Tuesday, July 31, 2007

World Wide What?

Chances are, 16 years ago, you never even heard of the world wide web. Now it is one of the primary ways we communicate with each other and receive news and information. August 2007 will be the 16th anniversary of the web, and Hawaii has taken its first step toward achieving statewide internet access through the passage of HB310. The bill was introduced by Rep. Kyle Yamashita, chair of the House committee on Economic Development and Business Concerns. This bill establishes the Hawaii Broadband Task Force with an appropriation of $50,000 for fiscal year 2007-2008. Their mandate is to develop a long-term strategy to offer affordable internet access and promote broadband usage statewide. The task force will provide their findings and recommendations to the 2008 and 2009 Legislatures.

Next on Kukui Connection - Sundays at 4 p.m.

Rep. Marilyn Lee continues her interviews with freshmen legislators on her cable television show, Kukui Connection. In August, her guest will be Rep. Faye Pua Hanohano, the representative from the Big Island, District 4 - Puna, Pahoa, Hawaiian Acres, Kalapana. That show airs on the first and third Sundays, August 5th and 19th, 4:00 p.m. Channel 54.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Give Peace a Chance

By Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu - Vice Speaker

On September 21, 2007, Hawaii will become the first state in the country to annually celebrate its own Peace Day. In honor of that day, which is celebrated throughout the world as the United Nations International Day of Peace, people of all ages from around the state are invited to submit an artistic expression of what "peace" means to them. The art work will be displayed at the State Capitol and award winners will be announced at a special ceremony.

I introduced the Peace Day bill on behalf of youth members of the Hawaii Buddhist Association. I was impressed that these young people cared enough about peace in the world to stick with it through the legislative process. We all need to start thinking more about how we, as individuals, can create peace. They say that life imitates art, and if that's the case, let's begin with our personal expressions of peace through art.

Here's how to submit expressions of peace:

Format: For this first year, art work format will be limited to 2-dimensional art such as paintings, drawing, prints or posters; and literary submissions 500 words or less, such as stories, essays and poetry.

Eligibility: Everyone! People of all ages are encouraged to participate.

Deadline: September 1, 2007

Information required: Please include your name, age, mailing address and telephone number. If desired, you may also include a brief bio and explanation of the piece submitted.

Mail to: Dr. Jeannie Lum, Matsunaga Institute for Peace, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Saunders Hall #723, 2424 Maile Way, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822.

Or drop off in person to: Office of Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, State Capitol, Room 427.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Art at the State Capitol - Korean War Memorial

On July 27, 1953, the Korean War Armistice was signed at Panmunjom. On July 27th, 1995, President Bill Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young-sam together dedicated the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. So, today, we highlight the Korean War Memorial which is located on the west end of the State Capitol grounds along Richards Street. It is combined with the state's Vietnam War Memorial.

The two memorials are made of polished black granite arranged in a serpentine wall, about 6 ft. high and nearly 100 ft. long. The wall contains individual squares on which are engraved the names of veterans who died during each war. The names are listed chronologically by year.

The memorials are graced by two poems:

Long ago, far off,
We fell in fields of honor.
Remember us now.

Grieve not for lost youth.
Graved in memory and stone
we dwell in your dreams.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Smart Growth

Chair of the Smart Growth Interim Task Force, Rep. Sharon Har, put together an impressive discussion group last week, including the 4 county planning directors - Kathy Sokugawa representing Henry Eng from Honolulu, Ian Costa from Kauai, Jeff Hunt from Maui and Chris Yuen from the Big Island. The goal of the task force is to develop legislation that supports smart growth principles, such as improve land use, create more open space, compact urban areas, develop more affordable housing, and decrease infrastructure cost.

