommy Waters and Marilyn Lee in the section in the right panel titled "2008 Community Newsletters". It's located after "About Us" and before "Archives".

Shield or Sword?

Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence, is not a big fan of journalist shield laws. As the US Senate prepares to discuss a national shield law, McConnell does his own prepping in a USA Today opinion piece in which he states that he doesn't see a problem with the free flow of information in the absence of a protected privilege for federal reporters. On the other hand, passage of the bill would be detrimental to the public's safety, and the ability of our national security team to protect national security information and to bring justice to those who break the law, i.e. terrorists. He also states:

This legislation upsets that balance by shielding those who illegally leak national security information and increasing the likelihood of destructive revelations in the future. The bill forces the government to meet ill-defined standards that require the disclosure of additional sensitive information. It also cedes critical judgments about harm to national security from national security professionals, charged with protecting the country, to the subjective determination of individual judges.

The Economist blog, Democracy in America, "Shield Me!", and the Wired blog, "The Shield Law: Truth or Fear Mongering", both pick apart McConnell's op-ed in yesterday's USA Today.

The US Senate is expected to vote on the proposed legislation this week; the US House passed a similar bill earlier this session. A group of 41 state attorneys general, including Hawaii Attorney General Mark J. Bennett, signed this letter urging the Senate to pass the bill. They state that with the exception of Wyoming, 49 states and the District of Columbia have adopted journalist shield laws either by legislation or through judicial decision. As we know, Hawaii just passed a shield law this session.

Don't know what California's shield law looks like, and whether it also protects bloggers, but consider this from Wired:

The most recent jailing of a reporter was of a San Francisco blogger who was released from jail last year after serving seven months for refusing to release videotape he took of a San Francisco protest, in which a police officer was injured. Two San Francisco Chronicle reporters were held in contempt for refusing to divulge who leaked them grand jury transcripts in the BALCO steroids prosecution, but escaped prison after the authorities last year figured out the leaker was one of the defendant's lawyers.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Families who lost health coverage due to business closures may be eligible for Keiki Care program

Starting August 1, 2008, the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) will begin enrolling children from families affected by Hawaii business closures, and who have no other health insurance coverage, under the existing Keiki Care Plan. The coverage will be effective through the end of this year.

In response to several high profile business closures around the state, such as Aloha Airlines, ATA, and Molokai Ranch, the state legislature passed legislation this year, SB69 (which became law as Act 239 without the Governor's signature.) The bill temporarily expands eligibility for the children's health care program to assist children of workers employed by a Hawaii‑based corporation which filed for bankruptcy and ceased doing business in Hawaii between February 29, 2008 and September 30, 2008 or only ceased doing business in Hawaii during that time period.

The Keiki Care Plan was originally created by the legislature in 2007, and it provides basic health coverage for children between the ages of 31 days to 18 years who come from families at around 300% of the federal poverty level but do not qualify for other state or federal health programs – essentially a gap group. The premiums are paid by and split between HMSA and the State of Hawaii.

Parents and guardians should contact HMSA for information on enrollment. On Oahu, the number to call is 948-5555. Neighbor island residents may call toll-free by dialing 800-620-4672.

How bad is Vog for business?

There was a time when the volcanic eruptions on the Big Island were considered a visitor attraction and thereby good for local tourism. Now that the volcanic emissions are spewing unhealthy levels of sulfur dioxide into the air, the impact to the economy spans not only tourism, but businesses, real estate, agriculture, and the state's workforce.

The House Special Committee on Vog Effects will hold its next fact finding meeting on Wednesday. See it live on Olelo, channel 53.

When: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 - 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Hawaii State Capitol, Conference Room 325

Invited to participate:
Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT)
Hawaii Tourism Authority
Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau
Hawaii Association of Realtors
Hawaii Island Board of Realtors
The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii
Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce
Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce
Kau Chamber of Commerce
Hawaii Leeward Planning Conference
Hawaii Island Economic Development Board
Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaii

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rep. Sharon Har Defends Kapolei Growth and Planning

Responding to a criticism of the Kapolei Master Plan, Rep. Sharon Har (District 40 - Kapolei, Makakilo, Royal Kunia, Kalaeloa) wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the Advertiser today.  According to Har, 25,000 jobs were created in Kapolei by 2005.  By 2025, jobs are expected to reach about 70,000, and the residential population is expected to double from 85,000 to 172,000.  The point being - Kapolei is living up to its promise as a major job center for Oahu.  (I, for one, am jealous that they are getting Target!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hands Off, Hands On

While in session, the demise of Aloha Airlines inspired the legislature to resurrect a bill allowing the regulation of the state's interisland airline industry pending authorization at the federal level. The bill, HB2250, was vetoed by Governor Lingle, but the Legislature overrode it in a special session on July 8, 2008, and the bill became law as Act 1. The trend in Washington seems to be leaning in the bill's favor, and with growing difficulties in getting neighbor island flights, maybe we'll see regulation sooner than we think.

With looming crises in other sectors such as housing and the financial industry, the Wall Street Journal today reports on the increasing support of a swing back to regulation after decades of deregulation started by the Reagan administration. The pendulum has swung back and forth since the nation's earliest days; Alexander Hamilton pushed for higher tariffs in an effort to protect US domestic manufacturers, while Thomas Jefferson was perhaps our first president to embrace the "get government off our backs" philosophy.

Majority of States Face Budget Woes

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) wraps up today in New Orleans. A report on State Budgets, released on Wednesday, reveals that Hawaii is not alone in facing a decline in state revenues for fiscal year 2009, and that the gaps between budgets and expenditure plans range from $13 billion up to over $40 billion. Most states, however, have determined the actions they need to take to balance their budgets. Some bullets:
  • Largest concern seems to be anemic sales tax collections.
  • Not every state faces fiscal challenges. States that tie their tax base to natural resources have escaped major problems.
  • Few states have raised taxes to remedy the problem; most are cutting spending.
  • Four states will reduce the size of state workforce, including not filling vacant positions.
  • Nine states report a hiring freeze.
  • Massachusetts, Minnesota and Nevada report tapping into their rainy day or other state fund.
  • Industry sectors having the greatest negative impact on state budgets were financial services, manufacturing and housing.
  • Industry sectors having the greatest positive impact on state budgets were leisure & hospitality, natural resources and agriculture.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Newsletters! Newsletters! Newsletters!

