Friday, August 31, 2007

Neuroscience Institute of the Pacific to announce Hawaii plans

Photo: Keoni Devereaux, Ph.D, will serve as Chief Administrator

Principals of the newly established Neuroscience Institute of the Pacific will be at the State Capitol on Tuesday to unveil their Hawaii plans to the Legislature. The work of the Institute is to enhance the level of neurology clinical care for patients with multiple sclerosis, dementias, and other neurological conditions, and to provide access to clinical research trials to the people of Hawaii. Dr. James Pierce, M.D., will serve as the Institute's Medical Director and is currently a practicing neurologist at Queens Medical Center. Dr. Daniel Bandari, M.D., also a neurologist, will be the Co-Medical Director.

Where & When: State Capitol, Room 329 - Tuesday, Sept. 4th at 9:30 a.m.

Kukui Connection Hosts Rep. Cindy Evans and Councilmember Nestor Garcia

Rep. Marilyn Lee has lined up two special guests for Sept. on her weekly public affairs program, Kukui Connection. They are Honolulu City Councilmember Nestor Garcia (left) on September 2, 16 and 30, and Rep. Cindy Evans (right), chair of the House Public Safety and Military Affairs Committee, on September 9 and 23. The show airs every Sunday on Olelo, Channel 54 at 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stop Superferry Service to Kauai Until Legal Matters Resolved

That's the main message from Rep. Hermina Morita who sent a letter today to Transportation Director Barry Fukunaga requesting that the state stop all Hawaii Superferry service to Kauai pursuant to last week's Supreme Court decision that an environment assessment is required.

"The use of the State's harbor facilities, including Nawiliwili Harbor, is not appropriate at this time," wrote Morita. "Moreover until all legal matters are resolved or there is further guidance from the Hawaii Supreme Court, the DOT needs to respect the rule of the law."

Morita is critical of the DOT and claims it disregarded the law when it approved the Superferry's operations without requiring an envrionmental review. She highlighted the fact that the environmental review was requested by the Hawaii, Maui and Kauai County Councils, and that the department's avoidance of the process "was done for political expediency not respect for the law and brings us to this juncture."

Morita goes on to state that a full environmental review and full disclosure of the Superferry's operations should have been done at the conception of the business. She emphasized that, "Federal, state and county police or military resources and power should not be used to enforce bad political decisions."
Copies of the letter were sent to Governor Lingle, Mayor Baptiste, the Kauai County Council and the US Coast Guard.
Photo: Kauai protesters greet Hawaii Superferry (AP)

Two Years After Katrina

By Rep. John Mizuno

I recently attended a briefing in New Orleans by Major General Hunt Downer, Asst. Adjutant General, Louisiana National Guard, to review recovery efforts in schools and communities two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Photo: South Carolina Rep. Robert Williams and I with kids from the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School.

On August 24th, I visited the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School for Science and Technology, located in the Ninth Ward. This community was totally covered by flood water, and it is difficult to imagine that they could have ever recovered. I was amazed that the students I met seemed so happy and filled with energy. Principal Doris Roche-Hicks explained that "We lost over 30 students and adults to Hurricane Katrina, but we never fail to remind our kids what they have."

The school was not originally a charter school, but after the hurricane, Principal Roche-Hicks realized that "charter" status was her only hope for a fast and efficient resurrection of the school. In 2006, King's charter was one of the first charters approved, and she scrambled to secure insurance, arrange transportation, and register students. Today, the school is running full staff, with 95% of her staff from pre-Katrina days. The most amazing fact to me is that all of her staff commutes from outside the district because none of them have been able to move back to their damaged homes.

Federal, state and local funding is bottle necked. The simple fact remains, two years after Katrina, funding appropriations are not getting to those in need. For example:

Congress set aside $16.7 billion for Community Development Block Grants. As of March 2007, only $1 billion has been spent, mostly in Mississippi. Following news reports of this holdup, HUD spent $3.8 billion on the program, but this still leaves 70% of the funds unused. Meanwhile 30,000 families remain scattered across the country in FEMA trailers.