Rep. Joe Bertram is not on the task force, but participated in the meeting. His viewpoint in support of the Wailea 670 project, also known as Honua'ula appeared in the Maui News on 7/22. The project has come under attack from groups such as Maui Tomorrow and Save Makena. Maui has the highest median price for a single family home of any county in the state. He warns that while many people oppose development, they may not be aware of the consequences. Bertram writes, "Stopping development actually pushes home prices even higher and widens the gap between haves and have-nots. Instead of simply opposing development, it would be more constructive to ask ourselves: 'What kind of development does Maui need?'"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Center for Public Integrity Ranks Hawaii Legislature #2 and Grade A

The interim task force on HR176, to establish a standards of conduct committee, is underway. The bi-partisan task force includes Kirk Caldwell, Majority Leader, as chair, and members Lynn Finnegan, Jon Riki Karamatsu, Michael Magaoay, Barbara Marumoto, Colleen Meyer, Blake Oshiro, and Kymberly Pine. The group has met twice and will reconvene on August 21st. At the August meeting, the task force is scheduled to meet with Dan Mollway, executive director of the State Ethics Commission and Dean Avi Soifer of the UH Law School.

Rep. Blake Oshiro provided the task force with informational material, including the results of a survey on public disclosure by The Center for Public Integrity, Investigative Journalism in the Public Interest. Conducted in 1999, and updated in April 2006, the 43-question survey was designed to determine whether legislators stand to gain personally from actions taken in office. Hawaii ranked as the 2nd best legislature with a grade of "A". The state of Washington ranked #1.

In the Governors Disclosure rankings, released on July 19th, Hawaii also ranked #2 behind Washington. However, Washington was the only state to receive an "A", and Hawaii received a "B".

Finance Committee heads to Maui

Every year, the House Finance Committee travels to all the major islands of the state to see first-hand the projects that they have funded, and to become as educated and informed as possible of the state's financial needs. The committee will be on Maui today through Friday, including an all day visit to the island of Kahoolawe on Friday. They plan to go to schools (Pomaikai Elementary, Old Maui High School, Maui Community College), Maui Memorial Hospital, get an update on the Hawaii Superferry, tour the Maui Research and Technology Center, and visit the Kaheawa Wind Farm.

Is the state ready for a fireworks ban? While at the wind farm, they will take a special trip to see the nearby Olowalu brush fire damage, requested by Rep. Angus McKelvey (District 10 - Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei.) The brush fires on Maui, many of which were set off by fireworks, have claimed hundreds of acres of property, including one home that was burned to the ground. Fighting the fires has been a drain on county resources. Rep. McKelvey plans to introduce legislation for 2008 proposing a ban on fireworks, determined by each county.

Photo: Brush fire on Maui between Olowalu and Maalaea.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Using Highway Fund for Pedestrian Safety is not a Raid

Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro defends the legislature's position to use the highway fund rather than the general fund for improvements to crosswalks in this morning's Advertiser. Read entire piece here. His main points are:

1)Federal dollar match is only in jeopardy if the fund is depleted. The law requires that the fund maintain a 35% cushion (about $60 million), and the projection for the end of FY2007 is that the fund will have a balance of $90 million.

2)This is not a "raid". There is a clear nexus between the highway fund and road safety. In fact, there is an entire program within DOT called "Highway Safety" whose sole purpose is to provide a safe, efficient and accessible highway system.

3)If our state highways are in bad shape, it is due to inefficient management and not a lack of funding. The Reason Foundation, an independent think tank, released a report that said in 2005, Hawaii ranked 5th in the highest amount spent to build and maintain each mile of highway. Sadly, we ranked 5th lowest for highway safety.

4)State economy is slowing. It will be difficult to find $3 million in the general fund for pedestrian safety. Let's use the highway fund for this purpose and save more money in the general fund for other needs.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Contradictions from the Lingle administration

"We want to reassure the public that there will be no budget shortfall, and public services will not be cut or delayed, as has been claimed." Robert Piper, Deputy director, Budget & Finance on 7/20 Kauai Garden Island and 7/22 Honolulu Advertiser.

"The state Department of Budget and Finance told the Department of Education that it would not release $110 million out of $235 million appropriated by lawmakers from the general fund in the past two legislative sessions. The restrictions could delay construction work for at least eight months in about 55 of 96 public schools that are first in line for repairs." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/22.

"They ignore the fact that with the state collecting $150 million more in revenues in fiscal 2007 than 2006, there is ample money to keep state services at the same level, if not increase them." Ted Liu, DBEDT Director, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/22.

