Monday, June 30, 2008

Press Conference @ State Capitol: Bike and Pedestrian Safety

Rep. Joe Bertram, spokesperson for "One Voice for Livable Islands", and Natalie Iwasa, aka "Bicycle Mom", will hold a press conference tomorrow July 1, 2008, Tuesday at 10:30 a.m in the Rotunda to advocate for improved bicycle and pedestrian safety on Honolulu streets and sidewalks.

Immediately following the Stop Rail event at Honolulu Hale, the "One Voice for Livable Islands" group will stop at the State Capitol to hold a press conference and to lobby for transit-oriented development that is designed around walking and biking. This community based organization includes members from AARP, the Sierra Club, American Heart Association, American Planning Association, Hawaii Bicycling League, Injury Prevention Advisory Committee, Maui Tobacco Free Coalition, the Department of Health, and the Department of Education.

Natalie Iwasa, known as the "Bicycle Mom", has been working for the past year to get the support of Oahu's neighborhood boards for bicycle safety. So far, she has the support of 29 boards.

Hawaii Health Systems Corporation sends out SOS

Rep. Robert Herkes discusses the impact of HHSC's financial condition for Big Island community hospitals.

Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) met with both House and Senate caucuses last week, but today announced officially that they face "fiscal challenges" of a $62 million deficit for fiscal year 2009, on top of a projected shortfall of over $40 million in the fiscal year 2008 which ends today. State lawmakers view the situation as a potential crisis which will impact community hospitals statewide; the neighbor islands are most vulnerable.
Early this session, the legislature appropriated a $14 million emergency appropriation to HHSC which was to apply to this fiscal year's shortfall.
HHSC is technically a public benefit corporation. It operates 12 hospitals on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, employs 4,200 staff and over 800 affiliated physicians, and provides acute, long-term, and rural health care.
HHSC indicated that they will immediately halt recruitment and hiring and implement layoffs at certain facilities.
The legislature responded today with a plan to send members of the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees to the neighbor islands for information gathering. According to state law, HHSC may not reduce major services without getting approval from the legislature. There are no immediate plans to go into special session for this purpose.
The legislature will also convene a Joint Legislative Health System Recovery Task Force, made up of public and private stakeholders, to assist the HHSC with short-term and long-term plans to ensure that health services remain viable and available for those who rely on community hospital services.

Neil Abercrombie - Blogger

U.S. Congressman Neil Abercrombie started a blog on June 1. Thanks to the unofficial Hawaii Supreme Court blog for the alert.

Friday, June 27, 2008


For all the reasons to get married, you can't argue with auspiciousness. Congratulations to Senate President Colleen Hanabusa who will marry John Souza on August 8, 2008. According to the Star-Bulletin, the two have been engaged since 2002, but decided to tie the knot on 8-8-8 because it's an auspicious date, especially in the Chinese culture. A lot of people are getting married on that date, and there's even a special postage stamp for the occasion.

Utah state workers go to 4-day work week to conserve energy

Starting in August, most Utah state workers will go on a 4-day, 10-hr. per day, work week. Governor Jon Huntsman issued the order yesterday in an effort to conserve energy in state buildings. About 17,000 employees will be affected. Click here for AP story.

The state offices would be closed on Fridays, and most offices would be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays. That allows the public to access services before and after work. Governor Huntsman's staff says they expect a 20% reduction in energy costs. Oklahoma and West Virginia are looking into the feasibility of a 4-day work week as well.

Maui Reps speak out on veto targets

Maui News ran a story today on lawmakers urging the Governor not to veto certain bills, and rallying supporters to contact her as well.

As presented in the post below, Rep. Angus McKelvey (District 10 - Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei, North Kihei) is most appalled by the possible veto of his bill to develop an emergency access plan for West Maui, particularly when Honoapiilani Highway (the only ingress and egress) is shut down by natural disaster.

"McKelvey said he included the provision to exempt a contract from the procurement code because traffic management consultant, Jim Charlier, of Charlier Associates Inc. of Boulder, Colo., is willing to do the work for $50,000. Other outside consultants would charge four times that amount. If Charlier, who has worked on West Maui transportation issues in the past, doesn't pan out, McKelvey said some local transportation consultants said they would come in and take a pay cut to do the job."

Rep. Joe Bertram (District 11 - Makena, Wailea, Kihei), said he wasn't surprised that his Medical Marijuana task force bill, HB2675, was on the list.

"When Bertram introduced his marijuana-related bills this spring, Lingle announced at a Maui public event that she would do whatever is within her power to make sure those bills do not become law. Lingle also chastised the media for devoting coverage to Bertram's bills."

Rep. Joe Souki (District 8 - Wailuku, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Waikapu), as Transportation Chair, is most concerned about HB2250, a bill to establish a commission to implement regulation of inter-island airline carriers.

"Lingle argued that the bill reduces incentives for the airlines to behave efficiently and discourages healthy competition. It also runs against the federal Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, Lingle said."

However, Speaker Emeritus Souki believes that Hawaii is so dependent on interisland airlines that regulation is needed to make the airlines more accountable and to stabilize ticket prices. Besides, the law would not take effect unless there was federal legislation enacted to allow the implementation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Community Action Alert: West Maui Needs Transportation Access Plan

Rep. McKelvey of Maui urges the Governor not to veto a bill that would provide residents with an alternative highway transportation access plan in the event of a disaster on the only road in and out of West Maui. In a letter to constituents, he alerts them on the fact that HB2531 is on the intent-to-veto list the administration recently released.

Aloha all,

Thanks to the hard work of members of the community like you, the West Maui Transportation Access Plan bill, HB2531, passed the state legislature this past session.

This bill was borne out of the experience that we, as West Maui residents, endured last year when the Honoapiilani Highway was closed because of the Olowalu fire. Even though it lasted only two days, the chaos that ensued and the stories of people camped along the road like refugees and abandoned cars snarling up the road showed how an event like this has devastating impacts upon our community.

Officials have told me that had the wind not switched, the road could have been closed for a much longer time.This bill, HB2531, would bring together the state and county entities with community groups and private companies to develop a West Maui Transportation Access Plan to provide for alternate ways in and out of West Maui and also provide a framework to try and secure funds these contingency services next session.

We must not allow this bill to vetoed because, as the fire plainly showed last year, time is not a luxury that we in West Maui have when it comes to ensuring that the health and well being our families and friends are protected through pro-active planning.

This bill is critical to ensuring that we are not left stranded when the only highway in and out of West Maui is closed, like what happened last year during the Olowalu brush fire. The bill will only cost the state $50,000, which is pennies compared to the economic and personal harm that will be suffered by the community when the road is closed without a plan to get people in and out of the area.

Sincerely Yours,

State Representative Angus McKelvey, District 10 (West Maui, Maalaea and N. Kihei)

Photo from : Residents park their cars on Honoapiilani Highway while waiting out a fire that burned on the east side of the West Maui Mountains.

Never too early to start saving

Rep. Marilyn Lee recently returned from a forum on "Opportunities for Working Families" with a slew of ideas for possible legislation that can help Hawaii families thrive during the current economic strain in our state. The three-day forum, held last week in Denver, was sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures. No state funds were used for Rep. Lee's attendance to this conference.