FEMA earmarked $8.2 billion for public assistance, but only $3.4 billion is to be used for non-emergency projects like repairing schools and hospitals.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received $8.4 billion to restore storm defenses (i.e. the collapsed levees which were the cause of the flooding of New Orleans.) To date, only 20% of the funds have been used, and the Corps indicates that the levees may not be completely repaired until 2011.

Photo: This is a house checked by National Guard post-Katrina. The "1/8" left of the square identifies the unit which checked the house. The "0" above the square means no rescues were made. The "9/13" right of the square is the date the house was inspected in 2005. Note that there is no number below the square - that would have meant the number of bodies found. Some houses had numbers.

Rosenthal and Maskell will speak at next Standards of Conduct meeting

Professor Alan Rosenthal of the Eagleton Institute, Rutgers University, and Jack Maskell, Legislative Attorney of the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, will speak by teleconference at the next Standards of Conduct task force meeting. The meeting will be held at the State Capitol, Room 329, at 9:00 a.m.

Alan Rosenthal is Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Rutgers. He is a nationally recognized expert and published author on the subject of legislative ethics. Currently, he is working with the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Center on Congress at Indiana University, and the Center for Civic Education on the development and communication throughout the states of a new public perspective on representative democracy. His most recent published work is entitled, "Heavy Lifting: The Job of the American Legislature" published by CQ Press in 2004.

Jack Maskell has worked with Congress on issues about ethics, censure, and the recent ethics bill which was sent to President Bush.

For further information, call 586-8475 - the office of Rep. Kirk Caldwell, Majority Leader, who chairs the task force.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rep. Marilyn Lee Elected to National Board

State Representative Marilyn Lee (D-District 38) has been elected to the Executive Board of the Women's Legislative Network of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

The Women's Legislative Network of NCSL includes all women state legislators by virtue of their election to office. There are currently 1,733 women serving in state legislatures across the country. The Network's mission is to promote the participation, empowerment, and leadership of women legislators through:

· Sponsoring forums and workshops on topics of interest to women legislators,
· Hosting events for women legislators at NCSL meetings, and
· Partnering with other organizations to provide resources and services.

"It is a real privilege for me to serve on the board of the Women's Legislative Network," said Lee. "I look forward to working with women legislative leaders throughout the country and the world as together we face the challenges of an ever-changing global economy and society."

The Executive Board of the Women's Legislative Network is made up of a president, president-elect, vice-president, past president, eight regional members and two at-large members.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lawmakers in the Military

The September online issue of State Legislatures highlights the work of Hawaii Rep. K. Mark Takai who recently conducted a survey of state lawmakers serving in the military. Here are the results:

There are 68 legislators who serve in the military. Out of that number, 23 have been deployed while serving in their respective legislatures, or are currently deployed.

Fifteen legislators served on extended activation, which is a period of more than 139 days.

Thirty-four legislatures have at least one member serving in the military. South Carolina leads with 6, Iowa has 5, and Massachusetts and Texas both have 4.

The Army has 44 legislators, the Air Force and Marine Corps both have 8, and the Navy has 7.

Rep. Takai is the Commander of the Medical Company for the Hawaii Army National Guard and is the chairman of the National Network of Legislators in the Military.

More on shield law...

Question was asked yesterday on why the distinction between journalists, former journalists, and bloggers. Here's an explanation from Rep. Blake Oshiro, vice chair of Judiciary and House majority floor leader, who has authored draft legislation:

"The distinction was based on laws from a majority of other states. The issue is about providing additional 1st amendment protections for freedom of press. Thus, there must be some measure of "press." Bloggers, without any prior journalism or media experience, still enjoy first amendment free speech rights, just not the same legal protections as a "journalist." Also, there are established standards for journalism ethics, but to my knowledge, none exist for blogging, so those conducting themselves within those ethical standards, should enjoy their full freedom of press rights."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Big Island political blogs gain recognition

Congratulations to Hunter Bishop who publishes, and Aaron Stene who writes The Kona Blog for being named "Best of Hawaii Island" in the website/blog category, voted on by readers of the Hawaii Island Journal. Bishop is a former journalist for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, while Stene is a private citizen whose profile reads, "I'm just a longtime kama'aina who is very concerned about the direction of this island." As such, Bishop would be covered under the proposed shield law legislation, and Stene would not. See Advertiser story here.