Already tossed out your state representative's newsletter and forgot to clip that photo of your son and his classmates? Are you a paper snob who only prefers the finest pixeled images on a formatted PDF file?

No stress out. Newsletters from some majority house members can be found in the right panel after "About us" and before "Archives". Click on your Reps name and district to open a PDF version of the newsletter. Thus far we have newsletters for Reps Awana, B. Oshiro, Carroll, Chang, Karamatsu, Sagum, Say, Sonson, and Yamane. We will update the list as newsletters become available.

Each year House majority representatives mail newsletters to their respective constituents informing them of the latest updates from the Legislature, from important bills that have passed out during the session and those that were signed into law to a listing of funds the community will receive for capital improvement projects.

Many of the newsletters also contain vibrant photos of legislators at community events chilling with community members, including the photo above of Rep. Blake Oshiro (the one sporting the lei back row left) with the 2008 Aiea Mustang League Baseball Team at the state tournament on June 28. Oshiro pitched the first ball and thanked community members for supporting team-building activities that benefit youth.

Senate to hold confirmation hearing for District Court nominee

On Monday, July 28, 2008, 10:30 a.m., the State Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on judicial nominee Kelsey T. Kawano, District Court of the Second Circuit. It will be held in Room 016 at the State Capitol.

The "C" word

Already? A construction crew is at work wiring up the House chamber for Primary election night. I'm told it's a massive wiring job for electricity, telephones and computers. Ian's post today reminds me that I need to clarify a thing or two now that we are in the campaign season. The Hawaii House Blog is a legislative blog using state employees on state time using state resources. While we work in a political environment and have a keen interest in the races, we can't and won't be doing any posts related to campaigning. When we post something for or about the Legislature or the House members, it must be related to their legislative positions and activity, or something happening at the State Capitol, but nothing related to campaign activity. If you see anything questionable, please alert us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Philippines to receive 40 ft container of medical supplies

Balaan Catalina Society, one of the oldest established Filipino organizations in Hawaii, will be shipping medical equipment and supplies to the Philippines. They will loan a 40 ft. container of medical equipment today from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Balaan Catalina Society building in Waipahu.

Rep. John Mizuno said, "This is a great opportunity to help the neediest in the Philippines with donations of medical equipment and supplies. I applaud Erwin, Balaan Catalina Society and all those who stepped up to the plate for this most laudable mission."

Erwin Gabrillo, former society president, secured surplus mammogram machines, x-ray machines, hospital beds, IV posts, wheelchairs and other medical supplies to donate to Philippine public hospitals. Gabrillo has done a variety of volunteer work in the Philippines. He participated in the Congress of Visayan Organization Medical Mission to Southern Leyte, Philippines, in response to the devastating mudslide that claimed over 1,000 lives.

"While I was on the 2006 medical mission, I saw many hospitals that lacked medical equipment and I also met with many residents who could not afford visits to the hospital," said Gabrillo. "Some hospitals simply did not have the medical and life saving equipment that we in Hawaii have, and therefore I knew I needed to return in order to help those in need."

Permanently Absent

Jerry Burris writes a thoughtful column in today's Advertiser on the up and down sides of absentee voting. In a nutshell, it's a good thing that Hawaii's dismal voting turnout has risen slightly thanks to the convenience of absentee voting, but Burris notes that some voters may turn in their ballots too early, and lots could happen (and has) in the last days of a campaign that just might affect a voting decision. Jerry filed his story from Portland, Oregon, a state that votes 100% by mail.

The legislature this year made it easier to vote by absentee ballot. SB156 allows a voter to request an absentee ballot on a permanent basis, not just for the current Primary and General Election, eliminating the need to send a new request for each election cycle. The Governor vetoed the bill, click here for Gov's message, stating that the new law would make the process vulnerable to abuses. The legislature overrode the veto in special session.

A quick check on Oregon voter turnout turned up this story from Oregonian. It includes a stunning fact that while Oregon expected the highest voter turnout in 20 years in their primary last May, between 50% and 60%, that number doesn't come close to the numbers that showed up to vote in 1968. 1968!
In 1968, the Presidential Primary was a race between Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, and the turnout was 72%.

According this SB story in 2006, Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout at 48.6% for the 2004 election, with 20.7% voting absentee. With record numbers turning out for the Democratic caucus this past February, here's hoping that these numbers rise significantly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We're all a Twitter!

The Hawaii House Blog is now on Twitter for all you folks who need to be in the know of all that is going on at the Hawaii State Capitol.

Twitter is a fairly new social network that many call microblogging or moblogging. Members must keep it short, 140 characters to be exact, when answering the perpetual question, "What are you doing?" The mini blogs can be sent to the mobile phones of your "followers" - that's friends in Twittalk for you newbies - via text messages.

We'll be using Twitter to provide interested folks with breaking news from the Capitol that anyone with a cell phone or Internet connection can get in real time. The great thing about Twitter is that it would be like a mini-HHB. You'll get the facts right when we get them in short blitzes of information even if you're not at your desk. Hey, we may not be at our desks either!

Let's start some chatter on Twitter! Join us at
Photo: Keep an eye out for our thumbnail on Twitter!

Rep. Lee elected Vice Chair of OMPO

OMPO, the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, recently held elections for the 2009 fiscal year. Rep. Marilyn Lee was elected Vice Chair. Councilmember Nestor Garcia was elected Chairman. Leadership of the organization alternates between the Legislature and the Council.

Do Americans really want MORE government?

Time magazine and the Rockefeller Foundation released results from their new poll on Americans and the Economy. It's predictable that the majority of those polled are concerned about their current economic situation, their future, and their children's future. What is rather surprising is the level of despair - what the publication calls "deeply, pessimistically unhappy" about the direction of the country.

Dissatisfaction levels are highest among Blacks (96%) and Latinos (88%). Fewer than half of the young people between the ages of 18 -29 believe that our country's best days are ahead. We are no longer an optimistic nation.

Most intriguing, a majority of those surveyed believe in the power of Big Government to solve the biggest problems of our time. They support major government investments that create jobs — 82% favor public works projects — and they remain sympathetic to the economy's victims: 70% say more government programs should help those now struggling. It is a shocking shift in sentiment, a counterreformation of sorts in a Republican-led era that emphasizes deregulation and self-reliance. Do Americans really want more government? The answer to that question may be provided in the November election. But history has shown that when the going gets tough, even the tough expect their Uncle Sam to get going.