In a report, Rep. Lee notes recommendations from several speakers that can help families with asset building, savings and financial stability at the state and federal level:

1.) Harness the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit by creating a state EITC/CTC.
2.) Regulate predatory lending by restricting pay day lending.
3.) Curbing abusive tax preparation practices.
4.) Reform asset limits in public assistance programs such as TANF, food stamps, Medicaid and SCHIP.
5.) Creating universal children's savings accounts for education, homeownership and retirement (using Chapter 529 as a platform).
6.) Allowing tax filers to request split refunds into multiple accounts to encourage savings. (Hawaii has done this this year)
7.) Encourage financial incentives to support savers by finding an activity to combine savings with a state service and bundle them.
One speaker also praised the success of an English policy that gives each child a savings account at birth.

Not a bad idea to jump start future American consumers with a "dollar saved, dollar earned" mentality rather than the "spend now, pay later" way of thinking many of us are guilty of today. (I turn my head in shame.)

Read Rep. Lee's detailed report of the conference here.
Photo from

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Safire's Political Dictionary

Here's some great summer reading for political junkies. The Thicket (the National Conference of State Legislatures' blog) alerted us to the fact that William Safire's Political Dictionary, first published in 1968, is out as a new 2008 edition.

Safire explains what's in and what's out:

As defined here, the language of politics does not include much of the language of government. If a word or short phrase has a good definition available in most dictionaries, this is not the place to look for it. "Amendment" is not here, though rider is; "assistant majority leader" is not, but whip is; "vice president" is not, though veep, Throttlebottom, and heartbeat away from the Presidency are....

There is even political poetry, such as this delight written by the New York Times columnist Arthur Krock in 1958:

I love Speaker Rayburn,

His heart is so warm,

And if I obey him

He'll do me no harm.

So I shan't sass the Speaker

One least little bitty

And then I'll wind up

On a major committee.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Last year's bill helps spawn 170 senior apartments

Hawaii will soon see the results of a bill enacted into law last year, which authorized the use of special purpose revenue bonds, or tax-exempt bonds, to build a senior housing community in Nuuanu. The measure, introduced by Rep. Calvin Say, passed easily through both the House and Senate chambers to be made law by the Governor as Act 153 (2007).

According to the article in the Star Bulletin:
Construction on the 170-unit apartment complex -- known as 15 Craigside -- is scheduled to begin by summer's end. The first residents of the apartments along Craigside Place are expected to move in at the end of 2009.
The project consists of 27 studios, measuring 475 square feet, and 143 one-bedroom units at 695 square feet with all units licensed for assisted living so people can stay in their unit as they age. It also includes a 45-bed nursing facility.
Arcadia [the non-for-profit cooperation developing the community] has collected 115 deposits with 92 future residents putting 10 percent down, or between $15,000 and $35,000 each. Unit prices range from $148,000 to $395,000.
One of the many problems Hawaii faces is keeping up with the aging population. As baby boomers continue to get older and require care, space available in retirement homes across the state dwindles. Many seniors stay home and rely on family members to provide them with long term care and assistance, either because they choose to or because they cannot afford private assistance.

A bill that passed the legislature this year provides more assistance to family caregivers of Hawaii's aging population and other disabled persons, and includes aging in place as an issue to focus on. SB 2830 SD2 HD2 CD, which is currently on the Governor's intent-to-veto list, would:

1.)Extend the existence of the joint legislative committee on family caregiving.
2.)Change the committee's name to the joint legislative committee on aging in place (JLCAP).
3.)Expand the committee's authorization to include aging in place issues related to family caregiving.
4.)Require the Aging and Disability Resource Center to report to JLCAP.
5.)Require the Executive Office of Aging to develop a cash and counseling project.
6.)Allow kupuna care to include overnight, weekend, and emergency respite.
7.)Provide grants to caregivers for home modification.
8.)Appropriate funds to the kupuna care program.
9.)Establish a task force to focus on the needs and issues of grandparents raising grandchildren.
10.)Request the executive office on aging to continue its respite inventory project in collaboration with the University of Hawaii.

The bill was part of the Kupuna Caucus and Joint Legislative Committee on Family Caregiving packages.


ABC 20/20 Investigative Report on the Bodies Exhibit, Part 1

Rep. Marcus Oshiro has spent the past several weeks doing a lot of research, talking with experts and professionals, weighing the pros and cons, and then doing considerable soul searching on the BODIES Exhibition at Ala Moana Center. His conclusion? This exhibit does more harm than good for our community, and he is working on legislation to prohibit such displays.

Premier Exhibitions opened the exhibit on June 14, 2008. It features specially preserved cadavers, posed in ways to demonstrate the workings of the human body. It is dramatic and educational, no doubt about it. However, the exhibitors admit that they cannot verify where the bodies came from, and this means that the human beings, while they lived, most likely did not give their consent for their bodies to be used in this way after they died.

Commenting to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin story on the exhibit, Rep. Oshiro said:

"In other words, it’s educational or health related values do not outweigh the moral and ethical concerns regarding the possible exploitation of unconsenting human beings. As such, there should be a law that would prohibit the exhibition of human remains and/or body parts without the consent of the donor. The issue of people selling, donating, or gifting their bodies for a commercial purpose is important, but not germane to the central concern I have regarding consent of lack thereof. In this instance, it is questionable that consent was given by these people and if so, whether the people understood that they would be plasticized and propped up and exhibited in this manner."

In addition to Honolulu, the exhibit has been set up across the country in Atlantic City, Fort Lauderdale, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, and New York, and internationally in Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; Santiago, Chile; and Madrid, Spain.

In New York, protesters rallied against what they viewed as an ethical violation of human rights. As such, the New York exhibition offers a disclosure and refund policy based on an agreement between Premier Exhibitions and the New York attorney general.

The disclosure partially states: (A) “This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.”

Rep. Oshiro has done research on possible legislation. At present, New York has a bill going through their legislative session, introduced by Senators Alesi and Robach. The bill amends public health law to require that:

"The public display of human remains must be regulated to protect individual bodily integrity, as well as the social and cultural values of the state.

It is the intent of the legislature to require persons who participate in the public display of human remains for commercial purposes to provide evidence of informed consent from the decedent or relatives of all humans whose remains are put on display, and to provide for the continued use of human remains in the educational, medical, and scientific communities to promote human health and safety."

Rep. Oshiro stated that he "will propose legislation that would prohibit this type exhibition at the earliest legislative session. The U.S. Congress and the California and Pennsylvania Legislatures are also considering legislation to ban and/or regulate the exhibition of human bodies."

Here is part 2 of ABC's 20/20 investigation, including California legislation by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, of Chinese descent. Warning: graphic visuals of Chinese dead bodies.

Airline Industry in Crisis

Mark Dunkerly provides information to House and Senate members, including Rep. Ryan Yamane (Chair, House Tourism and Culture) and Rep. Joey Manahan (Vice Chair, House Tourism and Culture), seated directly across.

That's how Mark Dunkerly, President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, described the current situation at today's joint House/Senate tourism informational briefing. The crisis is due to record high fuel costs, tight credit and intense competition. At current fuel prices, Hawaiian will spend $204 million more in 2008, which will force higher air fares. No surprise there.
Dunkerly summarized that Hawaiian is meeting the demand for current interisland travel and is investing for the future. The high cost of fuel and the economy are causing what he describes as tourism softness, but there is no lack of air seats.

Notice of Intent to Veto List

Here's the list of 52 bills, including her objections, that Governor Lingle may veto. She has until July 8th.

