Friday, October 31, 2008

Go Green! Organic Hair Plug Substitute!

Today, in the spirit of ghouls and goblins, the Hawaii House of Representatives held a Halloween party potluck during lunch. I went as Jem the Hologramic Chipmunk. (Hey, I'm a child of the 80's. What can I say?) Unfortunately, no one at the party seemed to get the ensemble. Everyone was more blown away by the Phat One of the Opala, a.k.a Baron Gushiken, (left) from Rep. Pono Chong's office.

Although his getup was clever and a tad dirty, he didn't take home the grand prize. That, instead, went to Rupert Juarez's "Go Green! Organic Hair Plug Substitute!" hat creation (right). Look at how cute those birds are! Check out more cuckoo hats and environmentally friendly costumes at our House Blog Album.

In the pumpkin decorating team contest, Rep. Ryan Yamane's office's penguin out waddled the rest (left).

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from the Hawaii House Blog Team and the Hawaii House of Representatives! Enjoy your treats and have a safe weekend.

Reps for Rail

Supporters of a mass transit rail system for Oahu gathered near the Father Damien statue this afternoon to stage a rally and encourage folks to vote Yes for Rail. In addition to Congressman Neil Abercrombie, lawmakers who support rail joined the group. Representing the House were House Speaker CalvinSay, Majority Leader Kirk Caldwell, Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro, and Representatives Sharon Har, Ken Ito, Jon Riki Karamatsu, Joey Manahan, John Mizuno, Karl Rhoads, Mark Takai, Roy Takumi, Glenn Wakai and Ryan Yamane. Representing the Senate was Senator Will Espero.

As it was Halloween, it was noted that the even "the Devil", "Men at Work", and the "Filipino Dracula" supported rail. After the rally, those who had not yet voted walked over the City Hall to cast their vote in favor of rail.

The little boy who missed Rep. Ken Ito

This is the interior of Room 314 in the State Capitol, currently occupied by Rep. Hermina Morita.

Long ago, back in the 1990's, it was the office of Rep. Ken Ito. After Ken Ito, the office was assigned to former representative Lei Ahu Isa. That's when the mischief began!

Lei Ahu Isa says that she is 3/8th Hawaiian and is usually able to sense when spirits are around. When she moved into the office, she definitely felt the presence of some kind of spirit there.

After time passed, the spirit became more physical. For example, she would come into the office in the morning and find papers scattered all over the floor. Then she would find the water bottle tilted off its base. Finally, while she and her son watched, the water bottle would shake and rock back and forth, even after they unplugged the base. It would never completely tip over, but it would sway to the very edge of the container.

Lei decided that she better call for some help. She had Kahuna Momi Lum come in to bless the office. Momi said that she saw a young boy spirit in the office, and the boy did not realize that he had died. She released the spirit, but talked to him before he left. The boy said that he did those naughty things because he missed the man who used to be in the office - Rep. Ken Ito.

After the blessing, Lei did not encounter any problems for the next two years. I spoke with Rep. Morita, the current occupant, and she said that she has not seen or heard anything unusual either.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't be an ostrich for Halloween

At least not when it comes to our state's fiscal condition.

The State Council on Revenues did a rare thing by revising state tax revenue projections for the current fiscal year outside its normal reporting period.

They did so because the House Speaker and Senate President requested the revision given the dramatic and global economic downturn of the past few months. In addition, the state administration is in the process of putting together their state budget plan which they will present to the legislature in December. Better for everyone to be working with the most current projection possible.

The Honolulu Advertiser story is here. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin report is here.

In a nutshell, here are the COR's projections for this fiscal year and the next bi-ennium, and the new ending balances as a result. The old projection is in parentheses. Thank you to House Finance for the information:

FY09 = -0.5% growth (+1%)
FY10 = +3.5% growth (+4.0%)
FY11 = +4.5% growth (+3.9%)

FY09 = -$225.0 million
FY10 = -$728.6 million
FY11 = -$1,103.3 million (or -$1.1 billion)

By fiscal year 2011, the projection is a negative $1.1 billion. The Governor will have to trim this amount from the state budget and financial plan prior to submitting the plan to the legislature in December.

The COR cautioned that the -0.5% may be further revised downward.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Capitol Ghost Stories 2008 - Ghost in Room 414

This ghost story was submitted by Stephanie - a former legislative staffer:

My first year at the capitol, I worked for the Consumer Protection committee in the Senate, for Senator Kanno.

Our committee room was room 414 (I think that was the room's a Senate conference room now.) The room was configured really weird - there were all these bookshelves and high cubicles.

In the back of the room, there was this one little cubicle in the corner with a computer in it. The staff usually worked in the front cubes, or in the back where there was a little conference room where we used to collate.

There weren't many staffers, so a lot of the time people would be in there by themselves. Everyone who worked in that room said they'd hear the chair roll around or typing on the keyboard coming from the back cubicle, but there would be no one there. It would happen at least once or twice a week, but only when there was someone in there alone.

I swear....whenever you were in that room alone, you would just feel like there was someone in there with you! Then, the chair would roll or the typing would start...but there'd be no one in that cubicle!

I think after that year the room was changed. I know sometime after that it became a media room. Don't know if anything else ever happened to others who worked in there after us.

Keiki Care supporters seek new partner

Come January 1st, an estimated 1500 - 1800 Hawaii children may be without healthcare due to the State administration's surprise move to discontinue funding for the Keiki Care program. Keiki Care is basically universal health care for children who do not qualify for any other government assistance program. The State and the Hawaii Medical Service Association share the cost of the premiums; the program was established by the legislature and is considered groundbreaking. Had HMSA not stepped up to the plate to fund the entire program until the end of the year, the end of Keiki Care could have been this Friday. As time is of the essence, Health Chair, Rep. Josh Green, threw together a meeting yesterday to discuss options.

The Honolulu Advertiser's editorial staff covered the meeting, and the future of Keiki Care was the subject of this morning's editorial. KHON and AP were also there.

Chair Green, who will not be in the House after the November election, but who may be elected to the State Senate, would like to find another organization, public or private, to partner with HMSA. He plans to call a follow up meeting at the end of November to see where things stand.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Political Wisdom from the Great Pumpkin

"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin." Linus Van Pelt

Apparently, North Carolina does exit polls a little differently. They throw pumpkins. It's called "The Great Heads of Statesville Exit Poll" and you can read all about it on their blog. NCSL's The Thicket did a post about it this morning as well.

The pumpkins are painted with the faces of political candidates from the presidential race on down. They are tossed by a contraption called a "trebuchet", and the pumpkin candidates who land the farthest are declared the winners. I'm not sure how long they have predicted election outcomes using this method, but the organizers say their results are 80% accurate.

Last Friday, The Great Heads of Statesville Exit Poll was conducted and the pumpkins say that the McCain/Palin ticket is headed for the White House:

The McCain pumpkin spun to the right (of course) and landed at 81 yards. The Palin pumpkin veered left, but came back to the right and landed at 85 yards.

The Obama pumpkin went off to the left (again, of course) and landed at 79 yards. The Biden pumpkin also went left, and landed at 83 yards.

The pumpkin toss for North Carolina governor ended up in a tie at 86 yards each for Lt. Governor Beverly Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. Let's see if they actually end up in a tie.
It should be noted that there was a Hillary Clinton pumpkin, and they were going to toss it to see how far she would have gone, but the rain intervened.