44% think the government should be primarily responsible for expanding programs to help the economy

45% are worried about losing health insurance coverage

71% would rather have a job that guarantees health care and provides a pension than one that pays more

82% think the government should increase spending on public works projects to create jobs

88% of 18-29 year-olds think government should subsidize childcare

Monday, July 21, 2008

No 5-year moratorium on taro

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin yesterday carried an op-ed by Don Blakeley, a retired professor of philosophy on the "Many meanings of taro", which inaccurately stated that a 5-year moratorium on genetically modified taro began on July 1. For the record, there is no 5-year moratorium. The bill, SB958 was recommitted back to the Committee on Agriculture where it died.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A noble ambition

The annual conference of the National Conference of State Legislatures starts this coming week, this year in the City of New Orleans. Last year in Boston, the famed historian, writer and television host David McCullough was the keynote speaker. I started watching the HBO mini-series John Adams, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book by McCullough over the July 4th weekend. I discovered that the DVD includes a documentary special feature about his life as a writer, and includes this excerpt of his speech given at NCSL:
History is not about date and quotes and obscure provisos. History is about life, about change, about consequences, cause and effect.

It's about the mystery of human nature, the mystery of time. And it is not just about politics and the military and social issues, which is almost always the way it's taught.

It's about music and poetry, drama and science, and medicine and money and love.

I love to tell a story, and I love to tell a true story of what really happened to real people who were as alive, as human as we are. Some ways, maybe more so.

I'm often asked if I could be a fly on the wall for some moment, or a scene that I've written about, what would it be?

That's a hard question to answer, there's so many. But one of them surely would be the day that Ralph Waldo Emerson, young Emerson, recently out of Harvard, went out to Quincy, Massachusetts to visit the old President John Adams, then in the last year of his life. The year was 1825.

And Emerson, afterward, wrote down much of what was said. At one point, Adams said, "I would to God there were more ambition in the country." And then he paused and he said, "By that, I mean ambition of the laudable kind - to excel."

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could reinstate what we do as parents and grandparents, as teachers, as legislators, that old noble ambition, to excel. Thank you.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Good news for Hawaii farmers

From the office of Congresswoman Mazie Hirono comes the news that Hawaii farmers will be eligible for disaster relief under the recently passed 2008 Farm Bill, including farmers hard hit by VOG. It does involve paying to the USDA Farm Service Agency a "buy in" fee ranging from $0-900, depending on the farmers circumstances.
Rep. Bob Herkes, chair of the House Special Committe on Vog Effects, helped brief Hirono on the impacts of VOG on Big Island farming and agriculture, noting: "The protea and cut flower growers in Ocean View and Wood Valley in particular have been hard hit and this financial relief is especially welcome and timely."
Contact the local Farm Service Agency Office for more information:
Hawaii County FSA, 933-8381; Kauai County FSA, 245-9014; Honolulu Country FSA, 483-8600; or Maui Country FSA, 871-5500.

Rubber Slippers in Italy

This has nothing to do with legislative matters, but those on Blogger may have noticed that today's "Blog of Note" is a food and travel blog called Rubber Slippers in Italy, by a "local girl living in the land of pasta, pizza and wine." Congratulations to Rowena - this is a Big Deal in Blogger land! She posts yesterday on the price of gas in the Provence of Lecco at $9.63 per gallon and laments, "Makes you wanna fume, doesn't it?"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New car, no gas, nowhere to go

 The simple cartoon above by John Pritchett reminded me of the blistering battle between Stop Rail Now proponents and Mayor Hanneman over the construction of a light rail system. Pritchett created this cartoon in March 2004 for the Honolulu Weekly, that's over four years ago. Now let's doodle in 109,615 vehicles to the cartoon and…ta-da…we have the 2008 version.

In a blog post today on Daily Kos, the author argues that Hawaii is in grave need of mass transit and emphasizes the fact that the number of cars on the road (1,167,240) is almost equivalent to our population (1,283,388). He also sums up the contentious controversy and outlines its past and current developments. It's a great post to read if you've been out of the loop and somehow missed the dozen of commercials for and against light rail, and the almost daily newspaper headlines, op-eds and news broadcasts.

The transit debate has bombarded the media, political blogs and even the Legislature, with some House and Senate lawmakers signing the petition or not signing the petition to allow voters to decide whether light rail should be constructed in Hawaii. Lingle also signed the anti-rail petition.

Partisan Composition of State Legislatures

In Hawaii, it's no secret that the state House and Senate hold Democratic super majorities. How do other state legislatures break down in terms of partisan composition? Here's a nifty chart from the National Conference of State Legislatures. The totals show a slight lead of Democrats over Republicans. For example, in State Houses nationwide, there are 5,411 members, of which 2,978 are Democrats, 2,408 are Republicans, 18 are Independent, and 7 are Vacant (not a party.)

I think Massachusetts, however, may have us beat with 160 House members total, of which 141 are Democrats and 19 are Republicans.

Pennsylvania has an almost 50/50 split. There are 203 House members total, of which 102 are Democrats and 101 are Republicans. Must be interesting getting legislation passed.

And here's another chart that shows how states rank in terms of constituents per district. California has the most with a whopping 423,396 constituents per House district. Hawaii came in 34th with 23,756 constitutents per House district. New Hampshire has the least with 3,089 constituents per House district.

How many turtles did your Rep get?

The Sierra Club - Hawaii branch came out yesterday with their bi-annual Legislature Environmental Scorecard for 2007-2008. Based on the Sierra Club's own environment-friendly criteria and analyses of voting records, each lawmaker was given a ranking, a percentage, a grade, and turtles.

Congratulations to Rep. Hermina Morita, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, for being the only lawmaker in the entire legislature to receive a perfect score. Rep. Morita received the number one ranking in the House, an A+, 100% score, and four turtles. (She's also pretty, nice, smart, and loves kids - don't hate her.)