Interested in being a UH Regent?

What was once a plum gubernatorial appointment does seem to be a much more open process now that a new law requires the regents to be selected from candidates put forth by a statewide advisory committee. According to the SB article this morning, some of the criteria seem a bit subjective, such as, "objective decision making" and "openness to a diversity of views". However, according to chair Roy Takeyama, the committee will be advertising for candidates, so those who believe they can contribute to making our University of Hawaii a better institution should consider applying. Call 692-1218 or visit

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What Synergy!

Just as the House Finance Committee ends its tour of the Big Island, getting some favorable press coverage along the way, the Governor has chosen this time to release $1.3 million for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii and $79,000 for the installation of a septic tank in Kona.

Finance Committee Honors Mo'okini Heiau

Photos submitted by Joel Kennedy

Former House Communications Director, Joel Kennedy, who now resides in North Kohala, caught up with the House Finance Committee on their visit to the Mo'okini Heiau.

Above, Momi Lum briefs the committee outside the entrance to the heiau.

Inside the heiau, the group practices the ritual of ho'okupu or gift offering.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

20 states passed copper theft laws this year

Copper theft has become so rampant across the nation that 20 states, including Hawaii, passed new copper theft legislation in 2007. You know it's serious when copper thieves cause the Friday Night Lights to go dark, as reported in The Advertiser's front page story on the cancellation of the Campbell vs. Roosevelt high school football game.

Hawaii's law, HB1246 , makes copper theft a class C felony and requires scrap sellers to disclose where and from whom they obtained the metal. Alabama bans the sale of scrap copper over $100, while Washington makes it a misdemeanor for any scrap dealer to do business with those who have been convicted of theft or illegal drug usage. The 20 states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Virginia. The problem of copper cable theft is so serious in Las Vegas that telecom carrier Embarq Corp, a spin-off of Sprint Nextel, is offering $5000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone trying to steal their copper cables. So far this year, the company has spent $400,000 in Las Vegas repairing severed cable lines.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mollway sees need for House Ethics Committee

Dan Mollway, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, today shared thoughts with the task force charged with determining whether the House should establish a Standards of Conduct committee and the scope of its duties. The Advertiser has a story here, and Ian Lind covers it on his blog here. Given that there is no other outside tribunal that can address the conflicts of the House, and seeing the importance of restoring and maintaining public confidence, Mollway said that such a committee is a good idea and that one is needed. The committee will meet next on September 4th at 9:00 a.m. and is scheduled to engage Alan Rosenthal, one of the country's foremost experts in legislative ethics, in a conference call. Rosenthal is a professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers.

From Sugar Mill to Energy Plant

House Finance members continue their Big Island visit on Wednesday, including a stop at Hamakua Energy Partners, a 63-megawatt combined cycle plant consisting of two General Electric combustion gas turbines and a steam turbine. It is one of the few U.S. plants burning naphtha, a light petroleum product, as its primary fuel. The plant was built on the former site of the Hamakua Sugar Mill in Haina. It sells power to the Hawaii Electric Light Co., with the capacity to meet the energy needs of almost one-third of the Big Island. In April 2007, Hamakua Energy Partners was cited by the U.S. EPA for possible violation of permit requirements under the Clean Air Act. The company has pledged to work with the EPA to resolve any issues.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Finance Committee Tours Big Island

The House Finance Committee will conduct a site visit on the Big Island, August 21-24, 2007, to tour various locations that have received state funding or may require funding for the future. Committee members will also discuss issues pertinent to Big Island residents with county and community leaders. Site visit highlights include:

Tuesday, August 21st
Kona International Airport to receive Department of Transportation updates
Mookini Heiau to tour heiau and discuss earthquake damage
Kona Community Hospital to tour facility and discuss health-related issues

Wednesday, August 22nd
Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii to discuss on-going operations and future expansion with NELHA tenants and management
Kamuela Vacuum Cooling Plant to meet with area farmers
North Hawaii Education Center to meet with educators and farmers
Hamakua Energy Partners to tour energy facility
Hamakua Springs County Farm to tour farm and discuss sustainability, ag tourism and alternative energy

