Thursday, April 29, 2010

Veto Overrides and Civil Unions on Sine Die

The Hawaii House of Representatives today joined with the State Senate in overriding 11 of Governor Linda Lingle’s 14 vetoes. The governor vetoed several revenue generating bills, among others, that are part of a financial plan to balance the state budget.

“The Great Recession made our jobs very difficult,” said Speaker of the House Calvin Say in his final remarks to House members. “We made many hard decisions that disappointed, frustrated, or angered certain people. We, however, were forced to make those decisions because of the dismal economic and budgetary situation."

“During the 2009 session, we along with the Senate and Governor closed a $2.1 billion budget deficit,” he added. “During this 2010 session, we closed another $1.2 billion budget gap. History, I believe, will show that we, together with the Senate and Governor, bore the burdens of the Great Recession well.”

Bills passed or killed

Today, the House also took action on some final bills of the session. SB2626, designating two surf breaks on Oahu as Hawaii surfing reserves, and SB2405, streamlining sales and use tax, were recommitted and are therefore dead for the year. However, the House did approve HB1948, mandating the state to refund tax returns by 90 days from the day filed or the due date of the tax return, whichever is later, and HB921, creating land trusts for Hawaiian homestead leases. The measures will go to the governor for signature.

The governor has 45 days from the time a bill was received to veto it, sign it into law, or allow it to pass into law without her signature.

Civil Unions

After House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro today made a motion on the House floor to revive HB 444, a measure permitting same-sex civil unions, the members voted to pass the bill on final reading, 31 ayes to 20 noes. The bill now goes to the Governor for signature.

The following measures vetoed by the Governor were overridden by the Legislature and are now law:

House Bills

H.B. No. 2421, H.D. 2, S.D. 2, C.D. 1 RELATING TO GOVERNMENT. Food and Energy Security
Establishes various initiatives to promote economic development for local food and energy businesses, ensures Hawaii is energy and food self-sufficient and sustainable to the maximum extent feasible, and helps Hawaii's natural resources and humankind adapt and be resilient to the inevitable challenges brought on by climate change. Increases and changes the name of the environmental response tax, and sunsets the tax on June 30, 2015. (Introduced by Rep. Coffman) - House votes: 42 ayes, 9 noes

H.B. No. 1642, H.D. 1, S.D. 2, C.D. 1 RELATING TO THE PURCHASES OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. Purchases of Health and Human Services; Request for Proposals
Requires proposals for purchases of health and human services to be submitted by providers licensed to provide the services being bid on. Requires proposals to include all costs, fees, and taxes, including any insurance premium taxes or general excise taxes. Prohibits awards or contracts to include any other payment, rebate, or direct or indirect consideration not included in the proposal (Introduced by Rep. Shimabukuro) House vote – 41 ayes, 10 noes

H.B. No. 1868, H.D. 1 RELATING TO CIVIL SERVICE. Civil Service; Leaves of Absence
Prohibits civil service employees who accept an appointed position from returning to their civil service positions more than one year later. Provides an exemption for employees covered by collective bargaining agreements that allow for a longer leave of absence to be granted. (Introduced by Rep. Rhoads) – House votes: 41 ayes, 10 noes

H.B. No. 2085, H.D. 1, S.D. 2 RELATING TO HEALTH. QUEST Contracting
Establishes limits on requests for proposals from health and human services providers for QUEST contracts that exceed $100,000,000 and commence after the term of the agency director expires. Effective upon approval. (Introduced by Rep. Yamane) – House votes: 45 ayes, 6 noes

H.B. No. 2086, H.D. 2, S.D. 2 RELATING TO HEALTH CARE DATA. Clinical Laboratory Test Results; Privacy
Allows clinical laboratory test results to be provided to authorized persons or any covered entity for any purpose permitted under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Effective upon approval. (Introduced by Rep. Yamane) – House votes: 48 ayes, 3 noes

H.B. No. 2866, H.D. 1, S.D. 1, C.D. 1 RELATING TO TAXATION. Taxation; Income Tax Rates
Taxes the transfer of a taxable estate located in Hawaii by a nonresident who is not a citizen of the United States. Specifies that a decedent shall be entitled to all applicable exclusion or exemption amounts as determined under the Internal Revenue Code as of December 31, 2009, before being subject to any taxes, including up to a $3,500,000 applicable exclusion amount. Amends the definition of "Internal Revenue Code" to include certain federal tax principles. Adds definitions of "nonresident not a citizen" and "noncitizen transfer". Retains the State's ability to "pick-up" the state death tax credit as it existed in the Internal Revenue Code on December 31, 2000. (Introduced by Rep. Say) – House votes: 39 ayes, 12 noes

Senate Bills

S.B. No. 2159, H.D. 1 RELATING TO TRAFFIC ABSTRACT FEE. Traffic Abstract Fee
Increases the fee for a traffic abstract from $7 to $20, and increases the amount of the fee deposited into the general fund from $5 to $18. (Introduced by Sen. Hanabusa, by request) – House votes: 39 ayes, 12 noes

