Saturday, February 28, 2009

Kamehameha Butterfly Considered as State Insect

Kamehameha Butterfly (Pulelehua or Vanessa Tameamea). Photo: Bishop Museum

Rep. Blake Oshiro introduced House Bill 135 on behalf of Pearl Ridge Elementary School students. The bill proposes to name the Kamehameha Butterfly as Hawaii's state insect. The students not only researched the subject and came up with the recommendation, but they came down to the State Capitol this morning to testify in favor of the bill.

Here are excerpts from their testimony:

From Jenna Yanke:
"I have never seen a Kamehameha Butterfly in the wild but in my studies I found it a small but beautiful insect that was little in population and in need of help. The more I learned about this wonderful insect, the more I fell in love with it. I believe if it became the state insect it would get more respect and its population will thrive again."

"The Kamehameha Butterfly also represents King Kamehameha who united our islands. Then the Kamehameha Butterfly will also symbolize unity between the islands."

From Kristi Kimura:
"We were studying the ecosystems of Hawaii. When we got to the forest ecosystems, we noticed that there were a lot of insects. That made us wonder why Hawaii doesn't have a state insect when it has a state sea mammal, state mammal, state tree, and state flower. We decided to pick a state insect for Hawaii."

From Robyn-Ashley Amano:
"The Kamehameha butterfly has a reddish-orange wingspan with a black border, which represents the colors of the Ali'i, which is the chief. It also contributes to the beauty of our islands by pollinating our flowers. Lastly, it is named after King Kamehameha, the one who brought our islands together."

From Toshiro Yanai:
"Other people may think that the happy-faced spider would be a good choice for the state insect. However, two-thirds of happy-faced spiders don't have happy faces on their bodies. Also not many people like spiders because it scares them. Lastly, the Kamehameha butterfly is prettier and better represents Hawaiian people. The happy-faced spider eats other insects while the Kamehameha butterfly helps pollinate flowers which is like spreading aloha."

From Jennifer Loui:
"This buttefly is very helpful because it helps to pollinate flowers so they grow again, keeping our island a greener place. Kamehameha Butterflies usually eat mamake plants, but since there are less mamake plants, there are fewer butterflies."

From Alexander Wong:
"I, Alexander Wong, supports the passage of HB135 which will designate the Kamehameha Butterfly as the state insect. Because the state of Hawaii does not have a state insect and the Kamehameha butterfly gets it's name from King Kamehameha. Thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony in support of HB135."

"I think that this is a great opportunity for the students, their parents, and their teachers, to get a personal, first-hand experience of our legislative process while trying to make a meaningful impact," said Rep. Blake Oshiro, "Their project reinforces civic participation and education outside of the classroom."

Although Hawaii has named a state bird, marine mammal, mammal, and plant, there is no current designation for an official state insect. Only nine other states do not have an official state insect, including Delaware, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada and Oregon.

During the 2006 Legislative Session, Rep. Oshiro sponsored similar legislation requested by students that re-established the Rectangular Triggerfish - - better known in Hawaii as the humuhumunukunukuapua'a -- as our official state fish. The proposed legislation successfully became law and was enacted as Act 67. The original statute that established a state fish in 1985 was repealed automatically in 1990 without much public notice.

The Kamehameha Butterfly, pulelehua in Hawaiian, is one of two species of butterflies endemic to Hawaii. This beautiful roaming member of the Lepidoptera order, with its graceful movements and brightly colored wings, is often seen fluttering around Koa trees during the late months of winter.

After the hearing, Tourism Chairman, Rep. Joey Manahan, thanked the students for coming to the Capitol on a Saturday. He assured them that while the committee did not have a quorum today in order to take a vote, the members would vote on HB135 on Monday, and that he was confident that the bill would pass his committee.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Reps Newsletter Online and Hawaii Foodbank Events

Newsletters from Representatives Jessica Wooley (D-47 Laie, Hauula, Kahaluu, Kaneohe), Gilbert Keith-Agaran (D-9 Kahului, Wailuku, Paia, Spreckelsville), and Isaac Choy (D-24 Manoa, University, Moiliili) are now available online.

The Hawaii Foodbank Calendar of Events has also been updated. Check them out in the right-hand column of the blog. From the fliers I've seen in the elevators it looks like we're all going to have to make a mid-session resolution to shed the "legislative pounds". Items for sale include tacos, ice cream, root-beer floats, musubi, cupcakes and much, much more. That's just for March.

One lawmaker took a more "active" approach to raising funds for the Foodbank. Rep. Karl Rhoads is holding a Nerf Basketball Challenge throughout the month of March. Word is the grand prize Is Possibly Out of this Dimension. NAh...NO kidding? A bunch of gift certificates for Starbucks and Jamba Juice will be given to runner ups. Challenge is open to Capitol employees only.

Human Rights Day scheduled for early March at Capitol

Human Rights Day, "Creating a Culture of Peace", is scheduled for Thursday, March 12, 2009 from 9 a.m. to noon. Human rights organizations and non-profits will have tables and displays along the 4th floor lanai of the Hawaii State Capitol for the public and lawmakers to talk and gather information.

"Creating a Culture of Peace" is a free event for community members and locally based organizations to gather, exchange information and network with legislators and others who share the common vision of advancing human rights and spreading awareness of justice. It celebrates and recognizes community efforts toward affirming the dignity of all human beings, bringing about social justice and honoring the uniqueness of life in Hawaii. This event was originally motivated by the United Nations' practice of honoring the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

US Army Environmental Initiatives for Big Island

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health, Addison "Tad" Davis, IV, met with Hawaii legislators today at the State Capitol to discuss three U.S. Army environmental initiatives on the Big Island.

"Hydrogen Highway" – The Army is working with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency to implement recommendations from the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. One initiative is working to establish a hydrogen fueling station at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

"I am excited about the possibility of the County of Hawaii and Hawaii state government to partner with the Army to allow and enable our local government fleet to fuel up at a hydrogen fuel station,” said Representative Cindy Evans, a former vice chair of the House Energy & Environmental Protection committee. “As more county and state vehicles turn to hydrogen fuel, not only will we decrease our dependency on foreign oil, but we will also see significant savings in the future. My hope is that this first station will be one of many that will dot a 'hydrogen highway' where private and public vehicles can tap into the benefits of this renewable energy source in the future."

Sustainable Military Complexes ­ - Wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels will help the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) and the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) become completely self-sustainable complexes on the Big Island.

"We are pleased that the Army's sustainability initiatives are in line with the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan which was the result of the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force convened by the Hawaii State Legislature in 2005 and submitted its report in 2008," said Rep. Evans.

