Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lawmakers want to prevent more domestic violence tragedies

Photo from The Honolulu Advertiser. Health Committee chair Rep. Josh Green M.D. and vice chair Rep. John Mizuno

"Domestic violence will not be tolerated," said Rep. Maile Shimabukuro yesterday at the beginning of a hearing to address the recent rash of domestic violence tragedies, including the shocking deaths of Janel Tupuola and Cyrus Belt, and to discuss ways to prevent future deaths.

The Honolulu Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin both printed articles in today's morning paper. Robert Shikina from the Bulletin writes about a new bill that will be presented by Rep. Josh Green and require parents to be clean and free of drugs 60 days before getting their child back.

The Advertiser's Dan Nakaso delves more into the questioning of the Department of Human Services' handling of the Cyrus Belt case.

What didn't they report? Here are some of my notes of what wasn't mentioned in detail in the media:
  • Lawmakers and representatives from The Hawaii Coalition Against Domestic Violence emphasized the need to empower those who may be at risk of becoming a domestic violence victim, particularly women involved in abusive relationships.

  • The issues with the Cyrus and Tupuola cases are not the same, said a representative from the domestic violence coalition. When it comes to intimate partner violence, multiple instances of violent behavior toward a victim lead to fatal events.

  • Intimate partner violence is not about the physical abuse, according to the Coalition. That is only one tactic that the abuser uses to assert and maintain control over their partner. Other tactics include money, children and insults.

  • Rep. John Mizuno pushed the empowerment issue. He said that victims of abuse need to have better access to more information. Victims of intimate partner violence, especially low-income families, need to know which organizations can provide help and who they should call. When victims decide to leave an abusive relationship they may need aid in paying the first months rent, transportation to work, etc.

Bills of Interest for FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1ST


Committee on Health/Committee on Human Services & Housing, Room 329, 8:00 a.m.

HB2520 RELATING TO CAREGIVERS. Amends the temporary disability insurance law to permit an eligible employee to collect up to 4 weeks of temporary disability insurance benefit payments to care for a family member with a qualifying disability. (Lee)

HB2224 RELATING TO INSURANCE. Requires insurers that offer the same coverage to part-time employees working at least 15 hours per week; insurance commissioner to report on cost-benefit to the 2010 legislature. Sunsets July 1, 2010. (Say)

HB2675 RELATING TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA. Authorizes the use of a written certification or its equivalent issued by another state government to permit the medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient in place of a certificate provide by the Department of Public Safety. (Bertram)

HB2678 RELATING TO MARIJUANA. Authorizes the establishment of a secure growing facility for the production of medical marijuana for not more than fourteen qualified patients. (Bertram)

Committee on Finance, Room 308, 1:30 p.m.

INFORMATIONAL BRIEFING – Current and future outlook of the tourism industry in Hawaii. Presenters: Rex Johnson, President and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority; David Uchiyama, Vice President of Marketing of the Hawaii Tourism Authority; John Monahan, President and CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau; Joe Davis, General Manager of the Hawaii Convention Center.

Committee on Education, Room 309, 2:15 p.m.

HB2993 RELATING TO SCHOOL NUTRITION. Establishes nutrition standards for food and beverages sold in public schools. Requires DOE to develop nutrition education training requirements for food service managers in the public schools. Requires DOE to encourage schools to provide culturally-appropriate and standards-based nutrition education and farm-to-table nutrition education. (Bertram)

Committee on Education, Room 309, 3:00 p.m.

DECISION MAKING ONLY on HB2973 – RELATING TO EARLY LEARNING. Creates the Early Learning Council to govern the state's early learning system. Establishes an early learning system. Establishes the Keiki First Steps Program.

Committee on Judiciary, Room 325, 4:00 p.m.

HB2034 RELATING TO UNATTENDED CHILDREN IN MOTOR VEHICLES. Makes it a violation of the statewide traffic code to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle. Requires the examiner of drivers to test driver's license applicants for knowledge of this offense. Requires notice of law in rental cars. (Lee)


HB3042 PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO ARTICLE XVI OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF HAWAII. Amends Hawaii Constitution so a criminal case witness who asserts self-incrimination privilege may be compelled to testify/provide evidence as long as the testimony/evidence cannot later be used against the witness on a criminal case except for perjury, false statement, or failure to comply with the order to testify. (Governor)

HB3044 PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF HAWAII RELATING TO TESTIMONY OF DEFENDANTS IN CRIMINAL CASES. Amends Hawaii's constitution so that in criminal cases, juries and fact finders can learn of prior convictions involving dishonesty of testifying defendants, to the extent as with any other testifying witness in a criminal case. (Governor)

HB3056 PROPOSING AMENDMENTS TO ARTICLE VI OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF HAWAII. Amends Hawaii's Constitution to establish an independent Judicial Conduct Commission. (Governor)

Legislature 2008 - Day 10 - Grants-in-Aid Cutoff

Today is the cutoff to submit applications for grants-in-aid. The House voted on Day 2 to amend House Rules eliminating the sub-committee for grants-in-aid; applications will go directly to the House Finance Committee. Chair Marcus Oshiro is still considering a public hearing to hear from all the applicants on their respective proposals. In addition, applications will be posted online for public viewing and greater transparency.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Proposal to implement concussion evaluation tools in high schools held for further discussion

The Committee on Education heard testimonies on several bills today. One of the more interesting ones is a proposal, introduced by Rep. Marilyn Lee, which would require Hawaii public high schools to examine all their football players with concussion evaluation tools.

The bill states:
The department shall implement use of a concussion evaluation tool and apply the tool to evaluate each student athlete participating in the sport of football in public high schools throughout the State.
The majority of today's testifiers were unsatisfied with the bill's language; particularly that other high school sports teams and female student athletes were excluded.

Many of them supported the intent of the bill, but objected to the present language.

"To address only football would neglect the health and safety needs of the entire population of student athletes participation in contact sports," said Patricia Hamamoto, Superintendent of the Dept. of Education, in her testimony to the committee.

According to an article in last months issue of Journal of Athletic Training, a study found that girls sustain a higher rate of concussions compared to boys.

Although football players have a higher percentage of concussion incidents per year, only focusing efforts on them would ignore nearly 40 percent of injured high school athletes. Last season, all sports, excluding football, accounted for 39 percent of injuries.

The bill would require schools to use ImPact (immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing) or a similar evaluation tool, which would need clinical neuropsychologists to interpret the results of brain testing. Several testimonies reiterated that one can't assume that all athletic trainers will have the formal training in neuropsychological testing.

Although ImPact provides coaches, athletes and parents with an objective piece of data, interpreting the data has been a major concern at the seven Hawaii schools that have been testing ImPact, said Superintendent Hamamoto in her testimony.

The second issue with the bill is the ability of the Dept. of Education to administer tests on 400 - 800 student athletes in contact sports. It may be physically impossible because of time, personnel and equipment restraints.

Everyone involved in the discussion seemed to agree that something should be done to protect student athletes from permanent injuries caused by concussions that are not recognized or made aware of before returning to play; however because of the overwhelming opposition and the existence of unanswered questions, the Committee on Education moved to hold the bill for further discussion.


Please disregard the earlier post on the Saturday hearing on HB 2701. The hearing has been postponed until further notice.

Legislature 2008 - Day 9

The Reverend Thomas Okano, Bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii gave the invocation prior to the floor session today.

Emergency Requests from the Governor: Governor Lingle sent down 8 messages requesting that the House authorize emergency appropriations outside of the approved budget, totaling $58,379,565. They are:

HB2694 - $47,142 for operations of the Judicial Selection Committee.
HB3037 - $271,852 in special funds to Aloha Stadium for payment of electricity, sewer, refuse and insurance premiums.
HB3038 - $1,000,000 to DAGS for electricity payments.
HB3140 - $10,000,000 to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to repay a loan to cover payroll and rish management costs for liability insurance.
HB3146 - $10,000,000 to the Department of Health for the Adult Mental Health Division.
HB3152 - $1,807,539 to the Department of Health for ambulance service contract collective bargaining costs.
HB3161 - $14,000,000 to the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation for payment of accounts payable.
HB3197 - $21,253,032 in state highway funds to the Department of Transportation for operations and maintenance of the state highway system.

