Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'Aina Mauna Legacy Project

This morning, the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs held an informational briefing on the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) "'Aina Mauna Legacy Program." The mission of the program is to protect over 56,000 acres of native Hawaiian forest that is ecologically, culturally, and economically self-sustaining for the DHHL beneficiaries and the community. The project is considered a legacy project because it will take several generations to come to fruition.

Picture courtesy of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands
The initial phase of the program has three main goals: to restore and protect native forests, eradicate gorse (an invasive species of prickly brush), and eradicate ungulates, including cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs. Once these goals are realized, homestead and commercial development will begin on parts of the 'Aina Mauna lands.

The 'Aina Mauna Legacy Program is part of the DHHL's Ho'omalu Energy Program which aims to:

Malama 'aina: Respect and protect our native home lands

Ko'o: Facilitate the use of diverse renewable energy resources

Kukulu pono: Design and build homes and communities that are energy efficient, self-sufficient, and sustainable

Kokua no i na kahu: Provide energy efficiency, self-sufficiency, and sustainability opportunities to existing homesteaders and their communities

Ho'ona'auao: Prepare and equip beneficiaries to promote a green, energy efficient lifestyle in and around communities

The 'Aina Mauna Legacy Program is supported by Kamehameha Schools, Queen Lili'uokalani Trust, Queen Emma Land Company, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Kahea Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Kuakini Hawaiian Civic Club of Kona, Hawai'i Island Economic Development Board, Hawai'i Island Chamber of Commerce, Hawai'i Forest Industry Association, The Nature Conservancy, Hawai'i Audubon Society, Concervation Council for Hawai'i The Trust for Public Lands, Big Island Invasive Species Committee, University of Hawai'i, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army.

For more information on the project, click here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

House Finance Passes Agriculture Package

Late Friday afternoon, the House Committee on Finance approved a legislative package supporting agriculture in Hawai’i. The bills advancing are:

HB 2100 Relating to Bees.  HB2100 appropriates funds to the University of Hawai’i for statewide honeybee hive research. The bill will make an appropriation to be determined to each to the counties of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai, and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo for hands-on training with honeybee hives.

“The sale of honey, value-added honey products, and queen bees constitutes a significant portion of our agriculture industry. Providing funding to five locations on four islands will allow more of the state to become shareholders in this lucrative business,” said House Committee on Agriculture Chair, Rep. Clift Tsuji.

HB 280 Relating to Agriculture.  House Bill 280 will remove the requirement that all Hawaii-grown green coffee beans shall be inspected and certified by the Department of Agriculture and permits Hawaii-grown green coffee beans to be shipped outside the area of their geographic origin without being inspected by the Department of Agriculture.

“We required the inspections in an effort to help coffee farmers in response to a high profile coffee bean fraud incident a few years back," added Rep. Tsuji.  "Without sufficient funding for the inspectors, this mandate has done more harm to the industry than good and needs to be repealed."

HB 2244 Relating to Agriculture Inspectors. House Bill 2244 authorizes the Department of Agriculture to establish compliance agreements with the federal government and other states for inspections conducted in the state of origin. This will mitigate the risk posed to biosecurity in the form of invasive species being transported with imported goods. The legislation will also bring Hawaii's fruit, vegetable, and flower export industries into compliance with federal regulations and requirements from other states.

“HB2244 is a classic win-win piece of legislation for the state of Hawaii," said Tsuji. "It protects our state from the threat of invasive species coming in with imports, eases the burden on our agriculture inspectors, and eliminates federal and interstate compliance issues for our agricultural export industries.”

HB 1943 Relating to Invasive Species. House Bill 1943 makes an appropriation to the Department of Agriculture to fund the plant quarantine detector-dog program.  State funds will replace Federal funds that sponsored the detector-dog program that ended with recent budget cuts. The primary role of the detector-dog program is to prevent the brown tree snake from coming to Hawai’i, but it will also cover other threats to the state's biosecurity.

“We have seen how the brown tree snake has decimated the native flora and fauna of Guam, and I am not willing to see the same thing happen to Hawaii," added Rep. Tsuji.  "Biosecurity doesn’t only protect our environment and native species, it fortifies our tourism and agricultural industries."

HB 1942 Relating to Agriculture.  HB1942 allows moneys in the pest inspection, quarantine, and eradication fund to be expended for the Electronic Importer Manifest Program (EIMP). The EIMP is a Department of Agriculture mandate that provides for the transfer from an importer to the plant quarantine inspector of data on all commodities of interest imported by aircraft or ship.

“There are excessive backlogs in agriculture inspection resulting from the lack of implementation of integrated technologies, most notably the EIMP,” said Rep. Tsuji. “Appropriating funds for EIMP will place the program in compliance with existing requirements and eliminate the backlog keeping agriculture products from reaching the market in a timely manner.”

HB 1941 Making an Appropriation for Agricultural Inspection Facilities and Related Infrastructure.  HB1941 makes a total appropriation to be determined to establish agricultural inspection biosecurity facilities and related infrastructure at the Honolulu International Airport, Kona International Airport, Kawaihae Harbor, Kamuela Vacuum Cooling Plant, and Honolulu Harbor.

“The creation of adequate agricultural inspection biosecurity facilities at our main airports and harbors is essential in our efforts to prevent invasive species from wreaking havoc on our ecosystems and biodiversity,” said Tsuji. “If an invasive species were to take root in Hawai’i, the results have the potential to be permanent and devastating.”

HB 2093 Relating to Agricultural Education.  HB2093 establishes a Center for Agricultural Leadership within the University of Hawai’i at Hilo and requires the University of Hawai’i to establish a two-year pilot project at one high school in each county to determine the steps necessary for a school farm to be food safety certified by the Department of Agriculture.