Thursday, August 23rd
Rainbow Falls Connection Kitchen to tour kitchen and meet with Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council
UH Hilo to tour campus and discuss programs
Hawaii Community College and Manono Campus, Hilo
Hilo Courthouse to view status of construction
Pacific Aquaculture Resource Center to tour facility and discuss aquaculture industry

Friday, August 24th
Keaau Middle School to discuss school renovations, discuss Big Island specific education needs including infrastructure and programs
Meeting with Mayor Kim

Finding Best Qualified University Regents

Pacific Business News reports that the special Advisory Council formed to select qualified University of Hawaii Board of Regents candidates will start public meetings this week and may be ready to take applications by late September. This is of special interest at the State Capitol given the contentious path of the bill, SB14, which establishes the council. The bill was vetoed by Governor Lingle, overridden by the Legislature, and became law as Act 56.

Members of the council include Neil Bellinger (appointed by Speaker Calvin Say), Karl Fujii (appointed by UH alumni association), James Koshiba (appointed by Senate President Colleen Hanabusa), Thomas Ramsey (appointed by UH All Campus Council of Faculty Senate Chairs), Ginger Takeshita (appointed by the UH Student Caucus), and Roy Takeyama (appointed by the UH Association of Emeritus Regents). Takeyama serves as chair, Fujii as vice-chair. Governor Lingle's nominee, Chatt Wright, resigned from the committee citing scheduling conflicts.

Legislature supports Akaka Bill

The Hawaii Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a hearing today at the State Capitol Auditorium starting at 1 p.m. Here is testimony scheduled to be provided from State Rep. Marcus Oshiro:


My name is Marcus Oshiro. I am a Japanese-American citizen, sansei, and my ancestors came from Okinawa, Japan. I am also a member of the Hawaii State Legislature, a body of 76 individuals elected by the people of the state of Hawaii. I am writing to express my support for S. 310/H.R. 505, The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2007, introduced by the Members of the Hawai’i Congressional Delegation, and to ask that you support passage of S. 310/H.R. 505.

The Hawaii State Legislature has passed resolutions supporting Native Hawaiians and their right to form a representative government every year for the past several years. Passage of these resolutions was unanimous in the State House of the Representatives.

Our support has crossed party lines and is widespread among our constituencies. Every credible public opinion poll since 2003 has consistently shown an overwhelming majority of residents in Hawaii support federal recognition for Native Hawaiians as a process of reconciliation.

It is also the right thing to do.

S. 310/H.R. 505 or the “Akaka Bill” provides that process, and the Hawaii State Legislature remains committed to support the efforts of Native Hawaiians to achieve self-determination. More than 560 American Indian and Alaska Native groups are recognized, and the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act extends the special legal and political relationship to Native Hawaiians. This legislation is consistent with the U.S. Constitution, more than 150 Federal measures enacted since 1910, and the Hawai‘i State Constitution.

For these reasons, I ask that you honor the wishes of the people of Hawaii, as expressed through their elected representatives, by supporting the Akaka Bill and the efforts of Native Hawaiians to seek federal recognition and protect the culture and resources that are critical to all of our social, economic, cultural, and spiritual well-being.

Thank you for the opportunity to share these comments.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Nifty to be Fifty

Photo: Hawaii delegate John A. Burns, who was later elected Governor, prepares to slice the statehood cake on Capitol Hill.

Today is Statehood Day, formerly Admissions Day, annually celebrated on the third Friday of August. On March 18, 1959, President Eisenhower signed the Admission Act, dissolving the Territory of Hawaii and establishing the State of Hawaii as the fiftieth state of the union.

Did you know that the Admission Act is also considered the first civil rights legislation enacted by Congress after World War II? That's because the Act extended all American citizen's rights to a territory with a non-white majority. In a couple of years, Hawaii will also celebrate its 50th anniversary of statehood. This year, the legislature passed HB1352, establishing a commission to plan for the historic event.