The House Chief Clerk provided the following statistics on vetoes under the present administration:

2003 - 269 bills; 50 vetoes = 18%
2004 - 270 bills; 38 vetoes = 13%
2005 - 278 bills; 26 vetoes = 9%
2006 - 354 bills; 32 vetoes = 9%
2007 - 328 bills; 42 vetoes = 12%

2008 - 294 bills; 13 vetoes; 52 potential vetoes. If all are vetoed, 65 vetoes = 22%

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sine Die Traditions

When the gavel falls for the last time during the legislative session, Hawaii is known for its tradition of gathering in a circle and singing "Hawaii Aloha" in unity. Nancy Cook Lauer, head of Stephens Media capitol bureau, captured the moment on film in 2006 and submitted it for a story to See it here.

The story describes the various ways state legislatures across the country celebrate the end of session. Maryland throws confetti, while Georgia throws shredded paper.

Florida, Washington and North Carolina hold hankerchief dropping ceremonies. "The sergeant-at-arms from one or both chambers drops a handkerchief in the center rotunda that is visible to both the House speaker and Senate president. When the hankie hits the floor, both presiding officers strike their gavels simultaneously, ensuring that one chamber doesn’t adjourn before the other."

South Carolina once had a "fat lady" sing. Alabama awards a "shroud" for the best "dead bill". Alabama's Rep. Thomas Jackson won the shroud last year for a bill to allow a higher alcohol content in beer.

Getting serious about Lupus

"I don't think people understand the seriousness of this disease that affects people in the prime of their lives. Lupus needs to be a household word." Dr. James McKoy, M.D.
Left to right: Rep. Rida Cabanilla, Cheryl Jong, Dr. James McKoy, Rep. John Mizuno

Dr. James McKoy is one of a handful of doctors in the state who specializes in rheumatology. He took time from his Kaiser Permanente practice this morning to come to the capitol and educate people on Lupus, a chronic disease of the immune system. It is an inflammatory, autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system attacks its own healthy tissues and organs.

Cheryl Jong is president of Lupus Hawaii. Diagnosed at age 20, she believes she has had the disease since birth. Cheryl spends most of her time in a wheelchair, yet she manages to run the organization, lobby for Lupus awareness and education, and take care of 4 children, all of whom are symptomatic and are Shriner's kids.

Along with Dr. Morgan Barrett, Deputy Director at the Department of Health, Cheryl Jong and Dr. McKoy presented some sobering facts about the disease:
  • Approximately 1 in every 2000 Americans has Lupus; many are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed

  • 90% are women

  • 80% are between the ages of 14 and 45

  • Estimated that 10,000 people in Hawai are affected by Lupus; that is considered a low estimate

  • Lupus predominantly affects people of color; Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans

Dr. McKoy calls Lupus "The Great Masquerader". It's difficult to diagnose because the symptoms could indicate a number of illnesses. If you read the symptoms below, you can see why Lupus may be diffcult to pin down. That's why many patients go years before being properly diagnosed, a frustrating situation leading to depression, loss of employment and loss of income.

There is a direct correlation between Lupus and women's hormones, which is why few men and women past menopause are considered at risk.

Access to treatment is also a problem. There are few rheumatologists on Oahu, and none on the neighbor islands. Dr. McKoy said this morning that Kaiser Permanente does pay for patients on the neighbor islands to fly to Oahu for treatment. He emphasized several times the difficulty for neighbor islanders to receive the proper treatment.

Symptoms include: achy joints, swollen and painful joints, unexplained fever, prolonged or extreme fatigue, skin rashes, unusual hair loss, mouth or nose ulcers, butterfly shaped rash across the cheeks and bridge of the nose, chest pain or shortness of breath, sensitivity to sunlight, swollen ankles, fingers that turn white and/or blue in the cold, seizures.

For more information, visit Lupus Hawaii's website at

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Success of Mililani

Photo: Sam and Marilyn Lee on the trolley.  Credit: George Lee, Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Nice story today in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on Mililani, with a photo of Rep. Marilyn Lee and her husband, former Representative Sam Lee, one of the first residents of this well-established community.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Battling Lupus

The House Committee on Health will hold an informational briefing on Monday, June 23, 2008 to discuss the impact of Lupus in Hawaii.

When: Monday, June 23rd - 10:00 a.m.
Where: State Capitol, Room 329

Lupus is a widespread and chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body's own tissue and organs. Although there is no known cure for Lupus, we do know that there are genetic factors, environmental triggers and certain types of drugs that can cause Lupus.

The committee will address the services and programs that are available to individuals with Lupus and prospective policies to effectively deal with the disease.

Finding our way through the VOG

Jim Kauahikaua, Scientist in charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, provides information to the Special Committee on VOG Effects.

For more than three hours, top scientists, health experts and defense specialists came together this morning and contributed information on the impact of sulfur dioxide and what we can do to protect ourselves. We do have monitors in place to measure the levels of SO2 in the air, and we need more, but we have to realize that these monitors only provide a "snapshot in time" and we need to better understand how to interpret the data. Even if we are able to publicly post danger levels, people have different tolerance levels. As Dr. Fukino, Department of Health Director, said, "Each individual needs to make an assessment according to your own response to the environment."
Click here to review all the material from the briefing. Mahalo to the House Majority Staff Office for their work in scanning the information.
Rep. Robert Herkes plans at least three more such informational briefings focusing on the impact of VOG on agriculture, public safety and the economy. Here is the text of his Opening Statement today:
"We want to thank all of you that are here today to help us find answers to the many questions and concerns that the people of this state have asked us.

Many of us have lived through the vog problems as a result of the ongoing eruption at Pu`u O`o. The recent activity at Halema`uma`u has intensified the problem and many more communities are now in the path of vog.

It is not the intent of this Chair or this Committee to blame anyone or any agency. This is not a federal vs. state vs. county issue. This is a bipartisan effort to find answers.

We recognize that this is primarily the responsibility of the county governments but when we get into the areas of public health and schools we see this as a statewide problem.

I have been criticized for not holding this hearing on Hawaii Island. We are having this hearing at the capitol for a number of reasons.

First, most of the experts that we want to provide testimony are here. Second is the ability to have our resources here to record all of the information. The House Majority Staff Office will be working on the final hearing report for a vote by the members of this committee. The Legislative Reference Bureau will be receiving and recording all documents received by this Committee. Today I am submitting several hundred pages of documents into the record.

Olelo has agreed to broadcast this hearing live, and the Neighbor Island public access stations are also carrying the broadcast live.

The members of this Committee are well aware of the community's questions and concerns. I live about 2 miles from Halema`uma`u crater and my home, my pets and my water catchment system have all been impacted. As I stated in my letter to Governor Lingle I have been besieged by calls and e-mails from concerned people asking for answers. I have met with farm groups and been into various communities hearing their concerns. I have had calls from as far away as Kauai and have even received letters from the mainland offering comments and advice.

Rep. Hanohano has lived with this in her community for about 23 years. She is very familiar with the concerns in lower Puna. Rep. Green has firsthand knowledge of the health risks from his duty at Ka`u and Kohala emergency rooms, and he will lead the discussion today on health issues. Rep. Takamine has received a number of concerns from the senior centers in Hamakua. Rep. Jerry Chang, as Chair of the Higher Education Committee, has helped us with contacts with the experts at the University of Hawaii, both at Manoa and Hilo. Rep. Tsuji, as Chair of the Agricultural Committee has been looking into the impacts on agriculture and will lead that discussion at a later date. Rep. Evans is not here today but as Chair on the Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs will lead the hearing on those issues at a later date. We are pleased that Rep. Finnegan, the minority leader in the House, had joined us and has valuable input.