Depleted Uranium Update – Deputy Assistant Secretary Davis gave an update on the Army's continuing assessment on Depleted Uranium (DU) at the Pohakuloa Training Area and Schofield Barracks:

There is a continuing assessment of health risks and data from air monitoring stations to measure levels of DU at PTA. In the near future, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission will review and set restrictions, limits, and mitigation measures on DU levels at Pohakuloa. Currently, based on historical usage and ground assessments, there are 950 acres that will no longer be used.

"The money being spent by the military to insure public safety is important to safeguard and preserve our quality of life on the Big Island," added Rep. Evans.

For more information, visit the Army's website at .

Next on Kukui Connection

Rep. Marilyn Lee interviews two freshmen legislators on her cable access television show, "Kukui Connection" during the month of March. The show airs every Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. on Channel 54.

Meet Rep. Henry Aquino - March 1, 15, and 29. Rep. Aquino represents District 35 - Pearl City, Waipahu. He was elected in 2008 to the seat formerly held by Alex Sonson.

Meet Rep. Denny Coffman - March 8 and 22. Rep. Coffman represents District 6 - North Kona, Keauhou, Kailua-Kona and Honokohau. He was elected in 2008 to the seat formerly held by Senator Josh Green.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lawmakers to hold community meeting in Kihei

Maui residents are invited to a Legislative Talk Story with Senator Roz Baker and Representative Joe Bertram III to hear from residents and share with them the important issues that are currently before the Hawaii State Legislature. Information will be provided to update the community as to the progress of pending legislation.

When: Saturday, February 28, 2009, 9 – 11 a.m.

Where: Kihei Charter School Auditorium
300 Ohukai Road

"Isaac Choy - Sum Good Gai"

Rep. Isaac Choy (left) and Rep. Roy Takumi (right) on Opening Day 2009

Manoa, University, Moiilili & McCully residents are urged to actually read the February issue of Rep. Isaac Choy's newsletter which should be arriving in mailboxes soon. (It's also available on this blog - see community newsletters.) It's pretty funny. And, he writes it himself.

It's also a candid, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, perspective on a freshman's first legislative session. Here are some excerpts:
"The heat is on here at the square building on Beretania Street. From civil unions to the budget cuts. People express their feelings with cute colloquial rhetoric: "We are going to take you out", "we're retired and we have nothing better to do than to wave signs and make phone calls" "the biggest mistake of my life was voting for you", "don't even think about it".

"It’s so much fun being a politician. I have come to the conclusion that being forthright and honest is not all that great. I now understand why you can never get a straight answer from a politician. I have to work on that skill set. It's a lucky thing we get the big bucks for being here."

"Pay raises for us legislators is a subject that causes some concerns for many citizens. I still feel legislators are grossly under paid. The hours are long, it is a full time commitment, and it’s a pretty stressful job. It seems that you can never make a decision that is agreed upon by everyone. "

"Having representative government is still the best in the world. The ability for people to express themselves freely is something that is taken for granted too often. When we see our young men & women fighting to protect this right we should thank them, because being an American is being able to speak freely."

House Recommits HB539 on campaign spending

On the House floor today, after hearing concerns on the measure from certain members, Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, chair of Judiciary moved to recommit HB539, RELATING TO CAMPAIGN SPENDING back to the Judiciary committee. The motion passed, and the bill's future is uncertain.

The bill allows a "company" (defined as corporation, partnership, LLC, LLP, financial institution, or any other entity engaged in businss) to make an unlimited contribution into a noncandidate committee that is established by the company.

That noncandidate committee would have been able to make a contribution to a political party under the same restrictions and conditions as an individual person.

Monday, February 23, 2009

House Passes SCR40

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on February 25, 2009, on the State of Hawaii's appeal on a Hawaii Supreme Court decision; the court ruled that the State is prohibited from selling ceded lands until a settlement agreement is reached between the State and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on the issue of ceded lands.

A good place to review background documents on this case can be found on the ceded lands page of Robert Thomas' blog (Note that Thomas discloses the fact that his firm filed an amicus brief on this case supporting the State's arguments.)


SCR40 was adopted by the Senate on Friday and appeared on the House Order of the Day today as having been transmitted from the Senate. Rep. Lyla Berg made a motion to recall the resolution to the floor, and for the House to vote on the measure. While it is unlikely that the Governor would withdraw the appeal, the adoption of the resolution in both House and Senate would send a message to the U.S. Supreme Court prior to the start of oral arguments.

Rep. Kymberly Pine offered a motion to refer the resolution to the Committee on Water, Land & Ocean Resources, where, she argued, the public would have an opportunity to review and comment on the measure. The motion failed.

The House adopted SCR40 with 2 members voting No (Pine, Finnegan), 1 member excused (Takai). Of the 48 Yes votes, 23 voted with reservations.

The Ledge: H20

Friday, February 20, 2009

UH Hilo Honors Rep. Clift Tsuji

The University of Hawaii at Hilo has named Rep. Clift Tsuji (District 3 - South Hilo, Panaewa, Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown) as a recipient for the 2009 Distinguished Service Award. Rep. Tsuji will be recognized in an award ceremony on February 27, 2009 at the UH Hilo Campus Center Ballroom. The late state Senator John Ushijima and his wife Margaret will also be honored for Distinguished Service.

UH Hilo will also present Distinguished Alumni Awards to environmental, planning and land use consultant Dr. Ron Terry, real estate broker Carol Ginoza-Arikawa, and Kumu Lehua Veincent, a noted teacher and school administrator.

Here is what the UH Hilo says about Rep. Tsuji:

State Representative Clift Tsuji understands the positive economic impact a strong university has on a community such as Hilo, both as a large-scale employer and as an educator of the local workforce.

Tsuji, a retired Central Pacific Bank senior vice president, has long been a staunch supporter of UH Hilo. Now in his third term representing the 3rd House District, Tsuji has assumed a proactive role as a creator of and advocate for legislative initiatives to benefit UH Hilo.

In the 2007 and 2008 legislative sessions, Tsuji introduced three bills and one concurrent resolution directly affecting UH Hilo, two relating to Hawaiian language education. As Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Tsuji introduced a measure requesting that the UH Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management collaborate with the State Department of Agriculture and Hawaiʻi Community College to conduct a study to evaluate programs developed by the Kulani Correctional Facility to aid in the revitalization of State agriculture.

Closer to home, Tsuji has worked as a member of the UH Hilo Education Department’s Advisory and Advocacy Group. He provided support for Associate Professor Seri Luangphinith and the book project of her English 323 class, Ku Kilakila: Writing from the Big Island. In addition, he supported repairs to the Manono Street Campus, testified before the Board of Regents in support of the China-U.S. Center and worked to advance the UH Hilo Baccalaureate Nursing program and to fund faculty positions.

