Saturday, August 30, 2008

Island Dairy Benefits from Livestock Revitalization Bill

Rep. Clift Tsuji and Jeri Kahana of the state Department of Agriculture, Commodities Branch, will tour Island Dairy on Tuesday morning to see how the dairy has been able to benefit from the livestock revitalization bill passed in 2007.

HB1221 was enacted into law as Act 221, SLH 2007. It allows for the reimbursement to the livestock producer for 40% of the feed costs. The funds received by Island Dairy are being used to purchase equipment and supplies to grow their own corn for feed, and for other farm improvements that will make their operation more efficient. The goal is to increase overall milk production.

Island Dairy's corn crop is now ready for harvest. The dairy began its operation in 1990, starting in Ahualoa and relocating to Ookala in 2004. The dairy is approximately 2,200 acres, of which 1,900 are farmable. The total herd size is about 1,500 cows, with 475-550 cows producing milk. Bahman Sadeghi serves as president, and Scott Tripp is manager.

NaFFAA honors Filipino-American Elected Officials

Last weekend, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) honored Hawaii's Filpino American elected officials at an appreciation/fundraising dinner. The NaFFAA is a national, non-partisan organization comprised of 12 regional chapters that represent more than 500 Filipino-American organizations across the US and the Pacific Basin.

Hawaii is part of NaFFAA Region XII, which includes Hawaii, Guam, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

The Filipino-American elected officials are:

State Senate: Robert Bunda, Will Espero, Lorraine Inouye, Donna Mercado Kim, and Ron Menor.

State House: Della Au Belatti, Lyla Berg, Rida Cabanilla, Lynn Finnegan, Michael Magaoay, Joey Manahan, Kymberly Marcos Pine, Roland Sagum III, and Alex Sonson.

County Councils: Romy Cachola (Honolulu), Donovan Dela Cruz (Honolulu), Nestor Garcia (Honolulu), Angel Pilago (Hawaii), Dominic Yagong (Hawaii), Danny Mateo (Maui), Joseph Pontanilla (Maui), Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho (Kauai).

Board of Education: Mary Cochran (Maui)

Friday, August 29, 2008

State Legislatures - A Road to the Presidency?

The Thicket, NCSL's blog, points out today that now that Senator McCain has selected Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, Barack Obama is the only candidate on the national ballot who is a former state legislator.

Back in 2000 (geez, can it be 8 years already?) there was only one former state legislator on the national ballot. That was former Connecticut state senator Joe Lieberman. The last time there were two former state legislators running for president or vice president? You'd have to go all the way to 1936 when Franklin Roosevelt (New York) and John Nance (Texas) ran as the Democratic team.

State legislatures seem to becoming a less popular breeding ground for presidents. Of the 43 presidents, 22 have been former state or colonial legislators, however, 14 of the 22 served prior to the Civil War.

There were 5 former legislators who served as president in the 20th century, and they were Thedore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Jimmy Carter.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Farewell to Plastic Bags

The Hawaii County Council has passed a ban on plastic bags starting in 2011. Advertiser story here and SB story here.The Maui County Council passed a similar measure last week. Kauai County is taking steps to replace plastic bags with reusables. And, today, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin criticizes the City and County of Honolulu in this editorial for lagging behind on acknowledging that plastic bags are an environmental and visual blight in our community.

It does appear that the writing is on the wall signaling the demise of the plastic bag for use by groceries and other retailers. And, while this is good news for the environment and for the health of the planet, I did want to pay tribute to one of the most beautiful scenes in filmmaking as we say farewell - the plastic bag scene from American Beauty.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Site Visit to Child and Family Service Ewa Campus

Members of House leadership, Finance Committee and Human Services and Housing Committee have been invited to take an educational tour of the Child and Family Service's Ewa campus tomorrow.

The objectives of the tour are:

To provide a more personal review of the organization's mission;
To acquaint lawmakers with the scope of the CFS impact in Hawaii;
To discuss issues faced by the CFS families in their respective communities;
To discuss future legislative policy and funding;
To review progress on the CFS Ewa expansion thanks to a $2.5 million grant-in-aid in the 2006 session.

Tour date: Thursday, August 28, 2008
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
Place: Child and Family Service Ewa Campus - 91-1841 Fort Weaver Road, Ewa Beach

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Addiction is Individual; Treatment is Individual

Here are some bullets on today's briefing on alcoholism. The discussion was expanded to include other types of addiction.

*Dr. William Haning from the John A. Burns School of Medicine led off with a summary, and clarified what he said yesterday on the addictive quality of various substances. The chances of an individual getting hooked on a particular substance will vary significantly, of course, but the likelihood after the initial induction is 90% for cigarettes, 80-85% for crystal meth, and 10% for alcohol and marijuana.

*Gary Allen, Hawaii Business Health Council, said that his organization offers a counseling program for employees and employers for both alcohol and cigarette addiction.

*The Department of Health representative, Dr. Yamamoto, emphasized that while programs are available, many people can't afford them, and that private insurers need to step up and offer coverage for substance abuse programs and services. It all comes down to money.

Alan Johnson (left) and Dr. William Haning

*Alan Johnson, Hina Mauka, did a joint power point presentation with Dr. Haning. They covered the purpose of medication, which can help manage addiction but it is never enough.

*There are several drugs on the market for alcohol addiction, but they work in different ways. Naltrexone, taken orally or by injection, is also known by its brand name Vivitrol. It works to decrease the craving for alcohol. The injection is taken once a month, 300 mg. Disulfiram (Anatabuse) taken orally, works in the same way. Acamprosate (Campral) suppresses craving by making you deathly ill if you take it in conjunction with alcohol.

*The cost factor is significant; one shot of Vivitrol costs about $700-900 per shot/per month.

*One of the challenges is that the human brain naturally resists any chemistry changes. Every individual will react differently to medication. There are currently about 200 new medications that are being tracked and may be available in the next 5-10 years.

*The bottom line is that medication is no magic bullet, that physicians have found something that helps, but it's pricey.

Rep. Ryan Yamane thanks Waipio Little League Team and Coaches

Here is Rep. Ryan Yamane's letter to the editor in this morning's Advertiser:

As the father of two young sons, and as the state representative of the Waipio Gentry and Mililani district, I am doubly proud of the phenomenal achievement of the Waipio Little League team.

This team and their coaches showed us all two important things:

1) Never give up; even when you're down, miracles are possible and you must make them happen.

2) Even though we come from a small state in the middle of the Pacific, we can compete with anyone in the world. These young boys are role models for us all; they exemplified persistence and motivation to their dreams and devotion to themselves, their family and the game of baseball.

So, thank you to the boys of the Waipio Little League for your great lessons and big hearts. You played excellent games, displayed good sportsmanship, and extended to the rest of the world your aloha spirit. You are not only baseball players or world champions, but you are also extraordinary ambassadors for the State of Hawaii and our own Waipio community. My congratulations go out to you players, your coaches, and your families.

Ryan Yamane, State Representative, District 37 – Waipio Gentry, Mililani

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kaneohe Elementary Visits the Capitol

Rep. Ken Ito (District 48 - Heeia, Haiku Valley, Kapunahala, Kaneohe) welcomed second and third grade students from Kaneohe Elementary to the State Capitol today.

Alcoholism in Hawaii

The House Health Committee will hold an informational briefing on Alcoholism in Hawaii and the reasons why Hawaii has one of the highest rates of drunken driving in the nation.