Photo: Honolulu Star Bulletin, August 19, 2006
Statehood is not without controversy. It was one year ago today that a conflict occured on the grounds of Iolani Palace when a statehood celebration was interrupted by native Hawaiian groups protesting the inappropriateness of recognizing statehood at the "scene of a crime". They referred to the stealing of the Hawaiian government in 1893 when Hawaii was annexed to the United States and the emprisonment of Queen Liliuokalani in her own room at the palace.

Hawaii songwriter Harry Owens even wrote a statehood song:
Hawaii is the fiftieth star in the U.S.A.
Aloha means how joyful we are
For at last we are brothers today
We know that you’ll be happy
When Hawaii falls in line
We sing a song of gladness as we
Join the forty-nine.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Peace Day News - Contest Deadline Extended

We have a new logo for Hawaii's first Peace Day celebration, designed by Miles Hakoda.
The deadline for the "Expressions of Peace" art and literary contest has been extended to midnight on Friday, September 7th. See previous posts for contest instructions.
Peace Day is working on a website which will be accessible soon.
Hawaii will be the first state in the country to celebrate its own Peace Day on September 21, 2007, in conjunction with the United Nations' International Day of Peace.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

GMO Taro Debate Continues

There are 5 House committees on the island of Kauai today and tomorrow. As soon as the Economic Development/Tourism and Culture/Agriculture committees landed, they were greeted at the Kauai County building by protesters sending a message aimed at Agriculture Chair, Rep. Clift Tsuji. Reminiscent of the demonstration (captured on YouTube) launched in April, they want Chair Tsuji and other House leaders to support the passage of a 10-year moratorium of genetically modified crops in Hawaii, including all varieties of taro. The group will tour taro farms tomorrow to learn more about the GMO issue and talk directly with working farmers. In the case of taro, there is also a cultural perspective to consider--taro is not only the state plant but of historic and cultural significance to native Hawaiians.

In addition to taro farms, the joint committees will visit the closed set of "Tropic Thunder" to discuss film industry tax credits, coqui frog infestation at Lawai, Hawaiian Mahogany biomass project, and Kilohana Plantation Railway as an example of agritourism.

The Health/Human Services and Housing committees are on Kauai to visit Wilcox Hospital and the Kauai County Housing Agency today, and Mahelona Hospital on Thursday as Mahelona celebrates its 90th Anniversary of service to the people of Kauai.

$1.6 Billion!

That's how much the Hawaii Employees' Retirement System gained over the past year, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the only publication yesterday to draw attention to the record performance. See story here. This amounts to a whopping 17.3% annual gain, which comes after a switch to new portfolio advisers, Pension Consulting Alliance of Portland, Oregon.

Policy makers and political observers will be sure to make a note of it for next session. The ERS fund has been eyed as a source for venture capital. SB1365 encourages the ERS board to invest in Hawaii venture capital and to report to the legislature on an amount that might be prudent to invest without jeopardizing retirement funds.

On a broader level, what impact does this have, if any, on the state's ability to comply with GASB reporting of unfunded health and retirement fund liability? It's a complex issue, and we'll be using the blog to try to demystify this and other legislative issues going forward.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Emergency Pet Shelters

In several news reports on preparing for the potential impact of Hurricane Flossie (surely they can come up with more ominous names), residents are warned that pets are not allowed at emergency shelters. This should not be so. After seeing the effect of Katrina on pets and their owners, the legislature passed a law in 2006, HB3121, introduced by Rep. Ryan Yamane. Effective upon approval in May 2006, the law requires the Director of Civil Defense to identify public shelters suitable for sheltering pet animals. Private shelters may also be identified for the same purpose. The law directs the governor to establish criteria, requirements, conditions and limitations for providing shelter for pets during emergencies such as hurricanes.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Honoring Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda

Photo: Aboard the Robert T. Kuroda at Pearl Harbor approaching Diamond Head. The Honolulu Advertiser

The Kuroda is officially in action. The logistics support vessel, LSV-7, was christened four years ago and named after World War II veteran, Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda. Kuroda is the brother of former state senator Joe Kuroda and the uncle of Kevin Kuroda, the House Sergeant-at-Arms.

The ship was under construction in Mississippi when it was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. After re-construction it arrived safely in the islands last year, and is now officially in the Army's service at Pearl Harbor.