“The creation of the Center for Agricultural Leadership will increase opportunities for an agricultural education and career path throughout the University of Hawai’i system,” said Rep. Tsuji. “Developing a method for making school farms food safety certified will break down the biggest barrier in supplying our children with fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.”

HB 1947 Relating to Agriculture.  House Bill 1947 authorizes the Department of Agriculture to establish an Agricultural Safety and Security Program, which will be accompanied by an Agricultural Practices Audit and Certification Revolving Fund.  Under the voluntary program, the Department will conduct audit and certification services indicating a producer’s compliance with generally accepted agricultural and management practices as well as food security and traceability requirements.

“Recent rat lungworm nematode cases on the Big Island show that Hawai’i is not immune from the threat of food borne illness,” said Rep. Tsuji. “The agriculture industry has developed a series of practices to mitigate these risks. HB 1947 will benefit farmers and consumers of local produce by assuring everything going to market will be safe for consumption.”

The Finance Committee deferred HB 2668 Relating to Agriculture for now, but will be working on the language of the bill within the next few daysCurrently, HB2668 amends an important agricultural land tax credit to allow an additional fifteen percent credit for drought mitigation and changes the tax credit cap from $7,500,000 per year to $5,000,000 per year for the 2012 tax year, and $7,000,000 for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 tax years. The bill also creates a livestock feed tax credit for 2012 and creates a feed development tax credit program for 2013 and 2014.

“House Bill 2668 provides much needed assistance to the business side of agribusiness,” added Rep. Tsuji. “We currently import 100% of our feedstock and this piece of legislation will also promote the development of a local feedstock industry.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Maui Community Meeting on Equal Access to Justice

The Hawai‘i Access to Justice Commission, in collaboration with the Hawai‘i Justice Foundation, the Hawai‘i State Bar Association, and the William S. Richardson School of Law, will sponsor a community briefing on Maui on Monday, February 27, 2012 from 6-8 p.m. at Maui Waena Intermediate School.

The goals of the community briefing are to:
(1) Educate the public about the importance of equal access to justice in Hawai‘i;
(2) Share the past and ongoing work of the Commission;
(3) Increase awareness of low-income people’s legal rights and knowledge about legal resources the public can access when legal assistance is needed; and
(4) Receive community input regarding the needs for increased access to justice for all.

Members of the commission who will present are the Honorable Joseph E. Cardoza, Circuit Court Judge of the Second Circuit, Maui attorney B. Martin Luna, Senator Clayton Hee, and Representative Della Au Belatti.

The briefing will include a brief presentation of the Commission to discuss the work of the Commission and the importance of equal access to justice in Hawai‘i, followed by a question-and- answer session during which community input will be accepted. There will also be a mini-legal fair where the public will have the opportunity to speak with representatives from Mediation Services of Maui and the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, as well as browse through information and resources provided by other members of the Hawai‘i Consortium of Legal Service Providers.

For more information, call 808-753-7686.

The Hawai‘i Access to Justice Commission, created by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court Rule 21 in 2008, is comprised of judges, attorneys, legal service providers, governmental representatives, and members of the Hawai‘i legal community. The Commission's primary purpose is to substantially increase access to justice in civil legal matters for low and moderate-income residents of Hawai‘i. For more information about the Commission, visit http://www.hawaiijustice.org/hawaii-access-to-justice-commission.

House Finance Passes Military Package

Left to right: Rep. Ty Cullen (Vice Chair, Public Safety & Military Affairs), Laurie Crehan (Regional Liaison, Department of Defense), Rep. Marcus Oshiro (Chair, Finance) and Rep. Henry Aquino (Chair, Public Safety & Military Affairs)

The House Committee on Finance on Thursday, February 23, 2012, approved a legislative package supporting the military in Hawai’i. The adoption of five bills supporting the overall military presence in the state as well as military members and veterans are as follows:

HB 2410 Relating to the Military.  HB 2410 requires the Governor to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Defense to provide continued support for the military’s presence in Hawai’i.

“Tourism and the military are the two pillars of our economy.  House Bill 2410 will further bolster the relationship between the state of Hawai’i and the U.S. Department of Defense, ensuring continued cooperation moving forward,” said House Committee on Public Safety & Military Affairs Chair, Rep. Henry J.C. Aquino.

HB 2409 Relating to Consumer Protection.  House Bill 2409 authorizes the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) to enforce existing federal laws protecting military members and their families.  The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 limits the terms of credit that may be applied to military members and their dependents.  The act is designed to protect military members and their families from unfair lending practices that are commonly used by issuers of payday loans, vehicle title loans, and tax refund anticipation loans.  There is no federal enforcement mechanism for the legislation, and HB 2409 will authorize the DCCA to take action in the state of Hawai’i.

“The federal government has acknowledged the fact that military members and their families are targeted by predatory lenders and passed laws protecting those who protect us," said Rep. Aquino.

HB 2258 Relating to Professional and Vocational Licensing
HB 2639 Relating to Higher Education

House Bill 2258 allows professional and vocational licensing authorities to accept military training, education, and service towards licensing requirements.  House Bill 2639 authorizes the University of Hawai’i system to grant military members with college credits for military experience.  Military members currently receive college credits for military training, but not for professional experience while serving. The bill will establish a learning assessment to determine college-level learning gained during military service.

“Our commitment to military members does not end with their service to our country," said Rep. Aquino.  "Mandating that the University of Hawai’i, as well as professional and vocational licensing authorities, to recognize military training is a key step in helping veterans transition to the civilian work force."

HB2798 Relating to a Veterans Treatment Court.  HB2798 establishes a Veterans Court that will allow Hawai’i to join more than a dozen states across the country in taking into account the impact returning home from combat has on veterans when administering justice.  The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have caused a spike in veterans going through the court system. The Veterans Treatment Court is a system that recognizes the psychological effects of deployments and gives veterans a degree of justice commensurate with their service.