S.B. No. 2394, H.D. 1 RELATING TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE DEFERRED COMPENSATION PLAN. Deferred Compensation Plan; Board of Trustees
Makes the Director of Human Resources Development one of two ex officio members on the Board of Trustees of the Deferred Compensation Plan and deletes the requirement for the Director to serve as the Chairperson. Requires the Board to have five employee members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. (Introduced by Sen. Takamine) – House votes: 45 ayes, 6 noes

S.B. No. 2501, S.D. 1, H.D. 1 RELATING TO PUBLIC ACCOUNTANCY. Peer Review for Public Accountancy
Requires peer reviews as a condition of certified public accountancy permits to practice. (Introduced by Sen. Espero) – House votes: 45 ayes, 6 noes

S.B. No. 2650, S.D. 2, H.D. 2, C.D. 1 RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES. Department of Human Services
Authorizes the governor to develop and implement an eligibility-processing operations division pilot project for counties with a population of 500,000 or more. Prohibits any department of human services reorganization plan proposed prior to the effective date of the bill or other than the pilot project proposed by the bill. Sunsets June 30, 2011. (Introduced by Sen. Bunda) – House votes: 47 ayes, 4 noes

S.B. No. 2840, S.D. 2, H.D. 1 RELATING TO PUBLIC PROCUREMENT. Procurement; Construction Projects; Resident
Requires at least eighty per cent of workers on construction procurements to be Hawaii residents; provides sanctions for noncompliance including temporary suspension of contract work, payment withholding, disqualification from the project, recovery of contract payments, and disbarment or suspension. (Introduced by Sen. Bunda) – House vote: 46 ayes, 5 noes

Friday, April 23, 2010

TAG, you're it!

Even with Finance Committee hearings that creep past the midnight hour, Representative Isaac Choy still seems to find the time and energy to don his aloha shorts and athletic shoes for a day of hardwork for the community.

Rep. Choy joined T.A.G. (Totally Against Graffiti) on Saturday, April 17, 2010 in the McCully/ Moiliili area to paint over graffiti, pick up rubbish and remove stickers from walls.

Funding for Hawaii Aerospace program alive in Legislative Budget

House and Senate lawmakers have kept alive the Hawaii Aerospace program in the state budget, contrary to media reports today.

The funding for the one-person unit within the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism was preserved, not cut, by the Legislature and is located in a renamed budget program ID, BED120 – Energy, Environment and Aerospace (EEA). This was confirmed today by House Finance Chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who added that in the Hawaiian language, ‘e’ea means “quick, ready, expert.”

Graffiti bill advances out of conference committee

House and Senate negotiators in conference committee yesterday advanced a bill that would make those convicted of graffiti damage more accountable for their actions.

The bill, House Bill 2129 H.D. 1 S.D. 1, would require a person convicted of criminal property damage involving graffiti to remove the graffiti within 30 days of sentencing and to perform community service over a time period that cannot exceed 2 years. With this bill, judges can require perpetrators to remove any graffiti within 100 feet of the offense.

The bill was introduced by State Representative Henry Aquino (35 - Pearl City, Waipahu). The freshman lawmaker represents a district on Oahu where graffiti is rampant and for years has been an everyday battle.

"This measure sends clear messages of deterrence and accountability,” said Rep. Aquino. “If you break the law, you will invest a lot of time and effort in paying for the crime. The community has tolerated this for quite some time, and we are now getting tougher on graffiti-related crimes. I believe this will help to decrease the number of incidents in our neighborhoods."

The bill will go before the House and Senate floor next week for a full vote, and, if passed, will go to the governor for signing. The bill will become law upon approval.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Noteworthy bills that passed conference on 4/22

Uses certain special funds to support invasive species control and mitigation and to promote reforestation and sediment run-off mitigation. (Introduced by Rep. Pono Chong)

Deletes the exception of a record of complaints with respect to government information relating to an individual's fitness for a license, when balancing an unwarranted invasion of a person's privacy against the public disclosure of the record. (Introduced by Rep. Calvin Say)

Prohibits the sale of public lands on which government-owned Hawaiian fishponds are located. (Introduced by Rep. Faye Hanohano)

Moves the date of the primary election to the second Saturday of August. Requires nomination papers to be filed not later than 4:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday in June. (Effective January 2011) (Introduced by Rep. Calvin Say By Request)

Establishes civil penalties for shark feeding, including impoundment and forfeiture of any commercial marine vessel, and administrative fines; clarifies that all costs and expenses associated with the disposal of an impounded unauthorized vessel by the department of land and natural resources shall be borne by the vessel owner. (Introduced by Rep. Calvin Say By Request)

Limits the civil liability of property owners for damages to persons injured on premises while committing certain criminal offenses. (Introduced by Senator Brian Taniguchi By Request)

Provides for medical expenses and immunity from liability for licensed medical personnel providing volunteer medical assistance services on behalf of the State or a county. (Introduced by Senator Colleen Hanabusa By Request)