The focus will be on options to reduce alcoholism in the areas of prevention, treatment and recovery. The committee will also review the efficacy of Vivitrol, a promising new medication taken by injection once a month, which may be used in conjunction with a treatment program.

WHEN: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 - 10:00 a.m.

WHERE: State Capitol, Conference Room 309

WHO: The following organizations/representatives have been invited to participate:

William Haning, M.D. John A. Burns School of Medicine
Alan Johnson, CEO, Hina Mauka
State Department of Health
Honolulu Police Chief
Cephalon, Inc.
Hawaii Business Health Council

Friday, August 22, 2008

Health Committee Reviews State and Federal Laws on Medical Marijuana

WHAT: The House Health Committee will hold an informational briefing on medical marijuana, or cannabis, possession and transportation in Hawaii.

WHEN: Monday, August 25, 2008
10:00 a.m.

WHERE: State Capitol, Room 309

WHO: The following have been invited to participate:

U.S. Attorney General, District of Hawaii
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, TSA
Hawaii State Department of Health
Hawaii State Department of Public Safety – State Narcotics Division
Hawaii State Attorney General
Honolulu Police Chief
John A. Burns School of Medicine
Richard Miller, Professor Emeritus, UH School of Law
Pamela Lichty and Jeanne Ohta, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii
Legislative Reference Bureau

Rep. Marcus Oshiro - New Vice Chair of CSG West

Rep. Marcus Oshiro (center, blue shirt), as Finance Chair, leads final 2008 budget conference committee talks.

The Council of State Governments-WEST (CSG-WEST) recently elected Representative Marcus Oshiro as Vice-Chair for the coming year. His term will begin on November 20, 2008.

CSG-WEST is a nonprofit organization of state legislators of both parties from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The organization promotes excellence in state legislatures through regional cooperation, collaboration and professional development. CSG-WEST holds forums on key Western issues and works with other Western political organizations on behalf of the region.

The current chair of CSG-WEST is Alaska State Senator Lesil McGuire. In a statement, Senator McGuire said, “Representative Oshiro is the kind of elected official that I am proud to serve beside. His style is the very essence of servant leadership."

Rep. Oshiro’s election places him in line to chair the regional state legislative group in 2011 and makes him one of four top officers who set policies for the organization.

According to CSG WEST, Rep. Oshiro distinguished himself in recent years by chairing the CSG-WEST Committee on the Future of Western Legislatures, holding major forums on such topics as multi-media outreach, political engagement and redistricting. In 1998, Oshiro was selected as a Toll Fellow by the national CSG. Toll Fellows represent “the best and brightest” state officials in the nation.

Rep. Oshiro represents District 39 - Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, and Launani Valley, and chairs the Hawaii House Finance Committee.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Public housing challenges

The Honolulu Advertiser published a series on the state of our public housing projects earlier this week. Tomorrow, the House and Senate will hold an informational briefing on public housing repair and maintenance. There will be a presentation by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority. The committees will also hear from the Urban Housing Communities project on the subject of public housing renovation and rehabilitation. They will explore alternatives to financing other than total public underwriting.

WHEN: Friday, August 22, 2008, 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.

WHERE: State Capitol, Room 229

Space Foundation's Pulham on Bytemarks Cafe

In case you missed it, Eliot Pulham, president and CEO of the Space Foundation was a guest on the news section of Bytemarks Cafe yesterday. You can listen to the show online here. The main feature was an interview with Guy Kawasaki, who Erika Engle of the Star Bulletin called a "Geek God" and his "Chief Evangelist" in Hawaii Neenz Faleafine. Bytemarks Cafe is on Hawaii Public Radio, KIPO, 89.3 on Wednesdays from 5-6 p.m. It's produced and hosted by Burt Lum and Ryan Ozawa.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rethinking the Drinking Age; Health Committee Reviews Vivitrol

Did we hear right? Six college presidents in Maryland, including the president of Johns Hopkins University, say the drinking age of 21 is not working and that it's time to consider lowering the age. Or, at least rethink it. Their logic is that trying to enforce the age limit is impossible and only serves to drive kids to binge drink.

While each state has the authority to set its own drinking age, Congress passed a National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984 which penalizes states that lower the drinking age below 21. States that do will lose 10% of their federal highway monies. Since then, no state has lowered their drinking age. Here's the Hawaii statute.

According to this article in the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland college presidents will work toward repealing that law as part of next year's transportation authorization bill.

Meanwhile, here locally, the House Health Committee will hold an informational briefing next week on the issue of drunk driving and the efficacy of the drug Vivitrol. According to the hearing notice, a single monthly dose of Vivitrol, given by 300 mg intramuscular injection, is purported to reduce the craving for alcohol. A pilot program for employers, which includes retaining employees while in treatment and using Vivitrol, will be discussed.

When: Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 10:00 a.m.
Where: State Capitol, Room 309

Kauai's public hospitals face $3.5 million shortfall

In the last of the HHSC info briefings, the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees heard from representatives on Kauai on the two public hospitals on the island, Kauai Veterans Memorial and Sam Mahelona, as well as the status of healthcare in the Kauai region. The story from the Kauai Garden Island can be read here.

While Kauai's projected shortfall for fiscal year 2009 is smaller in comparison to other islands, the reasons for the financial difficulties are similar: under-reimbursements from private insurers and government programs, rising costs, treating the uninsured, and bad debt.

The Kauai regional board's position is that cutting services will be the last resort. Even though programs such as long-term in-patient care and the psychiatric unit are money losers, the community would be ill-served by cutting them.

On a positive note, the Kauai regional board as a 4-pt plan to get the region back on track, financially, and it includes a long term strategy to actually expand services, improve facilities and enhance care.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The death of the press release?

Government PR is no different from the rest of the field. When technology advances, legislatures need to advance with it, or face disconnection with the people they serve. Governing magazine's blog, the 13th floor, posted a story on what Ric Cantrell and the Utah Senate is up to. Ric is who we turned to as well when we pondered the wisdom of starting our blog.

They actually have a webcam in the Senate President's office, and have turned to Twitter, blogging, and instant text messages to get information out to the media and others. Last on the list, and a question mark at that, is doing the standard press release.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mental Health check up

Two recent, high profile cases in Honolulu involving sufferers of bi-polar disease have prompted the House Health Committee to hold an Informational Briefing on mental health services in the state in terms of effectiveness, accessibility, and public awareness.

The two cases are the double murder-suicide of Michael James, his wife and son, and the disappearance of Steven Thomas, the multimillionaire software developer, who was missing for days before hikers found his body below the Pali Lookout.

WHEN: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 - 10:00 a.m.
WHERE: State Capitol, Room 325

CONFERENCE CALL: At the top of the briefing, the committee will hold a conference call with Charles James, the brother of Michael James, who resides in Alabama, and Alabama State Representative Joseph Mitchell, a published researcher in educational psychology.

TESTIFIERS: The committee will hear testimony from the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Department of Human Resources Development, the Mental Health America of Hawaii, Hawaii Community Health Centers, and practicing physicians, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and mental healthcare advocates.

OLELO Live - The briefing will be broadcast live on Oceanic, Olelo Channel 53 starting at 10:00 a.m.

HHSC briefings wrap up on Kauai today

Tropic Thunder II? No, it's the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees going over to hold their last in a series of informational briefings in Lihue, Kauai on the financial difficulties faced by our public hospital system network, the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC).