House Resolution 53 adopted. The House passed a resolution urging the President of the United States to agree to an economy-wide reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions and to commit the United States to a binding international treaty that would result in a significant and rapide global reduction in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration. (The Senate today adopted the same resolution as SR24.) The measure was adopted with Rep. Meyer voting NO. View HR53 here, and the press release here.

The resolution was introduced to coincide with an international gathering on global climate change at the East West Center. Today and tomorrow, the White House is convening a Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change with 17 invited countries to discuss potential international agreements.

Bills of interest for Thursday, January 31st


Committee on Public Safety & Military Affairs, Room 309, 8:30 a.m.

HB2608 RELATING TO PRISONS. Creates separate forensic treatment facilities within all community correctional centers. Ends practice of housing mentally ill prisoners in solitary confinement and with general prison population. (Evans)

HB2824 RELATING TO SENTENCING. Authorizes the court to sentence certain persons convicted of sexual assault in the first degree to wear a global positioning system transmitter for up to 10 years after the person's release from prison. (Karamatsu)

Committee on Human Services & Housing, Room 329, 8:30 a.m.

HB2000 RELATING TO HEALTH INSURANCE. Requires that hearing aid devices be included in mandatory insurance coverage for Medicaid and private health insurance. (Shimabukuro)

Committee on Human Services & Housing, Room 329, 9:45 a.m.

HB2394 RELATING TO TAXATION. Provides for an additional county surcharge on state tax of up to 1% for counties with populations that exceed 500,000. The tax replaces the real property tax collected by participating counties. Reduces rental rates in participating counties to offset reduction in the real property taxes paid by landlords. (Waters)

Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection/Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources & Hawaiian Affairs, Room 312, 10:00 a.m.

HB2590 RELATING TO SUSTAINABILITY. Adopts the Hawaii 2050 sustainability plan. Establishes a sustainability council to coordinate, implement, measure, and evaluate the progress of the Hawaii 2050 sustainability plan and activities. (Yamane)

Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources & Hawaiian Affairs/Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection, Room 312, 10:30 a.m.

HB2828 MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR THE SUPER SUCKER. Appropriates moneys to provide one year of funding for the full time operation of the super sucker project in Kaneohe Bay and for the purchase of a portable super sucker unit. (Chong)

Committee on Finance/Committee on Ways and Means, Room 329, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

INFORMATIONAL BRIEFING. The Department of Public Safety, Department of Accounting and General Services, and Architects Hawaii will brief the committees on the Administration's proposal to replace the Maui Community Correctional Center with a new program intensive facility.

Committee on Higher Education, Room 309, 3:00 p.m.

HB3226 RELATING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII. Requires the submission of candidates' names for the regents candidate advisory council within 60 days following notification of a vacancy. (Chang)

HB2458 RELATING TO COLLEGE SAVINGS PROGRAM. Provides an annual maximum deduction of $10,000 per individual or $20,000 for a married couple filing jointly against their taxable income for contributions made to Hawaii's college savings program in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2007. (Caldwell)

House to hold public hearing on OHA settlement


The House of Representatives will hold a public hearing on House Bill 2701 RELATING TO THE PUBLIC TRUST LANDS SETTLEMENT. The bill proposes to adopt a settlement, which has been negotiated between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the State of Hawaii. It resolves the claims and disputes relating to the portion of income and proceeds from the lands of the public land trust for use by OHA between the years 1978 and 2008.

WHEN: Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. POSTPONED

WHERE: State Capitol Auditorium

HOW TO TESTIFY: Testimony may be submitted in one of the following ways.

By Paper: Submit one (1) original to Room 420 at the State Capitol.

By Fax: For comments less than 5 pages in length, fax to 586-8474 from Oahu, or 1-800-535-3859 from Neighbor Islands.

By Email: For comments less than 5 pages in length, email to:
For those who plan to testify in person.
For those who do NOT plan to testify in person (insertion into official record only.

Registration numbers, which indicate one's place on the testifier list and speaking order, will be issued to all individuals who submit comments and plan to testify in person. There will be House Information Desks at the entrance of the Auditorium for assistance and information. Please note that testimony submitted will be placed on the Legislature's website after the hearing adjourns. This public posting of testimony should be considered when including any personal information in one's testimony.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Super Bowl in Hawaii, say what?

No. Not yet, anyway.

However, Rep. John Mizuno D-30 (Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter) hopes that a new resolution he is introducing this session will jump start discussions and negotiations to bring the National Football League championship game to the islands within the next 10 years.

It's an idea that hopes to propel Hawaii's tourism and entertainment economy to a whole new level, according to Rep. Mizuno. "We would be providing the biggest economic boost to our state," he said. "Certainly, the marketing and public relations benefits will remain with Hawaii long after the conclusion of such an event."

Hawaii has hosted the Pro Bowl at the Aloha Stadium the past 29 years and it has made a prodigious economic impact and has given Hawaii significant national exposure. The 2004 Pro Bowl brought in roughly 22, 000 visitors , which accounted for $29.5 million in visitor spending and $2.84 million in state taxes. In 2007, visitors spent more than $28 million.

Can you imagine what kind of economic impact the Super Bowl would have on Hawaii compared to that of the Pro Bowl?

According to a study by Michigan State University, 59, 500 out-of-state fans attended Super Bowl XL 2006 in Detroit. That's more than twice the attendance the Pro Bowl receives. Chi-Ching!

So how does the selection process work? Cities place bids to host a Super Bowl and then the NFL evaluates candidates in terms of stadium renovation and ability to host a Super Bowl before making their selection, which is usually made 3 - 5 years in advance. In 2011, the 45th Super Bowl will be played in Dallas. Therefore, Hawaii could - possibly - maybe be a contender for the 50th Super Bowl.

The National Football League owners has even considered London as a host for the Super Bowl!

According to a story in Pacific Business News in 2006, Aloha Stadium management wanted to upgrade the complex so that Hawaii could make a credible bid as a Super Bowl host in 2016. In order to even be considered as a candidate the stadium must have 32 box seats for the owners and 60,000 stadium seats; therefore, the stadium would have to build luxury box seats and add 10,000 more seats.

An excerpt from the PBN story:

For Honolulu to seriously enter the mix, the stadium would first have to permanently lock its movable stands into a football configuration. That is the only way that the decaying, 30-year-old structure could support the extra weight from 32 luxury suites and at least 10,000 more seats, according to a stadium planning study commissioned by the state.

The configuration issue also frames the debate in the stadium's boardroom about how to renovate the facility.

As football season comes to an end this weekend, living rooms, sports bars and night clubs will be packed with beer-guzzling Patriot and Giants fans -- or haters (wink, wink Cowboys fans).

As the 2008 legislative session begins, lawmakers are stirring up talk about bringing the Super Bowl to Hawaii and also hearing proposals to transfer the authority of the Aloha Stadium to the University of Hawaii. These two issues are like partners in crime. It will be interesting to see where they both go.

Hey, it might just take you straight to Super Bowl L -- via H1 Freeway, that is.

Bills of interest for Wednesday, January 30th


Committee on Health, Room 329, 8:00 a.m.

HB2413 RELATING TO INCOME TAXATION. Allows an income tax credit to physicians practicing in medically underserved areas for a portion of the amount of medical malpractice premiums. (Green)

HB2529 RELATING TO FOOD SAFETY. Establishes state policies on dealing with tainted foods that are processed for consumption by humans and pet animals. (Mizuno)

HB2283 RELATING TO TATTOO ARTISTS. Allows department of health to issue temporary 14-calendar-day certificates of registration to tattoo artists for educational, trade show, or product demonstration purposes only. (Mizuno)

Committee on Agriculture/Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources & Hawaiian Affairs, Room 325, 8:30 a.m.

