Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, House Finance Chair, ready to do battle with a scary economic condition and budget deficit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do we have liftoff?

Ask Danielle Bass, office manager for Rep. Ryan Yamane!

Danielle will be covering the liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery via Twitter. Bass was selected by NASA to participate at the “NASA Tweetup” to cover the events 24 hours prior to the launch and the launch itself, targeted to take place at 4:40 p.m. EDT on November 1, 2010.

NASA is hosting 150 people from around the world and will provide them with a behind-the-scenes perspective to share with their followers via the social networking service Twitter. Bass is the only “tweep” from Hawaii going to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. According to NASA, attendees will be coming from 38 states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada, Chile, England, Japan, Latvia, New Zealand and the Philippines; all were selected randomly from more than 2,700 online registrations. Attendees are responsible for their own travel.

Twitter users can follow Bass’s tweets at

In addition, Bass created her own website at, especially for schools and classrooms to follow the launch, and for those who are not on Twitter.

“I’m excited and honored to be representing Hawaii at this historic event,” said Bass. “This will be the last launch and flight of the space shuttle Discovery, the oldest orbiter of the shuttle fleet. I’ve always been interested in flying and in the NASA program, and I’m grateful for this incredible opportunity. I’ll be tweeting and updating my website all weekend.”

Reporters interested in interviewing Tweetup attendees should contact Stephanie Schierholz at 202-358-4997 or

Link to NASA Media Advisory:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Going Home

Rep. Mizuno and George Vonner

George Vonner came to Hawaii in early October expecting to live with a relative and find work. Once he was able to save some money, he planned to get his own place and ultimately bring his wife to the islands from California. When his living arrangements fell through, George found himself on the streets and homeless.
His wife, Charlene, works at a fast food establishment and could only afford to send $180 towards a plane ticket home. George knew that while he liked Hawaii, he didn't want to be homeless in Hawaii, and desperately wanted to go back to California where he could find work.

While waiting for help, he slept at a bus stop on a piece of cardboard in Iwilei. He got his meals and a place to shower from the Institute for Human Services and the River of Life.

A few weeks ago, he went to the State Library main branch on King Street to look for resources that might be able to help him. He walked over to the State Capitol where he was talking to a legislative staffer when Senator Brickwood Galuteria stopped to talk. Sen. Galuteria suggested he call Partners in Care.

Pam Menter with Partners in Care joined forces with Tisha Woytenko at Help the Hawaii Homeless, and together they reviewed George's case. Tisha said she knew that George was a good candidate to receive assistance for family reunification, and she called Rep. John Mizuno.

Rep. Mizuno agreed to donate $100 of his personal money toward a ticket, and Tisha was able to find a good rate with Alaska Airlines for $263. Together, the $180 from George's wife Charlene, and the $100 from Rep. Mizuno, they had enough money to send George home with a little left over for food while at the airport.

Rep. Mizuno, Pam Menter and Tisha Woytenko all believe that family reunification can work with the proper screening. George is the 5th person who has been helped through private donations and a ticket back home. He plans to pursue work as a court clerk or court officer as he has a degree in criminal justice. According to Tisha, she has 25 people on the list requesting assistance in going home.
A family reunification bill was introduced in the past two sessions, but neither passed. Rep. Mizuno has plans to re-introduce the bill in 2011.
Tonight, George will say goodbye to his friends and sleep at the same spot near the bus stop. Tisha will pick him up and take him to the airport early tomorrow morning to make sure he makes his 8 am flight.
Good luck and Aloha George!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Coming Up - Helping Homeless Return Home

What: Rep. John Mizuno will hold a press conference on helping the homeless. He has contributed $100 of personal funds to help purchase a one-way ticket home for a homeless man, George Vonner. Tisha Woytendo, Executive Director of Help the Hawaii Homeless, helped coordinate the return effort and will also be present.

When: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 11:00 a.m.

Where: State Capitol, Room 436

Background: This is the second time that Rep. Mizuno has contributed his own money to help a homeless person get back to family on the mainland. Last summer, Mizuno helped Gregory Reese go home to Seattle, Washington.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reps Urge a "Yes" Vote on Budget Issue

Finance chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, and House Majority Whip, Rep. Pono Chong, submitted a letter to the Honolulu Star Advertiser in disagreement to an opinion piece penned by Lowell Kalapa of the Hawaii Tax Foundation.