Print people

The House blog team wants to recognize the print shop crew in the chief clerk's office. We always see the names of our lawmakers on twitter streams, in blog posts and splattered throughout news stories, but rarely are "the backbones" of the legislative process mentioned.

Last night was first lateral deadline. That means that a bill must have been filed and sent into the last committee it is assigned to or else it's dead. Office staff stays late to make sure bills are filed before deadline, and the print shop work 'till morning sometimes to get everything printed for second reading on the House floor.

The print shop night crew was here until 11:30 p.m. last night, which is considerably early compared to past legislative sessions. First lateral went pretty smoothly through the cooperative work between committees, HMSO and the Clerk's Office. Committees scheduled hearings early and filed bills as soon as it was ready instead of waiting for the deadline, allowing HMSO and Clerk's Office to complete their review and numbering of committee reports, and the print shop crew to print committee reports and bill drafts quickly without waiting around for last-minute filings.

Props to the guys and gals in the House print shop for all their hard work: Tammy Tengan; Estelita “Sly” Pumares; Jean Kinoshita; Eleanor “Smiley” Riney; Mitchell Osurman; David Kamida; Lorrin “Lefty” Kaalekahi; Raul Juarez; Brad Haida; Kay DeMello; Peggie Spencer; Summer Kaleo; Fritz Belmoro; Carol Cabebe; Karen Ebisuya; Ken Gibo; Roy Higa; Elaine Miyamoto; Mildred Phillips; Alice Sato; Amy Say; Linda Shishido; Aileen Tanaka; Curtis Yoshida; and Wes Yoshitake.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another lawmaker enters the blogosphere

Let's welcome Representative Mele Carroll, chair of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee and Native Hawaiian Caucus, to the community of blog owners. Check her out at Other representatives with blogs include Reps. Jon Riki Karamatsu and Maile Shimabukuro, and you can find Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran on Twitter.

Carroll represents District 13, which covers Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai, Molokai, Keanae, Wailua, Nahiku, and Hana.

Carroll on KITV4 panel discussion on ceded lands

Rep. Mele Carroll, chairwoman of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee, will be a panelist in a live discussion on ceded lands airing on KITV4 Friday, February 20, 2009 at 7 p.m. Other guests include former Gov. John Waihee, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, and Chair of OHA Board of Trustees Haunani Apoliona with moderator Skylark Rossetti. The show will also be broadcast online at

The Legislative Hawaiian Caucus, which Rep. Carroll is the chairwoman of, supported a full moratorium on ceded lands and introduced legislation that prohibits the state from selling and transferring ceded lands in the public trust. Carroll and the caucus support the Hawaii State Supreme Court decision which prevents the State from selling ceded lands until native Hawaiian claims to the land are settled. The United States Supreme Court is reviewing an appeal by Gov. Linda Lingle requesting that the decision be overturned.

HB1667 passed out of the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs earlier this month and must be heard and passed by Water, Land & Ocean Resources and Judiciary Committee before heading to Finance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No hearing for Death with Dignity Bill

House Judiciary Chairman, Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, today announced that the House of Representatives will not hold a hearing this year on a bill pertaining to the issue of Death with Dignity.

A bill for consideration, HB806, proposes to allow a terminally ill, competent adult to get a lethal dose of medication to end life. It would prohibit mercy killings, lethal injections, and active euthanasia.

“This is an important subject that needs to be discussed,” said Chair Karamatsu. “At this time, the committee has not received a strong push from advocates to hear the bill, therefore, given the full plate before the Judiciary committee, I have decided to not hear the bill this year. I am open to hearing the bill in the future.”

Photo: Supporters of Death with Dignity initiative in Oregon. (Click on photo for link)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hawaii Food Bank Calendar of Events

House events have already begun organizing events to raise money for the Hawaii Food Bank. Rep. Blake Oshiro's office raised $445.00 selling See's candy and delivering them to recipients for Valentine's Day.

Rep. Chris Lee's office will be coordinating this year's food drive. They created a calendar with the dates of all the events, which are usually offices selling delicious food, and you can view it here.

A link of the calendar will be in the right column of this blog as well. Check up weekly for updates.

I've learned...

Rep. Robert Herkes gave today's invocation prior to the start of session. He quoted life lessons from "60 Minutes" humorist Andy Rooney. Several members asked for copies, so we thought we'd share it here:

"I've learned...That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I've learned...That just one person saying to me, 'You've made my day!' makes my day.

I've learned...That being kind is more important than being right.

I've learned...That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I've learned...That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help them in some other way.

I've learned...That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned...That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I've learned...That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned...That money doesn't buy class.

I've learned...That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned...That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned...That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I've learned...That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned...That love, not time, heals all wounds.

I've learned...That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

I've learned...That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I've learned...That life is tough, but I'm tougher.

I've learned...That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

I've learned...That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I've learned...That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow you may have to eat them.

I've learned...That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I've learned...That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

I've learned...That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

I've learned...That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes."

Public Union Benefit Bills Held in Labor Committee

The House Labor Committee, after giving the following bills a full public hearing this morning and last Friday, voted to hold the following measures, meaning they are dead for the session. The proposals generated heated comments from members of Hawaii's public unions, including members who are currently working and those who are retired. It was standing room only at the public hearings.

As both Speaker Say, who introduced the measures, and Chair Karl Rhoads indicated in their opening remarks, the bills were not meant to target state and county workers. The state faces a severe deficit, and the legislature is required to balance the budget by law. Rather than impose layoffs, the bills were offered as a way to share the burden and help save jobs. Due to overwhelming opposition, Chair Rhoads recommended the bills be held.

They are:

House Bill 1715 RELATING TO RETIREMENT. Increases, for new public employees, the minimum age and length of service for an unreduced service retirement allowance.

House Bill 1718 RELATING TO EMPLOYER-UNION HEALTH BENEFITS. Specifies that the requirement that the State and the counties reimburse retired employees for medicare part B premiums through the employer-union trust fund applies only to the employees who retire prior to 12/31/09.

House Bill 1719 RELATING TO PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. Suspends state and county contributions to the EUTF for all state and county employee-beneficiaries who retire after 7/1/09, regardless of date of hire and years of service, if the employee retires before the employee's medicare retirement age. Resumes coverage after medicare retirement age. Allows employee to retain health coverage through the EUTF by paying the respective state or county share of premiums until medicare retirement age.

