Friday, June 29, 2007

Art at the State Capitol..."Aquarius" by Tadashi Sato

"Aquarius" by Tadashi Sato

The State Capitol is a wonderful place to view works from the "Art in Public Places" collection of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. The art work is located on the grounds and in the offices that are open to the public. On Aloha Fridays, we'd like to share with you some of the pieces that are noteworthy or are favorite selections of the House Majority members. We encourage you to visit the offices of the representatives and enjoy the artwork in person.

Installation of "Aquarius" in 1970
(photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

Perhaps the most famous art mosaic in the state is located in the Rotunda of the Hawaii State Capitol. "Aquarius" by Tadashi Sato (1923-2005) is a 36-foot circular mosaic inspired by the submerged stones viewed through the depth and reflection of blue ocean waters. The mosaic, made of 6 million tiles imported from Italy, was completed in 1970.

Portrait of Tadashi Sato by Kirk Kurokawa

Sato, an abstract expressionist, was born on Maui and served in World War II. He moved to New York City after the war to pursue his art and worked as a security guard at MOMA. Legend has it that one night, actors Charles Laughton and Burgess Meredith visited Sato's apartment and purchased seven paintings. From that point on, he worked as a full time artist and moved back to Maui in 1960.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Baby Safe Haven and Adoption Circle Come to the Table

The Adoption Circle of Hawaii and Baby Safe Haven advocates sit on opposite sides of an emotional and complex issue. Should mothers be allowed to drop off their unwanted newborn infants at designated safe havens without fear of prosecution? Tomorrow (Friday), the two sides will meet to discuss their respective concerns and differences pertaining to HB1830, the Baby Safe Haven bill. The meeting is sponsored by Rep. John Mizuno, the primary introducer of the bill. The Legislature passed this bill with strong, bi-partisan support. In the House: 48 yes, 2 no, 1 excused. In the Senate: 21 yes, 3 no, 1 excused. Governor Lingle intends to veto the bill.

When: Friday, June 29, 2007 at 12 noon
Where: State Capitol, Room 329

Prisons Committee Goes On the Road

Photo: Maui Community Correctional Center in Wailuku.

The joint legislative oversight committee on prisons will hold community meetings and site visits on all the islands this summer starting July 7th on Maui. The meeting will be held at the Family Living Center, 99 Mahalani Street, in Wailuku, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Rep. Cindy Evans, chairperson of the House Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs, reports that the committee will conduct an overview of prison conditions, including prison capacity, staffing shortages, complaints, mental health issues, re-entry and rehabilitation. They will also cover expansion plans for the prison site at Puunene.

On a related matter, the governor's list of potential vetoes includes SB932, the legislature's omnibus bill on a re-entry system for adult offenders, including programs and services that will help inmates to successfully reintegrate into the community. The bill received 25 yes votes in the Senate; 49 yes votes, 1 no, and 1 excused, in the House, making an override likely should there be an override session.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hanapepe Salt Ponds

Much of the sacred red salt used by kahu and kupuna for blessings and healing comes from the Hanapepe Salt Ponds on the island of Kauai. Freshman Representative Roland Sagum III, who works in planning and development, is afraid that the competing uses and activities in the area may permanently destroy the health of the salt ponds. His opinion piece on the need for a development management plan for the Hanapepe Salt Ponds appears today in the Kauai Garden Island.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Overriding Question

Should the legislature come back for an override session, and if so, which vetoes would you like to see overridden? Here is an easy way to link to the 33 bills on the governor's potential veto list:

1. HB30 - International trade agreements
2. HB91 - Public accountancy
3. HB310 - Broadband Task Force
4. HB436 - Chiropractic services covered under Medicaid and Quest
5. HB718 - Kewalo Keiki Fishing Conservancy
6. HB855 - Workers Comp medical treatment extension
7. HB1270 - 2050 Sustainability Plan
8. HB1503 - Public disclosure for bankruptcy and reorganization
9. HB1605 - Maui traffic control center
10. HB1659 - Procurement for state trade missions
11. HB1670 - Ingenuity charter
12. HB1746 - VEBA trust extension
13. HB1764 - Revenue bonds for HHSC
14. HB1818 - Filling vacant department head positions
15. HB1830 - Baby safe haven
16. SB46 - UH BOR to publicly disclose proposed compensation for admin positions
17. SB138 - Diamond Head State Monument admission fees
18. SB162 - Friends of Iolani Palance exemption
19. SB613 - Early Learning Educational Task Force
20. SB755 - County Ethics Commissions
21. SB810 - Waimano Ridge funding
22. SB837 - Agriculture land purchase in Ewa
23. SB870 - Bishop Museum online archaeological database
24. SB932 - Prison inmate re-entry program
25. SB946 - Reduce lifetime driver's license revocation for DUI
26. SB1004 - Psychologists prescriptive authority
27. SB1060 - Workers comp rule-making authority
28. SB1066 - Invasive species via marine shipments
29. SB1191 - Pedestrian safety funding
30. SB1283 - Tobacco settlement fund
31. SB1833 - Family leave
32. SB1922 - UH lease to Hawaii Public Television
33. SB1988 - Honey products labeling and advertising

