Saturday, January 31, 2009

Legislation targeting domestic violence

House and Senate Judiciary, Health and Human Services committees heard from the Hawaii State coalition Against Domestic Violence this afternoon on the five-year (2007-2012) Domestic Violence Strategic Plan. The coalition updated lawmakers on actions taken thus far, progress of the plan, and future goals.

Read more about the plan in a previous post on an informal briefing held by the coalition in early December.

Here are some of the bills relating to domestic violence introduced this session:

Amends the offenses of murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, assault in the second degree, and terroristic threatening in the first degree to include conduct committed against victims who the courts and police are attempting to keep safe with protective orders.

Broadens the group of persons required to report child abuse and neglect to include family members, unless they are victims of domestic violence.

Provides unemployment insurance to those who are separated from their employment as a result of domestic or sexual violence, in a manner that accommodates the legitimate interests of employers.

Allows a taxpayer to choose between the current $5 or a new $8 check off donation from their tax liability for the Hawaii children's trust fund, and the domestic violence and sexual assault special funds within the department of health, the department of human services, and the judiciary.

Establishes a task force to examine situations resulting in a child fatality or a serious injury due to drug use by a parent, guardian, or caregiver, and develop a plan to prevent such situations from occurring. Establishes a system for the Department of Human Services to allow children to continue to reside in pre-existing caregivers' safe homes rather than enter into foster care, subject to certain conditions.

Requires the judiciary to establish a three-year statewide pilot project for the electronic filing of requests for and issuance of domestic abuse temporary restraining orders on nights and weekends. Makes an appropriation.

Allows a tenant who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or harassment by stalking to terminate his or her rental agreement.

Authorizes the counties to impose fees for domestic violence prevention programs upon defendants convicted of domestic violence.

Requires the department of human services to establish a pilot project to assist undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

Requires periodic court review of protective order where duration of initial or extended order exceeds 3 years.

Requires law enforcement officers to report to the Department of Human Services (DHS) when a child witnesses an incident of domestic abuse. Requires DHS to collaborate with other agencies and organizations establish procedures and protocols and report to the legislature.

To provide greater protections to victims of domestic violence who the court is already attempting to keep safe through protective orders.

Amends the offenses of assault in the second degree and terroristic threatening in the first degree to include conduct committed against victims who the courts and police are attempting to keep safe with protective orders.

Adds the acts of inflicting serious or substantial bodily injury upon a person who is pregnant in the course of committing or attempting to commit a felony to those actions for which an extended term of imprisonment may be given. Mandates imprisonment for such actions if not subject to extended term.

Requires a judge who denies a petition for an ex parte temporary restraining order to issue an order that includes the reasons for denial. Allows the petitioner to proceed to a noticed hearing if the denied petition is jurisdictionally adequate. Permits petitioner to waive the right to a noticed hearing

Requires department of human services to grant to families homeless assistance, under specified circumstances, as an allowance for nonrecurring special needs when homelessness is a direct result of domestic violence. Allows verification by sworn statement of victim.

Prohibits a landlord from evicting a rental housing tenant solely on the basis that the tenant is a victim of domestic violence.

Makes an appropriation for emergency domestic violence shelters.

Prohibits a court from imprisoning a victim of a sexual assault or domestic abuse crime for contempt for refusing to testify concerning that sexual assault or domestic abuse crime.

Requires a judge who denies a petition for an ex parte temporary restraining order to issue an order that includes the reasons for denial. Allows the petitioner to proceed to a noticed hearing if the denied petition is jurisdictionally adequate. Permits petitioner to waive the right to a noticed hearing

In a case where a complaint, indictment, or information charging a crime of domestic abuse has been filed, authorizes a court to issue a restraining order upon a good cause belief, including results of a criminal history search, that harm to the victim or a witness has occurred or is reasonably likely to occur.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Women's Legislative Caucus Package dedicated to Madelyn Payne Dunham

Rep. Marilyn Lee addresses Hawaii Women's Legislative Caucus

The Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus unveiled their 2009 legislative package on Thursday, January 29, 2009, dedicated to the late Madelyn Payne Dunham, former Hawaii businesswoman and grandmother of President Barack Obama. Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Mrs. Dunham's granddaughter and the President's sister, sent the following:
On the occasion of the dedication of the 2009 Women's Legislative Caucus Package to the late Madelyn Payne Dunham:

A big mahalo to the Hawaii State Women's Legislative Caucus for recognizing our Tutu's life and her contributions to the State of Hawaii.

I am proud that today's legislation is devoted to women's health and welfare. Our grandmother took care of all of us through difficult times, and she did so without complaint. Because of her financial and emotional support, my brother--our President-- was given access to the finest education and a broad range of educative life experiences, all of which have helped to give stronger shape and direction to his enormous talent. He has acknowledged his debt to her.

There are so many women out there who are in need of real recognition; they are doing just as much for their families and many are struggling to maneuver across the many hurdles that confront them in these difficult economic times. May these bills be supported in honor of these women's contributions to the countless keiki in need of their help.

-- Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng
January 29, 2009
Mr. Ah Nee Leong and Rep. Faye Hanohano

The caucus also remembered Ah Quon McElrath, the dedicatee of the 2005 Women’s Legislative Caucus, who passed away on December 9, 2008. Ah Nee Leong, A.Q.'s brother, attended the press conference in her honor.

Theme: Women’s Financial Stability. As our state and our nation face an historic economic crisis, the Women’s Legislative Caucus has selected financial stability as the theme of this year’s package. The crisis may have a greater impact on women than men, as women differ from men in terms of asset ownership and earnings. In addition, many women care for children, an ailing spouse, or aging parents, and this may prevent their active participation in the work force or may force early retirement.

The Legislative Package of Bills and Resolutions:


HB327/SB779 – Relating to Cigarettes. Prohibits sale, distribution, and import of purse packs of cigarettes or cigarette packs containing fewer than 20 cigarettes per pack.

HB328/SB780 – Relating to Cancer. Appropriates funds for cervical and breast cancer screening, education, and outreach.

HB329/SB777 – Relating to Health. Requires the State to reject all Title V federal funding for mandated abstinence-only-until marriage programs.

HB330/SB778 – Relating to Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Requires any recipient of state funding to provide medically accurate sexuality education.

Human Services

HB331/SB784 - Relating to Real Property. Requires that tenants of rental property be given sixty days written notice to vacate when the rental property is sold in foreclosure. Requires that tenants of rental property be notified when foreclosure proceedings have begun on the rental property.

HB332/SB782 – Relating to Employment Security. Establishes eligibility for unemployment insurance.

HB333/SB783 – Relating to Taxation. Creates a state earned income tax credit funded initially with TANF funds. Restricts the interest charged by tax preparers to clients who claim the earned income tax credit.

HB334/SB781 – Relating to Community Reintegration. Requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a plan to use current funding resources to improve community-based programs to assist female offenders in transitioning from prison back into the community.

Public Safety

HB335/SB776 – Relating to an Automated Victim Notification System. Establishes a statewide automated victim notification system to provide victims of crime with current information regarding the custody status of the offender in the victim’s case.

HB336/SB785 – Relating to DNA Collection for Arrestees of Violent Crimes. Requires DNA collection from those arrested for violent crimes.

House Resolutions

HCR16 – Addressing “under banking”. Identifying the under banked population, encouraging local action to encourage savings and development of credit and formulation of an inventory of bank services available to low income persons.

