Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bill to Save Kahuku Hospital Becomes Law

Rep. Michael Magaoay (District 46 - Kaena Point, Schofield, Mokuleia, Waialua, Haleiwa, Waimea, Pupukea, Sunset, Kahuku, Kunia, Laie) announced that a bill to prevent the financially troubled Kahuku Hospital from closing was signed into law today. Introduced by Rep. Magaoay, the measure represents the second piece of a two-part effort to save the North Shore's only hospital.

House Bill 843 allows the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, an operator of 12 community hospitals for the state, to acquire the private hospital. The bill also provides that the Director of Health will assume a facilitating role during the transition period. With the Governor's signature, the bill became Act 113 this afternoon.

In March, a companion bill was signed into law and became Act 04. Senate Bill 1260 allotted $950,000 in emergency funds to Kahuku Hospital to continue its operations through the end of the legislative session, preserve its hospital license, retain its certificate of need and critical access hospital designation, reorganize, and settle its debts. The two measures are intended to ensure the continuation of emergency medical care, acute care, and preventive health services in rural Oahu.

Kahuku Hospital is the only critical access medical facility between Kane'ohe and Wahiawa, serving over 22,500 people in the Ko'olauloa district. After facing the loss of millions of dollars over the last six years, the 25-bed facility announced in November that it would be forced to close its doors. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February as part of an agreement between the hospital and the state to transfer hospital operations to the state hospital system.

For a complete list of bills signed into law (by bill number) click here.

Photo: Rep. Magaoay, along with Director of Health Chiyome Leinaala Fukino, hospital administrators, and community leaders, spoke with the press in March about legislative efforts to save Kahuku Hospital.

Hawaii Rx

Letter to the Editor By Rep. Kirk Caldwell
Majority Leader
District 24 - Manoa

The Advertiser's 5/30/07 story on the State's discount drug program was excellent reporting. Hawaii Rx has been frustrating for legislators who have been working hard to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for Hawaii seniors. I appreciate the fact that Derrick DePledge not only had the facts right, but demonstrated a true understanding of the history of the legislation and the push and pull between the parties. This session, we vowed that we could no longer accept the excuses of the Lingle administration, and we are instructing them to enter into negotiations with the drug companies.

We often complain that the news media does not cover the Legislature as fully as they should, for the public's sake. In this case, you provided a tremendous service by bringing the story to the people's attention and in explaining the issue of getting low-cost drugs for Hawaii residents as the bill intended.

Bills to Help the Filipino Community

The Filipino Caucus, chaired by Rep. Michael Magaoay, today announced the passage of several bills and resolutions of importance to the Filipino community.

On May 25, Act 100 was signed into law. The measure requires the Office of Veterans' Services, at the request of a survivor or interested party of a deceased World War II Filipino veteran, to make payment directly to a mortuary or crematory for funeral and burial services, and to transport the veteran's remains to the Philippines.

Other measures help caregivers by exempting recipients of social service payments from the scope of employment related laws, establish the Pineapple Workers and Retirees Housing Assistance Fund for displaced Del Monte workers, call for a state-province relationship between the State of Hawaii and the province of Cagayan, and ask the US government to repay Filipino WWII veterans by enacting Filipino family reunification, or similar legislation, granting priority issuance of visas to Filipino veterans' children with approved immigration petitions.

There are 7,000 total Filipino veterans in the United States, 2,000 of whom reside in Hawaii.

For a list of all bills in the Filipino Caucus package, click here.

Photo: Members of the caucus met with leaders in the Filipino community in March to gather feedback and discuss topics such as veterans' benefits, diabetes and other health issues, and language interpretation services. From L: Reps Magaoay, Manahan, Finnegan, Mizuno.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Karamatsu and Har Named in "Forty Under 40"

Vice Speaker Jon Riki Karamatsu (District 41 - Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele) and freshman Representative Sharon Har (District 40 - Royal Kunia, Makakilo, Kapolei, Kalaeloa) were named in Pacific Business News's "Forty Under 40" list of Hawaii's young business leaders. The list commends Hawaii's young leaders for juggling the responsibilities of family, home, career and community and celebrates their personal and professional accomplishments.

