Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Don't Miss" TV

I had a chance to preview Rep. Marilyn Lee's upcoming Kukui Connection shows - the first with Bishop Museum's public affairs director, Donalyn Dela Cruz, and the second with Rep. Hermina Morita, on the top energy and environmental protection bills passed in 2009.

Both shows are really interesting, and I hope you'll get a chance to watch them.  Here are some highlights:

Donalyn Dela Cruz, Bishop Museum (airs Sunday, June 7, 4:00 p.m., Olelo - Channel 54)

*The history of Bishop Museum begins with the love story of Charles Reed Bishop and Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
*The museum houses over 24 million catalogued objects.
*Hawaiian Hall, which is being renovated, will re-open in August 2009.
*Learn about the new exhibits.
*The museum is a non-profit organization, not a state agency, and needs on-going support from the local community.
*The museum has many volunteer opportunities, and, in fact, depends on volunteers in order to operate.

Rep. Hermina Morita (airs Sunday, May 31 and June 14, 4:00 p.m., Olelo - Channel 54)

*The top energy bills passed this year: HB1271 - Food/Energy Security, SB1202 - Electric Vehicle Infrastructure, and HB1464 - State's Energy Policy.
*HB1271 provides for our long-term food and energy sustainability by increasing the tax on a barrel of oil by $1, and using the resources for energy and agriculture programs.  The impact to the consumer is only about 2 cents a gallon but can easily be made up through energy efficiency and changing our consumption habits.
*Hawaii is one of the first states to implement such an initiative utilizing a type of carbon tax.
*SB1202 provides incentives to build infrastructure for electric vehicle usage.  Great analogy between the infrastructure for cell phone technology and electric vehicle technology.
*HB1464 essentially establishes the state's renewable energy policy.  This includes an ambitious renewable energy portfolio standard, with the goal of 40% renewables by 2030.
*Also discussed - clothesline bill and update on the redemption rates for the bottle bill.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Council on Revenues Projections May 2009

Left to right: Rep. Ryan Yamane, Rep. Marilyn Lee, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Senator Donna Mercado Kim, and Rep. Michael Magaoay.

The Council on Revenues met today to update the state's General Fund Revenue forecast. Present were Chair Paul Brewbaker, Vice Chair Jack Suyderhoud, and members Carl Bonham, Pearl Imada Iboshi and Richard Kahle.

The Council projected that revenues for FY09, which ends on June 30, 2009, will decrease by -9% growth from the previous year. This past March, the Council projected -5% for FY09. House and Senate money committee staff calculate that the state is faced with a loss of $185.7 million for FY09. The Council projected flat growth for FY10.

The impact of the new projections over the next biennium is a total shortfall of $611.5 million. ($185.7 for FY09, $207.7 for FY10 and $218.7 for FY11.)

Immediately following the Council meeting, House and Senate members held a media availability to respond to the news. They indicated that the Governor will most likely need to make deeper budget cuts, as well as freeze spending for certain programs through the end of the year. Asked if the Legislature would return for a special session this summer to address the deficit, they said that they would need to discuss the matter with their respective caucuses.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This is an exciting program, launched on May 21, 2009, from the Obama administration to make government more open and transparent to the public. Watch the video from the Office of Management and Budget:

According to the OMB: " is a citizen-friendly platform that provides access to Federal datasets. With a searchable data catalog, helps the public find, access, and download non-sensitive Government data and tools in a variety of formats."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How the budget was balanced

Rep. Blake Oshiro's op-ed on the 2009 legislative session focused on balancing the state budget, without question, the highest priority of the session. This appeared in The Honolulu Advertiser, Sunday, May 17, 2009. Here is a pie chart that reflects the percentages below.

Modest increases a small part of balancing budget
By Rep. Blake Oshiro

If there is one message that I would like Hawai'i residents to remember about the 2009 legislative session, it is this: The Legislature balanced the budget, as required by law, mostly through budget cuts, not tax increases. The tax increases that were passed were modest, and will not affect most people in the state.

While the Legislature faced many critical issues this year, balancing the state budget was our first priority.

The budget bill covers state expenditures and revenues over the next biennium, fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Given the Council on Revenues' latest projections, the House and Senate faced a potential shortfall of $2.1 billion by the end of 2011. Our task, therefore, was to find a way to cover that loss through a combination of cutting expenses and raising revenues.

Knowing that tax increases are the last thing politicians want to do, we looked at every option available to us. We considered public employee benefit reductions, eliminating tax credits and tax exemptions, transfers from special funds to the general fund. We turned over every rock, no matter how small, to add to a list of budget solutions.

In the end, here is how we balanced the budget:

Budget cuts and lapses to the general fund accounted for about 50 percent of the solution. The cuts were taken from all departments, but because of the sheer size of some departments, the major cuts came from the agencies with the largest budgets — Education, Human Services and Health.

Applying a carryover balance from fiscal year 2008, and finding various revenues through credit adjustments, non-general funds, penalties and enforcement added another 35 percent to the solution.