Mr. Kalapa urged a "No" vote on the constitutional amendment which gives the legislature the option, if there is a budget surplus for two years in a row, to provide a tax refund or deposit the surplus into a rainy day fund.

The Oshiro/Chong letter appeared today as follows:

Let Legislature control surplus

Regarding the constitutional amendment question on the general election ballot, we disagree with Lowell Kalapa ("Don't let Legislature keep budget surplus, keep refunds instead," Star-Advertiser, Oct. 21) and urge voters to vote "Yes." This is the amendment that would allow the Legislature a choice, given the situation, to put surplus funds into a rainy day fund or to provide a refund to the taxpayers.

If the state had a $1 million surplus, I think that most people would rather see the money used for good causes such as education or the homeless rather than get a $1 tax refund. One dollar might buy you a cup of coffee, but collectively, those dollars could add up to avoid teacher furloughs or restore agriculture and food safety inspectors. Right now, the Legislature does not have a choice and is mandated to give back a return, even if it is only $1 per taxpayer.

Vote yes. It's the prudent, logical and fiscally responsible thing to do.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro House Finance chairman;
Rep. Pono Chong Majority whip

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rep Takumi to Co-Chair NCSL Education Committee

Rep. Roy Takumi, currently Chair of the State House Committee on Education, was recently appointed to serve as Co-chair of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Education Committee for 2010-2011.

"You will be leading your committee during a period of great challenge for state legislators -- a time when legislatures strive to innovate on dozens of policy fronts and a time of significant challenges for states in the federal system," said NCSL President, Senator Richard Moore of Massachusetts. "The NCSL standing committees constitute the focal point for the organization's invaluable assistance to legislatures on state issues and its formidable and successful representation of state interests in Washington, D.C.

The Education Committee is one of 12 standing committees of the NCSL. The standing committees are responsible for developing policies that guide NCSL's activities on Capitol Hill and within the administration. The policies stress three themes: opposition to unfunded federal mandates, prevention of unneccessary preemption of state laws and protection of state revenue sources.

Monday, October 18, 2010

2010 Hawaii Outstanding Advocates for Children and Youth

Twelve outstanding advocates for children and youth and one outstanding parent friendly business were recognized today at a special luncheon held at Washington Place.

One of the recipients is one of our very own! Congratulations Rep. K. Mark Takai! In 2002, Rep. Takai discovered an obscure provision that has since helped to secure over $40 million in federal impact aid for the Dept. of Education. Rep. Takai also created a free internet-based program, Student Online Achievement Resources –SOAR, for Hawaii's children. This website focuses on math, reading and language arts.

(L-R) Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, Rep. K. Mark Takai, Tofi Mika, Jr, Rep. John Mizuno

2010 Outstanding Advocates for Children and Youth Recipients

Tofi Mika, Jr. co-founded a music and mentoring program called "Hope through music" that works with at-risk youth of public housing and a non-profit called "About Aloha without Borders," which helps needy youth in Cambodia and the Philippines. Both use music, art and photography to inspire and motivate children. Nominated by Joanne Tachibana.

Hawaii Electric Company has been a visionary youth and family leader in Hawaii, establishing the Astronaut "Lacy Veach Day of Discovery" to share the history and education of Astronaut Lacy Veach and the importance of caring for the precious islands. HECO has also initiated the Hawaii Robotics program, which led to Hawaii teams winning international championships and elevates Hawaii's youth in life skills, team work, problem solving, critical thinking and time management. Nominated by Art Kimura.

Project D.A.T.E. provides a series of social service fairs, offering free transportation for families coming from shelters around the island, to allow children to enjoy games, storytelling, and activities. It partners with service providers to assist the parents with housing information, employment and medical services. The organization also provides onsite children care and computer classes for education and employment purposes to properly assist the homeless. Project D.A.T.E. creates a positive support service through their friendship, guidance and support to help needy children and their families achieve independence. Nominated by Wenona Harris.