"On July 1, 2007, departments will receive their respective budget allocations for the first quarter only. Full-year allocations are targeted to be available by September 15, 2007....Please be alerted that budget restrictions may be imposed in September should the current revenue condition continue." Governor Linda Lingle, Exec. Memorandum No. 07-01, 6/27.

Utah Senate Visits China

When the Hawaii House Majority was contemplating the idea of starting a blog, we looked to what other state legislatures were doing, and one of the best sites we found was the Senate Site, a blog by the Utah Senate Majority. They were very helpful in answering our questions and sharing from their experiences as a popular political blog in Utah. Recently, the Utah Senate went to China, and they've posted some great photos and stories about their trip. It's a reminder that Hawaii, with our large Asian population, is not the only state reaching out to Asia. Aloha to our Utah readers.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Art at the State Capitol - Message in a mural

This interactive mural is located on the ewa or west side of the chamber level at the State Capitol. I have walked past this mural a hundred times, always drawn to its vibrant color and strong design, but never knew its story until today.

The mural was created by a group of young artists at a downtown poetry slam. The event was organized by Progress Hawaii which, according to the information card, engages young citizens in the political process through creative, dynamic and sometimes unusual means. Progress Hawaii registered the young voters and educated them about legislation that affects their lives. The mural is an expression of their concerns and their pledge to participate in Hawaii's political process. The interactive mural was coordinated by Hawaii artist Solomon Enos. There is no date on the card, and the websites listed are no longer active. Is Progress Hawaii still around? Getting more young people engaged and politically active is an important cause.

Georgette Deemer - House communications director

Using cane haul roads to alleviate highway closures

On Wednesday night, the H-1 near the airport viaduct was closed for over 6 hours, from 7:45 p.m. to 2:10 a.m., due to a one-car crash. In the future, highway closure time could be shortened, and the impact to motorists alleviated, due to HB1608, signed into law as Act 141, introduced by freshman Rep. Angus McKelvey. McKelvey's District 10 on Maui includes Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua and Kihei, and is an area where there is one way in and one way out. A traffic emergency and road closure puts this district in jeopardy.

The bill gives authority to the Governor, the state Director of Transportation, the 4 county Mayors and the county Directors of Transportation, to designate an area as a "traffic emergency zone". This is defined as an area that is accessible by only one state highway, and the public health and safety would be endangered by the closure of the highway due to a traffic accident, natural disaster, or other emergency. The bill allows the state or county to designate the old cane haul roads as a temporary state highway and indemnifies the owner of the cane haul road from liability. The cane haul roads were once an important transportation system for Hawaii at a time when our state's economy was driven by agriculture. They now have the potential to be an important part of the state's emergency traffic plan.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One small step for....Hawaii aerospace industry

Tomorrow marks the 38th anniversary of the first humans to land on the moon through the Apollo 11 mission. On July 16, 1969, Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins launched into orbit on the Columbia. Four days later, on July 20th, Armstrong and Aldrin separated on the lunar module Eagle for the moon landing while Collins continued to orbit on the Columbia command module.

This year, the legislature appropriated $500,000 towards the support of an aerospace industry in Hawaii. SB907 renames the Office of Space Industry in the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, as the Office of Aerospace Development, with the goal of positioning Hawaii to be nationally and globally competitive. The appropriation allows the department to establish and operate the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems or PISCES, in order to support space exploration and settlement.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rep Brower wants to find and return your money

KITV reporter Mahealani Richardson's mom received a letter from Rep. Tom Brower notifying Mrs. Richardson that she had $120 of unclaimed money. That led to a news story on KITV last night on Rep. Brower's efforts to find money or property owed to taxpayers and make sure they get it back. Some amounts are as high as $21,000. Money found may be from an old tax return or a state deposit that was never returned.

Photo: Tom tells a Honolulu woman that she is owed $17,000 from the unclaimed property program.

The "Unclaimed Property Project" uses data from the state's unclaimed property program.

Here's some information on how to check to see if you are owed money:

Go to http://www.repbrower.org/ and click on the Unclaimed Property link.