Art work on the politicians' faces were done by local 7th and 8th graders.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Capitol Ghost Stories 2008 - Governor Burns

We have three new capitol ghost stories this year, so I thought I'd space them out and do one Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Here's the first from an anonymous reader (with my edits.) It refers to the legend that the spirit of former governor John A. Burns remains at the State Capitol, and that you know he is around by the smell of his cigar.

"I worked as an Administrative Assistant in the reception area of the Lt. Governor's office from 2003 to 2007.

Several times during my time there I noticed the smell of cigar smoke in the Lt. Governor's front office. It wasn't strong or bothersome but you could definitely smell it.

We would also feel something playing with our hair when we smelled the smoke. Nothing bad, just tickling, like there was someone behind you brushing a feather over the top of your head. I would try to brush it away but it would continue. Nothing spooky, just weird."

Oregon considers "top two" primary

Washington state became the first state in the country to adopt a "top two" primary election system, and now Oregon voters will decide on November 4th whether their state will follow.

Ballot Box reports that Oregon political leaders are opposed to the process, but that Oregon voters are notoriously contrary and just might vote in favor because of that.

In a "top two" primary, voters are allowed to vote for one candidate in any particular race. The top two vote getters, regardless of party, go on to the general election. Therefore, it is possible to have two Democrats or two Republicans running against each other in the general.

New Revenue Projection Expected Wednesday

Forget Halloween. This may be the scariest news of the week. The State Council on Revenues will meet on Wednesday, October 29th at 2:00 p.m. On the agenda are two forecasts:

Total Personal Income Forecast
General Fund Revenue Forecast

The current general fund revenue forecast for this year, fiscal year 2009, is at 1% growth. At this projection, the state budget director said last week that the state faces a $155.4 million shortfall.

Should the Council lower the revenue projection, that will mean an additional $50 million for each percentage point, up or down.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Aquarius" Restoration

Arguably, one of the best known art works in the state, "Aquarius", by artist Tadashi Sato, is undergoing a complete restoration. The mosaic is located in the middle of the State Capitol Rotunda. Learn more about the history of "Aquarius" and Tadashi Sato in our previous post.

The work, which began last week, is scheduled for completion in July 2009. It includes installing a new drainage system and recreating the art work with new glass mosaic tiles from Germany. Here is the schedule provided by the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS). Note that the construction will be on hiatus while the tiles are being prepared and shipped to Hawaii, and that period coincides with the legislative session from January to May 2009.

October 2008
Mobilization of temporary facilities
Saw Cut concrete underlayment

November 2008
Selective demolition/cleaning
Plumbing works
Installation of access door
Patching and painting of ceiling
Templates cut and shipping to Germany

December 2008
Install deck drains
Installation of new sloped drain
Waterproofing works/sealant
Installation of mortar boards

February 2009
Preparation glass mosaic shipping to Hawaii

March 2009
Shipping glass mosaic to Hawaii

June 2009
Preparation of glass mosaic tiles
Installation of mosaid tiles
Installation of pedestrian control
Install signs

July 2009
Job Completed

Marijuana and George Soros?

Thanks to the Ballot Box,'s political blog, for this interesting post on marijuana initiatives on the ballot this year. Their analysis shows an interesting, but unexplained connection between 2 of the 3 initiatives and well-known philantropist and billionaire George Soros.

In California, Proposition 5 proposes to replace criminal penalties with fines for small amounts of marijuana, and expands drug treatment programs. Soros is known as a major supporter, although most municipal leaders oppose it, as does the Chamber of Commerce.

In Massachusetts, Question 2 removes criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana. Possession of less than an ounce would result in a $100 fine. Again, Soros is financially backing the proposal, but Governor Deval Patrick and law enforcement officials are in opposition.

In Michigan, Proposal 08-1 allows people with debilitating medial conditions to use marijuana legally. Governor Jennifer Granholm is opposed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Balancing a big checkbook

I attended the Governor's meeting today, held in the State Capitol Auditorium, on the state's challenge to balance the budget. Simply put, Georgina Kawamura, the state's budget director, estimates that the state will face a $155.4 million shortfall by the end of this fiscal year. This is, frankly, illegal. The state cannot carry a deficit into the next fiscal year, by law. Therefore, the administration needs to make major cuts in order to balance the budget.

The Governor explained that the state is not like the federal government which is currently carrying a national debt of over $10 trillion. (Yes, that's trillion with a T.) The difference is that the federal government can print money and the state cannot.

While $155.4 million seems like a lot of money, that figure may grow further still. The legislature has asked the Council on Revenues to review their 1% growth projection for fiscal year 09 as this figure does not take into account the national economic meltdown of the past month. The COR is planning a meeting next week, yet it is unclear whether they will accommodate the legislature's request at that meeting.

Speaker Say anticipates that there may be negative growth for the year, which, if true, could mean that the shortfall will increase by about $50 million for each percentage point.

The Governor has asked her departments to calculate 10%, 15% and 20% budget cuts from the general fund, in addition to looking at tapping into special funds. She said that she does not anticipate clsoing the gap without using money from the state's various special funds.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Help Wanted

Photo: left to right - Tommie Suganuma (Rep. Cindy Evans), Lora Lapenia (Rep. Clift Tsuji) and CJ Leong, Assistant Chief Clerk

It is my sincere belief that if everyone worked at the legislature, even for just one session, it would change the way the public views the legislature, as well as shape their understanding of the nature of the work being done on their behalf.

Photo: left to right - CJ Leong, Rupert Juarez (Chief Clerk's Office), Lora Lapenia

The House of Representatives goes out to job fairs across the state recruiting for the best and brightest people to fill a number of important positions. Recently, staff members were at the Hilo Job Fair.

Go to the Capitol website for more information on available positions.

9 Advocates of Children and Youth Recognized

Coaches and managers of the Waipio Little League team who championed the 2008 World Little League Series took a break from lunch to take a photo with state lawmakers (back left to right) Rep. Lyla Berg, Rep. John Mizuno, Speaker Calving Say, Rep. Cindy Evans, and Sen. Norman Sakamoto.

The Keiki Caucus, McDonald's Restaurant and Hawaii Children's Trust Fund honored Outstanding Advocates for Children and Youth today at a luncheon at Washington Place.

The winners:

Adult Friends for Youth has provided therapeutic, preventive, intervention, educational, and individual and group mental health support services to high-risk youth across racial divides for over 22 years to break the cycle of violence, despair and unhealthy lifestyles that are often passed down from generation to generation. AFY was nominated by Jean McIntosh.

Natasha Garcia has been an advocate for a diabetes cure over the past 7 years since being diagnosed with Type 1 or Juvenile Diabetes at 6 years old. She has participated in several awareness campaigns to educate people on this incurable condition and is driven to empower others to keep the fight and search for a cure alive. She helps to connect newly diagnosed families with veteran families to develop support networks. Garcia was nominated by Manya Levin, executive director of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Principal Myron Monte (Dole Middle School) has been a visionary leader for education and has created a culture of achievement by using student-based education that instills in his students the confidence to excel in school and life. He was recognized as the 2008 recipient of the Masayuki Tokioka Excellence in School Leadership because of his extraordinary leadership and commitment to students and staff. Principal Monte was nominated by Keith Besario.

Minna Sugimoto volunteers as a coach for Special Olympics. She is a mentor and friend to children athletes, helping them discover their inner potential and self-worth. She was nominated by Zahid Arab.