Finally, we plan to have four of these fact-finding hearings. The next one will be on public safety, then one on the impacts on agriculture, and finally one on the economic impacts. It is our intention then to gather as much information as we can and put it into one source. We will also develop a plan to get the information out to the public for their use."

Kukui Connection Features Two House Chairs

Rep. Marilyn Lee has invited two colleagues to appear on Kukui Connection over the next month. Both will talk about legislation passed during the session in the critical areas of education, energy and the environment.

This Sunday, June 22nd, Rep. Roy Takumi, Chair of the House Education Committee will be the guest. The show repeats on Sunday, July 6th.

Next Sunday, June 29th, Rep. Hermina Morita, Chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee will appear. The show repeats on Sunday, July 13th.

Kukui Connection is on every Sunday, Olelo, Channel 54, 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

First hearing on VOG Effects tomorrow

The House Special Committee on VOG Effects will hold the first of a series of fact-finding meetings to examine the effects of VOG from the eruption of Halemaumau. This first briefing will focus on the public's health and safety; future meetings will address agriculture, water quality, pets and animals, wildlife, and other areas.

After an opening statement from Rep. Robert Herkes, Committee Chair, Jim Kauahikaua, scientist in charge at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory will start the presentations.

WHEN: Friday, June 20, 2008, 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Hawaii State Capitol, Conference Room 325

**No public testimony will be accepted. The purpose of these hearings are to gather information in order to provide the public with the necessary facts on VOG effects and precautionary steps to take against the possibly harmful effects of long-term exposure to VOG.

Committee members include Rep. Dwight Takamine, District 1 (North Kohala, South Kohala, Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo); Rep. Jerry Chang, District 2 (South Hilo, Waiakea Kai, Kaumana, Keaukaha); Rep. Clift Tsuji, District 3 (South Hilo, Panaewa, Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown); Rep. Faye Hanohano, District 4 (Puna, Pahoa, Hawaiian Acres, Kalapana); Rep. Robert Herkes, District 5 (Puna, Kau, North Kona, South Kona); Rep. Josh Green, District 6 (North Kona, Keauhou, Kailua-Kona, Honokokau); Rep. Cindy Evans, District 7 (North Kona, South Kohala); and Rep. Lynn Finnegan, District 32 (Lower Pearlridge, Aiea, Halawa, Hickam, Pearl Harbor, Moanalua Gardens).

Agency representatives from the UH Hilo Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Department of Health, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, Department of Education, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, County of Hawaii, American Lung Association, HMSA, Kaiser Permanente, and Department of Defense will also join the lawmakers at the hearing to answer questions.

Prostitution bill signed into law

By Rep. Karl Rhoads

Governor Lingle yesterday signed a bill into law that creates a new offense of "habitual solicitation of prostitution." It will now be a misdemeanor if the person pays, agrees to pay, or offers to pay a fee to another person to engage in sexual conduct, and has two or more specified prior offenses related to prostitution within ten years of the instant offense. The new law, House Bill 3002/Act 192, went into effect upon approval yesterday, and it sunsets in 2010.

I am very happy that the Governor signed my anti-prostitution bill, HB 3002, into law. Prostitution has been a plague on the Downtown and Chinatown area for years. The drug use and violence that goes along with prostitution has endangered all area residents.

During the 2008 legislative session, the bill was referred to as the "Eliot Spitzer" bill, alluding to the case of New York's former governor who resigned in March 2008 after he was linked as a client to a prostitution ring under investigation by the federal government.

As a 12-year Chinatown resident, I see first hand the negative impact of prostitution upon the community. The legislation, while not a panacea, will reduce prostitution. It will also make those who prey on the most vulnerable of society think twice about what they are doing.

HB 3002 will raise the stakes for those who habitually go to prostitutes. For the prostitutes themselves, the law remains the same. For their customers, the penalty for a third and subsequent conviction will be 12 times greater than it is now.

In memory of Bertha Leong

The Speaker's Office received sad news on the recent passing of former Representative Bertha Leong. Speaker Calvin Say issued the following statement this afternoon:

My friend and former colleague Bertha Leong was a genuine and gracious member of the House. She cared for people, especially children, and she worked hard as a lawmaker because she wanted a better future for them. She will always be remembered for the warmth and kindness that she spread around the State Capitol. Hawaii has lost a very special woman, and my heart goes out to her children and family members.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Update on Kalihi Neighborhood Watch

I have visited every house on Hauiki Street, and we have signed up a devoted group of neighbors willing to participate in our Neighborhood Security Watch Program. Today, Wednesday June 18, 2008, we plan to visit neighbors on Kino Street (flanks Hauiki St.), and on Saturday, we plan on visiting the houses on Kam IV Road (other side of Hauiki St.) to sign up more neighbors to our program. We will probably have our introduction to the Neighborhood Security Watch Program class presented by HPD within the next week or so. I am hopeful we can start a Citizens patrol within the next few weeks. We are asking anyone interested in Neighborhood Security Watch Programs to contact my office at 586-6050. We would be happy to provide you with information on starting your Neighborhood Security Watch Program.

Rep. John M. Mizuno
House District 30

"Island Insights" on Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

On May 29th, the Council on Revenues announced that they have lowered the projection for the state's economic revenue growth for fiscal year '08 from 3.9% to 3.3%. (See previous post for 3/30.) It looks even worse of fiscal year '09, where they have revised their projection from 4.1% growth to 2.0%. The bottom line is that state government will have to tighten its belt significantly over the next two years.

Upcoming - Hawaii Public Television's live public affairs call-in show, Island Insights, will feature the state's economy, the latest Council on Revenues projection, and the legislature's crafting of the state budget.

Guests will be state economist Pearl Imada-Iboshi, who serves as a member on the Council on Revenues; Paul Brewbaker, who serves as the chair of the Council on Revenues and is chief economist at Bank of Hawaii; Kelvin Taketa, President and CEO of Hawaii Community Foundation, and House Finance chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro.

Tune in tomorrow evening, Thursday June 19th, Channel 10/11, Hawaii Public Television, 7:30 p.m.

Everything you wanted to know about the 1978 ConCon

First Reading, the Legislative Reference Bureau's blog, links to a wealth of information on the 1978 Constitutional Convention. It's an excellent reference. Here's the link.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rep. Karamatsu has new blog site

Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu has moved his blog to wordpress. Check it out here.

Remembering Steven Wilcox

More than a hundred people gathered at the State Capitol today to honor the memory of Steven Wilcox, the teenager who was killed last week while trying to intervene in a domestic violence situation.

Rep. John Mizuno and Wilcox's family members hosted silent march around the Capitol last night in hopes of building awareness on improving domestic violence laws. Although Wilcox did not die because of his own domestic violence situation, he was the Good Samaritan who tried to stop the assault of another person.