Prohibits prevention of installing an electric vehicle charging station on or near the parking stall of any multi-family residence or townhouse. (Introduced by Senator Mike Gabbard)

Makes emergency appropriations for the Office of Elections and the Elections Commission. (Introduced by Senator Donna Kim)

Requires small boat harbor vessel permittees who, in the course of providing an excursion using state boating facilities, disembark fare-paying passengers in certain counties with the expectation that they will visit state property adjacent to quasi-public property during the excursion, to accompany passengers at all times while ashore. (Introduced by Senator Carol Fukunaga)

Authorizes the Department of Health to establish and maintain a single repository of immunization records to be designated as the "Hawaii Immunization Registry" to aid, coordinate, and help promote efficient and cost-effective screening, prevention, and control of vaccine-preventable diseases, including pandemic influenza (Introduced by Senator Colleen Hanabusa By Request)

Allows moneys from the excess general fund balance to be deposited into the emergency and budget reserve fund as a temporary source of funding for the State during times of emergency, severe economic downturn, and unforeseen reduction in revenues. Requires that moneys transferred from the general fund and other moneys in the emergency and budget reserve fund be kept in separate accounts. (Introduced by Senator Shan Tsutsui)

Makes it an unlawful practice for any employer or labor organization to bar or discharge from employment, withhold pay from, or demote an employee because the employee legitimately uses accrued and available sick leave. Limited to employers with one hundred or more employees and a collective bargaining agreement. Exempts cases where an employee is unable to fulfill essential job functions. (Introduced by Rep. Dwight Takamine)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bills Passed Conference Committee 4/21/2010

Allows the department of public safety to provide reentry/reintegration programs in Hawaii's correctional facilities to offer cognitive behavioral theory with cultural and other interventions in order to address domestic violence, addictions, self-mastery through identity, and community connections for successful transitions back into the community. (Introduced by Rep. Karen Awana)

Appropriates funds to the Judiciary for FY 2010-2011. (Introduced by Rep. Calvin Say By Request)

Statutorily establishes a process by which the family court can resolve matters regarding custody and visitation for service members of the United States armed forces, armed forces reserves, and national guard, and whose military duties require temporary absences. (Introduced by Rep. Cindy Evans)

Requires milk beverages to be labeled with the date of pasteurization or the date of packaging. (Introduced by Rep. Ryan Yamane)

Extends protection from assault and terroristic threatening to emergency room personnel. (Introduced by Rep. Ryan Yamane)

Establishes class A and B felony sexual human trafficking offenses, and provisions related to prosecution of the offenses. (Introduced by Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland)

Extends the deadline for the Hawaii civil rights commission (HCRC) to adopt new rules regarding disability discrimination to allow for conformity with new federal rules. Requires the HCRC to take into account certain circumstances when determining whether or not to release certain confidential information. (Introduced by Senator Dwight Takamine)

Establishes child protective provisions in the Hawaii Revised Statutes that are consistent with federal Title IV-E provisions. (Introduced by Senator Colleen Hanabusa By Request)

POW-MIA flag will fly at Capitol

The National League of Families’ Prisoner of War and Missing in Action (POW-MIA) flag will now be flown with the U.S. and Hawaii state flags at the state capitol and on the grounds of the headquarters of the state department of defense on certain holidays.

House Bill 2383 HD1 SD2, introduced by Representative Sharon Har (District 40 – Royal Kunia, Makakilo, Kapolei, Kalaeloa), was signed into law as Act 040 on April 20, 2010, becoming law upon approval.

The bill’s intent is to recognize and honor the extraordinary heroism of the brave men and women who risked or sacrificed their lives or their freedom in the past, as well as those who place their lives in harm’s way on a daily basis in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The flag will be flown on Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May); Memorial Day (last Monday in May); Flag Day (June 14); Independence Day (July 4); National POW-MIA Recognition Day (third Friday in September); and Veterans Day (November 11).

On any other days, the POW-MIA flag may be flown. At any time, if the U.S. and Hawaii state flags are flown on the same halyard, then the POW-MIA flag must be flown under the Hawaii state flag. If they are on separate halyards, the POW-MIA flag must be flown under the U.S. flag.

"I strongly believe that flying the POW-MIA flag at the state capitol and state department of defense headquarters on these holidays will demonstrate to our veterans, active military members and military families our appreciation for their sacrifices," said Rep. Har. "As the POW-MIA flag itself states, 'You are not forgotten,' and the display of this flag serves as an important reminder of the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and military in defense of our freedom."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bills that passed conference today

Updates, organizes, and clarifies current campaign financing laws. Requires that corporations file a report with the campaign spending commission for contributions from its own treasury that aggregate more than $1000 per two year election period made directly to a candidate or candidate committee. (Introduced by Rep. Calvin Say By Request)

Requires a person convicted of criminal property damage involving graffiti to remove the graffiti within 30 days of sentencing and to perform community service removing graffiti from within 100 yards of the site of the offense. (Introduced by Rep. Henry Aquino)

