Monday, December 31, 2007

What is your Representative looking forward to in the 2008 Legislative Session?

Rep. John Mizuno: "Working with our outstanding colleagues from the House and the Senate to pass measures to benefit the people of Hawaii. I am really looking forward to the floor debate with Rep. Gene Ward."

Rep. Cindy Evans: "I'm looking forward to the legislative process and passing legislation that will respond to the challenges facing Hawaii, such as recruiting physicians, improving communication after a disaster, and making our roads safer to drive."

Rep. Kirk Caldwell: "I'm looking forward to working out solutions that are short and long term in nature."

What was your Representative's most memorable moment of 2007?

Image from The University of Hawaii website.

Rep. Kirk Caldwell:
"To me the overall feeling of the Warriors going 12-0 is a defining moment. I have never seen so many people in Hawaii feeling so good about one thing."

Rep. Cindy Evans: "As Chair of Military Affairs, I went to the Pentagon in June and met with the heads of each branch of the military. This visit was extra special because my mother served as a Navy Wave during WWII and worked in communications at the Pentagon."

Rep. John Mizuno: "The veto override for HB1830 -- Hawaii's Baby Safe Haven bill -- which allowed Hawaii to become the 48th state to have a Baby Safe Haven Law."

Rep. Tom Brower: "One of my most memorable moments of 2007 was landing on board the USS Ronald Reagan. Since I was a boy, I always wanted to visit an aircraft carrier. Being able to sleep aboard the ship, see the crew and feel their dedication will leave a life long impression. I will never forget what I learned about our armed services members and the military power of the United States."

Legislature responds on GIA process

Rep. Marcus Oshiro submitted a letter to the editor to The Advertiser last week Wednesday responding to the 3-part series on the Grant-in-Aid process.  It appeared this morning as did an op-ed from Senator Roz Baker.

The Finance Chair proposes three major changes starting in the 2008 session:
  1. Holding a public briefing for all grant applications.
  2. Posting the applications online on the capitol website.
  3. Eliminating the subcommittees of the Finance Committee dealing with grants, capitol improvements and taxation.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rep. Karamatsu resigns as House Vice-Speaker

Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu (Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele) today resigned from his position as Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives.

"I realize I made a serious error in judgement, and I wish to take full responsibility for my actions," said Karamatsu in a letter to Speaker of the House Calvin Say.

The resignation comes in the wake of an alcohol-related traffic incident involving only Karamatsu. On December 21, Karamatsu pleaded no contest in District Court. It was his first offense.

"It is my idea and my choice to resign as Vice-Speaker," said Karamatsu. "I don't wish to be a source of distraction for the House of Representatives."

Say thanked Rep. Karamatsu for his decision. "I appreciate Jon Riki's willingness to look past himself and put the institution and the people's business first," he said. "I know he has already learned from this experience, and I am eager to see him move forward with his life."

No replacement for Karamatsu has yet been announced. Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell has assumed the duties of Vice-Speaker since Karamatsu's temporary suspension in October.

"House Leadership will be looking into a replacement for Rep. Karamatsu, and a recommendation will be made by the Legislature's opening day in January," said Speaker Say.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence receives $25,000 grant

Lindsay Pease, Northwest Regional Rep. for Allstate; Cindy Cline, Deputy Director of Women Helping Women on Maui; Suzanne Green, Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Rep. John Mizuno

Thanks to the efforts of Suzanne Green, Cindy Cline and Rep. John Mizuno, the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from Allstate Hawaii to fund an educational program that will help abate domestic violence. (Green is a domestic violence educator with HSCADV, and Cline is the Deputy Director of Women Helping Women of Maui.)

In October, while attending an Economic Empowerment Conference to End Domestic Violence in Chicago, the three-member team met and discussed economic empowerment projects for Hawaii with Lindsay Pease, a representative from Allstate.

Allstate answered their call for support in Hawaii with a generous grant that will fund curriculum and two-day training education for domestic violence service providers who will in turn provide economic education classes to victims and survivors of domestic violence.

At the conference, the team collaborated with financial institutions to help victims of abuse and reviewed federal and state policies on domestic violence. They also worked on asset building and collaborated with survivor center economic advocacy representatives to seek methods to effectively address domestic violence.

A message from Rep. John Mizuno:

"Measures to address domestic violence will be a hot issue for the 2008 legislative session. While funding will be relatively low for the upcoming session, we will try to be creative in seeking private funds and matching funds from the federal government, such TANF, to address domestic violence and to simply increase the awareness and education of domestic violence and asset building to the people of Hawaii. We need to end domestic violence through advocacy, education, prevention, awareness, support, economic empowerment and through policies."

Mahalo Nui Loa,

Rep. John Mizuno

Rep. Caldwell wants more specific answers on petroleum industry profits

House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell expects the 2008 Legislature to refine the oil monitoring program in order to get to more specific information on petroleum industry profits.

In The Honolulu Advertiser's story about how our gasoline prices would be less today if the gas price cap was still in effect, Caldwell said that we should keep the full price cap in suspension and work on improving the reporting and monitoring system. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) also recommends not reinstating the gas cap, pursuant to the findings of the PIMAR Annual 2007 Report, just released last Friday. According to the report, the cap would have forced low prices today, but created artificially high prices in the spring.

Here are some pertinent points from the PUC report summary:
  • Refinery profit margins are lower than on the Mainland, but dealer and supplier margins, which drive our gas prices higher, are higher than on the mainland.

  • Pump prices generally tracked world prices.

  • Pump prices aren't caused by "collective" price changes.
Caldwell doesn't think that the report reveals enough detail. He said that it gives us good insight into the oil industry, but we still don't know if the excessive profits are being made or if the system is working fairly.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Show n' Tell with Rep. Clift Tsuji

Representative Clift Tsuji shares his favorite Christmas memories, family traditions and thoughts on Santa!

Hawaii House Blog: What is the most memorable Christmas gift you have received?
Rep. Tsuji: Twelve coquis croaking.

HHB: If Santa were real, what would he say to you?
R.T.: You mean Santa isn't real???


Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Show n' Tell with Rep. Marilyn Lee

Representative Marilyn Lee shares her favorite Christmas memories, family traditions and thoughts on Santa! Each day until Christmas Day a new Representative will be featured on Christmas Show 'n Tell.

Hawaii House Blog: What is the most memorable Christmas gift you have received?
Rep. Lee: Our granddaughter, Maya, who was born on Christmas Eve. She will be six on the 24th.

HHB: How does your family spend Christmas? Any traditions?
R.L.: Our children come here from the mainland. We bake gingerbread cookies and paint them with frosting using a real paintbrush. I cook Peking duck once a year!

HHB: If Santa were real, what would he say to you?
R.L.: That the best gift he could bring would be peace in the world, especially in places like Iraq and Sudan.

Photo: Image from

Check back Monday for responses from Rep. Clift Tsuji!

Rep. Sagum Meets with Community on Hanapepe Salt Ponds

The Kauai Garden Island reports today on Rep. Roland Sagum's meeting with the community to protect the Hanapepe Salt Ponds. Rep. Sagum is a freshman legislator from District 16 - Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea, who won the seat vacated by former Rep. Bertha Kawakami. He invited colleagues from the House Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources and Hawaiian Affairs - Rep. Ken Ito, chair, and Rep. Pono Chong, vice-chair - to listen to the discussion and to answer legislative questions.