Tina Shelton - Mahalo and Good Luck!

We want to say thank you to Tina Shelton, veteran television news reporter, who is (at least for a few more days) one of the few reporters remaining who have consistently covered the state capitol, and Hawaii politics and government, with knowledge, experience and insight. She is a "pro" and she will be missed. We do, however, expect her to remain a vibrant and talented voice in our community, both in representing the John A. Burns School of Medicine, and on the musical stage.

It has been obvious to many here at the state capitol that news directors and editors, especially in television, do not seem to be as engaged as they once were in what's happening at the legislature. Hawaii has a voter apathy problem, and that is not helped by the dwindling coverage of both the legislative and executive branches of government. Actually, this blog is a result of and response to that problem. We needed another vehicle to get news, information and opinion out to the media and the public. It is a bit deflating to see the shrinking ranks of veteran reporters, but we want to send Tina our thanks, appreciation and best wishes.

Georgette Deemer - House Communications Director

Monday, June 25, 2007

V for Veto

The governor sends down her veto messages today, signaling the bills that she plans to veto. The question for the House and Senate is whether these bills warrant coming back for an override session, and whether there are enough votes to override the veto. The House Majority will caucus on Wednesday to discuss the issue, and House and Senate leadership must also meet, as both sides must agree to come back for the one-day session. In order to override a veto, a two-thirds majority is required. In the House, that means 34 votes of 51 members; and in the Senate, 17 votes of 25 members.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Governor may veto pedestrian safety bill.

Slow down! That's the message we're seeing in more and more neighborhoods as Hawaii residents continue to be hurt or killed in pedestrian accidents. SB1191 strengthens Hawaii's current crosswalk law, but we hear that the Governor intends to veto the bill because funding for the program would be taken out of the state's highway fund. The bill appropriates $1.5 million in 2007-2008, and $1.5 million in 2008-2009 to improve high risk crosswalks and roadways throughout the state, including the installation of more traffic countdown timers. The bill is particularly important to seniors who have difficulty crossing in the time allowed. Pedestrian safety is too critical an issue in our state to quibble over a funding source. The bill should be allowed to become law.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Oprah Supports Baby Safe Haven Law

Oprah Winfrey is calling for the passage of Baby Safe Haven laws in the remaining states without such laws -- Hawaii, Nebraska and Alaska. Yesterday, the Oprah show presented the case of 15-year-old Jessica Coleman who gave birth to and abandoned her unwanted baby. The baby was found 6 months later, in a duffle bag filled with stones, in the bottom of a river. For years, the community only knew him as Baby Hope. Jessica confessed to the crime 6 years later, and is now serving time in prison. She says she had no one to turn to for help, and that had there been a safe haven option, she believes she would not have committed the crime.

Rep. John Mizuno introduced HB1830 to create baby safe haven laws in Hawaii. He believes that the Governor will veto the bill, as she has done in the past. Linda Smith, senior policy advisor, has stated that Hawaii does not have many cases of abandoned babies and that things in Hawaii are different from the mainland, where the concept of "ohana" encourages taking care of children in extended families. However, there have been three high-profile abandonment cases in the past few years. In 2005, a baby was found dead in a shallow grave in Kalihi. In 2001, a baby was found dead in a rice bag. In 1999, a dead baby was found in a shoebox on Tantalus. Rep. Mizuno states that if just one baby's life is saved by this bill, the law is justified.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bureau of Conveyances Investigation Begins

The joint Senate-House Investigative Committee on the management and operations of the Bureau of Conveyances held its first hearing today. The committee adopted rules to govern the proceedings of the committee, approved the hiring of investigator Hilton Lui, approved to issue a subpoena of a representative of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission to report on the findings of their investigation of the BOC, and approved a list of future subpoenas, primarily of BOC and Department of Land and Natural Resources personnel. (Photo from left to right: Senators Mike Gabbard, Russell Kokuban, Co-Chair Jill Tokuda, Co-Chair Joseph Souki, Representatives Cynthia Thielen, Karl Rhoads, James Kunane Tokioka and Sharon Har.)