Removes the exemption for dietary supplements from the deposit beverage container program. (Introduced by Rep. Hermina Morita)

HB2283 RELATING TO PUBLIC PROCUREMENT (passed out of conference on 4/19/10)
Requires government purchasers and private entities offering goods and services for sale to government purchasers to follow ethical principles in matters relating to procurement. (Introduced by Rep. Blake Oshiro)

Changes the name of the environmental health education fund to the sanitation and environmental health special fund and allows the funds to be used for sanitation program activities and functions, including hiring of inspectors. Increases the amount that can be used for administrative costs and the amount that the fund may accumulate before the excess is transferred into the general fund. (Introduced by Rep. Marcus Oshiro)

Prohibits the harvest, possession, sale, or distribution of a shark or shark parts unless landed whole and harvested under a commercial marine license. Prohibits under Hawaii Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, possession or sale of shark fins. (Introduced by Sen. Clayton Hee)

Exempts disclosure of government records in response to duplicate requests from a single requestor, provided that the agency to which the request was made satisfies specified requirements. (Introduced by Sen. Will Espero)

A Frog Blog

A staffer from the Legislative Reference Bureau yesterday brought to work a tiny, bright green and black frog he discovered over the weekend. No, it’s not a coqui. But apparently it could be toxic.

“He was deep in the soil of a 1-gallon pot whose plant I was repotting,” wrote Ted Baker, an attorney at LRB, in an email to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Unsure of what to do with the aposematic creature, which is a tad bigger than a dime, Baker contacted the department to see whether he should release it back into its habitat or turn it over to the state.

The frog, a poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus), is related to species found in South and Central America, whose dangerous and sometimes deadly toxins were used by indigenous people to create venomous arrows for hunting. The toxicity of the poison dart frog varies by species.

In the 1930’s, the poison dart frog was purposefully released into the upper Manoa Valley to assist in mosquito control by an entomologist employed by the Territory of Hawaii. Other than Manoa, these amphibians have been found in Waihole-Waikane, Oahu and Wailuke, Maui. The importation of poisonous dart frogs into Hawaii is restricted.

Keevin Minami, a land vertebrate specialist from the Plant Quarantine Branch of HDOA, told Baker in an email today that the frog could be released back into its habitat since it was established in Manoa, and that it may not be toxic, but he should still wear gloves and wash hands after touching it.

Poison dart frogs don’t synthesize their own poison. According to Minami’s email, the poison dart frogs need to feed on Red Imported Fire Ants, also known as RIFA or Blister Beetles, to produce toxins, and therefore, because Hawaii does not have these types of insects they may not be able to produce enough toxins to be extremely harmful. The poison would be more of an irritant.

So what is Baker going to do?

“I will take him home tonight and put him back where I found him, more or less…I don’t think I can bury him in good conscience, but I will find something comparable. I read that they live a long time and I don’t want it on my conscience that I inadvertently changed that!”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bills Coming Out of Conference

Today, members of the conference committees representing the House and Senate came to agreement on various bills; some noteworthy bills that passed are listed below. The bills now go before the full House and Senate for a final reading, and, if passed, will be sent to the Governor for enactment.

Amends the definition of "import" to include fireworks that are labeled or designated as samples, even if not intended for retail sale. Establishes a cause of action to abate the illegal purchasing, selling, possession, setting off, igniting, or discharging of fireworks. Allows the court to order the closure of any place used in violation of the fireworks law. Allows for the forfeiture of property used in violation of the fireworks law. (Introduced by Rep. Marcus Oshiro)

Requires the Department of Public Safety to address sexual assault in prison. Requires the department to provide annual data regarding acts of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Requires the department to report to the Legislature on any implementation of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. (Introduced by Rep. Cindy Evans)

Requires the police department of each county to identify roadways most critical to free movement of persons and commerce and establish protocols necessary to coordinate major accident investigations, including immediately notifying the medical examiner in fatal accident cases. (Introduced by Rep. Rida Cabanilla)

Prevents and reduces the intentional introduction and spread of invasive species by establishing and revising penalties appropriate to the harm caused by the intentional introduction and spread of invasive species to the economy, natural environment, and the health and lifestyle of Hawaii's people. (Introduced by Rep. Clift Tsuji)

Authorizes law enforcement officers of the Department of Public Safety and conservation and resources enforcement officers of the Department of Land and Natural Resources to use electric guns and related equipment while performing their duties. (Introduced by Senator Colleen Hanabusa, By Request)


I got an email this morning from Pamela Kirkland, one of the producers of POTUS, a political news channel on Sirius XM. I was expecting the usual email - questions about a bill or a request for assistance from a reporter or blogger.

I'm glad I was wrong!

Pamela and her crew remixed Rep. Tom Brower's rap invocation with Yung Joc's original version of "It's Going Down." (You can listen to it here)

Maybe next week I'll open my inbox and find an email from someone who cut video clips of Rep. Brower's rap invocation video with Yung Joc's official music video. Heck, why not throw Alvin and the Chip Munk's version of "It's Going Down" in there too! Any takers?