Rep. Sagum introduced a bill last session to protect the salt ponds. The bill didn't make it through, but he plans to introduce another bill in 2008. From the Garden Island story, here's the gist of the problem:

“There’s so much development going on around here that it’s affecting the salt,” said Kuulei Santos, a salt maker who has carried on her family’s tradition.

Santos explained that water travels underground into wells about 4 feet deep. The salt makers transfer the water into beds made from black clay. The beds are about 4 feet by 3 feet and sun-baked. When the water crystallizes it forms salt. Though listed on the State Historic Preservation Register, there are no physical structures protecting the low-lying area from the activity around it. According to Santos, an area between the parking lot and beach was backfilled with old asphalt, which has disrupted the drainage of water to the beds. In addition, the neighboring Port Allen airport has undergone some development, Kaalani Road running alongside the ponds is eroding, and mud from the cane fields flows downhill to the ponds during the rainy season.

“There’s so much development going on around here that it’s affecting the salt,” said Kuulei Santos, a salt maker who has carried on her family’s tradition. Santos explained that water travels underground into wells about 4 feet deep. The salt makers transfer the water into beds made from black clay. The beds are about 4 feet by 3 feet and sun-baked. When the water crystallizes it forms salt.

Though listed on the State Historic Preservation Register, there are no physical structures protecting the low-lying area from the activity around it. According to Santos, an area between the parking lot and beach was backfilled with old asphalt, which has disrupted the drainage of water to the beds. In addition, the neighboring Port Allen airport has undergone some development, Kaalani Road running alongside the ponds is eroding, and mud from the cane fields flows downhill to the ponds during the rainy season.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Show 'n Tell with Rep. Cindy Evans

Representative Cindy Evans shares her favorite Christmas memories, family traditions and thoughts on Santa! Each day until Christmas Day a new Representative will be featured on Christmas Show 'n Tell.

Hawaii House Blog: What is the most memorable Christmas gift you have received?

Rep. Evans: I always remember a pencil given to me by my grandmother (mother's mom), who had ten children and lots of grandchildren. I felt very special because she remembered me.

HHB: How does your family spend Christmas? Any traditions?

R.E.: These past eight years I've gotten into the habit of baking scallops and shrimp with butter and garlic, and serving it with beef. You can always hear Christmas music in my house during December. On Christmas Day, I especially like to listen to country and western musicians playing Christmas music.

HHB: If Santa were real, what would he say to you?

R.E.: Freedom to choose is priceless.
Photo: Image from

Check back tomorrow for responses from Rep. Marilyn Lee!

Twas the week before Christmas, and all thru the House

Not a creature was stirring... after eating all that ono Hawaiian food at the House annual Christmas party.

Josette (Tech Support) and Adele (Chief Clerk's Office) greet the members and staffs of all the offices, minority and majority, and all the employees of the support agencies, who are invited to have lunch and share some holiday spirit.

Speaker Calvin Say (left) was our host today. The Speaker always hosts the annual Christmas lunch as a thank you to the House employees. Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell serves up some Kalua Pork. In the background are Gail (Tech Support) and Poni (Rep. Hanahano's office).

House carolers from left, with gusto, Rep. Cindy Evans, Faye Hanohano, Lyla Berg, Marcus Oshiro, Scott (friend of the House), Blake Oshiro.

(You can click on all the photos to enlarge, this one especially. )

Tammy (Print Shop) and Denise (Chief Clerk's Office) serve up a Hawaiian plate for Amy (Rep. Waters' office). House members and staff dined on poi, lomi salmon, squid luau, chicken long rice, kalua pork, Okinawan sweet potato, and pipi kaula.

Matt (Sgt. at Arms Messenger) and Tammi (Sgt. at Arms Mail Manager) talk story with Ann (Rep. Nakasone's office). For dessert, there was pineapple, haupia and pumpkin squares.

Ahi poke `a la Denise (Chief Clerk's Office). The staff members of the Chief Clerk's Office all wore their University of Hawaii Warrior T-shirts.

Cyndi (Rep. Caldwell's office) and Ted (Legislative Reference Bureau) say Mele Kalikimaka to all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rep. Karen Awana Joins the House Majority

Today, Rep. Karen Awana went down to the Democratic Party Headquarters, signed her card, and announced her decision to change political parties. Rep. Awana represents District 44 - Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Lualualei. She becomes the 44th Democrat in the House Majority Caucus, leaving 7 Republicans for a House total of 51 members.

Here are quotes from the House Majority press release welcoming Rep. Awana to the caucus:

"Within the past year, I have learned that it would be in the best interest of the community which I serve to join the Democrats," said Rep. Awana. "As a new member of the legislature, I have learned more about the legislative process and the relationships that are important to effectuate positive change. It is my belief that this change, to become a Democrat, will allow me to better serve my community and my constituents."
Photo: Reps Michael Magaoay, Calvin Say, Marilyn Lee, Karen Awana and Sharon Har

"I support Rep. Awana in her decision," said House Speaker Calvin Say. "Over the past year, I have observed that Rep. Awana's first priority is helping her district, which has a severe homeless and housing situation, large unemployment numbers and a serious drug problem. I believe she is doing what she needs to do to help her community."

Rep. Awana's committee assignments will be reviewed and possibly changed by the Speaker's office. She currently serves on the Committees on Finance, Health, Human Services & Housing, and International Affairs.

"The Majority Caucus welcomes Karen Awana and looks forward to working with her during the next legislative session," said Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell. "She is a promising freshman legislator, and we value her new voice and future contributions to our caucus."
Photo: Inspi(red)? From left, Marilyn Lee, Sharon Har, Marcus Oshiro, Tom Brower, Karen Awana, Annelle Amaral.
UPDATE: Here are the links to the news reports on Rep. Awana. The Advertiser here and here. The SB here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Caregiving Report Moves Forward

Photo: Hawaii Business

The Joint Legislative Committee on Family Caregiving met today and voted to accept the draft committee report, and to authorize the chairs (Senator Ihara and Rep. Lee) to make any changes prior to submitting the final to the Senate President and Speaker of the House. The report is available at or click here. Based on the findings, draft legislation will be produced for introduction in the 2008 legislative session. Recommendation highlights include:

*The work of the committee be extended for one year beyond its sunset date of June 30, 2008, and that the name of the committee be changed to Joint Legislative Committee on Aging in Place.

*An appropriation for the Kupuna Care program administered by the Executive Office on Aging, to continue providing services to qualified caregivers.

*A tax credit for the cost of home modifications, or grants for home modification through Kupuna Care using a cash and counseling approach.

*Establish a caregiver tax credit for caregivers who provide care for qualified care recipients, or grants through Kupuna Care using a cash and counseling approach.

*That the University of Hawaii coordinate people and resources on elder issues. An interdisciplinary center of aging should be formally and physically established and should serve as the focal point of all information related to eldercare.

*Establish an employee-financed paid family leave program under the state Temporary Disability Insurance Law to provide wage replacement benefits to employees who take time off from work to care for a seriously ill family member.

*Appropriation of funds for a cash and counseling program in which non-Medicaid participants direct and manage their personal assistance services according to their own specific needs.

*Establish a task force to follow up on the issues raised by the grandparents raising grandchildren.

*That Emergency respite, overnight respite, and weekend respite be added as covered services under the Kupuna Care program.