Photo: The 2003 launch of the Kuroda in Mississippi. Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Ironically, Kuroda was denied a job at Pearl Harbor because of his Japanese ancestry, so he decided to enlist in the Army. Robert Kuroda was a member of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Medal of Honor recipient. He died in Bruyeres, France while leading his combat team in battle.

Photo: Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda, Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Finance Chair reports from NCSL

HPR's Wayne Yoshioka tracked down Rep. Marcus Oshiro at NCSL for a radio interview on the focus for the future. Despite a weakening economy, lawmakers across the country were urged to prioritize their sights on higher education. Oshiro wants to focus on education, energy and health initiatives next session with Hawaii's projected limited general funds.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Kauai case to be featured on "Dateline NBC"

Photo: Henry Calucag on "America's Most Wanted"

The Kauai Garden Island published a story today announcing that the case of murder and identity theft victim John Elwin will be featured on Dateline NBC this coming Monday night. The story received national attention last fall on America's Most Wanted. Henry Calucag, aka Hank Jacinto, was found guilty of fraud, forgery and identity theft in June '07 and is now behind bars awaiting sentencing on August 29. He and John Elwin took a trip to the Philippines in 2006, where Calucag stole property from Elwin valued at over $245,000. Elwin was later found shot to death.

The case was close to home for Kauai Rep. James Kunane Tokioka. His resolution, HR198 , was inspired by the Elwin case and requests the Attorney General and the Identity Theft Task Force to look into ways to improve the process of notarizing documents in order to reduce ID theft cases.

Since Calucag was convicted, Honolulu police have re-opened two other unresolved, separate cases where he is suspected of stealing property from two men, Arthur Young and Douglas Ho, who later disappeared.

Clinton vs. Romney?

Today is the last day of the National Conference of State Legislatures conference in Boston, and participants voted in a straw poll for president. Here are the results:

30.92 Hillary Clinton
25.72 John Edwards
20.23 Barack Obama
10.40 Bill Richardson
6.65 Joe Biden
2.60 Chris Dodd
2.02 Dennis Kucinich
1.17 Al Gore (write-in)

35.85 Mitt Romney
22.63 Fred Thompson
15.62 Rudy Giuliani
8.18 Mike Huckabee
8.18 John McCain
3.14 Ron Paul
2.52 Sam Brownback
1.26 Tommy Thompson
1.26 Newt Gingrich (write-in)
.63 Duncan Hunter
.63 Tom Tancredo

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hawaii Dead Last in Technology Exports

That's what Bill Spencer, Hawaii Venture Capital Association, claims in a scathing letter to the editor in today's Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Spencer accuses Economic Development Director Ted Liu of painting a rosy picture of Hawaii's economy tied to what he calls "status quo" industries such as tourism and construction, and blasts the Governor's "lack of commitment" in developing an innovation economy. (In all fairness, it seemed that the administration went into a full court press on innovation during most of the session - hardly what you would call lack of commitment.) Spencer makes an interesting point, though, on Hawaii's ranking compared to other states. Can we really be dead last, behind Puerto Rico (gasp!) in technology exports?

Not to worry. According to House sources, Hawaii ranks #1 in citizen longevity, lowest depression level (tied with New Jersey), access to healthcare, and most disciplined flossers. When the question was asked how one would go about measuring dental floss discipline, another source answered... oral exams.

LWV wants to cut LG Aiona out of PSA's

Daryl Huff at KITV filed a story yesterday that the League of Women Voters is calling for L.G. Duke Aiona to step down from his spokesman role in public service announcements. Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who introduced the law prohibiting candidates from appearing in psa's while they are running for office wrote about the issue here and in letters to the editor in June. The loophole is that the candidate doesn't have to stop the appearances until he/she files to run. Even though he is raising funds and has announced his candidacy, it is not likely that the LG will file until 2010 allowing him 3 more years to promote his image to the voting public using taxpayer dollars. The LWV believes he is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. Should the legislature amend the law?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"25 Online Ideas Worth Stealing"

State Legislatures, the publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures, published a list of 25 internet-based ideas "worth stealing" from state legislatures across the country. It's a nod in acknowledging that legislative websites have "informed citizens, brought them closer to their government, provided new services, and made legislative processes more accessible and transparent." We couldn't agree more. Hawaii is listed as Idea #2 for allowing committee testimony by email and the assistance provided by the Public Access Room.