Lawmakers and staff members have held several silent marches this year following the tragic deaths of Janel Tupuola, Cyrus Belt, Della Dikito and Tyran Vesperas-Saniatan. Tonight's silent march was especially personal to one capitol staff member who is a relative of the late Steven Wilcox. Alika Malabey, the office manager for Rep. Josh Green and Wilcox's, has participated in several silent marches, but never to this capacity.

"I have participated in many silent marches…this march will personally touch me because this was a family member who was struck down while defending another person," said Malabey.

Following the silent march, family and friends sang "Amazing Grace" and "Hoonani Ka Makua Mau" while holding hands in a circle.
Photo (top): Gwen Kai'lihiwa, Steven Wilcox's mother tells the participants of the silent march that "it might be my loss, but heaven's gain and god's glory." She thanked everyone for attending and urged them to not let her son's death go in vain, but to get involved and help stop domestic violence. Behind her from left to right, Rep. Tom Brower, Alika Malabey and Rep. John Mizuno.
Photo (bottom): Reps. Tom Brower and John Mizuno at the silent march for Steven Wilcox.

Silent March for Good Samaritan; GPS tracking now law

A silent march around the State Capitol will be held at 5:30 p.m. to remember Steven Wilcox, 19, who was allegedly stabbed to death outside a Waimanalo karaoke bar. Witnesses of the crime said that Wilcox was attempting to stop a domestic abuse situation. Participants are asked to meet street-side, near the Father Damien statue.

This recent tragedy has stirred up talk in the media about legislation that had or had not passed out this session. The Good Samaritan bill (SB3182), which did not make it through the legislative process, would have increased sentencing for anyone convicted of assaulting a Good Samaritan.

Another bill, SB2218 SD1 HD2 CD1, creating a two-year pilot program to allow courts to order violators of domestic violence temporary restraining orders to where a GPS tracking device was signed into law yesterday by the Governor as ACT 180 (08). Requiring offenders to wear the electronic tracking device will be at the discretion of the judge and at the expense of the offender.

Rep. Marilyn Lee, the lawmaker who introduced the House companion bill, rose in support of the bill during a voting session on the House floor, recounting a story of appreciation from a woman who suffered domestic violence abuse. She said:

"I recently received a letter from a woman who thanked me for proposing this bill. This woman was in a physically abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend for over ten years. In December 2002, he beat her so severely that she finally realized he would eventually kill her. This woman took positive steps in mitigating the situation by enrolling in programs at the Family Peace Center. The Center offers programs for adults and children in order to provide peace to Hawaii's families by offering safety, support, empowerment and accountability to survivors, offenders and child witnesses to domestic violence. She chose the Maluhia Victim/Survivor Family Component program that serves survivors of domestic violence. This loving mother chose for her daughter, the Haupoa Family Component program that works with children who have witnessed domestic violence in the family. Although it has been five years since the temporary restraining order was granted, she still has "encounters" with the ex-boyfriend. This woman and her daughter still fear for their safety and as a consequence, have curtailed public outings. This woman's story has touched me so much. Now, more than ever, I definitely believe an electronic monitoring device will serve as an additional tool that would assist the court in protecting victims and their children's safety. I urge the members to support this bill."
To a different effect, Rep. Cindy Evans voted "yes" on the bill, but had concerns about the devices false sense of safety and its high financial cost. This is what she had to say:

"First, the technology for electronic monitoring is improving, but there are many areas around the State where GPS cannot pick up the signal to determine the location of the individual. Thus, a victim of abuse may become too confident on the monitoring system and stop taking necessary precautions to protect themselves. Second, the cost for the individual to wear an electronic monitoring device is estimated at $25 per day. If one wants to get a warning on their cellular phone that the individual wearing the device is nearby, there is another charge of up to $25 a day. I'm concerned the cost is too high. The technology continues to improve and maybe we are premature in thinking this device will keep someone safe. For these reasons, I'm in support with some concerns."

Crossing the line

Rep. Marcus Oshiro wrote a letter to Governor Lingle on June 13, 2008 to complain that Director Lillian Koller, Department of Human Services, crossed the line in her comments on the Mike Buck show, June 9th. He writes:

"Unfortunately, the debate over TANF funding has recently degenerated to the political level...Among other things, Ms. Koller discussed the legislative decision to reduce the TANF appropriation ceiling. She criticized that decision, but also went much further by suggesting that listeners vote for Republican candidates in November 2008 to restore the TANF funds. Her comments were unprofessional and inappropriate while conducting official State business. Moreover, her comments crossed an unspoken line of courtesy adhered to by Democratic legislators as well as your Administration. The line is that Democratic legislators do not use press conferences and interviews on official State business to declare a preference for partisan candidates."

Rep. Oshiro asked Governor Lingle whether she condones Director Koller's comments and is waiting for a reply.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Governor's Review Period

The House Chief Clerk informs us that the Governor has until next Monday, June 23rd, to provide a ten-day notice of intent to veto bills passed during the 2008 legislative session.

According to Article III, Section 16 of the Hawaii State Constitution:
The governor shall have forty-five days, after the adjournment of the legislature sine die, to consider bills presented to the governor less than ten days before such adjournment, or presented after adjournment, and any such bill shall become law on the forty-fifth day, unless the governor by proclamation shall have given ten days' notice to the legislature that the governor plans to return such bill with the governor's objections on that day.

The 45th day is Tuesday, July 8th, 2008. The Governor's ten day notification of intent to veto is Monday, June 23rd. The computation of the 45 day period excludes Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Cabanilla's letter to Land Use Commission

Rep. Rida Cabanilla made public a letter submitted to Dan Davidson, executive officer of the state Land Use Commission, commenting on the DR Horton Schuler Division's request to reclassify Ewa lands from agriculture to urban use for a new community development project. The proposed project, called Hoopili, would create "11,700 homes, as many as five schools, a regional park, retail units and other commercial space," according to an editorial in the Star Bulletin last year.

In the letter, Cabanilla asserts that she supports the proposed development "so long as the requisites aforementioned above are carried out and applied." Her requisites include changes and assurances to development plans related to transportation, education and the environment. One requisite is that the developers must not create more traffic congestion for residents of Ewa/Ewa Beach by mounting a traffic signal on Honowai Street at the merge with Kunia Road. Another condition stipulated in the letter is that the new schools be ready for children living in Hoopili, rather than busing them to schools outside the community. Cabanilla provides explanations for her requisites and detailed suggestions on how to fulfill her requisites.

Click here to view Rep. Cabanilla's letter.

Mizuno urges Kalihi residents to join Neighborhood Watch

Rep. John Mizuno asked Kalihi residents to join the Community Neighborhood Security Watch Program in a letter that was printed in the Star Bulletin on June 13. Mizuno and many of his constituents held a press conference Thursday in reaction to the vandalism and assaults that occurred on Monday. Approximately 50 teenage boys from nearby housing projects rampaged through Hauiki Street, damaging cars parked on the streets with bats, pipes and two-by-fours, and attacking two residents who tried to stop them.

In the letter below you will find contact information for joining the neighborhood watch safety tips.

I respectfully ask that you sign up and become part of our Community Neighborhood Security Watch Program. Together we will make our community safe and we will provide protection for each other.

As you are aware, on Monday night, June 9, 2008, a large violent group of teens wielding bats, metal pipes and two-by-fours walked along Hauiki Street and damaged seven (7) cars and physically attacked a 32-year old man and his 27 year old sister. We must act now to stop any further acts of violence in our community.