Pacific Business News will host a special event for the honorees on Thursday, June 21 at 5:30 p.m. in the Liliu Theatre on the third floor of the Hawaii Convention Center. The event will be hosted by KHON-2 Sports Director Kanoa Leahey and is sponsored by Bank of Hawaii, Argosy University, JN Automotive Group and the Hawaii Convention Center.


Did you know? The House has 15 members who are under 40, as of this date. They are Della Belatti, Pono Chong, Lynn Finnegan, Josh Green, Sharon Har, Jon Riki Karamatsu, Sylvia Luke, Joey Manahan, Angus McKelvey, Scott Nishimoto, Blake Oshiro, Kymberly Pine, Maile Shimabukuro, K. Mark Takai and Ryan Yamane.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

An Open Letter to the Honolulu Weekly

By Georgette Deemer
Director of Communications

In the May 23-29 issue of the Honolulu Weekly, editor Chris Haire wrote an article entitled "Holy Cowards" that was, in my opinion, a low-point for Hawaii journalism. As a staff person at the Legislature, I have seen lawmakers and leadership take hits from the media, and while we may not always agree with their position, most are professional, most write of issues and not personal attacks, and most are, at the very least, civil.

Mr. Haire insulted individual legislators at a very personal level, called them names, and got downright crude with his descriptors. In the aftermath, I hope advertisers will question their association with this publication and ask themselves if this is the kind of newspaper they want to support. If a newspaper is going to go on the attack, at least let it be for the purpose of making things in Honolulu better, not nastier.

In this week's issue, there is a letter from Senator Jill Tokuda which responds to a number of inaccurate statements made about the Senate. On the House side, Mr. Haire did not even speak to either Tommy Waters or Jon Riki Karamatsu prior to his ranting, nor has he ever covered first hand the issues of civil unions or the back story of the state jet bill.

It is our belief that Honolulu benefits from an alternative newspaper--the more voices out there the better. However, The Honolulu Weekly lacks political credibility when it repeatedly gets the facts wrong, and it brings everyone down when it stoops to personal attacks in order to get attention.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Free Trees!

Mark Hanson, president of the nonprofit Hawaiian Reforestation Program in Pahoa, chose the State Capitol as a site to give away over 800 seedlings of kukui, kamani and milo trees this morning. Representatives and staffers turned out to hear Hanson speak and to receive small bundles of green seedlings.

One of the Legislature's biggest accomplishments this session was the passage of House Bill 226, which aims to curb statewide greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels by the year 2020.

Wearing a t-shirt that read "You Can Stop Global Warming," Hanson spoke about the importance of planting trees to ward off the harmful effects carbon dioxide over-production.

Hanson, who is from the Big Island, gave away 5,000 oak trees and 110 cherry trees during Earth week on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

Our assistant communications director picked up a young kukui tree (right).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Education Committee to hold info session on UH Athletics

The House Higher Education Committee and Senate Education Committee will hold an informational briefing tomorrow on the state of the University of Hawaii Athletics Department with Athletics Director Herman Frazier, UH-Manoa administrators, and coaches in their respective sports.

WHEN: Monday, May 21, 2007
2:00 PM

WHERE: Hawaii State Capitol, Room 309
Honolulu, HI 96813

Lawmakers will request Athletics Director Herman Frazier, University of Hawaii at Manoa's administrators, and coaches in their respective sports to update committee members on the state of the Athletics Department, including but not limited to its athletic programs, facilities and operations, sources of revenues and the use and distribution of such revenues, as well as, issues or concerns for improvements that the Legislature could address.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rep. Karamatsu's Op-Ed: Fundamental Needs

Rep. Jon Karamatsu, Vice Speaker of the House, has an Op-Ed in today's Honolulu Advertiser about the legislature balancing both sustainability and affordability during the last session. "As the youngest member of the House of Representatives," he writes,
I may view the successes and failures of the legislative session from a different perspective than some of my colleagues. For most people my age in Hawai'i, sustainability is important, but affordability is the immediate concern — being able to afford the basics such as housing, healthcare and education, for themselves and their young families.

...It's important to recognize that our state's well-being will depend on keeping Hawai'i affordable. The world around us is also changing, becoming interconnected and more competitive. While my generation is trying to solve one set of issues, our kids will face a brand new set of problems. We are aiming to develop an economy that will provide the kinds of jobs needed to first afford, and then sustain, quality of life.