Comments welcomed on whether Hawaii should, as we say, cock-a-roach any of these ideas to make the legislative process more user-friendly. If you'd like the web address for any of these programs, let us know.

#1 from Minnesota. Property Tax and You. Webpage devoted to property tax, asking citizens to share their property tax stories and offer ideas for solutions.

#2 from Hawaii. Testimony by Email.

#3 from Arizona. Request to Speak in Committee. Citizens wishing to testify on a bill can sign up in advance online.

#4 from Nevada. Online Opinion Poll.

#5 from Utah. Blogging. This is the famed Senate Site from the Utah Senate Majority. (And very helpful to Hawaii when we started our own blog.)

#6 from Kentucky. Email Your Legislator. What's different is that a link is provided for a general "in-box" where messages are sorted and directed to the right legislator, and a link sending messages to "all" legislators.

#7 from Arizona, Search Those Archives, searchable video archives of floor actions and committee hearings; and from Utah, Hear the Debates, searchable audio clips for the same.

#8 from Vermont and Texas. Roll Call Votes. Vermont allows search of roll call votes by member name or by bill number. Texas provides roll call votes by various methods, such as bill number, date, bill text.

#9 from Nebraska. "I'm new here" guide. Informational guide to the legislature and process.

#10 from Florida. Online sunshine for kids.

#11 from West Virginia. Up to the minute RSS feeds. News releases, meeting schedules, tracking action on bills, etc.

#12 from Washington. Spanish language version. Did you know Spanish is the second most common language in Washington state? Not everything is available in Spanish, but there is a Spanish version of the homepage and television coverage of political debates.

#13 from Michigan. Load it on your PDA. Session schedules, calendar, committee bill records, and committee meetings in a small-screen viewing format.

#14 from Illinois and South Dakota. Personalized bill tracking. "My legislation" feature allows customized bill tracking.

#15 from Texas. Current amendment. Web page automatically updates as legislative activity occurs on the House floor, including a scanned image of the amendment or current bill being considered.

#16 from Virginia. Live help hotline. Clicking on the "Live help" button begins an internet chat session with a staff member who can respond to questions.

#17 from Wisconsin. Who represents me? Enter street address or use interactive district maps to figure out the names of your legislators.

#18 from North Carolina. Privacy policy.

#19 from Louisiana. Virtual Tour.

#20 from Missouri. Podcasts.

#21 from Pennsylvania. Legislation Archives. Dates back to the 1969-70 session.

#22 from South Carolina. Quick Search. Legislation, budget, Constitution, House and Senate Journals, bill summaries, all searchable from the home page.

#23 from California. Accessibility. Website compliance with the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

#24 from Idaho. Budget Process demystified, including fiscal facts and budget analyses.

#25 from New Jersey. Site Map and Easy Navigation. It's a loaded site, but navigation features make it user-friendly.

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Electronic Surveillance Law

Not much in the local newspapers on this, but President Bush signed a new expanded wiretapping law Sunday that would seem to have implications for many Hawaii residents who make international telephone calls or send international emails. Read the NYT story. The new law allows the National Security Agency to listen to Americans calling overseas, without a warrant. The White House spokesman said that the intent is not to focus on Americans, but to give the government greater "flexibility in focusing on foreign suspects overseas." In a nutshell, the new law provides a legal framework for the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on foreign communications, placing the surveillance outside the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

When the topic exploded in 2006 as a privacy issue, telecommunications companies balked at cooperating with the federal government, and Hawaiian Telcom indicated that they had not been contacted by the NSA to participate in the program. Now, it appears that the companies can be ordered to cooperate by the attorney general or the director of national intelligence (although it also appears likely that this section of the law will be challenged in court.)

The Hawaii legislature passed SB965 in 2006 to update the state's electronic surveillance law, and several resolutions were introduced (but went nowhere) calling for an investigation into warrantless wiretapping. Hawaii has a large population with family and business contacts overseas. They should be made more aware of this new law.