Please call my office at 586-6050 and ask for May, the Office Manager, and inform her that you want to sign up to be part of the neighborhood watch program in Kalihi. We will need your name, phone number and address.

Please remember these safety tips:

1. Residents need to anticipate that they can be victims anytime – anywhere.

2. Residents need to develop a plan of action to defend against the current wave of violence.

3. Residents may carry whistles and pepper spray and should have it in reach especially during the evening.

4. Well lighted areas help to reduce criminal activity.

5. A digital camera or video camera ready to capture footage of vandalism and assaults is an excellent device to secure evidence against such criminal activity.

6. Always call 911 – whenever you notice possible criminal activity, vandalism, or fights.

Finally – please join our Neighborhood Security Watch group which will provide residents with the following:

A. Increase public education concerning the recent acts of violence and a plan to work effective preventive measures to improve residential security.

B. Coordinate a campaign to increase community awareness of the current crime wave and work on solutions for personal protection and property protection.

C. Follow through with the implementation of the Neighborhood Security Watch Program. A class with the Honolulu Police Department will be scheduled as our introduction to the Neighborhood Security Watch Program as soon as we notify HPD that we have obtained our group.

I ask you and your family to join us - your community; to defend against these acts of violence and to bring security and safety back to our community.

According to HPD they have on file five (5) reported Criminal Property Damage cases on vehicles (nine is the actual number) for the Monday night, June 9, 2008, incident. There was one juvenile arrested on Monday night currently the case is pending – whether the suspect is related to the group of teenagers which damaged the property and assaulted to residents on Monday night.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Preventing senseless deaths with 2 new laws

Two very important bills were just signed into law today by the Governor. Both bills strive to prevent senseless deaths and keep Hawaii residents safe.

The first law, known widely as the Ignition Interlock Bill during the legislative session, will establish a task force to make recommendations to the Legislature on issues pertaining to administration and implementation of the ignition interlock. The law allows Hawaii judges to use ignition interlock installation as a DUI sentencing tool. The offender would have to pay the installation fee of about $75 and a monthly charge for data collection of about $75. Rep. Sharon Har, the lawmaker who introduced the bill, said in a recent news article that the task force will look into establishing an indigent funds for those offenders who cannot afford the devise. Kekai Seabury, a Kauai resident whose father died after being hit by a drunk driver, received an honorary copy of the signed bill.
The second law makes it a violation to to leave an unattended child in a vehicle for more than 5 minutes and require that people know about the law to pass the state driver's license test. Rep. Marilyn Lee made adding this violation to our law books a priority this legislative session and she was instrumental in working with concerned organizations and lawmakers to develop a strong bill to pass out of the legislature. Deona Ryan, a mother who lost her child after a nanny left the infant in the car to go shopping, received an honorary copy of the signed bill for her efforts and support of the initiative.
Photo (Top L-R): Arkie Koehl, Chairman of Public Policy MADD Hawaii; Rep. Sharon Har; Governor Linda Lingle; Kekai Sebury; Carol McNamee, Founder MADD Hawaii
Photo (Bottom L-R): Deona Ryan; Rep. Marilyn Lee

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rep. Lee addresses Koller comments

The Honolulu Advertiser printed a letter from Rep. Marilyn Lee, vice chair of the House finance committee, addressing the comments made by Department of Human Services Director Lillian Koller in a previous news article regarding funds that have not yet been released which would assist physicians who receive low reimbursements for Medicaid patient care.

Comments on release of funds 'disturbing'
State Rep. Marilyn Lee District 38

It is important that we work to together in dealing with the local and national challenge to provide medical care to all communities.

That is why the comments of Department of Human Services Director Lillian Koller in the Monday Honolulu Advertiser regarding not releasing state funds for needed medical services are disturbing.

Over the last two legislative sessions, we have heard from doctors and medical associations that the big issue for doctors and hospitals was the reimbursement rate for Medicaid patients. The low reimbursements are particularly harmful to the quality of healthcare in rural and underserved areas throughout the state.

We've taken a variety of actions at the state level to deal with the issue. This included an appropriation of $8 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, to reduce the huge gap between the cost of providing care and state and federal reimbursements.

Throughout this process, the state administration has been quick to criticize the Legislature for not doing enough. Now Director Koller, who has been holding back the $8 million in funds, is stating that the money "was intended to be paid on a real-time basis" and not "intended for bonuses." This is a twist of words. Clearly the reason the money wasn't spent in real time is because the administration refused to release it, even at a time when they were criticizing the Legislature, and at a time when doctors were telling us point-blank that reimbursement rates were too low.

There is no single way to solve the growing healthcare crisis here and on the Mainland. My colleagues and I remain eager to work with the administration to improve the situation.

Come talk story with Rep. Sharon Har

Rep. Sharon Har, D-40th (Royal Kunia, Makakilo, Kapolei), will hold a talk-story session to update residents on the 2008 legislative session and answer questions from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday at the Royal Kunia Community Association above the Kunia Times Supermarket.

New boss in the family

On behalf of the House Majority, we would like to congratulate Rep. Maile Shimabukuro and family on the birth of their new baby boy, Keani Norio Tyau Kaonohiokalani Koholua, on June 10, 2008. CONGRATULATIONS!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hawaii residents in armed forces exempt from car weight tax

A bill introduced by Reps. Cindy Evans and Sharon Har, which expands a federal vehicle tax exemption to include Hawaii residents who are in the military, was signed into law last week as Act 141.

The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2004 only provided a tax relief on non-commercial vehicles to non-resident service members in Hawaii, excluding many local military members in the National Guard, Coast Guard and reserves from the economic benefit.

Rep. Har inserted these words, in strong support of the bill, into the House Journal during third reading of the legislative session:

"This measure provides equity for National Guard members who reside in Hawai'i. Other states have recognized the commitment of these servicemen to the state and the country. Given our isolation from the continental United States, in the event of a major disaster or emergency the Guardsmen deployed here are the primary support to first responders. This measure would not only provide the recognition that National Guard members receive from other states; it would also come at a very minimal cost. Therefore, I ask my colleagues to support this measure."

REMINDER: Post Session Forum Tonight in Wahiawa

What: A forum to discuss issues affecting Wahiawa, Whitmore Viallage, Launani Valley and the state.

When: 6 - 8:30 p.m.

Where: Wahiawa District Park, Ho'okipa Room (building next to the swimming pool)

Hosted by Rep. Marcus Oshiro, chair of House Finance Committee.

Monday, June 9, 2008

In Memory of Juliette Sagum

The majority House would like to pay tribute to the late Juliette Sagum, the mother of Rep. Roland D. Sagum III, who died May 25, 2008 at age 74. Juliette was part of the 'ohana here at the Legislature, working for former Speakers Tadao Beppu and James Wakatsuki, as well as the Hon. Walter Heen and T.C. Yim. She retired from the Office of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka.

Visitation will be held on Friday, June 13 at 4:30 p.m. and the service will follow at 6 p.m. at Kawaiaha'o Church. The burial will be on Saturday, June 14 at 2:15 p.m. at the Diamond Head Memorial Park. Aloha attire is requested.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Reps in the News

University of Hawaii: In The Honolulu Advertiser, Rep. Mark Takai predicts that the state courts will order the University of Hawaii to release the list of all the people who traveled to the Sugar Bowl on state money. Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, Rep. Mark Takai and UH regent Kitty Lagareta urged UH officials to release the documents, which they believe are of public record since state funds were used to pay for the airline tickets of employees and their families.