Most of the publicity centered on a package of tax increases, which will ultimately account for about 10 percent of the solution to cover the budget shortfall. A tax increase of any kind is difficult to propose. We are well aware that any tax increase, no matter how modest, is going to negatively impact a segment of the population. However, we tried to target the increases on a very small percentage of Hawai'i taxpayers, including high-income earners who make up about 2.4 percent of the population; the hotel room tax; those who are selling property over $2 million and second homes and investment properties of any price; and cigarette and tobacco users.

The federal stimulus money, about $115 million, accounted for about 5 percent of the solution. This was a critical component to our ability to balance the budget, but we also needed to keep in mind that the stimulus is a one-shot injection. Hawai'i cannot expect to receive more federal stimulus money going forward.

In most years, the Legislature passes a budget bill, but also appropriates money through other bills outside the budget. It's significant that this year the Legislature passed only three appropriations from the general fund, the largest of which was $12.3 million for Hawai'i hospitals to treat low-income patients and enable them to receive $12.5 million in matching federal funds for Medicaid reimbursements.

I think it's worth looking at what this budget does not include, for that is an important part of the 2009 legislative story.

We tried hard to ensure that there was minimal impact to the poor and the middle class. The budget does not include a major reduction in services so that our public safety net is dismantled. It does not include mass layoffs, which would only result in skyrocketing unemployment and a serious reduction in consumer spending.

Most importantly, it does not include a rise in the general excise tax, the most regressive tax in terms of impacting those who can least afford it.

Finally, the governor has continuously linked our work in balancing the budget to her ability to negotiate contracts with the public employee unions. She gives the false and irresponsible impression that if the Legislature balances the budget through other means, then it gives the unions little incentive to negotiate a fair contract. The truth is that the Legislature has never used collective bargaining figures to balance the state budget, in good years or bad. It is not our role to get involved or to influence labor union negotiations.

The state budget and the selected tax increase bills have nothing to do with the governor being able to negotiate a fair contract with the unions in the best interests of the state. She should be able to do so without blaming the Legislature and by basing negotiations on the state of the economy and the projections of the Council on Revenues.

In closing, I want to thank the people of Hawai'i for helping us through this very difficult session. Most seem to understand that we had to make tough decisions, but we tried our best to protect the most vulnerable.

The Kukui Connection: Donalyn Dela Cruz and Rep. Hermina Morita

Don't miss Representative Marilyn Lee's special guests on the Kukui Connection every Sunday at 4 p.m. on 'Olelo's Channel 54.

This month she will talk with Donalyn Dela Cruz from the Bishop Museum on June 7 and June 21, and Representative Hermina Morita on May 31 and June 14.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

State Seal Gets a Makeover

The state seals on the mauka and makai sides of the State Capitol have been taken down for refurbishing. If you take a stroll down the promenade between the Capitol and Iolani Palace, you'll see the seal propped by scaffolding.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Choy grading Choy

For a freshman lawmaker, average ain't too bad, especially with such a steep learning curve. Representative Isaac Choy's May newsletter is now available online. He sums up the 2009 Legislative Session and evaluates himself on four categories:

1. Competence in the legislative process: C
2. Knowledge of issues: D
3. Effort and perseverance: B+
4. Representing the district: C-

Check out his newsletter here for the details of his evaluation.

Rep. Evans on Olelo

Rep. Cindy Evans has two new shows coming up on "Now What?", a show on 'Olelo Community Television. One will be on bees in Hawaii and the other on Equal Pay Day, which is held annually in April to signify the point into the year that women must work to earn the same amount of money a man made the previous year.

Now What w/ Rep Evans: Bees in Hawaii
All on Channel 52
6/4/09 Thu 9:00 pm
6/11/09 Thu 10:00 am
6/18/09 Thu 9:00 pm
6/25/09 Thu 1:00 pm

Now What w/ Rep Evans: Equal Pay Day
6/4/09 Thu 8:30 am Channel 54
6/10/09 Wed 8:30 am Channel 54
6/24/09 Wed 8:00 pm Channel 49
6/26/09 Fri 5:00 pm Channel 54

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kona Lawmakers to hold End of Session "Talk Story"

The public is invited to a town meeting held by Majority Floor Leader Cindy Evans and Representative Denny Coffman, vice chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection. Lawmakers will brief community members on legislation approved this session. Community members are encouraged to come with questions, concerns, and suggestions for bill proposals for next year.

When: Thursday, May 28, 2009
6 – 8 p.m.

