Friday, May 28, 2010

In Honor of Memorial Day

Surfing Reserve Bill needs more input from surfing community

By Rep. Calvin Say, Speaker of the House of Representatives

Since the media has given so much attention to the surfing reserve bill, Senate Bill 2646, the following is an explanation for the recommittal of the bill by the House.

At the outset, I give assurance that the recommittal was not intended as an insult to Senator Fred Hemmings, who I like and respect. The House is much more responsible than that. The House acts on issues and facts, not personal feelings regarding individuals.

The House recommitted SB 2646 because of unease, uncertainty, and confusion about the actual effects of the bill. To honor individuals, the Legislature generally uses measures, such as resolutions and certificates, which have a lesser stature than bills and consume less public resources to adopt. In general, bills are passed to establish or repeal programs, appropriate funds, impose a duty, confer a right or privilege, or prohibit and penalize illegal actions. Because bills have the force and effect of law, the Legislature must be careful to avoid unintended consequences that may result in inadvertent negative effects.

During the last days of the session, some House members received calls from surfers and others opposing the bill. Rightly or wrongly, the callers were concerned that the surfing reserve designation would result in an advantage for commercial surf contests over recreational surfing.

Furthermore, "misunderstandings" over the final version drafted by the Senate negotiators on the bill caused confusion and raised suspicions as to the true intent. As drafted by the Senate, the bill included Makaha as a surfing reserve. The House negotiators had been led to believe that the Makaha designation was supported by the Senator representing the Leeward Coast. That, however, was not true. Additionally, as drafted by the Senate, the bill included references to "competitive sports" and "competitive surfing". Those references should not have been included. House negotiators had been adamant that the bill not be perceived as supporting commercial surf contests over recreational surfing. Although the errors were corrected by a floor amendment, the House's unease remained.

Because of this unease, uncertainty, and confusion, the House chose to recommit the bill, with an intent to consider it again during the next session.

Since the end of session, another practical question has arisen. What would the consequences be of the surfing reserve designation on swimmers, fishermen, snorklers, and canoe paddlers? Would the designation subordinate those recreational nearshore water users to "surfers" in Waikiki during the entire year and on the North Shore during the summer months? Remember, under the bill, "surfers" includes paddleboarders and stand-up surfers who do not need waves for their activities.

The unknown effect of the surfing reserve designation is the reason I suggested that the Governor hold public meetings in the affected communities before making any designation by executive order. Surfers and other nearshore water users should have the opportunity to review the proposed executive order, ascertain the intended effect, and provide input. Persons who oppose the designation of Makaha and Honolua Bay also should be permitted to state their opposition to the designation of those areas by executive order.

In the end, my belief is that the surfing reserve designation by executive order will have no substantive effect. The House Republicans merely wanted to pass a bill as a token gesture for Senator Hemmings. That the House Republicans have elicited and received front page coverage of the surfing reserve designation bill displays their misplaced priorities. They are more interested in "show" than "substance".

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Law Protects Emergency Healthcare Workers from Violence

Governor Lingle today signed into a law a bill that extends the protection of emergency medical service and health care personnel from violence, including assault and terroristic threatening.

House Bill 2349, introduced by Rep. Ryan Yamane (District 37 – Waipio Gentry, Mililani), protects Hawaii’s health care providers while they serve the people of the State of Hawaii. The bill expands the class of emergency services providers protected against assault and terroristic threatening by including physicians, physician's assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, respiratory therapists, laboratory technicians, radiology technicians, and social workers providing services in the emergency room of a hospital.

“Emergency room services provided by a range of workers in the ER are vital to our health care system in Hawaii,” said Rep. Yamane, chair of the House Committee on Health. “By protecting our emergency room personnel from violent acts we can ensure a safer environment for our health care workers and their patients during their greatest time of need.”

The new law goes into effect immediately.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The end of furlough fridays

Rep. Tom Brower took this photo of Speaker Calvin Say addressing the media and audience during the press conference to announce the end of teacher furloughs. The Governor outlined a 4 part plan:

1. Use of SB2124 passed by the Legislature to use the Hurricane Relief Fund. She plans to release $57.2 million of the $67 million appropriated.