(Photo Right: Investigator Hilton Lui being interviewed by media.)

The next meeting is scheduled for July 5, 2007, at 1:30 p.m. at the State Capitol, Room 329

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

DLNR Enforcement Receives Emergency Vehicle Status

Summer is here and more folks are camping out at state beaches and parks, hiking on state trails, fishing, and enjoying Hawaii's natural resources. Please be aware of a new law, HB714, that allows Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) conservation enforcement vehicles to mount red and blue lights and to be authorized as emergency vehicles. The bill was introduced by Rep. Mele Carroll (District 13 - Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai, Molokai, Keanae, Wailua, Nahiku, Hana.) Lawmakers believe that the use of the red and blue lights will help deter criminal activity on state lands, and will help the public to identify the DOCARE (Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement) officers as law enforcement personnel who have full police powers.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Silent March to Honor Tyran Vesperas-Saniatan

The Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Rep. John Mizuno will co-host a silent march tomorrow to honor slain 14-year-old Tyran Vesperas-Saniatan. The purpose of the march is to create greater awareness on the issue of domestic violence, which often goes unreported by victims.

When: Tuesday, June 19th at 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
Where: State Capitol - Marchers will gather at the Father Damien statue

On June 11th, Tyran was allegedly stabbed in the neck and killed by his father, Tyrone Vesperas, while trying to save his mother, Cheryl-Lyn Saniatan. Cheryl-Lyn, who was pregnant with a near term fetus, was stabbed in the abdomen. She survived the attack; the baby did not.

This year, the Legislature recognized that sexual violence and domestic abuse are not only law enforcement issues, but social issues that must be addressed in multiple ways.
HB500, the budget bill, provides $1,076,217 in general funds for fiscal years 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 for the Statewide Sexual Violence Services program through the Department of the Attorney General. It also increases funding for domestic violence shelters throughout the
State by authorizing an additional $762,500, statewide, for each year of the biennium.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Happy Father's Day

Rep. Ryan Yamane (District 37 - Waipahu, Mililani) with son Daniel.

Happy Father's Day to all of Hawaii's hard working dads. This year, the legislature passed several measures that recognize the important role that fathers play in the lives of their children and families. SB1174 appropriates funds to support programs that strengthen the bonds between children and their incarcerated parents. One such successful model is the SKIP program (Strengthening Keiki of Incarcerated Parents) which works with fathers at the Waiawa correctional facility. Hawaii has approximately 3,163 incarcerated parents of 6,665 children within the state's prison system. In addition, SB249 makes the State Commission on Fatherhood permanent by removing the sunset date on the establishing legislation.
"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."Mark Twain

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Legislative Investigation of Bureau of Conveyances to Begin

The joint Senate-House committee to investigate the management and operations of the State Bureau of Conveyances will hold its first public meeting on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 at 10:00 a.m., State Capitol, Room 329. The committee will investigate the security of recorded documents, private computer access and tampering of documents. This first meeting appears to be organizational in nature for the purpose of adopting rules, and discussing procedures for securing witnesses, the production of documents, and the issuance of subpoenas. No public testimony will be accepted.

Senator Jill Tokuda and Rep. Joseph Souki serve as Co-chairs. Members are Senators Carol Fukunaga, David Ige, Russell Kokubun, and Mike Gabbard, and Representatives Sharon Har, Karl Rhoads, James Kunane Tokioka and Cynthia Thielen. For background information, see SCR 226, which passed this session following the failed confirmation of the Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Incentive to Convert Leasehold to Fee

SB600 generated lively debate in the House this session. The bill, which was signed into law on Friday, June 8th, allows a 100% capital gains tax exemption from 2008 - 2012 on the sale of leased fee interest to condominium lessees through associations of apartment owners or residential cooperative corporations. Essentially, this provides an incentive for lessors to sell the fee interest in their residential properties. The new law is considered a victory for condo dense districts such as Makiki, shown above.