Also getting A's were Rep. Mele Carroll (87%, A, four turtles), Rep. Scott Saiki (86%, A, four turtles), Rep. Lyla Berg (86%, A, three turtles), Rep. Cynthia Thielen (85%, A-, four turtles), Rep. Della Au Belatti (80%, A-, three turtles), and Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (79%, A-, three turtles).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Clients must come first

The Honolulu Advertiser printed a letter from Wai'anae Representative Maile Shimabukuro in today's paper. Maile disagreed with the an editorial which concluded that the DOH was justified in terminating mental health contracts. The health department doesn't have a clear transition plan, said Maile, and about 400 mental health consumers will need to find adequate care. She propounded extending the state contracts until a better solution is found that will be less detrimental to consumers.

An excerpt from her letter:
"Your editorial rightly stresses the negative impact on consumers as the health department switches to other providers. Despite claims that it has staff and facilities to replace Hale Na'au Pono, the evidence is not there.
With no clear transition plan, the health department's small, new facility in Makaha, with skeleton staff and part-time hours, is no replacement for Hale Na'au Pono's full staff and adequate facilities.
The only sensible solution is to extend existing contracts until a viable alternative is found."

The House's Epic Rap's blog, the 13th floor, posted today on the first epic poem about Detroit, called "The Straits" by Kristin Palm. At 97 pages long, it's epic alright, but perhaps it's not a poem in the traditional sense. More like a compilation of lists - the kind of jobs held by Detroit natives, the names of dead victims of a 1967 riot, the various automobile companies that have come and gone.

It reminded me of Rep. Brower's creative rap, under the guise of an "invocation" he presented prior to the start of session on April 1, 2008. Here it is for those who missed it:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hawaii Foodbank Final Numbers

The Hawaii Foodbank released final numbers today on the total value of monetary and food donations received from their 2008 food drive. House members, their staffs, and support agencies should be very proud of their generous and spirited effort. The House of Representatives raised a total of $16,023.80 in cash and 402 lbs. of food. The State of Hawaii agencies raised a total of $171,859.44 and 87,214 lbs. of food.

Hot aspirations?

Bryan Walsh, in this week's (July 21, 2008) issue of Time Magazine, makes an important point about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in his brief on the recent G-8 Summit. He writes that President Bush's pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by the year 2050 is not as lofty as it seems. For one thing, there is no baseline year. Are we talking about 50% of 1990 levels, as proposed by the Europeans, or 50% of present day levels, as desired by the Japanese? That's a big difference.

Our goal in Hawaii is much more concrete. It is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at or below the 1990 level by January 1, 2020. According to legislation passed in 2007 and enacted as Act 234, SLH, here's the timetable for accomplishing this goal:

By December 31, 2008, the Department of Health shall have completed an updated inventory of emission sources and categories of sources.

By December 1, 2009, the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Task Force shall have prepared the required work plan and regulatory scheme. This year, the legislature appropriated $140,000 for FY2008-2009 to a temporary, full-time Task Force Program Manager, and Project Assistant/Researcher positions. The bill, HB2507, Act 235, became law without the Gov's signature.

By December 31, 2011, the Department of Health shall have adopted rules to establish emission limits by be achieved by January 1, 2020.

The legislature appropriated $500,000 to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism to carry out the responsibilites of the measure, including hiring of staff.

Back to G-8, while the 8 members (the world's richest nations) agreed to this somewhat vague target, developing nations such as China and India did not. However, Walsh comments that "next year we will have a new and more environmental President, and the ground is set for substantial negotiations. But we won't get back eight lost years of White House indifference and interference on climate."

Toughest battle for Maui veteran

He is extremely private and doesn't speak much to press, but Maui veteran, Rep. Bob Nakasone, gave a rare interview to the Maui News today on his battle with lung cancer, his love for public service, and his decision to pursue public office this November. It's good news to hear that Rep. Nakasone anticipates getting his health back to 100% soon. He was here to cast his votes during the Override Special Session last week as well as to sit in through most of the HHSC informational briefing. The Advertiser's The Notebook blog also posted an entry late yesterday on Nakasone's House District 9 race.

A Reversible Expressway for Honolulu

That is one of the ideas that Rep. Rida Cabanilla proposes to alleviate Honolulu's traffic crisis. Another is to request that the Governor use her emergency powers to address traffic and the condition of our roads prior to starting new development. Her op-ed in this morning's Advertiser appears here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Veto override debate ménage à trois

On Friday, the Star Bulletin printed an opinion piece that criticized the Legislature's reasoning behind overriding 13 of the Governor's veto, asserting that the move was more about power than the public good. On Saturday, Ian Lind questioned in a blog post whether the writer of the editorial read any of the bills in their entirety, and also mentioned several bills he deemed quite pressing and important to the public. Then, today, the Star Bulletin printed a letter to the editor from Rep. Kirk Caldwell, who was quoted in the editorial as saying the overrides were limited to "pressing needs". Caldwell notes that many constituents would disagree with the editorials suggestion that the bills overridden by the Legislature were not pressing issues.

Here is a brief synopsis of a few of their arguments (just in case you don't feel like browsing through the three links).

State regulation of interisland air carriers

SB : Why would the Legislature override a veto of a bill to re-regulate interisland air carrier when state regulation of airlines is prohibited by federal law?

IL: The bill contains a key proviso - which the SB fails to mention - limiting the law to take effect once federal legislation permits implementation.

"What the bill accomplishes is to provide a regulatory structure that can be used to show the state's intent while lobbying Congress for the power to take control of our vital interisland transportation system…the S-B editorial made it sound like legislators were just unaware of the limits of state authority," wrote Lind.

Operation of the University of Hawaii

SB: Differences in opinion on how UH should be operated prompted lawmakers to override two bills, however urgency played no role in the decision.

IL: Requiring the UH Board of Regents to make public administrative salaries and expenditures is already mandated by the Sunshine Law, which the the Board refuses to provide promptly.

Permanent absentee voting

SB: The new law could botch the legitimacy of voting in Hawaii. It will be difficult to verify in all cases if the person registered to vote is actually submitting the absentee ballot. In situations where an individual relocates or dies, ballots could be used by others.

Caldwell: Providing residents with access to voting booths is important, especially to the elderly who support making absentee voting easier.

Hero to one, example to all

Wally Miyasato, pictured in red between Reps. Brower and Mizuno, a 7-11 Supervisor, was recognized by the House of Representatives today for his support of his employee, "Pam", who has been affected by domestic violence.

