Friday, July 30, 2010

Victims' Rights on Kukui Connection

Lacene Terri, Statewide Victim Service Coordinator, and Tommy Johnson, Deputy Director - Corrections, both of the Department of Public Safety, are the guests this month on Kukui Connection.

This show will air on Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. Oceanic Cable Ch. 54. Repeats on August 15 and 22.

The topic - the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System (SAVIN). According to the website, here's what SAVIN does:

Hawaii SAVIN offers victims and concerned citizens free, anonymous, and confidential access to timely information and notification 24-hours a day, 365 days a year on the custody and parole status of offenders under the jurisdiction of the State Of Hawaii's Department of Public Safety.

Two bills were introduced in the 2009 session did not advance, but the Department hopes they will be revived in future sessions. They are:

HB335 Establishes a statewide automated victim notification system to provide victims of crime with current information regarding the custody status of the offender and upcoming court events in the victim's case. Effective July 1, 2010. (HB335 HD1)

The companion bill is SB776.

In addition, here are some helpful resource telephone numbers to have on hand, including Domestic Violence Hotlines, Victim Witness Assistance Programs, Sexual Assault Treatment Hotlines and more. Click here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Lawmakers Listen" goes to Waianae

WHAT: The public is invited to an informational briefing on the 2010 legislative session. Rep. Karen Awana and Rep. Maile Shimabukuro will be joined by House Finance Chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who will make a presentation to the community on how the legislature resolved a $1.2 billion shortfall to balance the state budget bill. Information will also be provided on major capital improvement projects for the Waianae Coast.

WHEN: Thursday, July 29, 2010
6:30 -8:30 p.m.


-- Turn mauka (toward the mountains) onto Kaukama Road from Farrington Highway;
-- Go all the way to the end of Kaukama Road, and turn right;
-- Pool and clubhouse will be visible shortly thereafter on the left

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Camp Aloha

Rep. Tom Brower speaks to the homeless before weekly church dinners at Kakaako Waterfront Park

Rep. Tom Brower (District 23 - Waikiki, Ala Moana) was invited to appear on The Rick Hamada Show, KHVH radio, this morning to talk about the homeless issue. Brower and his colleagues, Rep. John Mizuno and Rep. Rida Cabanilla, recently toured Kapiolani Park and Queen's Surf to talk to the homeless to determine what it will take to move them to other locations, if not shelters.

KITV story on Kapiolani tour here.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial supporting tent cities concept here.

Brower says:

"While 'tent cities' are not a new idea, my office manager and I explored the feasibility of “homeless safe zones” for Hawaii this past January after speaking with advocates and providers last year. We went to talk with the homeless directly because no one has reasonable solutions for the chronic homeless, who won’t go to the shelters. We can either designate areas where the homeless can be or have them everywhere (by default) as they are currently. I believe some areas, due to economics, aesthetics or cultural importance etc., are too important to be overrun with homelessness.

Meanwhile, the State administration has not shown interest. I can understand their concerns regarding liability, safety and the fear of permanent tent cities, but I believe that to do nothing is worse than a good faith attempt to try out a promising solution and make adjustments along the way.

While former Mayor Hannemann recently publicly stated he is open to safe zones, the City’s community services department and State Comptroller seem hesitant to follow through. I have spoken with both the City and State Administration. I was approached by a group of church volunteers and a shelter manager, all of whom have experience with sheltering and feeding the homeless, who would like to see the safe zones implemented. They would be willing to provide the manpower and contribute their knowledge to our efforts."

In the 2010 legislative session, the House passed House Resolution 62 supporting the tent city proposal as part of the solution for homelessness.

Be cool

Richard Borreca's column On Politics in the Star-Advertiser today focused on Speaker of the House Calvin Say. Here it is...

From civil unions to taxes, Calvin Say keeps his cool

With an unassuming, quiet manner, Calvin Say, packing 34 years of legislative experience, shows little until the outcome is obvious.

Using the premise that flashing an agenda too early just makes you a target, Say is most comfortable in the caucus room without the spotlights.