Here's the notice in today's Kauai Garden Island. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. at Kauai High School.

Meanwhile, the joint committee was in Kailua-Kona on Thursday, and the West Hawaii Today filed this report. It focuses on the recent layoff of 55 workers at Kona Community Hospital. The primary question is whether this layoff constituted a substantial reduction in services to the community. If so, the hospital should have received prior legislative approval before proceeding with the layoff. According to hospital interim CEO Earl Greenia, it did not "because the emergency room would still operate, and nurses could pick up the tasks the EMTs performed."

The newspaper reports that community residents who provided testimony, "recounted experiences they or family members had with the EMTs and decried the HHSC management as "top heavy" and overpaid."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Countdown to lift off

Thursday, August 21st, from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 a.m., the State Capitol will be home to some of the biggest players in the Aerospace Industry. They will be here to talk about Hawaii's role in the industry today, and the potential for the future given Hawaii's advantages, challenges and assets.

Here's the news release that went out Friday:

Explore Potential for Hawaii's Aerospace Industry at State Capitol

Honolulu, Hawaii. The Hawaii State Legislature announced today that it will host a day-long event exploring the potential of the Hawaii Aerospace industry for diversifying and fortifying the economy of the state. The event is sponsored by the State Senate and the House of Representatives, in cooperation with the Office of Aerospace Development.

WHEN: Thursday, August 21, 2008
8:30 a.m. (Registration)
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Program)

WHERE: Hawaii State Capitol – Auditorium (Chamber Level)

LIVE BROADCAST: Olelo, Channel 53. Live stream on

A stellar lineup of guest speakers will address Hawaii's future in the Aerospace industry including its assets and challenges. Former Governor George R. Ariyoshi will provide introductory remarks. Ariyoshi currently serves as a U.S. Advisor to the Japan-U.S. Science, Technology & Space Applications Program. Much of Hawaii's infrastructure for astronomy and space-related programs were initiated under Governor Ariyoshi's administration.

In 2007, the State Legislature approved Senate Bill 907, which expanded and renamed the Office of Space Industry to the Office of Aerospace Development. It directs the office to identify and promote opportunities to expand and diversify aerospace activities in the state, including space exploration and settlement.

The Legislature wants to position Hawaii to be nationally and globally competitive, and recognized in the field of aerospace development.

"This is an exciting venture for Hawaii, especially for our young people," said Senator Carol Fukunaga, Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development & Taxation. "Take our emerging robotics programs. Our children will be able to compete on a global level with the proper tools and skills set. With Hawaii emerging as a regional leader in robotics competition, it's a natural step towards future careers in aerospace industries."

"What young child has not dreamed of space travel?" asked Rep. Kyle Yamashita, Chair of the House Committee on Economic Development & Business Concerns. "Hawaii has unique advantages that we should build upon to develop a viable aerospace industry in the state. The industry has a distinguished history here, but new technology makes it possible for Hawaii to play a larger role. The potential is unlimited."

What's Happening Now…
The University of Hawaii is home to over $60 million in annual grants for space-related programs from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The U.S. Military has also made significant investments in Hawaii's aerospace industry, such as the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site (AMOS) which sits atop Haleakala. It supports the largest space surveillance site in the nation.

Local companies such as Oceanit, Novasol, and Trex Hawaii, are developing new products to support aerospace activities such as atmospheric monitoring and weather forecasting, advanced air traffic control, advanced optical communications and electro-optical tracking systems.

National companies such as Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are already established in Hawaii.

What's Possible…
Rocketplane Global will discuss Hawaii's potential as a commercial launch site. Hawaii's location near the equator makes our state an ideal sit to support commercial space launch. In fact, Hawaii is the only state in the country from which payloads may be launched into orbit, polar or equatorial, without flying over populated areas.

In the next coming months, NASA will be identifying strategic locations across the U.S. that may be able to simulate extraterrestrial conditions on earth. NASA's goal is to return humans to the Moon by 2020, and to Mars in the following decade. Hawaii's environment, geography, terrain, and technological assets make the state very competitive in this site selection.

Here are program highlights and a list of distinguished speakers:

9:20 a.m. Aerospace Industry in Hawaii: The Big Picture
*Jim Crisafulli – Director, Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development
*The Honorable George R. Ariyoshi – Former Governor; U.S. Advisor, Japan-U.S. Science, Technology & Space Applications Program

9:40 a.m. Enabling the Next Frontier: Our National Vision for Aerospace
*Elliot Pulham - President & Chief Executive Officer - The Space Foundation
*David Kerr - Director of Partnership Management, Joint Planning & Development Office/FAA
*Chris Moore - Program Executive for Technology Exploration Systems Mission Directorate - NASA Headquarters
*Charles Smith - Chief, Space Technology Division - NASA Ames Research Center

10:45 a.m. Building Bridges: Hawaii as a Catalyst for Multinational Partnerships
*Frank Schowengerdt - Director - The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, U.S. Vice Chair - The Japan-U.S Science, Technology & Space Applications Program
*Michael Crosby - Interim Vice Chancellor for Research - University of Hawaii at Hilo
*Jim Grady - Chief Strategy Officer - Alliance for Commercial Enterprises and Education in Space
*John Strom - Program Manager for Aerospace - Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii, Vice President for Business Development - Enterprise Honolulu
*Chris Moore - Program Executive, Exploration Technology Development - NASA Headquarters
*Bill Larson - Chief, Applied Sciences Division - NASA Kennedy Space Center

1:00 p.m. Innovating the Next Frontier: Dual-Use Applications in Aerospace
*Joe Lehman - Director, Government Affairs - Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
*Timothy Dolan - Business Development Executive - Raytheon Honolulu Field Office
*Rick Holasek - President - NovaSol
*Ken Cheung - Science & Technology Manager - OCEANIT
*Daron Nishimoto - R&D Space Superiority Program Manager – Trex Hawaii
*John Benzie - Technical Director - Pacific Missile Range Facility (Kauai)
*Lt. Col. Scott Hunt - Manager, Space Situational Awareness Program – Maui Air Force Research Laboratory
*Keith Knox - Boeing LTS Chief Scientist – Air Force Maui Optical & Supercomputing Site (AMOS)

2:30 p.m. The Heavens in View: Pioneering Astronomy & Planetary Geosciences
*Nick Kaiser - Associate Director for National Telescope Projects - U.H. Institute for Astronomy

*Peter Mouginis-Mark - Director - U.H. Institute for Geophysics & Planetology

*Jeff Taylor - Lunar Scientist - U.H. Institute for Geophysics & Planetology

3:30 p.m. Reaching for the Stars: NextGen Aviation & Commercial Space Launch
*Ramsey Pederson - Manager, Aviation Development - University of Hawaii
*Chuck Lauer - Vice President for Business Development - Rocketplane Global
*Luke Flynn - Director, Hawaii Space Grant Consortium & Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory - University of Hawaii

4:15 p.m. Training the Next Generation: Aerospace Education in Hawaii
*Wayne Shiroma - Co-Director, Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory - University of Hawaii
*Joe Ciotti - Director, Center for Aerospace Education - Windward Community College
*Robert Fox - Chairman, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy - University of Hawaii at Hilo
*Jim Dator - Director, Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies - University of Hawaii at Manoa
*Art Kimura - Director, Future Flight Program - Hawaii Space Grant Consortium, University of Hawaii

5:00 p.m. Special Presentation: In the Shadow of the Moon
Introduced by Nainoa Thompson - President, Polynesian Voyaging Society

Here's the trailer to the film In the Shadow of the Moon from director Ron Howard:

Friday, August 15, 2008

HHSC briefings continue in Hilo

Here's the story from the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Some highlights:

Robert Irvine is an orthopedic surgeon and chairman of the recently formed East Hawaii Regional Board of HHSC. He said that East Hawaii residents face a critical physician shortage and it could get worse. There is immediate need for financial support from the state.