Wally has been very empathic to Pam's situation. He has allowed her to take time off when she has needed to tend to legal or emotional affairs.

Mizuno, Brower and advocates against domestic violence presented Wally with a certificate honoring his unyielding support of domestic violence victims.

According to Mizuno, they hope to reduce domestic violence through education and public awareness. "We have seen so much negative coverage relating to domestic violence this year, it's refreshing to recognize someone who has been a hero to victims of domestic violence. We're hopeful that other managers, supervisors and employers follow suit because their actions can make a difference and save a family," he said.

Brower, left, said, "Wally helps employees who have hardships and understands the importance of loyalty and ethics in business. His understanding of the lives of domestic violence victims is commendable, and his management skills reveal he has a big heart and enduring sympathy."

"Pam" (in red) talks to reporters about how she survived the abuse and how grateful she is to Miyasato for supporting her during a tough time in her life. "Wally Miyasato is my hero, without his support I would not have a job today," she said.

"Domestic violence survivors cannot survive without the community's support. Employers like Wally make the difference. He has stood by her side and ensured that she has a job to come to and income to claim," said Dara Carlin, a community advocate against domestic violence, to reporters after the presentation of the certificate.

Shield Law

The Advertiser today carried an op-ed on the Shield Law by Jeff Portnoy and Gerald Kato. While it is true that the bill passed unanimously, it did not pass without concerns. Also, while those close to the issue know that it was introduced and championed by Rep. Blake Oshiro, the op-ed does not mention it, so here's a tip of the hat to Rep. Oshiro on the bill's enactment.

For the sake of presenting another perspective, here are the floor remarks on Final Reading of Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki, who voted with reservations, about the need for a Shield Law:

Mr. Speaker and Members, I vote with reservations on this measure. I really don't see any major need for a Shield Law. I haven't seen any reporters being taken on and put into jail in journalism. They do have protections under the federal Constitution to protect them, and I don't see why they need additional protection at the local level.

Mr. Speaker, I ask Members to really consider this as we move along. I understand that this is an evolutionary thing that we're going to be looking at in the future. But we need to remember to keep things in balance. I think everything needs to be kept in its proper perspective, and I believe that the Shield Law is going beyond what is needed. Thank you.

State tax revenues rose 1.2% in 2008

With the exception of the A.P. story in the Star-Bulletin, I didn't see much in the news media on the fact that the Department of Taxation released year-end 2008 revenue figures. While revenues rose 1.2% for the year ending June 30th, that is significantly lower than the 3.3% rise projected by the Council on Revenues. That translates to about $100 million less money to spend than anticipated.

At 1.2% growth, the tax revenues amounted to $4,640,923,000 or $4.64 billion. At 3.3% growth, the tax revenues were projected to amount to $4,737,859,000 or $4.74 billion. Thus, a difference of $100 million.

Here are some stats:

General excise/use taxes - UP 2.5%
Corporate income tax - UP 4.0%
Individual income tax - DOWN 1.0%
Transient Accommodation Tax - UP 2.0%
All others - UP 1.5%

The Council on Revenues has projected a 2.0% growth for Fiscal Year 2009.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Code Blue

The Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) checked into the fiscal ER today. The House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee held their joint informational briefing on the HHSC, a network of public hospitals in Hawaii, which faces a projected shortfall of $62 million by the end of fiscal year 2009.

"The Health System used to be run by the Hippocratic Oath; now it's 'show me the money'," said Rick Vidgen, the HHSC West Hawaii board member.

How did they get to this point? HHSC cited five primary reasons why they are losing money:

1. HHSC has no Disproportionate Share Hospital status - thus losing approximately $33 million per year. Hawaii is only one of two states with no DSH.

2. Under-reimbursement resulting in a loss of $90 million per year.

3. Wait list problem, losing approximately $30-$50 million per year.

4. Physician Call Coverage and Recruitment Cost - Over $15 million per year.

5. Cost of operating as a state agency - Includes $50 million in fringe benefits, salaried vs. hourly employees; paid time off.

The administation says they are unable to intervene with the management and operations of HHSC, citing HRS 343F-11, the Executive branch; noninterference clause.

§323F-11 Executive branch; noninterference. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the governor and executive branch agencies shall limit their responsibilities to that of review and oversight when the corporation or regional system board receives general funds from the State to subsidize the operating budgets of deficit facilities. The governor and executive branch agencies shall not interfere with the systemic change, capacity building, advocacy, budget, personnel, system plan development, or plan implementation activities of the corporation or any regional system board. The governor and executive branch agencies shall not interfere with the ability of the corporation or regional system board to function as a multiple facility public hospital system delivering health care services to the residents of the State. [L 1996, c 262, pt of §2; am L 2007, c 290, §29]

Finance Chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, asked Linda Smith, the Governor's policy advisor, if the administration has received a ruling from the Attorney General on what they can and cannot do to assist HHSC under this part of the statute. Smith said that the A.G. was the one who pointed out the section to them, but they have not received an official ruling. Rep. Oshiro said he would ask the A.G. for a ruling and would waive his attorney/client privilege in order to make the information public.

Chip Uwaine from the United Public Workers indicated that there would be an announcement on Monday on 54 layoffs, but was unsure what positions they were, or at what hospitals.

Senator Roz Baker, Ways and Means Chair, solicited agreement that monetary relief was needed for this fiscal year, and that the Legislature would not be able to make an emergency appropriation unless the Governor called the Legislature back into special session for this purpose.

Street parking laws debated

Sixty-seven Makaha residents have signed a petition to protest the recent mass issuance of citations for parking their cars in front of or near their private garages. Other neighbors are grateful for the police intervention.

"I got a ticket because I was parking in front of my driveway to unload, went into the house to use the bathroom, came back out and there was a ticket to my surprise," said Bill Mousser, a community member.

Similarly, another neighbor said that her son, who is a carpenter, was unloading tools while parked on the street in front of her house when he got a $35 ticket. When he told the police that he was just unloading, they said he had to pay the ticket anyway.

"It has been frustrating as a community to have to park a quarter mile away and walk to my home. What about unloading groceries or any other items? If we are left with caring for the immediate area outside of our homes, then why can’t we park there?" added Mousser.