2. Use of federal ARRA funds, $2.2 million, for charter school furloughs.

3. Teachers agreed to give up 6 planning days.

4. Banking community agreed to authorize a $10 million line of credit, interest free, if needed.

Rep Isaac Choy's Prevailing Winds - June 2010

Click here to read Rep. Isaac Choy's June issue of "Prevailing Winds". Here's an excerpt:

"This issue of Prevailing Winds was penned in the middle of the Boston Common. I sat there among the Bostonians enjoying the beautiful 70 degree weather. Boston is one of my favorite places because I enjoy walking through the many colleges and museums and I love the Italian food at "Little Italy". I watched the squirrels scurrying all around and was wondering if they would eat coqui frogs."

Hau'ula Town Meeting to Focus on Drug Abuse

Rep. Jessica Wooley (District 47 – La’ie, Hau’ula, Punalu’u, Kahana, Ka’a’awa, Waikane, Kahalu’u, Ahuimanu, Kane’ohe) announced that there will be a Hau’ula Town Hall Meeting on Thursday evening to address the issue of illegal drugs and drug abuse in the community.

What: Hau’ula Town Hall meeting
Where: Hau’ula Civic Center (Revised 5/26 - not Hau'ula Elementary)
When: Thursday, May 27, 2010
Time: 6:00 p.m.


6:00 pm to 7:00 pm: The Hawaii Meth Project and Hina Mauka will provide information on problems, prevention, and treatment options.

7:30 pm to 8:15 pm: The Honolulu Police Department (HPD) and interested residents will discuss crime prevention and how we can form and organize the Hau‘ula Neighborhood Security Watch (NSW) group.

“Drug use and abuse are hurting many people in this district, and there is a lack of drug prevention programs and counselors in Hau’ula,” said Rep. Jessica Wooley. “I invited the Hawaii Meth Project and Hina Mauka so that we can see what our options are and start to take action.”

House Poll - HB444 Civil Unions

Question: What do you think the Governor will do on HB444 - Civil Unions?

Time Period: May 21- May 25

Responses: 150

*Sign into law: 74 (49%)

*Allow to become law without signature: 56 (37%)

*Veto: 20 (13%)

Big Island Sports Hall of Fame

Photo: David Corrigan, Big Island Video News
Rep. Jerry Chang introduces Cora Lee Matsui, widow of Jack Matsui, founder of the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame

Rep. Jerry Chang (District 2 - South Hilo) is president of the Big Island Sports Hall of Fame. This past Saturday, May 22nd, a wall with photos of 144 Big Island sports legends was re-dedicated at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo.

The wall had been out of public sight for two years when the shopping plaza used the wall space for another purpose. KTA Superstores is donating $5,000 a year to keep the wall up, and donations from other in the community help to maintain the photos and other activities.

Many of the inductees, their families and friends, attended the ceremony. Watch the ceremony and comments from the attendees in a video from Big Island Video News . Click here.

For more information, contact Big Island Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 11211, Hilo, HI 96721.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Council on Revenues meets this week

The Hawaii Council on Revenues will meet this week Thursday, May 27th at 2 p.m. The COR will provide an update on the revenue forecast for this fiscal year through 2016. If you are following the Council's projections, you may want to read the last projections from March 2010 as a comparison. The report is here.

Each percentage point change is about $45 million in tax revenues. In March, the COR predicted:

2010 (-2.5%)

2011 (+6.0%)

2012 (+6.0%)

2013 (+6.0%)

2014 (+6.0%)

2015 (+5.0%)

2016 (+5.0%)

Coming up - Hospital and ER care for sexual assault victims

What: Informational Briefing on the current system of care for sexual assault victims in Hawaii's hospitals and emergency rooms.

When: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Time: 10:30 a.m.

Where: State Capitol, Room 325

Committee: House Committee on Health. Chair: Rep. Ryan Yamane (District 37 - Waipio Gentry, Mililani), Vice Chair: Rep. Scott Nishimoto (District 21 - Kaimuki, Kapahulu, Waikiki, Ala Wai, Diamond Head)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tapping the Hurricane Relief Fund for Education

Photo: Hawaii Education Matters

The legislature passed SB2124 authorizing $67 million from the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund to end the public school Furlough Fridays for next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010. The DOE, BOE, HSTA and the Governor must agree on the amount to be used, but the legislature did its part in making funds available.

The use of the Hurricane Relief Fund, which currently has a balance of about $180 million, is appropriate. Here’s why:

· The Hurricane Relief Fund, which was attached to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, is no longer an active program. The mandatory annual contribution by property owners into the fund was abolished in 2001.