“The passage of these five pieces of legislation shows the commitment to and appreciation of the military, service members, and their families that is consistent with the values and priorities of the state of Hawai’i,” said Rep. Aquino.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Legislators Honor "Living Treasures"

Since 1976, the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai'i has, through its Living Treasures Program, honored individuals who have demonstrated excellence in their fields and who have made lifelong and significant contributions toward creating a more humane society. During yesterday's House Session, legislators took the time to recognize and thank five of our kupuna for their lifelong contributions to the state of Hawai'i.

Newly sworn-in Rep. Heather Giugni greets Goro Arakawa.
In addition to being a civic leader and accomplished businessman, Columbia University Business School graduate Goro Arakawa helped found Hawaii's Plantation Village in Waipahu. Mr. Arakawa ran the iconic Arakawa's of Waipahu store, which was opened by his Okinawan immigrant grandfather Zenpan in 1909, until its closing in 1995. 

Rep. Henry Aquino thanks Barbara Fusako Kawakami for her contributions to Hawai'i.
Barbara Fusako Kawakami has dedicated her life to preserving Japanese culture and traditions in Hawai'i. Forced to drop out of school after 8th grade for economic reasons, Mrs. Kawakami would eventually earn her Master of Arts in Asian Studies from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa at the age of 53. She has authored several books and is best known for her expertise in Japanese immigrant clothing, picture brides in Hawai'i, and for sewing rank and awards on thousands of military uniforms. 

Rep. Scott Nishimoto with Dr. Ben Finney and his wife, Mila
Co-Founder of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Dr. Ben Finney is known as the creator of the Hokulea and its predecessor, the Nalehia.  In addition to being an authority on Polynesian navigation, Dr. Finney is also recognized as surfing's premier historian.

Rep. Keith-Agaran with Lynette Kahekili Paglinawan
Lynette Kahekili Paglinawan, a key force in the Hawaiian renaissance, perpetuates Hawaiian culture through music and practices ho'oponopono, a traditional Hawaiian form of conflict resolution.
Gordon Mark is joined by fellow Living Treasure, Barbara Fusako Kawakami and Rep. Marcus Oshiro 
Ukulele virtuoso Gordon Mark has compiled a repertoire of more than 1,000 songs fusing Hawaiian and Western classical music.

In addition to bringing up fond memories of the Hawai'i of the past, having these Living Treasures on the House floor supplied the Capitol with pure Aloha. Mahalo nui loa to Goro Arakawa, Barbara Fusako Kawakami, Dr. Ben Finney, Lynette Kahekili Paglinawan, and Gordon Mark for enriching Hawaii's past, enhancing its present, and inspiring its future. 

Letter to Congress on Correcting No Child Left Behind

Rep. Roy Takumi

The National Conference of State Legislature’s (NCSL) Education Committee recently sent a letter, dated February 13, 2012, to Congress about proposed legislation that would make changes to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Hawaii State House Representative Roy Takumi is co-chair of this committee, and he and co-chair Idaho Senator John Goedde submitted the letter on behalf of NCSL.

In 2002, Congress amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and reauthorized it as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB); today, Congress is considering legislation that again reauthorizes the statute.

Major provisions of these bills essentially limit the federal government’s role in education policy while giving states more power in accountability decisions.

In the letter to Congress, while applauding the House Education and Workforce Committee for advancing the process of reauthorization, the state lawmakers also noted that the bills do not contain all recommendations for amending NCLB that was made by NCSL.

A major provision in one of the bills that NCSL would oppose is the mandated teacher evaluations by the federal government. “Such a mandate is unnecessary as states are already developing evaluation systems on their own,” Takumi and Goedde say in the letter. "Half of the states passed legislation on teacher evaluation within the past two years, and more will consider these reforms this year. However, these changes are very complex and expensive, and even those states with funding and data systems in place are struggling to implement this reform with accuracy and integrity."

You can read the full letter here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Art is Life! 4th Annual Art at the Capitol, March 2, 2012

“Closed Form” by Toshiko Takaezu, 2000, Shigaraki clay fired in Japan (located in Senate President Shan Tsutsui’s Office) Credit: State Foundation on Culture and the Arts
 The Hawai‘i State Legislature will open its doors for March’s First Friday event with the 4th Annual “Art at the Capitol.” This is a unique opportunity for the public to view over 460 works of art placed in the offices of legislators and executive offices. The event will be held on Friday, March 2, 2012 from 5 to 7 p.m., with a short program on the third floor to start at 4:45 p.m.

The works of art placed in the offices of the Hawaii State Capitol are a part of the State’s Art in Public Places Collection (APP). Attendees will be able to visit fifty-two offices in both the House and the Senate, including the Public Access Room. This year, the Offices of the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor are joining the event for the first time.

During the event, guests will enjoy entertainment featuring live chamber music by quartets from Punahou and Hawaii Youth Symphony, and be able to mingle with artists and lawmakers. Some of the artists in attendance will be Ron Ken, Laura Ruby, Lori Uyehara, Ruthadell Anderson and Darrell Orwig.

“Sugar in the Raw” by Romolo Valencia, 2006, digital and mixed media on paper (located in Rep. Gilbert Keith-Agaran’s Office) - Credit: State Foundation on Culture and the Arts
“Lava Cliffs” by Reuben Tam, 1961, oil painting (located in Off. Of the Governor) – Credit: State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.
Two short films documenting the history behind the Aquarius mosaic, located in the rotunda, and the two wall tapestries hanging in the Senate and House Chambers, will be shown on the fourth floor. Keiko Sato, Tadashi Sato’s sister, shares her perspective on the renowned artist’s journey to creating Aquarius. Ruthadell Anderson, creator of the Senate and House tapestries, takes viewers back in time to when she and her team spent hundreds of hours weaving the pieces of art.