HB2292 RELATING TO AGRICULTURE. Enables the agribusiness development corporation to contract with banks to provide lease management services. Allows corporation to lease agricultural lands for up to 55 years. Authorizes the corporation to purchase agricultural lands owned by the Galbraith Estate. (M. Oshiro)

HB2451 RELATING TO AGRICULTURE. Directs the college of tropical agriculture and human resources of the University of Hawaii in consultation with native Hawaiian organizations and taro farmers, to establish a taro farming education and training program. (Tsuji)

HB2453 RELATING TO TARO. Appropriates funds for a taro farming grant program to assist taro farmers in need to help preserve the cultural legacy of taro farming for future generations. (Tsuji)

Committee on Transportation/Committee on Economic Development & Business Concerns, Room 309, 8:30 a.m.

HB2406 RELATING TO SCHOOL BUSES. Requires large school buses to have an operable seat belt assembly at all designated seating positions and seat backs that are a minimum height by 1/1/11, in order to pass inspection. (Lee)

Committee on Transportation, Room 309, 9:00 a.m.

HB3377 RELATING TO HIGHWAY SAFETY. Requires installation of ignition interlock device on a vehicle of a person arrested for driving under the influence that prevents the person from starting or operating a motor vehicle with more than a minimal alcohol concentration while their case in pending and while their license in revoked pursuant to chapter 291E HRS. (Har)

Committee on Health/Committee on Human Services & Housing, Room 329, 10:45 a.m.

HB2447 RELATING TO PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATION. Improves access to psychotropic medication for all participants in Medicaid medical plans. (Mizuno)

Committee on Transportation, Room 309, 11:00 a.m.

INFORMATIONAL BRIEFING – Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor project – update on the progress of the Honolulu fixed guideway transit system.

Committee on Education, Room 309, 2:00 p.m.

HB2494 RELATING TO SCHOOL SPORTS CONCUSSIONS. Requires department of education to implement a concussion evaluation tool for each high school student athlete participating in the sport of football statewide. (Lee)

Committee on Health/Committee on Human Services & Housing, Room – Capitol Auditorium, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

INFORMATIONAL BRIEFING. Review of the policies and procedures of the Department of Health, Department of Human Services, and Law Enforcement agencies as they relate to adult mental health services, substance abuse, domestic violence, child protective services, and protective orders.

To: Rep. Dwight Takamine

Happy Birthday! Have a good day, a productive session, and successful year.

Monday, January 28, 2008

House Committee on Education discusses an early learning system with Hawaii educators

Photo: Representatives end their early education tour in the cafeteria of Jefferson Elementary School. In photo left to right: Rep. Roy Takumi, Principal Vivian S.M. Hee, Rep. Tom Brower, Rep. Lyla Berg.

Rep. Roy Takumi (D-36), Rep. Lyla Berg (D-25) and Rep. Tom Brower (D-23), members of the House Committee on Education, took a tour of Jefferson Elementary School's Pre-Plus program on Friday, Jan. 25, 2008. They discussed some of the main goals and details of a new proposed bill with school educators and administration. The bill, HB2973, would establish an early learning system and a Keiki First Steps Program in Hawaii.

Here are some of my notes:

-Legislators and administration share four main goals: 1.) to expand on such early education programs such as Pre-Plus & Headstart by targeting all disadvantaged three-and four-year-olds. 2.) to develop quality programs that are safe, healthy and prepare three-and four-year-olds for academics. 3.) to have three- and four-year-olds enroll into early education programs that is located at their future elementary school. 4.) to enroll all three- and four-year-olds in Hawaii into early education programs.

Photo: Rep. Berg joins early education students and teaching assistants in an activity before lunch.

-There are currently 17 Pre-Plus programs in Hawaii (2 on the Big Island, 1 on Kauai, and 1 on Maui, 13 on Oahu.)

-Headstart is federally funded and charges $350.00 per child. Parents can apply for state subsidies. Most of the children at Jefferson qualify for subsidies.

-Legislators, educators and school administration shared their concern for a tracking system. Rep. Takumi suggested giving each child a number at the start of pre-education programs in order to track a student's success. However, this would involve a great deal of planning and would call for private and public departments working together.

-Principal Vivian S.M. Hee
discussed the implementation of "Junior Kindergarten." She said that it didn't make any difference or change the quality of learning for her students because placement is only based on age. If a child is not five years old by the debut of the school year, they are automatically placed in Junior-K, no exceptions. Some parents weren't satisfied with the program, and it just seemed like a nicer and convenient way to label kids who needed more help, according to Principal Hee. Currently, Junior-K students are mixed with Kindergarten students.

Photo: Rep. Takumi talks with early education teacher Penny Shiira about the Jefferson School early education program and the future of early childhood education in Hawaii.

-In order to have quality early education programs, schools like Jefferson Elementary need more space (facilities, buildings) and bodies (positions, teachers.)

-Children in the early education classes surprised Legislators when two little girls took the initiative to greet them at the door with a smile, hello and a handshake.

-Rep. Berg commented on a proposed bill to build a comprehensive early learning system in Hawaii, "If you don't start now, when?"

Legislature 2008 - Day 7

It was a very brief floor session today. Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu gave the invocation. He asked for a moment of silence for those we have lost, particularly to violence. The House voted to pass HB2034 RELATING TO UNATTENDED CHILDREN IN MOTOR VEHICLES on second reading and to refer the bill to the Committee on Judiciary. HB2688, HD1, MAKING APPROPRIATIONS TO PROVIDE FOR THE EXPENSES OF THE LEGISLATURE, THE AUDITOR, THE LEGISLATIVE REFERENCE BUREAU, AND THE OMBUDSMAN, was on the calendar for third reading but was deferred one day.

Selected bills of interest for Tuesday, January 29th



HB 3368 RELATING TO LABOR. Requires that contracts subject to certain wage requirements contain provisions allowing employees to organize. (Caldwell)

HB2545 RELATING TO WORKERS' COMPENSATION. Provides that an independent physician be selected to conduct medical examinations in cases where major and elective surgery, or either, is contemplated or in cases where an employee or employer are dissatisfied with the medical process. (Takamine)


HB3211 RELATING TO CLOTHESLINES. "Right to dry". Allows for the use of clotheslines on any privately owned single-family residential dwelling, with limited restrictions. (Morita)

HB2434 RELATING TO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION. Requires retailers in the State to distribute only recyclable, reusable, or compostable checkout bags. (Berg)

HB2495 RELATING TO SOLID WASTE. Prohibits the use of polystyrene foam as a disposable food service-ware product. (Morita)

HB2508 RELATING TO THE DEPOSIT BEVERAGE CONTAINER PROGRAM. Requires retail dealers with more than 75,000 square feet of retail space to operate redemption centers. Effective 10/1/08. (Morita) (Joint Majority)

HB 2509 RELATING TO ELECTRONIC DEVICE RECYCLING. Establishes a state program for collection, recycling, enforcement, and monitoring of covering electronic devices. (Morita) (Joint Majority)


HB 2334 RELATING TO CRIME. Establishes mandatory minimum prison terms for certain offenses against pregnant women. (Waters)

HB 2766 RELATING TO ELECTRONIC MONITORING. Requires electronic monitoring of persons convicted of violating a domestic abuse temporary restraining order or protective order. (Lee)

HB 2128 RELATING TO THE PENAL CODE. Amends the offenses of assault in the second degree and terroristic threatening in the first degree to include conduct committed against victims who the courts and police are attempting to keep safe with protective orders. (Mizuno)

HB 2379 RELATING TO TAXATION. Creates a refundable state earned income tax credit for individual taxpayers' which is equal to 20% of the federal earned income tax credit. (Shimabukuro)


HB 2429 RELATING TO RECREATION. Creates the University of Hawaii stadium corporation and transfers jurisdiction over Aloha Stadium to the corporation. (Chang)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Selected Bills of Interest for Monday, January 28th



HB2032 RELATING TO THE EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM. Prohibits the employees' retirement system from acquiring securities of companies that have active business operations with Uganda. (Mizuno)

COMMITTEE ON TOURISM & CULTURE, Room 325, 10:00 a.m.