· People frequently ask, “What happens when we are hit by another hurricane? We need the money from the Hurricane Relief Fund to help with disaster relief.”

· The Hurricane Relief Fund was originally created after Hurricane Iniki, when private sector insurance companies ceased offering hurricane insurance. While the fund once served to provide hurricane insurance to Hawaii's mortgage holders, the re-entry of private sector insurance firms into the hurricane coverage market has negated this need. The fund no longer provides insurance policies, and moneys currently left are no longer needed to provide this service. While some may believe the fund is supposed to be used for reconstruction in the wake of a future hurricane, this is not the case.

· What about people who paid into the fund in past years? Shouldn’t they get their money back? The answer is “no.” Like any other insurance policy, once the policy ends, the insured does not receive back the amount of the premium.

· The fund balance, according to statute, should be transferred to the general fund. However, the current insurance commissioner has testified that the funds should remain in place in case the program needs to be reactivated in the future.

· Provided the $67 million from the fund is spent to end teacher furloughs, there will still be a balance in excess of $100 million, which is more than enough to reactivate the program, if needed.

· The balance is considered one of the state’s reserves, and plays an important role in qualifying Hawaii for a strong bond rating.

· While no one wants to tap into the fund if possible, most agree that the Furlough Friday situation is serious enough to warrant setting money aside from the Hurricane Relief Fund. Also, it doesn’t tie up general fund money that could be used for other worthwhile programs in case the parties are unable to reach agreement on the teachers’ contract.

Invasive species bill signed into law

Governor Lingle signed into law yesterday HB1684, a bill to prevent and reduce the intentional introduction and spreading of invasive species in Hawaii. The measure, now Act 128, does the following:

· Establishes a petty misdemeanor offense for any person who violates the provisions governing the importation of certain agricultural items

· Establishes a Class C felony offense for intentionally importing, possessing, harboring, transferring, or transporting any pest designated by statute or rule, unless the pest is otherwise allowed by law in the state

· Establishes penalties and fines appropriate to the harm to the natural environment, the economy, and the health and lifestyle of Hawaii’s people

“This law is critical to fighting the battle against invasive species,” said Rep. Clift Tsuji (District 3 – South Hilo, Panaewa, Puna, Keaau, Kurtistown), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and introducer of the bill. “Every citizen in the state, including visitors, must take responsibility to ensure that we are not allowing invasive species to ruin our natural beauty and hurt our economy. I believe that giving the Department of Agriculture this new authority will provide the disincentive we need for greater control.”

Hawaii Psychological Association Legislator of the Year

The Hawaii Psychological Association announced earlier this year that State Representative John Mizuno has been named as the organization's 2009 Legislator of the Year. Mizuno was honored for his commitment to providing better healthcare and human services to the people of Hawaii.

In addition to sponsoring legislation to ensure healthcare for all children in Hawaii, Mizuno authored bills to provide improved healthcare for the elderly and disabled, programs to stop domestic violence, and passed a Statewide Youth Suicide Prevention bill which is now law.

Mizuno helped to shepherd SB190 through the legislature, to allow a married couple of 63 years to reunite in a community care foster home and rallied behind measures to expand Hawaii's workforce and provide greater assistance to the needy.

He was also a strong advocate in supporting tougher laws against violent crimes and led "silent marches" at the Capitol to bring awareness to the victims of domestic violence and murder. Mizuno was the lead advocate to protect preschools and case management agencies from closures, and worked to save the lives of Pacific Islanders in need of dialysis and chemotherapy treatments.

This is the second year Representative Mizuno has been recognized as the association's "Legislator of the Year." In 2007, his first year in office, he became the only freshman legislator to be recognized for the award. Rep. Mizuno is the Chairman for the Committee on Human Services. He is also the Co-Chair of the Legislature's Keiki and Kupuna Caucus, a member of the National Conference for State Legislature's Human Services Committee and a graduate of the Western Legislative Academy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Feed the Homeless at Maili Pt

WHAT: Rep. Karen Awana will hold an event to provide donated food for the homeless in the Maili and Nanakuli areas. She invites those who are able to volunteer and donate food to attend.

WHEN: Friday, May 21, 2010, 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Homeless Park at Maili Pt. Beachside of Farrington Highway

WHY: The purpose of the event is also to help the homeless prepare for an eviction date of July 19th, as planned by the City and County of Honolulu.