Mahalo to the POTUS crew for the re-re-remix!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brower gets down

Each year, toward the end of session, Representative Tom Brower gives a colorful invocation in the form of an original rap on the House floor.

His rhymes last year included the "...House Blog, Coqui Frogs, Menopause, Hilo Vog, Drug sniffing dog..." and other notable words and phrases memorializing the 2009 Legislative Session.

Today, he started with a nod to the musical talents of another lawmaker before sharing a rap that highlighted several legislative, government and state issues.

"The Minority Leader isn’t the only one in this Chamber who knows how to sing. This is a song I wrote, entitled It’s Going Down," he began.

Watch the full performance on YouTube and read the lyrics below.

Don’t let civil rights… lose in a good fight
Dems need to stand up… roll call abandoned

We need to try harder…
To take people farther…

So… will… you…

Meet me in the caucus… It’s going down
Meet me in the Speaker’s office…. It’s going down
Meet me wit da dissidents… It’s going down

Anywhere a legislator… Stand up for the under-rated

Bills and Resos… Committee room schedules
Government taxes… Bruddah no can handle

Let’s get together… to do something better

So… will… you…

Meet me in the Chamber… It’s going down
Meet me at the Snack shop… It’s going down
Meet me in the elevator… It’s going down

Wherever there’s injustice… ya know I’ll be found

When it comes to makin’ good…
You know I’m around…

Cause when the doo-doo hits the fan -
It’s time to get down

So meet me on the 5th floor… It’s going down
Meet me at my back door… It’s going down
Meet Me at my Mama’s House… It’s going down
Meet me on da Superferry… It’s going down
Meet me on da Facebook… It’s going down

At Kyle’s Gas Station… It’s going down
At Isaac’s Tax Service… It’s going down
On Jerry’s Motorcycle… It’s going down
With Karl’s Briefcase… It’s going down
Donated Kidneys… It’s going down

Providing leadership… Influence to represent
Strength to do right… Fight the Good Fight
Challenge the population…
Respecting God’s creation…
Loving those around…

Cause it’s time to get down!


Rep Roy Takumi guest on Island Connections

Tune in to Island Connections on 'Olelo Channel 55 tonight at 8 p.m. to watch Representative Roy Takumi discuss education issues with host Ibrahim Aoude. The series is a live broadcast from the UH Ethnic Studies Department.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Community Meeting on disaster preparedness and H1N1 flu

Elected officials from Aiea and Pearl City will be hosting a community meeting on disaster preparedness and H1N1 flu issues. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 15, 2010 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Waimalu Elementary School Cafeteria.

The Department of Defense will explain how to prepare effectively for disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc. In addition, the Department of Health will discuss issues related to the H1N1 flu, including its symptoms, outcomes, and preventive measures.

Lawmakers are holding this meeting so that community members stay informed about the types of issues and events that affect their lives; preparing for a disaster being at the top of the list given the recent tsunami scare.

On February 26, 2010, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile's southern coast, triggering a large tsunami that potentially could have been disastrous for the Hawaiian Islands the following day. Fortunately, scientists overstated the tsunami threat and surges of small waves were the only indicators of a tsunami.

The NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach quickly advised the state to prepare for a tsunami, sounding tsunami sirens and advising people to move inland and stay away from beaches and off the roads. With the help of news broadcasts and social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, tsunami experts and government officials encouraged people to prepare for the worst. People flooded grocery stores stocking up on water, food and other emergency kit necessities.

"Although Hawaii wasn't hit by a tsunami, it was evident that the State was sufficiently prepared for a possible disaster," said Representative Blake Oshiro. "However, we need to keep our residents informed and help them be prepared for another type of disaster alert."

Another issue affecting the community is the H1N1 flu. The potentially fatal virus is known to spread from person-to-person through close contact. According to an MSNBC report on February 12, 2010, "57 million U.S. illnesses, 257,000 hospitalizations and 11,690 deaths, including 1,180 children were recorded." Since May 3, 2009, Hawaii reportedly has around 2,220 cases and approximately 13 deaths. Because preventive measures are so crucial to stopping the spread of the virus, holding town meetings for residents to stay informed and ask questions are part of the State's awareness plan.

Sponsoring legislators include Senator David Ige, Senator Donna Mercado Kim, Senator Norman Sakamoto, Representative Blake Oshiro, Representative Roy Takumi, and Representative Mark Takai.

Friday, April 9, 2010

In Memory of Eric Maehara

Eric Maehara (1946 - 2010) and Rep. Jerry Chang
Eric Maehara, an attorney with the Legislative Reference Bureau, passed away last Thursday, April 1, 2010, after a battle with cancer. Rep. Jerry Chang, his long-time friend, presented a eulogy for Eric at a memorial service on Thursday, April 8, 2010, and submitted it for the House blog:
Eric Maehara was a very, very special man. I know you are all here because he has touched your life in a way that very few people have. I am honored that he was my best friend—my brother.