Where: Kealakehe High School Cafeteria
74-5000 Puohulihuli St
Kailua Kona, HI 96740

Freshmen look back on their first session

Hawaii Public Radio's political reporter, Wayne Yoshioka, interviewed some of the House freshmen earlier this week. Here's a link to his report. Speaker Calvin Say shares his thoughts on this year's class, and on remembering his own freshman year in the 1977 session.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lawmakers approve measure to protect Mauna Kea Lands

The Hawaii State Legislature last week approved a measure giving the University of Hawaii System rule-making authority to better manage public and commercial activities on Mauna Kea lands on the Big Island. The Mauna Kea lands referred to in this bill include the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, Hale Pohaku, the connecting roadway corridor between these two locations, and any other lands the University leases from the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

The measure, House Bill 1174, seeks to protect Mauna Kea's unique cultural and natural resources from prohibited activities that may damage historically and culturally significant sites. A number of various groups, from tourists to Hawaiian cultural practitioners to scientists to astronomers to researchers and educators, frequent Mauna Kea every year. Because improper care of these lands will have disastrous impacts on the future of one of Hawaii's most precious places, lawmakers, UH officials and Big Island community members collaborated to remedy this problem by allowing the University, through the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM) and the Mauna Kea Management Board (MKMB), the authority to regulate all activities.

"There is no argument that Mauna Kea, particularly the summit region, is a special place," said Representative Jerry Chang (D-2, S. Hilo, Waiakea Kai, Kaumana, Keaukaha), chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education. "This bill complies with the state auditor's two reports in 1998 and 2005 on the management of Mauna Kea, which called for the University and not the Department of Land and Natural Resources to seek rule-making authority and implement rules to protect our precious resources on Mauna Kea."

The UH Board of Regents (BOR) will have the authority to charge fees and enter into lease agreements for the Mauna Kea lands, adopt rules to regulate any recreational activities on the lands, and access fines for rule violations. The BOR must hold at least one public hearing, in addition to the public hearing at which decision-making on the proposed rule is made, on the island of Hawaii.

The measure will provide for a comprehensive management plan and enable officials to enforce rules and assign consequence. First time violators would have to pay as much as $2,500 for an offense. A second offense within five years of the previous violation could get a person a fine as much as $5,000, and a third violation as much as $10,000.

Currently, without the authority to adopt or enforce specific rules, the OMKM and its rangers can only ask violators to stop restricted activity such as desecration of sites, prohibited entry into archaeologically or environmentally sensitive sites, littering, graffiti, and unsafe or improper operation of recreational, off-roading, or any other motor vehicle.

”The University has acknowledged the shortcomings of its stewardship of the Mauna Kea lands," said Rep. Mark Nakashima (D-1, N. Kohala, S. Kohala, Hamakua, N. Hilo, S. Hilo), vice chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education. "This measure is the first step in addressing the concerns expressed by the community to protect the mountain’s valuable resources."

The bill also requires the University, in establishing administrative rules, to work with and hear from the community, particularly the Big Island community, and consult with the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. In addition, as a checks and balances system, the UH BOR must report back to the Legislature prior to the start of each legislative session with an annual report on the Mauna Kea lands activities, current and pending lease agreements and fees, the status of current and pending administrative rules, and income and expenditures of the special fund.

"We want the Mauna Kea lands issue and this legislation – and all legislation – to be about transparency and collaboration," said Rep. Chang. "Public participation and checks and balances are of utmost importance to promote accountability and public trust."

All rent, fees and charges, fines collected from violators, and monies appropriated from the legislature will be deposited into the Mauna Kea lands management special fund. No funds were appropriated from the legislature this year. The proceeds from the special fund can be used for management of the Mauna Kea lands and enforcement of adopted rules.

"This gives the Legislature and the University assurance that funds will always be available for the proper management and protection of Mauna Kea," added Rep. Chang.

The measure has been transmitted to the governor for signature.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rep. Belatti - District 25 Newsletters

Community members of District 25 - Tantalus, Makiki, McCully can now find additional and up-to-date newsletters about legislative and community activities on Rep. Belatti's newsletter and notices site listed on the right column of the blog. Follow this link for newsletters from November 2008 to April 2009.

Revisor of Statutes

What happens when the legislature passes two different bills that may contradict each other? With the hundreds of bills passed each year, and countless versions of those bills in play throughout the session, it's bound to happen.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports on technical problems with two tobacco-related bills, HB895, a bill to increase the tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes, and HB1175, a bill to increase the tax on cigarettes. Story here.

Lingle said the new law on so-called "little cigars and existing tobacco law are
in conflict, resulting in the state tobacco tax on cigarettes being raised to 14
cents per cigarette now and then dropped to 12 cents on Sept. 30."

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Finance Committee chairman, said the mistaken tax holiday cannot be corrected, but the cigarette tax switch can be handled by the legislative
revisor of statues.

The revisor, who is employed by the Legislative Reference Bureau, will be
able to blend the two bills together to preserve the Legislature's intent to
raise the tax on all tobacco products, said Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho).

The tax increase is an important part of the Legislature's plan to
balance the state budget and is estimated to bring in an extra $22 million a
year. Oshiro warned that the Tax Department is expected to "enforce the law of
the land."

But Linda Smith, Lingle's senior policy adviser, said they
are asking the attorney general for guidance because they think the law is

"The way we read it, you have to raise the tax and then lower
it," Smith said yesterday in an interview.