*Adoption of a resolution to request the UH to include in its natural disaster planning program provisions to address the needs of Hawaii's elderly, particularly caregivers and elderly shut-ins.

State Budget 2008 - Kickoff

The Lingle administration unveiled their supplemental budget request yesterday, covered by the Advertiser here and the SB here. The response from House Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro was measured. It's still early and there appears to be agreement on the state's financial priorities: housing, education, and transportation infrastructure. The differences will surface in the amount of the allocations. And what exactly are those tax cuts? Still to come is the report from the Council on Revenues in early January that may influence the direction of the numbers. The governor appears to be using the strategy of increasing spending on CIP (capitol improvement projects) to invigorate a predicted economic slowdown. Finance Chair Oshiro says "he's not there yet" regarding the need to implement that strategy, questioning whether there is a need for more public projects. You can read the highlights in the newspaper reports, but here are some of the items that didn't get as much ink:

*The establishment of 108 positions in the Department of Education for autism services, previously handled by contract personnel. No budget amount was provided. This includes teachers, educational aides, social workers and behavioral specialists.

*$19.9 million for a Hawaiian Language building at UH-Hilo.

*$2.5 million for improvements to the library collection and services at UH Manoa campus.

*$33.5 million in special funds and revenue bonds for continued highway operations and to complete current highway projects on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. $20 million emergency appropriation request to meet increases in highway operating costs, including special maintenance.

*$10 million for adult mental health outpatient services as a result of growing caseloads and escalating costs.

*$10.5 million to expand energy conservation measures in public buildings statewide.

*And, $7.9 million for repairs to the State Capitol reflecting pools.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Students Lobby at Capitol for Invisible Children

Photo: from left - Paul Tran, Jennifer O. Scott, Bangu Ntwaagae, Aya Sato, Chelsea Travis, Jennifer Zondlo and Rep. John Mizuno.

With draft legislation in hand, a group of students lobbied at the state capitol today for a bill and resolution to help the invisible children of Uganda.

The worldwide Invisible Children campaign aims to raise funds for the children impacted by the 20-year-long war in Northern Uganda. Hawaii Pacific University students have established a Hawaii branch club of the organization, Invisible Children Hawaii, which is part of the Schools 4 Schools program. Click here to view their impressive website.

The draft bill, entitled RELATING TO THE EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM, prohibits the ERS from acquiring securities of companies that have active business operations with Uganda. It's similar to the bill that passed last year related to investments in Darfur. The draft resolution is entitled CONDEMNING THE GENOCIDE AND VIOLENCE IN NORTHERN UGANDA AND URGING CONGRESS WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE PRESIDENT TO ENGAGE THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN OF UGANDA.

Invisible Children Hawaii plans a "Sleep-In" at the State Capitol during the legislative session to demonstrate their opposition to the war and to gather support for Ugandan students.

House to provide greater closed caption service

A memo is going out today from the House Chief Clerk to announce that starting with the 2008 legislative session, all House hearings and floor sessions that are broadcast to outside audiences will be closed captioned. This service is provided as part of federal guidelines to help the hearing impaired community. Here are some details:

*It will eliminate the need for signers, who are sometimes difficult to schedule at short notice.
*As the events will be captioned in real time with a 2-5 second delay, we'll be able to put TV's in the hearing room for the public.

*The captioning will be permanently part of the video so that the hearing impaired may also watch the re-plays and continue to be involved.

*Captioning is also beneficial to those with normal hearing who want to follow the proceedings but need to keep the volume low or mute.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Broadband Task Force to Request More Funds

After a presentation by Connected Nation, the Broadband Task Force decided yesterday to propose an appropriation of state funds to conduct more detailed research and mapping efforts of broadband usage, availability and deployment in Hawaii communities.

Connected Nation is a national non-profit organization that has a three-state track record of increasing broadband availability and creating demand for new-age technology.

The organization uses grassroots and localized efforts to form a comprehensive broad band network.

The first step would be to measure the availability, use and need of broadband. One way that they accomplish this is by building coalitions with private sectors who agree to provide their deployment data. Because private sectors would be hesitant to provide data that could be shared with competing companies, Connected Nation is able to promise them a non-disclosure agreement that preserves the intent of their business plans.

In past initiatives, private sectors have provided 20 percent of funding while the state provided 80 percent.

Connected Nation's intelligent marketing services include maps, survey data, and grassroots demand aggregation that provide a detailed picture of where broadband service is needed. Once areas of need are determined, the next steps would be determining why households are not connected, influencing the community of its relevance and providing broadband to them.

Grant-in-aid applications available on line

Applications for grants-in-aid are now available online at Deadline: Submittals must be received (not postmarked) by 4:30 p.m. on January 31, 2008. Applications go to both the House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Caregivers contribute to the state's economy

Rep. Marilyn Lee has an op-ed in this morning's Advertiser on the work of the Joint Committee on Family Caregiving. Main point? Don't just think of caregiving as volunteerism. That the elders in our society are also caregivers to other elders, and they are significant contributors to Hawaii's economy. The legislature appropriated $120,000 for a report and the results should be out very soon; it's due 20 days prior to the January 16th start of the 2008 session.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Unlovin' Oven

by Representative Marilyn Lee

In 2004, 1-year-old Aslyn Ryan was left in a hot car while the babysitter ran an errand. She died two days later after suffering from heat stroke. The Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin today reported that Aslyn's parents were awarded $2 million in a lawsuit; they don't expect to collect the money, filing the suit primarily to promote community awareness on this senseless loss of life. I introduced a "Child Endangerment" bill, HB356, in the 2007 session that failed to pass, and I have introduced similar bills over the past five years that were also unsuccessful. The opinion piece below was written at that time. When will we be able to pass this bill? An updated version will be introduced this year. Let's help the Ryan's to educate the community on the dangers of leaving children in cars. Let's not wait until another tragedy to enact legislation that will save children's lives.


Notwithstanding the controversial debate about whether the “Safe Haven” bill is a good idea, most have forgotten that the "Child Endangerment" bill, which makes it unlawful to leave a child under 9-years-old alone in a motor vehicle, failed again this year. Babies and children left alone in motor vehicles in Hawaii demonstrate a shocking chronology since 2003:

1. October 2003—a 10-month-old girl dies after having been “forgotten” in the back seat by her mother for several hours in Kaneohe.
2. February 14, 2005—a 2-year-old Lahaina boy left alone in a parked pickup truck 20 feet from where his parents are standing, manages to put the vehicle in gear, causing the truck to move forward, hitting a woman and a building.
3. March 29, 2005—a 5-month-old girl is left in a parked car with the engine running while her father went into a nearby restaurant to pick up lunch.
4. June 22, 2005—a 4 month old girl is left in a pickup truck with the engine running in front of 7-Eleven. The truck was stolen.
5. August 26, 2005—a 3-year-old boy is accidentally kidnapped when the vehicle in which he was left is stolen.
6. October 2005--two young boys are left alone in a van in Kapolei while Mom went to the bank. Vehicle is stolen.
7. March 2007--3-year old girl dies after being left in a closed car for an hour and a half while Dad went to visit friends.

More shocking than this is the fact that across the nation there were 34 deaths of children in 2001 and 30 deaths of children in 2002 -- left alone in cars where temperatures can rise to an alarming degree in a short while, creating a veritable oven. Moreover, kidnapped children run the risk of torture, sexual abuse or murder.