HCR15 – Encouraging stakeholders and interested parties to work together to establish paid family leave or similar wage replacement programs to assist family caregivers. The Legislature urges the business community, the labor community, health care advocates, and the general public to work together to develop programs for assistance to family caregivers such as wage replacement and paid family leave.

Dedication to Madelyn Payne Dunham. Mrs. Dunham is not only the grandmother of newly-elected President Barack Obama, but was also a feminist pioneer in the banking industry. She worked her way up the corporate ladder to become the first female vice-president of Bank of Hawaii.

Remembering Ah Quon McElrath. “A.Q.” as she was called by colleagues and friends, was a tireless defender of the underdog. As an integral part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), she helped unified workers fight for wages and working conditions. She remained active in social, political and human rights issues.

Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus Members. Representatives Karen Awana, Della Au Belatti, Lyla Berg, Rida Cabanilla, Mele Carroll, Corinne Ching, Cindy Evans, Lynn Finnegan, Faye Hanohano, Sharon Har, Marilyn Lee, Sylvia Luke, Barbara Marumoto, Hermina Morita, Kymberly Pine, Maile Shimabukuro, Cynthia Thielen, Jessica Wooley. Senators Rosalyn Baker, Suzanne Chun Oakland, Carol Fukunaga, Colleen Hanabusa, Michelle Kidani, Donna Mercado Kim, Jill Tokuda.

Brief History of the Caucus. The Women’s Legislative Caucus was created over twenty years ago, and is comprised of all of the female legislators in both the House and the Senate of the Hawaii State Legislature. Each year, the Caucus meets to create a package of bills relevant to women in the State of Hawaii. In addition to the bills, the Caucus is involved in supporting community organizations, such as the annual Easter Basket drive that benefits the clients of the Institute for Human Services.

Penny Wars 2009

One of the hotly contested battles of the 2009 legislature is sure to be the Penny Wars. If you have spare pennies, why not drop them into any one of the officially labeled jars located in the Representatives' offices, as well as the House Sergeant at Arms, Chief Clerk's Office, and the Printshop? The money collected goes to a good cause - the Hawaii Food Bank. The winning office gets pizza! More importantly, House members and their staffs go all out to help those less fortunate in our community.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Doctor Recruitment and Retention Action Plan 2009

Recognizing the mounting healthcare crisis facing our state, Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu (D41-Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced a healthcare package comprised of eight bills, each addressing different issues that medical professionals have faced over the years, and cite as reasons for the increasing doctor shortage and rising cost of care in Hawai‘i.

The eight bills, collectively called the Hawai‘i Doctor Recruitment and Retention Action Plan (HI-DRRAP) 2009, cover issues ranging from a comprehensive task force study and strategic plan to the re-establishment of the Patient Compensation Fund.

Those proposals include:

* Re-establishing the patient compensation fund
*Changing the make-up and duties of the medical claims conciliation panel
*Creating a cap on non-economic damages, tax credits for physicians serving in rural areas, a tort cap for specialty doctors such as neurologists
*Amending the duties of the Hawai‘i healthcare primary incentive program
*Convening a task force to develop a comprehensive strategic plan
*Establishing an office of state coordinator of health information exchange in order to advance efforts to create a statewide health information exchange network

“Healthcare is an essential component in our society because it affects everyone,” said Rep. Karamatsu. “We cannot afford to continue losing doctors, especially for the under-served and rural areas of the state, and tort reform is not the only answer. That is why we decided to introduce such a diverse package.”

“Physicians play an important role in our healthcare system in Hawai‘i and the House Health committee is exploring a wide variety of options that support our local doctors,” said Rep. Ryan Yamane, Chair of the House Health Committee. The bills are expected to first be assigned to the House Health Committee.

In the 2008 legislative session, a tort reform measure failed to be voted out of the House Judiciary Committee.

“I’m optimistic that we will make progress on this issue in the House this year,” said Rep. Karamatsu.

Establishes a $750,000 aggregate and $250,000 individual cap on non-economic medical malpractice damages, and allows for a $3,000,000 cap on non-economic medical malpractice damages when gross negligence is involved. Also establishes caps on attorney fees.

Re-establishes the Patient Compensation Fund in the state of Hawai‘i so that the state’s healthcare providers can have stable and reasonable surcharge rates that are sufficient to fairly compensate legitimate victims of medical malpractice.

Creates a medical malpractice task force who shall review all of the various reasons that makes it difficult for doctors to be able to afford to live and work in Hawai‘i and explore alternative solutions, including those used in other states and on a national level. Requires the task force to develop a strategic plan and present it to the 2010 Hawai‘i State Legislature.

Establishes medical malpractice insurance rate caps for highly-needed specialty doctors such as neurologists and neurosurgeons.

Creates a tax credit on medical malpractice insurance rates for physicians willing to serve in rural/under-served areas in the state.

Amends the composition and duties of the Medical Claims Conciliation Panel (MCCP), increases the filing fees, allows for evidence and statements from MCCP hearings to become admissible to jury hearings and establishes a benevolent exemption prohibiting signs of sympathy from being perceived as admissions of guilt.

Revises chapter 321-1.5, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, primary health care incentive program, by adding health information technology, health information exchange and a doctor exchange database to their list of duties.

Creates an Office of State Coordinator of Health Information Exchange within the Department of Health to coordinate local efforts, identify funding sources, and integrate state health programs and eventually the National Health Information Technology Network (NHIN) for the State of Hawai‘i.

Native Hawaiian Caucus Package

Rep. Mele Carroll chairs the Native Hawaiian Caucus

The Native Hawaiian Caucus met on Wednesday to announce their support of a moratorium of the state sale of ceded lands. Rep. Mele Carroll, chair of the Hawaiian Caucus, introduced HB 1667 which proposes to prohibit the Board of Land and Natural Resources from selling, exchanging, or otherwise alienating ceded lands in the public land trust. The Senate companion bill is SB 1085 introduced by Senator Clayton Hee.

In addition, the Hawaiiain Caucus unveiled their 2009 legislative package:

HB1658 RELATING TO EDUCATION. Traditional Hawaiian Navigation; Voyaging Canoes; Pilot Program ($) Establishes and funds a traditional Hawaiian navigation pilot program in the public schools.

HB1659 RELATING TO STATE BUILDING CODE. State Building Code; Bamboo Directs the state building code council to establish standards and criteria allowing the use of bamboo as an accepted construction material.

HB1660 RELATING TO HAWAIIANS. Hawaiians; Indigenous Recognizes Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawaii.

HB1661 RELATING TO KULEANA LANDS. Kuleana Lands; 10-year Holding Period Requires the office of Hawaiian affairs to hold in trust any lands where the owner of an inheritable interest in kuleana lands dies intestate and there is no taker under the Hawaii uniform probate code, for 10 years before passing to the office of Hawaiian affairs.

HB1662 RELATING TO HISTORIC PRESERVATION. Burial Cave; Historic Preservation Clarifies that a burial site may include a cave or lava tube or a portion of a cave or lava tube. Defines burial cave.

HB1663 RELATING TO TARO SECURITY. Genetically Modified Taro; Prohibition Prohibits the development, testing, propagation, release, importation, planting, or growing of genetically modified taro in the State of Hawaii.