House Bill 1723 RELATING TO PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. Makes employer contributions to the employer-union health benefits trust fund non-negotiable under collective bargaining. Establishes employer contributions for active public employees at 55 per cent of monthly cost of the health benefits plan.

House Bill 1725 RELATING TO THE HAWAII EMPLOYER-UNION HEALTH BENEFITS TRUST FUND. From 07/01/2009 to 06/30/2015: (1) prohibits health benefits plan of the employer-union health benefits trust fund from providing prescription drug coverage; and (2)allows board of trustees to make prescription drug benefits available through drug coverage plans that are paid for entirely by employee-beneficiaries.

House Bill 1726 RELATING TO THE HEALTH FUND. Prohibits the Hawaii employer-union health benefits trust fund from providing group life insurance benefits if any of the premiums are paid by the State or a county. Allows the trust fund to contract with a group life insurer to make available group life insurance benefits to employee-beneficiaries provided that none of the premiums are paid by the State or any county and the insurer pays a fee to the board of trustees.

House Bill 1727 RELATING TO THE HAWAII EMPLOYER-UNION HEALTH BENEFITS TRUST FUND. Prohibits the health benefits plan of the employer-union health benefits trust fund from providing dental and vision coverage from 07/01/2009 until 06/30/2015. Allows the board of trustees to make dental and vision benefits available to employee-beneficiaries at no cost to the employers.

The Labor Committee also heard House Bill 1106, RELATING TO PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT, and decided to defer this measure. That means that the bill is not advancing through the process at this time but could be resurrected if needed. The bill “protects the rights of public employees by preserving health, retirement, leave, and other benefits if furloughs are implemented in fiscal years 2009-2013.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

Looking for Work - How's Your Credit History?

Hawaii is one of five states in the country challenging the use of credit checks by employers to hire and fire employees.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro has a bill going through the 2009 session, HB31, RELATING TO EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES. The bill establishes that the employer's use of credit history in hiring and termination decisions is an unlawful and discriminatory practice.

The issue was covered by USA TODAY, quoting Rep. Oshiro as a resource.

About 43% of U.S. employers check job applicants for overdue payments on anything from mortgages and rent to credit cards and student loans, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and security consultant Kroll. That's up from 36% in 2004, a Kroll survey found.

But the checks are under fire from some lawmakers who say needy and trustworthy people are being shut out of jobs — at a time when the economy is bad and hiring is severely cut back.

"It's almost like being forever sentenced to debtors' prison," said Hawaii state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, a Democrat.

Said Democratic state Rep. Matthew Lesser of Connecticut, "There's an awareness that a lot of people have bad credit for reasons that have nothing to do with their worth as an employee."

Bills by Lesser and Oshiro aim to eliminate many credit checks by requiring employers to prove they are vital to hiring. "Employers do the checks routinely without showing there's any connection to the job," said state lawmaker Michael Benjamin, a New York Democrat, whose bill would restrict credit checks.

Missouri and Texas are considering restrictions. Washington state enacted restrictions in 2007, the year Ishimaru told a government hearing that employee credit checks could violate civil rights law.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Civil Union bill moves to the Senate

The civil union bill passed third reading today on the House floor with 33 voting yes and 17 voting no. It will now crossover to the Senate for consideration.

Here are some of the things said by house members who rose to speak in opposition or support of HB 444 (taken from live Twitter stream):

@georgettedeemer: Rep. Blake Oshiro: There will be a day when acceptance and tolerance are not just words. Let that day be today.

@georgettedeemer: Rep. Chris Lee: My generation overwhelmingly supports equal rights for all couples.

@georgettedeemer: On the House floor. Rep Ward: "Civil Unions is really an end-run for same-sex marriage."

@thelmadreyer: Rep. Marumoto (R) in support of civil unions: "I believe everyone should love and be loved."

@thelmadreyer: Rep. Sylvia Luke (D) in support of civil unions and speaking about discrimination:"It [the civil union bill] brings us closer to equality."

@ddepledge: State House Minority Leader Finnegan says she grew up loving late sister who was gay. But she believes bill would promote same-sex marriage.

@ddepledge: Rep. Pine says supporters should not discriminate against opponents for being Christians, Mormons or Muslims.

Following the decision on the floor, the GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party and the Family Equality Coalition held a Family Day at the Capitol to bring GLBT families, friends, colleagues and neighbors to talk story with lawmakers. The Hawaii Friends for Civil Rights also presented a check for $1000 to the Family Equality Coalition.

Photo: The GLBT Caucus and the Family Equality Coalition enjoy food and talk story with House members and staff during Family Day at the Capitol.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hawaii Heritage Caucus unveils 2009 Legislative Package

The 2009 Legislative Heritage Caucus unveils a package of ten bills and resolutions this session that targets the preservation of Hawaii's historic infrastructure and the move toward creating a niche market of heritage tourism.

Created in 2006, the bi-partisan Heritage Caucus has over 35 members dedicated to cultural preservation. The Heritage Caucus seeks to identify, protect, and preserve the state's cultural resources and foster widespread appreciation of Hawaii's cultural heritage and built environment.

"The Heritage Caucus provides an opportunity for legislators to create partnerships with our community, business, academic institutions and industry. The scale and complexity of the challenges confronting historic preservation today cannot be solved by institutions alone. I'm thankful for the support on this important issue. Understanding our history connects yesterday's accomplishments with tomorrow's possibilities." said Representative Cindy Evans, chair of the 2009 Legislative Heritage Caucus.

"Now more than ever, this economy presents us with unique opportunities and obligations for preserving what makes Hawai'i special. Heritage can be a win-win for visitors and locals alike and that’s precisely what this Caucus is committed to accomplishing." said Chair Corinne W.L. Ching, vice-chair of the 2009 Legislative Heritage Caucus.

The 2009 Heritage Caucus Package consists of the following bills and resolutions:

Changes the requirement for archival photographs for permits allowing the demolition, construction, or other major alteration of a historic building to photographs in any format. Provides that if the State Historic Preservation Division does not act upon a plan submission within 30 days, the proposal is treated as accepted.

HB504 RELATING TO TOURISM. Mandates that signs identifying state landmarks convey interpretive information.

HB505 RELATING TO HISTORIC PLACES. Increases criminal penalties for trespass upon and vandalism of properties on the Hawai`i Register of Historic Places.

HB506 RELATING TO A MUSEUM ARTIFACT AND ARCHIVAL CONSERVATION SUMMIT. Directs the department of accounting and general services to organize a museum artifact and archival conservation summit.