Rep. Takai commented on the need for a written travel policy of approved persons able to attend a bowl game...

Such a policy, which would be subject to public comment and regents' approval, would have helped the university avoid the type of "questions and terrible decision-making that followed the Warriors being invited to the Sugar Bowl," Takai said.
"It was as if they were creating policy on the fly," he said. "I have said publicly many times that I believe that UH erred in sending some UH employees, and the spouses and children of workers."
Strawberry Guava: In the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, Rep. Clift Tsuji defends the organization of a public meeting on the Big Island to share information and answer questions regarding a proposed plan to release a scale insect to slow down the spread of the strawberry guava, an invasive weed. The meeting was not an open debate, however the public was able to submit questions to a panelist of officials, scientists and experts who support the plan.

"I thought it was a very prudent idea to have those who were in the field to come and explain their position on this," Tsuji replied. "Whether you agree with their position or disagree with their position, you came to listen.
A second environmental assessment plan will be released later this summer for public comment.

2 cool for school, except in Nanakuli

Nanakuli Intermediate and High School recently received new fans for their classrooms with the help of State Representative Karen Awana, District 44 – Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili.

Students collected data daily to determine the temperature in the classroom. During the first week of the 2007/2008 school year, the temperature was 106 degrees during four consecutive days. The temperature did not fall below 92 degrees until October.

As part of a class project to use collected data for real life purposes, the students wrote numerous letters to Rep. Awana, inviting her to visit the classrooms to see and feel the sauna-like conditions in the classrooms. They included with the letters statistics revealing the insupportable temperatures.

Rep. Awana met with school administration and the Parent Teacher Student Association to brainstorm and devise an effective solution to the problem. They were able to secure a donation of ten oscillating fans from City Mill.

Volunteers recently mounted the fans to the walls of the sweltering classrooms over the Memorial Day weekend. It was part of the schools beautification day in which students, teachers and parents cleaned up the entire campus.

New ConCon citizen's guide available for download

"Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?"

That's the question that will be on the General Election ballot in November and the impetus behind all the talk about a Constitutional Convention (ConCon) in our daily newspapers, TV news and political blogs. The Hawaii State Constitution, adopted by the people in 1950, establishes a system of fundamental principals for Hawaii government.

If you're unfamiliar with the purpose and process of a Constitutional Convention, the House Majority Staff Office recently prepared a Citizen's Guide to Amending the Hawaii State Constitution, which can answer most of your questions. Rep. Della Au Belatti requested the compilation of facts and history as a resource for Hawaii citizens to get informed.

The guide explains how and why the question is put on the ballot, the process of electing delegates, establishing a location, funding the convention, establishing rules and ethics, ratifying ConCon amendments, and other related issues of interest.

The Citizen's Guide also describes how the Hawaii State Legislature can propose changes to the State Constitution and how those proposed changes are ratified by the voters.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Location change for tonight's strawberry guava meeting on the Big Island

UPDATE/URGENT: Tonight's public informational meeting at 6 p.m. on the Big Island regarding the spread of the strawberry guava, an invasive alien weed, and the current plan to introduce an insect to stop the spread of the plant will be held in UCB 100 (auditorium) instead of UCB 127.

Thursday, June 5
6 - 8 p.m.
UH-Hilo Campus
UCB 100 (auditorium)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More public beach access discussion?

In an editorial in the Honolulu Advertiser, lawmakers are urged to reconsider a bill next legislative session that addresses public beach access issues, which are on the rise as erosion continues to swallow Hawaii shorelines and threaten property owners and beach-goers alike. Recently, Kahala homeowners have been asked by the state to reduce vegetation that hinders public access.

The bill, HB 1037 HD1 SD1, would have required state agencies to account for sea-level rise and minimize risks from coastal hazards such as erosion, storm inundation, hurricanes and tsunamis. Its intent was to preserves public access and public shoreline access by requiring counties to account for annual erosion rates and extend the public land access to no less than 40 feet from the shoreline.

Bill History: HB1037 was introduced by Rep. Pono Chong, Ken Ito and Kyle Yamashita. It stalled in the Senate in 2007 and in April 2008 was re-referred in the House to the Water, Land, Ocean Resources & Hawaiian Affairs Committee and the Energy & Environmental Protection Committee.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro responds to "grandstanding" criticism

In today's letters to the editor section of the Star Bulletin, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, House Finance Chair, responded to a commentary written by the Lingle administration, which claims that Democratic legislators politicized and grandstanded during a press conference urging the governor to release Grant-In-Aid operating funds. This issue is very important to the nonprofit organizations who have not yet received monies already accounted for in a balanced state budget approved by the governor in 2007. Oshiro welcomed the criticism of grandstanding and politicizing, stating that if their actions will get the funds released than it can labeled as such.

If the money is not released prior to June 30, the funds, which are not needed to balance the state budget, will be lost. For more background info on this issue, click.

Grant money was set aside in state budget

Predictably, the governor's chief of staff, Barry Fukunaga, makes much ado about last week's legislative Grants-in-Aid press conference in his commentary "Lingle strives to release needed funds sensibly" (Star-Bulletin, June 3). The truth is, any "striving" was self-imposed and unnecessary as the $10 million already was accounted for in a balanced state budget approved by the governor in 2007 and we're dealing with a very small fraction, less than one-tenth of 1 percent, of our $10 billion general fund budget. So if grandstanding and politics gets the monies released, so be it. My constituents would ask no less of me.
And if speaking up for "don't bite the hand that feeds you" nonprofit providers and advocating for the politically powerless beneficiaries raises the governor's ire and criticism, all I can say is e komo mai.

Rep. Marcus R. Oshiro

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Reminder: Yard Sale for Koa Paka Miles

The sale will benefit the family of Koa Paka Miles, the 3-year-old who lost his life in a tragic drunken-driving traffic accident.

Saturday, June 7 and Sunday, June 8
8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
86-024 Glenmonger St., Wai`anae (on the corner of Pokai Bay St. and Glenmonger St.)

Over the past few weeks, many families have already donated items to be sold at the yard sale. “Mahalo to the many people from across the island who have been generously donating items for the yard sale,” Rep. Maile Shimabukuro said.

The Shimabukuro family has close ties to the Miles 'Ohana; Summer Shimabukuro, Maile's sister, is engaged to Kamu Miles' brother, Manny.

Donation items are still being accepted this week. If you would like to donate items for the yard sale, or would like more information, please call 586-8460 or 696-4677.

Monetary contributions are also being accepted at all West O'ahu Federal Credit Union branches, located in Wai'anae Mall, Kalaeloa and Ewa Beach.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Kona Coffee Calendar Girls

Photo: Susan Dabritz,, Special to West Hawaii Today

The Kona Coffee Farmers Association has produced a new calendar to help raise funds for their legislative lobbying activities. West Hawaii Today reports here that a group of women who are also Kona coffee farmers were inspired by the movie, Calendar Girls. Like the movie, they are baring it all for a good cause, to raise awareness on the importance of protecting the Kona Coffee brand through labeling requirements.