"No conflict in vote on leasehold bill"

The Honolulu Advertiser printed Speaker Calvin Say's letter today in response to David Shapiro's Volcanic Ash column on May 17.

"This responds to David Shapiro's column concerning leasehold legislation entitled: "Lawmakers interfering in private business".

First, I have not attempted to hide my affiliation with "Tokyo Bento Nichiyo". My financial interest disclosure form filed with the State Ethics Commission clearly identifies the company as an income source for me.

Second, I do not have a conflict of interest regarding the leasehold legislation under House Rule 60.5. Under the Rule, when a House member is among a "class" affected by legislation, there is no conflict of interest. Since I am part of a "class" of 180 tenants affected by the legislation, I have no conflict.

Third, the Legislature does not automatically shy away from passing legislation simply because opponents allege that it has some sort of legal problem. The Legislature weighs such allegations against counterarguments and other information before making decisions to pass the legislation or not. If subsequent to passage the legislation is challenged for legal reasons, then it is up to the court to rule on the matter.

Finally, Senate Bill 2020, which extends the leasehold legislation, serves a legitimate public purpose for business in Hawaii. It was supported by many small businesses and passed by bipartisan votes of 25 to 0 in the Senate and 41 to 10 in the House. I refer your readers to the testimony and committee reports on SB 2020 at the Legislature's website"

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Law Authorizes Disaster Preparedness Plan

Flooding on Waianae Coast
(from Rep. Shimabukuro's blog)
Governor Lingle today signed House Bill 2692 into law as Act 119; the legislation authorizes the Director of Civil Defense to work with the City and County of Honolulu to develop a disaster preparedness plan for the Waianae Coast area, specifically House Districts 44 (Nanakuli) and 45 (Waianae).

The bill, introduced by Rep. Karen Awana (District 44 – Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Lualualei) proposes a model disaster preparedness plan for the Leeward Coast which can be expanded for other areas of the state in the future. This area of Oahu has the potential to be severely impacted by natural and man-made disasters due to the following factors:

* There is one main highway into and out of the area, with no alternate routes. Closure of the roadway leaves residents stranded.
*There is a large homeless population in the area living on the beaches with limited resources.
*The elderly have limited access to disaster shelters and transportation services.
*The growing population in the area relies heavily on public transportation.

“A disaster preparedness plan for the Leeward Coast is long overdue,” said Rep. Maile Shimabukuro (District 45 – Waianae, Makaha, Makua). “I hope this empowers Civil Defense to move forward with a plan that will protect the community. We are all deeply concerned for the safety of the residents in the event of a disaster.”

The law authorizes but does not require Civil Defense to prepare a plan. If the department goes forward with the plan, the Director of Civil Defense must submit a report to the legislature prior to the start of the 2011 legislative session.

“A disaster preparedness plan is so critical to our community,” said Rep. Awana. “If a major disaster closes the road, this places our people in serious jeopardy. We need to have a plan in place so that we are prepared to deal with the inevitable disaster that will strike. It’s a matter of health and safety.”

Rep Chris Lee opposes selling state land

Rep. Chris Lee's op-ed appeared in The Honolulu Advertiser today.

"Diamond Head, the 'Iolani Palace grounds, Mauna Kea and the Ala Wai Boat Harbor are just a few of the state properties that could have been sold at auction if House Bill 2737 passed this year. The measure required the state to sell at least a half-billion dollars worth of public lands to balance the budget.

In his May 9 commentary, "State should sell land to ease budget woes," Jay Fidell makes the same suggestion. I must wholeheartedly disagree.

If the goal is to raise money, then it makes no sense to sell land while property values are depressed in the midst of a recession. Public land belongs to everyone, and it would be irresponsible to taxpayers to sell it for anything less than full value.
As a matter of policy, it is a bad idea to sell state resources to solve a temporary problem. After all, if the state sold land to balance the budget every time there was a recession, we might not have public parks, public facilities, or natural preserves, such as Kawainui Marsh or the Ka Iwi coast near Sandy Beach, left today.

The state already leases land to generate more than $110 million in revenue each year. A good example is Sand Island, which House Bill 2737 would have put up for sale. Lease rents collected from tenants on Sand Island alone account for half of the lease rent revenue that funds the payroll for the Department of Land and Natural Resources Land Division, the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, the Engineering Division and the chairperson's staff, as well as the Land Division's ongoing operating expenses.