Tom Driskill, President and CEO of HHSC, focused on the labor component. He was supported by Ron Schurra, CEO of the East Hawaii Region, who asked if the state could help with paying accounts receivable debts, state public worker benefits, and previous collective bargaining agreements. In addition, they want the flexibility to negotiate a separate collective bargaining agreement.

Rep. Robert Herkes (District 5 - Puna, Kau, North Kona, South Kona) was frustrated by the lack of financial information provided by HHSC. He indicated that the legislature can't make hard choices without knowing what the choices are, and while flipping through the testimony, said "I don't see a single number in here."

Sen. Rosalyn Baker (District 5 - South and West Maui, Kapalua, Kaanapali, Lahaina, Maalaea, Kihei, Makena, Wailea) questioned HHSC's effort to collect accounts payable.

Money (can that really be his/her name?) Atwal, HHSC Chief Financial Officer said they have now hired a medical records director and is currently doing in-house training.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


The Star-Bulletin published a piece by Keith Haugen today about the power of the left. Did you know that three out of the last four American presidents were left handed? The lefties were Reagan, George HW Bush, and Clinton. The next president will also be left-handed, since both John McCain and Barack Obama are lefties. That got me to thinking about how many left handed majority reps we have in the House. My very unofficial survey based on the responses I received today comes up with only one - but a big one - Speaker of the House, Calvin KY Say. As Haugen says, "Lefties rule."

UPDATE: Add Rep. Roy Takumi who says he's always been a lefty, (including his politics!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Grim warning for Hawaii

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin today published an editorial on the critical importance of fighting against invasive species using Guam as an example. This past session, the legislature passed a bill to increase a fee on incoming cargo; the money would be used to fight invasive species. Specifically, it would be used to establish a new biosecurity program to help stop invasive species from entering the state.

The Governor vetoed the bill, HB2843, the legislature overrode the bill, and now the Governor is telling Republican candidates to "frame" the issue as the legislature raising the cost of living.

The story of the brown tree snake invading Guam is not just about invasive species. It's about the impact of invasive species on an entire island ecosystem. The snakes eat the birds, the birds are not there to disperse seeds, without new seedlings the forest starts to diminish, without the forest, the wildlife disappears, and so on.

Not taking invasive species seriously is the real threat to our economy and cost of living, not the other way around.

HHSC - Report from Maui

The House Finance and Senate Ways & Means committees were on Maui Monday evening to gather information on a projected $62 million shortfall for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), a network of the state's public hospital facilities. The Maui News was there and filed this report. Here are the highlights:

The $62 million deficit breaks down as follows (in millions): $21.8 for Maui; $26.9 for East Hawaii; $7.6 for West Hawaii; $4.2 for Kauai; and $1.5 for Oahu.

On Oahu, the deficit is for two long-term care facilities, Leahi and Maluhia.

Five major reasons why there is a shortfall: 1)mandated care for uninsured patients; 2)inadequate reimbursements from both government programs (Medicare and Medicaid) and private insurers; 3)beds taken by long-term care patients; 4)cost of physicians taking emergency calls; and 5)salaries and fringe benefits for unionized workers.

Wesley Lo, CEO of Maui Memorial Medical Center, advocated for greater flexibility for the hospitals in having authority over their own finances. He proposed a concept to create separate corporations for each acute care hospital and still maintain the regional boards. This would supposedly allow each community to deal with their own unique financial situations in their own way.

Today - the joint committee heads to Hilo this afternoon for another HHSC informational briefing to address concerns on the public hospital system in East Hawaii. The event starts at 3:30 p.m. at UH Hilo.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lono and the Magical Land Beneath the Sea

Rep. Karen Awana (District 44 - Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Lualualei) will be visiting four schools in the district over the next month to read "Lono and the Magical Land Beneath the Sea" to elementary students. The first reading will be at Nanaikapono School on Thursday, August 14th, at 10 a.m. to a class of 6th graders. She'll be at Nanakuli Elementary on Thursday, August 21st, at 9:30 a.m. to read to a class of 5th graders. Rep. Awana will also read the book to Ka Wai Hona and Maili Elementary students on future dates.

After the readings, the book will be donated to the schools.

The book reading is part of a project by the Bishop Museum funded by the Native Hawaiian Culture and Arts program. The book was printed by Bishop Museum Press Children's Division.

"Lono and the Magical Land Beneath the Sea" was written by Caren Loebel-Fried, and is the winner of the 2007 Kapalapala Po'okela Book Awards for Excellence in Children's Hawaiian Culture and Excellence in Children's Literature. Find out more about the book here.

Annexation Day

August 12, 1898 - lowering of the Hawaiian flag at Iolani Palace to signify the annexation of Hawaii to the United States - Hawaii State Archives

A conch shell sounded from a distance early this morning, and after getting online, I discovered that today, August 12th, is the day that Hawaii was formally annexed to the United States in 1898. The annexation was an Act of Congress through the Newlands Resolution, named after Congressman Francis Newlands.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rep. Karen Awana will host workshop on legislative process

The workshop is primarily for residents of the Waianae Coast, but anyone who has the desire to learn more about the legislative process is invited. The experts from the Legislative Reference Bureau will be there.

You'll learn how an idea or a concern can actually result in new laws, and how to work with lawmakers to make that happen.

You'll learn tips on how best to contact lawmakers and participate in the process.

And, you'll learn how to better navigate the legislative capitol website.

Rep. Awana invites you to attend on Friday, August 15th, from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. It will be held at the Kamehameha School's Community Learning Center. The address is 89-101 Farrington Highway, Nanakuli.

Final Stop - Kauai

The last info briefing on HHSC will be held on Kauai on Monday, August 18th. Here are the details on that one:

Kauai - Lihue
Monday, August 18, 2008
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Kauai High School Cafeteria
3577 Lala Road

How to submit testimony:

Deadline: Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 3:00 p.m.

In Person: Submit one (1) copy to the Committee Clerk, State Capitol, Room 210.

By Fax: Comments may be faxed if less than 5 pages in length. Fax to: Senate Sergeant-at-Arms at 586-6659 or 1-800-586-6659 (toll free for neighbor islands.)

By Email: Comments may be emailed if less than 5 pages in length. Email to: Joint Committee at DO NOT EMAIL TO INDIVIDUAL SENATE OF REPRESENTATIVE OFFICES AS IT WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Late Testimony: Persons wishing to submit testimony after 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 14, 2008 must bring 35 copies of their comments to the briefing in Lihue on Kauai.

Money committees head for Maui and Big Island

The House Finance Committee and Senate Ways & Means Committee head to Wailuku, Maui this afternoon. They will conduct the first of a series of Neighbor Island informational briefings on the financial crisis of our state community hospital system - the Hawaii Health Corporation System, known as HHSC. Unlike most information briefings, the public is invited to submit comments. If you are planning to attend the meeting this evening, bring 35 copies to the meeting, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Maui Economic Opportunity office, 99 Mahalani Street.