Under current Hawaii law, if a person leaves a minor alone in a motor vehicle, the person may be facing a misdemeanor offense of endangering the welfare of a minor in the second degree---but only if the person KNOWINGLY endangered the minor. The “knowing” state of mind requires that a person must be practically certain that his act will endanger the physical or mental health of a minor and is very difficult to prove, hence seldom prosecuted.

For that reason, House Bill 356 and its antecedents have been developed over the past 5 years as an “absolute liability” violation resulting in a fine with no requirement to prove “state of mind”. In addition, the driver’s examination would include a question about the law, and rental cars would be required to post notice of the law in the vehicle. One could compare the “absolute liability” violation to our seatbelt law.

Sadly, though, House and Senate conferees have been unable to agree on this bill. It is fairly certain that another injury or death will occur again if there is no enforceable law, or an educational process to warn parents and caregivers about the inherent dangers of this practice. In a recent opinion published by Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals, Justice Corinne Watanabe provides an exhaustive review of the purpose and use of offenses involving absolute liability, especially their usefulness in preventing conduct, which provides a threat to public safety.

Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder why we have not yet taken action to protect our most precious citizens. In the words of the national organization, KIDS in CARS:

“Would you leave one million dollars in your car?”
“Would you let your child play with a loaded gun?”

This is a no brainer!

At least 12 states have passed legislation which prohibits leaving children alone in motor vehicles. Promoting the safety of children with this simple law and nominal fine may save lives and help to remind parents and caregivers of their sacred and absolute trust.

*term coined by Barbara Mikkelson

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Policy shift in housing prisoners

Both House and Senate Public Safety chairs agreed today that they are looking to make a major policy shift by bringing Hawaii prisoners back home from mainland prisons, starting with the women. As of this date, the Department of Public Safety has no proposal or plan to make this happen, but the department has determined the potential costs involved. For example, in Kentucky, the cost per prisoner per day is $58.43, compared to Hawaii at $93.46 per day. There are currently 175 Hawaii women incarcerated in the Kentucky women's prison, but based on a number of 120 prisoners, it costs the state about 2.5 million per year to keep the women in Kentucky compared to 3.5 million per year to move them back to Hawaii. Add other expenses, and it could cost between $1 and 2 million more per year to house the women in Hawaii. While it may be cheaper to send prisoners to the mainland, the legislators believe that policy has its pros and cons.

Here are some notes from the briefing:

Arizona - Saguaro and Red Rock: Legislators agreed that both are impressive, new facilities, although they are a great distance from the community. Saguaro opened last May and Red Rock opened in July. They are so new that they are not fully operational, and it may be another 18 months before they are. Rep. Evans was struck by the simplicity of the buildings, basic concrete tilt-up design, inexpensive but effective. The Red Rock facility has a majority of prisoners from Alaska. The Alaska contract calls for their prisoners to get meat at meals three or four times a week, and the lucky Hawaii prisoners get to take advantage of that benefit.

Letters from prisoners: Senator Espero brought to the hearing a number of letters from prisoners complaining about the conditions. He followed up with the department on a few of them because "while they may seem small, they are important to the prisoners." We learned that the state is charged 25 cents per minute for phone calls made by Hawaii prisoners in Arizona. That seems expensive considering that phone calls by Hawaii-based prisoners are only 3 cents per minute. The department will check on it. The phone calls on the mainland are taped, and stored for 30 days. Hawaii does not tape phone calls, but performs random monitoring, meaning that sometimes a guard is listening while the prisoner makes a call.

There was a complaint that prisoners don't get computer time. The department clarified that prisoners do get to use the computer, but they are not allowed to access the Internet.

There was a complaint that prisoners don't have access to the Law Library. Actually, all prisoners are allowed access to the Law Library for a minimum of 3 hours per week. However, that's dependent on whether the library is open during the prisoner's time to use the service, and certain prisoners have priority, such as those who have docketed cases.

VideoConferencing. The Department of Public Safety is planning to establish 4-10 videoconferencing sites across the state so that local families may stay in touch with family members at mainland prisons. The department is actively looking for sites and has been talking to a number of churches.

Changes to SB932 or Act 8. Both the department and the legislature want to revisit SB932 to make some improvements. The department has not hired any new staff to fill the positions authorized by Act 8, nor has the governor released the appropriated funds.

Top Legislative Issues for 2008. The department listed: 1)Re-integration of programs; 2)Enhanced law enforcement; and 3)Repair and maintenance of facilities.

We can do that here, too!

Rep. Cindy Evans returned from visiting Kentucky women prisons with a grand message for audience members today at an informational briefing regarding Hawaii prison policies: The female inmates from Hawaii feel better about themselves there than they do here.

The women prefer the Kentucky prisons to Hawaii facilities, said Rep. Evans. In Kentucky, they are able to complete the drug rehab program in a much more efficient and consistent time period. In Hawaii, many inmates couldn't even finish what should be a three-week treatment because of the many starts and stops. Some had to wait as long as a year to complete their treatment. Here in Hawaii, the women were asked to bare their souls only to be dropped like cigarette butts with no one helping to pick up the pieces. They felt worse about themselves after completing – or not completing – the program in Hawaii.

In Kentucky, the women prisoners felt better about themselves because of little things. For example, they were allowed to have tweezers to pluck their eyebrows, wear makeup, wear jewelry if it cost less than $50, and color their hair. However, Evans also noticed that the female prisoners do not receive enough warm clothing for the mainland winter, and that this must be difficult for locals who are not used to the cold weather. At 65 degrees in Ewa Beach, MY teeth begin to chatter! If an inmate or her family can't afford thermal underwear or warmer jackets, they must concede to forfeit outside privileges and/or endure the cold weather.

Even with acclimation difficulties, why, you ask, are our representatives pushing to bring them home when they are blatantly receiving better rehab aid?

Because as Rep. Evans mentioned several times throughout the hearing, "We can do that here, too."

2010 or 2012?

Do we need to change the Hawaii State Constitution? That's what voters will need to ask themselves when they determine in the 2008 election whether to hold a Constitutional Convention. If the voters say YES, some news reports indicated that the convention would be held in 2010. Not necessarily. There are two scenarios, a regular schedule and an expedited schedule.

For the regular schedule, if voters say YES, the legislature determines the number of delegates to be elected and from what area they come. The public would then elect the individual delegates in the 2010 election. Those delegates must convene not less than 5 months before the 2012 general election. The Constitutional Convention ballot issues would be on the ballot in 2012.

For the expedited schedule, the legislature determines the number of delegates to be elected and from what area they come. They can then hold a special election to elect the individual delegates. The delegates must convene not less than 5 months prior to the 2010 general election. The Constitutional Convention ballot issues would be on the ballot in 2010.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What Hawaii family caregivers need...

The Joint Legislative Committee on Family Caregiving met today to discuss the results of an assessment of 600 caregivers across Hawaii to help develop a comprehensive public policy program to support family caregivers who provide unpaid, informal assistance to persons sixty and older with physical or cognitive disabilities (Act 285, 2006). They also reviewed a report of respite care policies and programs in other states, and an inventory of respite services in Hawaii.