The First Tee of Hawaii organization promotes youth development and education by its Life Skills curriculum through the game of golf. The program is free to 40 percent of participants who come from low-income families. Other participants pay only $25 annually. Since the chapter's founding in 2004 it has made a significant impact on approximately 800 of Hawaii's youth between the ages of 7-18 on Oahu, Molokai and Maui. The non-profit was nominated by Ken Zitz, Executive Director.

The Kalihi Education Coalition provides ten $1,000 scholarships annually to well deserving students from schools in the Kalihi District. The non-profit also sponsors the "Kids-in-Sports" program, which requires 5th graders to complete an academic assignment in order to participate in special volleyball, basketball and softball tournaments. Erwin Gabrillo nominated the organization.

Angela Thomas is a dedicated worker with the Good Beginnings Alliance Organization. She has coordinated many programs that help Hawaii children. As project leader for the Baby Steps Program, Thomas has been instrumental in the success of the Baby Basket Program on the Big Island, which provides new mothers and their infants with a start-up basket of essential newborn items. She was nominated by Representative Cindy Evans (D7-N. Kona, S. Kohala).

Gloria Tumbaga, a registered nurse and third-year medical student, is an active volunteer with Aloha Medical Mission, an organization that provides free medical treatment to underserved areas abroad and in Hawaii. She has been on goodwill missions to Micronesia, Laos,
Bangladesh, Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Tumbaga was nominated by Joanne Tachibana, President of United Nations Association Hawaii Division.

Waipio Little League 2008 managers and coaches, Timo Donahue, Kiha Akua and Gregg Tugawa, took their team of little leaguers straight to the world championships. They have been inspirational role models to our youth and have nurtured the confidence, skills and sportsmanship of their team. Ty Diaz Cullen nominated the coaches and managers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Prescription for Sudafed?

A briefing on meth abuse in Hawaii held at the state capitol today focused on strategies to improve prevention, treatment and recovery aspects of meth abusers. Experts on drug abuse trends and issues joined State Representative John Mizuno in reviewing a draft of a bill that works to eliminate meth labs in Hawaii.

The proposed bill would list pseudoephedrine as a schedule III controlled substance, which would essentially take cough medicine drugs off over-the-counter shelves and make them only available with a prescription. Pseudoephedrine is a precursor in manufacturing crystal methamphetamine. In 2005, Oregon created a law that requires a prescription to purchase products containing pseudoephedrine.

Representatives from the Department of Health's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, the Honolulu Police Department, the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine, Hina Mauka Drug Treatment Center, and the National Methamphetamine Training and Technical Assistance Center gave brief presentations on the status of meth abuse in Hawaii.

Major Clayton Kau and Captain Lester Hite from HPD said since 2005 the number of drug labs discovered and shut down in Hawaii has decreased. There were 13 in 2005, 14 in 2006, 4 in 2007 and none in 2008 (as of August). However, there have been 12 drug lab investigations this year.

Alan Johnson, executive director of Hina Mauka said that meth abusers require longer stays and are more likely to relapse compared to alcoholics and marijuana addicts. Sixty percent of women drug abusers prefer crystal meth, while only 49 percent of male drug abusers do.

The National Methamphetamine Training and Technical Assistance Center will be holding a free meth symposium, titled Unifying Strengths, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Please call Ed Gomes at 808-295-1483 for more information.

Photo (L-R): Priscilla Lisicich, Co-Director of the National Methamphetamine Training and Technical Assistance Center; Alan Johnson, CEO of Hina Mauka; and Dr. William Haning, John A. Burns School of Medicine.

NCSL's ballot initiative data base

Here's a very useful tool for folks interested in what's on the ballot nationwide. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has put together a user-friendly database that will sort ballot measures by state, topic, election, and year.

From there, it's easy to see what the hot button topics are for the general election in 2008. NCSL calls them "conservative leaning". They are:

Abortion - on the ballot in California, Colorado and South Dakota
Anti-affirmative action - on the ballot in Colorado and Nebraska
Immigration - on the ballot in Arizona, California, Missouri and Oregon
Same sex marriage - on the ballot in Arizona, California and Florida
Ban on adoption by gay couples - on the ballot in Arizona

There are a number of ballot initiatives that will impact state legislatures. They are:

Arizona - Proposition 300, Recommendation on Legislative Salaries. Provides an increase from $24,000 to $30,000.

Arkansas - Proposed Amendment 2, Provides that appropriation bills are valid for one fiscal year, requires General Assembly to meet in Fiscal Session in even-numbered years, sets length of sessions.

Colorado - Referendum L, Reduces age qualification to serve in the General Assembly from 25 to 21.

Louisiana - Amendment 2, Constitutional amendment providing for the convening of a special session of the legislature.

Louisiana - Amendment 3, Constitutional amendment providing for temporary succession of the the powers and duties of a legislator who is called to serve active duty in the armed forces of the United States.

Nevada - Question 4, Amends the sales and use tax of 1955 to authorize the legislature to comply with federal law or interstate agreements.

New Mexico - Amendment 3, Constitutional amendment providing for the requirement that cabinet level heads whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the state senate, be reconfirmed at the beginning of each term of the governor.

South Dakota - Amendment G, Constitutional amendment repealing reimbursement restrictions for travel by legislators to and from a legislative session.

South Dakota - Amendment I, Constitutional amendment providing for a maximum of 40 legislative days a year.

South Dakota - Amendment J, Constitutional amendment eliminating term limits for legislators.

South Dakota - Initiated Measure 10, Adoption of South Dakota Open and Clean Government Act.

Utah - Amendment C, Constitutional amendment to change the start of the legislative session from the third Monday in January to the fourth Monday in January, and exclude federal holidays in the 45 day limit on annual general sessions.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pre[k]now - Emerging from the Wilderness

House Education Chair, Rep. Roy Takumi, is recognized nationally as a leader in the field of education. He recently agreed to review Pre-K Now's report entitled, "Votes Count FY09", which assesses and analyzes legislative action and investment in pre-K programs around the country in this fiscal year.

Where does Hawaii stand? We are one of 12 states that have no state-funded pre-K program. However, Hawaii and Rhode Island are two states which have passed legislation this year to begin the process, earning them a place in the "emerging from the wilderness" category. Here's what the report says:

In May 2008, the Hawaii legislature passed the Keiki First Steps bill, which establishes an early learning council, charged with creating a long-term plan to provide high-quality, pre-k for three and four year olds. Despite the promising nature of the bill, the governor, who once described pre-k as "a good investment" that "everyone important," chose to veto the measure. In her veto statement, the governor cited vague concerns regarding conflicts with other early childhood programs, impacts on other government agencies, the costs of the council, and the extent of the council's authority.

In encouraging his fellow lawmakers to override the veto, Rep. Roy Takumi, who sponsored the House bill, systematically dispatched each of the governor's flimsy objections, pointing out that lawmakers had "worked closely with the governor's policy office" on details of the bill and adding that he was "baffled and puzzled" by the veto. He also noted that, "Over four years ago, a well-known political leader when asked about the high cost of pre-school said, 'That's just not fair. It's not fair to the children or the parents.' I agree with [the governor] ... Let's do what's fair. Let's do what right. Let's start Keiki First Steps." Though the legislation included no appropriation, several private foundations, representing the Keiki Funders Network, offered to provide financial support for the council's first three years, filling the bill's most signficant void and essentially nullifying the governor's budgetary concerns. Ultimately, in a special session, legislators overrode the governor's veto, enacting the legislation.