Lowell Kalapa, executive director of the independent Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said he doubts that the revisor of statues has the power to put the bills together. Kalapa says that HB 895, the last bill passed, is the one that governs and leaves the cigarette tax at the old rate.

To the rescue is the Revisor of Statutes, a function of the Office of the Legislative Reference Bureau. The Revisor of Statutes is responsible for statute revision and publication of session laws, supplements and replacement volumes.

According to Section 23G-15 (9) HRS, the Revisor of Statutes may:

"Make such other changes in any act incorporated in the suppelments and replacement volumes as shall be necessary to conform the style thereof as near as may be with that of the last revision of the laws of Hawaii; provided that in making the revision, the revisor shall not alter the sense, meaning, or effect of any act."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Legislature passes bill helping private hospitals to receive $12.5 million in federal funds

State House and Senate lawmakers have approved a measure that will enable Hawaii’s private hospitals to receive $12.5 million of federal disproportionate share hospital (DSH) funding for the next two fiscal years. Senate Bill 423, approved in final floor sessions Thursday, appropriates $12,291,054 in matching state funds to secure the DSH allowance obtained by Hawaii's Congressional Delegation.

"Hawaii is the only state in the country that does not get automatic disproportionate share hospital payments," said Senator David Ige, Chair of the Senate Health Committee. "We must continue to work closely with our federal delegation, especially Senator Akaka, to ensure we maintain support for Hawaii's private hospitals."

The Medicaid DSH allowance assists hospitals that treat Hawaii's most vulnerable and poverty-stricken people. Without this matching state appropriation, the federal funds cannot be expended to the state. In order to ensure that Hawaii's residents receive continued access to basic health care, Senator David Ige and Representative Ryan Yamane, chairs of their respective Health Committees, made it a priority this legislative session to seek state funding to maximize the availability of federal assistance.

Hawaii hospitals that serve Med-Quest patients lose tens of millions of dollars each year in order to provide healthcare services to low-income patients. DSH payments help offset some of the cost of uncompensated care delivered by hospitals and addresses inadequate reimbursement by Medicaid. These payments are supplementary to the regular reimbursements hospitals receive for treating Medicaid patients.

"Hawaii residents face rising health costs every day, and this bill helps to ensure that hospitals continue to provide care for those in our community who can least afford it, said Rep. Ryan Yamane, chair of the House Health Committee. "Private hospitals depend on this revenue, and I'm very pleased that we were able to find state revenues that allow us to take advantage of millions of federal dollars."

Photos: Rep. Ryan Yamane, chair of the Committee on Health, held a press conference with other lawmakers and hospital officials to announce the passage of SB 423.

UPDATE: The Honolulu Advertiser supports passage of bill and calls for Governor's speedy release of the funds. Editorial 5/12/09.

Lawmakers recognized for their leadership

In Photo (L-R): Mila Medallon, Founder of the Alliance of Residential Care Administrators; Rep. Tom Brower; Lani Akee, President of the Adult Foster Home Association; Rep. John Mizuno; Myriam Tabaniag, President of the Alliance of Residential Care Administrators; and Rep. Rida Cabanilla.

Representatives Brower, Cabanilla and Mizuno were recognized with certificates for their outstanding leadership and devoted service to the adult residential care homes and adult foster homes in Hawaii during a special event at the Honolulu Country Club on May 8, 2009.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Speaker Calvin Say, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Sen. Donna Mercado Kim and Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa at news conference on veto overrides.

Here are some facts on the bills that the legislature overrode on the last day of session:

HB 895 –Tax increase on tobacco products other than cigarettes:

*Expected to generate $3.2 million through FY10.
*Helps to deter people from using tobacco products (including smokeless tobacco, snuff, cigars, little cigars, and pipe tobacco) and raises much need revenue for our state.
*Taxing tobacco products other than cigarettes addresses the growing use of smokeless tobacco by Hawaii's youth.

HB 1741 – Conveyance tax increase:

* Raises conveyance tax for sales over $2 million and second or investment house purchases.
*Expected to generate $8 million through FY10 from conveyance tax increase on only the highest priced real estate.
*Breakdown per amount of real estate transaction:
o Between $2 million and $4 million, you will pay 20 cents more per $100 of value – at $2 million you will pay $4,000 more (1 fifth of 1% more)
o Between $4 million and $6 million, you will pay 40 cents more per $100 of value – at $4 million you will pay $16,000 more (2 fifths of 1% more)
o Between $6 million and $10 million, you will pay 60 cents more per $100 of value – at $6 million you will pay $36,000 more (3 fifths of 1% more)
o Greater than $10 million, you will pay 70 cents more per $100 of value – at $10 million you will pay $70,000 more (7 tenths of 1% more)
*Expected to generate $6 million through FY10 from redistribution of funds going to Rental House Trust Fund and the Natural Areas Trust Fund.