State leases generate revenue to pay for state services, so people pay less in taxes. Selling leased lands means taxpayers would have to make up for the lost revenue. "Sand Island is the single most valuable piece of land the state has," Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Oswald Stender said recently. "We cannot be selling the corpus just to solve the short-term problem."

The best interests of the people of Hawai'i are protected by our state Constitution, which requires the state to hold its lands as a public trust for the benefit of Native Hawaiians and the general public. This includes recognizing and settling Native Hawaiian claims to the land taken from the kingdom and ceded to what became the state of Hawai'i. As stewards of all public trust lands and as representatives of the community, our leaders have an obligation to make sure such ceded land is not sold until these issues have been resolved.

However, the state doesn't always know which land is ceded and which is not. As it turns out, Sand Island, which House Bill 2737 required be put up for sale, is ceded land. Selling properties like it would certainly raise endless court challenges.

Fidell explained that selling Hawai'i's public land would lead to a "great equalization" and "democratization of ownership." However, there is nothing more equal and democratic than public land that belongs to everyone, benefits everyone, and which can be used by everyone, not just the elite who can afford to buy it at auction. Generations of local citizens have benefited from the use of our public lands, and it is the greatest public resource we can pass on to the next generation of Hawai'i residents.

The sale of state land makes exceptionally poor financial sense and cheats taxpayers out of billions of dollars. More important, it defies our constitutional obligation to hold Hawai'i's greatest resource in public trust for future generations. Ultimately, the life of the land will not be perpetuated by selling our children's legacy, especially when the permanent long-term loss far outweighs the temporary short-term gain."

Rep. Chris Lee, D-51st (Lanikai, Waimānalo), wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rep Mizuno sends letters to Farrington HS graduates

Rep John Mizuno (District 30 - Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Fort Shafter) will be sending letters to the entire Farrington High School graduating class of 2010. Here's a short excerpt...

"Your accomplishment in graduating from Farrington High School is a great benefit to you, your family, friends and our society. Wherever life leads, be confident of continuing your ability to bring success to yourself and others. always set your goals high and be faithful to your ideals. It is in serving that you will find greatness. You can make the difference.

In closing, I would like to share part of a speech Sir Winston Churchill gave to Harrow School on October 29, 1941: "...never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense..."

Along with all the educational and career opportunities, I hope you will remember and cherish your high school years with foundness. Thse are certainly some of the best times of your life."

Friday, May 14, 2010

News from Rep. Keith-Agaran

We've just posted the latest newsletter from Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran (District 9 - Kahului, Wailuku, Puunene, Paia, Sprecklesville.) You can find it under the "Community Newsletters" section of this blog, or click here. (Click on the download to see a sharper pdf image.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This Saturday, the third Saturday in May, is Armed Forces Day. If you see this flag flying in honor of our armed forces, here's why.

One of the first bills signed into law this year was Act 40, or HB2383 SD2 RELATING TO FLAGS. Introduced by Rep. Sharon Har (District 40: Royal Kunia, Makakilo, Kapolei, Kalaeloa), the Act allows the National League of Families' POW/MIA (prisoner of war/missing in action) flag to be flown with the United States and Hawaiian flags at the State Capitol and on the grounds of the State Department of Defense on specific days to honor American prisoners of war and military personnel who are missing in action.

The days are:

*Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May)

*Memorial Day (the last Monday in May)

*Flag Day (June 14)

*Independence Day (July 4)

*National POW/MIA Recognition Day (the third Friday in September)

*Veteran's Day (November 11)

Here is a link to the Act 40/HB2383.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What's happening with the old Kam Drive-In site?

Photo: Honolulu Advertiser

The Aiea Neighborhood Board will hold a meeting tonight, Monday, May 10, 7:30 p.m. at Pearl Ridge Elementary School to address a proposal by Robertson Properties Group (Los Angeles based) to redevelop the former Kam Drive-In site. The preliminary plans for the site include three, thirty-story, towers with an estimated 1000 residential units, as well as 150,000 square feet of retail space.

The community is urged to attend Monday night's meeting to hear additional details of the planned redevelopment and to have an opportunity to voice related concerns and questions. Residents living along Ka'onohi Street and Kamehameha Highway have previously raised questions about what this project will mean for the already congested traffic near the 14-acre site.

Representative Blake Oshiro, who drew attention to the proposed development back in February (, notes that his office receives calls regularly from area residents concerned with the redevelopment project. Concerns have focused mainly on traffic congestion, possible retailers, and the eventual impact on swap meet vendors.