This year, only SB2905 made it past the crossover, but was deferred in the House Committee on Agriculture. The bill directed the Department of Agriculture to conduct a study on stricter regulations on Kona coffee blends.
The calendar will be available at this weekend's Coffee Fest Hawaii, June 6-8, and through the KCFA website.
Here's what Mary Lou Moss, Miss July, had to say:
"I don't understand why the Legislature doesn't want to protect one of its specialty crops," Moss said. The battle for passing a legislative bill that would protect the labeling laws has been in place for several years. Moss said the legislature has argued that enforcing the labeling laws and requiring blenders to include at least 70 percent Kona coffee in the blend would hurt the blenders and upset the coffee industry.
In recent sessions, the legislature has acknowledged the blends degrade the Kona Coffee name and causes consumer fraud and confusion. There has recently been a proposal to do a study, but Moss said she feels it is a stall tactic and is frustrated because the blenders are so influential to the legislature.

Public Info Meeting on Strawberry Guava on the Big Island

Lawmakers, state and federal agencies will hold a public informational meeting on the Big Island to discuss the measures proposed by the Plant Pest Control Branch of the Department of Agriculture to stop the spread of the strawberry guava, an invasive alien weed.

The meeting will be held on Thursday, June 5 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the UH-Hilo Campus, UCB 127.

The current plan is to introduce a scale insect from Brazil, a natural enemy of the strawberry guava, to the island that will make it easier for groups to remove the plants from the forest.

Those opposed to the plan argue that the strawberry guava plant is a source of free food for many residents and that a better way of controlling the spread of the plant without releasing a new insect into the forest and eliminating a food source should be considered. Some expressed skepticism of the claim that the insects will not attack other plants in the forest in a Hawaii Tribune-Herald news article.

State officials from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, and Big Island lawmakers will be present.

Representative Clift Tsuji (District 3 – S. Hilo, Panaewa, Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown) will be the moderator.

Photo (top): Locally known as waiwai, the strawberry guava fruit.

Photo (bottom): A thicket of strawberry guava near Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

Photos from

TANF funds draw more debate

Kauai Garden Island, Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hawai‘i’s needy families deserve the truth from administration
by Marcus R. Oshiro

In response to Lillian Koller’s commentary on welfare funds (“Undermining social services purely political,” Guest Viewpoint, May 28). What she writes for The Garden Island is appallingly different from what she reported to the Legislature.

First, Koller, the director of the Department of Human Services, states that “the truth is our reserve would not have been depleted in 18 months ...” However, a memo dated April 7, 2008, signed by the director herself, shows a negative $16.1 million balance on June 30, 2010. Maybe the “truth” doesn’t matter to her, but it will to her successor and the hundreds of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families beneficiaries.

Second, Koller states that “we have about four times the amount of money in reserve that we spend on cash assistance each year.” Hawai‘i spends roughly $40 million annually on cash assistance payments to families. So, four times that amount of money would be $160 million. The truth is the reserve balance has never been at that level of funding and in the director’s own report she lists a fund balance of only $66.8 million on June 30, 2007.Again, the facts speak for themselves.

Third, the director continues to live in the “don’t worry, be happy” world of the Lingle-Aiona Administration, claiming that everything is hunky dory and there is no economic downturn. She states, again without any facts, that it is “unlikely” that welfare cases will increase. However, an article in the May 4 edition of USA Today titled “States’ welfare caseloads starting to rise” would seem to indicate that some caution should be exercised.Director Koller recently told me that she does not follow current events, or read the daily papers, but perhaps she should before making misleading public statements.

Fourth, the director advocates that there is “no need to hoard for a rainy day that may or may not come.” By this logic, we should all drive without spare tires in our trunks and deposit no money in our savings accounts. Unfortunately, in the real world things don’t always go as planned and most rational and reasonable folks don’t spend every nickel and dime; they save a little for that proverbial “rainy day.”Government should, too.

On May 29, the Council on Revenues projected that Hawai‘i’s economy will continue to decline, and by next fiscal year, the state will be forced to make even more dramatic cuts. Director Koller criticizes the Legislature for not funding grants-in-aid for 2008, but fails to mention that it’s partially because the administration has not even released the majority of grants for 2007, and more than $5 million will lapse by June 30 if the governor does not take action.

As a former legal aid attorney, I understand the hardships of these families, and I would never propose cuts to intentionally hurt those in need. As such, I find her assertions that these reductions are “uncompassionate, unnecessary, and fiscally unsound” to be ethically wrong, irresponsible and disingenuous. She is merely dodging the inevitable hard decisions, hoping to leave them and the foreseeable crisis for her successor.

I accept responsibility for my actions and acknowledge that there will be impacts because of these hard decisions, but these are necessary if we want to be able to provide these services not just this year, but through the next decade as well.

• Marcus R. Oshiro is the chairman of the House Committee on Finance.

Reps in the News

Ignition Interlock: In The Honolulu Advertiser, Rep. Sharon Har describes her 2007 traffic accident in which she was hit by a drunken driver, and how the incident was the inspiration for this year's ignition interlock legislation, HB3377. The bill awaits Governor's signature.

Commenting on the cost, $65-$75 per month, to have the device installed and maintained in your car...

"Taxpayers shouldn't pay for the interlocks," Har said. "The indigent fund would help pay for itself. It's worked well in other states that do the same thing. If it's $3 a day to have an ignition interlock in your vehicle, that's about the price of a beer. And if you're drinking and driving, you can afford that."

School Closures: Also in The Honolulu Advertiser, Rep. Roy Takumi defends HB2972, a bill which creates a commission to recommend public school closures or consolidation.

It makes sense to consolidate schools in light of shifting populations and the high costs of facility repair and maintenance, said state Rep. Roy Takumi, who introduced the bill. "Here you have the Department of Education, whose enrollment has gone from 182,000 eight years ago to 171,000 this year — a drop in enrollment of 10,000 or so students — and yet the number of schools has expanded," said Takumi.

DOE officials oppose the measure and want the Governor to veto it, citing that there is an existing process to deal with school closures and that the new legislation infringes upon their authority. But...

Lawmakers say that while education officials have had the authority to close or consolidate schools, they've failed do so, even when some schools' enrollments have dipped dramatically over the years.

VOG Committee. The Hawaii Tribune Herald lead editorial Sunday commends the Legislature for forming a committee to study the impacts of VOG on the community. The House Speaker formed the committee and has asked Rep. Bob Herkes to be chairman.

Herkes raised that sobering issue last week when he spoke with this newspaper."I'm not trying to be alarmist," he told the Tribune-Herald, "but at what point do you tell people ... they need to move? We've moved people out of the tsunami inundation zone. If this goes on for decades, we may have to look at this as a long-term policy."

Dave Shapiro's blog today is mostly about ConCon, but ends with a short commentary on Rep. Tommy Waters:

Bowing out. Sorry to see that Waimanalo Rep. Tommy Waters won’t seek re-election after three terms to devote himself to raising his family and earning a living.
Waters was Judiciary chairman in the last Legislature, a post that tends to handle a lot of high-profile controversial issues and has eaten up more than one chairman. He got the job at a relatively inexperienced stage of his legislative career and sometimes seemed in a bit over his head.
But he appeared honest and real in his dealings, always saying what was on his mind. It would have been interesting to see how he grew into the job.

More on GIA's - The Honolulu Star-Bulletin today carried a story about the Hawaii Cord Blood Bank, and while the story doesn't mention it, the organization is one of the non-profits waiting release of their 2007 grant-in-aid funds. The Cord Blood Bank request is $100,000.