HB 1747 – Income tax increase:

*Expected to generate $48.3 million from an income tax increase on the highest 2% of earners in Hawaii.
*There will be no tax change for:
o Individuals with taxable income less than $150,000
o Head of households with taxable income less than $225,000
o Joint filers with taxable income less than $300,000
o No impact upon MOST tax Payers; only about 3 out of 100 tax payers.
*Based on Hawaii's 2006 income tax data:
o Total of 471,792 tax filers in 2006
o 11,472 tax filers earned more than $200,000
o Only 2.4% of resident tax filers earned more than $200,000 in 2006
*Less known about this bill – it will increase all standard deductions and the personal exemption by 10% in 2011:
o This will save lower income taxpayers about $11.0 million per year
o We would like to have provided this fiscal relief to the lower income tax filers earlier, but nothing prevents us from accelerating these provisions if things get better next year.
*This bill will generate about $48 million from the highest income taxpayers in the state.

SB 1111 – Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) increase:

*This bill increases the transient accommodations tax by 1 percentage point (from 7.25 to 8.25%) beginning on July 1, 2009 and another percentage point (to 9.25%) beginning on July 1, 2010 and requires the additional revenues to be deposited into the general fund.
* We expect to generate about $28 million next year and $60 million in 2010 for the general fund.
*1% point increase on a $200/night room for five nights equals $10 - People will not be deterred from vacationing in Hawaii by a $10 increase.
*The increases in this bill are set to sunset in 2015.
*The TAT was also raised in 1987, 1994, and 1999.

Lawmakers revive Keiki Care

The Hawaii State Legislature approved a measure Thursday that would revive the Hawaii Children's Health Care program, best known as Keiki Care, which the governor terminated last October. The program ensures health insurance coverage for all of Hawaii's children, focusing on children who fall into the gap group of uninsured.

The legislation, House Bill 989, extends the Hawaii Children's Health Care program for three years, appropriating $200,000 for each year from 2009 to 2012. Representative Ryan Yamane (D-37 Mililani, Waipio Gentry), chair of the House Health Committee, introduced the measure this year to address the health needs of children whose parents are unable to afford health insurance or provide coverage through employment.

"We want to make sure that all our keiki under 18 years old receive insurance and quality care through public-private partnerships between federally qualified health centers, HMSA and government," said Rep. Yamane. "We can't let our children suffer."

In addition to restoring funding to the Keiki Care Program, HB 989 would require that primary health care services for participants be provided by a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC); this is generally located in an underserved area or population. FQHCs include all organizations receiving grants under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act, certain tribal organizations and other FQHC look-alikes, and organizations that meet all requirements of the PHS Section 330 grant but do not receive grant funding.

As the economy weakens, community health clinics, such as Kalihi Palama Health Center, have seen a significant increase in the number of uninsured residents needing health care. Many of them are people who have lost their jobs or received a reduction in their work hours.

"Federally qualified community health centers offer a model that delivers quality community-based care," said Dr. Emmanuel Kintu. "Hawaii's FQHCs are an integral part of the safety net. They have the expertise to deliver comprehensive quality care to the most medically vulnerable members of our community in a respectful and culturally proficient manner. With this investment we will have healthier children. They will miss fewer days of school and parents will miss fewer days of work."

The Department of Human Services (DHS) will also be required to report various findings and recommendations to the Legislature before the 2010 regular session to ensure that children who qualify for free health insurance through Medicaid can take that route.

In addition, the managed care plan partner in the program will be required to establish payment plans with FQHCs to cover the costs of the participants' primary health care services.

HMSA entered into a contract with DHS to offer the Keiki Care plan and began providing services in April 2008 until the governor decided to eliminate funding for the program in October. The health insurance provider decided, with few days' notification of the programs halt, to fund Keiki Care through the remainder of the year. They also engaged in an extensive outreach program to help families find quality health care for their children.

"There are children in Hawaii without health insurance, and it's more than just a family problem," says Cliff Cisco, HMSA senior vice president. "It's a community problem. It requires a community-based solution where public and private sectors work together. That is what Keiki Care is all about, and HMSA is proud to be part of any effort that improves the health and well-being of the youngest in our community."

"The need to provide coverage to our uninsured children is vital," added Rep. Yamane. "I'm grateful for the response and collaborative efforts of our community health centers and HMSA to assist in providing the care for these children. The Keiki Care program is a valuable asset in our efforts to provide health care and coverage for all of the keiki of Hawaii."

The Legislature this session also put back a portion of funds, which provide health care services to immigrants, requested by Governor Linda Lingle, to be cut from the budget. In the state budget, $275,000 of the $550,000 cut requested by the administration was restored to assist health care providers, such as KPHC, serving large immigrant populations.

Photo Top: Rep. Ryan Yamane and Senator David Ige talk about the importance of the governor approving HB989 and releasing funds for Keiki Care during a press conference at Kalihi Palama Health Center. Pictured are (L-R): Speaker Calvin Say, Jennifer Diesman of HMSA, Sen. David Ige, Rep. Ryan Yamane, Beth Giesting, CEO of Hawaii Primary Care
Association and Dr. Emmanuel Kintu
of KPHC.