Margarette Pang is the founder of Dyslexia Tutoring Center of Hawaii, which provides essential skill services to children with dyslexia. The focus is on building self-esteem by working on easing the difficulty of reading, spelling, and handwriting for children with dyslexia. Nominated by Rep. Sharon Har.

Hawaii Youth Services Network is a coalition of youth-service organizations that works to improve the well-being of youth and strengthen  families and communities by providing leadership. HYSN recently secured a $5 million grant to work on Teen Pregnancy Prevention. Nominated by Jaque Kelley-Uyeoka.

Adopt–A-School Program – The Hawaii Jaycees are the organizers of Adopt-a-School, a statewide effort to bring needed attention and resources to Hawaii's schools. Since its inception in 2008, 12 schools were helped, in 2009 the number schools helped increased to 40, and in 2010 over 70 school improvement projects were planned. Participating organizations include civic clubs, local business, faith-based groups and non-profits working with a school's improvement wish list. Nominated by Sen. Norman Sakamoto.

Waikiki Health Center and Hale Kipa's Youth Outreach Program is a local non-profit sponsored by Waikiki Health Center and Hale Kipa. It is a drop-in center for homeless, runaway and street youth, which offers free meals, hot showers, clothing, internet access for employment and education, hygiene supplies and GED classes, vocational skills, job searching, and housing referrals. Nominated by Kiana Rivera.

Mary Vorsino is Honolulu Star Advertiser journalist and reporter. She is a well-respected and high-profile news reporter who has touched the lives of many in Hawaii with her empathy and passion, especially when featuring stories directly affecting Hawaii's youth on issues such as homelessness, domestic violence, violent crimes, healthcare, education, and safety issues for Hawaii's Keiki. Mary's stories are captivating and educational and displays compassion yet remains objective. Nominated by Alika Malabey.

Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Malakie has been the Senior Army Instructor for Kealakehe JROTC for the last 15 years. Under Lt. Colonel Malakie's direction, his cadets continue to secure scholarships to colleges nationwide. As a Scout Leader, Lt. Malakie received the District Award of Honor and the Silver Beaver Award, the highest award in the Aloha Council spanning the Pacific. For Boy Scouts, only 2% become Eagle Scouts, yet 95% of the Boy Scouts under Lt. Malakie's guidance become Eagle Scouts. Nominated by Rep. Cindy Evans.

Melanie Bailey is a mother of a public school student and an advocate for education. In the pass legislative session, Melanie was instrumental in passing HB2486, which mandates the days of school per year and gradually increases the hours of instructional time per day to be deemed in line with the rest of the nation. Nominated by Zsuzsa Bakonyi-Rodgers.

Melinda Mullis is a small business owner of Orange Roc, a marketing company based in Hawaii. Melinda donates her time and expertise to the Missing Child Center-Hawaii and created the Friends of the Missing Child Center-Hawaii website as a one-stop shop for information on missing children. Melinda also revised the Keiki ID Kit to maximize information about a child in the event that child goes missing. Nominated by Charlene Takeno.

2010 Outstanding Parent Friendly Business Award - Maui Family Support Service, Inc.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tap tap tap - the sound of independence

Today, October 15th, is nationally observed as White Cane Safety Day. Hawaii's community of the blind and visually impaired gathered at the State Capitol this morning to celebrate their achievements and accomplishments and to show their independence with a march around the capitol building. The Honolulu Police Department was also here to support the effort.

Rep. John Mizuno

In 1964, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution authorizing the President to proclaim October 15th of each year as White Cane Safety Day. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the proclamation within hours of its passage. The white cane is a symbol of independence.

If you hear the tapping of someone's white cane today, acknowledge that person's effort to be independent and their will to stay a contributing member of our community.

Rep. Mizuno and Senator Suzanne Chun-Oakland marching

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NOAA humpback whale sanctuary management plan

Photo: NOAA

Kauai lawmakers urge residents to learn more about the proposed humpback whale sanctuary management plan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and to provide comments by October 16th.

Representative James Kunane Tokioka - House District 15, Representative Roland Sagum - House District 16, and Senator Ronald Kouchi Senate District 7, said in an email update that while they "support the protection and preservation of our endangered marine species, it is our position that any enlargement of the scope of the sanctuary's 'marine resources' should not include the closure of any fishing areas or the creation of any 'no take zones'..."