The passage of the Keiki First Steps legislation establishes a crucial foundation for providing pre-k to three and four year olds in Hawaii. Importantly, it requires that the new council feature an inclusive group of key stakeholders in the development process and that the plan prioritize access for at-risk children. It also grants the council administrative authority over the program, including hiring, developing policy, and establishing standards. The authority to appoint members to the council lies with the governor, giving her significant power to make or break this crucial initiative and an important opportunity to champion Hawaii pre-k. State lawmakers also will need to do more. They must follow this important achievement with further leislation based upon the council's recommendations and with substantial and continuing appropriations if this single step is to become a route out of the wilderness.

Pre-K Now is a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and other funders to advance high quality pre-k for all children.

Keiki Care Letter to the Editor

This appeared in today's Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

Lingle administration abandons kids in need

This is a sad day for children who have no health insurance and don't qualify for other government programs. The Lingle administration abruptly pulled out of its agreement to fund the Keiki Care program, even though the Hawaii Medical Service Association has partnered with the state to pay half the premiums (Star-Bulletin, Oct. 17). In August, the Legislature expanded Keiki Care to cover kids whose parents were laid off from Aloha Airlines, Molokai Ranch and other business closures.

HMSA was surprised by the administration's move, and so was the Legislature. We're proud that Hawaii became one of the first states in the nation to ensure that every child has access to health care. Human Services director Lillian Koller has not provided us with any information on why the program is ineffective. HMSA contends that it's working well, that more than 2,000 children may be impacted, and it has stepped up to the plate to take over the entire cost until the end of the year.

At the very time her administration is abandoning local children who have no other options for health insurance, Gov. Linda Lingle is on the mainland poisoning audiences with lines like Barack Obama is "not really from Hawaii." She's the very one who seems to have lost her way and her aloha spirit. Even in bad economic times, those who fall through the health care safety net should remain a core priority.

Rep. Kirk Caldwell
Majority Leader - House of Representatives

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rep. Takumi's letter on DOE budget cuts

Rep. Roy Takumi's letter to the editor appeared in today's Honolulu Advertiser. Here it is:

Our nation is facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a situation Warren Buffett describes as "an economic Pearl Harbor." As a state we are clearly seeing signs of an economic downturn with fewer visitors, layoffs and companies closing their doors.

This is why it’s critical all of us work together to find our way out of this situation. When Governor Lingle (Honolulu Advertiser 10/12) responded to the anticipated $45 million cut to the Department of Education by saying that it probably won't affect the classroom, she said this without having one meeting with the Board of Education. How does she know, for example, what the proposed cuts will do to the students at charter schools without talking to them?

I do agree with Lingle when she said, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." And the best way to be part of the solution is to provide the leadership and the presence necessary to get things done.

However, you can't do that when you are flying off to campaign for the McCain-Palin ticket or showing up in Denver for the release of the Hawaii Commemorative quarter. In challenging times, we need to focus on what’s important. We need to work collaboratively and cooperatively to seek common ground. And, more than ever, we need to put Hawaii first and presidential politics second.

Rep. Roy Takumi
Chair, House Committee on Education

Thursday, October 16, 2008

HMSA honors commitment to Keiki Care

The State administration announced today that effective November 1, 2008, the Department of Human Services will pull out of their agreement to fund 50% of the Keiki Care health plan, a program that provides health insurance for uninsured children. The plan, which was heralded as making Hawaii the second state in the nation to provide health insurance for every child in the state, began in January 2008 as a pilot program. In August, Keiki Care was expanded to include children whose parents were laid off due to the closures of Aloha Airlines, Molokai Ranch, ATA and other businesses.

The state and the Hawaii Medical Service Association split the cost of the premiums 50-50. HMSA reports that 2000 children are enrolled in the plan. However, the state claims that the program has had only limited success.

HMSA responded today by announcing that they will continue to honor their commitment to Keiki Care through the end of the year. From the HMSA press release:

“We’re disappointed in the state’s decision, but we feel we have an obligation to the children and their families,” said HMSA Senior Vice President Cliff Cisco. “Parents with children currently enrolled in the HMSA Keiki Care Plan can rest assured that we will continue the plan without changes at least through the end of the year.”

HMSA will be meeting with its community board of directors next week to discuss the issue and seek recommendations on the future of the plan. “If there are going to be changes to the plan for 2009, we will share that information with parents and the public as soon as we can,” said Cisco.

Make it Easy

When Chris Brogan speaks, people in the social media universe listen. So, today, when he posted on his experience postponing his jury duty on the Massachusetts Court system website, I suspect that the ripplings and reverberations have already rocked a few boats.

Brogan was scheduled to be in Canada on the day he was also supposed to report for jury duty. The Massachusetts courts have a website where jurors can log in and postpone their duty for any reason. Brogan reports that it took less than 3 minutes to postpone his date, and that by checking a box, the government accepted it as his electronic signature. How easy is that?

The point? Good businesses make it easy for their customers to do business with them. If your business makes it harder than what government is able to do, you'd better stop and think about this.

Brogan's parting line? "If the government COURT SYSTEM can accept a checkbox as an electronic signature, then you should be able to, as well.

Just thinking, while I wait for a few more shoes to fall."

He's good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Early Childhood Learning and Children Issues Discussed at Summit

At today's Children and Youth Summit, leaders from early learning, children and family organizations recommended a list of priorities to the Keiki Caucus that they would like addressed in the 2009 Legislative Session. Below is a list of their concerns. Give us your input and add any concerns you have in our comments section.

-Shortage of early child care providers.
-Cost of early child care (>$10,000/year).
-Lack of quality child care providers.
-Encourage legislators to prioritize, protect and provide programs and services that meet the needs of the "whole child", ie. social and emotional (equal to academic programs) so they can learn.
-Sustaining current early prevention programs.
-Support innovative financing.
-Fund Keiki First Steps.
-Update labor laws to support families with child care issues.
-More awareness campaigns to educate parents on the importance of early childhood development and available programs.

VTRX technology saves water and energy at State Capitol

Photo: Installation of the VTRX technology by Energy Management Consulting and Construction, LLC.

Last June, the State Capitol became the first building in the state to install the VTRX non-chemical water treatment system in an effort to save costs on water and energy.

While it's not a new technology, VTRX is new to Hawaii via Energy Management Consulting and Construction, LLC. The technology replaces the chemical treatment normally used to treat the building's cooling tower. VTRX projects that by using the system, the state will save over 2 million gallons of water a year. In addition, the energy usage should drop as well.

If you want more information on VTRX, go to According to the company's website, VTRX technology is a chemical free water treatment for cooling towers and evaporative condensers. It offers continuous control of calcium, biofouling, and corrosion using kinetic energy. We are working on getting the State Capitol's actual water bill to see how much of a drop in usage, thus cost savings, there has been since the installation, and we'll share that with you as soon as we get it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Youth share concerns with lawmakers

Apathetic: Lacking interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifferent.

This is definitely not how I would describe the nearly 100 youth who participated in today's Children and Youth Summit. Zealous, informed and concerned would be the appropriate adjectives.

Photo (above): Students participate in a brainstorm of health and human services concerns at the Children and Youth Summit at the State Capitol.

Youth from across the state came together to brainstorm ideas on health and human services, education and environment issues. The high school students presented their concerns to state legislators for consideration as possible priority issues to focus on during the 2009 Legislative Session.