After 11 years as speaker of the House, Say rarely brags, so his new self-assessment is worth noting.

"If people are mad at you, you must be doing something right, you touched a nerve," Say said in an interview last week.

Mad at you, indeed. This year is likely to be Say's most controversial.

It started with both those advocating and fighting a civil union bill fuming at Say because he refused to allow a recorded vote on a motion to kill the bill.

The action was forgotten by the end of the session when the bill's supporters were able to get the votes to bring the bill back for consideration and passage.

The "Impeach Calvin Say" Facebook page had already been started.

Meanwhile, more politically potent foes were gathering.

Say has consistently opposed raising the general excise tax, saying it hurts not just consumers, but business as well.

The public worker unions look at a GET increase as a big help. The increased money is needed to stop layoffs, stop furloughs and help pay increased benefits for workers, the unions argue.

Speaking for himself, J.N. Musto, University of Hawaii Professional Assembly executive director, sums up labor's disenchantment with Say.

"He is particularly harsh on public employees, and he truly believes they are overpaid and over compensated," says Musto.

In the last four years, Say has repeatedly tried to lower public employee benefits as a way to cut the state budget. Unions turned out in force to fight and kill the Say bills.

"He truly believes such bills should pass. After all of that, he then expects the unions to pay tribute. I think it's time to stop doing that," Musto concludes.

Say claims he doesn't know "why labor should be upset."

As a reliable helmsman, Say helped steer the union's own pay settlements through the Legislature, but this year when they wanted assistance with raising taxes, Say refused.

This year, Say appears to have a strong Democratic opponent, Dwight Synan, who, if he doesn't get an outright labor endorsement, will benefit from labor not endorsing Say.

In the larger view, Say's re-election is not just about Say, but about changing the direction of the House away from the anti-GET increase stance it has held in past years.

PROGRESSIVE, pro-labor members of the Senate have clamored for a GET increase.

Opponents have been able to kill it only because they could argue that "it would never pass the House."

Say frames the campaign and the organization of the House as "If not Calvin, then who?"

This fall, voters in Say's working class Palolo-St. Louis district will find themselves answering with results that could set state tax policy far into the future.

Hey cats, here's someone else who keeps his cool...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pray for Sun

Map: The Honolulu Advertiser
Rep. Karl Rhoads (District 28 - Palama, Chinatown, Downtown, Lower Makiki, Sheridan) recently completed a survey of Mayor Wright Home residents on the availabiity of hot water in their public housing units. He was surprised on two fronts. One is that even after being the district representative since 2006, he had never heard complaints about the lack of hot water until recently. Two is that the lack of hot water is so wide spread and has existed for so long that people have given up complaining to the building manager.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser published a story last week.
The survey reveals the extent of the problem and the common thread - when it's sunny there is more hot water, and when it rains or is cloudy, there is less to none. That's because the project depends solely on an older solar panel system. The back-up system, which should kick in when there isn't enough sun to generate hot water, broke down years ago and was never fixed.
I got a copy of the survey - these are my calculations. There were 117 units approached.
9.4% or 11/117 said they never have hot water, warm water at best.
22.2% or 26/117 were not home or didn't answer.
21.3% or 25/117 said they had hot water.
47% or 55/117 said they had some hot water, but not all the time.
Rep. Rhoads says he willing to fight for more money at the legislature for repairing the hot water system at Mayor Wright. However, he needs cost estimates from the housing authority and is frustrated that there appears to be no plan to address the problem which has persisted for years.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CSG West - Western Academy

CSG-West Western Academy - Colorado Springs - Group photo taken by Rep. Marcus Oshiro

The Council on State Governments - West holds educational seminars for state legislators in a program called the Western Academy. This year, the Academy was held in Colorado Springs, Colorado. House Representatives Faye Hanohano (District 4 - Puna, Pahoa, Hawaiian Acres, and Kalapana) and Marcus Oshiro (District 39 - Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley) were there to represent Hawaii.
Arch Lustberg and Rep. Marcus Oshiro.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro is the incoming Chairman of CSG-West. Arch Lustberg has been training state officials for 25 years and was recently honored by the CSG -West with the Distinguished Service to the States Award.
"I had the honor to be the Master of Ceremony for the four days, cheerleader and "older brother" since most of these 39 Senators and Representatives/Assemblymen, from 12 of 13 Western States have less than 4 years of service," said Rep. Oshiro.