Tough Nut to Crack

Hawaii's macadamia nut industry had reason to celebrate over the Kamehameha Day weekend. The governor signed HB1628 into law on Friday, June 8th, requiring that macadamia nut product labels state the percentage of Hawaiian-grown mac nuts contained in the package. The bill was introduced by Big Island Rep. Bob Herkes who shepherded it through the legislative session.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Rep Blake Oshiro Named Co-Chair of National Public Safety and Justice Task Force

The Council of State Governments has appointed Rep. Blake Oshiro, Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee and Majority Floor Leader, as the Co-chair of a national task force addressing public safety and justice issues. The task force, which meets twice a year, addresses emerging trends that impact our justice system, particularly criminal and public safety issues. Oshiro co-chairs the task force with Rep. Joan Brady of South Carolina. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is the vice-chair.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"America's Most Wanted" case inspires Identity Theft legislation

Rep. James Kunane Tokioka has been closely following the trial of Henry Calucag, aka Hank Jacinto. Tokioka introduced HR198 which requests the Attorney General and the Identity Theft Task Force to improve the process of notarizing documents in order to reduce identity theft. The resolution is based on the true case of John Elwin, a Kauai resident, whose remains were found in the Philippines on May 14, 2006. Investigators believe Elwin may have been the murder victim of Henry Calucag, who allegedly forged a document to assume title of a Kauai property previously owned by Elwin. Calucag is charged with first degree identity theft, first degree theft, and forgery. The case was featured on "America's Most Wanted" in November 2006.

Rep. Tokioka became involved with the case because his parents were neighbors of Elwin. He hopes that HR198 will minimize the crime of identity theft so that no other Hawaii citizen falls victim and pays for such crime as Mr. Elwin did. The trial began on May 18, 2007. The jury began deliberation on June 6th.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Waiting for gas prices to drop...

Come July 1, consumers should be looking at a 14-cent drop in gas prices, not the 10-cents discussed while the legislature was in session.

The legislature passed HB1757 which exempts the sale of alcohol fuels, including ethanol -blended gasoline, from the general excise tax at 4.5%. The bill requires that the tax savings be passed on to the consumer. Now that gas prices have risen to over $3.00 per gallon, $3.00 X 4.5% = 13.5 cents. The bill also increases the fuel tax by 1 cent per gallon.

Today, a quick look around Honolulu puts gas prices about $3.30 per gallon. At this price, if the bill were to become law, the cost savings to consumers would be around 13.8 cents. ($3.30 X4.5% = 14.85 cents - 1 cent).

However, as of this date, the Governor has not signed the bill into law.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Youth Suicide Prevention Bill Becomes Law

In researching his Youth Suicide Prevention Bill, Rep. John Mizuno came across an alarming statistic - that within Hawaii's general population, there is one suicide death every 2.8 days. The bill, HB55 was signed into law on June 4 as Act 124. It establishes educational and early intervention and prevention programs within the Dept. of Health to deal with the rising rates of youth suicide for both females and males, and among all ethnic groups. In Hawaii, suicide is the second leading cause of death among persons 15-24 years old.

Good News, Bad News for Makaha Beach users

Rep. Maile Shimabukuro joined Jimmy Keaulana, son of legendary waterman "Buffalo" Keaulana, and Melvin Pu'u to publicly thank the City and County of Honolulu for replacing the makai showers at Makaha Surfing Beach. The bad news, however, is that you still have to cross a very dangerous highway to get to the only bathroom at the park. "People die and accidents happen all the time due to this," said Rep. Shimabukuro. "I've seen makeshift memorials at the beach from grieving family members." DOT's position is that realigning the road is not feasible and that it is too expensive.
"The community can't understand why the decision was made to crop a highway down the middle of the most popular beach on the coast,"Shimabukuro continued. "The highway's location is in contradiction to the Makaha Master Plan, which calls for the road to be located mauka of the halau."

Friday, June 1, 2007

Caldwell vs. Smith on 'Island Insights'

House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell faces off with Governor Lingle's Senior Policy Advisor Linda Smith on the next "Island Insights". The show airs on PBS Hawaii, Monday, June 4th at 7:30 p.m. Dan Boylan moderates the panel, which also includes the Star-Bulletin's Richard Borreca. According to producer Colette Fox, "Island Insights" will soon expand to a one-hour live broadcast.