According to the results of the Needs Assessment of Family Caregivers in Hawaii, 73 percent of caregivers are female, they are generally young with an average age of 56 and more than half of caregivers are caring for an aging parent. In addition, approximately 12-15 percent of the surveyed caregivers have used community services such nursing, training, case management, legal services and transportation. However, many caregivers cited the need for better medical care and respite services.

The results of the respite service inventory in Hawaii lacked many answers to detailed audience and panel questions. The report listed 43 respite agencies, where only eight of them went offsite to relieve caregivers, and 23 only accepted private payment.In order to develop a comprehensive public policy program to aid these family caregivers more research surveys must be done to answer the following questions:

1. How many people can a respite take in at one time?
2. How much does it cost?
3. What are the hours of operation?
4. What are the terms of acceptance or rejection?
5. What kind of respite is provided? Emergency? Long-term? Short-term?

Rep. Yamashita Surveys Upcountry Flood Damage

Rep. Kyle Yamashita returned to Maui over the weekend to survey the flood damage in his district of Upcountry Maui. Here are photos of a house that had the misfortune to be directly in the path of the flood waters. The house was torn from its concrete foundation and slid about 75 yards.

Here is another angle of the house. While there were no loss of human lives, livestock was lost, and we believe that is a poor cow in the muddy foreground.

Welcome Thelma!

I'm very pleased to let you know that Thelma Dreyer started yesterday as the new Assistant Communications Director. As background, Thelma is a Journalism/PR major and a French major from the University of Hawaii. She has experience working for several local public relations firms, a non-profit agency, and in sports media relations. Thelma has just returned to Hawaii after spending the past year in France working for the French Ministry of Education. You'll be seeing her posts on the blog.

Rep. Cindy Evans reports on Women Prisons

WHAT: The House and Senate Public Safety committees will hold an informational briefing tomorrow to report on various site visits and issues pertaining to our prison system. Rep. Cindy Evans, chair of the House committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs will report on her visit to Kentucky women prisons. Other items on the agenda include:

Overview of the committee's neighbor island visits
Overview of the Arizona site visit
Proposal to return women prisoners back to Hawaii
Review on SB932 (Act 8) - A comprehensive offender re-entry system
Prison proposal for Maui

Clayton Frank, Director of Public Safety, and Tommy Johnson, Deputy Director of Public Safety, have been invited to participate.

WHEN: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: State Capitol, Room 325

Hawaii's green house gas emissions ratings

First Reading, the Legislative Reference Bureau's blog, contained an interesting post on how Hawaii ranks in terms of our state greenhouse gas emissions. The Congressional Research Service conducted a survey and issued a report. Quoting from First Reading:

The report uses three variables, or emissions drivers, to calculate GHG emissions: population, per capita income, and GHG emissions intensity. Of the three, CRS considers GHG intensity the most relevant to climate change policy. GHG intensity is a measure of GHG emissions from state sources divided by the gross state product (GSP). Hawaii ranks 46th in GHG emissions and drivers. The report also covers CO2 emissions intensity, which account for 85% of GHG emissions in the U.S. In a ranking of CO2 emissions intensity and its drivers, Hawaii ranks 34th.

Monday, December 10, 2007

For Ewa Today

That's the title of Rep. Cabanilla's weekly public access television show on Olelo, ch. 54. It airs every Sunday at 7:00 p.m. For the month of December, the show will focus on the Toll Road concept.

First Use of New Extended Sentencing Law

As reported by The Advertiser, Hawaii's new extended sentencing law, passed by the legislature in Special Session #2 about 6 weeks ago, will be used for the first time today. Pursuant to Act 1, it will be the first time that a jury, not a judge, will determine whether a convicted prisoner will get a harsher sentence due to the severity of the crime. In the case to be decided, John E. Lorenzo, Jr. was convicted last month of murdering an off-duty police officer, a second degree murder offense. Today, the same jury that convicted him will return to determine whether Lorenzo should get the normal sentence of life with the possibility of parole, or to utilize the extending sentencing powers and set his sentence at life without the possibility of parole.

KITV filed this story on what happened in court today. It sounds like a two-day proceeding. If the jury decides on a life without parole sentence, the judge still has the authority to overturn the decision. Reportedly, around 100 cases, or "dozens and dozens" of cases according to criminal defense attorney Earle Partington, may be affected by the new law and will be watching the outcome of the Lorenzo sentencing closely.

Majority Leader Comments on the Awana Issue

Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell wrote an opinion piece on Governor Lingle's handling of the Bob Awana issue in today's Advertiser. Here's the text:

In June, when Bob Awana, the second most powerful official in the executive branch of Hawai'i state government, resigned under a cloud, Gov. Linda Lingle issued an 87-word written statement and declared she would say no more on the subject to the press or anyone else.
Today, half a year later, she is blaming the news media for sensationalizing the issue and making it a distraction to state business. This is a classic case of blowing out the candle and cursing the darkness.
Here's what the governor should have done in June.
First, she should have practiced the principles of openness and public availability that she promised to bring to office. She could have accomplished this by sitting down with the news media, rather than shutting them out. There were legitimate questions that needed answers. For example, when did she become aware that Awana was being blackmailed? Was the resignation jointly arrived upon? Did she have concerns about the allegations of special favors being offered to members of the diplomatic mission she had led? If Awana were cleared, would she bring him back either into her administration or as her campaign manager?
She also could have drawn a firm and reasonable line about personal issues that should be of no interest to the news media or the public. Off limits is just that.
It would have been a difficult news conference. But as a former journalist herself, the governor knows that arbitrarily cutting off the press on her terms was an invitation for them to dig deeper. That is their job.
Second, she could have ordered her attorney general to conduct an investigation into any possible legal or ethical wrongdoing involving Awana in the organization and conduct of her trade missions. In her recent castigation of the news media, she told us that she has not been approached by federal investigators about these matters and has no reason to believe that there was misconduct.
But she is the governor, with the power to launch investigations. She should not be waiting for someone else to ask. She is the chief executive; something went wrong on her watch; she should have taken the initiative to get to the bottom of things. That is what leaders do, especially in this age of transparency.
There is a growing pattern here that with each event becomes more troubling. We appear to have a governor who leads effectively enough when things are under control, but lacks the flexibility to handle the heat, especially if it is too close to her.
In the Superferry debate, Gov. Lingle steadfastly refused to acknowledge that her administration had made an error in granting a waiver for an environmental review on ferry-related improvements to the Maui harbor. This failure, which appears to have directly involved Awana and his newly announced replacement Barry Fukunaga, compounded problem-solving throughout the special legislative session. Her denials raised the heat level rather than lowering it. An effective leader today would have said, "We made an error and let's fix it."
Gov. Lingle should consider returning to the style of leadership she promised when she was elected. We have all learned that things can go wrong in life, but denial only makes them worse.

Friday, December 7, 2007

House Marathoners

With all the excitement about the weather, the Sugar Bowl appearance, and the Heisman Trophy announcement, it might be easy to forget that Sunday is the Honolulu Marathon. Let's give a cheer for runners Calvin Azama, Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the House, and Kiriko Urano from the House Majority Staff Office, and support them in spirit for the big race.

Elves strikes again, Good Luck Colt!

According to Denise in the Chief Clerk's Office, the elves struck again last night, and this time they brought a present from Santa for Neal in Accounting. Gasp! Two tickets to the Sugar Bowl? No, on closer inspection they are two tickets to the nearest KHON2 broadcast on game day.