Rep. Faye Hanohano

Adam Schrager and Rep. Marcus Oshiro

The other trainer was Adam Schrager, a news reporter and author. Schrager wrote "A Principled Politician - The Story of Ralph Carr" about Colorado Governor Ralph Carr (R) who protected AJAs during the WWII, and a new book, "The Blueprint", on the political transformation of Colorado during 2004 -2008 from red to blue.

CSG-West is a non-partisan organization which provides a platform for the legislatures in the 13 Western states to collaborate and share information. It was founded in 1947.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Human trafficking legislation called "latest big trend"

According to the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking group, in 2006 there were eight human trafficking bills passed and enacted across the country. In 2010, there were 350 bills introduced and 40 enacted so far. The Washington Post today reports on how state legislatures are stepping up efforts to address the issue.

In Hawaii, the legislature passed SB2045, a bill that established Class A and B felony human trafficking offenses. Governor Lingle vetoed the bill. The governor's primary objections were that the new offenses were not clearly defined, and that the language was "poorly drafted" and "overly broad" making it "virtually impossible to bring to trial and convict those who engage in human trafficking." Read the full veto message here.

The National Conference of State Legislatures calls human trafficking the "latest big trend." NCSL is expected to issue a policy statement on human trafficking at its annual conference starting next week.

Statistics on human trafficking are considered unreliable and under-estimated. That said, the government estimates that 14,500 - 17,500 victims are brought to the U.S. each year, and that over 250,000 children are at risk of sexual exploitation, thereby falling into the trafficking category.

In Hawaii's high profile trafficking case, sentencing is expected today for the owners of Aloun Farms, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges after helping to bring in workers from Thailand.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Visiting homeless in Waikiki

Rep. John Mizuno, Rep. Rida Cabanilla and Rep. Tom Brower meet up with media prior to the site visit.

Rep. Mizuno, Rep. Cabanilla and Rep. Brower talk with homeless residents across from Kapiolani Park. An informational briefing will be held on Thursday to discuss the homeless population in Waikiki.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Explore the House Journal

I suspect that not many people, outside of legislators and staff, political junkies and policy wonks actually sit down to read the House Journal. For one thing, the hard copy volumes are not readily available except in libraries and legislative agencies and offices. For another, even if you know precisely what bill, and what day it was up on the Order of the Day for voting, the search for remarks is daunting.

Technology to the rescue.

Now that the House Journal is online in a searchable PDF format, it's so much easier to access. Go to the Capitol Website, click on Bill Status & Documents, scroll down to 2010 Regular Session Order of the Day, Referral Sheets, Action Sheets Journal, select Show House Daily Journal, type in a date and you're there.

For example, here's the link to the House Journal on 4/27/2010, the 58th day of the session, which was the long day of voting on most of the final reading bills.

Access aside, the House Journal is a record of what was said on the floor of the House Chamber. Members may also request that their written remarks on a particular bill be published in the Journal after the vote. Therefore, if you want to know who spoke up, on what bill, and read exactly what they said, word for word, it will be in the Journal. Not all of it is dry. There are jokes and barbs, and if you're lucky, you'll find a malapropian gem. Some members are verbose, others laconic.

For me, the true beauty of browsing through the Journal is knowing that the words that were said on the floor during the 2010 session are now documented for all time, for future generations to read and learn from. It is an important research and historical document. The House Journal is a tremendous resource, and the people in the House Chief Clerk's Office who work on it deserve our thanks.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Balancing the budget

Letter to the Editor in today's Star-Advertiser:

Legislators avoided tax increases

Richard Borreca's column makes some important and cogent points ("Lingle fails to give credit where tax-hike credit is due," Star-Advertiser, July 6). Supplementary points, however, are necessary to correct any misperceptions caused by the headline.