For a preview of some of the art in the offices, a video series called “Art at the Capitol 2012: What’s on your wall?” can be found on the Art at the Capitol YouTube and Facebook accounts.
New videos featuring a lawmaker talking about artworks from their office will be posted daily until the day of the event. The YouTube link is http://www.youtube.com/artatthecapitolhi, and the Facebook link is http://www.facebook.com/artatthecapitolhawaii.

“Each year this event keeps getting bigger and better,” said Senator Brian Taniguchi, who has led efforts to open the Capitol on First Friday. “Our State Capitol is like the Louvre in Paris, where we house a vast collection of art in a variety of mediums. We are lucky to be able to display these amazing works of art in our offices, and we wanted to make it more convenient for people to come in and see them all at once, to get the full impact of the collection.”

“Life without art is to exist, with art is to live,” added Rep. Isaac Choy, who coordinates efforts on the House side to bring Art at the Capitol alive each year. “That’s my philosophy and the reason why I appreciate creativity and supporting our local artists. Imagine our state buildings without the ‘Art in Public Places Program’. We wouldn’t have these amazing pieces that enhance our environment, perpetuate our history and culture, and bring to us greater appreciation for the islands.”

“Wa‘a Hoe #2” by Wright Bowman, Sr., 2001, koa wood (located in Rep. Mele Carroll’s office) - Credit: State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.
Works of art are placed in public areas of the State Capitol as part of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts’ “Art in Public Places” program, which seeks to enhance the environmental quality of state public buildings and spaces for the enjoyment and enrichment of the public; cultivate the public’s awareness, understanding and appreciation of visual arts; contribute toward the development and recognition of a professional artistic community; and acquire, preserve, and display works of art expressive of the character of the Hawaiian Islands, the multicultural heritage of its people, and the various creative interests of its artists. The program was established in 1967, and was the first program of its kind in the nation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rep. Giugni Takes Oath of Office

Rep. Heather Giugni and Speaker Say

Newly appointed State Representative Heather Haunani Giugni was sworn in today during the House floor session.  Giugni was appointed by Governor Neil Abercrombie to fill the District 33 seat which covers Aiea, Halawa Valley, Halawa Heights, Aiea Heights, and Red Hill.  Former Representative Tom Okamura, who was previously appointed to the seat in January, stepped down last month unexpectedly due to illness.

"The House welcomes Heather Giugni and looks forward to working with the new representative for the 2012 legislative session," said House Speaker Calvin Say.  "Rep. Giugni has demonstrated her commitment to the community through her work in media, political and cultural projects.  I believe she will bring an interesting and valuable perspective to the legislature."

Rep. Giugni can be reached at 808-586-6340 or by email at repgiugni@capitol.hawaii.gov.  Her office is located in Room 324 of the Hawaii State Capitol.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Kukui Connection - Catherine Betts

Rep. Marilyn Lee is co-chair of the Women's Legislative Caucus and has been a lifelong advocate of women's rights. It's a special treat for Rep. Lee and the audience for her to host Catherine Betts, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women (HSCSW) on the next installment of Kukui Connection.

Catherine opens the show by telling us about her background. A lawyer by trade, she has dedicated her professional life to women's rights, specifically violence prevention. In addition to giving her history, Catherine also fills the audience in on her organization. Established in 1964, the HSCSW falls under the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. The Committee is responsible for keeping women's issues relevant. They are an awareness, advocacy, and educational resource for the people of Hawaii.

Rep. Lee and Ms. Betts discuss a number of issues including the establishment of a Veteran's Court, the Justice Reinvestment Act (which assists women transitioning from incarceration), Title IX, educating young women about women's issues, and putting women on high paying/high profile career paths.

You can find out more about Catherine Betts and the HSCSW on their website, http://hawaii.gov/dhs/women/HSCSW/

The episode airs on Olelo, Channel 54 on Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. 

Jordan's Journal - Ka Wai Ola O Wai'anae

Photo courtesy of Ka Wai Ola o Wai'anae. Nanakuli Stream.
On the next Jordan's Journal, Representative Jo Jordan (District 45 - Waianae, Makaha, Makua) welcomes back Pake Salmon, Communication Coordinator for Ka Wai Ola O Wai'anae, who is joined by Richard Medeiros, Nonpoint Source Pollution Task Force Manager for Ka Wai Ola O Wai'anae.

Photo courtesy of Ka Wai Ola o Wai'anae.
Pake and Richard explain Ka Wai Ola O Wai'anae's mission: to stop illegal dumping and nonpoint source pollution along the Waianae coast. They recently received a $300,000 grant from the EPA to help achieve their goal. They also tell us a little about the organization and how we can get involved. Ka Wai Ola O Wai'anae has four task forces: Commercial, Residential - Nanakuli, Residential - Waianae, and Nonpoint Source Pollution. Members of the public are welcome to join the task force of their choice or serve on an advisory committee. 

Photo courtesy of Ka Wai Ola o Wai'anae. Makua Bay
Nonpoint source pollution generally comes from land runoff and precipitation. Rain water picks up contaminants like toxic chemicals, paint, fertilizer, and bacteria, eventually carrying them to streams and the ocean. The results can be devastating. An 8th grade boy received a staff infection in his foot that resulted in a permanent deformity due to nonpoint source pollution in Pokai Bay. 

Photo courtesy of Ka Wai Ola o Wai'anae.
Richard and Pake make it clear that it will take the entire community to put an end to illegal dumping and nonpoint source pollution in Waianae. If you would like to help, the best way to contact Ka Wai Ola O Wai'anae is through their Facebook page, here is a link.

This episode airs on Olelo, Channel 54 on Sunday, February 19, 2012, 8:30 p.m.

The show will be rebroadcast on Olelo, Channel 54 on Monday, February 20, 2012 and Monday, February 27, 2012 at 1:00 p.m.