"Monday's meeting will provide a chance for the community to hear the Group's plans and ask important questions regarding the project's impact on existing roads, infrastructure, and other quality of life issues," said Oshiro. "An additional 1000 or more cars and people in this area would have a noticeable impact on the community, and we need to know the developer's plans for mitigating such impacts."

The development is touted as being an example of transit-oriented development (TOD) that will tie into the city's future mass transit project.

An agenda for the May 10th Aiea Neighborhood Board meeting can be found at the Neighborhood Commission website:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Session Wrap-Up on Kukui Connection

Rep. Marilyn Lee's special guest on Kukui Connection this Sunday, May 9, is House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro. Tune in at 4 p.m., Olelo Channel 54. The show repeats on May 16 and 23.

Rep. Oshiro and Rep. Lee agree that 2010 was one of the hardest, most challenging sessions in both their legislative careers, due to the financial deficit and the task of balancing the state budget. They cover the following topics:

*The targeted approach to balancing the budget
*The openness of the budget process, availability of the budget online
*Using the Hurricane Relief Fund to provide money to end student furlough Fridays
*Will Hawaii soon change to an appointed Board of Education?
*The Barrel Tax and its importance to our energy and food security
*Use of the Rainy Day Fund for critical social services
*Fireworks legislation
*Veto Overrides
*HB444 - Civil Unions
The following op-ed was printed in The Honolulu Advertiser, May 7, 2010

State Republicans' spin on 'yes' is misleading
In reality, House GOP members voted yes to bills they now decry

By Rep. Blake Oshiro, House Majority Leader

Rep. Lynn Finnegan's recent commentary was inaccurate and misleading ("State Republicans claim 'yes' title," May 5).

The House Republicans' "yes" positions are nothing more than rhetorical exaggerations and partisan "spin," rather than meeting any obligation to the state of Hawai'i and its people.
In fact, it is ironic that she characterizes the positions as "yes" or "no" since by and large, even on the budget, the House Republicans voted in favor of a vast majority of all bills (fiscal and otherwise), and if anything, only provided "reservations."

To address the $3.3 billion deficit, one of the largest in the state's history, the Legislature approved a balanced budget for fiscal years 2009-2011 that relied on cuts and lapses to make up 50 percent of the shortfall last year, and more than 57 percent this year. This was all done without any increases to the general excise tax.

Any tax increases were targeted to affect less than 3 percent of the population, and made up only 10 percent of the shortfall last session, and 4 percent this session. To be clear, tax increases made up one of the smallest portions to balance the budget.

To take Finnegan's "yes" position on their "balanced" budget, means that the state:

• Must continue furloughs or cut employees' pay by 5 percent for two more years after 2011 (without this having ever been negotiated).

• Would have taken $100 million from the counties' share of the hotel room tax (which would have likely meant increases in property taxes or cuts in county services).

• Would not have restored critical positions in child protection services, adult mental health services, and occupational safety and health services.

These are untenable and unacceptable affects of the Republicans' proposals.

That, in sum, is the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties in the Legislature. The majority is tasked with the responsibility to ensure the state meets its obligations, provides for its citizens, and protects those who need it the most. The Republicans only have to concern themselves with taking "popular" positions and catering to those interests.

My hope is that in the future, partisan bickering can be put aside to work in the best interest of the state; that collaboratively, the Democrats and Republicans will come up with a cohesive plan.
I thought that the fact that the House Republicans all voted "yes" for the budget, despite some long-winded "reservations," was a sign of movement in that direction. However, as long as statements and inaccuracies like Rep. Finnegan's commentary continue, those days are apparently far away.

Rep. Blake Oshiro, D-33rd ('Aiea, Hālawa Valley, 'Aiea Heights), is majority leader of the state House of Representatives. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Child Welfare Services to Receive Audit

A House Concurrent Resolution, HCR165, was recently passed by the Hawaii State Legislature; it requests the state auditor to conduct a program audit on the efficiency and effectiveness of Child Welfare Services in processing and investigating complaints of child abuse and neglect, and on the misuse of child support.

The resolution was introduced by Rep. Ryan Yamane (left), Chair of the House Committee on Health, after hearing the personal experiences of victims, including that past claims of child abuse and misuse of child support have been ignored.