First, the Legislature did not solve the general fund budget shortfall solely by raising taxes. During the 2009 and 2010 sessions, the state faced deficits of $2.1 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively. In both sessions, about 50 percent of the shortfall was addressed by budget cuts initiated by either the governor or Legislature.

Second, the Legislature balanced the budget without a general excise tax increase, without an income tax increase on low- and middle-income families, and without scooping the counties' hotel tax share. The Legislature wanted to avoid a substantial, broad-based tax increase that would have hurt the economic recovery and worsened the cost of living. Instead, the Legislature chose the strategy of increasing selected, narrowly focused taxes and fees and revising certain tax breaks.

For information on how the budget was balanced, see the charts at

Rep. Calvin Say, Speaker of the House
Rep. Marcus Oshiro, House Finance Chairman
Rep. Blake Oshiro, House Majority Leader

Pie chart

Click here to see "How the budget was balanced pie chart" and accompanying tables.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New laws on campaign spending and elections

The Campaign Spending Commission provided the following from their latest newsletter on 2010 legislation, now law, related to the elections process and campaign financing:

HB 2003/Act 211 - recodifies the campaign finance laws and is effective upon approval.

The recodification was the Commission’s top priority because the laws were first enacted in 1973 and “numerous amendments (were) made to the campaign finance laws in a piecemeal fashion and, apparently, with little regard to the laws as a whole. The resulting laws are unorganized, difficult to read, and inconsistent in some areas.”

Act 211 organizes the laws into a new part of chapter 11, with ten subparts. Long and involved sections are divided into shorter sections with clear titles for quick reference. All the laws on one subject are grouped together, in contrast to the prior statutes that required a reader to search through the entire subpart for laws that may apply to that one subject.

Act 211 has other provisions including the following that: clarify the treatment of ballot issue committees by adding a new definition and amending an existing statute relating to enforcement; clarify several statutes by removing references to “penalties” and replacing them with the term “fines” and clarify that the Commission has discretion regarding fines; changes the limit for nonresident contributions from 20 percent per reporting period to 30 percent in the election period; permit a candidate to donate to a public school or public library up to twice the candidate’s contribution limit; and provide transparency for corporate contributions by requiring that reports be filed starting with the reporting period beginning on January 1, 2011.

HB2397/Act 126 moves the primary election date to the second Saturday in August from the second Saturday in September and the filing deadline at the Elections Office to the first Tuesday in June. This act is effective on January 1, 2011.

HB1985/Act 59 removes the state income tax deduction for certain campaign contributions, effective January 1, 2011.

Awana elect Treasurer of Nat'l Caucus of Native American State Legislators

Representative Karen Awana was recently elected Treasurer of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators by her peers.

“I humbly accept this honor to work alongside our Native American counterparts in a leadership role as we move forward to address issues that we both experience as indigenous peoples of the United States,” said Rep. Awana, who represents District 44 - Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili.

Rep. Awana has also been named the Chair of the Economic Development Committee for the caucus.

The National Caucus of Native American State Legislators was initially formed in 1992 and currently is comprised of approximately 80 members from 18 states. Membership is open to all Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian state legislators.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gov. Linda made Keith Olbermann's Worst Person

In today's "Worst Person in the World" list on Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC, Governor Linda Linda made runner-up, with the label "worser", for her comments on vetoing the civil unions bill. "If you are opposed, have the courage to say you are opposed," said Olbermann. "Don't hide behind measly sophistry."  Do you notice the mistake in the clip?

Lawmakers applaud governor for allowing Housing First legislation to become law

Representatives Rida Cabanilla, Chair of the House Housing Committee, and John Mizuno, Chair of the House Human Services Committee, today applauded Governor Linda Lingle for allowing HB2318 to become law.