Enter your name to fill out an on-line claim form. If you see that money is owed to you, contact the Unclaimed Property Program in one of the following ways:

  • Call 586-1589 on Oahu, 974-4000 on Hawaii, 274-3141 on Kauai, or 984-2400 on Maui.
  • Email your inquiry to unclaimedproperty@hawaii.gov.
  • Visit or write to #1 Capitol District Building, 250 S. Hotel Street, Room 304, Honolulu, HI 96813.
All claims must be verified by and collected through the Department of Budget and Finance.

If you need help, or if you want to let him know how your claim went, email Rep. Tom Brower at repbrower@capitol.hawai.gov or call him at 398-5653.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Volunteers pitch in at Kalihi Valley public housing

In their own version of "Extreme Makeover" volunteers celebrated the 29th anniversary of the Institute for Human Services by cleaning and restoring dilapidated structures at Kalihi Valley public housing. The housing project has over 40 units that are unoccupied because they are in need of repair before they are considered livable.

Rep. John Mizuno presented a certificate to IHS, Oahu's largest 24-hour emergency walk-in shelter for men, women, and families. At the end of the day, tenants were able to move into their new home.

Root Cause of Crime in Hawaii

Photo: Judge Steven Alm, Judge James Gray and Eric Sterling

Are our current policies and prevention efforts on drug trafficking, drug abuse and prohibition working? The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Tommy Waters, will hold an informational briefing on the root cause of crime in Hawaii. ACLU Hawaii, Community Alliance on Prisons, and the Drug Policy forum of Hawaii are co-hosts.

When: Tuesday, July 17th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Where: State Capitol, Room 325


Judge Steven Alm - 1st Circuit Judge, Honolulu. Judge Alm is the chair of the Intermediate Sanctions Policy Council and Founder of H.O.P.E.

Judge James P. Gray - California Superior Court Judge. Judge Gray is the author of "Why our drug laws have failed and what we can do about it".

Eric E. Sterling - President, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. Mr. Sterling is the liaison to the American Bar Association's Committee on Substance Abuse.

Did you know? Hawaii's incarceration rates are on the rise. We export more than half of our prisoners to private U.S. prisons. Hawaii's female prison population is at almost 2X the national average. Hawaii is the largest customer of Corrections Corporation of America at $50 million a year.

Monday, July 16, 2007

LG is a candidate for Gov and should stop appearances in PSA's

By Rep. Marcus Oshiro - Chair of Finance Committee

Public Service Announcement or Campaigning?

Back in June, Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona announced his intention to run for Governor in 2008 and has since held a number of fundraisers statewide. At the same time, he is the principal spokesperson in a series of tax payer funded “Start Living Healthy” commercials, aka public service announcements, which are receiving a great amount of print and air time on broadcast and cable. The state should enlist great role models such as Tadd Fujikawa, Colt Brennan or Clarissa Moore to promote healthy living, for the Lieutenant Governor is campaigning and should step down from this role.

One of the first bills to pass the Legislature this session was HB389, which Governor Lingle signed into law as Act 54 on May 1st. The law now states that candidates for public office are prohibited from appearing in public service announcements from the time they file their nomination papers until the time they are no longer a candidate. Certainly, the L.G. would not like to contradict his previous press release of February 1, 2006 wherein he believed it would “not be appropriate” to appear in any public service announcement since he was running for office. Again, he may not be in violation, technically, but as a former judge and as someone who aspires to be Governor, I'm sure he would want to be sensitive to the spirit of the law and not stoop to a technical loop hole. While the L.G. has not filed papers, he is obviously and visibly in campaign mode. I would like to remind all potential candidates of this new addition to campaign law."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

National Taxpayers Union Praises House Bill 122

The Advertiser reported today that the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has praised Hawaii lawmakers for passing a new law promoting accountable government. House Bill 122, introduced by Finance Chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, requires the state to create a searchable web page that discloses all entities and organizations that receive more than $25,000 in state funds. The bill became law without the Governor's signature. Link to story here.

The requirement is modeled after federal legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Tom Coburn and Barack Obama, which instructs the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to provide online information on federal grants and contract disbursements. Hawaii became the 5th state last week to open up state accounting records, joining Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Texas. The NTU had one recommendation for change. Given that the federal legislation dollar level is $25,000, they suggested that Hawaii may want to consider lowering the threshold next year.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Art at the State Capitol - Office of Rep. Kyle Yamashita

"Aizu Dancers" by Kauka de Silva - Ceramic and reed sculpture, 1984

Representative Kyle Yamashita (District 12 - Upcountry Maui) is a big supporter of art education. He is responsible for securing funds for the development of a performing arts and visual learning center at King Kekaulike High School.