Here is a link to the article.

[update, 5/18/2007]

Correction: The op-ed lists Rep. Karamatsu's gas expenses as $3,000 for one year, commuting from Waipahu to Honolulu. Rep. Karamatsu later realized he had made a mistake in the calculations. The following is a breakdown of his actual car expenses:

Car Expenses
Fuel: $2,111.70
Insurance: $864.00
Registration: $165.25
Service: $754.19
Auto Miscellaneous: $103.03
Total: $3,998.17

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Enough Populism, How About Some Real Planning

By Rep. Kirk Caldwell
Majority Leader
District 24 - Manoa

Recently, the Governor’s senior policy advisor, Linda Smith, published a viewpoint piece that contradicts itself, seems to directly tag the legislature with shortcomings that originate in the executive branch, and rings of an appeal to populism over intellectual honesty. I cannot let it go un-countered.

For example, in the most basic area of tax and spend, the Governor's senior policy advisor says the legislature should have spent millions of more tax dollars AND provided greater tax relief. This from a governor who, when she entered office, was railing against state spending and what she described as fiscal irresponsibility. Ms. Smith suddenly seems less concerned with managing the purse strings than she is with making a headline. That is not a new and better politics. It's hypocrisy.

The Governor's senior policy advisor also calls for more from the legislature in the area of agricultural land reform. By that I presume she means ensuring ag-zoned lands are used for island sustainability, be it in food production or the nascent ag-to-energy business.

This is a critical area. It crosses the responsibility of at least four different state departments, and it raises very complex issues. Pulling together a comprehensive plan among those departments is the Governor’s responsibility. It begs for real planning by the administration, not Monday morning quarterbacking by the Governor's spokesperson.

Now, Ms. Smith, you've made your complaint. Where is the Governor’s coherent plan with a stamp of approval from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and the Public Utilities Commission? And let us not forget that the Tax Department and the Department of Budget and Finance are also involved, for they all too frequently provide testimony that weakens the proposals of the Governor’s other department heads. Rather than blame the legislature for the Governor’s own planning inadequacies, please do something to address these concerns. They are real, need to be addressed immediately, on an ongoing basis by the State’s top executive, the Governor.

Ms. Smith also asks for the legislature to "improve the management of state" agencies. Yet she decries work done by the State Senate to ensure the best management capabilities at the top of State government through the process of advice and consent. Again, you can blame the legislature or you can do a better job of selecting your management team.

On a more personal level, after listening to the Governor’s inaugural address prior to the start of the session in which she asked that the Legislature work with her, I heeded her call and scheduled an appointment with Ms. Smith to talk about the Governor’s package for the upcoming legislative session. I shared with her and with the Director of Finance what I thought the House’s focus would be, with the desire for more collaboration. Ms. Smith, in turn, explained that the Governor had not yet formulated a package, that the push had been on the Governor’s reelection and her inauguration. The request to work together proved hollow.

There is a growing pattern in all this. Governor Lingle is increasingly opting for a style of politics where she takes a minimum of risks, makes few comprehensive proposals and then blames everyone else for the lack of progress.

Governor Lingle had some good proposals this past legislative session, and we worked with her administration on them. A good example is the Innovation package. We always will look for ways to work with the Governor, and we expect the same from the Governor’s office.

But the fact is that no one in the State government has more political power than Governor Lingle. No one is even close. And she has it every day, 24/7, twelve months a year, not just for a legislative session. Let's see some real planning, not more weathervane politics.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Lawmakers Budget $31M for UH-West Oahu Campus

Today, Rep. Sharon Har (District 40 - Royal Kunia, Makakilo, Kapolei, Kalaeloa) announced the inclusion of $31M in the House Budget for construction of a U.H.-West Oahu campus. Another $100M will be put in a special fund for land purchase. The long-awaited appropriation will fund phase one of the project, which will occupy 500 acres in Kapolei just makai of the H-1 Freeway.

The construction of a West Oahu campus has long been a desire of the University of Hawaii. U.H.-West Oahu, which is currently operating out of portable classrooms adjacent to Leeward Community College, offers degrees in the liberal arts and professional studies. It is the only four-year university on the leeward side. The proposed campus will have a small-town feel and will host a student population roughly the size of U.H.-Hilo.