The bill had been placed on the Governor's potential veto list on June 21, 2010. On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, Governor Lingle officially vetoed 32 of 39 bills on the potential veto list. HB2318 was not vetoed and became law as Act 212 without the Governor’s signature.

"I wrote this bill to effectively address our chronically homeless -- those who suffer from mental illness and addiction and either cannot cope or are not accepted into our emergency or transitional shelters,” said Rep. Cabanilla. “The Housing First concept has been very effective as a cleanup tool in eight major cities. The target population is homeless who linger in streets, parks and major tourist hubs. It will help protect our pristine environment and tourist industry while providing stable housing for the chronically homeless. This is a business as well as a humane model in addressing Hawaii’s homeless problem."

HB2318, CD1 establishes the Housing First Program, which creates a permanent residence for the chronically homeless, providing them with a stable housing environment that promotes wellness and therapeutic success. The bill will also allow the Hawaii Public Housing Authority the flexibility to implement the program as it deems appropriate for homeless clientele.

The bill mandates a full report to the Legislature no later than 20 days prior to the convening of the 2011 regular session. The report will list the total number of participants in the housing first programs, the annual costs of the programs, the types of services offered, and information regarding the duration of services required for each participant. The Legislature can then determine if the program should expand based on the success rate of its participants.

"This is an effective step toward reducing homelessness in Hawaii,” said Rep. Mizuno. “The program deals with our chronically homeless population, many who suffer from a mental illness and/or a drug addiction. Stability rather than shuffling them from park to park is a more cost effective and humane way to deal with homelessness in Hawaii.”

New law expands licensing violations to all contractors who hire illegal workers

Governor Lingle Wednesday signed into law HB2897 which expands licensing violations to all contractors who hire illegal workers. The measure, now Act 185, subjects a contractor to the revocation, suspension, or nonrenewal of its license for knowingly or intentionally employing a person on any project or operation who is not eligible to work in the United States under federal law.

A previous law, Act 145, Session Laws of Hawaii of 2009, subjected only contractors working on public work construction projects affiliated with a government agency to licensing penalties for hiring employees ineligible to work in the United States.

“The new law provides a fair and level playing field for contractors hiring legally-employable workers,” said Vice Speaker Michael Magaoay, a co-introducer of the bill. “When dishonest contractors exploit illegal labor for their personal gain, they are hurting our local construction workers.” Magaoay represents House District 46 - Kaena Point, Schofield, Mokuleia, Waialua, Haleiwa, Waimea, Pupukea, Sunset, Kahuku, Kunia Camp, Poamoho, Wheeler, and Laie.

“I’m pleased the governor decided to sign this important bill,” said Rep. Henry Aquino, a member of the House Labor and Public Employment Committee and co-introducer of the bill. “It makes unscrupulous contractors accountable for their actions and ensures our local workers have job opportunities, especially during a weak economy.” Aquino represents House District 35 - Pearl City, and Waipahu.

2010 Vetoes and Overrides

For a list of all 2010 vetoes by the governor, click here.

For a list of all 2010 veto overrides by the legislature, click here.

The math: 47 vetoes and 11 overrides.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cooking Takai

I love finding gems like this beauty discovered amid the clutter social networking sites serve on their news feeds. 

In an article, Representative Mark Takai shared two family recipes, the first recipe is his mother's tomato-less brown stew and the second is his wife's lemon bars.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Speaker Say's Memo to House Members on No Special Session to Override Vetoed Bills

Today House Speaker Calvin Say sent a memo to all House members about the decision not to call the House of Representatives into special session to override Governor Linda Lingle's vetoes.

In the memo, Speaker Say notes that "the legislature had good justification for passing them (bills)," but through discussion with the House majority members he concluded that "no absolute imperative or exigent reason exists to override any of the vetoes of the bills on the list.."

The memo explains in detail the four reasons why the bills did not warrant an override and gives special mention to the two education bills (HB2377 and HB2376) for an appointed Board of Education.

You can read, share and link to the memo here.