HB507 RELATING TO HISTORIC BUILDINGS. Establishes a task force to identify obstacles to the use of alternative or renewable energy systems on state historic buildings or purchase by state historic buildings of power generated from alternative or renewable energy systems located on adjacent properties and ways to permit sellers to claim a tax deduction. Requires report to the legislature in 2010 and 2011.

HB888 RELATING TO TOURISM. Establishes a working group to investigate the feasibility of creating a niche market in the tourism industry for riflery, archery, and hunting activities.

HB889 RELATING TO AGRICULTURAL PARKS. Makes farmers' markets a permitted use in an agricultural park.

HCR22 Requesting Congress to designate the Hawaii Capital Cultural District as a National Heritage Area

HCR23/HR25 Urging the Heritage Tourism Community to collaboratively work to, among other things, create a Heritage Tourism Marketing Plan for use by the Hawaii Tourism Authority Heritage tourism; marketing plan

HR24 Requesting Congress to designate the Hawaii Capital Cultural District as a National Heritage Area

William Pound, Exec. Director of NCSL, to address House Finance Committee

Photo: Courtesy of NCSL. William Pound, Exec. Dir. and Carl Tubbesing, Deputy Director

WHAT: Mr. William Pound, Executive Director of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), will provide an update to the House Finance Committee on:

· Current fiscal conditions of all of the states
· Strategies being employed to meet budget shortfalls across the country
· Status of the proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

WHEN: Thursday, February 12, 2009 – 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: Hawaii State Capitol – Conference Room 308

NCSL reports:

“The latest news on state budgets reveals the severity of the current situation. For both FY2009 and FY2010, more states are reporting budget problems, and the size of the gaps has increased.

Even though some states have taken corrective actions, the current FY2009 gap still stands at $47.4 billion. This is on top of the $40.3 billion shortfall already closed for this fiscal year.

Next year’s projected gap is staggering as well. As states prepare to craft their FY2010 budgets, the imbalance is pegged at $84.3 billion, up from $64.7 billion in November.”

Statement from William T. Pound:

“The proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act could provide more than $300 billion in aid to states. These funds will help lower, but will not erase, state budget shortfalls. State lawmakers still face enormous challenges as they take on the mandatory task of balancing their budgets.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New way to submit testimony online

Submitting testimony to the Hawaii State Legislature is now as simple as a click of a mouse. If you go to the capitol website, you will be able to choose your bill number, select the committee hearing and date, upload your testimony, and click to submit. Just go to the Bill Status & Documents page, scroll down to the hearing notices, and click on Submit testimony online. Here is a video (4:42) showing how easy it is, produced by Professor Susan Jaworowski, an attorney and former legislative staffer, for her law class on government. Susan's new videoblog is called

Karen's Law and Jessica's Law

The House Judiciary Committee heard two bills today that serve to strengthen criminal penalties for sexual assault and murder.

Karen’s Law: House Bill 819, HD1 – RELATING TO CRIME. This bill mandates that minors aged 15-17 be tried as adults in cases of first and second degree murder. The bill passed unanimously in the House Human Services committee hearing last week. The bill was inspired by the case of Karen Ertell, who was found murdered by a teenage neighbor with whom she had repeated problems. The committee deferred the bill for decision making on Friday, 2/13/09.

Jessica’s Law: House Bill 620 – RELATING TO SENTENCING. This bill authorizes the court at sentencing to require a person with three or more convictions of sexual assault in the first degree to wear a global positioning system transmitter for up to 10 years after the person’s release from prison. Currently, 41 states have enacted similar legislation; it is referred to as “Jessica’s Law” in other states. The committee passed the bill with amendments, including changing the "gps" terminology to "electronic monitoring device" and putting on a defective date of 1/1/2046.

Monday, February 9, 2009

"The Ledge" perspective on Ceded Lands

"The Ledge" is produced by the office of Rep. Hermina Morita. Here is this week's video on HB1667:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Who's in charge?

Six House committees met jointly this morning to hear VOG related bills in order to make it easier for testifiers from the various state/county agencies and the public. Rep. Robert Herkes coordinated the hearing, as chair of the House Special Committee on VOG Effects. The special committee met four times over the interim to gather information on the impact of VOG on public health and safety, agriculture, business and the economy, and overall impacts to the state. Many of the bills are a result of and in response to the information from the special committee report.

At the end of the hearing, Rep. Herkes summed it up by saying that Rep. Souki hit the nail on the head when he concluded that "This is a natural disaster, and no one's in charge." Rep. Herkes has and continues to be frustrated by a lack of response from certain state agencies in addressing the immediate problems faced by the people on the Big Island. He has repeatedly stated that there needs to be someone in charge to spearhead the state's response on VOG.

Although the state administration has established an Interagency Task Force on Vog, Rep. Herkes exclaimed that the task force has no chair and has only met twice. Rep. Souki added, "Meanwhile, the whole island is going to pot."

The VOG package includes:

HB313 RELATING TO HIGHWAYS. This bill requires the Department of Transportation to conduct more reviews of the highway guardrails on the Big Island, as they are deteriorating from exposure to acid rain caused by VOG.

HB318 RELATING TO VOG. This bill requires the Department of Agriculture to work with the University of Hawaii to determine the best methods of VOG treatment and to research VOG-resistant varieties of plants.

HB316 RELATING TO AGRICULTURE. This bill establishes a temporary reimbursement program for tenants of state agricultural lands in VOG-impacted areas in order to reimburse tenants for costs of reapir and maintenance of fencing and other infrastructure.

HB312 RELATING TO HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES. This bill directs the Department of Defense to develop and implement a program to ensure that an adequate number of monitors are in place throughout the state where high VOG and sulfur dioxide incidences are known to occur.

HB317 RELATING TO MOBILE MEDICAL CARE. This bill authorizes the use of the federal Homeland Security Grant Program funds for mobile emergency and clinical medical care for the people in the southern sections of the Big Island.

HB314 RELATING TO WORKERS' COMPENSATION. This bill requires the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to develop rules for workers' compensation claims involving VOG-related medical conditions.

HB315 RELATING TO VOLCANIC EMISSIONS. This bill requires the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to establish standards to promote worker safety during high incidences of VOG or sulfur dioxide.

As the Labor Committee had a quorum, they passed HB314 as is, and passed HB315 with amendments. The other bills were deferred for decision making next week.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Civil unions bill moves forward

Photo: Laurie Cicotello, of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE), testifies in support of the Civil Unions Bill, and relates to lawmakers her experience of being the daughter of a transgendered parent.

This evening, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously (12-0) passed out House Bill 444, relating to civil unions. Four committee members were excused. The issue was last heard in the 2007 legislative session, but failed to gain enough support to move forward.