The House joins the rest of the state in wishing Colt Brennan good luck on Saturday's Heisman Trophy announcement. No matter what happens, he is a winner and Hawaii's inspiration.

Photo: Associated Press. The four Heisman finalists in NYC. From left, Darren McFadden (Arkansas running back); Tim Tebow (Florida quarterback); Chase Daniel (Missouri quarterback); and Colt Brennan (Hawaii quarterback)

Speaker appoints members to Superferry Task Force

Speaker of the House Calvin Say has appointed the following individuals as members of the Temporary Hawaii Inter-Island Ferry Oversight Task Force:

To represent the County of Maui, Ms. Colette Machado - Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
To represent the City and County of Honolulu, Mr. Kauila Clark - Native Hawaiian Cultural Practitioner.
To represent the County of Hawaii, Ms. Sara Peck - Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, Environmental Community Representative.
To represent the County of Kauai, Mr. Jeff Mira - Honsador Lumber, General Business Community Representative.

Pursuant to Act 2, (starts on page 45), there are to be 13 members of the task force, including the Director of Transportation (or designee); Chairperson of the Board of Agriculture (or designee); Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources (or designee); the Attorney General (or designee); the president of a large ferry vessel company (or designee); one representative from each of the four major counties, including one from the business community, one from the environmental community, and one knowledgeable in native Hawaiian practices to be appointed by the Speaker of the House; and the same number and criteria for the Senate President.

The task force must submit a report to the legislature 20 days prior to the 2009 session. It will cease to exist upon the completion of the final report.

Rep/Dr. Green to Propose Health Care Legislation

Thanks to Hunter Bishop of, who posted this blog report on last Saturday's healthcare conference at Waikoloa. Rep. Josh Green (District 6 - North Kona, Keauhou, Kailua-Kona, Honokohau), gave the keynote address and talked about his plans to propose 2008 legislation. Rep. Green is chair of the House Health Committee. Hunter wrote:

"Green spoke of legislation he will propose to overcome dire shortages of almost everything related to health care on Hawaii Island system, which affects not only lives but the economy as well. Much of Green's plan targets financial incentives for doctors to establish practices here. Green also wants to establish health care enterprise zones to promote new facilities, and he called on the County of Hawaii to establish a health care "czar" to take charge of the county's needs with a dedicated fund and the power to spend it without a lot of oversight."

In answer to a question on tort reform, Hunter added:

"Yes, tort reform was a constant refrain at the conference. Rep. Green said he would introduce a tort reform bill this session separate from his doctor incentives and enterprise zone bills. He didn't want the latter two bogged down in a tort reform battle."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

O come all ye faithful... the UH Warriors Football Team Christmas tree and make a wish for a BIG WIN at the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. The tree is located in the parlor area outside the House Chief Clerk's office.

It was created by House staffers Denise Liu (Chief Clerk's Office - Journal), Neal Shigemura (Accounting) and Tammy Tengan (Print Shop), who must have had visions of sugar (bowl) plums dancing in their heads.

Click on photos to see ornament details.

Shield Law on You Tube

The Hawaii Supreme Court (Unofficial) blog was first to post a 3.5 min. clip of the Shield Law public access program. Guests are Rep. Blake Oshiro, Rep. Gene Ward and Jeff Portnoy. Here's the link to their site.

Rep. Rida Cabanilla Profiled in Philippine News

Philippine News today carried this profile of Rep. Rida Cabanilla. Here's an excerpt on some of her legislative activity in the 2007 session:

She also co-sponsored Act 100, which provides up to $2,000 for the burial expenses of Filipino World War II veterans. It was signed by Gov. Linda Lingle (R) in May, and Cabanilla is pleased about that. Still, she strongly believes all 50 states should pass their own laws as it may be easier than waiting for Congress to pass the Full Equity Act with aging veterans losing their ranks everyday.
This year, she sponsored a caregiver tax credit initiative, which, unfortunately, did not pass the state legislature. The measure would have provided tax credits to families or individuals who take care of family members, such as an ailing or elderly grandparent, with out-of-pocket expenses. She said the bill did not pass because many families are not adequately trained to care for the elderly.
“If families would use it, they will collect the money, but won’t take care of their families,” she pointed out.Cabanilla was also instrumental in adding a nursing program at the Leeward Community College because of a nursing shortage in Hawaii.
Last year, she was recognized by the Hawaii Dental Association as the 2006 Legislator of the Year for her opposition to HB 3141, a measure that would have allowed dentists in Hawaii to practice in other states without a formal examination.
“I honestly did not agree with the bill,” said Cabanilla. “And, I was honored by the very people whose bill I was trying to kill.”

Last October, Rep. Cabanilla was recognized as one of the "100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the United States" by the Filipina Women's Network. Get more info in this PBN story.

Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Major Cabinilla reviews medical records with Sgt. Martin Thomasgarcia at Fort Shafter Flats.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition Calls for Parade Participants

It's hard to believe, but this January 21, 2008 will mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition has sent out a press release inviting community organizations to participate in the 20th annual Martin Luther King Parade and Celebration that will be held on the national holiday, Monday, Jan. 21st. A number of House members proudly walk in this parade every year. The parade will start at Magic Island with the formation of organizations at 7:30 a.m. It will travel through Waikiki to Kapiolani Park where there will be a Unity Celebration. An estimated 4000 people are expected to attend. For info and applications, contact Bill Rushing, the Parade Chair. Telephone: 741-4038; Fax: 988-1777; Email: Info is also available online at

Letters on the Toll Road Debate

The recent op-eds by Rep. Lee and Rep. Cabanilla on the issue of transportation privatization, particularly toll roads, have sparked some letters to the editor of note:

This in the Star-Bulletin:

Think hard before privatizing roads
Thank you for the sobering and hard-nosed opinion piece from Rep. Marilyn Lee about the troubling trend toward privatizing roads (Star-Bulletin, Dec. 2). She reports that New Jersey's Gov. Jon Corzine, after many months of study, declared that he would not sell off his state's roads to a private operator.
Before becoming governor, Corzine headed Goldman Sachs, a company that has collected tens of millions of dollars arranging road privatization deals for other states. From the financial point of view, arguably nobody knows more than Corzine about road privatization. His actions with his own budget speak louder than any words and should give pause to any legislator considering these road sell-offs.

Phineas Baxandall
U.S. Public Interest Research Group
Boston, Mass.

And this in The Advertiser:

Sen. Kalani English's words in his commentary, "Superferry: Debate is healthy, necessary" (Nov. 27), contradict his behavior with regard to House Bill 70. His closing words are: "And as the task force created by the Superferry bill performs its mandated review of ferry operations, I hope there will always be room for discussion and diversity of opinion."
And yet, look at the senator's behavior in the 2007 legislative session. HB 70, which would authorize the state to charge tolls on highways, was passed by the House. However, when it crossed over to the Senate, Sen. English, as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, refused to allow it to be heard.
Further, when Rep. Rida Cabanilla asked the O'ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization to request that the senator reconsider his squelching of the bill, he objected vehemently. In a letter to OMPO, he criticized Rep. Cabanilla, saying that she was interfering with Senate business, and, in a real stretch, cited the Law of the Splintered Paddle as "justification" for not allowing the bill to even be considered by the Senate.
Some would use the term "hypocrisy" to describe the senator's behavior regarding HB 70, while he purports to encourage debate, discussion and diversity of opinion.
Let's hope for the sake of the public that the good senator has a change of heart in the 2008 legislative session, and allows HB 70 to be heard, debated and discussed in the Senate.