I sat in on the small group discussion on health and human services. Seated around a large conference table, students - resembling young legislators eager to get their voices heard - quickly identified three pages worth of concerns from cigarettes and alcohol to foster care and health insurance.

Brandon Antonius, a senior from Kihei Public Charter High School, took issue with the way tobacco and alcohol companies target youth through glamorized campaign ads. "It's been glamorized over the years," said Antonius. "We need rules to stop the glamorization of them." Antonius also raised a concern with tobacco companies targeting youth through flavored cigarettes. Another major issue that many students brought up was the exorbitant amounts of cigarette and alcohol ads in store windows. They suggested that laws be implemented to decrease the amount of ads permitted.

Tamara Tovio, a Kailua High School student, raised a personal concern about the frequency of social worker visits. Tamara, a foster care child, wants to see change within the Department of Human Services foster care program. "Don't throw kids into the program and then leave them there," she said. Case workers routinely visit foster care children at their homes once a month. However, Tamara and other foster children in the discussion group gave others the impression that sometimes visits are less frequent. She emphasized the fact that a lot of foster children want and need their case workers to see them often. They don't want to be forgotten. Another participant in the discussion mentioned that a lot of foster care case workers have heavy case loads.

Photo (from left to right): Casey-Lynn Hulihee, Rocksand Halima-Grammer, Tamara Tovio and Joe Taglies shared their concerns about foster care in Hawaii during a small group discussion on health and human services at the State Capitol.

Tamara also mentionedthe need for more family visitations. In a written abstract to the Legislature, Tamara writes, "I would propose that the Legislature either provide more opportunities for family members, biological if all possible, to become involved in our lives and care needs."

She also writes, "if this really happens, then there would be a possibility of decreasing many of us, of feeling that we are lost being tossed from location to location, there would probably be less runaways from program to program, and there would be more individuals, including me, knowing that someone cares about us and we are part of a family."

Tomorrow will be the second day of the Children and Youth Summit. The event will focus on issues related to children 0-12 years of age. The summit is sponsored by the Keiki Caucus.

What's haunting you?

Or, perhaps it's a "who"?

Halloween is almost here. We're planning to do another round of Capitol Ghost Stories for the occasion. The Hawaii State Capitol seems to be a favorite haunt for ghosts and spirits. So far, I have only one new ghost story to tell, so I'm sending out the call to all of you for any leads or stories of your own. Email me if you have any suggestions. Once gathered, we'll start to post them as we get closer to October 31st. Check out the TAG - Capitol Ghost Stories for the spooky tales we posted last year.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Update from Rep. Marilyn Lee

November is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Representative Marilyn Lee interviews Ana Maring, a domestic violence educator with the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on "The Kukui Connection" this Sunday, October 17th, 4:00 p.m., Olelo public access television, Channel 54. The show will repeat on the following Sunday, October 25th.

Rep. Lee will also speak as a member of a panel at the fourth annual Community Forum of the Kokua Council. The forum will be held on Monday, October 20, 12:00 noon, at the Harris United Methodist Church, Miyama Main Hall. She is participating in her role as the Co-Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging in Place. The panel willl offer an opportunity for the aging community to hear ideas and legislative goals for the upcoming session.

Craving for a drag of ... water vapor?

According to this story on, a Hong Kong based company called Ryuan America, Inc. will premier its "electronic cigarette" today in 13 selected U.S. markets. The product will be unveiled nationwide on October 19th.

Like Hawaii, many areas around the world have banned smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants. Ryuan America's Chairman, Mr. Hon Lik, has invented a product that simulates the smoking experience, but without emitting the harmful second-hand smoke. (For now, it might also be a way around the law.)

The product is based on atomizing technology. The "cigarette" runs on a rechargeable battery and contains a cartridge which comes in nicotine and non-nicotine, as well as a variety of flavors. When you take a drag on the cigarette, a red LED lights up just as if cigarette paper was burning. The puff of "smoke" is actually not smoke at all, but water vapor. The product has not been evaluated by the FDA. Proponents claim that you will even be able to use this product on airplanes, (although I wouldn't want to be the first one to try it.)

The e-cigarettes will be sold through a $4 million Direct Response Television campaign launched by the Nathan and James group based in Nashville. They are the exclusive distributors of Ruyan products in America. An infomercial can be seen here, and will be shown in the 13 preliminary markets of Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; Baltimore, MD; Cleveland, OH; Miami, FL; San Diego, CA; Hartford/New Haven, CN; Indianapolis, IN; Orlando, FL; Sacramento, CA; Denver, CO; St. Louis, MO. There are other brands on the market, primarily European.

Charley Memminger wrote about the e-cigarettes back on Oct. 5th. See his column here. Should be interesting to see whether this does catch fire as a product, how the anti-smoking organizations will respond, and whether new legislation will be attempted.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Future of Statehouse Reporters

The Thicket reports that Statehouse Reporters are an endangered species. In a recent survey of state legislatures, 56% of respondents said that their local newspaper did not maintain a capitol bureau. In the past 10 years, there has been an 11% increase of newspapers using part-time reporters to cover the legislature. Of responding newspapers, 20% have cut their news hole for legislative coverage by 20%. Even though almost of the newspapers responding said that they are devoting the same or more coverage to the legislature, they are doing so with fewer reporters.

The same survey notes that there has been an explosion of bloggers covering the legislature, both as independents or affliated with a newspaper.

The New York Times came out with this story a few days ago about the exodus of statehouse reporters in Albany. While it seems more related to cutting costs than lack of interest, it is distressing to those who believe that journalists should serve as public watchdogs in the seat of power. As a Columbia University School of Journalism dean said, "it deprives journalism of one of its sources of legitimacy: to be that watchdog. And it’s not as if we’re functioning in a transparent environment. People are working hard to conceal stuff.”

Hawaii newspapers do a good job in covering the Legislature; we'd hate to see an exodus of reporters from the capitol, especially during the intense session period from January to May. Right now, The Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Stephens Media, and the Associated Press all maintain capitol bureaus.

Vog Report Now Available Online

The House Special Committee on Vog Effects has issued its report to the Speaker. You can find the 20-page report online at the website, or click here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Consequences of Bad Legislation

Nebraska parents just got a free ticket to unload their baggage and start off anew.

Between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesday, three fathers walked into two hospitals in Omaha and abandoned their children. One left nine siblings, ages 1 to 17.

The men, unless proven to have abused the kids, won't face prosecution under a new Nebraska law that is unique in the nation. The law allows parents to leave a child at a licensed hospital without explaining why.

Other parents have also used the law to leave their children. Last week, a 13-year-old girl was left. The week before that, two boys ages 11 and 15. In all, fathers, mothers and caregivers in six families — some single parents — have bailed on 14 kids, including seven teens, since the law took effect in July.
Legislators should have seen this coming.

Since starting work here at the Hawaii Legislature less than a year ago, I've learned how important it is to have clear and precise language on any legislative measure. Nebraska's two-month old safe haven law is a prime example of what can go wrong by hurriedly changing the premise and language of a good bill in order to get enough support for passage. Lawmakers changed the original safe haven bill by replacing "newborn" with "child". Unlike Hawaii's safe haven law enacted last year, the Nebraska law does not specify age limitations. In Hawaii, only newborns conceived within 72 hours can be dropped off at any of the listed save haven locations. Nebraska was the last state to implement a safe haven law and the only state to extend the law to all minors 19 and under.