From there, they head to the Big Island of Hawaii. They'll be in Hilo on Wednesday and Kailua-Kona on Thursday. Here are some details on those two events:

East Hawaii - Hilo
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
University of Hawaii at Hilo
University Classroom Bldg., Room 100

West Hawaii – Kailua-Kona
Thursday, August 14, 2008
3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel
75-5660 Palani Road

How to submit testimony:

Deadline: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 3:00 p.m.

In Person: Submit one (1) copy to the Committee Clerk, State Capitol, Room 210.

By Fax: Comments may be faxed if less than 5 pages in length. Fax to: Senate Sergeant-at-Arms at 586-6659 or 1-800-586-6659 (toll free for neighbor islands.)

By Email: Comments may be emailed if less than 5 pages in length. Email to: Joint Committee at DO NOT EMAIL TO INDIVIDUAL SENATE OF REPRESENTATIVE OFFICES AS IT WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Late Testimony: Persons wishing to submit testimony after 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 must bring 35 copies of their comments to the briefing on the Big Island in Hilo or Kona.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fixing Our Schools

Here are more contract awards for public school repair and maintenance, by House district:

Representative Joey Manahan - District 29
Representative John Mizuno - District 30
Schools: Fern Elementary School, Kalihi Uka Elementary School, Linapuni Elementary School, Puuhale Elementary School
Project: Whole School Renovation
Amount: $7,249,074
Vendor: Ralph S. Inouye Co., Ltd.
Date awarded: August 1, 2008

Representative James Kunane Tokioka - District 15
School: Wilcox Elementary School
Project: Renovate and pain various buildings
Amount: $1,940,888
Vendor: Summit Construction, Inc.
Date awarded: July 30, 2008

Representative Robert Herkes - District 5
Schools: Hookena Elementary School, Konawaena Middle School
Project: Whole School Renovation
Amount: $2,976,088
Vendor: Summit Construction, Inc.
Date awarded: July 30, 2008

Are we in a drought?

Absolutely! Our state rainfall levels have fallen below average for the past 10 years, with maps showing that drought level conditions exist across the islands.

Rep. Clift Tsuji (far right) speaks on NCSL drought mitigation panel

Rep. Clift Tsuji, our House Agriculture Chair, was asked to speak on Hawaii's Drought Mitigation Plan as part of the 2008 National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual meeting last month. The plan is a result of Tsuji's legislation introduced in 2007, HB400, which became law as Act 238, and provided $4 million for implementation of the plan.

The presentation included the structure of the Hawaii Drought Council and how it addresses drought in three main areas: agriculture, water supply/environment, and public health/safety.

Joining him as speakers were Dr. Michael Hayes- School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska and Dr. Thomas Peterson- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center, North Carolina. Senator Beverly Gard of Indiana was the moderator.

For comprehensive, up-to-date information on drought events, go to

Taking the First Step for Keiki

By Representative Roy Takumi
(District 36 - Pearl City, Momilani, Pacific Palisades, Manana)

The research is compelling: children who attend preschool or other early education programs have better cognitive, verbal, and social development and enter kindergarten better prepared. They also are less likely to exhibit later delinquency and antisocial behavior, tend to demonstrate higher levels of school achievement and better social adjustment, and are more likely to graduate from high school.

Principal Vivian Hee (in red) discusses Jefferson Elementary School's Pre-Kindergarten program with Rep. Tom Brower and Rep. Roy Takumi.

This is why the governor’s veto of the bill was puzzling at best. After all, the bill introduced this session was the result of the Act 259 Task Force that met over the past two years to develop a proposal for a universal preschool system. The 22-member task force included active participation by the Department of Human Services, Department of Health, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, and staff from the governor’s office. Why would the governor support the task force (since she released the funding for it) and then two years later veto the bill that resulted from its work? In her veto message, she proposed establishing another commission by executive order, an idea that never came up during the task force meetings or during the session in testimony by her executive departments.

The governor raised a number of dubious concerns in her veto message. First, she objected to the creation of the Early Learning Council (ELC) since it "would have a programmatic impact on early childhood programs outside of the framework of existing State agencies." Actually, this is the whole intent of the bill. The current "system" is not a system at all but a hodgepodge of agencies, programs and providers. The ELC is critical to establish a cohesive, comprehensive, and sustainable system.

Second, she raised concerns that the ELC would have too much authority since it would be able to hire staff, establish policies and procedures, and develop standards. This is really no different than other commissions such as the Land Use Commission or the Public Utilities Commission. Indeed, the Charter School Review Panel (which the governor supports) has as much if not more authority than the ELC.

Third, she raised concerns that the ELC could adversely impact the authority of DHS in its current responsibilities regarding childcare facilities. We worked closely with senior staff from the governor’s policy office, DHS and the Office of the Attorney General to craft language to ensure that this was not the intent and they all agreed to the final version of the bill.

Fourth, concerns were raised about the cost. The governor cited numbers posed by the task force that projected a program cost of up to $170 million. This is a cost model and not a funding model, which are very different. A cost model estimates what it would take to run a universal preschool system. A funding model is what it would cost the state in general funds. A cost model takes into account the many revenue streams that are available: federal, private, fees, etc. Also, we all know that cost projections are just that: projections. Keiki First Steps is premised upon establishing a high quality early learning system for the state and funding the program, as resources become available. One example of this approach is Arkansas, which funded its program for years at a modest level of $2 million a year. As their economy improved and the results showed the effectiveness of their program, they now fund it at $90 million a year.

Lastly, investing in Keiki First Steps is the best investment we can make for our future. Art Rolnick, Executive Vice-President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, studied the Perry Preschool Program that tracked students for over 40 years measuring benefits such as earnings and educational attainment. Rolnick concluded that the average, annual real (adjusted for inflation) rate of return on investment at 4 percent for the student and 12 percent for the public. Participants gained because their earnings later in life were that much more than those who did not go to preschool. The public gained because participants were far less likely to be in prison, on welfare, or unemployed.

If we invested in the stock market for that same time period, the annual rate of return only averaged seven percent. Or put another way, for the cost of one year in prison, we can provide preschool for four children.And more than a return in purely economic terms, Keiki First Steps in an investment in our children who are our future.

What better investment can there be?

A Bitter Pill: The High Cost of Prescription Drugs

By Representative Roy Takumi
(District 36 - Pearl City, Momilani, Pacific Palisades, Manana)

I-SaveRx is a prescription drug reimportation program whereby a reputable pharmacy benefit manager works with member states to enable its residents to access discounted drugs through the internet and a toll-free number. Illinois started the program four years ago and now saves its residents over $100 million a year.

(Photo: Rep. Roy Takumi and resident at a "Lawmaker's Listen" earlier this year.)

With the legislature overriding the governor’s veto, Hawaii will be the sixth state to participate in the I-SaveRx program. There are safeguards in the law that allows us to cancel the contract at anytime, with or without cause, as well as immunity from any liability for injury or damage caused by the prescription drugs obtained through the I-SaveRx program.

However, let's be clear. This measure is not the best solution to lower the cost of prescription drugs in our state. But what is clear is expecting the federal government to do something is wishful thinking. States can and must take action to help residents cope with the exorbitant price of prescription drugs and this measure is one example of what we can do.