HB2986 MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR THE COMMUNITY COLLEGES. Requires community colleges to establish a pilot program in cultural sensitivity training for hospitality industry workers. (Yamane)

HB3348 RELATING TO HISTORIC PRESERVATION. Directs a portion of transient accommodations tax moneys to initially capitalize the Hawaii preservation fund. (Evans)

HB3428 RELATING TO THE HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE. Requires DAGS to prepare and submit a plan to the 2009 legislature to have all signs at the State Capitol in both English and Hawaiian. (Carroll)


HB2591 RELATING TO GIFT CERTIFICATES. Requires retailers to pay out in cash the balance of any gift card worth less than $5, if requested by the consumer. (Magaoay)

Speaker appoints members of the House Ethics Committee

The newly formed House Ethics Committee is a bi-partisan committee made up of three members of the majority and three members of the minority. They are:

Rep. Kirk Caldwell - Majority Leader, Rep. Blake Oshiro - Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Pono Chong - Vice Speaker, Rep. Lynn Finnegan - Minority Leader, Rep. Colleen Meyer - Minority Floor Leader, and Rep. Barbara Marumoto.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Deciphering calling cards may get easier

Long-distance calling cards are tricky little suckers. The last time I used one was about two years ago -- since then I switched to skype calling from my laptop.

Although new online PC-to-PC programs are available, many people still prefer calling cards to new technology. And some get scammed by prepaid calling cards that don't disclose enough information about the cost and extra fees of the rate plan.

The last time I used a prepaid calling card, I thought that I would have 30 minutes to chat with a friend in Europe, but ended up getting rudely cut off 10 minutes after dialing the number. Grrr.

It's all those surcharges that they don't tell you about. Pretty sneaky, huh?

If HB 1970 is passed this session, consumers could receive more detailed information about total costs and fees. Yup. That's right. The new legislation would require companies selling prepaid calling cards to disclose the terms and services of the cards to make it easier for consumers.

According to a supporter of the bill, if the card says $1 per minute, it should be $1.

On the other hand, there are some that oppose the new bill. During the Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce hearing today, a Verizon representative testified in opposition of the bill. Verizon said that it would be too voluminous and expensive to list all calling rates to and from more than 100 countries. AT&T, however, said that they could put consumer information on the calling card package.

There was some confusion about whether the bill required companies to disclose all rates to every country or just cost and fees. Verizon said that disclosing all country rates would take up nearly 26 pages.

The bill was deferred until Feb. 4, 2008.

House to tour preschool, announce details of Keiki First Steps Program

The House Committee on Education will announce tomorrow the details of new legislation to launch a state early childhood education initiative called "Keiki First Steps" during a tour of Jefferson Elementary School's Pre-Plus program in Waikiki.

In 2005, Jefferson School was the state's 10th Pre-Plus program, which provides preschool education for low-income keiki, to launch in Hawaii. The state provides buildings rent-free to licensed and accredited private preschool operators.

The bill would expand early childhood education programs and make it available to all of Hawaii's keiki.

HB2973 - Creates the Early Learning Council to govern the state's early learning system.
Establishes an early learning system. Establishes the Keiki First Steps Program.

Selected Bills of Interest for Friday, January 25th

Selected House bills for Friday, January 25, 2008

COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY, 2:00 p.m., Room 325
HB2456 RELATING TO TAXATION. Allows taxpayers who are reciprocal beneficiaries or domestic partners to elect to file as separate individuals, as married, or married filing singly.

COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, 2:00 p.m., Room 329
HB1992 RELATING TO MEDICAL LIABILITY. Limits noneconomic damages that may be recovered in medical tort actions. Limits the amount of attorney's fees that may be collected in connection with a medical tort action.

HB1995 RELATING TO TORTS. Limits noneconomic damages in medical tort actions to $500,000.

Establishes the Hawaii medical malpractice insurance relief fund to offer policies of medical malpractice insurance to physicians in the State.

HB2151 RELATING TO CAPTIVE INSURANCE. Forms a captive insurance company to provide medical malpractice insurance to self-employed medical doctors.

HB2161 RELATING TO MEDICAL MALPRACTICE INSURANCE. Establishes a medical malpractice insurance company modeled upon the employers' mutual insurance company.

Here is the House Majority Package for 2008

The House Democrats today unveiled their priorities for the 2008 legislative session, as indicated through the 16 proposals of the House Majority Package. View the press release here. When developing the package, majority members were asked to submit proposals of statewide importance that will positively impact the state's future growth and stability. The fiscal impact to the state was also a consideration, especially given the Council on Revenues' downward economic forecast for the next two years.

"The House Majority Caucus worked very hard to deliver a package that will be meaningful to the future direction of Hawaii," said House Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell. "We have many important proposals every session, but not all rise to the level of the majority package. The House Majority Package bills represent our top priorities for 2008."

Here are the bills organized by topic (click on the bill number to view the bill text):

Agriculture/Invasive Species
Chair: Representative Clift Tsuji. Contact: 808-586-8480

1. House Bill 2501 – RELATING TO BIOSECURITY. This bill establishes and funds the biosecurity program within the Department of Agriculture. The purpose of the program is to fight invasive species on several fronts, including administering pre-entry measures, conducting port of entry inspections, and mitigating the establishment of pests within the state. (This bill is also part of the Joint Majority Package.)

2. House Bill 2516 – RELATING TO BIOSECURITY. This bill appropriates $5 million in general obligation bonds, and $5 million appropriated out of federal revenues granted to the State of Hawaii, for the design and construction of joint biosecurity inspection facilities at Honolulu International Airport. It is important that the state and federal government work together to provide inspection services in order to prevent invasive species from entering and destroying Hawaii's environment. The Director of Budget and Finance is also authorized to issue general obligation bonds of $1.5 million for the planning and design of biosecurity facilities at Honolulu Harbor.

3. House Bill 2517 – RELATING TO INVASIVE SPECIES. The Department of Agriculture maintains a list of restricted plants and noxious weeds that restrict the import of these plants into the state. However, the current law does not make it unlawful to cultivate and/or sell the plants on this list. This bill proposes to prohibit the sale in Hawaii or plants designated as restricted plants or noxious weeds. It also clarifies that plants can be placed on the list because they are pests or may be hosts to pests.

Energy and Environmental Protection
Chair: Representative Hermina Morita. Contact: 808-586-8435

4. House Bill 2502 – RELATING TO SOLAR ENERGY. The purpose of this bill is to allow solar facilities as a permitted use in the agricultural district on class "D" or "E" land. (This bill is also part of the Joint Majority Package.)

5. House Bill 2505 – RELATING TO ENERGY. This bill establishes a renewable energy facilitator within the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. The purpose of the position would be to facilitate the efficient permitting of renewable energy projects and to initiate the implementation of key renewable energy projects. (This bill is also part of the Joint Majority Package.)

6. House Bill 2510 – RELATING TO THE ENVIRONMENT. This bill appropriates funds for the state auditor to contract with the University of Hawaii to perform a study of the state's environmental review process. (This bill is also part of the Joint Majority Package.)

Land Conservation
Chair: Representative Ken Ito. Contact: 808-586-8470

7. House Bill 2518 – RELATING TO LAND CONSERVATION. The purpose of this bill is to encourage the preservation of conservation land for the future. It provides a tax credit as an incentive to taxpayers who donate land in perpetuity or completes a bargain sale in perpetuity to the state or conservation agency, for land that fulfills a conservation or preservation purpose. The amount of the tax credit is 50% of the fair market value of the land, not to exceed $2.5 million per donation.

Chair: Representative Josh Green. Contact: 808-586-9605

8. House Bill 2519 – RELATING TO HEALTH CARE. The bill establishes the Hawaii Health Corps program to encourage physicians and dentists to serve in areas of the state where there is a shortage of health care providers or high numbers of uninsured patients. It creates a loan program, in partnership with a Hawaii financial institution, providing physician loans to those who agree to serve five years in a shortage area. The bill also makes available the enterprise zone business tax credit and general excise tax exemption to those physicians who practice in enterprise zone areas.

Family Caregiving
Task Force Chair: Representative Marilyn Lee. Contact: 808-586-9460

9. House Bill 2520 – RELATING TO CAREGIVERS. This bill allows eligible employees to collect up to four weeks of temporary disability insurance benefit payments to care for a family member with a qualifying disability. Effective 7/1/09.