The committee amended the bill by including those already registered as reciprocal beneficiaries as ineligible to receive civil union rights in Hawaii. People already in other civil unions or married are also excluded from eligibility.

“It is far from over, but this was a major step forward in advancing equality, understanding, and tolerance,” stated the bill’s sponsor, House Majority Leader Blake K. Oshiro (33 - Aiea, Halawa Valley, Halawa Heights, Aiea Heights).

“Today’s passage shows how much things have changed in just two years,” said Judiciary Committee Chair Jon Riki Karamatsu (41-Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele). The bill, having received a single committee referral will now go to the House floor for a full floor vote before crossing over to the Senate.

“We’ve got some great dialogue on this issue and a real chance at creating some equity within the law,” added Karamatsu.

House Committee unanimously passes “ceded lands” bills

On the same day that Congress reintroduced the Akaka Bill, the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee unanimously passed three separate bills that would place a moratorium on the sale of “ceded lands.”

House Bill 1667, put forward by the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus, proposes to prohibit the Board of Land and Natural Resources from selling, exchanging, or otherwise alienating “ceded lands” in the public land trust.

“I believe there is a fiduciary responsibility of the State to Native Hawaiians,” said Rep. Mele Carroll, who serves as chair of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee and the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus.

House Bill 1667 received an overwhelming amount of support including testimony from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamehameha Schools, Malama Kaua‘i, Alan Murakami of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Aha Kiole Advisory Committee, Japanese American Citizens League, Kupa‘aina Coalition, Chairman Kali Watson of Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly, Life of the Land, Royal Order of Kamehameha I, and many community and individual supporters.

Attorney General Mark Bennett, who submitted testimony in opposition to all House bills addressing “ceded lands,” including House Bill 1667, said he feels the purpose of this bill is to deflect a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.” On February 25, the highest court in the United States is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the appeal put forth by Gov. Linda Lingle to reverse the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court’s ruling that the state cannot sell or transfer “ceded lands.”

Committee members had a lengthy discussion with A.G. Mark Bennett, Professor Vandyke and Clyde Namu‘o, Administrator of OHA, airing out the arguments of a moratorium on the sale and transfer of “ceded lands.”

In support of a moratorium on “ceded lands,” University of Hawai‘i constitutional law professor Jon Van Dyke told the Committee that the Legislature indicated the State’s commitment to resolving unsettled land disputes with the Native Hawaiian people when it created OHA in the 1978 Constitutional Convention.

“The bills that you are now considering are what the Supreme Court of Hawai‘i has already said,” Van Dyke said. “All we’re doing is asking this body to reaffirm what is already in the law.”

A.G. Bennett mentioned that if the State of Hawai‘i fails in their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, he anticipates that the state will be dealing lawsuits citing Amendment 14 and the Equal Protection Act.

Any 14th Amendment lawsuit that would arise from a moratorium, as indicated by the Attorney General, was “bewildering,” Van Dyke said.

OHA Administrator Clyde Namuo said, “I find it troubling that we can just discuss this purely at an academic and legal level.” He explained that disregarding the cultural and moral intents of protecting lands part of reconciliation between the State and Native Hawaiians was frustrating.

“When you talk about putting a moratorium on the sale of these ‘ceded lands,’ it doesn’t stop the economic and the legal process from moving forward,” said Kali Watson, former Director of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands. “View it as an interim measure to facilitate a just measure in the near future.”

Mahealani Cypher, President of the Ko‘olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club, said: “We find it almost unbelievable that anyone with any self respect would stand up here and say we shouldn’t pass this law. We urge you to put your minds, hearts, and voices into advocating for justice for the Hawaiian people.” She asks the committee to support this legislation to protect the trust.

At the hearing, Rep. Della Au Bellati acknowledged Rep. Mele Carroll’s leadership in creating a transparent process with the community and in uniting lawmakers on the issue of “ceded lands.”

“The outcome was a victory today,” explains Chair, Rep. Mele Carroll.

The House Hawaiian Affairs Committee voted unanimously with all members present to support the legislation on a moratorium of the sale and transfer of ceded lands that were heard today in the hearing.

Another important measure that passed today included House Bill 1660, which recognizes Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawai‘i.

The House Hawaiian Affairs Committee consists of Rep. Mele Carroll (Chair), Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (Vice Chair), Rep. Della Au Bellati, Rep. Joe Bertram III, Rep. Tom Brower, Rep. John Mizuno, Rep. Scott Nishimoto, Rep. Ryan Yamane, and Rep. Gene Ward.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Helping homeless get home or free vacation?

Rep. Rida Cabanilla's proposed bill, HB 1187, which would create a Return-to-Home program for homeless from the mainland living in Hawaii, passed out of Housing Committee.

The proposed measure would help people who have found themselves homeless after coming to Hawaii from the mainland return to their home state and their families. The program would be voluntary, and the bill requests an appropriation of $75,000.

Majority of written testimony on this bill was in support; however, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority highlighted repercussions of a well-intended bill.

"We caution that it may have the unintended effect of increasing the number of homeless persons entering Hawaii, once it is known that a person who gets here on their own will be able to get transportation back home provided by the State. We are concerned that some may misuse this program to take a 'free vacation' to Hawaii."

The public housing authority makes a good point. Could these be possible scenarios?

Wayne from Wisconsin: "I really want to live in Hawaii. Should I buy a one-way ticket to Hawaii without sufficient income or a job lined up to "see if I can make it out here"? Heh, why not? It's always sunny and I could probably find a job. If I don't, and end up homeless, the State would be able to send me back home anyway."

Mindy from Maine: "If I only had enough money for a round-trip ticket to Hawaii, I could vacation there all summer! What law? They have a Return-to-Home program? So if I tell them that I'm stranded and homeless, they'll send me back to the states. Right on!"

Of course these are gross exaggerations, but getting more "risk-takers" traveling to Hawaii could be an unintended consequence of a Return-to-Home program.

The Hawaii Public Housing Authority recommended amending the measure to limit the Return-to-Home program to families with minor children who are stranded on the islands.

As HB 1187 continues through the legislative process, lawmakers will have to look at the possibility of people abusing the program and other unintended consequences that could make futile the good intent of the proposed bill.

Volunteers needed to assist with stream cleanups

Streams in Waianae-Makaha, Haleiwa and Laie will be the target of cleanup activities on Friday and Saturday to expunge debris that caused flooding and substantial damage to homes and businesses, but volunteers are needed to help see the project through.