HB1664 RELATING TO CORRECTIONS. Inmate Rehabilitation; Historical Site Restoration ($) Establishes a program within the Department of Public Safety that assigns select, non-violent inmates on a work detail that restores historical sites selected by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

HB1665 RELATING TO HAWAIIAN FISHPONDS. Government-owned Hawaiian fishponds; prohibition on sale. Prohibits the sale of public lands on which government-owned Hawaiian fishponds are located.

HB1666 RELATING TO THE HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE. Hawaiian Language; Public Documents; Letterhead; Symbols; Emblems Requires that all letterheads, documents, symbols, and emblems of the State and other political subdivisions include both state languages.

HB1667 RELATING TO CEDED LANDS. BLNR; Ceded Lands; Public Land Trust; Prohibition on Disposition Prohibits the board of land and natural resources from selling, exchanging, or otherwise alienating ceded lands in the public land trust.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

House Majority Package 2009

The House Majority today announced their 2009 priorities through a package of bills related to the Economy, Education, and Health and Safety issues. Given the state’s current budget shortfall, the House’s mandate and main objective is to pass a balanced budget. When selecting bills for the majority package, House members were asked to submit legislation for consideration which has statewide relevance, and will help the state’s future growth and stability.

“Although we face a challenging economic crisis that will severely impact our ability to appropriate funding for programs, we clearly see the importance of ensuring quality education for our children, public health and safety, and preparing the state to succeed in the long-term,” said House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro. “The legislature considers thousands of bills each year; the Majority Package reflects our priorities.”

Here are the bills organized by topic:


HB980 RELATING TO RECREATIONAL RENAISSANCE. Introducer: Rep. Ken Ito. Contact: 586-8470.

This bill fortifies the recreational renaissance program of the department of land and natural resources through various amendments to state law.

HB984 RELATING TO TECHNOLOGY. Introducer: Rep. Marcus Oshiro. Contact: 586-6200. Rep. Kyle Yamashita. Contact: 586-6330.

This bill Implements key recommendations of the Hawaii Broadband Task Force by establishing the Hawaii Communications Commissioner (HCC) in the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). It transfers functions relating to telecommunications from the Public Utilities Commission to the HCC and functions relating to cable services from DCCA to the HCC. It also establishes a work group to develop procedures to streamline state and county broadband regulation, franchising, and permitting, and to report back to the Legislature.

HB987 RELATING TO UNEMPLOYMENT. Introducer: Rep. Denny Coffman. Contact: 586-9605.

This bill creates the State Comprehensive Employment Training Program providing subsidized employment for work with a public purpose. It appropriates funds.

HB988 RELATING TO PROCUREMENT. Introducer: Rep. Blake Oshiro. Contact: 586-6340.

This bill allows for persons desiring a Hawaii product preference, when submitting bids, to self-certify as an alternative to registration on the Hawaii products list. It amends the definition of a Hawaii product by revising the product classes. It also revises administrative rules relating to exemptions from procurement.


This bill routes a portion of projected increases in general fund revenues to an emergency and budget reserve fund established by law. It sets 7% as the percentage that triggers the disposition.


HB985 RELATING TO EDUCATION. Introducer: Rep. Mark Nakashima. Contact: 586-6680.

This bill returns the Department of Education to a system divided by districts in lieu of the current complex area structure. It requires the Board of Education to appoint the district superintendents. It also establishes duties of the district superintendent.

HB986 RELATING TO PUBLIC SCHOOL FACILITIES. Introducer: Rep. Hermina Morita. Contact: 586-8435.

This bill requires the construction and renovation of public school facilities to meet the Collaborative for High Performance Schools standards. It requires replacement of old portable buildings with high performance classrooms. It also requires prioritization of public school facilities projects in accordance with certain criteria.

HB992 RELATING TO NUTRITION. Introducer: Rep. Joe Bertram. Contact: 586-8525.

This bill establishes a farm-to-work nutrition program in the public schools.


HB981 RELATING TO HIGHWAY SAFETY. Introducer: Rep. Sharon Har. Contact: 586-8500.

This bill makes amendments to Act 171, Session Laws of Hawaii 2008, reflecting recommendations of the Ignition Interlock Implementation Task Force.

HB982 RELATING TO FAMILY LEAVE. Introducer: Rep. Marilyn Lee. Contact: 586-9460.

This bill establishes a new data collection system for family leave. It extends applicability of the family leave law to employers with 50 or more employees and to certain emergency and casual hires of the State and counties.

HB983 RELATING TO EDUCATION. Introducer: Rep. Marilyn Lee. Contact: 586-9460.

This bill requires the Director of Transportation to conduct a statewide pupil travel evaluation to study how students get to school, and to use that information to award federal grants for school-based workshops and community planning that will reduce traffic congestion, encourage walking and bicycling, and increase health and safety. It requires the Director of Transportation to streamline the grant application process. It also requires annual reports.

HB989 RELATING TO CHILDREN’S HEALTH CARE. Introducer: Rep. Ryan Yamane. Contact: 586-6150.

This bill amends Act 236, Session Laws of Hawaii 2007, which established the Hawaii children's health care program, to extend the program for three more years and require that participants receive primary health care services at federally qualified health centers.

HB990 RELATING TO DISASTER PREPAREDNESS. Introducer: Rep. Robert Herkes. Contact: 586-8400.

This bill establishes the Office of the Director of Disaster Preparedness and a Disaster Preparedness Commission to develop a disaster preparedness plan for Hawaii that includes the identification of hazards and hazard impact zones, disaster mitigation policies, requirements, and incentives, and best responses. It appropriates funds. Effective 7/1/09.

HB991 RELATING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII. Introducer: Rep. Ryan Yamane. Contact: 586-6150.

This bill establishes loan repayment program for University of Hawaii medical school graduates working in rural areas of the State.

Cannabis reform

The Public Safety Committee today held a meeting with "medical marijuana" advocates to discuss cannabis reform strategies.

The following were listed as high priorities for change in the medical marijuana program:
  • The medical marijuana program should be under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health not the Department of Public Safety, while making patient list available to the PSD.
  • Medical marijuana patients should be able to grow five more plants then currently allowed. (7 plants to 12 plants)
  • The program must enhance patient confidentiality.
  • Patients need better and safer access to medical marijuana. Distribution centers should be developed.
  • Allow caregivers to grow a limited amount of marijuana for patients because some patients are too enfeebled to prepare their own crop.
A handful of bills relating to "medical marijuana" have been introduced this session and address the concerns of the advocates and lawmakers who attended the briefing:

Reclassifies possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a petty misdemeanor to a violation.

Allows a qualifying patient to possess 12 marijuana plants and 7 ounces of marijuana at one time. Prohibits identification of the site where marijuana is grown on a registry card. Prohibits a certifying physician from naming a patient's particular debilitating condition. Allows a caregiver to grow marijuana for no more than 5 patients.

Decriminalizes possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana and makes the possession a civil violation subject to a fine of not more than $100.

Directs the attorney general to coordinate a review of the impact of diverting marijuana and low-level felony drug offenders out of the criminal justice system into treatment.

Amends the term "medical marijuana" to "medical cannabis"; transfers the administration of the program from the department of public safety to the department of health; authorizes a registration fee of $50; establishes the medical cannabis advisory board; provides for the department of health to license producers to dispense medical cannabis.

Makes the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil offense and imposes fines. Requires persons under eighteen years of age against whom a civil judgment is entered to complete a drug awareness program.

Provides that the enforcement of laws related to the personal use of marijuana by adults shall be the lowest law enforcement priority for state and local law enforcement agencies.