Higher Education
Chair: Representative Jerry Chang. Contact: 808-586-6120

10. House Bill 2521 – RELATING TO EDUCATION. The bill creates the University of Hawaii repair and maintenance account for University facilities, and requires that 1% of the general fund revenues be deposited into the account. The monies shall be used solely for the repair and maintenance of UH facilities.

Land Use
Chair: Representative Ken Ito. Contact: 808-586-8470
Smart Growth Task Force Chair: Representative Sharon Har. Contact: 808-586-8500

11. House Bill 2522 – RELATING TO THE LAND USE COMMISSION. Allows the counties to reclassify lands not more than 50 acres. The purpose of the bill is to streamline the process, and provide for the consolidation of the boundary amendment process with county proceedings to amend land use maps contained in county plans.

12. House Bill 2523 – RELATING TO THE LAND USE COMMISSION. When reviewing the petitions for reclassification, the bill requires the LUC to consider the county general plan as it relates to the petition.

13. House Bill 2524 – RELATING TO TRANSPORTATION. In preparing the Statewide Transportation Plan for projected need for a six-year period, this bill requires the Statewide Transportation Council to comply with county transportation and general plans, to the extent it does not impact federal funds.

14. House Bill 2525 – RELATING TO HAWAII COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY. The bill requires the HCDA to incorporate smart growth principles in community plan rules.

15. House Bill 2526 – RELATING TO THE STATE PLAN. Adds to the State Plan that one of the objectives is to ensure that land development shall be in compliance with smart growth principles.

16. House Bill 2527 – RELATING TO SMART GROWTH. Requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to establish a system of greenways and trails, and requires the Office of Planning to coordinate smart growth planning.

Rep. Karen Awana will hold town meetings on Saturday

Rep. Karen Awana will hold back-to-back town meetings on Saturday, January 26th. They will be held at Nanakuli High School Cafeteria, 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. and Maile Elementary from 11:00 a.m. - 12 noon. Rep. Awana runs a tight ship. Her flyer lays out ground rules: No swearing, yelling or outburst.

So much for astrology...

Rep. Robert Herkes and Rep. Karl Rhoads share a birthday today. Best wishes to both, and we hope they have a happy day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Legislature 2008 - Day 5

Deadline: Today was the cutoff date for introduction of bills.

Session: Rep. Robert Herkes gave the invocation. House bills no. 2851 to 3217 were introduced and passed first reading. The House will be in recess onThursday, January 24th, and will reconvene at 12 noon on Friday, January 25th.

Online Testimony: Have you tried viewing some of the online testimony? A noteworthy one to review is from Deona Ryan, testifying in support for HB2034. The bill makes it a violation to the state traffic code to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle. Deona Ryan is the mother of 1-yr-old Aslyn Ryan, who died from hyperthermia in February 2004 after being left by the sitter in a hot car. Read all the testimony for the bill here. It passed out of committee unamended.

Selected Bills of Interest for Thursday, January 24th

Bills of Interest for Thursday, January 24th

Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection, 8:30 a.m., Room 312
HB1973 Relating to an Environmental Court. Establishes environmental courts as divisions within the circuit court to handle complaints, administrative appeals, and certain other judicial proceedings or an environmental nature. (Bertram)

HB2330 Relating to Electric Vehicles. Requires the Department of Transportation to adopt rules for the registration of electric vehicles and to issue special license plates for electric vehicles. Waives parking fees, high occupancy vehicle restrictions, and vehicle registration fees for electric vehicles. (Waters)

Committee on Human Services & Housing, 8:30 a.m., Room 329
HB2027 Relating to Children. Requires the Department of Human Services to establish a pilot project to develop or contract to develop and operate programs to provide services and support for at-risk children from low-income families. (Mizuno)

HB2140 Relating to the Violence Against Women Act. Requires the Department of Human Services to establish a pilot project to assist undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. (Mizuno)

Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce AND Committee on Judiciary, 2:00 p.m., Room 325
HB2145 Relating to Unclaimed Property. Allows individuals attempting to claim unclaimed property from the state to assert ownership through affidavit. (Blake Oshiro)

HB2033 Relating to Crime. Creates a new criminal offense of unlawful distribution of adware or spyware if a person knowingly transmits prohibited computer software to a computer to obtain identifiable information. Makes the offense a Class B Felony. (Mizuno)

HB2123 Relating to Utilities. Establishes a utilities coordinating council to coordinate the orderly planning and installation, removal, or relocation of underground facilities. (Mizuno)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hawaii remembers Janel Tupuola, Cyrus Belt and other domestic violence victims

Moms, dads and kids lit candles and whispered personal prayers tonight at the Capitol in remembrance of Hawaii's domestic violence victims.

Hawaii residents joined Rep. John Mizuno, Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, co-chairs of the Keiki Caucus, along with Rep. Karen Awana and former Rep. Dennis Arakaki in a silent march around the Capitol, State Library and Iolani Palace, ending with a prayer and lighting ceremony.

The family and friends of Janel Tupuola and Cyrus Belt were present. Janel's father reminded those in attendance that this isn't only about the recent tragic events; it's about domestic violence in Hawaii and it needs to stop.

House Heritage Caucus introduces historic preservation bills

There are only 10 remaining grand Buddhist Temples featuring traditional Japanese architecture in Hawaii, and as the sun sets and rises each day, their traditional designs and intricate ornamentation will decay with little or no notice -- until it's too late.

This is only one of the preservation issues that is included in the Heritage Caucus 2008 legislative package.

The bipartisan Heritage Caucus, headed by Rep. Cindy Evans D7 (North Kona, South Kohala) and Rep. Corinne Ching D27 (Nuuanu, Puunui, Liliha and Alewa Heights) has introduced over 20 bills relating to identifying and protecting historic buildings, sites and other areas throughout the state.

And one of those bills includes appropriating funds to help refurbish historic Japanese-style Buddhist Temples in Hawaii (HB#2489). Read about the remaining temples here and past efforts to preserve their cultural elegance and deep-rooted history.

The Heritage Caucus package also includes:

HB # 2534 - A bill to receive a portion of the Transient Accommodation Tax revenue for the Hawaii Preservation Fund.

HB # 2487 - A bill to establish a formal cultural heritage area around the State capitol.

HB # 2536 - A bill to establish The Hawaii Heritage Taskforce with a mission to recognize and protect sites and buildings important to Hawaii's history.

The Heritage Caucus is preparing for a "Preservation Awareness Day" on March, 5, 2008 at the State Capitol with exhibits, presentations and special speakers.

If your organization would like to participate, pleas contact Rep. Cindy Evans office at 586-8510 or fax at 586-8514.

Photo: Preservation Awareness Day 2007

Download Heritage Caucus Package News Release HERE.

Selected Bills of Interest - Wednesday, January 23rd

Committee on Health, 8:00 a.m., Room 329

HB1993 RELATING TO HEALTH. Appropriates funds to provide care for uninsured Hawaii residents. (Green)

HB1996 RELATING TO HEALTHCARE. Establishes Health Enterprise Zones in the state to provide incentives for health care providers to serve in health professional shortage areas of the state. (Green)

HB2025 RELATING TO TOBACCO. Prohibits the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products. (Mizuno)

Committee on Transportation, 8:30 a.m., Room 309

HB1977 RELATING TO TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS. Establishes a $150 fine for running a red light. (Rhoads)

HB2058 RELATING TO FINES FOR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF AN INTOXICANT. Increases fines for driving after license suspended or denied for noncompliance with an order of support. (Mizuno)

HB2056 RELATING TO PEDESTRIAN SAFETY. Appropriates funds for pedestrian safety improvements by the State and Counties. (Mizuno)

HB2034 RELATING TO UNATTENDED CHILDREN IN MOTOR VEHICLES. Makes it a violation of the statewide traffic code to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle. (Lee)

HB1987 RELATING TO MOTOR VEHICLES. Prohibits young drivers from using a telephone while operating a motor vehicle. (Evans)

Legislature 2008 - Day 4

House of Representatives Hosts Governor Lingle for the State-of-the-State Address

The House and Senate alternate every year, and this year, the House of Representatives hosted Governor Lingle for her 6th State of the State address. The House members are around the desks and the visiting Senators are seated in the well. The entire text of the speech can be found here. The item that received the most attention in the post-speech interviews was the proposal for the state to purchase Turtle Bay. House leaders generally supported the idea, as did Rep. Michael Magaoay, the representative for the district. The details of the plan, the cost of the purchase and the mix of revenue sources are still to be determined.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Silent March and Candlelight Prayer for Cyrus Belt and Janel Tupuola

Rep. John Mizuno, Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, co-chairs of the Keiki Caucus, along with Rep. Karen Awana and former Rep. Dennis Arakaki are organizing a silent march, followed by a candlelight prayer for Cyrus Belt and Janel Tupuola on Tuesday evening. Rep. Mizuno asks the participants to consider wearing black, black arm bands or black ribbons to remember these two victims of violence. Here are the details:

When: Tuesday, January 22, 2008. Meet at 5 p.m.
Where: Gather in front of the Father Damien statue, State Capitol, to march down Beretania Street.