Hawaii parking and street laws include the prohibition of undocumented vehicles on the streets and any vehicle to be parked within four feet of a driveway, even if it's your own driveway.

“The problem has been building for so long and the improvement is greatly appreciated,” said a Manuku Street resident. “The problem goes further than just parking too close to the curb line. There are also cars parked on sidewalks, people putting up 'No Parking' signs in front of the homes, storage of vehicles on the street, and the list goes on. We look forward to the continued enforcement of this situation in the months ahead.”

The Honolulu Police Department said that they were simply responding to numerous neighborhood complaints and enforcing the law. “The enforcement of parking violations is generally discretionary on the part of our officers,” explained HPD Major Michael Moses. “We do realize that parking in many of these communities is scarce. However, when others within the community insist on police action, and there are obvious violations observed, we are obligated to act. Unfortunately, this parking issue has polarized the residents on these streets.”

Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (District 45 – Waianae, Makaha, Makua) is considering drafting legislation to reduce the laws requiring distance of parking near a driveway from four feet to one foot or less.

"The problem with the law is that it makes parking nearly impossible in neighborhoods where houses are close together, such as in Makaha, and in places like Honolulu where parking is always hard to find," Shimabukuro said. "I would bet that most of us do this all the time. Many drivers squeeze into available spaces near driveways leaving just enough space for a car to exit and enter."

Given certain circumstances, many Hawaii residents also park in front of their own driveways. "Some residents park there because they have more cars than their garage can hold, or they're holding a large get-together, unloading, or washing their cars," Shimabukuro said.

"I definitely support HPD enforcing the laws and citing obvious violations like derelict cars, parking on sidewalks, and illegal 'No Parking' signs.” Shimabukuro explained. “I also understand that the driveway laws are in place to permit emergency and police vehicles to enter homes in times of emergency. However, I hope we can find a compromise so that people are not unnecessarily inconvenienced," Shimabukuro said.

Shimabukuro has recently asked the Waianae Neighborhood Board to place this issue on their Transportation Committee agenda to give the community a forum to debate this issue. “One thing the community could consider is whether we should ask for an exception to the driveway laws in neighborhoods such as the Manuku and Nukea Street area where parking is extremely limited,” Shimabukuro stated.

“We need to work together to make the community a better place to live for all involved; no one should be left out,” Mousser urged. “We need to talk to each other and find resolutions.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

We don't see the sun anymore

House Special Committee on Vog Effects - left to right - Rep. Jerry Chang, Rep. Clift Tsuji, Rep. Bob Herkes, Rep. Cindy Evans, Rep. Faye Hanohano
Big Island protea grower Sam Bayaoa shows the committee the burnt leaves and small flowers caused by vog conditions.

The House Special Committee on Vog Effects held its second meeting today, this one focusing on the effects of VOG on agriculture. Here are some startling statements from farmers:

"The sulfur dioxide is the primary factor of damage, but there are other factors related to the SO2. For example, we don't see the sun anymore. So far, my sales are down 30%. I expect them to be down by 50% by the end of the year. I've had to cut my labor force by half. My financial loss is about $100,000." Jeff McCall, McCall Farms - Wood Valley, Ka'u.

"I was wiped out in Oceanview. I had to move to Pahala. I've had experience with volcanic emissions from Mt. St. Helens. I've been calling my friends in Oregon and Washington to get their advice on how to deal with this. The VOG didn't kill my flowers, but it made them unmarketable. I used to ship all over the world. Now, I can't even ship to Watanabe Florist. I'm almost bankrupt. I did $30 in sales in the last few weeks. I'm wiped out." Ted Seaman.
"I specialize in protea. The pin cushion flowers should be four times this size. The leaves are burnt and the flowers are deformed. I've suffered a 100% loss. I told the farmers that I was coming to Oahu to speak to the legislature, and they said, tell them we're all wiped out." Sam Bayaoa.

The next meeting will be in two weeks and will focus on the economic losses attributed to vog.

"You will live a long life thanks to more sleep."

If that's not in the fortune cookie for the folks who live around the Chinese Cultural Plaza, it should be. The residents have suffered for years due to the private trash collectors who come by at 5:30 a.m. and back up along Kukui Street, beeping all the way and flipping over the dumpsters. We all know what that sounds like. Rep. Karl Rhoads intervened and asked Longevity Inc., the company who manages the property, to have some consideration for the sleep deprived residents. Longevity cooperated and arranged for the trash to be picked up no earlier than 7:00 a.m. Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sustainability: One strapless dress at a time

Representative Maile Shimabukuro is pleased to announce the grand opening of a locally owned and inspired fashion boutique in Makaha that will further develop the Wai‘anae Coast and advance the community toward self-sustainability. The store, Makaha Fashion Boutique, will be located at the Makaha Marketplace and the grand opening will be held on Wednesday, July 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"It's exciting to see the old "Cornet" building being filled with locally owned businesses that give Wai‘anae residents places to get what they need and avoid the high cost of gas," said Shimabukuro (District 45-Wai‘anae, Makaha, Makua).

Owner Ursula Robles developed the business plan for the new boutique to address the need for more commercial stores for fashionable wear and electronics on the Wai‘anae Coast. The boutique will feature high-end casual resort wear from a variety of brand names in a range of sizes, including apparel for toddlers. In addition to clothing, Robles said that electronics, such as MP3 players and IPods, will be available for below retail value. No item in the store will be more than $30. Makaha Fashion Boutique will accept cash only and no bills over $20.

"Makaha Fashion Boutique provides affordable fashions for the whole family," explained owner Ursula Robles, a native Hawaiian and long-time Wai‘anae resident. "We want to give Wai‘anae residents a closer option for shopping than Waikele, Pearlridge or Ala Moana."

The new boutique will join a host of other successful local businesses, many owned and operated by residents of the Wai‘anae Coast, including Makaha Studios; Keaulana's Surf Shop; Paradise Isle Visitor Center; Cyberwest; Makaha Chop Suey; Treasure Box Charities; Affordable Fitness; Leeward Martial Arts; GotVoice; WashSpot; Captain Bruce Scuba; K. Kim Contracting; Dr. Tammie A. Kim, PhD, Psychologist; Team Real Estate; YCS Corporation; and Hawaii Retail Services LLC.
Makaha Marketplace is also home to non-profits, government agencies, and churches, including Steps for Independence; Hina Mauka; the Institute for Family Enrichment; Alaka‘i Na Ke'iki; the State Mental Health Clinic; the Clubhouse; The Voice of the Believers Christian Church, and The Remnant Church.