Who is Faye Hanohano?

Photo: Rep. Faye Hanohano. Credit: Hunter Bishop
Rep. Marilyn Lee ended her series on freshmen representatives with an interview with Big Island Rep. Faye Pua Hanohano. Rep. Hanohano has a hard act to follow. She won the district formally led by Rep. Helene Hale who stepped down at age 88 after serving in county and state politics for 52 years, and who was the only member of African-American descent in the state legislature. Faye Hanohano has her own unique qualifications.
She is the only member of the state legislature whose first language is Hawaiian. She was raised in a Hawaiian family that stayed very close to the native culture. She raises her own dry land taro, makes her own poi, and is bothered by the watery consistency of poi that is sold commercially. In fact, she may even introduce legislation that would address poi consistency.

She was the first female correctional officer at the Kulani correctional facility in East Hawaii. She had planned to become a police officer, but she got the job at Kulani and ended up serving there for 25 years.

She believes her community is open to the idea of expanding geothermal operations by the Puna Geothermal Venture, located on the East Rift Zone of the Kilauea Volcano. Currently, Puna Geothermal provides 30% of the electrical demand on the Big Island.

Rep. Hanohano is also concerned about the amount of depleted uranium left by military operations, particularly Pohakuloa on the Big Island. Even though this is not in her district, she will be looking to address this issue next session.

Other critical issues for District 4 (Puna, Pahoa, Hawaiian Acres, Kalapana) include road access (only one way in and one way out), and the need for a dialysis center in the area as many of the residents in the district are diabetic.

The show will re-air on Sunday, August 19, 4:00 p.m., channel 54.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Taddster at Reno-Tahoe

Photo: Rep. Scott Nishimoto, Tadd Fujikawa and Rep. Glenn Wakai. Both reps report a golf handicap of 28

Tadd Fujikawa made his professional debut at the Reno-Tahoe Open on Thursday. While this is being posted, Tadd appears to be struggling to make the cut. However, he has lots of fans in Hawaii cheering him on who will be proud of his performance, no matter the score. This session, Rep. Glenn Wakai, who represents the district where Tadd lives and goes to Moanalua High School, sponsored a floor presentation to honor the young golfer.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Lucky Dog

Photo: Representatives Sharon Har, Faye Hanohano and Jon Riki Karamatsu with Beth and Duane "Dog" Chapman

What got the most public and media attention at the 2007 legislative session? Affordable housing? Healthcare? Quite possibly, it was the looming extradition of Dog the Bounty Hunter to face criminal charges in Mexico. Duane Dog Chapman, who films his successful TV series in Hawaii, has been in the news recently, not only to promote a new book, but because it appears the Mexican government is about the dismiss his case. Star-Bulletin story. Advertiser story.

Could it be (wink!) because the House Committee on International Relations heard House Concurrent Resolution 50 requesting the president of Mexico and the second district court of Guadalajara to drop the charges? While the resolution did not make it out of the Judiciary committee, the House did honor Dog and his team on the House floor with a Certificate of Appreciation, HR284, commending Duane and Beth Chapman for their contributions to Hawaii.

Photo: Rep. Maile Shimabukuro with Duane "Dog" Chapman

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Peacekeepers sent to Darfur

The United Nations Security Council yesterday approved a 26,000 member force made up of mostly African peacekeeper soldiers from the western region of Sudan. Their mission is to end four years of rape and slaughter in Darfur; it is estimated that 200,000 people have died, and 2.5 million have been uprooted and are refugees. The peacekeepers are expected to be in Darfur by year's end, and when fully deployed, it will be the largest peacekeeping operation in the world. Today, Denmark, France and Indonesia signed on to contribute to the effort.

What has Hawaii done to help? There were several measures introduced in 2007 to recognize the extreme atrocities being done to human life in Darfur. HB34, introduced by Rep. Roy Takumi, was the measure that passed into law. It prohibits the Employees' Retirement System from acquiring any securities of companies that have active business operations with Sudan. HR22, introduced by Rep. Rida Cabanilla, makes recommendations to the UN Security Council and others on the conflict.