Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 Women's Legislative Caucus Package

The Women’s Legislative Caucus, consisting of members from both the state Senate and House, today announced a joint package of measures for the 2015 legislative session.

The package of bills cover five areas of concern to women of all ages and economic background, including improving reporting and enforcement of domestic violence and sexual assaults, reducing violence and sexual assaults on college campuses, ensuring women’s access to healthcare, addressing Hawaii’s high cost of living faced by working families, and restoring public trust of Hawaii’s law enforcement community.

“Domestic violence, campus assaults, perceived unsympathetic law enforcement officials—all of these issues remain ongoing concerns for women of all ages from all backgrounds,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa). “Whenever we think we are making progress, reports like the recent Star Advertiser article on the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of 55 college campuses across the nation punctures that balloon.” 

“It shows we need to continue to press our case for better reporting and enforcement of domestic violence and sexual assault on our schools campuses, for greater transparency and accountability from our law enforcement entities, for better access to health care for women, and for greater support for women who are often more vulnerable to the high cost of living in Hawaii.”

This year’s caucus package represents the collaborative work of women legislators and the Women’s Coalition, the community counterpart to the Women’s Legislative Caucus,” said Senator Rosalyn Baker (South and West Maui). “These bills address some of the important societal issues facing women and girls – security in home, workplace and community.  

“In the package we also highlight our concern for women’s health.  Breast and cervical cancer still goes undetected for too many women in Hawaii.  One of our bills will provide funding to expand screening and treatment services to underserved, at-risk women.  These cancers can be successfully treated and cured, if found early.  This bill’s modest investment will save suffering, healthcare costs and lives.  Together, our package will help to create a safer and healthier environment and contribute to a better quality of life for Hawaii’s women and their families.”

“Our state has the highest cost of living in the nation and we are in dire need of affordable housing,” added Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland (Liliha, Palama, Iwilei, Kalihi, Nuuanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Lower Tantalus, Downtown).  “A 2011 housing study informed the state that we will be 50,000 housing units short by 2016.  This creates a perfect storm for many low-income earners, many of whom are women supporting their families, who are trying to get by paycheck to paycheck and keep a roof over their heads. Amending the income tax credit for low-income renters is one strategic component that will put more money in their pockets to support their families.”

“Different decades of women banding together can make a powerful sisterhood which will make our communities, state and world a safer and better place,” said Representative Cynthia Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay).

This year’s package is dedicated to the Women’s Coalition in recognition of their commitment and advocacy for women and girls.

The Women’s Coalition, established in 1990 by former State Representative Annelle Amaral, is a coalition of community organizations and volunteers from across the state that raise awareness and advocate for important issues to women and families.  Through its own collaborative processes, the Women’s Coalition assists the Caucus in creating its legislative practice.

The Women's Legislative Caucus is made up of all the female members of the state House and Senate.  Each year the caucus presents a package of bills relevant to the well-being of women and families and supports the bills throughout the legislative session. Belatti, Baker, Chun Oakland and Thielen serve as co-chairs of the Caucus.

HB446/SB384, relating to the Confidentiality Program, Confidentiality Program Surcharge Fund and Confidentiality Program Grant Fund
Establishes the Address Confidentiality Program to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault relocate and keep their addresses confidential.  Creates the Address Confidentiality Program Surcharge Fund.

HB447/SB390, relating to domestic abuse, Department of Human Services and Family Court
Removes certain unnecessary and redundant reporting responsibilities of the family courts and the Department of Human Services in cases where temporary restraining orders are sought for alleged domestic abuse involving a family or household member who is a minor or incapacitated person.

HB448/SB386, relating to domestic violence fatality reviews and Department of Health
Requires the Department of Health to conduct reviews of domestic violence fatalities, near-deaths, and suicides.  Requires the DOH to enter into a memorandum of understanding to develop procedures for obtaining information relating to near-deaths resulting from intimate partner assaults.  Requires reviews to commence within one year following the death, near-death, or suicide.  Requires information and recommendations from the review process to be compiled for system reform efforts.

HB453/SB391, relating to psychologists continuing education, ethics and domestic violence
Amends the continuing education requirement for psychologists to include at least three credit hours of ethics training and at least two credit hours of domestic violence training.

HB452/SB393, relating to statewide sexual assault services, the Attorney General, base budget and appropriations
Appropriates funds to increase the base budget of the Department of the Attorney General for statewide sexual assault services for fiscal biennium 2016-2017 to $2,380,000 per fiscal year. Beginning with the 2017-2018 fiscal year, requires the base budget of the Department of the Attorney General for statewide sexual assault services to be at least $2,380,000 per fiscal year.

HB451/SB387, relating to affirmative consent and the University of Hawaii system
Requires the University of Hawaii system to establish and enforce an affirmative consent standard for all policies and protocols relating to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking as a condition of receiving state funds for student assistance.