Operation Lauwai is a coordinated effort by Hawaii State Civil Defense, Hawaii National Guard, other city and state agencies and state lawmakers to clean up streams clogged with foliage to prevent future flooding. The cleanup group will be in Waianae-Makaha and Haleiwa on Friday, February 6, 2009 from 7:30 a.m. to noon, and in Waianae-Makaha, Haleiwa and Laie on Saturday, February 7, 2009 from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Target areas include Eku Stream and Mailiili-Puuhulu Stream on the Waianae Coast; Helemano-Opaeula Stream in Haleiwa; and Kahawaiuui Stream in Laie.

"Lauwai is another Hawaiian word for stream. We like to think that for this collaborative effort, Lauwai may be interpreted liberally from the words 'laulima' for cooperation and helping hands, and 'wai' for water," said Ed Teixeira, vice director of Hawaii State Civil Defense.

All volunteers should meet at the following locations. A site coordinator will be at each rally point to give brief volunteers and provide further directions:

Makaha: Makaha Marketplace – 84-1170 Farrington Highway
Waianae: Waianae Samoan Church – 86-130 Puhawai Road
Laie: (Saturday Only) Cane Haul Road next to the Cackle Fresh Outlet Store at 55-730 Kamehameha Highway. A State Civil Defense representative will be at the intersection of Cane Haul Road and Kamehameha Highway to direct volunteers
Haleiwa: Waialua Community Association (Historic Haleiwa Gym) - 66-434 Kamehameha Highway.

Volunteers should be 18 and over; wear protective footwear and clothing, hard hats (if possible), gloves, and sun protection; bring water, trash bags, chainsaws, and other tools to clear debris, if possible. If you can donate use of heavy equipment, please call Civil Defense to coordinate (733-4300).

Because many of our National Guard members have been deployed to the Middle East, Hawaii State Civil Defense will have a limited amount of guardsmen on location to help complete the project. State Representatives from the districts marked for cleanup are calling on community members, organizations and private businesses to come out, get their hands dirty, and help mitigate the threat of additional flooding in the respective communities. Several community groups and private companies have already signed on.

"The more hands and bodies available to help clear trash and debris, the more work that can be accomplished," said Representative Maile Shimabukuro, D-45 (Waianae, Makaha, Makua). "Anyone who has time to lend a hand or even donate refreshments or equipment should call Civil Defense for more information."

"Operation Lauwai is an excellent community volunteer effort bringing together state agencies, private business and our community members to help prevent future catastrophes," said Rep. Jessica Wooley, D-47 (Laie, Hauula, Punaluu, Kahana, Kaaawa, Waikane, Kahaluu, Ahuimanu, Kaneohe). "All residents should call Hawaii State Civil Defense as soon as possible if there is a stream that needs to be cleared of debris or vegetation."

"It's great to see private companies jumping on board to help our communities. I hope to see this coordinated effort repeat itself throughout the year. Let's get the storm-related debris out now, but continue community cleanups to thwart any future disasters," said Rep. Michael Magaoay, D-46 (Kaena Point, Schofield, Mokuleia, Waialua, Haleiwa, Waimea, Pupukea, Sunset, Kahuku, Kunia Camp, Poamoho, Wheeler, Laie)

Call or email Civil Defense at and 733-4300 for location information, meeting places and other questions.

Hawaii State Civil Defense Plan for Storm-Related Debris and Removal from Streams

Working together to fight invasive species and achieve sustainable agriculture

By Representative Clift Tsuji, Chair, House Committee on Agriculture

The Advertiser's recent account (1/28/09) of the budget crisis and its potential impact on our fight against invasive species correctly underscores the need to remain vigilant against introduced pests, even as our economy continues to nosedive. However, in focusing solely on the Department of Land and Natural Resource's (DLNR) eradication and control efforts, the article unfairly glosses over much of what both lawmakers and officials from the Department of Agriculture have been doing to address the problem on their respective ends.

It also overlooks the dedicated efforts of our congressional leaders, who have been hard at work trying to fight for our state's right to inspect foreign shipments while encouraging federal agencies to rethink policies aimed only at protecting the continental U.S. Defending our islands from invasive species requires us to think and act as one, and with the coordinated efforts of federal, state, and county officials working hand-in-hand with our local communities, this can and must be done.

Here is an example. Just last year, lawmakers passed Act 236, which establishes an innovative and comprehensive Biosecurity Program that makes Hawaii the nation's leader in the prevention of unwanted pests. Apart from establishing joint-use inspection facilities at our state's ports-of-entry for enhanced screening and prevention efforts, the program also lays a foundational framework within which creative, community-driven ideas can be implemented. In short, the Biosecurity Law will enable DLNR and DOA to work with, rather than against, each other in a coordinated fashion to eradicate, control, reduce, and suppress incipient and established pest populations.

With this foundation in place, I introduced a bill this session that seeks to secure funding for the program's implementation by imposing cargo inspection fees for quarantine and eradication efforts. The upfront costs associated with bringing the Biosecurity Program online are essential if we are to create a more efficient and streamlined infrastructure to deal with the high volume of imported cargo that must be painstakingly inspected for unwanted pests.

These investments are costly, to be sure, and require all of us to make sacrifices in the end. But even in this climate of budget shortfalls, I would suggest that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure if we are to "go green," or if we hope to "buy fresh, buy local." Simply put, we cannot develop a sustainable agriculture industry if parasitic varroa mites infect our honey bees, thus compromising their ability to pollinate farm crops.

We cannot have a thriving and robust tourism industry if aggressive red imported fire ants invade our parks, golf courses, and beaches, attacking visitors and residents alike with their venomous sting.

And we cannot expect to have a reliable energy source if opportunistic brown tree snakes inadvertently short-circuit our power lines on a regular basis causing island-wide blackouts, as is the case in Guam.

Everyone is a stakeholder in this issue. The invasive species problem affects every individual on every island, in every neighborhood, and in every sector of the economy. When it comes to invasive species, we cannot afford to pit department against department, appropriating funds for one program at the expense of another. Instead, these times of scarcity and economic uncertainty demand from us a commitment to work together to prioritize that which distinguishes Hawaii from the rest of the world and makes our islands unique and so appealing -- our environment.

Higher Ed Committee looks at creation of UHH Office of Vice Chancellor

The House Higher Education Committee passed out HB 1617 which would establish the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development at the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH).

The office shall serve as the overarching institutional focal point for the coordination of all undergraduate and graduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics mentorship programs, and the integration of ongoing and future research projects.

"There has been an emphasis at UHH on majors related to STEM education,” said Representative Jerry Chang, Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee. “This is an important alignment with the state's economic development initiative for an innovation-based economy."