Requires department of health to grow, manage, operate, and dispense medical marijuana collectives to qualifying patients. Requires department of public safety to provide security for marijuana growing facilities and for transportation of marijuana. Limits each qualifying patient to 1 caregiver. Allows no more than 4 ounces of marijuana to each patient for every 30 calendar days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reps Wooley and C. Lee on Kukui Connection

Rep. Marilyn Lee will talk with two freshmen House lawmakers, Reps. Jessica Wooley and Chris Lee, in the next episodes of "Kukui Connection" on 'Olelo. These shows are part of a series of shows introducing and talking story with new members of the Majority of the House of Representatives.

Rep. M. Lee opens both shows with the one question every constituent wants to know. Why did you run for office? The future of Wooley's children was a motivating factor in her joining the political game. Lee attributed the beginning of his political career to his experience as a staff member at the Legislature, being in the right place at the right time and able to devote all his energy to making a difference in the community as a young man with no major commitments as of yet.

Find out more about their background, districts, and priorities for the 2009 Legislative Session by tuning in to 'Olelo, Channel 54 in February. Here's the schedule.
Rep. Wooley: Sunday, February 1 and Sunday, February 15,
Rep. C. Lee: Sunday, February 8 and Sunday, February 22

Technology Tax Credits - Will they stay or will they go?

Committee on Economic Revitalization, Business & Military Affairs/Committee on Economic Development and Technology
Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 9:00 a.m – Capitol Auditorium

Informational Briefing – Act 221/Act 215 Overview of the benefits and disadvantages of the technology tax credits.

Lisa Gibson, President of Hawaii Science & Technology Council

David Watamull, CEO, Cardax Pharmaceuticals
Henk Rogers, Chairman, Blue Planet Software
Reb Bellinger, VP Makai Ocean Engineering
Jason Lau, President, Talk Story
Darren Kimura, CEO, Sopogy

Linda Smith, Senior Advisor

Future of Act 221:
Bill Spencer, Hawaii Venture Capital Association
Steven Loui, CEO, Navatek
Mealani Parish, Mechanical Engineer, Navatek
Scott Yamashita, Hydro Dynamic Engineer, Navatek

Speaker Say on the Hot Seat

Speaker of the House Calvin Say will be live on The Advertiser's Hot Seat Wednesday, January 28, 2009, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. You can send in a question in advance or join in the conversation real time.

How many bills?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 6:00 p.m., is the cutoff deadline for the introduction of bills. Last I checked, the House total was at 1339 and the Senate total was at 1136. Those numbers should rise dramatically by the end of the day tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"The Ledge" on YouTube

Each Friday staff from Representative Hermina Morita's office will post to YouTube a new episode of "The Ledge," a video series that will focus on what has happened throughout the week at the Hawaii State Capitol during the 2009 Legislative Session.

Joel Guy, a filmmaker from Kauai’s North Shore who is active in conservation and the perpetuation of Hawaiian culture, joined Morita's office staff this year as a session worker and will film, produce and direct the episodes.

Thus far, three videos have been posted to the YouTube website.

Here's this past Friday's episode, which looks at Opening Day of the 25th Legislature:

Visit the website weekly! We will also post episodes to the House Blog as they are released.

Riding backseat

Hundreds of social service advocates today gathered at the Rotunda of the Hawaii State Capitol in response to the Lingle administration's budget proposal to eliminate the Healthy Start program. The cut would save the state $23.2 million dollars over the next two fiscal years. The rally began immediately after the Governor's State of the State address.

Former State Rep. Alex Santiago, chief executive officer of PHOCUSED, an advocacy group for health and human services, took issue with what Governor Linda Lingle said about social-services programs in her address to the people of Hawaii.

After praising the Dept. of Human Services and its community partners for their substantial progress in child welfare services, Lingle pointed out that, because of recent reductions in revenue, balancing the state budget will take precedence over anything else, even notable services and programs.

"…they and other worthy programs will take a back seat to our more immediate need to balance the budget. Today's struggling economy has created a deep hole in our budget that we need to dig out of this session," Lingle said.

Santiago kicked off the human services rally under the volcanic opening of the state capitol with a bold statement firing back at the governor's comments and igniting cheers and applause from a swarm of social service advocates clad in neon green t-shirts.

"We take a backseat to no one," he announced. "You [Lingle administration and Legislature] will not balance the budget on the most vulnerable people of this state."

Rep. Ryan Yamane, chairman of the House Health Committee, has been quoted in a recent Honolulu Advertiser article saying that lawmakers will try to find money for the program. However, he did also relate the difficulties that this will entail.
"We're going to try," said Yamane, a social worker. "The difficult part is, when we give one dollar to one place, it means somebody else is not going to get that dollar. So the question comes down to looking at what are the core services of state government in the health area and looking at ways to help support valuable programs."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Civil Unions Bill

The Honolulu Advertiser reports today that momentum is building for a Civil Unions bill, which has a good chance of passing the House this year. Story here.

The bill is House Bill 444, introduced by Rep. Blake Oshiro. Thirty two members have signed the bill, and they are: B. OSHIRO, BELATTI, BERG, BERTRAM, BROWER, CARROLL, CHONG, COFFMAN, HANOHANO, KARAMATSU, KEITH-AGARAN, C. LEE, M. LEE, LUKE, MORITA, NAKASHIMA, NISHIMOTO, M. OSHIRO, RHOADS, SAIKI, SAY, TAKAI, TAKUMI, THIELEN, TSUJI, WAKAI, YAMANE, YAMASHITA, Chang, Herkes, Shimabukuro, Wooley.

Bill Description: "Extends the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union."

Judiciary Chair, Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu said he will hear the bill, and believes he has the votes to move the bill out of committee.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Safiya from Israel

High school foreign exchange students from places like Russia, Israel, Yemen, Ukraine, and Lebanon spent the day at the Legislature as interns learning about the legislative process and shadowing state representatives.

Safiya Ismael, 16, from Israel, shadowed Representative James Tokioka, a Kauai legislator. She is living with a local family in Kalaheo, Kauai and attending Waimea High School.

I spent some time with Safiya, a bright, energetic and outgoing young woman, who described herself as "the coolest person ever!" After admiring my black calf boots, she excitedly dove in to explaining a few of her culture shock moments. The tolerant dress code in Hawaii schools, especially in Kauai, surprised her. Everyone on Kauai wears slippers, she said. Everyday. If we dressed like that in Israel, we would be reprimanded and sent home immediately to put on nice dress shoes.

Q&A with Safiya Ismael:

What do you want to do in the future?

"I wanna make a difference in the world in anyway. I want to travel more because I think that any travel is good travel. Medicine and psychology, or economy…something like that. "

Are you interested in politics?

"Not really. It's very hard to be in politics. I don't like having to make rules that may affect people in a negative way."

What's the biggest difference in politics that you noticed between your home country and Hawaii?

"It's not easy to enter the Capitol in Israel. I think we have more security."

What did you learn while interning at the Legislature?

"As a wise man (Rep. James Tokioka) said to me, 'If you want to be a good leader, don't ask others to do something you will never do.'"

What was your favorite part about interning at the Legislature?

"Meeting all the representatives of Hawaii and watching how the process works."

What's the biggest difference between your home country and Hawaii?

"Hawaii is very beautiful. It's very different than any other place I have ever seen. Israel is very cosmopolitan and the lifestyle is very fast, unlike Hawaii.