Officials are even worried that out-of-state parents will cross borders to abandon their children at Nebraska hospitals, and they should be. Although unintended, they've created a "Humane Society" for unwanted children. The worst part of this whole ordeal isn't the selfish acts of parents. The worst part is thinking about the shock and trauma these kids must be going through and the fact that none of these parents can be prosecuted for their actions, unless abuse is proven, because the law protects them.

Rep. Belatti to debate ConCon

Tune in to "Campaign 2008: The Hawaii ConCon" on Tuesday, October 14 from 6:30-7:30 PM on KGMB9. Rep. Della Au Belatti will be joining Attorney General Mark Bennett to debate Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and author of The Hawaii State Constitution: A Reference Guide, Anne Feder Lee, on the pros and cons of whether a Constitutional Convention should be held. Voters will decide in the general election whether to hold a Constitutional Convention. Rep. Belatti and AG Bennet support a ConCon, while Sen. Hanabusa and Lee oppose it.

After the one-hour, commercial-free televised debate, Rep. Belatti will join the other panelists to continue the conversation live and streaming on-line at until 8 pm.

This debate is being moderated by KGMB9 and The Honolulu Advertiser, and is being sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Hawaii and the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs. Click here for more information about The Hawaii ConCon debate.

Oregon attempts to define "journalists" for executive sessions

Continuing the discussion on developing a media access policy for state legislatures, the city of Lake Oswego, Oregon had some problems earlier in the year and have come up with this solution. Political blogger Mark Bunster was thrown out of one of the city's executive sessions as a precaution because the city councillors did not have a media policy, and they weren't sure what to do with him. Read the Oregonian story here.

What I found particularly interesting is that Oregon even allows media into their executive sessions. Here, when a committee goes into executive session, the session is closed, usually due to private and/or sensitive matters being discussed. Oregon's policy is that "representatives of the news media are allowed to attend most executive sessions in order to act as 'watchdogs', ensuring that the governing body does not conduct an executive session for a purpose not permitted under the law. While the statu[t]es allow the governing body to 'require' that executive session information not be disclosed (ORS 192.660(4)) they are silent as to what, if any, remedy the governing body has if news media violate this requirement."

Media are not allowed to attend executive sessions that involve labor negotiations.

Now Lake Oswego has proposed the following media policy, still in draft form, that may have other government and legislative bodies within the state following suit. You can read the entire draft policy here. Or, take a look at the following highlights and see if this sounds reasonable to you:

The Oregonian and The Lake Oswego Review are recognized as media organizations without further proof because of their established history.

Other organizations must provide evidence that they are established, such as:

*They are organized and operated to publish, broadcast or disseminate news to the public.
*They ordinarily and regularly report on matters of a nature typically considered and acted upon by the Lake Oswego City Council.
*They are insitutionalized, with multiple personnel with defined roles in an organizational structure.

*They are accountable, meaning...
+They are registered with the Secretary of State's Office,
+Names, addresses and telephone numbers readily available,
+News reports include true name of staff reporter,
+Identifies any outside news source,
+Has established process for any allegation that news staff has violated policy,
+Practices are consistent with SPJ Code of Ethics.

*They are well-established and reports news continuously, at least weekly, and permanently.
*Entity contains at least 25% news content
*They distinguish news contect from advocacy (analysis, commentary and advertising clearly labeled as such.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Budget Facts

Here's where we stand on the state budget:

*According to current projections, the state faces a $163 million shortfall by June 30, 2009, and a $900 million budget shortfall carried out to June 30, 2011.

*The state administration must submit their executive budget plan to the legislature prior to the start of the 2009 legislative session, but their budget plan will be based on current projections.

*Given the economic downturn, especially in the past month, the current projections are obsolete, and we should expect to see lowered projections.

*The Council on Revenues is scheduled to update revenue projections in January 2009, and again in March 2009.

*By the time the legislature makes its budget recommendations, the revenue projections should be lowered, and the shortfall will be greater.

*The Constitution and state laws require the legislature to balance the budget over 6 years.

*Hawaii's total general fund budget for this fiscal year is $5.3 billion.

We are not alone

Ballot Box informs us that two other states will be voting on whether to convene a Constitutional Convention this November - Connecticut and Illinois. I found their analysis of Hawaii's situation simplistic and not quite accurate, but here's what they said:

State: Hawaii
Issue: A proposal to call a state constitutional convention.
Analysis: Hawaiians vote every ten years on whether to hold a constitutional convention. Elected Democrats -- who hold most key offices except the governorship in Hawaii -- are generally opposing the convention, while Republicans favor it.

State: Connecticut
Issue: A proposal to call a state constitutional convention.
Analysis: By rule, every twenty years the voters of Connecticut are asked whether they want to overhaul their constitution. This year, the proposal has sparked a hot debate in the state. Proponents want a convention to create a citizen initiative process, but critics contend that a constitutional rewrite would turn into a lobbyist free-for-all. Gov. Jodi Rell favors the convention, but Connecticut's other statewide elected officials oppose it.

State: Illinois
Issue: A proposal to call a state constitutional convention.
Analysis: Like Connecticut and Hawaii, Illinois votes on constitutional conventions at regular intervals (20 years in this case). When Illinois voted in 1988 on the question, only a quarter of voters backed a constitutional convention. This time around, however, voters' antipathy toward their political leaders -- and toward Gov. Rod Blagojevich in particular -- has some observers wondering whether the political dynamics will be different this time around. But, a broad coalition of business and labor groups is fighting the idea.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bad credit = Bad person?

Today, when people talk about bad credit rating, you'd think it was the modern day equivalent of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Once branded as a bad credit risk, you jeopardize your ability to get a good job, qualify for a mortgage, secure a happy life.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro contributed background information for Karen Aho's story on bad credit which appears on MSN. Money. Here's the link. The story is about how credit reports are used to determine not only your ability to handle debt but your character as a person. Critics say that the process is unfair and that bad credit is not an indicator of whether you are qualified for a job. Rep. Oshiro talked to Aho about his 2005 bill, HB750, which prohibits the use of credit history for the hiring or termination of employees. The bill did not pass.

In 2006, 42% of employers used credit history as part of background checks in determining whether to hire new employees. That's up from 35% in 2003 and 19% in 1996. With the current mortgage lending crisis and bad economy, that figure is bound to increase.

Rep. Morita Debates "Con" on ConCon

Photo Credit: Kauai Garden Island. Left to right: Rep. Hermina Morita, Walter Lewis, JoAnn Maruoka, Hawaii League of Women Voters

Rep. Hermina Morita (District 14 - Hanalei, Anahola, Kealia, Kapaa, Waipouli) participated in a debate last Saturday on the pros and cons of convening a Constitutional Convention. The event was sponsored by the Hawaii League of Women Voters and was held at the Kapaa Public Library.

Rep. Morita represented the "con" position. Walter Lewis of Princeville represented the "pro" position.

Read the Kauai GardenIsland story here. Following is what I would consider the main points of both their arguments:

Morita disagreed the Legislature has not fulfilled its role of adapting the constitution, which was first ratified in 1950 as a way of showing America that Hawai‘i was ready and eager for statehood.

“It’s not as if the constitution has remained static since the 1978 Con-Con. There have been 36 amendments (in that time),” she said. “Just because we haven’t had a Con-Con for 30 years is not a good reason to convene one. They are convened to accomplish wholesale reform. What is so flawed? Show me where it is broken.“(A convention) puts at risk other important rights, privileges and protections that we now enjoy,” she said.