You can also watch the full episode on Rep. Jordan's Vimeo channel here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Honoring a Local Hero

SPC Barut and his family joined by Reps. Har, Aquino, and Cullen
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in more than 50,000 of our service women and men returning home after having been wounded in action. The number itself is staggering and each of these courageous Americans deserves our gratitude and appreciation for their sacrifice. Reps. Henry Aquino and Ty Cullen (Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs) took the time to recognize and honor Waipahu native, Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge recipient SPC Edward Barut.

Rep. Aquino and Rep. Cullen presenting SPC Barut with a House Resolution
On October 26, 2011, SPC Barut's convoy was ambushed twice while traveling through Afghanistan's Tangi Valley. The complex attack by insurgents included the use of rocket propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices, and small arms fire. The 45 minute battle left 8 American soldiers, including SPC Barut, wounded.

Speaker Say thanking SPC Barut
SPC Barut was joined at the Capitol by his family and fiance. After Rep. Aquino presented SPC Barut with a House Resolution and Certificate recognizing his sacrifice to the nation, Speaker Say ordered a recess to allow members of the house to personally thank SPC Barut on the House Floor.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rep. Sam Lee (May 16, 1930 – February 10, 2012)

Samuel Lee NR

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rep. Brower Judges the 2012 Miss Diamond Head Pageant

Rep. Brower brought the leather but not the lyrics this time— with Miss Hawaii 2011 Lauren Cheape.

Earlier this month, Rep. Brower accepted the invitation to be a judge for the Miss Diamond Head and Ala Moana Scholarship Program, preliminary pageants to Miss Hawaii 2012 and Miss America 2013.

Other judges included representatives of Hawaii Pacific University, Whole Foods, Halau Na Maka O Ka Laua'e and Mister Hawaii Manhunt International 2011.

Rep. Tom Brower (Waikiki/ Ala Moana) joined by panel judges at the Miss Oahu, Waikiki, Diamond Head and Ala Moana Pageants held Feb. 4 at the Japanese Cultural Center. 
The pageant contestants were judged on their readiness to represent Hawaii, ability to grow and be a team player, and whether they were up for the challenge— as exemplified in the swimsuit, evening gown, talent and platform question rounds.
 "We should have a pageant where looks don't count—oh, yeah. We have the elections." Rep. Brower

As a legislator, Representative Tom Brower is inspired by beauty pageants, which are like elections for attractive, ambitious women— without the sign-waving.

The winners:
Miss Oahu: Carissa Kitaoka (Piano/ Vocal)
Miss Waikiki: Sarah Correia (Hula)
Miss Diamond Head: Skyler Kamaka (Hula)
Miss Ala Moana: Courtney Gaddis (Piano)

To see the winners' picture or for more information: http://www.missoahu.org/index.html

Hawaiian Affairs

Leialoha “Rocky” Kaluhiwa testifies in support of HB2806
The Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and the Committee on Water, Land, & Ocean Resources reconvened yesterday to announce their decisions on several pieces of legislation, including the closely watched HB2521, which would transfer Kaka'ako Makai lands to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The Committees deferred the measure and will wait for the Senate version of the bill to cross over into the house before taking a vote.

The Committee on Hawaiian Affairs adopted multiple pieces of legislation designed to enhance the well-being of Native Hawaiians as well as the state as a whole. Among these bills were HB2806, establishing an aha moku advisory committee within DLNR; HB2807, requiring a comprehensive financial audit of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; and HB2809, designating October as "Kalo Appreciation Month."

Chair Hanohano taking the DoE to task for their lack of support of HB2875
HB2875, requiring reading, math, science, and other assessments administered to students in grades three through six of the department of education's Hawaiian language immersion program to be developed originally in the Hawaiian language, was also adopted by the Committee. The bill received a tremendous outpouring of support from individual citizens, various community organizations, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The only testimony that was not in support of HB2875 came from the Department of Education, whose representative, Cara Tanimura, said, "we would support the bill provided it doesn't impact the budget." Chair Hanohano took exception to the manner in which the DoE handles Native Hawaiian Affairs and gave them a sharp rebuke which was applauded by Rep. Gene Ward.

The Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs will announce its decision on its version of the Kaka'ako Makai land transfer on Monday, February 13th. The announcement can be viewed here

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Investment in Product

Leaders of the tourism industry came with clear messages to share with House lawmakers Monday at an informational briefing with the Tourism Committee: more money is needed for marketing Hawaii at more globally competitive levels and taxing complimentary hotel rooms hurts the industry.

The informational briefing was held to discuss the “Tourism Industry’s Major Pocketbook Issues”. Invited to the hearing were representatives from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Waikiki Improvement Association, and the hotel industry.

"We scheduled this briefing to learn more about the history of tourism taxes in Hawaii and hear from some of the hotel industry leaders who often can't come to the Capitol," said Rep. Tom Brower, chair of the House Tourism Committee. "We wanted to know how our tourism laws are affecting their properties."

Compared to previous years, 2011 was a good year for tourism in Hawaii. However, despite the rise in visitors and revenues, industry leaders warned lawmakers against getting too comfortable.

“This great year we had in 2011 is fragile,” said Rick Egged, President of the Waikiki Improvement Association. He added that the next years may not be as fruitful.

Like his other colleagues mentioned in testimony, Egged said that 2011 was a good year for a variety of reasons, including uncontrollable factors that swayed in Hawaii’s favor. The first of which is the favorable exchange rate for international visitors, the second being the increase of airline destinations from Honolulu.

What can be controlled - and has been a success - is the “investment in product (infrastructure)”, the marketing efforts made by the state, and the amount of cultural and sporting events held throughout the year, he said. However, the state must constantly improve its product and marketing strategies to remain competitive.

Reiterated by many of the testifiers at the briefing was the fact that Hawaii’s infrastructure - specifically parks, beaches, and bathrooms – must be improved. A representative from HTA mentioned that in surveys of Hawaii visitors this category is always rated the lowest.