Eric spoke highly of his father with much appreciation for how he worked hard and long for the family as at one point, there were 3 kids in college with 3 college tuitions to pay. After law school Eric followed his father's interest in politics. He worked for the Senate Majority Office for Senate President, John Ushijima, drafting bills and building relationships with policy makers and staffers who would eventually work their way up to positions of influence.

He eventually opened up his own firm; and Jon Okudara remembers that his first office was very small, furnished with fold-out chairs and a table. Jon helped Eric celebrate his office opening with Carol Kimura and Wilma Nakashima—they had 4 plastic cups, a bottle of Stoley, and a bag of ice. That was the humble beginnings of Eric T. Maehara, Attorney-at-Law.

He would soon become a founding partner of one of the top legal firms at that time, Foley, Maehara, Nip and Chang. Eric was well-known as one of Hawaii's top land use attorneys with major clients on all major islands, as well as, on the mainland and Japan. He worked on the Makena Prince project for a number of years and he had a lot of Maui friends whom he kept close ties with over the years. Those who were special to him were the late Representative Bob Nakasone, the Sam Garcia Family, the Apanas, and Charlotte Orikasa.

I met Eric over 21 years ago when I was elected into office. He would occasionally ask his good buddies, Whitney Anderson and Calvin Say, to invite some of the House members for lunch at China House after Session. We had some great Chinese food—and true to fashion, some good refreshments.

We became close friends when I got into a motorcycle accident about 14 years ago. He was on a flight to Hilo for business and read about my accident in the paper. He postponed his meeting and came to see me in the hospital. He always likes to tell the story of walking into my hospital room, seeing me lying there with my injured foot up in the air, and I'm on the phone with a catalogue on my lap. After I hung up the phone, he asked me who I was talking to. And I tell him that I'm ordering parts for my bike…he couldn't believe that I was still going to ride again.

During Eric's other trips to Hilo and my recovery at home, he would bring me lunch and keep me company. That was Eric.

We really got along well and shared some great times. Although we both enjoyed sports and going out, we had some differences. He wasn't much of a music lover like me, but he loved singing a duet with me when he would sing Willie Nelson's part and I, Julio Iglesias, in "For All the Girls We Loved Before". He enjoyed reading. He had tons of books on his shelves—most were of historic war stories and strategies of warfare, as well as, politics.

I and others have told him he should run for office, but that was one thing he knew he didn't want to do. But he contributed so much to our Senators and Representatives because he was a master in drafting bills and policy.

Yes, Eric was quite the man—yet, humble throughout his life. He derived a lot of pleasure from simple things in life and most especially, his family.
His children were his life. They said their dad would do anything for them—at the drop of a hat, he would be there for them. Whether he was with Tasha in Australia, Elizabeth in New York, or Char and Makena in Florida. It didn't matter—he would be there for any medical problems, graduations, or to watch Makena during his football games. He was proud of Makena -- how he is growing up to be a nice young man, and glad that he found a sport that he loved playing.

Makena wanted me to say that his dad was helpful, proud and stubborn. He did not expect or accept anything in return.
Yes, Eric was a generous man. I lived with him during the Session, and he would not accept any help in the rent. He even gave his car to Ted Baker so he could teach his son to drive a stick-shift, and of course, to impress the girls.

We had fun trips together to Japan and Seattle. He often talked about taking Makena and my son, Jay Boy, to San Francisco for a 49ers game. He also wanted to go to Japan one more time. He just loved Japan and its food and culture. All of the artwork in his apartment had a "Japan" theme.
On his 60th birthday, his children planned a surprise party for him at Aku Bone. That was the happiest I have ever seen him. To be surprised by all of his children and friends—it meant so much to him.

I was with Eric the night he was having trouble swallowing, and felt something was wrong—which led to his diagnosis of cancer of the esophagus. It was quite an emotional struggle for him; and I know his main concern was for his children and how they would have to deal with this. To the end, his main concern was for his children, especially for his youngest, Makena.

During this difficult time, he mentioned that his sister, Lois and her husband, Gary, as well as, Lisa Santos, were guardian angels for helping and always being there for him. They made sure he had food, fruits, and healthy drinks. He mentioned that the only way he could thank them was if I could bring back Lychee from Hilo because he knew Gary loved Lychee. He gave his precious "girl friend, Aka" to Lisa to take care of because he knew she would take good care of her.

Eric would want me to thank some very special people who helped him during his most difficult times. They are Speaker Calvin Say, his supervisors, Ken Takayama and Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi, and the entire staff at LRB.

I believe it was fate that Eric got to spend the last 7 years of his life working at the Legislative Reference Bureau because it gave us an opportunity to spend more time with him--going to lunch and hanging out after work. These years gave the LRB staff an opportunity to get to know and appreciate this special man.

He would also want to thank all of you for being a part of his life. Even during the last stages of his illness, he "toughed it out," being more concerned about the people he loved than any discomfort he was feeling.