A major issue of the public discussion has focused on the price tag. Depending on who is asked, and a host of other factors, the cost to taxpayers has been estimated to be anywhere between $2 and $40 million.“You can never measure the quality of what can be achieved ... with a price tag,” Lewis said, noting the potential cost of a convention pales in comparison to the state’s $5 billion annual budget.

“If the constitution was flawed, I’d be the first to push for a Con-Con, no matter what the cost,” Morita said. “But that’s not the position we’re in. We should not be wasting our money.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

Capitol Website Down on Tuesday, October 7

The state capitol database server will be undergoing an upgrade all day Tuesday, October 7th, starting around 9:00 a.m. and completing early the following morning. Please be aware that much of the website will not be functional during this time, including Bill Status, Legislator pages and other features.

Rep. Sharon Har Helps Parties Reach Kalaeloa Agreement

Navy and Ford Island Properties Reach Tentative Agreement on Kalaeloa Parcels

Rep. Sharon Har informs that the U.S. Navy and Ford Island Properties announced that an agreement between the U.S. Navy and Ford Island Properties on 499 acres of Kalaeloa property has been reached. Prior to the agreement, a group of stakeholders met and addressed community concerns about the operations of three facilities located on the site in question.

The Navy agreed to transfer the land to Ford Island Properties under a long-term lease with an option to purchase the property. The agreement, however, stipulates that Ford Island Properties will not be required to take possession of the property for up to four months. Prior to the agreement, the community had been worried that they would no longer be able to use a bowling alley, a child development center, and baseball and recreational fields. In addition, the status of the three facilities and who to contact regarding their usage during the six-month interim period was unclear. Earlier, the Hawaii Community Development Authority and Ford Island Properties officials have agreed to work together to do all that they can to ensure that the three facilities remain open and available for use even as the Navy is transitioning out of the district.

Rep. Har called a meeting between all parties last Friday, September 26, 2008 to discuss possible options between the Navy and Ford Island Properties, to ensure that operations at the Barbers Point bowling center, child development center, and recreational fields would continue. Based on preliminary discussions between stakeholders at that meeting, the agreement between the Navy and Ford Island Properties sets into motion a plan to ensure that the three facilities will survive the transition and remain operational.

“We are pleased that the Navy and Ford Island Properties were able to come to an agreement on the disposition of the 499 acres at Kalaeloa because it has truly been a win-win not only for the landowners but for the West Oahu community," said Stanford Yuen, Executive Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs, Navy Region Hawaii. "It is clear that the recreational fields, bowling center, and child development center will continue to exist, and we remain committed to ensuring a seamless transition.”

Here is the status of three facilities:

Recreational and Baseball Fields: The City and County (C&C) agreed to continue operating the fields under a license agreement with the Navy. As the agreement between the Navy and Ford Island Properties goes forward, Ford Island Properties will honor any outstanding license agreements during the interim period until a formal agreement between Ford Island Properties and the C&C can be executed. The fields will remain open and all leagues may continue to utilize the Kalaeloa fields under their permits issued by the C&C.

Bowling Center: The Navy's Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division will shut down the Bowling Center on September 30, 2008, but is currently working with entrepreneurs Linda Painter and Bev Brennan on executing a concessionaires’ agreement. The concessionaires' agreement allows Painter and Brennan to operate the Bowling Center on a temporary basis and to take over the bowling center as soon as possible while a formal lease agreement can be worked out. Upon the expiration of the concessionaires’ agreement, Ford Island Properties intends to enter into an agreement with Painter and Brennan to ensure that the Bowling Center will remain open. Assuming Painter and Brennan qualify as suitable operators, MWR is hoping to execute the concessionaires’ agreement in the next few weeks. If all goes according to plan, the bowling center will be back in operation in about a month and authorized users will be able to continue using the bowling center as they were prior to the Navy-Ford Island Properties conveyance.

"We are thankful to the Navy and Ford Island Properties for giving us the opportunity to come in as a potential lessee and operator of the bowling center," said Linda Painter. "We recognize the need for the bowling center to continue in Kalaeloa and look forward to working with the community to ensure its success. We would also like to thank Rep. Sharon Har for facilitating the September 26, 2008 meeting on behalf of all the stakeholders to ensure that the parties were aware of their respective options as we all have the community’s best interests in mind.”

Child Development Center: The Navy will continue operating the Child Development Center into the foreseeable future with the goal of having a seamless transition with the next operator. Kama`aina Kids has expressed an interest in operating the facility, similar to another center which they took over at Iroquois Point. Kama`aina Kids, the Navy, and Ford Island Properties remain committed to work together towards this goal. As the Navy will continue to operate the Child Development Center, authorized users of the Navy may continue to utilize the Child Development Center.

It is the intent of the Navy, Ford Island Properties, the Hawaii Community Development Authority, and all potential lessees/operators to allow all three facilities to remain operational and in service to authorized users of the community.

Background: In anticipation of an agreement with the Navy and Ford Island Properties, the Navy's Morale Welfare and Recreation division had decided to close down the bowling center effective October 1, 2008. This prompted a negative reaction from the community with numerous complaints sent to Rep. Har and the Kapolei-Makakilo Neighborhood Board. As there were no representatives from the Navy or Ford Island Properties at the last neighborhood board meeting on September 24, 2008, this escalated the community's concern. Rep. Har quickly put together the stakeholder's meeting on September 26, 2008. The agreement between the Navy and Ford Island Properties allows the transition plan crafted at the stakeholder's meeting to go forward.

Rep. Berg to host community forums

Representative Lyla Berg (D18-Hahaione, Kuliouou, Niu Valley, Hawaii Loa Ridge, Aina Haina, Wailupe, Kahala) will be hosting two community forums in East Oahu to discuss the proposition of a Constitutional Convention and the fate of Maunalua Bay.

Wednesday,October 15, 2008
Community Forum: "Implications of a Constitutional Convention" from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Niu Valley Middle School
Voters will be faced with a decision in the November 2008 general election to determine whether there should be a Constitutional Convention in Hawaii. During a Constitutional Convention delegates propose revisions or amendments to the Hawaii Constitution. The forum will include guest panelists David Hagino, Annelle Amaral, Lehua Kinilau, and Joanne Maruoka.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Community Forum: "The Fate of Maunalua Bay" from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Hahaione School Cafetorium
Maunalua Bay has been deteriorating over the past 50 years due to urban development. Malama Maunalua, a community-based organization, has been working with the Nature Conservancy to preserve and restore the region to what it used to be. The bay was once rich with coral reefs and fish, but because of freshwater discharge, alien species invasion and other environmental issues it has drastically changed. The forum will include guest panelists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Malama Maunalua and the Board of Water Supply. The public is encouraged to come and learn more about the history of Maunalua Bay, the problem it faces and the community efforts to preserve and restore it.

Please call the office of Rep. Lyla Berg for more info: 808-586-6510

Hawaii County Considers Ban on GMO Taro and Coffee

We're watching to see what the Hawaii County Council does this week with a bill proposing to ban genetically modified taro and coffee on the Big Island. Here's the link to the latest draft of Bill 361.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald opposes the bill in Sunday's editorial.

The bill passed unanimously in the Environmental Management Committee in early September. According to this article in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald on the committee's action, if the bill becomes county law, and if the legislature next session passed a bill to allow GMO taro and coffee, the state law would trump the county law.