The Department of Human Services testified that the audit was “an unnecessary waste of limited State resources” and that “the audit will also divert the time and attention of child welfare services staff…”

The Cyrus Belt case has recently drawn attention to alleged deficiencies in the program. Cyrus Belt’s father, David Belt has filed a lawsuit claiming negligence by the Child Welfare Services branch, and that the mother allowed Matthew Higa access to the child. Matthew Higa was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for throwing 2-year-old Cyrus off an H-1 freeway overpass to his death.

“Very often, children who are abused or neglected have no one to fight on their behalf, and the results can be tragic,” said Rep. Yamane. “After hearing compelling testimony from victims who claim that complaints are often ignored, I believe the audit at the state level is warranted, and I hope the Department will work with us to make the improvements that need to be made.”

One of the testifiers, at the time a member of Rep. Yamane’s session staff, came forward as a victim in support of the resolution. Her testimony read, in part:

“In 2005, when I was 17-years-old I called the Hawaii Department of Human Services Child Welfare Services Program for help. By that time, things had gotten so bad that I didn't think I would see my 18th birthday. But instead of helping me find a way to escape my mother's abuse or receive the monetary support that was rightfully mine, the Child Welfare Services Program only referred me to the Child Support Enforcement Agency, which was unable to help me. This not only reaffirmed my belief that I did not deserve the help I needed to escape my abuser, but it also left me helpless as the abuse intensified. The efficiency and effectiveness of the Child Welfare Services Program needs to be investigated and improved so that children do not have to suffer through abuse without receiving assistance.”

The Attorney General and the Administrator of Child Welfare Services, through the resolution, have been asked to cooperate fully with the state auditor. The Auditor must provide a report to the legislature no later than 20 days prior to the convening of the 2011 legislative session.

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's not Cup o' Noodles

The Department of Education has had its fair share of media coverage recently; in some respect, overshadowing its counterpart - charter schools - and their struggle with funding, test scores and accountability.

However, a recent article in the Hawaii Business Magazine, which features three charter schools, explains the challenges, shortfalls and successes of charter schools on our islands.

Rep. Roy Takumi, chairman of the House Education Committee, also shared his vision for the future of charter schools:

"System change is not ‘Cup o’ Noodles,’ where you put in hot water and boom! But we’re getting there and we’re going to get there. Charters have to be nurtured and encouraged. Once they get to be mature and you don’t see results, then revoke...

“The whole point of charters was they were meant to be experiments, to have flexibility and autonomy and freedom from red tape. The feeling was that was hampering achievement of the school...

“We need to promulgate rules not just to revoke but to issue and review. One of my goals was to put some accountability into it. We want the good schools to succeed and to stop those schools that aren’t succeeding, to give someone else a chance. On average nationally, about 10 percent of charters are revoked annually. Then new charters spring up. It makes sense. These are experiments and some succeed and some don’t...

“The Board of Education is close to finalizing rules for revoking charters and in the next few months everyone will know what the rights are and what they’ll be held accountable to. If this is finally getting done, then by all means we should lift the cap. The Legislature would be very interested in lifting the cap. And we should have multiple authorizers."
The article mentions SB2589, which would allow charter schools to use vacant DOE facilities. The measure passed final reading on 4/28/2010. The cost of rent is one of the challenges of start-up charter schools.

Read the full article here.

Coqui Frog Awareness Meeting

Representative Isaac Choy, Senator Brian Taniguchi, Councilmember Ann Kobayashi and Malama o Manoa will be hosting an informative briefing on the coqui frog. The State Department of Agriculture will present from 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at the Manoa Elementary School Cafeteria (3155 Manoa Road) on Monday, May 10, 2010.

For more info, call the Office of Rep. Choy at 586-8475.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How the Budget was Balanced

House Finance supplied this helpful pie chart on how the budget was balanced, as required by law, for the biennium FY2010 -2011.

Click here for the pdf and corresponding tables. Or click on photo to enlarge.

At the start of the session, the legislature faced a $1.2 billion shortfall. The pie chart shows that this was resolved by:

*General Fund Budget Cuts & Lapses of $794.4 million (54.3%)

*Tax Refund Delay of $275 million (18.8%)

*Credit Adjustments, Loopholes, Penalties, Enforcement totaling $185 million (12.6%)

*Non-General Fund Changes totaling $77.8 million (5.3%)

*Cash CIP Lapses totaling $62.5 million (4.3%)

*Tax Revenue Increases totaling $58.5 million (4.0%)

*Fee Revenue Increases totaling $9.5 million (0.6%)