According to the World Health Organization, residents of the United States spend more money annually on health care then residents of any other country in the world, and yet have a shorter life expectancy and higher infant mortality rate than numerous countries including Canada, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. A contributing factor is the ever increasing cost of prescription drugs that has forced over six million Americans, many of them elderly citizens on fixed incomes, to buy their medications from outside the U.S.

And there’s no relief in sight. According to AARP’s Public Policy Institute, in 2006 the cost of the top 193 brand-name drugs rose twice as much as the rate of inflation. Another study done by the General Accountability Office found that the average prices for the top 44 brand name drugs increased 48.6 percent from 2000-07, a period when the Consumer Price Index increased only 19.9 percent.

What kind of savings are we talking about? Let me give two examples. Lipitor is an anti-statin drug for those who have high cholesterol and is taken by over 26 million Americans. A 90-day supply from Long's will set you back $393.85. Under I-SaveRx, the cost would be $234.14, saving almost $150. Or take Nexium, the well-known proton pump inhibitor used to treat acid reflux or heartburn. Go to Long's and be prepared to pay $499.30 for a 90-day supply whereas I-SaveRx will cost you $211.70 or 57 percent less.

Why shouldn't the residents of Hawaii have the ability to access prescription drugs at a lower cost that will improve their quality of life?

The I-SaveRx program is a modest attempt to do just that.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Countdown to Peace Day Hawaii 2008!!

Peace Day Hawaii 2008 on September 21, 2008 will be one of thousands of events being held by nearly 200 countries around the world. In July 2007, Hawaii became the first state to officially recognize the United Nations International Day of Peace. Every year, this special day is used to promote peace programs, improve international relations, and increase educational awareness of peace in Hawaii.

For more information on the Peace Day Hawaii ceremony, please call the office of Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu at 808-586-8490 and for information on the Peace Day film and forum call Jeannie Lum at 808-956-4244. Information on the background of Peace Day Hawaii and last year's ceremony can be found on

Lawmakers honor advocates for victims of domestic violence

State Representative John Mizuno (District 30 - Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter), advocates against domestic violence, and family members of Janel Tupuola will present a Legislative certificate to Big City Diner for their commitment to supporting victims of domestic violence.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008
1:00 p.m.

Big City Diner – Pearlridge Shopping Center
98-211 Pali Momi Street, Aiea, HI 96701

Big City Diner will be hosting an all-day fundraiser event Tuesday, August 19, wherein a percentage of all purchased menu items will be donated to the "Janel Tupuola's Keiki Fund" to benefit Janel's five children. Janel Tupuola, 30, was bludgeoned to death with the butt of a shotgun in January. Police charged Janel Tupuola's former boyfriend, Alapeti Siuanu Tunoa, Jr., with second-degree murder.

On behalf of the family, Diamond Badajos, Janel's cousin, issued the following statement: We, the humbled family of Janel Tupuola, are eternally grateful for the gracious contributions from the community. With our combined efforts, we will instill in the children the ability to conquer adversity, the faith in family as an undeterred support system and open their minds to the realities and outcomes of dreaming big; every mother's greatest desire.

"It is very encouraging to recognize advocates and heroes who champion the support and assistance for victims of domestic violence. We are all humbled by Big City Diner's humanitarian effort in helping families of domestic violence," said Rep. Mizuno.

$5,000 grant for beach path in Waianae

A project that would create a two-mile multi-use pathway along the Wai'anae Coast received a $5,000 grant from AlohaCare Hawaii. The planned pathway will help to improve the health of Hawaii communities and prevent childhood and adult obesity. The funds will be used to design and plan the path from Lualualei Naval Rd. to Ho'okele St.

Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (District 45 – Wai'anae, Makaha, Makua) drafted the proposal that was selected to receive the AlohaCare Community Conscience Award to help jumpstart the "People's Path," a safe and scenic route along the beautiful beaches of Wai'anae for residents to use for biking, walking, jogging and other forms of exercise. In addition, the proposed pathway will connect to the state's planned bike path and act as an alternate means of transportation for residents suffering from traffic congestion. The project plan is to eventually extend the pathway along the entire Wai'anae Coast.

"Receiving these funds at this moment in time is just the stimulus needed to initiate tangible work on the path," said Rep. Shimabukuro. "Our volunteers have been working so hard cleaning up the beach, and this money will get us on that path to putting things in motion. I am so thankful that AlohaCare gave us this opportunity to complete this much-needed pathway that will benefit the health and overall attitude of the Wai'anae community."

Shimabukuro's proposed budget includes the following items: leveling the land; surfacing the path with rubber or gravel; landscaping the area with native; drought-resistant plants; area maintenance; and support for volunteer clean-up events. Shimabukuro estimates that with the help of private, public and government agencies, and community volunteers, the project can be completed within a year.

Over 55 volunteers joined Shimabukuro and her family in April to clean up trash and debris on the beach, and to help plant native Hawaiian plants along the projected pathway area. As the first of many beach clean-up events scheduled this year, it was a success. More than 80 bags of litter, tires, car parts and other bulky items were collected and removed.

Women of Wai'anae, which is one of the groups Shimabukuro is working with to organize the community work days for the path, will be meeting at the pathway site Friday, August 8 at 6 p.m. The location for the meeting is at Nanikai Park (at the intersection of Kaukama Road and Farrington highway). For more information, please call 696-4677 or 349-3075.

Sixth State

The July/Aug edition of State Legislatures carried a news brief on Hawaii becoming the sixth state to enroll in I-SaveRx, a program which ships inexpensive but un-approved drugs from overseas directly to customers.

The legislative history on this is as follows: HB7 was introduced by Rep. Roy Takumi in 2007. It directs the Governor to establish the state's participation in I-SaveRx so that Hawaii residents could have increased access to affordable drugs. It stalled in 2007 and was carried over into the 2008 session. The bill passed in 2008 and was sent up to the Governor early - April 15. The Governor vetoed the bill, and the Legislature overrode the veto on May 1 with none voting no, but with the 7 Republicans excused.

Here's an excerpt:

It will be available to everyone, but will be most beneficial for those with inadequate prescription insurance coverage. The program started in Illinois in 2004, with Kansas, Missouri, Vermont and Wisconsin joining quickly after. It’s a way for senior citizens to avoid high prices for American medicine, with claimed savings of up to 55 percent. Under federal law it remains illegal for individuals to import drugs that do not comply with the federal government’s labeling requirements or have not been granted federal approval. I-SaveRx, however, has not been targeted by federal authorities. Critics worry about the safety of the drugs, which come from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

HHSC Briefings on Neighbor Islands Start Next Week

The House Finance and Senate Ways & Means Joint Committee will continue a series of informational briefings on Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) next week on the Neighbor Islands. HHSC is a network of Hawaii's public hospital facilities. Recently, HHSC informed the Legislature that it faces a potential $62 million shortfall for fiscal year 2009. The first briefing on Oahu was held on July 11th. You can view all the material presented here. The first Neighbor Island stop will be on Maui. View the official hearing notice here.

WHEN: Monday, August 11, 2008 at 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc, Family Center Classroom, 99 Mahalani Street, Wailuku, Maui

WHO: The HHSC administration and the Maui Regional Board have been invited to participate. Public testimony will also be accepted.