Now that you've spent 5 months in Hawaii, if you were to leave tomorrow, what about the experience would you take with you and what would you say you have learned?

"I will take all the nice memories I made in this amazing place, and I learned to understand and respect other people's culture."

Photo (top): Foreign Exchange Student Interns at the Hawaii State Legislature after sitting in on the third day of the 25th Legislative Session.

Photo (left): Safiya Ismael stands up in the chamber gallery to be introduced by Rep. James Tokioka to the members of the House of Representatives.

Inspired by BODIES

Rep. Marcus Oshiro has introduced two bills related to the recent BODIES Exhibition. They are:

HB28 Relating to Dead Human Bodies. Adds to the prohibition against buying dead human bodies, the selling of dead human bodies. Defines the term "dead human body" to include plastinated bodies and body parts. Increases the fine for buying or selling a dead human body to up to $5,000.

HB29 Relating to Dead Human Bodies. Prohibits the commercial display of dead human bodies without a permit from the department of health.

PSD briefs lawmakers on offender reentry plan

Officials from the Department of Public Safety (PSD) yesterday emphasized the need for more collaboration with non-criminal justice government agencies and community-based agencies in order to successfully and efficiently leverage limited resources to expand programs and services offered by the offender reentry and reintegration plan.

House and Senate public safety committees held an informational briefing with PSD to discuss the State's Comprehensive Reentry Plan.The plan was developed in response to a law (Act 8, SB 932) passed during the 2007 Legislative session that required the PSD to incorporate strategies to aid offenders returning to their communities.

Approximately 6,000 offenders are imprisoned in Hawaii jails and facilities on the mainland. Of this amount, 5,700 will eventually be released on parole or probation.

Hawaii has one of the highest rates of recidivism compared to other states, but they have been gradually decreasing. Recidivism rates for parolees dropped from 72.9% in 2003 to 65.7% in 2006 and for offenders on probation, from 53.7% to 48.2%.

Although there has been a decrease in recidivism, several lawmakers were puzzled as to why Hawaii rates were higher than other states. Sen. Robert Bunda asked PSD officials, "What are they [other states] doing that we aren't?"

Tommy Johnson, Deputy Director for Corrections, reminded Sen. Bunda and other lawmakers that the rates reflect all arrests and not only convictions. The reason for the arrest could be as minor as breaking a probation rule to as large as committing a major crime.

By the end of the briefing, a solid answer to Sen. Bunda's question failed to materialize. However, Johnson did say that the only way a reentry program can succeed and lower recidivism rates is if we are able to understand why offenders re-offend. However, the diverse offender barriers particular to each individual incarcerated is one of the challenges the reentry program faces.

The reentry plan heeds three specific strategies and goals: immediately access the needs and risks of an offender; develop individualized transitions through appropriate services and programs; and constant monitoring, management and re-assessments of an offender's progress.

You can view the Dept. of Public Safety's slideshow presentations below:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ready to Transact Business

Amidst the pomp and circumstance, the food and entertainment, and the opening day remarks, there were actually five House Resolutions offered and adopted yesterday. They were:






Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Opening Day 2009 Slideshow

Opening Day Remarks - Speaker of the House Calvin Say

Welcome Governor Lingle, Chief Justice Moon, Lieutenant Governor Aiona, House colleagues, family members, and friends. Welcome to the opening session of the House of Representatives of the Twenty-Fifth Legislature.

A wise man once said: "Be thankful for each new challenge because it will build your strength and character".

Members, in these times of extraordinary economic and budgetary challenges, we have much for which to be "thankful". Meeting those challenges will surely build our strength and character.

The world has experienced a major economic crisis within the past year, a situation that is expected to worsen. UHERO, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, predicts that, in 2009, "the rich world will be in recession, and developing economies will suffer a sharp reduction in growth rates."

One statistic tells the story of the decline of the United States economy. The U.S. stock market lost $6.9 trillion dollars in value in 2008, wiping out the gains of the previous six years. How many zeros does one trillion have? Do you know or is that number too far out for you to comprehend? Well, one trillion is the number "1" followed by twelve "zeros".

Naturally, the worldwide economic crisis has spilled over into our Hawaii economy. For 2008, visitor arrivals may have decreased by a double digit percentage. Primarily because of the visitor industry problems, UHERO projects that the Hawaii unemployment rate will increase to 5.8 per cent in 2009. The number of jobs will decline by 1.4 per cent in 2009 after zero growth in 2008.

Most telling of our economic slide is the Council of Revenues' projections of general fund tax revenues. On January 9, 2009, the Council projected that general fund tax revenues in fiscal year 2009 would decline by 3 per cent.

Where does this leave us?

Between the end of the 2008 session and January 9, the slide in the Council of Revenue's projection has resulted in a cumulative budget deficit over three years of $1.8 billion. We must make up this shortfall. And this will be our major challenge.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., "the true measure of a person is not how the person behaves in moments of comfort and convenience, but how the person stands at times of controversy and challenges."

What is our true measure? How will we react to the challenges of our State?

Members, we are no longer in the times of "comfort and convenience" of the past few years. We are facing a budget crisis unmatched in my 32 years in the House.

Consequently, I lay the following challenges on all of us.

I challenge all of us to join together to resolve the budget crisis. I pledge to work with the Administration and, obviously, the Senate on a cooperative basis. Everybody has to be part of the solution.

I also challenge all of us to focus on our priorities. Passing a balanced budget that protects public health and safety and basic education should be the top priority. Maintaining the economy until growth resumes should be another top priority.

Five basic policies should guide us in our budget deliberations.

First, I challenge all of us to maintain a basic safety net of social and health services. Financial troubles cause the most stress for families, leading to increased substance abuse and domestic violence. We should make sure that troubled families have access to basic state services that may mitigate their social and health problems. Although in these problematic budgetary times we cannot afford to expand such services, we should try our best to maintain a basic level.

Imagine just being laid off from your job. You have a mortgage. You no longer have health insurance coverage. You have car payments. Your children need to visit the doctor. You cannot rely on parents who are on a fixed income for financial support.

Today, you are able to receive a maximum of $545 a week, or $2,180 a month, in unemployment compensation. How far does that take you? You can feed and clothe your family on that amount, but will you have enough left over to pay the mortgage you incurred while employed? Probably not. Will you have enough to pay for major surgery if ill health befalls you? Definitely not!

For the immediate term, we must pay attention to those persons whose misfortunes are not their fault. We should encourage the federal government through its stimulus package to provide basic health care coverage and extended, increased unemployment compensation. After all, the federal government provided a massive bailout to financial institutions.

For the mid-term and long-term, we should seek structural reform that may prevent in the future the problems we are experiencing today. We should not be afraid of considering structural reform in our health system, tax system, land use and permitting system, and even land tenure system.

Second, I challenge all of us to maintain the level of education in the classrooms. Education is our greatest investment. We owe to future generations the opportunity to improve themselves and their community and environment. This opportunity comes from more education. We cannot afford to regress.

This is not to say that the entire budgets of the Department of Education and University of Hawaii will be sacred. Instructional services necessary for the classroom should be maintained, but central and school administration expenses should be heavily scrutinized.

Third, I challenge all of us to avoid the layoff of existing state employees to solve the budget crisis. State employees are valuable assets. They know their jobs, and the great majority performs very well. Layoffs may lead to morale problems and even efficiency problems if civil service bumping procedures have to be implemented.