On Tuesday, October 5th, more than 300 residents, fishermen and ocean users attended a meeting at Kauai Community College regarding the proposed management plan. NOAA currently plans to explore increasing the scope of the management plan to include other "marine resources" in addition to humpback whales.

The Kauai lawmakers noted that there are numerous Federal, State and County laws that protect endangered marine species, and that the proposed increase in scope could lead to the limitation and/or cessation of ocean activities that many Kauai residents enjoy and may not be related to preserving humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, other marine mammals or the protection and repopulation of reef fish.

You may provide comments using the form provided from the fishermen. Click here to download.

Learn more about the Management Plan Review process, including how to submit comments directly to NOAA on the NOAA website. All comments must be received by October 16, 2010.

Comments may be submitted by the following methods:

Via telephone: (888) 559-4253 ex. 267

Via fax: (808) 397-2650

Via email:

Via mail: Management Plan Review Coordinator, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, 6600 Kalanianaole Highway, Suite 301, Honolulu, Hawaii 96825.

If you have questions, you may call the following for assistance:

Amy at Representative Tokioka's office: toll free 274-3141 ext. 66270
Melanie at Representative Sagum's office: toll free 274-3141 ext. 66280
Mark at Senator Kouchi's office: toll free 274-3141 ext. 66030

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Aloha Hawaii Five O

Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) and Danno (Scott Caan) walk through the Capitol Rotunda

It was nice to see the cast and crew of Hawaii Five O filming at the State Capitol yesterday. They set up early in the morning for a protest scene along Beretania Street, and continued filming in the rotunda until early afternoon. They broke down quickly, and before you knew it, they were gone without a trace.

Capitol staffers watched quietly and respectfully from the floors above. These are some photos taken by the House Majority Staff Office.

Scott Caan and Hawaii Five O crew member

Protest Scene along Beretania Street

Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan take a break with crew member and furry friend

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Legislators support Fireworks bill

Rep. Marilyn Lee speaking at the signing of the city's fireworks bill

A number of state lawmakers were on hand to support the signing of a new fireworks bill for the city and county of Honolulu.

Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell signs bill into law

Rep. Marilyn Lee, an active proponent of the bill, testified numerous times at the city council in favor of the bill's passage.
Lawmakers, Councilmembers join Acting Mayor and Honolulu Fire Chief

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Prop 50

Hawaii voters will decide on two state ballot questions on November 2nd. Both are constitutional amendments.

The first, HB2376, proposes to amend the Hawaii Constitution to change the Board of Education to a board appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, as provided by law. Currently, the Board of Education is an elected board.

The second, SB2807, proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize the Legislature to determine whether excess funds should be used as tax refunds or tax credits to taxpayers of the State, or be diverted into a rainy day fund for times of emergency, economic downturn, or unforeseen reduction in revenue.

Many other states across the country will also be voting on various proprositions on the November ballot. The National Conference of State Legislatures has started a blog called Prop 50 which will track and discuss the initiatives prior to Election Day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lee Cataluna Interviews Rep. Blake Oshiro

In case you missed it, here's a link to Lee Cataluna's Sunday column in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser profiling Rep. Blake Oshiro.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pioneering New Frontiers

Representative Marcus Oshiro and other state lawmakers and staff recently attended the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Council of State Governments –WEST (CSG-WEST) in Sun Valley, Idaho to represent Hawaii. The theme for the meeting was Pioneering New Frontiers, which reflects the council’s efforts to work together to develop solutions to old problems while creating new opportunities. Meeting topics included energy, leadership, natural resources, transportation, health, education, economics, trends and women in politics.

Oshiro is the incoming Chairman of CSG-West. He is pictured here with (from l-r) Assembly Member of Nevada, Vice Chairman; Rep. Rosie Berger of Wyoming; Chair-elect; Kelvin D. Atkinson, Rep. Rich Will of Idaho, former Chairman; and Rep. Marcus Oshiro; Chairman CSG-West is a non-partisan organization which provides a platform for the legislatures in the 13 Western states to collaborate and share information. It was founded in 1947.