Randy Leong

Caroline and the Weavers

Photo: Lauhala weaver, Oil painting by Kauai artist Franny Bilodeau, Kauai Society of Artists.

Sounds like a country western band, but it's actually the name of a group of lauhala weavers who will demonstrate the traditional Hawaiian craft of weaving lauhala (leaves of the hala or pandanus tree) at the Hawaii State Art Museum (HISAM) on Saturday, December 8th. It's part of Second Saturday, when HISAM's galleries are open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., with activities from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This Saturday, Caroline and the Weavers will show you how to create lauhala Christmas ornaments to place on your tree or give as a gift.

HISAM is located at the No. 1 Capitol District building, formerly known as the Hemmeter Building. It's located directly across Richards Street from the State Capitol. The artwork in the museum is part of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts collection, purchased through the 1% set aside of state funds for all capital improvement projects. Most of the art work at the museum was created by Hawaii artists. All the activities are free, and it's part of an effort to bring Hawaii's families to the capitol district and closer to the Arts.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Chanukah!

It is near sundown on December 4th in Hawaii, the start of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. To the Jewish community in Hawaii and around the world, the Hawaii House Majority wishes you Happy Chanukah! May the season be blessed with joy and peace.

Smart Growth Meeting

What: The Interim Task Force on Smart Growth meets to discuss proposed legislation for improved land use, more open space, compact urban areas, affordable housing, decreased infrastructure costs, and other issues related to smart growth principles. The task force chair is Rep. Sharon Har.

When: Thursday, December 6th - 10:00 a.m.

Where: State Capitol, Room 329

Smart Growth Network: News and information on smart growth worldwide can be found online. Here's the link to the Hawaii page.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Meeting on Family Caregiving

What: The Joint Legislative Committee on Family Caregiving will meet to address the results of two research projects conducted by the Executive Office on Aging: (1)the Statewide Needs Assessment of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in Hawaii, and (2)the 2007 Eldercare Survey of Hawaii's Employers. Senator Les Ihara and Rep. Marilyn Lee serve as co-chairs.

When: Tuesday, December 4th at 1:30 p.m.

Where: State Capitol, Room 225

Who: Dr. Lori Yancura of the UH Department of Family and Consumer Sciences will present the findings of the needs assessment involving the issues facing and needs of grandparents who are raising grandchildren in Hawaii. Dr. Pam Arnsburger of the UH School of Social Work will present findings of the employer's survey, including the extent of eldercare policies and benefits in the workplace, the effect of eldercare on workers, the views of eldercare as an employer issues, and why eldercare policies and benefits are offered or not.

Testimony: Public wishing to provide testimony are asked to contact the committee clerk at 586-6250.

Toll House Debate

Well, they are two sharp cookies, but we're actually talking about the point, counter-point on the discussion of toll roads and privatization of transportation.

Representative Marilyn Lee (District 38 - Mililani, Mililani Mauka) has an op-ed in Sunday's Honolulu
Star-Bulletin questioning the public policy of establishing toll roads and of introducing privatization into our state transportation system. She states: "Some would argue that this
 path is necessary because neither the state nor the counties have sufficient funds to build more highways. U.S. PIRG cautions that through such deals, the public loses control of transportation policy, and there is no guarantee that toll roads will deliver their promised value. The report cites such problems as an inability to prevent toll traffic from being diverted to local 
communities and difficulty changing traffic patterns on toll roads without paying additional compensati
on to road operators. The U.S. PIRG report also notes the difficulty of ensuring fair contracts when they stretch over multiple generations and changing community needs."

Representative Rida Cabanilla-Arakawa (District 42 - Waipahu, West Loch, Ewa) has an op-ed in today's Honolulu Advertiser advocating for toll roads as a means to alleviate traffic congestion, especially on the 
Leeward side of Oahu. She states: " With the toll concept, once the contractor has been paid off through toll collection, the road can then become a free road. It is no different from the "fly now, pay later" concept. The best part of this concept, why it is so successful and catching on like wildfire across the country and world, is that only the end user pays. The public roads will still be there for those who do not want to pay. Even they will still benefit from it, because the free road will be less congested. The savings on fuel and the amount of time spent behind the wheel are very attractive to consumers."

Are toll roads the answer? Rep. Cabanilla's bill, HB70, was introduced in 2007 and crossed over to the Senate. It awaits a hearing.

The House is looking for foreign language interpreters

Pursuant to Chapter 371-33 HRS, the House of Representatives provides foreign language interpreters at no charge as a means to provide meaningful access to services for residents who have limited English language skills. This is particularly important in the legislative hearings during session. As you can imagine, some languages are easier to accommodate than others, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. There is a great need to develop a deeper pool in some of the other languages. The following is a list of foreign languages for which the House needs interpreters. If you are qualified and interested in working on contract with the House in this capacity, please contact the House Chief Clerk's Office at 586-6400.

Burmese, Chinese, Chuukese, Ilocano, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Marshallese, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, Visayan.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Value of the Vote

We imagine that those who write political blogs have an interest in creating greater political awareness and activism within our society. This brief from the current issue of The Economist indicates that the hard fought right to vote may be all but forgotten by the younger generation in this country. It states:

"A poll of New York University students revealed that 20% would give up their vote in the next election for an iPod and two-thirds would do so for a year's college tuition. Half would renounce that vote permanently for $1m. " From Washington Square News, Nov. 14th.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Info Briefing - DOE financial system and accountability

What: Joint House and Senate Committees on Education - Update on the Department of Education Financial System and Accountability

When: Monday, December 3 - 2:00 p.m.

Where: State Capitol, Room 309

"Aging in Place" and "Meals on Wheels"

Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Kaneohe resident Sumiko Sakamoto, who is 83 and legally blind, prepares to eat a meal delivered to her through the Lanakila Meals on Wheels program.

Rep. Marilyn Lee always comes up with issues for Kukui Connection that make an impact on people's lives, and sometimes they are issues that we may try to deny. For December, the subject is aging. She'll be talking with former state representative Jim Shon. They'll have a conversation about aging, particularly aging in place. It's a pertinent subject for island families who want to keep their parents in the home for as long as possible. Shon was a legislator for 12 years, and served as Chair of the Health Committee for 6 of those years.

Also, Brandon Mitsuda will appear to talk about the Lanakila Meals on Wheels program. As you may recall, this critical service to homebound seniors faced a serious funding issue this past summer. Find out how they are doing today.

Kukui Connection airs on Sundays at 4:00 p.m., Oceanic Time Warner Cable, Channel 54.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rep. John Mizuno - Running Back!

The House has a former University of Hawaii football team member, now playing as Vice Chair of the Health Committee, Rep. John Mizuno. Back in 1983, Mizuno was a running back for UH and June Jones was Coach that year. Here's the team photo. Can you spot Rep Mizuno? Need a hint? Click on the photo for a larger view.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's not easy being green...