It was clear that the tourism industry representatives at the informational briefing were on a mission to educate lawmakers on the industry's financial issues and gain support for the measures currently being vetted at the Legislature.

Senate bill (SB490) moving through the process will increase funding for HTA marketing efforts by $2 million every year until 2015. Last year HTA spent $80 million on the marketing of Hawaii. The measure advanced from the Senate Tourism Committee and will cross over to the House for consideration.

Lowell Kalapa, from the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, opined on the new law passed last session that imposes a flat $10 transient accommodation tax on complimentary rooms. This law is “not helping the industry to survive,” he said.

Hotels are known to offer complimentary room packages and promotions to entice guests to stay at their property, and sometimes offer complimentary rooms  to charity organizations. Industry leaders noted that hotels leverage their comp rooms for a substantial return on investment, but they have seen a decrease in comp rooms given since the new law was enacted.

David Carey, from the Outrigger Enterprises Group, told lawmakers that taxing complimentary rooms are not going to achieve the State’s revenue goals, but it does affect the hotel industry's bottom line.

Rep. Tom Brower said that the Tourism Committee wants to look into the complimentary room tax. "Complimentary rooms are used to promote Hawaii as a visitor destination," he stated. "If less complimentary rooms are being offered, we may be hindering the desired results the hotel industry strives for in terms of promotion. I'm also concerned about how this affects Hawaii charities. We'll be taking a good look at the measure when it is heard in committee."

Jordan's Journal - Environmental Protection

On the next Jordan's Journal, Representative Jo Jordan (District 45 - Waianae, Makaha, Makua) talks with Debbie Lowe Liang, Project Officer for the Environmental Protection Agency, based in San Francisco, and Pake Salmon, Communication Coordinator for Ka Wai Ola O Waianae.

Debbie Lowe Liang, who was in Hawaii for a few days, talks about the various grants available to community organizations, especially the Community Action for Renewed Environment (CARE).

Photo by Ka Wai Ola O Waianae.  Illegal dumping in the Waianae area.  

Waianae is a community considered "overburdened" with environmental issues, including illegal dumping, landfill, stream pollution and flooding. Pake Salmon and Ka Wai Ola O Waianae have been involved in the grant application to the EPA, through the Pacific American Foundation, which qualified as a CARE project.  It is the only CARE project in the state of Hawaii. They were granted $300,000 and narrowed their focus to two issues - illegal dumping and non-point source pollution.

You can follow Pake Salmon's organization on Facebook here.

The EPA/CARE grant process is extremely competitive.  Throughout the western region, the EPA receives about 25 applications per year and only one is given.  Waianae is now a CARE community and will be able to network with other CARE communities throughout the west, and to share knowledge and information on how to deal with various environmental issues. Learn more by viewing the full episode.

This show airs on Olelo, Channel 54 on Monday, February 13, 2012, 1:00 p.m.

You can also watch the full episode on Rep. Jordan's Vimeo channel here.

Agriculture Update 2/8/12

Today, the Committee on Agriculture adopted several measures aimed at easing the burden on small farmers and bolstering the agriculture industry statewide.

The issue of funding for plant quarantine inspectors and support staff is critical to the agriculture industry as a whole; inadequate inspection leads to grave consequences, especially for neighbor islands. Rep. McKelvey (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei) pointed out that a lack of funding may close Maui's airport inspection facility, crippling the local economy. The Committee unanimously passed HB1940, which would provide $2.4 million to fund 38 inspectors and 3 support staff positions statewide.

For decades, farmers have been struggling with the building permit process. Two bills intending to address the problem, HB1949 and HB2424, were heard by the Committee today. The bills were nearly identical and would allow farmers to build structures without requiring a county permit. HB2424 ended up being adopted and advances to be heard by the Committee on Water, Land, & Ocean Resources.

The state grades agricultural land from “A” very good to “E” not suitable. The land's grade is a key factor in determining what purpose it may be used for. During the hearing, Rep. McKelvey asked the DoA when the last time the Department graded Agricultural land in the state was. The answer: 1972. A lot can happen over the course of four decades. Rep. McKelvey went on to cite several properties that are still classified as grade "A" agricultural land, despite no longer having any water supply or infrastructure. You can expect to hear more regarding a reevaluation of land grades in the near future.

HB1948 was heard last Friday, but decision making was deferred until today. The bill, which received overwhelming support from the community, as well as state agencies, will strengthen existing laws regarding agricultural theft. The Committee unanimously adopted the measure and it will advance to the Committee on Judiciary.

Chair Tsuji announced that there is new language proposed for HB1947, so the bill will be heard again on Friday, February 10th. HB1947 proposed HD1 requires the Department of Agriculture to establish an agricultural safety and security program. Testimony should be based on the Proposed HD1. Friday's hearing announcement can be viewed here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

OHA Kaka'ako Land Bill HB2521

Gov. Abercrombie testifies in support of HB2521
HB2521 is an Administration bill aimed at resolving the State's $200 million debt to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs relating to ceded land receipts between November 7, 1978 and July 1, 2012. The bill would transfer 30 acres of land at Kaka'ako Makai to OHA, permanently settling the debt without the State paying any cash. Governor Abercrombie personally submitted testimony before the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and the Committee on Water, Land, & Ocean Resources, who held a joint session to address HB2521.

There was overwhelming support for the measure from the administration, OHA, numerous native Hawaiian organizations, and the community at large. Despite the strong support, questions still remain regarding critical aspects of the legislation. The primary concern is whether or not the 30 acres of land at Kaka'ako Makai have a high enough value to satisfy the court decision. Environmental sensitivity led to a moratorium on residential development on the the land in question. This prohibition devalues the land by restricting potential revenue streams. In an effort to give lawmakers additional time to resolve this issue and more, decision making on the bill was deferred by Chairs Hanohano and Chang.

A standing-room only crowd attended the hearing
The Boards will make their decision and vote on HB2521 Thursday, February 8th at 11:15am in room 329 of the Capitol. The hearing notice may be viewed here.