Photo Bottom: Rep. Ryan Yamane and Senator David Ige with keiki patients of the KPHC and parents who will benefit from the passage of HB989.

Reviving Keiki Care - HB989

by Rep. Ryan Yamane - Chair, House Health Committee

In February 2008, it was estimated that the number of uninsured children in the state may be as high as 3500. In Hawaii, we have a gap group that is ineligible for any state or fderal health care coverage.

The majority of children in the gap group are those whose family income is at or over 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

These keiki have very minial access to preventive care and are often taken to the emergency room when a serious health problem develops.

Of ten these emergency visits are uncompensated and places a growing financial burden on Hawaii's hospitals and physicians.

To be eligible for the Keiki Care plan, children must be between the ages of 31 days and 19 years old, and live in Hawaii. In addition, children must have been uninsured continuously for at least six months and ineligible for any other state or federal health coverage.

As our State faces more fiscal constraints, we at the Legislature want to continue to support partnerships with good public and private entities to ensure that all our keiki are covered.

The reason that we wanted to partner with the Federally Approved Health Clinics is because they have the relationships, expertise and community commitment to cover all of Hawaii's people.

Click here to view bill passed: HB989

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Avoid the flu, wash your hands

An informational briefing held at the Capitol this morning provided lawmakers and office staff information on the H1N1 Swine Flu. University of Hawaii Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw discussed the facts of the swine flu, TAMIFLU, and prevention methods. Hinshaw has a background in research of pathogenesis, immune recognition and the ecology of influenza viruses.

Hinshaw warned that consumer stockpiling of anti-virals, such as TAMIFLU, is unnecessary and can be problematic to public health care. Some populations are more susceptible to contracting the flu. Anti-virals need to be saved for emergency response to a high-populated outbreak of H1N1 Swine Flu. The Hawaii State Department of Health has prepared for an outbreak of the Swine Flu in Hawaii by stockpiling TAMIFLU in all departments. She mentioned that the public must focus on remaining calm as the outbreak of Swine Flu is currently milder compared to the common seasonal flu, and told lawmakers that their leadership will be pivotal.

Flu Facts:

The flu changes and adapts rapidly by genetically mutating according to the environment and the carrier. That is why the flu vaccine is updated annually to meet genetic changes or modification made to the virus. It is a highly transferable by touch and other kinds of contact. The most recognizable symptom of any type of flu is the presence of a fever.

False Facts:

You cannot get Swine Flu from eating cooked pork or any other cooked meats. Paper masks do not offer much protection from Swine Flu. It merely blocks sneezes and coughs from others.

What is TAMIFLU?

Tami flu is an over-the-counter product, not a vaccine, used to alleviate the symptoms of influenza and reduces the productivity of the virus in the body. It does not prevent the entry of an influenza virus. When a person identifies the flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills, and tiredness. If a fever is absent then it unlikely that a person has the flu. Some people have also had diarrhea and vomiting with the Swine Flu. Before leaving the home people should call a physician who will then confirm Swine Flu symptoms and assist with local clinic instructions.

Preventive Tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

1. Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
2. Avoid close contact with anyone who appears sick.
3. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash or sanitize your hands after you sneeze.
4. If you feel sick, stay home from work or school, and limit contact with others.
5. Clean your workplace environment regularly with sanitizer or rubbing alcohol, particularly equipment and surfaces shared by others.
6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Air Travel Tips

Travelers should drink lots of liquids before getting on an airplane because the high altitudes dry out nasal passages making a person more susceptible to invasion by the virus. The public should not be afraid to travel. It is no different from being in a conference meeting at the capitol, taking notes in a crowded lecture hall at UH Manoa, or in any other place putting people in close proximity.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Legislature in the News: From Barrel tax to Budget to Karen's Law

HB1552 - Kahana Valley Bill
Bill to allow Kahana leases could win Legislature's OK - Honolulu Advertiser

HB1713 - Hazard Mitigation Bill
Negligent property owners targeted - Honolulu Advertiser

HB200 - State Budget
Lawmakers hope to balance the budget as the end of session nears – KHON2
Lawmakers will work overtime for budget – Star Bulletin
No deal for state, OHA on lands - Honolulu Advertiser
Hawaii lawmakers agree on budget – Honolulu Advertiser
Legislature's Budget Includes $800 Million In Cuts – KITV4
Budget showdown ramps up over tax hikes – KHON2
Battle over Balancing the State Budget – KGMB9
State lawmakers turn in costly bills – KITV4
State Lawmakers Reject Gas Tax, Fee Hike – KITV4

HB1271 - Barrel Tax
Barrel Tax Bill Could Net State $31 Million – KGMB9
New Hawaii petroleum tax hike likely to raise gas prices: Increase could generate $31M annually for clean energy, food programs - Honolulu Advertiser