The art he selected for his office reflects his appreciation for fine craftsmanship using natural materials, such as this series of ceramic and reed sculptures, each standing 8 to 10 inches tall. De Silva was born and raised in Hawaii but studied art at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Milo Wood Lathe bowl by Robert Yamada 1988
Robert Yamada is a Kauai artist from Kapaa. The lustrous sheen of his milo wood bowl is produced by hand polishing with leaves from the ulu (breadfruit) tree and kukui nut or mineral oil.

"Maui" by Dorothy Saxon Wenger - Oil Painting 1973

Yamashita's district on Maui includes Haleakala, and he was successful in his freshman term in the 2005 and 2006 sessions to acquire funding for the much needed expansion of Haleakala Highway. The painting by Dorothy Saxon Wenger called "Maui" was selected because it seemed to represent the colors of Haleakala - House of the Sun, with its reds and oranges of the volcano, the yellows of the sun, and the greens of Upcountry Maui.
"Red Winged Stiletto" by Garry Greenwood - Leather Sculpture 1984

This unusual leather sculpture never fails to draw attention. Standing only about a foot tall, the piece looks like wood, but is flexible to the touch.

Universal Health Care for Hawaii?

Photo: Rep. Della Belatti, Leslie Gise M.D., U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Rep. John Mizuno, Rep. Karen Awana

By Rep. John Mizuno

That was the subject discussed on July 7th, as the panel weighed in on a proposed national healthcare system as well as Hawaii's consideration of Universal Health Care.

Congressman Abercrombie supports his colleagues US Reps John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich, authors of HR676 - The United States National Health Insurance Act. The bill creates a publicly financed health care system that ensures that all Americans have access to the highest quality and most cost effective health care service regardless of their income or health status. Dr. Gise confirmed that this would provide health care for everyone in our state, especially those in rural areas, including mental health care.

During the 2007 session, I introduced HB56 which provides health care for all Hawaii residents through a single payer system. The bill did not pass this session but remains alive in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Should both national and state measures pass in 2008, the state measure would yield to the national system. However, the state system could be implemented in 2 to 3 years, while the federal system would probably take 4 to 5 years.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Governor Must Implement the Law

By Rep. Kirk Caldwell - Majority Leader

Now that the override session is over, the legislative process is complete, and we call on the Governor to do what the executive branch is constitutionally mandated to do -- implement the law.

It is our opinion, as well as the opinion of our legal counsel, that the bills the Governor vetoed are not technically or fatally flawed. We did not approach the special session with the mindset that we would override for the sake of overriding to show political muscle. House leadership set specific criteria to determine whether a vetoed bill rose to the level of being overridden, and we discussed each bill thoroughly in our caucuses, as did the Senate. When the House and Senate came together, our two override lists were very similar even though we had discussed the overrides independently. Here are the criteria we used:
  • The bill, on third or final reading in each house, should have been passed by at least a two-thirds vote.
  • The bill, as much as possible, should not include a general fund appropriation.
  • The bill promotes at least one of the following public purposes of major signficance: public safety, public health, and working class protection. Subsequently, in working with the Senate, we added environmental protection/planning and technology to this criteria.
While we probably would have had the votes to override most of the bills on the Governor's potential veto list, we do respect the power of the Governor to veto, and we are willing to work with the administration to resolve differences on certain bills. We will not, however, negotiate with the Governor through the media, as she tried to do at the last minute by claiming that we were uncooperative. That is not statesmanlike, nor does it result in good policy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pesticide Exposure at Waimea Canyon Middle School

The legislature passed two pesticides bills this year, HB1646 and HB1641, drawing attention to the increasing problem of pesticides exposure in our neighborhoods and around our schools. In the past year, three schools were forced to close due to toxic fumes from pesticide spraying; the most recent incident was Kahuku High School which closed for several days in May 2007.