A mission of the office shall be to build synergy between the many capacity-building and mentorship programs and support available to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. A further mission of the office shall be to increase the participation of underrepresented cultural, socio-economic, and ethnic groups from the Pacific islands in undergraduate and graduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The committee also passed out HB 1369 which would establish a loan repayment program and housing stipend program for UH medical school graduates practicing in the rural areas for a minimum of six years.

"This bill would encourage doctors to remain in our rural areas to practice as newly trained in Hawaii physicians." Said Representative Chang (District 2 - Kaumana, Keaukaha, Downtown Hilo), who introduced both measures.

Wooley to hold community meeting in Kahalu'u on HB 1713

The public is invited to a community meeting in Kahalu'u on a measure introduced this session that addresses hazardous conditions overhanging trees and clogged streams on private property. The meeting is scheduled for Saturday, February 7 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at KEY Project, 47-200 Waihee Road, Room 103, in Kahalu'u.

Rep. Jessica Wooley, D-47 (La`ie, Hau`ula, Punalu`u, Kahana, Ka`a`awa, Waikane, Waiahole, Kahalu`u, `Ahuimanu, Kane`ohe), introduced the measure in the House and wants to get feedback from community members.

Residents who live near properties owned by landowner Genshiro Kawamoto have expressed concern about huge branches that hang over their yards and threaten their safety and homes. The landowner has been unresponsive and cannot be reached. This bill may also apply to streams that are clogged with vegetation and debris and contribute to flood damage.

The bill (HB1713) would allow the state to enter private property to protect public health and safety and will also need to address how the state can recoup costs from nonresponsive landowners.

Call Representative Jessica Wooley at 808.586.8540 for more information.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Electronic Harassment

The House Judiciary Committee today passed out two bills relating to harassment in an effort to further increase protections for people who are being harassed or stalked electronically. House Bills 615 and 622 add electronic communication to the list of defined forms of harassment and harassment by stalking.

“We are taking all forms of abuse and domestic violence extremely serious,” says House Judiciary Chairman Jon Riki Karamatsu (41-Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele). “Passage of these bills will update the current statute with all of the existing forms of today’s technology,” he explains. “It is important that we (legislators) keep current in order to best serve our constituents.”

The bills both received a single committee referral and will now go for a full House floor vote before crossing over to the Senate.

Hawaiian Affairs Committee to Hear Ceded Lands Bills

The COMMITTEE ON HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS will hear a number of bills of interest on Wednesday, 9:00 A.M., ROOM 329, including three bills on ceded lands.

Prohibits the disposition in fee simple of ceded lands. (SAY BY REQUEST)

Recognizes Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawaii. (CARROLL)

Prohibits the board of land and natural resources from selling, exchanging, or otherwise alienating ceded lands in the public land trust. (CARROLL)

Prohibits the disposition in fee simple of ceded lands. (CARROLL)

Prohibits the sale, exchange or other permanent transfer of lands in the public lands trust to a private entity; requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to make an inventory of lands in the public lands trust; appropriates funds for the inventory, to be matched by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. (SHIMABUKURO)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Legislature to take budget reductions

The House Finance committee today passed out House Bill 302, a bill providing for the Legislature’s expenses, with an amendment to reduce the House budget by $1.167 million (from$11,670,163 to $10,503,163)and the Senate budget by $568,679 (from $7,694,360 to $7,125,681.)

“The House is doing its part to address the state’s current budget crisis,” said Speaker of the House, Calvin K.Y. Say. “As a result, we are taking a cut in our operating budget, which will save the state $1.167 million. We have proposed cuts in the areas that do not affect services to the public which is our first priority.”

House Bill 302 provides for the expenses of the Legislature, the Auditor, the Legislative Reference Bureau and the Ombudsman for the Twenty-Fifth Legislature which covers the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions and up to June 30th, 2010. The amended bill reduces by 10% the budgets of the Office of the Auditor and the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Cost savings in the House include a reduction in session staffing, legislators’ out-of-state travel expenses, print shop copying, supplies, equipment rental, deferred maintenance, restrictions on new purchases, and expenses for both majority and minority caucuses.

“The Senate has always said that we are ready and willing to help reduce our State budget and lead the way in overcoming our current economic challenges,” said Senate President Colleen Hanabusa. “We are proud to announce that we have reduced our discretionary budget by a savings of nearly $600,000.”

Senate cost savings include a reduction in the number of temporary session hires, reductions as a result of the Senate’s ongoing paperless initiative, restricted out-of-state travel for Senators and staff, reduced funds for training and professional development, and deferred major purchases and staff salary increases.

“All told, the Senate’s ability to significantly reduce our operating budget is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of very dedicated people,” added Senate President Hanabusa. “They deserve our recognition and our thanks for doing their part to help our State.”

The bill goes to the full House for second and third readings and will cross over to the Senate for review.

Surf, sand, and butts allowed

Representative Tom Brower, D-23 (Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako), introduced a bill this session that would require beachgoers who smoke cigarettes to get off the sand before lighting up. House Bill 1509, which prohibits smoking on the beaches of Waikiki from the shore break to the sidewalk of private property line, is scheduled to be heard by the House Health Committee Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 8:30 a.m.

"More needs to be done to protect one of our island's precious beaches from litter," said Rep. Brower. "I'm looking forward to the discussion this bill will create as we try to find ways to enhance tourism, improve health, and preserve the beauty of our islands."

According to the present language of the bill, smoking would be allowed on sidewalks. The intention of the bill is to make Waikiki beaches smoke-free and thwart beachgoers from smoking near the ocean water and on the sand. Twenty-nine members of the House of Representatives have signed in support of the bill.

Interested in submitting testimony? Contact Rep. Brower's office for more information at 586-8520.

You can view the bill here:

The Ledge: GMO Taro

In this episode of "The Ledge" you will hear a plea to lawmakers from a kanaka maoli to protect the Hawaiian taro.

The issue of genetically modified taro comes up again this legislative session. Three bills that you should keep an eye on include:

HB1663, which proposes to prohibit any kind of testing, development, importation or planting of genetically modified taro in Hawaii. This bill was introduced by the Hawaiian Legislative Caucus, chaired by Rep. Mele Carroll.

SB709, which places a moratorium on genetically modifying any Hawaiian taro in Hawaii and testing, planting, or growing any Hawaiian taro within the State that has been genetically modified outside the State. This bill was introduced by Senator Kalani English.

HB904, which appropriates funds for the taro security and purity task force to guide policy and prioritize research for the protection of taro in Hawaii. This bill was introduced by Rep. Calvin Say by request. It is part of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' legislative package.

None of these bills have yet to be scheduled for a hearing.