The victims: Cyrus Belt, 23-months-old, was thrown from an H-1 Freeway pedestrian overpass on Thursday, January 17th. According to the City Medical Examiner, Cyrus likely died from the 24-foot fall. Police have charged Matthew Higa with second degree murder of Cyrus Belt.

Janel Tupuola, 29-years-old, was bludgeoned to death by the butt of a shotgun on Wednesday, January 16th. Police have charged Janel Tupuola's former boyfriend, Alapeti Siuanu Tunoa, Jr., with second-degree murder.
Photos: Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend."

First Reading, the blog of the Legislative Reference Bureau, posts the full version of the Reverend Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, presented at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. It remains a powerful, moving speech, and a meaningful way to spend 17:28 minutes today.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Rep. Clift Tsuji!

Rep. Tsuji is our chair of the Agriculture committee. He hails from the Hilo area of the Big Island, representing District 3 - South Hilo, Panaewa, Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown. This session, he'll be tackling major issues such as invasive species, the future of our livestock and dairy industries, and genetically modified taro. As a freshman lawmaker elected in 2004, he quickly became known throughout the capitol as the "coqui guy" because of his ongoing battle to eliminate the coqui frog. His son, Ryan, is the team manager for the UH Wahine Volleyball team. If you run into him today, wish Clift a happy birthday.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Coming up - Tuesday, January 22nd

Prison Inmate Classification
Joint Committees on Public Safety will hold an informational briefing to receive an update from the Facility Assessment and Concept Development (FACD) consultants on the Department of Public Safety's plan to implement a new and more accurate inmate classification system. Invited to appear are Clayton Frank, Director, and Tommy Johnson, Deputy, of the Dept. of Public Safety; Patricia Hardyman and Camile Camp, FACD; and Judge Steven Alm, co-chair for the Interagency Council on Intermediate Sanctions (ICIS). When and Where: Tuesday, January 22nd, 1:30 p.m. in Room 225 at the State Capitol. Watch it live on Oceanic, Olelo, channel 53.

Quest and Children's Universal Health
On the Senate side, Committee on Human Services and Public Housing will hold a briefing to receive updates on QUEST, QUEST NET, QUEST EXPANDED, and the Children's Universal Health Program, which was actually spearheaded by Reps. Josh Green and John Mizuno, the House chair and vice chair of the Health Committee. When and Where: Tuesday, January 22nd, 1:30 p.m. in Room 016 at the State Capitol.

Grants-in-aid still pending release

Credit goes to Ian Lind for pointing out the list of GIA's appropriated by the legislature that have not been released by the Governor as of 12/31/07. It was published, as required by law, in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. You can link to the pdf on Ian's site here. The list is significant given the inevitable debate over the next 3-4 months on tax relief vs. unmet needs.

HDA Legislators of the Year

The Hawaii Dental Association honored two lawmakers this year as the HDA Legislator of the Year - Senator Brian Taniguchi and Representative Kirk Caldwell. The award was presented on January 17th at the HDA annual awards banquet. Rep Caldwell said that he was honored to be recognized. "Dentists are an important part of our health community, but we must also recognize that they are part of our business community, and I am committed to helping dentists maintain and grow their practices." Both Taniguchi and Caldwell have introduced bills relating to dentistry in the 2007 legislative session, including proposals to change the regional examinations of dentists and modify probate law relating to the estate of a dentist. The bills are still alive and have been carried over to the 2008 session.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Beautiful Son: A documentary about healing autism

Film screening of Beautiful Son, a Don King documentary about healing autism with
question and answer period to follow

Friday, January 25th, 2008
9-11 a.m.
Hawaii State Capitol Auditorium

Hosted by Rep. Tommy Waters
R.S.V.P. contact: Don King at 262-2552

Legislature 2008 - Day 3

At 11:00 a.m., the House and Senate majorities came together in the Rotunda to hold a press conference announcing the Joint Majority package. Click here to see the news release.
Photo: Rep. Maile Shimabukuro and Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland at the podium.

The House Session began at 12 noon. Rep. Sharon Har gave the Invocation. The House received communication from the Senate transmitting Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1 which encourages the US Postal Service to issue a stamp honoring the WWII nisei soldiers. Rep. John Mizuno, one of the co-sponsors of the effort, spoke in favor. He indicated that both the California assembly and the Illinois legislature are considering similar initiatives. Click here to see his floor speech. Reps Awana, McKelvey, Marumoto, Ward, Karamatsu, Brower and Ching also stood and spoke in support.

The House adjourned at 12:30 p.m. and will reconvene on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. in a joint session with the Senate for the Governor's State-of-the-State address.

Photo left to right: Reps Cindy Evans, Joe Bertram, Angus McKelvey and Ryan Yamane.

After the session, Reps. Angus McKelvey, Cindy Evans and Ryan Yamane held a press conference to unveil their fire protection and prevention package. Included are bills that propose "no pop" zones and prohibited zones for fireworks. Read the press release that was issued here.

Rep. Har on Vehicle Ignition Interlock

Rep. Sharon Har, who was hit by a drunk driver in 2006, has been advocating for vehicle ignition interlock systems since last session. Today, The Advertiser carries her op-ed on the issue. Here's an excerpt:

One of our greatest challenges in this legislative session is to dispel the many inaccuracies that have been reported during the early phases of ignition interlock.

The creativity and sophistication that offenders have shown when these programs were first introduced have allowed the interlock ignition industry to develop strategies that make the system accurate and successful. Temperature sensors make certain that fans or other compressed-air devices are not being used to cheat the system. Also, a small camera can be mounted on the steering wheel to match specific breath tests with a picture of the person giving the sample.

Running retests, which randomly call for an additional test while driving, guard against drinking after the initial test. These are just some of the measures in place to safeguard the public and the offender from the hazards of driving intoxicated.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Legislature 2008 - Day 2

Kahu Curt P. Kekuna, Senior Minister at Kawaiahao Church, gave the Invocation.

The House passed three resolutions:

HR1 - Electing the Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives.

HR2 - Relating to the Caucus Leaders and the Committee Assignments.

HR3 - Amending the rules of the House of Representatives and Adopting Operating Procedures for the House Select Committee on Standards of Conduct.

Donation drive to benefit Waimanalo's homeless shelter

Photo: Rep. Tommy Waters urges community members to "help us help the homeless." Barbara Guss, a Lanikai resident, stopped by the Capitol during her lunch break to drop off a box of donation items.

Rep. Tommy Waters (District 51 - Lanikai, Waimanalo) tried something different this year; something that just might become the new trend during future Opening Day festivities.

Instead of only providing a lunch buffet for his constituents after the Opening Day ceremonies, Rep. Waters used yesterday as the debut of a two-week donation drive to benefit Weinberg Village, a homeless shelter in Waimanalo.

"Opening Day for me at the Capitol has traditionally involved staff, lobbyists, and community members gathering in my office for refreshments and conversation. This year, I decided to something a little different, and look at what I could do to benefit the needy in my community," Rep. Waters said.