"Makaha Marketplace holds great hope for the future of entrepreneurialism on the Wai‘anae Coast," Shimabukuro said. "The Marketplace, combined with other exciting developments, like the new Farmer's Market that's held twice a month at Makaha Resort, are making excellent progress toward "buying local" and our community's self-sustainability."

Makaha Fashion Boutique is located at 87-1170 Farrington Hwy., Wai‘anae. Dedication will be at noon, followed by refreshments. The first 50 customers will receive a free gift. Each purchase on opening day will receive a raffle ticket for a grand prize. For more information, please call Ursula Robles at 589-7315.

Photo: Makaha Fashion Boutique owner Ursula Robles (back row, 4th from left), and some members of her 'ohana.

Joint House Finance/Senate Ways and Means hold info briefing on HHSC

Kahuku Medical Center, the newest addition to the HHSC network of public hospitals.
Photo Credit: The Honolulu Advertiser.

About 2 weeks ago, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) briefed House and Senate caucuses on its dire financial situation - a $62 million projected shortfall for fiscal year 2009, on top of a deficit of $42 million at the end of fiscal year 2008.

HHSC is a network of 13 public hospitals on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Lanai and the Big Island. The facilities are managed by regional boards. Given its financial situation, HHSC may be facing the need to reduce services and staff.

The 13 facilities are:

Maui: Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital

Lanai: Lanai Community Hospital

East Hawaii: Hilo Medical Center, Hale Hoola Hamakua, Kau Hospital

West Hawaii: Kohala Hospital, Kona Community Hospital

Kauai: Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital, Sam Mahelona Memorial Hospital

Oahu: Maluhia, Leahi Hospital, Kahuku Medical Center

As a followup to HHSC's announcement, the House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means committee will hold joint informational briefings on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, East Hawaii and West Hawaii over the next few months. The first one for Oahu is scheduled for this Friday. In addition, House and Senate will form a health systems recovery task force to look at structural issues and improving access to healthcare.

Date: Friday, July 11, 2008

Time: 10:00 a.m. to completion

Place: State Capitol - Conference Room 325

Who's invited: Healthcare Association of Hawaii; HHSC Board of Directors; HHSC Administration; Oahu Regional Board; Office of the Governor; Hawaii Government Employees Association; United Public Workers.

Public comments: The public may provide comments on the HHSC system wide and Oahu region plans by submitting testimony by email at least 24 hours in advance to:

The purpose of the briefing will be to look at the impact to services as HHSC manages its projected $62 million shortfall, whether HHSC can implement some or all of their plans without legislative approval, assistance by the state administration, options and actions to help HHSC fulfill its mission.

Mahalo Tommy!

Rep. Tommy Waters announced earlier this year that he won't be running for re-election. Yesterday, during the special override session, his fellow colleagues took a moment to wish him well. On behalf of the House, Rep. Ken Ito (left), presented Rep. Waters with a beautiful koa gavel.

2nd Vog Effects Briefing: The Impact of Vog on Ag

This briefing will be cablecast live on Olelo, Channel 49.

The House Special Committee on VOG Effects will meet Thursday in Room 325 at the Capitol for the second of a series of briefings. The meeting tomorrow will focus on the impact of VOG on Hawaii's agricultural operations. The discussion will include the effects of VOG on crops and ways to assist farmers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008
10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The effects of the VOG have severely impacted the Big Island farming community, operationally and financially. The briefing will include information on how farmers can protect their crops and on resources available to help farmers mitigate future crop loss.

The following have been invited to participate in this fact-finding meeting:

U.S. Department of AgricultureHawaii Farm Bureau Federation
National Weather ServiceBig Island Farm Bureau
Hawaii Department of AgricultureHawaii Agriculture Research Center
UH College of Tropical AgricultureKona Pacific Farmers Coop
UH at Hilo College of AgriculturalBig Island Protea Growers Assoc.
Forestry and Natural Resource Mgmt.County of Hawaii Research and Dev.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Begin the Begin

Fans of The Advertiser's popular political blog, Capitol Notebook, will be happy to hear that it's returning in a new form. Derrick DePledge is teaming up with Peter Boylan on a political/government blog called simply, The Notebook. As for Begin the Begin, their first post, I'm told it's an R.E.M. song, and not the Cole Porter (showing my vintage) classic, Begin the Beguine.

Veto Overrides

The House voted to override 13 bills and 1 line item veto. The final list should essentially be the House list as the Senate overrode many more bills, including these 14 items. They are:

HB2250 RELATING TO TRANSPORTATION. The Hawaii inter-island airline regulations bill. Establishes a statutory scheme for the regulation of Hawaii inter-island air carriers; provided that federal legislation is enacted to permit implementation.

HB2761 RELATING TO CHILDREN'S HEALTH. Post partum and interception care. Requires the Department of Human services to apply to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to extend post-partum and interconception care from eight weeks to at least six months for women who participate in the Hawaii QUEST program.

HB2843 RELATING TO INVASIVE SPECIES. Expands the items subject to the inspection, quarantine, and eradication service fee (inspection fee) to include any freight brought into the State. Requires the inspection fee to be assessed based on net weight of imported freight. Designates the person paying the freight charges to a transportation company as the party responsible for paying the fee. Clarifies that the transportation company is not liable for the fee in the event the party responsible for the fee fails to pay it.

SB156 RELATING TO VOTING. Absentee voting. Authorizes permanent absentee voting. Makes appropriation.

SB2262 RELATING TO HEALTH. VEBA Trusts. Extends the sunset date to July 1, 2010 for the voluntary employees' beneficiary association trust pilot program established pursuant to Act 245, Session Laws of Hawaii 2005, as amended. Requires the state auditor to conduct an analysis of the cost and financial impact of Act 245, Session Laws of Hawaii 2005, and to report to the legislature by December 6, 2010.

SB2263 RELATING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII. Requires the University of Hawaii board of regents to publicly disclose in open meetings: (1) compensation offered to newly hired employees; (2) changes in compensation offered to existing employees for administrative positions in the UH system filled by excluded employees; and (3) all budgetary expenditures made by the board of regents.