This, however, is not to say that state employees will be unscathed while private sector employees are suffering. With great reluctance, we may have to implement some level of reform of state employee benefits in order to maintain basic services, avoid layoffs, and balance the budget. The pain should be broadly shared by all rather than concentrated on only an unfortunate few.

Fourth, I challenge all of us to work with the federal government on fiscal stimulus packages. We must be willing to complement with state funds the capital that the federal government sends our way. This will be a golden opportunity to fix our infrastructure, advance our renewable energy technology and power sources, provide more health care coverage, build more housing, and increase the military's capability and economic contribution. Of greatest importance, the stimulus will put our people to work.

Fifth, I challenge all of us to always be cognizant of the big picture, always aware that a benefit to one special interest group may require a takeaway from another special interest group or the general public. Remember, almost all special interest groups, whether for-profit or nonprofit, have organized memberships with a lobbying presence at the Legislature. Ordinary taxpayers, however, have none. They have only you and me.

Finally, I challenge all of us to treat this budget crisis as an opportunity for reform. We should not be afraid of change when for the common good. Challenges require solutions that may unleash our creativity, overturn conventional thinking, and remove barriers of political fear. One proposal that we should seriously consider is reform of the general excise tax system by repealing various exemptions, and using that savings to decrease the current state four per cent rate. Another possible proposal is the repeal of various income tax deductions and credits, with a decrease of the lower bracket tax rates. Interest groups who benefit from the exemptions, credits, and deductions should be willing to forgo their special benefits in order to reduce the burden on ordinary persons, families, and businesses.

Someone has said: in a crisis, one cannot wait for all the answers before taking action. That will lead to the infamous "paralysis by analysis". Our common sense, political and life experiences, good faith, and collective wisdom will be our guide in making decisions in a crisis.

Solving challenges requires "confidence" in oneself and each other.

We must have "confidence" in our ability to improve our State -- but a "confidence" built on a foundation of hard work, study, experience, and cooperation.

I have confidence that together we will be successful in meeting all the challenges facing us.

This speech has been primarily directed at my colleagues in this House, but I leave the following challenges to you: my friends, family, and members of the public.

We should take a simpler approach in trying to solve problems. Many years ago, I could talk directly to the leaders of industry in Hawaii, such as Doc Buyers, Bobby Pfeiffer, or Hung Wo Ching, about a problem that a constituent may have had. No more. In this now global economy, Hawaii's industries are owned or controlled by mainland and international investors, who are often unreachable.

We should exercise more of a social conscience when doing business in Hawaii. Developers should be more than willing to help moderate-income families by building affordable housing. In this respect, I will again push for a greater affordable housing assessment on developments in Kakaako mauka, the landowners of which benefitted substantially from the State's infrastructure investment there. We should not push all affordable housing into the country. We need communities with mixed-income families so that the rich and poor may come to know each other better.

We should try to keep our land in local ownership. Out-of-state landowners seem not to have an appreciation or understanding of our local businesses. Their bottom line is exclusively the maximum return on their investment. They, instead, should work with local lessees or businesses for the mutual benefit of both parties. There should be enough to go around for all. Local lessees and businesses represent the long-term future of Hawaii, and they should not be compromised by out-of-state corporations.

I recognize that our capitalistic system is based on the profit motive. Those with money, assets, and opportunity should be able to freely invest and make the maximum return if they choose to do so. They, however, would be much more respected in the community if they were satisfied with a more moderate return that left some benefits on the table for others, such as low- or moderate-income housing purchasers or renters.

Since I have commented on the willingness to face challenges, I would be remiss if I did not mention Representative Mark Takai. Mark – will you please stand? On February 6th, he will report for active duty with the Hawaii Army National Guard and be deployed to Kuwait for six months. Representative Takai, take care of yourself and your fellow Guard members. We all wish you the very best and a safe return home.

In closing, I would like to say a fond "good bye" to State Representative Bob Nakasone.

Bob was a great man because he stood strong during times of controversy and challenges. He was a man of great character. Bob would have relished addressing today's budgetary crisis and would not have been afraid of taking unpopular positions. Bob had exceptional personal and political courage. He simply did what he thought was right -- what was in the public's best interest for the greater good.

Members, everything I have talked about here today will require courage and strong convictions. Meeting our challenges will not be easy, and many of the decisions we make will be unpopular. However, if we find the political courage to make those decisions, we can seize the opportunity to address the pressing needs of our State in the short term, and lay the foundation for our highest desires in the long term.

With this in mind, I offer this piece of advice as we face the beginning of our session: When you don't know how to vote on tough issues because you're afraid of the outcome, do what our friend Bob Nakasone would have done: Vote with courage, vote with conviction, vote for the common good.

Thank you.

Opening Day Remarks - Majority Leader Blake Oshiro

Governor Lingle, Chief Justice Moon, Lieutenant Governor Aiona, House colleagues, honored guests, family and friends.

Yesterday was indeed an exciting day.

Despite the uncertainty in these economic times, the air was charged with an electricity of change inspired by our newly inaugurated President Barack Obama.

But change can take many forms.

It can manifest into tragedy -- into sudden and complete loss.

Such is the change that the house will endure with its loss of Representative Bob Nakasone. In these times, there will be many many days when we will miss his insight, his wisdom, and his advice.

But, change can also be transformative, evolutionary. Just as with our new president, it can bring much needed hope.

Such change and hope will be embodied by the newest additions to our Majority Caucus:

Representative Henry Aquino of District 35, Pearl City, Waipahu;
Representative Isaac Choy of District 24, Manoa, University;
Representative Denny Coffman of District 6, North Kona, Kailua-Kona;
Representative Gil Keith-Agaran of district 9, Kahului, Wailuku,
Represenative Chris Lee of District 51, Lanikai, Waimanalo;
Representative Mark Nakashima of District 1, Kohaha, Hamakua, Hilo; and
Representative Jessica Wooley of District 47, Laie, Kahana, Kahaluu, Kaneohe.

I've worked with these new representatives over the past few months, and can attest to their commitment, vision and hope that they will bring to our caucus.

As you stated Mr. Speaker, our state budget will be the major challenge.

But, this struggle will be an opportunity to re-examine, to re-evaluate, to re-prioritize.

As posed by President Obama, the question is not whether government is too big or too small – instead, the question is whether government is improving the lives of its people, and doing so effectively and efficiently? That is the task that lies before us this session.


First, what we need to do is be smarter about how we spend taxpayers money.

In these times where every dollar we have is precious, we cannot and should not allow an agency to be found to spend an excess $34 million on voting machines because they failed to do a cost/benefit analysis.

We cannot and will no longer tolerate the auditor finding that contracts spent millions of dollars on tourism marketing campaigns with no performance standards to measure success.

This leads us to procurement. The very mention of the word can cause people’s eyes to glaze over, or roll into the back of their heads.

But, what procurement can do is direct where government spends taxpayers' money and prioritize what's important.

For example, our laws have a ‘preference” for local products. Agencies are supposed to give local vendors a break and purchase preference. It's like the federal "Buy America act."

In 2006, we’ve even passed a small business set-aside so that our small businesses are supposed to be given state contracts.

Yet despite what’s in the law, nothing is happening. Local farmers are not enjoying the benefit of this policy. But do you know why? Because the “rules” that are supposed to implement the laws, exempt fresh produce, meats and foods! I know, "How can?!?"