He will be missed -- and while it's hard right now, one day we'll cease to remember Eric with tears and instead, remember him with smiles. As for me, he will forever be a part of my heart and soul, and today I say Aloha (farewell) to a wonderful father and friend.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Responsible Leadership

Speaker Say's letter to the editor was published yesterday in the Honolulu Advertiser:


"Responsible leadership" has been raised in a letter from the governor's office ("Criticism of Lingle plan is unjustified," April 2).

The House of Representatives has been very responsible in formulating its financial plan, which maintains a delicate balance between funding essential services and minimizing negative impacts on ordinary taxpayers and businesses.

Contrary to the governor's letter, the House has not passed a general excise tax rate increase. Why has she suggested otherwise?

Rather, the House has proposed a variety of revenue measures that are targeted and intended to minimize the negative impact on the general public and economic recovery. The measures include a temporary suspension of certain general excise tax exemptions which currently benefit relatively few businesses and persons, and the curtailment of the high technology tax credits which currently benefit relatively few high-income taxpayers. In general, the House package is "anti-special interest."

The governor's financial plan defers a substantial amount of state liabilities until after she leaves office. She proposes to defer $275 million in tax refunds that are due in this current fiscal year. She also proposes to continue delaying two months of Medicaid payments to health care providers, despite her emergency appropriation request for $40 million. Is this responsible leadership?

Rep. Calvin Say
Speaker, House of Representatives

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Race to the Top good for education reform, says Takumi

Representative Roy Takumi, chairman of the House Committee on Education, comments on how Race to the Top has energized state education reform agendas in an article by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The article discusses the position of state leaders across the nation on the federal competition and its ground rules. Some believe that the application process will help create effective school reform, while others believe many states will be disappointed in the end after investing so much time and resources to apply for the funds and not receiving a penny.

This is what Takumi had to say:

"Race to the Top has forced states to be a bit more introspective, and that's a good thing. It was helpful for Hawaii to go through this process in a thoughtful way, and it seems to have changed thinking on some issues--like how to go about reconstituting low-performing schools..."

"The way we looked at it is that we want to use our application as a blueprint for reform in our state. The money definitely has the potential to accelerate what we want to accomplish. But if we don't get, we still have our blueprint and then we'll have to focus on to what degree we can implement it."

The U.S. Department of Education awarded Delaware ($100 million) and Tennessee ($500 million)on March 29, first round of Race to the Top. Applications for the second round are due June 1, 2010.

Read full article at the NCSL website.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Basket Drive 2010

In Photo: Rep. Marilyn Lee passes Rep. Cynthia Thielen a creative "basket" for the Institute of Human Services (IHS).

Members of the Women's Legislative Caucus helped to load a truck full of ~160 Easter baskets filled with essential items for needy families at the chamber level turnaround of the Hawaii State Capitol on Thursday, April 1, 2010.

Each year, the caucus holds an Easter Basket Project and puts out a call for Easter baskets or plastic storage containers filled with personal hygiene items, toiletries and non-perishable snacks to benefit clients of Institute of Human Services (IHS). This year IHS also requested supplies for their new keiki garden.

The caucus collected 210 baskets last year and 223 baskets in 2008.

IHS is Hawaii’s largest emergency shelter for people who are homeless, serving up to 200 men, 100 individual women and 23-27 families (with up to 60 keiki) every night. Through community support, IHS provides guests with toiletries, three hot nutritious meals a day, safe shelter, housing, employment, and supportive services.

Brower honors Miss Hawaii

On Friday, April 2, 2010, Pacific Home furniture store on Ward Avenue in Kakaako held a fashion show and silent auction to help the newly-crowned Miss Hawaii Renee Nobriga to raise money to compete in the Miss USA pageant coming up in Vegas.

Representative Tom Brower (Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako), on behalf of the Legislature, presented certificates of appreciation to Renee Nobriga and the owners of Pacific Home.

Renee Nobriga

Winning the crown has enabled RENEE MOKIHANA NOBRIGA to become an active member in her community through such organizations as the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, Adult Friends for Youth, The Ronald McDonald House, Helemano Plantation Wellness Center, Kamehameha Schools, Word of Life Christian Fellowship and the Hawaii Food Bank. Her future goal is to get involved in the “Read Across America” program, where she can visit schools and promote youth literacy, a key to self-sufficiency.

Just like Rep. Tom Brower, Renee won on her 3rd try and sets a positive example of perseverance. We are very proud of her accomplishments!

Pacific Home

Rep. Tom Brower also presented Pacific Home with a certificate. It is important to honor locally-owned businesses whose products spread the spirit of aloha.

PACIFIC HOME was founded in 2004 by Aubrey Morgan-Yee and Jennifer Johnson— women with strong local ties to the Island— who brought a unique combination of talent and expertise to allow the store the success it has today. Designer Jamie Smith Jackson joined PACIFIC HOME as a partner in 2006.