HB1744 - County Hotel Room Tax
Counties will continue to get TAT funds – Maui News

SB1673 - Hawaii Health Systems Corporation
CEO Lo: It’s new day for hospital – Maui News

HB819 - Karen's Law
Karen's Law fails for 2nd straight year – Honolulu Advertiser
'Karen's Law' Doesn't Pass; Pine Blames Oshiro – KGMB9
Karen's Law Killed – KFVE

Lawmakers Extend Legislative Session – KITV4

Monday, May 4, 2009

The clock strikes done

House and Senate leadership and chairs gathered in Room 309 to sign conference committee reports and vote on the last of the conference drafts for the session by the midnight deadline. It wasn't the circus we experienced last year, but the energy was still high with lobbyists, reporters, lawmakers and the public anxious to know the outcome of legislation related to energy, fossil fuel, keiki care, crime, hospitals, etc. Check out photos from Friday evening:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Session Extended

The session will be extended by two days. Wednesday, May 6th, which was originally a recess day, will now be counted as a session day. Friday, May 8th has been added as another session day. The 2009 legislative session will now be 62 days long instead of 60. Adjournment sine die is now on Friday, May 8th.

The purpose for the extension is to consider any vetoes by the Governor for override. In focus are the tax revenue bills that are essential to balancing the state budget bill. Six of those bills were passed out of conference two weeks ago today, and voted on final reading on Wednesday, April 22nd. Had the legislature adjourned on May 7th, there would not be 10 session days remaining. With the extension, the Governor must veto the bills within the 10 day review period, sign them, or allow them to pass into law.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rep. Tom Brower got skillz

Rep. Tom Brower gave a "rap invocation" before the start of yesterday's session to sum up and remind everyone of the events of the 2009 Legislative Session. Embedded within his rhythmic rhyme and reason were hilarious - and sometimes odd - interjections of cute commercial phrases, lyrics to popular songs, band names and other notable situations from this past year. What can I say? The lawmaker got skillz in the rap department yo.

Follow the link to Rep. Brower's YouTube page to view the clip of his rap invocation.

Please bow your heads…

Shark Tours
Penny Wars
Peace Corp.
Target Store,
Eye Sore,
Media Whore

Dead bodies on display
Homeless campers on their way

Statehood for 50 years
Hawaiian Airlines campaign smears

Committee rooms, cold as blizzard
Rep. Takai in the desert

Green Harvest
Tattoo Artist

Aspartame- state insect
Electronic waste
Gut and replace

UH Cheerleaders
Life-Saving Defibrillators
Don’t be a hater
Praise our savior
Cayetano's memoir

Obama's apartment
Don't get me started

Restoration rotunda
Wahiawa's Bobby Bunda

Public unions
Religious communion
Civil union-
Laying on the Senate Floor,
House Bill 4-44

Shoreline setbacks
A Councilmember said, "Wetbacks"

Gimme back that fillet of fish
Tax Relief
Amicus brief

Vigil by candlelight
Silent march thru the night
Domestic violence
Common Sense

Mele Carroll, Ceded lands
Hanabusa's pit bull ban
Taliban - Cell Phone Ban
Filipino Manahan

Speaker's Opening Day speech
Cigarettes on Waikiki beach

Tax day tea party

Healthy start
Capitol Art
Noisy Hearing Cart

The Pork Report
Word Salad
Pro Bowl
Honey bee
Fashion statement
Magic mint
Coffee, tea or Chris Lee?

Ruling on a potential conflict
Politics is art, not science
Hawaii's Smokers' Alliance

Indecent Exposure

Food Bank Fundraisers
Pay raise, legislators

Earth Day - HSTA
DOE - Hepatitis B

Water Boarding
Animal Hoarding

Chinatown shooters
Yo Scooters

Pay your taxes
Raise your glasses…

Cigar- size matters

Karen's Law
Joe the builder
Terry Kaide
God Almighty

Tax increase - consequence
Recreational renaissance

Federal stimulus
Ignorance-- is bliss
Gimme what's mine
Imaginary crime

Social Aggression
Economic recession

State Departments
Balanced budget?
Far from it

Public funding
Second coming

Miracle on the Hudson

Pop culture
Peace sculpture

Medal of Honor
Fallen soldier

Casino gambling
Won't be happening

Abandoned Vehicles
Meals on Wheels

Tobacco Fund raid

“Apple bottom jeans”
Pregnant teens
Safe sex
Try abstinence

Moratorium on kalo
Greens from 'Nalo

Shaka, brah
Akaka's law

Ocean pirates
Computer geeks

News Clips
Green slips

House Blog
Coqui Frogs
Hilo Vog
Drug sniffing dog

Octo Mom
Bible Psalm

Single mothers
Jonas Brothers

Rachel Maddow
Peace Day shadow

Economy slowing

Depleted ozone
Foreign trade zone

Cancer remission

Genetic counselors
Marilyn hollers
"Five dollars!"

Human rights
Turn off the lights

Rock the Vote
Big Square Building
Legislators, Are Ya Listening?