The Kaka'ako Makai land that HB2521 would award to OHA

Friday, February 3, 2012

Agriculture Update

Hawaii Farmers Union President Glenn Martinez testifies in favor of HB2667
Three bills were adopted by the Committee on Agriculture today, all of which were heard during a joint session with the Committee on Economic Revitalization & Business. Bills HB2151, HB2317, and HB2432 represent significant steps toward developing our agriculture industry by helping local farmers.

Introduced by Rep. Chang, HB2151 will allow farmers to sell products from their farms on their farms through the establishment of farm stands. HB2317, which was introduced by Rep. McKelvey, will repeal the prohibition against overnight accommodations as part of agricultural tourism activities on farms. These two bills will provide farmers with an opportunity to bring in much needed, additional revenue, revenue that may be the difference in staying in business or not.

An administration bill, HB2432, will exempt the purchase of fresh meats, produce, animals, and plants by the government from the Hawaii Public Procurement Code. This measure will enable school cafeterias to use local ingredients to feed our children, providing a boost to the local economy while increasing the nutritional value of school meals.

Many of the bills that were deferred received a great deal of attention and heated testimony. Introduced by Speaker Say, HB1827 included a 1 cent fee on each pound of green coffee beans grown in or imported into the state to support an effort to eradicate the coffee borer beetle as well as other provisions aimed at dealing with the potentially devastating threat posed by the insects. The bill was ultimately deferred, but money will be taken from the Barrel Tax to help fund a coffee borer beetle eradication program.

The Department of Agriculture and Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation joined together in strong opposition to HB2301 and HB2667, which were both deferred indefinitely by Chair Tsuji. HB2301, submitted by Rep. Carroll, closely mirrors HB2703 in setting a mandate to double the state's consumption of locally produced food by 2020. The DoA and HFBF agreed with the bill in theory, but opposed the prohibition measure in the bill. Their contention is that prohibiting landowners from reclassifying agricultural lands of 25 or more acres for non-agricultural purposes is not a suitable penalty if landowners fail to meet the goal of doubling our local food consumption from 10% to 20% in 7 years.

Introduced by Chair Tsuji, HB2667, would authorize the DoA to lease land under its jurisdiction to qualified farmers at a reduced rate for food production. Despite testifying several times before the Committee in favor of doubling our local food consumption, both the DoA and the HFBF, opposed this piece of legislation. Their testimony was critical of  HB2667 because it would discriminate against other forms of agriculture, which include GMO seed corn and biofuel crop production. DoA Chair Russell Kokubun went on to say that the Department "does not favor food production."

Another bill introduced by Chair Tsuji, HB1948, received unanimous support from the Committee and from testimony. The bill was deferred for decision making until February 8th to provide lawmakers time to finalize some of the language before adoption. The bill would strengthen laws concerning agricultural theft.

The next hearing for the Committee on Agriculture will be on Monday, February 6, at 11:15am in Conference Room 325 of the Capitol. The agenda can be found here.

Pro Bowl Trophy

 Football fan/ Waikiki Representative Tom Brower with Representatives Sylvia Luke and Scott Saiki, Chief Clerk CJ Leong and NFL Cheerleaders.

Rep. Tom Brower, Chair of the House Tourism committee, joined the Pro Bowl Cheerleaders at Wolfgang's Steakhouse (Waikiki), the official home of the NFL Pro Bowl Trophy on January 23, 2012.

While there, he ran into Reps. Sylvia Luke and Scott Saiki and Chief Clerk CJ Leong, who were having lunch at the restaurant.

"The Pro Bowl Trophy, which was on public display at Wolfgang’s from January 24th -28th, was a great way to kick off Sunday's NFL Pro Bowl event at Aloha Stadium," said Rep. Brower.

For more information on NFL Pro Bowl Hawaii 2012, please visit http://www.nfl.com/probowl.

George Greene to Appear on Kukui Connection

On the next edition of Kukui Connection, Rep. Marilyn Lee welcomes Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO George Greene. Originally from South Carolina, Mr. Greene has been in Hawai'i representing the HAH for the last 3 years. Mr Greene gives poignant insight into the healthcare industry, which is extremely valuable now with the increase in healthcare costs looming over the state.

Mr. Greene makes it clear that the biggest problem facing the healthcare industry in Hawaii is reimbursement, particularly with Medicare and Medicaid. He goes on to assure the public that while the closing of both Hawaii Medical Center facilities has put a strain on the system (particularly concerning organ transplants), there is still adequate healthcare coverage for the state. Rep. Lee and Mr. Greene take time to discuss our having a shortage of experienced nurses while having a surplus of recent nursing degree graduates with no experience and offer a glimpse of what the future may hold when it comes to staffing nurses.

You can find out more information about the HAH, as well as what legislation they endorse for this session, on their website, www.hah.org. The episode airs on 'Olelo 54 tonight, Friday, February 3rd at 8:30pm and will be rebroadcast on Sunday, February 5 and Sunday, February 12 at 4pm. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rep C. Lee on access to emergency contraception for sexual assault victims

Rep. Chris Lee's floor remarks in support of HB 127, which requires hospitals and emergency rooms to provide information about emergency contraception to sexual assault victims, and dispense emergency contraception upon request. Ten members voted "no", while eight voted "yes, with reservations". The measure will now be referred to the House Finance Committee.