HB455/SB385, relating to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, the Department of Health and appropriations
Appropriates funds to the Department of Health for the breast and cervical cancer control program.
HB454/SB392, relating to the income tax credit and low-income household renters
Amends income tax credit for low-income household renters to adjust for inflation.  Applies to taxable years beginning after 12/31/2015.

HB449/SB388, relating to county police departments, domestic violence policies and standards of conduct
Requires each county police department to post its policies relating to domestic violence, officer-involved domestic violence, and standards of conduct on its official website.

HB450/SB389, relating to police commissioners, county police commissions, composition and requirements
Amends the composition of the county police commissions to require that three commissioners on each police commission have backgrounds, including equality for women, civil rights, and law enforcement for the benefit of the public.

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bills by logging onto the Capitol website at

Public Access Room's Suzanne Marinelli Honored

For more than 20 years, she was a fixture in the Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau’s Public Access Room (PAR). She was a fount of information and could tell you where to find things when it came to anything dealing with the Legislature. And more often than not, she was the person you sought, whether you were a veteran researcher or a member of the public struggling to understand the legislative process for the first time.

Today, Suzanne Marinelli, Coordinator for LRB’s Public Access Room, retires. And there will be more than a few civic minded citizens who will feel the loss.

“Everyone who has had to negotiate and find their way through the Legislature knows Suzanne, her staff and the PAR’s office,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki.

“Whether you needed to track a bill, find out who your legislator is, where his office is, or how and when to submit testimony on a measure, Suzanne and her staff could always be counted on to help you. She provided an invaluable service and will be missed.”

“She made it easier and more satisfying for so many ordinary citizens to take part in government through her professionalism and dedication,” said Rep. Calvin Say, Speaker Emeritus, who introduced a resolution in the House recognizing her years of contributions. “At a time when we bemoan the lack of citizen participation in government, she has done much to reverse that trend.”

Marinelli moved to Kauai in 1984 from Virginia, and relocated to Oahu after she lost her home to Hurricane Iniki in 1992. It was while working for a local organization who wanted to establish a presence at the Legislature that she discovered and became engrossed with the role and workings of the Public Access Room. She joined the Public Access Room as a part-timer and eventually became its coordinator in 2000.

“I was fascinated to see the mechanism of governance up close, to watch as legislators sought balance among competing interests and as they endeavored to craft solutions to address the needs of our islands’ many populations,” Marinelli said.

Virginia Beck succeeds Marinelli as the new PAR coordinator and Keanu Young is the new assistant coordinator.

The Public Access Room serves the public by providing facilities, services and equipment to enhance their ability to participate in the legislative process. It provides the public with work space to do research and hold small meetings; computers with free internet access to monitor news and legislative hearings; copiers and fax machines to facilitate paper work; and reference materials including Hawai’s session laws, journals and local directories.

The staff assists individuals with understanding the bill process, the status of bills and how to submit testimony in support or opposition to measures. PAR also conducts helpful workshops both on and off site, publishes online newsletters and information sheets. Its service is free and staff members assume a neutral, non-partisan position on all issues.

For more information on the services provided of the Public Access Room and useful information about the Hawaii State Legislature, visit their website at

PAR was established in 1990 by the Legislature to improve public access to legislative information. Originally staffed by community volunteers, PAR was made part of a permanent public access program in 1994, offering a year-round staff and services. In 1996, PAR was transferred to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kauai Rep. Dee Morikawa to Chair Committee on Human Services

Representative Dee Morikawa (Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea) has been tapped as Chair of the House Committee on Human Services, where she has served as a member since first elected in 2010. Morikawa succeeds Rep. Mele Carroll, who earlier this week announced her resignation from the Hawaii State Legislature due to health complications.

The scope of the committee focuses upon programs relating to financial assistance, medical assistance, vocational rehabilitation, social welfare services, and the general well-being of the state's elderly and youth, including juvenile correctional services.

“First of all, my thoughts and prayers are with Mele and her family,” Morikawa said. “As chair, she did much to help us focus on helping those who need our compassion and assistance, and I look forward to carrying on her good work.”

Morikawa noted that her familiarity with the subject matter of the human services, housing and health committees should be valuable in her new position.

"The issues are all related, and I think the chairs know each other and work well together, in sharing information and collaborating on clarifying and developing policies," she said.

Morikawa most recently served for the last four years as Vice Chair of the Health Committee. She currently also sits as a member of the Committees on Housing, Judiciary, and Health.

Also on the committee are Vice Chair Bertrand Kobayashi and Reps. Della Au Belatti, Jo Jordan, Marcus R. Oshiro, Beth Fukumoto Chang, Richard P. Creagan, Mark J. Hashem.