Another rapping invocation To start tonight's debate
As the 51 of us do work for the Aloha State

Hazard Mitigation Bill Passes Conference

House and Senate conferees approved a measure that would allow the State to enter on the property of an unresponsive landowner and mitigate hazardous situations after giving the landowner official notice and reasonable opportunity to take care of the problem.

Representative Jessica Wooley (47 – Laie, Hauula, Punaluu, Kahana, Kaaawa, Waikane, Kahaluu, Ahuimanu, Kaneohe) introduced the measure, House Bill 1713, on behalf of community members who were concerned about the health and safety of their neighbors and families. Kaneohe residents spearheaded the effort after receiving no response from property owner Genshiro Kawamoto in regards to overhanging trees on his adjacent properties that posed a threat to their family's safety and their homes.

"This measure is a victory for the community I represent," Rep. Wooley said. "They're the reason why it is still alive today and we should get it through the legislative process the first time around."

According to the conference draft of House Bill 1713, the State can take action at the discretion of the governor to remove dangerous trees or branches that pose a threat to property, stabilize or remove unstable rock and soil hazards, and clear streams and waterways to prevent flooding. All costs and expenses incurred by the State will be billed to the landowner, and if not paid, the State may put a lien on the landowner's property.

The measure essentially acts as a hammer to encourage property owners to mitigate hazardous situation before the State intervenes. Written notice must be sent to the property owner to allow them to mitigate the hazardous conditions before any action can be taken. If the owner refuses, the governor would need to get a court order to enter the private property.

"The bottom line is landowners should not allow their land to deteriorate so badly that it puts the lives of their neighbors at risk," Rep. Wooley added. "This bill helps to encourage unresponsive landowners to contact their neighbors and take care of dangerous conditions in order to keep our families safe."

The bill will go to the House and Senate for full floor vote and then to the governor for signature.

Legislature approves bill protecting manta rays in Hawaii waters

House and Senate conferees Thursday approved a measure that would prohibit knowingly capturing or killing manta rays within Hawaii waters. The proposed measure, House Bill 366, would only allow manta rays to be taken for educational, scientific, management and propagation purposes, requiring a person or organization to apply for a special "take" permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Representative Denny Coffman (District 6 – North Kona, Keauhou, Kailua-Kona, Honokohau), a freshman lawmaker, introduced the measure to ensure that Hawaii laws help to preserve the state's ecosystem and protect from extinction one of its many natural marine resources. Currently, there is no law protecting the small, distinct populations of Hawaii manta rays, including around 150 manta rays in Kona, Hawaii and 300 in Maui County.

"This is a prevention measure," said Rep. Coffman. "We don't have a huge problem with people capturing and killing manta rays yet, but why wait until our small populations slowly cease to exist?"

These majestic creatures are susceptible to overfishing and are killed for their dried gill rakers in order to produce traditional Asian medicine as well as for food. There is no immediate threat to the manta population in Hawaii. However, new demand for manta rays has already threatened local populations in Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an authority on species extinction, has classified manta rays as a species threatened with extinction in the near future.

Because of their sweeping wings that can span up to 12 feet and breathtaking beauty, people are naturally curious about manta rays. This encourages the growing popularity of capturing these rare and exquisite creatures for display in national and international aquariums. Manta rays have low reproduction rates, reaching sexual maturity after 10 years and producing pups one every two or three years, making replacement of captured manta rays through natural reproduction a long process.

"Protecting manta rays in Hawaii is also beneficial for our ecotourism," Rep. Coffman noted. "The manta ray diving industry in Kona brings in around $2.5 million annually. There aren't many places in the world where you can see manta rays in their natural habitat."

The bill will go to the House and Senate for final full floor vote and then to the governor for signature.

Public invited to annual Hoa'Aina O Makaha Farm Open House

Hoa 'Aina O Makaha and Makaha Elementary School will be hosting their annual Farm Open House on Saturday, May 2, 2009 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of their students. The event will also celebrate the rebirth of Hale Haumana, which was recently set on fire for the third time.
Although the children of Makaha were upset by the continuous incidents, they persisted on without question or hesitation to rebuild the Hale. Students and teachers from Waianae High School and Makaha Elementary, young people from MA`O Organic Farms and other community members banded together to raise funds to rebuild the hale.

Jack Johnson, a well-known musician and major supporter of the farm, plans to attend the event.

"Hoa'Aina O Makaha plays a vital role in our state by exposing children to values such as malama'aina, sustainability, and growing your own healthy foods," said Wai'anae Representative Maile Shimabukuro. "I urge everyone to come down and support one of the great farms in Hawaii that educate our children and help us to lead healthier lifestyle."

Tools and livestock were also stolen from the Hale when it was burned. Donations to replace these items and to support the farm can be sent to: Hoa `Aina O Makaha, 84-766 Lahaina St., Waianae, HI 96792.

Donations are tax deductible.

For more information, email, or visit