SB2345 RELATING TO CHILDREN. Establishes guiding principles to be used by state agencies when dealing with children of incarcerated parents.

SB2542 RELATING TO PUBLIC HEALTH. Ensures continued community-based primary care for the uninsured, underinsured, or medicaid recipients by helping the community health center system to remain financially viable and stable in the face of the increasing needs of these populations.

SB2668 RELATING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII. Requires at least twelve board of regents members to reside in the geographic areas that they represent. Requires the governor to notify the council of vacancies on the board of regents in a timely manner. Requires the Council to submit names of candidates for a seat on the board of regents within sixty days following a vacancy. Clarifies the requirement for the council's submission of names of board of regents candidates to the governor. Makes confidential all information required by the council regarding board of regents candidates.

SB2803 RELATING TO PERSONAL INFORMATION. Implements recommendations of the 12/2007 report of the Hawaii identity theft task force to protect the security of personal information collected and maintained by state and county government.

SB2840 RELATING TO SELF SUFFICIENCY. Requires the department of business, economic development, and tourism to establish and update biennially a self-sufficiency standard.

SB2843 RELATING TO ELECTRONIC DEVICE RECYCLING. Requires manufacturers of electronic devices to collect and recycle electronic devices. Establishes the electronic device recycling fund. Establishes a working group that includes TV manufacturers to develop a plan to recycle TVs.

SB2878 RELATING TO EARLY LEARNING. Establishes an early learning system in the state. Creates the Early Learning Council to develop and administer the early learning system, to be known as Keiki First Steps. Establishes the Keiki First Steps Grant Program. Statutorily establishes the Pre-Plus Program. Promotes the development of early learning facilities.

SB2830 LINE ITEM VETO OVERRIDE OF $500,000. Joint Legislative Committee on Family Caregiving; Appropriations

During the session, the Governor vetoed 12 bills (and one line-item veto) of which the Legislature overrode 4 bills. So, for 2008, the Legislature passed 294 bills, the Governor vetoed a total of 53 bills, and the Legislature overrode 17.

Lawmakers discuss possible overrides

Members of the House and Senate are currently meeting privately to discuss whether they will override any of the 41 bills vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle on the last day before the bills would have become law without her signature.

The vetoes include measures related to workers' compensation, invasive species, permanent absentee voting and electronic device recycling.

For more information on Special Session 2008, visit the Hawaii State Legislature website.

You can also access a list of all vetoed bills and veto messages here.

Voices Heard

A number of caregivers, Kupuna advocates, care home operators and their patients rallied yesterday at the State Capitol in support of SB2830, widely known as The Caregiver Bill. Joined by Reps. John Mizuno, Rida Cabanilla, Joey Manahan and other lawmakers, the troop of over thirty supporters ardently chanted toward the rooftop of the State Capitol, urging Gov. Linda Lingle to sign their bill. The measure was one of 52 bills on the Governor's intent-to-veto list.


Those words reverberated through the Capitol as the group waved their signs condemning a veto of a bill that would effectuate the recommendations of the Joint Legislative Committee on Family Caregiving, including:

(1) Extends the sunset date of the Joint Legislative Committee on Family Caregiving;

(2) Changes the name of the committee to the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging in Place (Committee);

(3) Expands the Committee mandate to include aging in place issues related to family caregiving;
(4) Requires the Aging and Disability Resource Center to report to the Committee;

(5) Requires the Committee to conduct a cash and counseling project;

(6) Appropriates funds to the Committee;

(7) Allows the Kupuna Care Program to include overnight, weekend, and emergency respite services and provide grants to caregivers for home modification;

(8) Appropriates funds for a respite care study;

(9) Appropriates funds to the Kupuna Care Program; and

(10) Establish a task force to focus on the needs and issues of grandparents raising grandchildren.
It appears that their voices were heard.

The Governor signed the bill into law yesterday with a line item veto that eliminates the $500,000 appropriation to the Kupuna Care Program (number 9 above).

You can read the Governor's veto message here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Keeping needles clean

It's not all the time that you see representatives of an industry pushing for more regulation and higher licensing fees, but that was exactly the case today during an informational briefing on the standards of tattoo licensing at the State Capitol.

The hearing, organized by Rep. John Mizuno, brought together industry members, the Department of Health, and lawmakers to discuss changes to the licensing process in order to provide a safe and healthy environment for consumers. Unsafe tattoo and body piercing practices - in commercial venues, in the homes of amateurs, and cultural practices - can lead to the exchange and transfer of blood borne viruses, including but not limited to Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Four tattoo and body piercing artists, who have been spearheading the review of the industry, repeatedly mentioned the need for higher penalties against people who practice without a license or disobey rules and regulations, such as tattooing a minor without parental consent. They also suggested imposing higher licensing fees, which can help pay for more safety inspectors to enforce safety and health rules.

One of their major concerns was the fact that the tattooing licensing exam is almost 30 years old. The last time it was updated or reviewed was in 1981. Many participants of the briefing were concerned that the exam does not provide questions on Hepatitis and other more recent and prevalent communicable diseases.

Sean McGready, the owner of Tattoolicious in Waikiki, was concerned about the State's lack of laws and regulation for body piercing. He provided DOH officials with a rough draft of possible legislation that would make a separate set of rules and regulation for the body piercing industry.

The body piercing industry is growing fiercely, with more young people opting to use their body as art and put themselves under the needle - or in some cases, the knife. This new phenomenon is known as "body modification." McGready explained that the industry has evolved from the typical cosmetic piercing to full blown surgical procedures. Many body piercing shops are performing body art like "skin peeling," surgically removing sections of the skin to create keloids, or "braiding," cutting strips of skin which are then intertwined and placed back on the body to heal in that form, or "beading," the placement of an object underneath the skin and above the tissue of a person.

All parties involved in the hearing agreed that further discussion must continue in order to develop clear, feasible and comprehensive changes to the standards of the tattooing and body piercing industry.
Photo top left: Skin peeling or "scarification" is becoming a very popular form of body art that is not regulated in Hawaii.
Photo bottom right: Peggy Schuler, a representative of the tattoo industry, shows DOH officials a disposable cultural, Polynesian tattooing instrument, which can help prevent the spread of blood borne diseases.