When I was growing up and things made no sense, we'd ask "how can?" like how can the laws we pass provide for local farmers and small businesses, but the rules take it away?

Therefore, we will be fighting to get rid of these ridiculous rules so that our local small businesses and our local farmers get the preference they deserve under the law.

This will not only be a smarter way to spend taxpayer dollars, but will move our state towards self-sufficiency.


When we speak of self-sufficiency and its effect on the economy, nowhere is that need more dire than our addiction on imported fossil fuels.

We spend anywhere from $5 – 7 billion annually to feed our need for energy. Despite being uniquely situated for renewable energy sources like solar, wind and wave, we have not been able to harvest these clean and renewable energy sources.

The goals are clearly set. The law sets the renewable portfolio standards at 20% by 2020.
More so, there's agreement between Hawaiian Electric and the State to get to 70% by 2030.

But the bigger question is how do we get there?

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative has a plan.

But, the House Majority will also be looking at an alternative approach – instead of top-down mandates, we will also seek to find approaches that empower our counties, empower the communities and their economies to build an energy infrastructure from the ground up.


And in speaking about building capacity and infrastructure, the House Majority will also be focusing on the state's literal infrastructure as a much needed way to invest funds, continuing to prime the pump and keep revenue circulating in the economy. But, most importantly, it helps keep our citizens employed.

We are so extremely fortunate to have our Congressional delegation. They have been working closely with us to understand and communicate our priority projects to the federal government and to the new administration.

But we cannot rely only on the federal government, for we must be able to do for ourselves. Towards that end, our Governor and her administration have proposed some bold and innovative possible infrastructure investments in our highways and in our recreational areas.
These will be given serious consideration.

Collaboration and disagreement

This brings us to the area of collaboration. Going into these session, there have been efforts at collaboration and communication between the executive branch and legislature that often may have appeared to be missing in the past few years.

These are welcome changes and we hope that they will continue because it is only by putting our collective heads and hearts together that we will be able to strive and overcome the difficult issues we face ahead.

Now of course this does not mean we'll be sitting around singing "kum ba yah."

The people expect us to agree when we can, but there are times when that is just simply not going to happen.

For example, the House Majority will fight the termination of the Keiki Care program. This was one of the first in the nation, an innovative and quintessential public/private partnership to ensure that no child is without health insurance. And all at an extremely modest cost. We will be doing everything we can to ensure the continuance of this program.

I anticipate that this will be just one, of several examples where we will strongly and vehemently disagree with the administration, its position and its decisions.

But, what the House Majority is committed to is not to be about blame and not to be about doing things to take credit away from or to give credit to anyone.

In his book the audacity of hope, our President describes the public perception of political parties:

"They are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point. They don't always understand the arguments between right and left, conservative and liberal, but they recognize the difference between dogma and common sense, responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that last and those that are fleeting.
They are out there, waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up to them."

The public should not have to wait any longer. Because at the end of the day, at the end of the session, we must be judged as having done our best to live up to the oath that we have sworn to today. That we faithfully discharged our duties to the best of our abilities. Thank you.

Beach pathway cleanup in Wai‘anae needs volunteers

Volunteers are needed for this year's first Kaukama Road Pathway Beautification and Cleanup on Saturday, January 24, 2009 from 7 – 10 a.m. The meeting place will be at Nani Kai Beach on Kaukama Road (one street east of Maili 76 gas station). Sponsors of the cleanup, Women of Wai'anae, AlohaCare, Rep. Maile Shimabukuro and Nani O Wai‘anae, will provide trash bags, gloves, yard tools, plants and refreshments. Volunteers are asked to bring sun protection, protective footwear and water for the plants.

In July 2008, AlohaCare awarded Women of Wai`anae, via their fiscal agent Kaho`omiki, a $5,000 grant in honor of the late Rev. Frank Chong to use toward the creation of a multi-use pathway along the Wai`anae Coast from Lualualei Naval Road to Ka`ena Point. The goal is to connect the path to the state's planned bike path, which will end at Lualualei Naval Road. The funds will be spent on maintaining and beautifying the pathway through volunteer work days.

After receiving the AlohaCare grant, Women of Wai`anae, Teach for America, ServiceNation, and Nani O Wai`anae organized a pathway clean up and beautification at Maili Point on September 27, 2008, the first national “Day of Action.” The event coincided with volunteer projects across the nation. Over 100 volunteers gathered and planted more than 40 native plants, mostly drought resistant, and thousands of native seeds. The following native plants are just a few that now flourish along the pathway: akia, milo, ma`o (cotton), naupaka, pa`u o hi`iaka, pohuehue, koali (morning glory). Volunteers also cleared brush and debris, and gathered over 100 bags of litter. Previous clean-ups were held on April 4, 2008 and May 17, 2008.

“The Kaukama Road Path will go a long way toward preventing childhood and adult obesity by providing a scenic route for biking, walking, jogging and other forms of exercise,” said Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (D45 Wai‘anae, Makaha, Makua). “It will also serve as a viable alternative to driving in these times of high fuel costs and traffic congestion, not to mention increased awareness of the need to reduce our 'carbon footprints' to combat global warming.”

For more information about the pathway clean-up, email or call 696-4677.

Legislative Hawaiian Caucus speaks with Native Hawaiian health community

By: Travis Quezon
Office of Rep. Mele Carroll

Rep. Mele Carroll and the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus met with leaders and practitioners in the Native Hawaiian health community at a meeting on Jan. 15.
Caucus members heard concerns from members of Hui No Ke Ola Pono, a non-profit that provides community-based health care services on Maui; Papa Ola Lokahi, a clearinghouse for data and timely information associated with the health status of Native Hawaiians; Mental Health Alliance; and Community Health Centers in Rural Areas.

“It’s a rare occasion, quite frankly, that we have been invited to speak in front of legislators,” said David Peters of the Kaua‘i Community Health Center. “We at Papa Ola Lokahi look at new initiatives to integrate into Native Hawaiian health care systems. … Initially, you could count the number of researchers on one hand. Now there are nearly 150 researchers [working with us].”

Rep. Karen Awana asked if Papa Ola Lokahi and Hui No Ke Ola Pono looks into different kinds of alternative medicines.

“The whole idea of traditional healthcare practices are organic to the Native Hawaiian Healthcare Act,” Papa Ola Lokahi’s Hardy Spoehr replied. The Native Hawaiian Healthcare Act was created by Congress to develop outreach programs addressing the unique health needs of Native Hawaiians, who were found to have suffered greatly from the early onset of chronic disease and other adverse health conditions.

Tom Foye, Planning and Development Director of Papa Ola Lokahi, described how many non-profit healthcare organizations are at risk during economic times because they are dependent solely on federal funding.

“We’re very much at risk because we have one funding source in Washington: Sen. Daniel Inouye,” Foye said. He explained to the caucus that they should look at funding community healthcare organizations through diversification and solid strategic planning.

“We hope that we can continue this conversation in all forums,” Rep. Mele Carroll said to the healthcare practitioners.

Alex Santiago spoke to the caucus on behalf of the Mental Health Alliance. As part of ongoing budget cuts throughout state departments, the Adult Mental Health Services division announced in November that it will be cutting over $25 million from its FY2009 budget by cutting services.

“We are not going to stand by and watch as we try to balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” Santiago said. “What we are going to try to do is bring the word to you [the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus].”

Rep. Pono Chong said that lawmakers need to hear from the community where cuts would be better made. “The state, unlike the federal government, cannot borrow money to operate,” he said.