*As HHSC takes action to manage the shortfall, what will be the impacts to services?
*Can HHSC implement their plan of action without Legislative approval?
*What will be the impacts to the communities served by HHSC hospitals?
*What assistance has been provided by the Governor and state administration?
*What are HHSC's options as it strives to fulfill its mission?
*What are the fiscal and management issues critical to the ongoing operation of HHSC?

The public may submit testimony. The deadline is Friday, August 8, 2008 at 3:00 p.m.

In Person: Submit one (1) copy to the Committee Clerk, State Capitol, Room 210.

By Fax: Comments may be faxed if less than 5 pages in length. Fax to: Senate Sergeant-at-Arms at 586-6659 or 1-800-586-6659 (toll free for neighbor islands.)

By Email: Comments may be emailed if less than 5 pages in length. Email to: Joint Committee at DO NOT EMAIL TO INDIVIDUAL SENATE OF REPRESENTATIVE OFFICES AS IT WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Late Testimony: Persons wishing to submit testimony after 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 8, 2008 must bring 35 copies of their comments to the briefing on Maui.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Oh no she didn't

This blog post has nothing to do with Hawaii, but it tickled me silly to read about a Ohio woman, probably frustrated with high gas prices and road construction, who sent a $16 bill notice to the Michigan state transportation office. She claimed that she is owed the money for the gas used while sitting idle for 50 minutes in a construction traffic zone, which had no warning signs posted. Her cat was especially annoyed by the delay, she said, whining the entire time. I wonder how many bill notices our department of transportation office receives from drivers demanding to be reimbursed for unexpected gas use caused by work zone delays.

Special benefit event for domestic violence victim

Diamond Badajos, the niece of Janel Tupuola, will host a special benefit event at the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park to celebrate Janel's life and to share an important message of family unity and love. The benefit will address domestic violence issues and its devastating effect.

Saturday, August 9, 2008
7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park
400 Farrington Highway, Kapolei, HI 96707

"It is very encouraging to witness the fortitude and strength of Janel's children and family. They have conquered adversity through unity, courage and love, and we are all humbled that Janel's spirit lives well with her children," said Representative John Mizuno (District 30 – Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter).

Background: On January 16, 2008, Janel Tupuola, 30, was bludgeoned to death by the butt of a shotgun. Police charged Janel Tupuola's former boyfriend, Alapeti Siuanu Tunoa, Jr., with second-degree murder. On behalf of Janel's family, Diamond Badajos issued this statement:

"We, the humbled family of Janel Tupuola, are eternally grateful for the gracious contributions from the community. With our combined efforts, we will instill in the children the ability to conquer adversity, the faith in family as an undeterred support system and open their minds to the realities and outcomes of dreaming big; every mother's greatest desire."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Do you know the Japanese film, Rashomon? It is the story of the rape of a woman and the murder of her husband told through the eyes of four different witnesses. Each has their own version of what happened, all different. Which is the truth? So, it is with Governor Lingle's speech last night to a group of Republican candidates. The Advertiser's blog, The Notebook, reported on it last night, and the YouTube version is on Hawaii Reporter. The Governor went into detail on two bills passed by the legislature. Here is the text of her remarks on each, followed by another perspective.

Governor Lingle: "Know that we worked so hard, and fortunately our Republicans were there at the legislature to make certain that we got passed a reduction in the unemployment insurance for every business in the state - went into effect January of this year. It will save businesses over three years, and it affects every business in the state, it will save them $151 million over a three year period and that is an improvement..."

Another perspective: This is the bill that Rep. Bob Nakasone, a Democrat, introduced and worked so hard to get passed in 2007. It's HB1500, which became Act 110. It does indeed save businesses $151 million for a three year period, but that is balanced by a temporary rise in the maximum weekly unemployment benefit to 75% of the weekly wage. It's noteworthy that the only NO votes against the bill were by Republicans - Rep. Colleen Meyer on third reading in the House, and Senators Hemmings, Trimble, Whalen, and Slom on third reading in the Senate.

Governor Lingle: "There was a bill in this session of the legislature to charge a new fee on all the cargo coming into the state both by air and by ship. This at a time when we're suffering from very high food prices, driven by world events, perhaps, driving up the average family's costs of eating, of surviving. And, so, the Democrats passed a law to make it more expensive to bring food into the state. I vetoed the bill, and yet they're so arrogant, they still don't care about the cost of living that families are dealing with today, and they actually overrode that veto and by overriding that veto what they said was we don't care that the price of food will go up because of this bill. We just don't care.

And the purpose of the bill is a good purpose, it's to fight invasive species, but our administration has spent more money than ever in history on invasive species. The fact is, the Department of Agriculture can't even hire enough inspectors - there aren't enough people with that background to take those positions, and yet they stepped forward and said we're going to make it even more expensive for families to buy our food, to feed our family."

Another perspective: You'd think this bill was a tax on food, not fighting invasive species. The Department of Agriculture testified in support of this bill, and did not mention anything about the ability to hire inspectors. The fee is only 50 cents for every thousand pounds of freight brought into the state; if folks can't afford to pay for groceries it will not be due to this new fee. (Obviously, Democrats do care about the cost of food, and by the way, they have families too.) The fee will go towards the establishment of a biosecurity program to help stop the importation of invasive species into the state. This administration has not focused on invasive species, and if it has spent more money than ever in history on invasive species, it is likely due to the legislature's focus on this issue and appropriation of the funds. The bill is HB2843.

OMG U R Kidding

he Chicago Tribune reported last week that Rep. Ken Dunkin of the Illinois General Assembly has introduced a bill to ban text messaging while walking down or across the street. If you want to look it up, it's HB4520. Under the proposed law, residents would be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $25 if caught using a cell phone or wireless text device while "traversing streets".

How serious is it? The chief of emergency medicine at Northwestern says that a large number of the injured would have avoided injury if they had not been walking and texting. And, that the locations of these accidents are crowded places where people are moving; Lake Shore path and Michigan Ave. being ground zero for collisions.

Meanwhile, in London, things have gotten so dangerous for text happy citizens that the city has started padding the lamp posts because people were crashing into them while texting; there were 68,000 accidents last year ranging from minor bruises to fractured skulls. Here's the story from the Evening Standard.

Is it a problem here? Could we be next?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Aiea, Halawa Community Bulletin - August

Rep. Blake Oshiro's August 2008 Community Bulletin is now available online. Residents of District 33, Aiea, Halawa Valley, Halawa Heights and Aiea Heights, can follow this link for a listing of upcoming community meetings, events, programs and activities.

One notable event is the Community Traffic Awareness Partnership, a sign-waiving campaign to help reduce speeding in residential areas. Community members and HPD, along with Blake's office staff will be out on the streets Wednesday, August 6 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. They will be located at Halawa Heights Rd. and Iwaiwa St. intersection, two blocks above Ulune St.

The bulletin also includes the latest news on road work projects, dates of next neighborhood board meetings and, on a more entertaining note, schedules of popular festivals.

Na hunehune mea hou - News bits

Rep. Bob Herkes fished the first two years of the Hawaii International Billfish Tournament and, nearly 50 years later, he is still an integral part of the event. In addition to being a state representative and fighting vog, he's the editor of the Bill Fish Bowl - "All the news that's fish, we print." The Bill Fish Bowl is the tournament's daily newspaper; Herkes started working on it with the late Harry Lyons when it was called the Ahi Daily News. Not only that, he's the booming voice announcing on the pier as the boats come in each day. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Hawaii International Billfish Tournament.