South Kona Councilmember Brenda Ford was quoted as saying,"We all know if this goes to the state legislature, they're not going to do anything as a body."

The bill went to the full Council on September 24th, where it passed second reading by a vote of 6-3. Councilmembers Pilago (introducer), Ford, Jacobson, Hoffmann, Yagong, Naeole voted for, and councilmembers Higa, Ikeda and Yoshimoto voted against.

Should the bill become Hawaii County law, what will the other neighbor island councils do?

This is grim

Hawaii media has made much of the fact, and rightly so, that there are so many uncontested races for the 2008 election. If you think Hawaii is bad, consider this from Arkansas. According to Ballot Access News, in the upcoming November election, 17 out of 18 Arkansas Senate seats have only one person on the ballot. Only one district has a contested race, between a Democrat and a Republican. This is a startling statistic no matter what state you come from.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Free interactive activities for kids and youth @ Capitol Sunday

Children, youth and families are invited to celebrate Children and Youth Day at the Hawaii State Capitol from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. There will be over 200 free activities including Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments, physical fitness demonstrations, bungee trampoline, films, and a Teen Zone featuring paintball shootout, karaoke, martial arts demonstrations, culinary exhibitions and rock wall climbing. Live entertainment includes Brother Nolan, Jordan Segundo, Kapena, UH Rainbow Dancers and many more. Find out more here. Don't forget it's FREE!!

Children and Youth Day is sponsored by the Legislative Keiki Caucus, which was created in 1994. They sponsor "Children and Youth Month" each year and plan events that inspire children to learn and nurture their growth in a positive environment. Rep. John Mizuno and Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland.

How old is this picture?

Ian Lind writes today about an old photo of the capitol, asking "what's wrong with this picture?" He was referring to a photo of the State Capitol before the walking promenade was built connecting Richards and Punchbowl streets.

The same is true of the photo of the State Capitol that we use on this blog. I noticed a while back that the promenade looked "different", and now, thanks to Ian's post, I realize that it is probably what used to be a portion of Hotel Street. Also, there's something else wrong. Notice that there is no water element surrounding the building.

I wonder how old this picture is? Time for a new photo, I guess.

Bill Woods

I did not know Bill Woods, but I saw him frequently around the State Capitol during legislative sessions, year after year. Bill passed away after a long illness last weekend; the Honolulu Star-Bulletin writes an editorial on his contributions to civil rights and gay and lesbian rights here.

Here is an excerpt from that piece that places his life in historical perspective:

Largely through Woods' effort, Hawaii law allows gay and lesbian partners rights such as family and bereavement leaves, probate rights and hospital visitation. The Legislature recognized "reciprocal beneficiaries" following a tenacious battle that triggered a national debate a decade ago when Hawaii voters effectively approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

Regardless of your position on gay rights, there are still too few of us who believe so passionately on an issue, any issue, and devote the time and energy required to help bring about change.

Hawaii debated a decade ago such humane rights as hospital visitation and bereavement leaves for same-sex couples, yet the issue is still contested in other parts of the country; it came up last night in the VP debates.

From Ballot Box, including their analysis, take a look at some of the ballot initiatives in various states that will be decided in November:

State: Arizona
Issue: Proposition 102, a ban on gay marriage in the state Constitution
Analysis: Twenty-seven states have voted on gay marriage bans over the past decade and 26 of them have passed. The one that failed was in Arizona in 2006, where the amendment was worded in a way that would likely have prohibited civil unions and other recognition of same-sex relationships. It received 48% of the vote. This year, the legislature placed a scaled-back version of the ban on the ballot. It only applies to gay marriage. The question is whether that distinction will push the proposal over the 50% mark.

State: Arkansas
Issue: A ban on unmarried cohabitating couples serving as foster parents or adopting children.
Analysis: Social conservatives are pushing this initiative as a way to prohibit gay couples from adopting children or serving as foster parents. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and some social worker organizations are opposed. In a conservative state, the vote will test how far the public is willing to go in terms of restricting gay rights.

State: California
Issue: Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage in the state Constitution
Analysis: Thanks to a ruling by the state Supreme Court earlier this year, California became the second state to allow gay marriage. Social conservatives then moved quickly, placing a measure on the ballot to reverse the decision by banning gay marriage in the Constitution. So, a vote this fall will determine the fate of perhaps the hottest-button social issue in the nation's most populous state.

State: Florida
Issue: Amendment 2, a ban on gay marriage and same sex unions "treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof."
Analysis: Florida's ban on gay marriage would be very likely to pass, except that the Sunshine State requires 60% of the vote for constitutional amendments to win approval. That, combined with the broad wording of the amendment (compared to the gay marriage bans on the ballot in Arizona and California), makes this an interesting one to watch. Also of note: Some analysts think the gay marriage vote could affect turnout in the presidential race (although I'm not one of them).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's Filipino-American History Month!

The Filipino-American Historical Society of Hawaii (FAHSOH), together with the Hawaii State Library, is sponsoring several free events open to the public in October to celebrate Filipino-American History Month.

The 2008 Hawaii State Legislature passed a bill, HB 3343 HD1, designating the month of October as Filipino-American History Month. The bill was passed unanimously by the House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor on April 15, 2008. The legislation was introduced by Representative Joey Manahan (D29-Sand Island, Kalihi Kai, Kapalama) and members of the Filipino Caucus. Filipino-American History Month has been widely celebrated in the United States since 1988. However, the Hawaii State Legislature is the first governing body to officially recognize this month.

The public is cordially invited to join in celebrating the contributions made by Filipino Americans to their communities.

The following is a list of events scheduled for Filipino-American History Month:

Photo exhibit, “Singgalot: The Ties that Bind”, October 4 – 25 at the Hawaii State Library: An opening ceremony will be held on October 4 at 11:00 a.m. in the lobby of the Hawaii State Library with the Silangan Singers entertaining the crowd with Filipino songs. The exhibit was originally shown at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and at the Bishop Museum in 2006. Dr. Dean Alegado, former Chair of Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, directed the project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Filipino immigration to the United States. This exhibit of photos allows the public to appreciate the history and legacy of Filipino Americans. Their struggles and achievements are brought to light so that today’s generation is aware of the past contributions of Filipino Americans to their adopted country. Contact: Clem Bautista, 956-7348.

Panel Discussion, "Growing Up Filipino in Hawaii", October 11 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Hawaii State Library Reading Room: The public is invited to a discussion of Filipino ethnic pride in the reading room, next to Hawaiiana room. Refreshments will follow in the courtyard. Contact: Lyna Burian, 521-7721

Talk Story with Pete Tagalog, "The 1970 Ota Camp Housing Struggle, A Success Story", October 12 from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Hawaii's Plantation Village Social Hall: Pete Tagalog, the 76-year-old founder of the Ota Camp Makibaka Association, will recount the 30-year struggle the association endured to retain camp homes and own the land under them. In 2001, the City & County of Honolulu agreed to allow the association to pay $600,000 for the fee interest of the 5.7 acres in Waipahu. Refreshments will be served.

Poetry Reading, "Flippin' on Poetry", October 25, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the Hawaii State Library Reading Room: The public is invited to a poetry reading on Filipino history and pride. Refreshments will follow in the courtyard. Contact: Nicki Garces, 728-4620

Photo: One of the photos on display at the Hawaii State Library for the exhibition"Singgalot: The Ties that Bind."