Santiago replied, “We’ve been doing a lot with less. We’re willing to do more with less. We’re willing to collaborate. However, we’re at the point where critical services for the most needy are being cut.”

Rep. Mele Carroll asked Santiago if finding new ways to generate money has been part of the discussion within the mental health community.

Santiago said that all options are being discussed. “Whatever it is we do to get revenue, we have to make sure the money is going to the things we care about,” he said. “There’s a willingness of everyone to come to the table to find a solution.”

Attorney General, Hawaii civil attorneys and DHHL to speak with Legislative Hawaiian Caucus about ‘ceded lands’

By: Travis Quezon
Office of Rep. Mele Carroll

The Legislative Hawaiian Caucus will hear concerns from Attorney General Mark Bennett and other civil attorneys about Hawaii’s “ceded lands” on Thursday, January 22.

Legislative Hawaiian Caucus meeting
Thursday, January 22, 2009
From 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at State Capitol room 423

Attorney Sherry Broder is scheduled to update the caucus on the legal challenges to preserve lands for Native Hawaiians. Broder has represented the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in obtaining entitlement to “ceded lands” revenues and was the chief attorney for OHA from 1986 to 2002. Broder also had been elected the first woman president of the Hawaii State Bar Association.

Rep. Mele Carroll, chair of the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus, has been working closely with various Native Hawaiian organizations to create a dialogue with Hawaii lawmakers.

Last Saturday, Rep. Mele Carroll and the Legislative Hawaiian Caucus were invited to take part in the Ku I Ka Pono March to protect Hawaiian lands. Community activists are seeking the support of the caucus to oppose the Lingle Administration’s attempt to move forward with selling what is now known as “ceded lands.” Activists are also seeking the caucus’ help in preparing legislation that will set a moratorium against selling those lands.

Micah Kane, Chair of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, is also scheduled to speak.

At a House Finance Committee last week, on Jan. 14, Kane said that the last fiscal year was the largest construction year in terms of dollars in the history of the Hawaiian Home Lands trust. Kane also credited the progress to the development of a retail facility in Kapolei with DeBartolo, LLC, which provided 4,500 jobs.

“We see that as the job center for our families to live and work in that community,” Kane said. “Also, the revenue goes toward Native Hawaiians.”

At the Finance Committee meeting, Rep. Mele Carroll asked if DHHL has dealt with any water issues regarding water infrastructure.

Kane replied that while there is an integrated system on Maui, the county is currently in a situation where there is a master plan, but has no money to execute the operation.

“There is utility availability in many of these counties, but they are obligated to various developers,” Kane said.

He would like to see the government given more authority to hold infrastructure to allow projects to move ahead more quickly.

“Thank you for all you have done [at DHHL],” Rep. Mele Carroll said. “I know my district is very challenging and you folks have been very diligent in handling the issues.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Info. Briefings for Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Subject: Governor Linda Lingle's Revised Financial Plan
Committee: Joint Senate Committee on Ways and Means (chair: Sen. Donna Mercado Kim) and House Committee on Finance (chair: Rep. Marcus Oshiro)
Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Place: Auditorium, Hawaii State Capitol

At their January 9, 2009 meeting, the Council on Revenues revised revenue projections for fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011. As a result, the projected budget shortfall will increase by about $630 million. This brings the total projected revenue shortfall to $1.8 billion by June 30, 2011. Budget Director, Georgina Kawamura, will brief lawmakers on Governor Linda Lingle's revised financial plan.

Subject: Rules of the House of Reps
Committee: Advisory Committee on Rules and Procedures (chair: Rep. Blake Oshiro)
Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Place: Conference Room 437, Hawaii State Capitol

2008 House Rules

Rep. Pono Chong named Housing vice chair

Updates have been made to the 25th Legislature's phone directory, House member list and contact info by district, and House leadership. Rep. Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran, who was appointed by the Governor after the passing of Maui Rep. Bob Nakasone, has been added to the directories, and Rep. Pono Chong has been named Housing (HSG) vice chair.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Opening Day Entertainment

In addition to the floor speeches, we're looking forward to welcoming the following entertainment groups on Opening Day, January 21, 2009, 10:00 a.m., in the House chamber:

Chant - Anuenue School, Principal: Charles Naumu

Presentation of Colors - Farrington JROTC, Principal: Catherine Payne; Teacher: Lt. Colonel David A. Carlson

The National Anthem/Hawaii Ponoi - Kaimuki High School Ohana O Mele, Principal: Penelope Tom; Teacher: Darryl Loo

Pledge of Allegiance - Jay Chang, Haaheo Elementary School, Big Island

Invocation - Nolan Tokuda, Leilehua High School, Coach of the 2008 OIA Football Champions

Entertainment, Interlude #1 - "Con Passione", Moanalua High School Chamber Orchestra, Principal: Darrel Galera; Teacher: Elden Seta

Entertainment, Interlude #2 - Nanakuli High and Intermediate School Performing Arts Center, Principal: Darin Pilialoha; Teacher: Robin Kitsu. Castle High School Performing Arts Learning Center, Principal: Meredith Maeda; Teacher: Karen Meyer. Kaimuki School Ohana O Mele, Principal: Penelope Tom; Teacher: Darryl Loo; Guest Performer: Terrance Tom

Info. Briefings for Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Subject: Technology Tax Credits: Act 221 and Act 215
Committee: Joint Senate Committee on Economic Development and Technology (Chair: Sen. Carol Fukunaga) and House Committee on Economic Revitalization, Business & Military Affairs (Chair: Rep. Angus McKelvey)
Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Place: State Capitol, Conference Room 325

Subject: Kuhio Park Terrace Property and Management
Committee: Housing (Chair: Rep. Rida Cabanilla)
Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Place: State Capitol, Conference Room 309

Rep. K. Mark Takai Deployed to Middle East

Rep. K. Mark Takai (District 34 - Aiea, Pearl City) announced today that he will be serving for six months in Kuwait with members of the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team.

"It is an honor to serve our country," Takai said in a news release." Although these next few months will be challenging, I look forward to serving with our soldiers from Hawaii."

Takai will be the very first Hawaii state legislator to be deployed during a regular session of the Hawaii State Legislature. He will miss most of the 2009 legislative session which opens on January 21, 2009. Takai will be activated on February 4, 2009 and will travel to Fort Benning, Georgia on February 6, 2009. About a week later, he is expected to travel to Kuwait.

While activated, Takai will rely on Senator David Ige, Rep. Roy Takumi, and Rep. Blake Oshiro to cover some of his legislative duties.

"We have a great team in Aiea and Pearl City, and our constituents are well served by our legislative team," said Rep. Takai. Additionally, Takai's legislative staff, led by his Office Manager Lisa Vargas, will continue to work on constituent requests and with community issues, such as traffic and transportation.

This is the second time Rep. Takai has been called to active duty during his 14-year legislative career. From May-November 2005, Takai was called to six months of active duty to serve as the Deputy state surgeon while the National Guard brigade was deployed.

There are no Hawaii State or U.S. laws that prohibit Hawaii state lawmakers from serving on active duty with the military. Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, revised on February 19, 2008, allows reserve component members on active duty service for 270 days or less to "hold and exercise the functions of a civil office provided there is no interference with the performance of military duties."

Takai is the civil affairs officer for the Hawaii Army National Guard. He and his wife Sami are parents of two school-aged children.