House Not Calling for Special Session to Override Vetoes

Speaker Calvin Say today announced that he would not call the House of Representatives into special session on July 6, 2010 to override Governor Linda Lingle's vetoes. The state constitution authorizes the Legislature to convene a special session by noon 45 days following the end of regular session – the final day that the Governor has to veto any previously passed bills.
Speaker Say, in concurrence with members of House Leadership, cited four considerations for deciding why the bills on the governor’s veto list did not warrant an override, including:

• The bill does not appear to have the requisite two-thirds vote in both chambers necessary to override a veto;

• The bill does not rise to a sufficient level of statewide concern to warrant the extraordinary action of a legislative override;

• The Governor's preliminary objections to the bill have sufficient merit deserving of further evaluation;

• Although the bill was intended to enhance state revenue to balance the budget when passed during the session, it is now no longer necessary because of the Council on Revenue's improved revenue projection.

"It's my personal belief that simply because we have the legislative super-majority to override is not justification for us to do so. Partisan politics should not be a consideration or basis for any policy decision. The House should be proud of the work accomplished during the regular session – including balancing the state's budget without increasing the general excise tax, without increasing income taxes on low- and moderate-income families, and without scooping the counties’ hotel tax share," said Speaker Calvin Say.

On June 21, 2010 the Governor released to the Legislature her list of 39 bills that were intended for veto. The list included bills on public safety, civil union, homelessness, education and more.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

List of all laws effective today July 1, 2010

About 70 laws became effective as of 12:01 a.m. this morning. Star Advertiser has an article about the shark fin ban, cigarette tax increase, and others. The Maui News has an extensive article about the 1% increase of the transient accommodations tax. But if you want the details on all 70 laws, click on this link to a PDF document, compiled by the Legislative Reference Bureau library, of all the laws including act numbers, bill numbers, description, and status.

Sharks in Texas Waters

In June I took some time off of work. I packed my bags, cleared my datebook, and flew out into the starry  night to spend a few weeks with friends in France and and family in Texas. On my return from France, I stopped in Fort Hood to visit my two younger sisters who are stationed there while in the U.S. Army. Of course, I had to rent a car because walking or biking in that miserable Texas heat was not on my “Vacay 2010: Things I Must Do” list.

The strangest thing happened when I got into the vehicle of the Enterprise employee, Sierra, who picked me up at my sister’s house. Sierra’s phone rang and she started talking to someone who seemed to be in a different time zone then us, because although it was 1 p.m. in Killeen, she had asked him if he was headed to school to teach this morning. The first thing that came to mind, “That would be funny if she was talking to someone from Hawaii.”

Ha! He was calling from Hawaii. Sierra had just returned from a two-week vacation on Oahu. The guy on the phone was a hot (her word) surf instructor with the most adorable dreadlocks (her description) whom she had met on Waikiki beach. Cue in choir singing “It’s a small world after all…it’s a small, small world.”

But that’s not why I'm blogging about this random coincidental turn of events that started with a Google search and ended with a new friend in Killeen, Texas.

Here it goes. This is why.

Sierra rambled on about how much she loved Hawaii and all the beautiful things she got to see and the interesting people she got to meet and the delicious food she got to eat. “But,” she said, “I didn’t get to taste the one thing I most wanted.”

“What?” I asked, thinking she’d say something like poi or taro.

“Shark fin soup.”

Oh, snap.

Epilogue: I told Sierra that I worked at the Legislature and explained to her that shark fins may soon be banned in Hawaii because of a new bill we recently approved  that would take effect July 1, 2010. She was disappointed. I, on the other hand, as a supporter of the law, took a teeny-tiny bit of pleasure in telling her about the ban and the reason it's important.

Report Title: Possession, Sale, and Distribution of Shark Fins
Description: Prohibits the possession, sale, and distribution of shark fins in the State; repeals the ban on the practice of shark finning. (CD1)

A ban on shark fins is one of about 70 laws that take effect today. See the list here
Star Advertiser has an article in today's paper.