Supporters of the project anticipate that the completed U.H.-West Oahu campus will help to relieve traffic congestion in West Oahu and overcrowding at the University's Manoa campus, and will further Kapolei's development as Oahu's "Second City."

An article in The Honolulu Advertiser has more on legislation and funding for projects in up-and-coming West Oahu: "West Oahu about to get a whole lot better."

Photo: U.H.-West Oahu Chancellor Gene Awakuni, Speaker Calvin Say, Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell and other members of the House majority leadership were present to show their support for the project.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Bill to Create 'Aha Moku Councils goes before Governor

Rep. Mele Carroll (District 13 - Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai, Molokai, Keanae, Wailua, Nahiku, Hana) announced that the legislature has passed SB 1853, establishing an ‘aha kiole advisory committee to advise the legislature in creating an ‘Aha Moku Council Commission to assist in the formation of regional 'aha moku councils. These councils shall give advisory assistance to the Department of Land and Natural Resources on all matters regarding the management of the State's natural resources. The bill is awaiting the Governor's signature.

The purpose of this Act is to create a system of best practices based on the indigenous resource management practices of moku (regional) boundaries, acknowledging the natural contours of land, the specific resources located within those areas, and the methodology necessary to sustain resources and the community.

The ‘aha moku council system will foster understanding and practical use of knowledge, including native Hawaiian methodology and expertise, to assure responsible stewardship and awareness of the interconnectedness of the clouds, forests, valleys, land, streams, fishponds, and sea. The council system will include the use of community expertise and establish programs and projects to improve communication, education, provide training on stewardship issues throughout the region (moku), and increase education. This measure also appropriates funds for the advisory committee to carry out its duties.

Rep. Carroll serves as the chair of the legislature's Hawaiian Caucus, and is Vice Chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Rep. Caldwell on Separation of Powers

In response to recent questions about legislation concerning the UH Board of Regents and legislative vacancies, Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell has an Op-Ed in today's Honolulu Advertiser about maintaining the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches in state government. Read what he has to say in his commentary, "Separation of power must be maintained."

House collects thousands of dollars, cans of food for Hawaii Foodbank

The House of Representatives proudly presented a check for $6,854 along with 5,656 lbs of canned goods to the Hawaii Foodbank this week. Legislators and staff in representatives' offices and the different House agencies collected money and cans of food to earn "points" over a six-week period. Rep. John Mizuno's office coordinated this year's drive.

Coming in at first place with the most overall points for all House Agencies and Representatives was the House Sergeant-At-Arms with 534,850 points and House Chief Clerk's Office with 162,101 points as runner-up. Freshmen Representative Karl Rhoads (District 28 - Palama, Downtown, Chinatown, Sheridan) topped the competition among Representatives, collecting a grand total of 112,415 points along with Representative Hermina Morita (District 14 - Hanalei, Anahola, Kealia, Kapaa, Waipouli) for second place with 18,202 points.

House Agency Offices were also divided into teams. The Red Team, comprised of Sergeant-At-Arms and the House Majority Staff Office, came in first place with 545,220 points. The Blue Team, comprised of House Chief Clerk, Accounting, and Printshop, came in second place with 165,271 points. The Yellow Team, comprised of Public Access, House Minority Staff Office, and Legislative Reference Bureau, came in third place with 18,671 points.

Different offices also competed for points in a door decorating contest in March. Rep. Joe Bertram (District 11 - Makena, Wailea, Kihei) won first place for his office's decorations. The House Print Shop scored second place for their design, and Rep. Karl Rhoads took third place.

The House also held a Chili Cook-Out Contest to raise money for the Foodbank. In that competition, Rep. Angus McKelvey (District 10 - Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei) and Rep. Barbara Marumoto (District 19 - Waialae Iki, Kalani Valley, Waialae Nui, Diamond Head, Kahala) tied for first place. Rep. Gene Ward (District 17 - Kalama Valley, Queen's Gate, Hawaii Kai) came in at second place and Rep. Tom Brower (District 23 - Waikiki, Ala Moana) won third place.

The winner of the door design contest -- Rep. Bertam's office. Made with real fruit and leaves!

Second place -- door of the House Printshop.

Third place went to Rep. Karl Rhoads's office for their creative design.