Now a group on Kauai, called Maluia-WCMS (Waimea Canyon Middle School), made up of staff, parents, and concerned community members, have created a blog to document an on-going problem with pesticide spraying. Here is the link to their blog, which contains a You Tube video of the spraying activity. The group claims that the press has given the public safety issue facing Waimea Canyon Middle School minimal attention. They also claim that Syngenta, the company that is spraying pesticides on agricultural lands west of the school, has broken their agreement not to spray before 3:30 p.m., while students, teachers and staff are still on campus. They report that since then there have been a number of complaints of symptoms indicative of pesticide exposure.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Of bills, vetoes and overrides

Today, the Governor vetoed 27 bills and the House and Senate came back into special session for one day to override 11 of those vetoes. For the votes, click on the bill number.

Bills that were vetoed and overridden:

HB30 - International trade agreements
HB310 - Broadband task force
HB 718 - Kewalo keiki fishing conservancy
HB1270 - 2050 Sustainability Plan
HB1503 - Dislocated workers
HB1605 - Maui traffic control center
HB1830 - Baby safe haven.
SB932 - Offender re-entry system
SB1066 - Marine containers fee for invasive species
SB1191 - Pedestrian safety
SB1922 - Creative media lease space at Hawaii public television
Related to the override session, Rep. Della Au Belatti has an opinion piece in today's Advertiser on her approach to and consideration of the veto overrides.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Baby Safe Haven Advocates Travel to Hawaii for Override Session

Mike Morrisey, co-founder of Baby Safe Haven in New England, joined Rep. John Mizuno on the KHON2 Morning News show today. Mike and his wife Jean are here from Massachusetts to lobby for an override of HB1830 should the governor veto the bill as expected.
Photo: Kirk Matthews, John Mizuno, Mike Morrisey

Pedestrian Deaths Personalized

The Advertiser's new online database is worth checking out. One that caught my eye, due to the potential veto of the pedestrian safety bill, is the list of pedestrian deaths for 2006 and 2007. Compiled by Rod Ohira, the running log is 47 pedestrian deaths statewide and counting. What is stunning, however, is to see the names, the locations of the accidents, and the age of each victim. Not all are elderly, such as 16-year-old Orem Kauvaka from Hau'ula or 19-year-old Erwin Lauronal from Kona. To see it in this format personalizes the issue.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Art at the State Capitol - Office of Rep. Clift Tsuji

"Excavation No. 2" by Wayne Miyamoto
Acrylic and enamel on paper

Rep. Clift Tsuji (District 3 - South Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown) had one criteria in selecting art work for his office at the State Capitol--he wanted to showcase artists from The Big Island. His selection includes work by Hiroki Morinoue, Shirley Hasenyager, Seiichi Osada, Clifford Panis, and others. The painting by Wayne Miyamoto is mounted above Rep. Tsuji's desk. The artist statement says: "One of the reasons for the title of this piece is the many layers of paint on the surface, and the subsequent scraping and digging into the paint to uncover the image."

"Home Sweet Hovel" by Jane Fullerton
Mixed Media

This is a detail from Jane Fullerton's mixed media piece in Rep. Tsuji's waiting area. It depicts images of plantation life in Keaau, including the old sugar plantation store. "The painting is my emotional response to those lost lifestyles and to the people whose lives left an imprint on Keaau," said Fullerton.

Cooperation or Photo Op?

Yesterday, Governor Lingle sent a letter to Senate President Hanabusa and Speaker Say requesting the Legislature to amend 4 bills so that she won't have to veto them. In this morning's editorial, The Advertiser calls upon the Legislature to cooperate. One has to question why the request came down so late when the administration has had 2 and 1/2 months to review and analyze these bills? Why wasn't the request made on or before June 25th when the potential veto list was announced, or, at the very least, a week out so that Hanabusa and Say could talk to their respective caucuses? After all, the entire Legislature worked on these bills for 4 months - members deserve that professional courtesy.