Each year about 25,000 women become pregnant as a result of sexual assault.
 Especially in cases of assault, the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and a host of others believe that medically accurate information and the option to use emergency contraception should be provided to all victims as a measure of basic medical treatment.
 Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted legislation requiring the provision of information about or access to emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault in emergency rooms. As well, all military and federal hospitals make sure to have emergency contraception stocked and available.
If there are political implications to consider as we vote on this bill, rest assured that seventy-three percent of registered voters believe pharmacies should not be allowed to refuse dispensing emergency contraception based on moral or religious grounds. In hospitals and cases of assault approval is even higher. As recent as the year 2000, even among Catholic women, seventy-eight percent support emergency contraception in cases of assault.
No matter how anyone feels, passing this bill is common sense. We are a nation of multiple religions and conflicting beliefs. However, as an objective government we ought to default and defer to sound medical directives and individual choice.
For victims of sexual assault who have had their bodies and rights violated once, it is especially important that we not allow government to mandate whether or not they will be violated a second time by forcing an unwanted pregnancy upon these victims. The choice must be the individual's to make, and we must pass this bill to make sure that victims are given the opportunity to make that choice themselves, no matter which hospital they end up in.

Free Tax Clinic, Feb 4 @ State Capitol

Free Tax Clinic Feb 4 Capitol

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An Update on Agriculture

David Case of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association submits testimony
Concepts like sustainability, food security, and food sovereignty have made their way into conversations throughout the state. Today's Committee on Agriculture hearing vetted several pieces of legislation aimed at channeling this new found interest in sustainable agriculture into policy. Of the 11 bills covered at the hearing, 4 dealt with overarching policy directives relating to food security.

Dean Okimoto, HFBF President/Ho'opili consultant, testifies before the committee
A great deal of testimony, both written and verbal, was submitted regarding these bills; the overwhelming majority of which was in support of the legislation. The committee unanimously adopted 3 of the 4 bills and deferred HB1947, dealing with the creation of an agricultural safety and security program, to be heard again on February 8th. Two of the adopted measures, HB2430, which will create an agricultural development and food security program within the Department of Agriculture, and HB2431, which outlines objectives and policies to support the purchase and consumption of locally grown products, were part of a policy package from the Governor's office. The final bill to be adopted, HB2703, will require the Department of Agriculture to develop a food sustainability standard to promote local food production as well as mandate doubling our locally produced food consumption by 2020, was the only time the discussion became contentious.

Board of Agriculture Chair, Russell Kokubun, submits testimony
Although they both supported the bill, Dean Okimoto, President of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, and Russell Kokubun, Chairman of the Board of Agriculture, requested the punitive measure for land owners who fail to meet the goal of increased production of locally grown food be stripped from HB2703 (if landowners fail to meet the goal, they will be unable to re-designate agricultural land of 25 acres or more for other purposes until they are compliant). Hawaii Farmers Union President, Glenn Martinez, questioned the effectiveness of the legislation if its sole enforcement mechanism was removed. Without mentioning it by name, Mr. Martinez brought up the elephant in the room; Ho'opili. Mr. Martinez pointed out the fact that while both the HFBF and the DoA testified in support of doubling the amount of locally produced food to make it onto dinner tables in the state, they also stand behind the controversial planned housing development, which will uproot the state's largest produce producer, Aloun Farms, and turn 1,500 acres of prime agricultural land into 11,750 new homes.

Hawaii Farm Union President, Glenn Martinez, testifying before the Committee
The next Committee on Agriculture hearing is Friday, February 3 at 8:00am in room 312 at the Capitol. The agenda for the hearing can be found here.

"808 Boyz" Win NFL Flag Football National Championship

Speaker Say joined Governor Abercrombie in congratulating the 2012 NFL Flag Football National Champions, Palolo's "808 Boyz." This marks the first Flag Football National Championship for Hawai'i. In honor of the team's accomplishments, the governor issues a proclamation declaring January 31, 2012 "808 Boyz Day."

Despite entering the final round of tournament competition with an undefeated record, the Boyz were given the 6th seed. Battling back against continental bias, the Boyz defeated the defending national champions from Florida in the semi-finals before dismantling a team from Cincinnati to win the championship. The team members are Jayden De Laura, Andrei Iosivas, Ka'ua Nishigaya, Noali Nishigaya, Rocky Ramones, Zachary Sagayaga, and Noa Schachtel. Coaches Jacob De Laura, Myles Nishigaya, and Edgar Sagayaga helped the Boyz make history. The championship game will air April 1 on ESPN and April 15 on ESPN2. Congratulations to the "808 Boyz." Hawai'i is proud of your hard work, perseverance, and accomplishment.


How You Can Become More Involved in the Legislative Process

Many people feel disenfranchised by our government. They feel that our system lacks transparency, accountability, accessibility, and responsiveness. The apathy that, all too often, results doesn't improve this perception; action does. Your rights to take action and participate in the democratic process are not limited to voting in elections or donating to campaigns.

Every piece of legislation must pass through committee before being voted on by the legislature. Committees hold hearings which provide the people a forum to express their opinions on each bill. A schedule of the hearings can be found posted several places throughout the capitol and online. It may be impossible for you to physically attend the hearings, but it couldn't be easier to still make your voice heard. You may do so through any ONE the following options:

PAPER:  5 copies (including an original) to Room 424 in the State Capitol;
FAX:       For comments less than 5 pages in length, transmit to 586-6511(Oahu) or 1-800-535-3859 (for Neighbor Islanders without a computer to submit testimony through e-mail or the Web); or
EMAIL:  For comments less than 5 pages in length, transmit to AGRtestimony@Capitol.hawaii.gov ; or
WEB:      For comments less than 4MB in size, transmit from the Web page at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/submittestimony.aspx.

Screenshot for submitting testimony through the website
Technology has made our government more accessible than ever, yet people still feel powerless. Abstaining from submitting testimony, be it due to ignorance or attitude, makes you powerless. The only thing stopping you from having a say in your future, in the future of Hawai'i, is you. Squeaky wheels get attention and this is an election year. This is your government and you have more influence over legislative outcomes than you may have been aware of. If you're not content with the way things are going, or even if you are, please take advantage of the mechanisms that were put in place to keep you relevant to your future. We look forward to seeing and hearing from more of you this session.