I ran into these three representatives heading out to lunch. That's Rep. Ryan Yamane on the left, Rep. Kirk Caldwell on the right, and Rep. Marcus O'shiro in the middle. Marcus has dyed his hair green, not for an early St. Paddy's Day, not even for the UH game on Saturday, but for the big Leilehua vs. St. Louis rivalry game on Friday. Leilehua is green and gold. When I met with Rep. Oshiro later in the afternoon on another matter, he seemed to be getting greener as the day wore on as his face was paint-dabbed green. Hmmm...I can't wait to see him tomorrow. Click on the photo and it gets really scary.

The Facts about Telepharmacy

Photo: Scott Tague, AutoMed, gives a demo on Telepharmacy
Yesterday, Rep. Bob Herkes sponsored an all day demonstration at the State Capitol on "Remote Dispensing Technology for Medications" or Telepharmacy. The demo was provided by the Hawaii Pharmacists Association in partnership with AmerisourceBergen Technology Group.

The group was unsuccessful during the 2007 legislative session in getting their bills heard in committee. It seems like the bills got lost amidst the thousands that are introduced each year, and, according to Barbara Kashiwabara, Director of Pharmaceutical Services at Kaiser Permanente, there was a lack of information on what telepharmacy is (and is not), and how it would help folks in isolated and rural areas of Hawaii. I stopped by at the end of day, and they were kind enough to stay late and give me a quick review. This is my understanding on how it might work:
Say you are a patient on Lanai and your doctor is in Honolulu. There would be an independent pharmacy operator set up on Lanai, most likely at a clinic or doctor's office. This pharmacy operator would have a fully stocked cabinet filled with medications that are prepared, counted and sealed by a pharmacist. I was told that each cabinet would contain the most commonly prescribed medications, and that there would probably be a 75% chance that the prescription requested is already stocked in the cabinet.

Your doctor would call in your prescription at a main pharmacy. The pharmacist will then hold a teleconference with the technician and you on Lanai. That would include a consultation with you prior to dispensing the medication, and sending an electronic bar coding for the prescription. The barcoding system allows the pharmacy technician to manage the stocking of the cabinets, and tracks lot numbers and expiration dates. After getting authority from the main pharmacist, the pharmacy technician on Lanai would access the dispensing cabinet through a biometric, fingerprint protected access system. The technician would be able to process a pre-packed prescription for you.
This technology has been used since the mid-90's, primarily through the Veterans Administration. To date, over 20 states have developed or are in the process of evaluating and completing the necessary regulations that allow Telepharmacy. In the South Pacific, the Hawaii VA has used this technology for several years, with sites on Maui, Kauai, the Big Island, Guam and soon in American Samoa.

The promise for Hawaii lies in being able to service rural areas that have poor access to healthcare and pharmacies. Good idea? Concerns?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The transformative technology of our generation...

That's what David Lassner, the Chief Information Officer at the University of Hawaii, called broadband service. Lassner chairs The Hawaii Broadband Task Force that has begun work to examine the current state and future potential of high-speed internet access in Hawaii.

Why do we need a task force? The problem is that the speed and affordability of broadband in the U.S., including Hawaii, has not kept pace with other developed countries worldwide.

"Among the top economies worldwide in 2005, the US ranked sixteenth in broadband penetration," said Rep. Kyle Yamashita, who introduced HB310 establishing the task force. "In Hawaii today, the fastest broadband connections available are between eleven and fifteen megabits per second. When you look at the country as a whole, that's great service. But when you compare it to Japan, where one hundred megabits per second is routine, it's not as impressive. And when you consider cost on a per megabit basis, customers in Japan pay far less than customers here."

In addition to Lassner, Yamashita, and Senator Carol Fukunaga, the other members of the task force are: Vice Chair Nam Vu from ShakaNet, Inc.; Gary Caulfield from First Hawaiian Bank; Joel Matsunaga from Hawaiian Telcom; Henk Rogers from BluePlanet Wireless; Nate Smite from Oceanic Time Warner Cable; Gordon Bruce from the City and County of Honolulu; Clyde Sonobe from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; Jennifer Goto Sabas from the office of Senator Daniel K. Inouye; Senator Will Espero; Senator David Ige; Rep. Marcus Oshiro; and Rep. Gene Ward.

The Office of the Auditor will provide research and organizational support services. The task force will prepare a preliminary report for submission to the 2008 Legislature and a final report for the 2009 Legislature. For more info, check out

Monday, November 26, 2007

Proposed Shield Law - Devil is in the Details

Photo: left to right - Jim Dooley, Ian Lind, Jeff Portnoy, Marie Milks, Gerald Kato and Chris Conybeare at the podium.

The room was packed and the hotel had to bring in an extra table for lunch. If that is any indication of the interest for or against a proposed shield law, the bill should receive a lot of thoughtful and engaging discussion at the 2008 legislature. Thanks to the Honolulu Media Council for putting on a great program. I did not record it, but here are my notes:

The panelists at the main table were Professor Jon Van Dyke from the UH William S. Richardson School of Law; Jim Dooley from The Honolulu Advertiser; Ian Lind, former Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter, currently a free-lance writer and political blogger at; Jeff Portney, attorney; Marie Milks, former state judge, who served as moderator; and Gerald Kato, head of the journalism department at UH.

Jon Van Dyke started off with a powerpoint on the history and background of the shield law issue. He summarized pertinent case law starting with the US Supreme Court case Branzburg v. Hayes (1972) and ending with Jenkins v. Liberty Newspapers (1999). He also provided the status of the federal shield law bill which passed easily in the U.S. House, 398-21. Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, and there was a brief discussion on his stated opposition -- that it was unconstitutional -- and whether the constitution even addresses the protection. Van Dyke believes it does not - that there is no absolute privilege for journalists, and that the press is expected to cooperate in criminal investigations.

Jeff Portnoy believes that a shield law for Hawaii is necessary and required. He described a conversation that he had with City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, who apparently does not believe a shield law is necessary. That's because, Portnoy claims, he and Carlisle have always been able to negotiate a reasonable solution whenever there have been subpoenas of reporters. Portnoy argues, however, that there will come a day when Carlisle will not be prosecutor and he will not be doing the same thing he's doing, so why leave it up to chance that others will be able to work so collaboratively. Besides, it has not always been the case - remember the time Matt Levi was put in jail for refusing to identify a source?

Portnoy said that the legislature will have the hardest time defining what is a journalist and what is a blogger. Also, how extensive should the law be? Should it extend to Grand Juries? He believes the shield law should be as absolute as possible with some minor exceptions.

Jim Dooley pointed out that he was the only working journalist at the table, and his comments were based on whether such a law would impact on his daily work. I'm not clear on whether he favors a law or not. I got the sense that there are certain situations in which the protection would help to get sources to talk more freely and to not fear that a reporter would "rat him out" when push came to shove. On the other hand, he does not feel comfortable with government licensing or even defining journalists.

Portnoy added that it would be a mistake to frame the issue around the protection of confidential sources, because the real need is to protect the reporter's day to day work product - the notes, the computer files, the photographs, the footage, etc.

Ian provided a different perspective. I'm sure that he will go into greater detail of his position on his own blog. He offered the perspective that if the shield law did not include bloggers, that it would mainly be a protection for corporate media, and a step toward the government licensing of media. And in that sense, it would be unconstitutional.

Dave Briscoe from the AP offered an opinion that he did not want government to define what a journalist is or is not and asked whether it was possible to shield the product rather than who produces it.

If there are others who attended today, please feel free to add to this.