In Photo: Rep. Tom Brower with Miss Hawaii Renee Nobriga, owners of Pacific Home, and KHON reporter Brianne Randle.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Teacher Furloughs = March Madness

Following is Rep. Roy Takumi's op-ed which appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser today:

"Call it the political equivalent of March Madness. How else can we explain our inability to come up with a solution that ends furlough Fridays and gets our children back to school?

It's baffling why the Board of Education, the Department of Education and the Hawaii State Teachers Association on one hand and the governor on the other believes that it is better to talk at each other through press conferences rather than talking with each other face-to-face.

I was told by the governor's senior policy adviser, and since confirmed by the governor, that there would be no resolution to furloughs unless, and only if, the Legislature passes out the administration's bill calling for the abolishment of the BOE and putting the school superintendent in the governor's cabinet.

Think for a moment of how silly this appears. Forget about the fact that no governor has ever tied a collective bargaining agreement to the passage of an unrelated bill.

Indeed, not even Gov. Lingle has ever done this in her previous seven years. In essence, what the governor is saying is that even if all the parties to the contract were to agree to her proposal to end furloughs, she still wouldn't sign off unless the Legislature passes out her bill. Oh, my.
On the other hand, the proposal by the BOE, DOE and HSTA is puzzling as well.

The assertion that there will be dire consequences in the classroom unless every single DOE employee returns to work seems more about protecting jobs than it is about the welfare of our students.

Surely there is a way to decide whether every clerk-typist, administration services assistant, resource teacher, school renewal specialist, or personnel management specialist is critical to the daily operation of our schools.

But there is hope.

Although it's taken far longer than it should, the governor has moved from her original proposal of 36 furlough days to being willing to tap $62 million from special funds to pay for school-based employees. The union has agreed to exchange six planning days for classroom days.
The Legislature has also tried to do its part.

We cannot intervene in the collective bargaining process and our role is limited to funding whatever proposal is agreed upon.

But we have taken the unprecedented step of earmarking funds ranging from $50 million (HB 2200) to $62 million (SB 2124) prior to an agreement by the relevant parties.

Officials from the teachers union have indicated that the negotiations are over.

They put forth a good faith effort and this is their final and best offer.

I can understand the frustration. I do appreciate the time and energy it took to come this far.
But I would remind the union, and all of us, that one of the key lessons we teach our children is a timeless one. And that is that they should never give up no matter the odds, that reaching your goals only comes about through perseverance , dedication and commitment.

If we keep this lesson in mind, I'm confident this ongoing madness will end.

If we don't, we have only ourselves to blame."

Big Island poised to receive new Mobile Medical Van

Plans for a new mobile medical van to service the Big Island of Hawaii are advancing, with the encumbrance of $350,000 in state funds and a partnership established between Kona Community Hospital and the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA).

"Kona Community Hospital is excited to move forward with this project,” said Earl Greenia, Regional Chief Executive Officer, Kona Community Hospital. “Rep Herkes’ passion for healthcare outreach is commendable! We are grateful to HMSA for providing the money to fund operations for the next two years."

Championed at the State Legislature by Rep. Robert Herkes (District 5 – Puna, Kau, South Kona, North Kona), the funding to purchase a commercial grade, mobile medical unit was approved by the 2009 Legislature. The legislation stipulated that Kona Community Hospital must operate and staff the van, find a public or private partner to fund operations for two years, that the program cover the areas of South Kona, Ka‘u and upper Puna, and work with the Department of Education to service public schools in those areas. Kona Community Hospital will manage the program and HMSA will fund operations for two years.

“The mobile medical van will greatly improve access to medical care for the people in rural areas of the Big Island,” said Rep. Herkes. “Time and mobility are critical components when you are dealing with an emergency medical situation or in a natural disaster. When needed, the mobile medical van will be able to reach people in remote areas, provide care, and indeed, save lives.”

The objectives of the mobile medical van program will be to:

· Improve child health outcomes
· Improve access to primary care services
· Create a Big Island disaster relief resource

In addition, the initiative will provide three primary services:

· Education and vaccinations to children at designated schools
· Primary health care services to geographically challenged regions of the island
· A mobile disaster relief unit

"This mobile unit can bring another dimension of care to the residents of the Big Island,” said Kathryn Harter, Chief Nurse Executive at Kona Community Hospital. “From elementary school children wellness to medical access at community events, this initiative can support many people in positive ways. We are very optimistic about the value we can offer through these expanded services.”

HMSA’s On-line Care will be a critical component of the mobile medical van. It will allow face-to-face interaction with nurses and physicians, and patients will be able to establish on-going care with a primary care physician at the local community clinic or elsewhere.

“We know that access to care is a tremendous challenge on the big island, so HMSA is very excited to partner in this effort to bring quality medical care to the communities that need care the most,” said Jennifer Diesman, Vice President of Government Relations for HMSA. “We’re especially grateful to Representative Herkes for his tireless efforts to make the medical van a reality and to the Kona Community Hospital for serving as the primary care coordinator.”

For the long-term, Kona Community Hospital is looking at other potential partnerships and opportunities that will expand coverage and keep the mobile van viable and sustainable beyond the two-year commitment.