In letters to constituents, Rep. Waters asked community members who wanted to donate items to stop by his office between Jan. 16 – 30 at the state Capitol, Room 302.

Yesterday, Rep. Waters' office set up a large table full of colorful floral boxes and signs announcing the kick-off of their donation drive. The friends, family, lobbyists and constituents who visited Rep. Waters' office on Opening Day brought in a total of three boxes full of items, including shampoo, paper towels and canned goods.

"We were optimistic that people would feel the same way we did, and would participate in the drive. So far, the generosity of the people in my community has exceeded my expectations," said Rep. Waters.

Weinberg Village is always accepting canned goods, but currently is in need of paper goods and toiletry items such as napkins, diapers, body soap, laundry soap, shampoo, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper.

Weinberg Village provides shelter for homeless families with children under 18 years old and families at risk of becoming homeless. Some of the services provided include direct referrals, transitional housing, educational classes, counseling, on-site preschool, and food & nutrition classes.

Speaker Say on "Island Insights" tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Speaker of the House Calvin Say will be a guest this evening on the Hawaii Public Television live, call-in show, "Island Insights", 7:30 - 8:30 p.m., Channel 10. The show is moderated by veteran political observer Dan Boylan and the topic will be the 2008 Legislative Session. Speaker Say will be joined by Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser, House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, and Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Picture slideshow of Opening Day events at the Capitol

Even if you couldn't make it to the Capitol this morning, I'm sure that you were able to hear the buoyant cheers of excited University of Hawaii sports fans from the dewy valleys of Manoa to the sweeping shores of Waianae.

Immediately following the opening-day ceremonies of the 2008 Legislative session,the Capitol became a volcano of infectious energy as lawmakers, lobbyists, staff members and community members commended the UH WAC championship teams, including the Warrior football team, Wahine volleyball and soccer teams. The UH Hilo Wahine volleyball and cross country teams also won their Pacific Athletic Conference titles.

A handful of UH Warriors were joined by recently appointed UH football coach Greg McMackin, former defensive line coach under June Jones. The University of Hawaii introduced McMackin as the new Warrior football head coach at a press conference today at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Speaker Calvin Say said in his opening day address today that a priority of the legislature is to find the money to fix unsatisfactory facilities at UH. Read more about Opening Day speeches here. Or read Speaker Say's Address here and Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell's address here.

I rounded up the best photos taken today and embedded a slide show below for your viewing pleasure. Here are a few things that happened today:
  • A rally in the Rotunda calling for legislation placing a moratorium on the genetic modification of native taro in Hawaii
  • Opening Day Ceremonies
  • A presentation in the Rotunda honoring UH WAC championship teams
  • Lawmakers grinding a variety of 'ono food and talking story with community members, lobbyists, friends, family and colleagues

Opening Day Speech - Speaker of the House Calvin K.Y. Say

Concerns for the future of the Hawaii

This morning, I speak to you as just one of the fifty-one members of this legislative body—a father of two sons who represents a district where people continue a mounting struggle with the cost of living.

As I listen to these people, I realize how truly they share a deep concern for the future of our state. We must recognize their thirst for change.

In a little over ten months, we will face the voters, the people of our districts who have given us their trust. We may see the election of the first woman to hold the nation’s highest office. We may also witness the day when a native son of Hawaii is chosen as leader of the free world.

This is not because things are changing, but because we are changing.

Imagine a woman who breaks through the “glass ceiling” to take a seat in the Oval Office. On November 4th, we could break that barrier. Imagine a man of color winning a state with under three-percent black population. Two weeks ago, we broke that barrier.

These events remind us of a hard truth: the forces of change will overwhelm the status quo. The way things are is not the way they will be.

You may be surprised to hear me say that. I have sometimes been accused of representing the “old boy’s club.” People, who say that, don’t really know me.

I believe in my heart and with my whole being we can make Hawaii a better place. To do that, we must embrace change, not as a political slogan, but as a way of life.

A call for Hawaii to take charge of its own destiny
That’s why today, I am asking you, as representatives of the people of Hawaii, to help us take charge of our own destiny.

It is not my intention to offend anyone here today when I say that we are too complacent, too focused on our own individual concerns, and too accepting of the way things are. Forces beyond our state’s control will work against our shared beliefs if we do not act.

Maybe you don’t agree with me. Well, as a wise old Senator once put it, “you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

We are thousands of miles away from the resources necessary to support the lives of well over a million people. So we must significantly increase our efforts to achieve greater sustainability. Our commitment to that effort will truly help Hawaii take charge of its destiny.

Lessons from the Superferry controversy

Less than three months ago, this body was called into special session to decide whether the Superferry would sink or float.

Dozens of protestors jumped into Nawiliwili harbor to keep the vessel and her passengers from coming ashore. The governor was booed when she came to Kauai to help settle the dispute. Newspapers around the world were running front-page stories about the trouble.

This is not the time to reopen that debate, but it is the time to recognize this is not the way to solve Hawaii’s problems. Confrontation may bring temporary satisfaction to a few, but it will never bring long-term solutions for the many.

Balancing environmental and economic concerns

The Superferry debate raised important issues, but the right choice for Hawaii is to find a balance between our environmental and economic concerns, a balance that is sustainable. To take charge of our own destiny, we must recognize that good environmental policy and a sound economy should work together.

This is the middle road we can find between the unworkable extremes of no development and uncontrollable development. This middle way recognizes that a sustainable economy must first be built within a sustainable environment.

Hawaii’s energy dependency and rising fuel costs

So let me begin with what I believe is our most pressing environmental and economic concern—our total dependence on imported fossil fuels—fuels that cost us more and more each day.

The increase in their price shows up in the gas we buy, the electricity we use, and the food we eat. Last year at this time, the price of oil was just under 50-dollars a barrel. Earlier this month that price had doubled.

Hawaii is not far away from a day when the cost of jet fuel will start to play havoc with our tourist-based economy. Some say it has already started to do that.

You can be sure that many of our families are struggling with rising gas prices.

Why are we moving so slowly? Most of the energy we need can be created here at home. Are the threats to the status quo and the increasing appetites of real estate developers standing in our way?

Renewing a call for energy self-sufficiency

Hawaii’s unique environment presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to lead our nation in the development of renewable energies. Consider a few possibilities:

Ethanol from sugarcane is more than five times as energy efficient as ethanol produced from corn, and it significantly reduces green house gas emissions.

I realize there are considerable challenges surrounding the increased production of sugarcane and other bio-fuel crops. Issues of water rights and infrastructure; issues that will require us to change our land use policies.

But wouldn’t most of us rather gaze at a sugarcane field that helps power our cars, than a field of high-rise condos built for the offshore rich.

Leeward Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and western Maui have some of the best solar energy resources in the nation. And yet we have hardly begun to tap their potential.

The U.S. Department of Energy says Hawaii has wind resources consistent with utility-scale production. Every single one of our islands has potential for generating power from wind.

Lanai and Maui already have a start, but there is much we can do to accelerate the permitting of renewable energy development.

Kauai is the wettest spot on Earth and yet we have done almost nothing to develop hydropower as a potential resource. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that Kauai has hydropower resources equal to about 70-percent of its electricity needs.

Wave energy development lies just over the horizon. We sure have plenty of waves just waiting for that day.

Local renewable energy development requires significant changes

Let me be candid with you, too many of us in this chamber cling to the status quo.

All of these alternative energies will require big changes: changes in how we view our landscapes, changes in state support levels, and changes in our willingness to be energy efficient and conserve energy.

In the end, achieving better energy efficiency and practicing conservation are the two most immediate ways we can decrease our dependence on outside resources.

If we could just produce half of Hawaii’s energy, we would add at least two billion dollars to the state’s economy. And the money stays here, not in a bank somewhere in Texas or the Middle East. This is how we will begin to take charge of our own destiny.

UH professors provide a symbol of what can be done

Members, the plant on your desks is a symbol of what we can do. The pot for that plant contains a charcoal additive that has been granted a U.S. patent for its unique properties. The charcoal acts to improve soil fertility, and it also has significant potential as an alternative fuel. It is made from green waste and has the potential for wide-scale commercial use.