As Majority Leader, I learned of the request, not from the administration, but from the press. That is not the way to reach resolution on anything, let alone legislation on which we disagree. That said, if the Governor felt there was a way to avoid vetoes, I wish she would have approached us even before publishing the potential veto list so that we could have the time required to work on the bills together. For the sake of good legislation that benefits the public, we're all for a "meeting of the minds." Unfortunately, the letter that came down yesterday seemed more show than substance. Knowing that we would have no time to comply, it meant to make us look uncooperative. And, of course, it's always a bit suspicious when the administration calls the media to alert them to exactly when the letter will be delivered to Senator Hanabusa's office, just in case they want to get it on video.

Rep. Kirk Caldwell, Majority Leader

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Cost of a special session

The House is poised to return for a special session to override most of the Governor's potential vetoes. (Citing lack of votes, it appears unlikely that the legislature will override HB91- Public Accountancy, SB1004 - Psychologists prescriptive authority, and SB1283 - UH Tobacco Settlement Fund, if vetoed. There may be more.) What is this going to cost taxpayers? Pat Mau-Shimizu, the House Chief Clerk, estimates that a one-day special session will cost approximately $5,000. This includes per diem and airfare for Neighbor Island representatives and senators who must travel to Honolulu. Constitutionally, the legislature must convene the session to override vetoes before noon on Tuesday, July 10th, but the Governor has until midnight to veto bills. Therefore, the legislature may convene, and if needed, go into recess, until the vetoes are delivered.

All Aboard the Tren Urbano

The Tren Urbano - or urban train - is Puerto Rico's new mass transit system, currently covering a 10.7 mile course through the capital city of San Juan. Rep. Marilyn Lee was in Puerto Rico for legislative business and received an invitation to learn more about the project. As Honolulu prepares to develop its own mass transit system, the comparisons between San Juan and Honolulu contained many similarities. Her observations are published today in the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Tren Urbano cost S2.25 billion and an extension is planned. Ridership is lower than projected, but increased 7.5% from 2005 to 2006. General fare is $1.50.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"Recklessness" state of mind added to arson law

With the July 4th holiday tomorrow, and the recent brush fires on Maui and the Big Island, Hawaii residents should be aware of recent changes made to the arson law. HB1158 was one of the first bills to be passed this session, signed into law and effective on April 9th as Act 11. The bill adds "recklessness" as a state of mind, in addition to "knowingly" or "intentionally", as a requirement for any person who commits the offense of arson in the fourth degree. In addition to other penalties imposed, if the act of arson amounts to 10,000 square feet or more of damaged property, the convicted person may be required to pay any costs related to extinguishing the fire, and to perform community service in the area where the fire was set. If the arsonist is a minor, the parents or legal guardian would be responsible for paying a percentage of the costs related to extinguishing the fire, regardless of whether the property is publicly or privately owned.

Next on Kukui Connection - Sundays at 4 p.m.

Rep. Marilyn Lee hosts a television series on Olelo called Kukui Connection, and she has recently focused on doing in-depth interviews with House freshmen. After the 2006 election, the House gained a large freshmen class of 13 -- 11 Democrats and 2 Republicans. The show airs on Sundays at 4:00 p.m. on Channel 54. Coming up in July, Lee interviews Democrat Della Belatti (District 25 - Makiki) on July 8 and 22, and Republican Karen Awana (District 44 - Nanakuli) on July 15 and 29.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cal Can Cook!

House Speaker Calvin Say won the cook-off with Senate President Colleen Hanabusa in the Flavors of Honolulu charitable event this past Saturday. The two leaders were each given the task of cooking pan fried pork chops and poached salmon (I suppose being so familiar with being in the frying pan and/or hot water?)

House of Reps members and staff cheer on Speaker Say with "Cal Can Cook" signs.

Speaker's recipe for "Palolo Pork Chops" is to pan fry them in garlic and oil, topped with fresh sauteed island vegetables. His poached salmon was cooked Chinese style with hot oil, garlic, ginger, shoyu (soy sauce), green onions and Chinese parsley (cilantro).

Speaker Calvin Say celebrates victory with sons Jared and Geoffrey, wife Cora, and friend/assistant chef Wes Yonamine. In addition to the winning entries, Speaker cooked up two additional dishes: "Local Girls Spam"- cubes of spam fried with fresh island vegetables, and "Poor Man's Sardines" - canned sardines sauteed with garlic and onions on a bed of sauteed watercress.