Many saw Rep. Joey Manahan's letter to editor on the recent Elections Office controversy but wondered about his connection to the issue. Rep. Manahan formerly worked at the Office of Elections as an administrator under the former director Dwayne Yoshina.

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu is teaming up with Senator Clarence Nishihara to produce a new television series on Olelo about Waipahu. They have started videotaping segments. Air dates to be announced.

Kauai Reps Sum Up 2008 legislation

Reporting from Nawiliwili, the Kauai Garden Island covered the Kauai Chamber of Commerce meeting last Thursday with the island's three state representatives - Hermina Morita (District 14 - Hanalei, Anahola, Kealia, Kapaa, Waipouli); James Kunane Tokioka (District 15 - Lihue, Koloa); and Roland Sagum (District 16 - Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea). They outlined the work accomplished in the 2008 legislative session and listed their priorities. Some highlights:

Morita, who said that energy and the environment were among her top priorities, was asked about photovoltaics, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s net metering cap policy, and other issues affecting local residents and businesses.“A lot of people here are so focused on PV (photovoltaics) because it’s sexy, but the technology that’s mature, that gives us the biggest bang for our buck, is solar water heaters,” Morita said. “That’s where we should be making our substantial investments.”Morita estimated that a solar water heater user could save as much as $20,000 over the course of one unit’s lifecycle.

Sagum identified lowering taxes and improving quality of life for seniors as his two top priorities. Sally Motta, Membership Chair for the Chamber of Commerce, said that she saw Sagum’s stance almost “libertarian” and found it interesting that one of his main responsibilities is to kill bills he considers to be unnecessary expenditures anong some 2,000 bills introduced each year in the Hawai‘i House of Representatives.

Morita and Sagum both came out against the proposed Constitutional Convention, which would overhaul the state’s Constitution at the expense of legislator time and taxpayer money.

Tokioka stated that his top priorities include the nuisance posed by tour helicopters to Lihu‘e-area residents, as well as junior varsity sports programs and an ongoing debate over the use of lights for night football games at Vidinha Stadium.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Congratulations Ryan Tsuji!

Ryan Tsuji, son of Rep. Clift Tsuji, was recently named Assistant Coach for the UH Wahine Volleyball team.  Story here.  Ryan has worked at the legislature for several sessions, most recently as a session staffer for Senator David Ige.

Friday, August 1, 2008

If you build it, we will ride

That's what a group of young adults from We Will Ride, a grassroots organization supporting the development of a rail system, announced to elected officials this afternoon during a rally by Go Rail Now supporters and Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

Jonathan Khil, 19, a Hawaii resident studying at Claremont McKenna College in California, developed the campaign to ensure that the opinions and perspectives of members of Generation Y and Generation Z were being heard. "We have heard what the adults and politicians have to say, but mass transit is an issue that will largely affect the younger generation," reads a description of the campaign on the We Will Ride Facebook group profile page. Since creating a Facebook group two weeks ago, membership has grown to 337 social networkers. Today, the young rail supports just launched their website.

"What kind of Hawaii do we want to inherit? We want it cleaner and greener, full of jobs, and traffic-free. We want paradise," they emphasize on Facebook.

Also in attendance to support the groups initiatives were several House and Senate members, including Reps Say, Mizuno, Rhoads, Lee, Manahan, M. Oshiro, Chong and Brower and Sens. Espero and Gabbard.
Grooving to the beats of Quad City DJ's "C'mon 'n Ride The Train," many of the lawmakers choo chooed their way to the streets and sign waved with rail supporters.

Photo (top): Youth supporters of rail and members of We Will Ride address the crowd at the Go Rail Now rally at the State Capitol.
Photo (bottom): Rep. Marcus Oshiro stands on Beretania Ave. in front of the State Capitol waving signs with supporters of rail.
Update: Rep. Marilyn Lee pointed out that I had made a mistake in naming the lawmakers who attended the rail rally. Rep. Evans was listed as attending the rally, but it was actually Rep. Marilyn Lee who joined other lawmakers in addressing the crowd and sign waiving on Beretania Avenue.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro Supports Pennsylvania Bill on Display of Human Remains

Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Fleck, who serves District 81 consisting of Blair, Huntingdon and Miflin Counties, has introduced a bill in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania providing for the commercial display of human remains. HB2299 will go before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, August 5th, and Rep. Fleck asked Hawaii's Rep. Marcus Oshiro to provide supportive testimony.

The bill covers exhibitions like the current "Bodies" display at Ala Moana Center. It requires that the county may issue a permit for a display of human remains provided that there is valid written authorization to display human remains for consideration from either: (1) The decedent including, but not limited to, authorization given by will. (2) Any person authorized to make an anatomical gift.

Rep. Oshiro has taken the position that such displays are unethical and exploitative. In his testimony he writes:

In other words, it's educational or health related values do not outweigh the moral and ethical concerns regarding the possible exploitation of unconsenting human beings. As such, there should be a law that would prohibit the exhibition of human remains and/or body parts without the consent of the donor. The issue of people selling, donating, or gifting their bodies for a commercial purpose is important, but not germane to the central concern I have regarding consent or lack thereof. In this instance, it is questionable that consent was given by these people and if so, whether the people understood they they would be plasticized and propped up and enhibited in this manner.

In Hawaii, I will proposing similar legislation to HB2299 that would prohibit and/or regulated this type of exhibtion at the next legislative session. I will be watching in earnest as to the progress of the U.S. Congress, California and Pennsylvania Legislature as they deliberate on legislation to also ban and/or regulate the exhibition of human bodies.

Makaha Elementary succeeds 'No Child' tests

Students and teachers at Makaha Elementary School have a whole lot to celebrate about today. For the second consecutive year, the school reached the benchmarks set by the state to achieve "adequate yearly progress" and fulfill the increasing expectations of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards.

Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (District 45 – Waianae, Makaha, Makua), along with Augie T, a well-known Hawaii radio personality, joined teachers and staff at a Makaha Elementary School assembly on Aug. 1, to congratulate and honor students for their outstanding triumph. The school accomplished its goal of achieving good standing and was able to elevate itself from the sanction level imposed by the state over the past two years.

Makaha Elementary School has been through its share of challenges, and still has many other hurdles to overcome. It has experienced a trend of drops in enrollment, and a loss of a new teacher mentor and Department of Education liaison to Makaha Farm (Hoa Aina O Makaha). The school was also required to budget all teachers at the average teacher salary even though it receives many new teachers each year. In addition, Makaha is arguably the hottest part of the Waianae coast, and the lack of air conditioning makes the classrooms and portables almost unbearable to learn in.

"Overcoming all these barriers has made their recent success of coming out of restructuring and into good standing even sweeter," said Rep. Shimabukuro.

Even with the increase of proficiency expectation levels in reading and math, the students of Makaha Elementary School excelled on the Hawaii State Assessment tests. This year, according to NCLB rules, 58 percent of students needed to pass reading proficiency tests compared to 44 percent last year. In math, 46 percent of students needed to pass this year compared to 28 percent last year. At Makaka Elementary School, 54 percent of students were proficient in both reading and math, and with a 10 percent increase in proficiency gain from the previous years, the school showed significant progress thereby pushing them out of restructuring.

On Wednesday, July 30, teachers and staff greeted returning students at the front gates waving congratulatory signs as they made their way onto campus for the first day of school.

"As a school, we are so proud of our students for all their hard work," said school Principal Nelson Shigeta.