The man who developed this technology is here with us today. Michael Antal, distinguished professor of renewable energy resources, from the UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and his wife, Ann.

We also recognize Goro Uehara, from the university’s Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, who is working with Dr. Antal to develop agricultural applications for his patented process.

These two men are helping invent our future, and grow a sustainable economy here in Hawaii.

Including Hawaii’s next generation in decision making

Members, if Hawaii is to take charge of its own destiny, we must take a closer look at another change we will need to make.

The young adults of this state have virtually no seat at the table where the real decisions are made. This is wrong and it works to our disadvantage.

Generation X is now entering its late thirties and early forties. Members of this generation founded Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Dell, and YouTube. Those are billion-dollar tech companies. Should we expect less of those who follow from Generation Y?

We will never know unless we open up our institutions, our committees and boardrooms, to provide the kind of access to leadership these young people deserve. The decisions we are making now will define their future. It is our duty and responsibility to give them a say in that future.

A call to fix unsatisfactory facilities at UH

All of us are saddened by the decision of UH football coach, June Jones, to leave Hawaii. We wish him well. Regrettably, his departure draws attention to a badly neglected problem at the university: the deplorable condition of many of its facilities.

Lack of adequate attention to this problem is leading many of the best faculty members at the university to consider leaving. We cannot allow this to happen.

Regardless of the tough budget problems we face this year, we must find the money to help the university deal with this crisis. I promise you, on behalf of the fifty-one members of this chamber, we will do our share.

Stand and join us now, as a symbol of our commitment to achieve this goal, and in recognition of the many outstanding works UH has achieved in its first 100 years.

A local newspaperman forecasts a future for Hawaii

A Honolulu newspaperman known as A. A. Bud Smyser wrote a report entitled, “Hawaii’s Future in the Pacific.” Let me read you part of what he said:

“Unless growth is carefully paced, increased activity will bring with it the threat of environmental overload—destruction of view planes and beauty; air, water and noise pollution; straining transportation and utility services beyond their capacities; crowding of beaches, parks and other public facilities.”

“These developments in turn, could impose heavy corrective costs on the tax-paying public. Serious overcrowding issues already exist in many parts of Hawaii.”

Smyser wrote those words, 20 years ago.

Members of the House, we have crossed the threshold of Smyser’s prediction and we must act now to save the Hawaii we know and love.

Opening Day Speech - Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell

Mr. Speaker, distinguished guests, friends and family, members of the House, we all came to public office with dreams.

I was reminded of the importance of this principle about a month ago, when Senator Nadao Yoshinaga visited my office.

From humble beginnings in Wailuku, to a local and national leader in health care reform, the Senator has a record that would make any elected official proud.

When he visited, we talked for a quite a while. At the end of our conversation, I asked him, "If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything?"

He told me: "I would have dreamed bigger."

Those words reminded me, and should remind us all, of just how critical it is to take what we believe and apply it to the way we solve problems and approach the future.

There is a forest of cynicism out there, and we cannot give in to it. Instead we must deal with it, defy it, and be guided by what is right.

Community leaders do this every day. One such person is Nanci Kriedman. She has committed herself to ending domestic violence.

Nanci has involved some of us in the annual Men's March held every October to end violence against women.

The theme of last year's march was "dispelling the myth." The message is that we must change the way we frame the problem if we are really going to solve it.

Violence against women is generally thought of as a women's issue. But it's not. It's a man's issue.

It is men who must change to solve the problem. And it is all men who must help by taking responsibility for ending something which is so innately wrong.

So Nanci's dream begins by calling on men – uncles, coaches, clergy and neighbors -- to act as good mentors. We can start early with boys and end the bad behavior before it becomes habit. Real men will champion the responsibility.

Thank you Nanci. The simple act of redefining a problem can give birth to new solutions.

We have all heard the quote from the bible which goes, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Fortunately we have community leaders who have vision to spare.

Among them is James Koshiba, one of the founders of Kanu Hawaii. James left a successful consulting firm to lead this dynamic, new organization.

Kanu calls on all of us to fulfill our kuleana – our obligation to neighbors in need, our cultural traditions, our children and our environment.

Using creative technology, James and the young leaders who founded Kanu have added a new twist to activism.

Kanu displays, in real-time, data on their website to show us how individual home grown actions really do make a difference and how our commitments add up.

Yet with all the high-tech, James and Kanu are still grounded in the timeless island values of respect, humility, and aloha that bind us all.

Through personal change and social action, Kanu Hawaii is helping us reach those "bigger dreams."

My daughter and I used Kanu to make new commitments to improve our world. She pledged to conserve water at home, and I committed to buying from businesses that are good stewards of their community.

With Kanu, we rediscover that the call to action comes from each of us. Because that's where change starts.

So all around us there are people who are dreaming bigger and acting on behalf of those dreams. And what do each of these leaders have in common? The status quo just isn't good enough.

And no, it is not as simple as having the right bumper sticker or motivational poster. As we all find out at one juncture or another, values only mean something when they are tested.

And the road tests can get pretty tough. In the session ahead, let's ask ourselves: are we operating from a value system that perpetuates what is best about our island home?

Or are we, slice by slice, mortgaging away the future?

Who are we building for? Not just the brick and mortar infrastructure, but the energy we produce from the islands, the foods we grow and the industries and jobs we develop.

Think about this. According to the national report card for states, between 2000-2005, Hawaii converted cropland to other uses faster than all but one of 50 states in this country.

When is enough, enough? Are we really thinking of the needs of people who will be here when we are long gone? Or is that just something on a "keep the country, country" bumper sticker?

And perhaps most importantly for us as elected officials, has it become so easy to take the cheap shot and criticize government that we are losing the all important combination of affection and guts it takes to really dig in, change government and make it better?

So let's ask ourselves: Is government fit for the future? What are we doing about it? These are real tough questions to answer. Yet all around us -- as we've seen today -- there is human inspiration.

Right now I understand we have some celebrating to do out in the rotunda with our University champions. Our capitol is filled with young people who dreamed bigger and delivered. It is alive with the hopes of tomorrow and the will to work for a better future.

Dream bigger, Senator Yoshinaga? You bet.
Thank you.

Not only is it Opening Day...

It's Rep. Blake Oshiro's birthday! Best wishes for a double good day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Coming up - Opening Day

Tomorrow, January 16th, is the Opening Day of the 2008 Legislative Session. Here's what's happening at the State Capitol:

8:45 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. There will be entertainment in the Rotunda by the University of Hawaii at Manoa Lab School Band.

9:45 a.m. Members will gather in the House of Representatives Chamber. The proceedings will be aired live on Oceanic, Olelo Channel 49. Lilikala Kame'elehiwa, Kuali'i Council representative will give the Oli. (Senate proceedings start at 9:55 a.m. on Oceanic, Olelo Channel 53).

10:00 a.m. Legislature convenes. The Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps will present the Nation's and State's colors. The University of Hawaii at Manoa Chamber Singers will lead in the singing of the National Anthem and Hawaii Pono'i. Christina Stidman, President of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii, and Marc Le Pape, President of the Graduate Student Organization, will lead in the Pledge of Allegiance. Kapa Oliveira, Head of the UH Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language Program will deliver the Invocation.

The House is expected to vote on two resolutions. HCR1 relates to recess days for the 2008 session. HCR2 relates to a joint session of the Legislature for the Governor's 2008 State-of-the-State address.

Entertainment interlude: The House will be entertained by Aaron Sala and the University of Hawaii Tahitian Ensemble and the Hawaiian Chorus.

Floor Remarks: Speaker of the House Calvin Say will present his remarks, followed by Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan and Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell.

Benediction: Bob Nash, UH at Manoa Men's Basketball Head Coach, will close with the benediction.

12:00 noon: The House is expected to adjourn until 12 noon Thursday.

12:00 - 12:30 p.m. The House and Senate will honor the 3 Western Athletic Conference champions in the Rotunda. Athletes and Coaches from the UH Football Warriors, the UH Wahine Volleyball and Wahine Soccer Teams will be recognized.

Legislators have invited their family, friends and supporters to join them in their offices for Opening Day celebrations.