Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hawaii's Public Access Room Attracts International Attention

As the legislature’s Public Access Room (PAR) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, the Swiss Broadcasting Company (SBC) is in Honolulu to find out more about Hawaii’s Public Access program, the only one of its kind in the United States. The SBC has been focused on the concept of ‘Direct Democracy’ and has been highlighting organizations across the world that demonstrate good practices in connecting legislation with the public.

The Public Access Room is a free public service that provides members of the public with a full range of information resources, facilities, and services needed to aid their participation in the legislative process. The office offers regularly scheduled workshops and training in the State Capitol and on the neighbor islands to acquaint members of the public with the legislative process and to provide resources for effective communication with lawmakers.

For more information, go to or call 808-587-0478.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Maui Lawmaker Outlines Plan to Address Cane Burning

State Representative Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) responded to a lawsuit that the group “Stop Cane Burning” filed last Thursday against the state Department of Health (DOH) seeking an injunction to prevent cane burning by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S) on Maui.

“Stop Cane Burning’s lawsuit is a reminder to policy makers of what happens when we ignore an issue for too long. If we don’t craft solutions that work for everyone, the result is messy litigation that divides our community. The Legislature’s intermediary role is to craft solutions that unites people and prevents this from happening. If we can help HC&S find a more profitable crop and end cane burning, then it’s a win-win.”

Ing said that cane-burning is the number one issue in his district and has received over two thousand phone calls and emails regarding cane burning since assuming office in 2012. Ing claims that while HC&S’s previous pilots toward alternative crops and harvesting methods were unsuccessful, the State could help make these efforts more prolific.

“Sugarcane and pineapple are beautiful, but so are sunflower and hemp fields, which require no burning. Not many people would be opposed to this sort of transition if it made economic sense. Already, pineapple is gone, and sugarcane is facing yearly losses of over $11 million. So we must act now. I have set out a plan to work with HC&S, its employee union (ILWU), and the broader community to ameliorate tensions and lead us to solutions that we can all support.”

Ing outlined a three-point plan:

1. First, focus on improving meteorological data collection to better predict weather changes and prevent events like the May 27 burn, when smoke stifled our schools and other public places.

Protecting public health should be our foremost focus. The legislature should support and fund DOH’s efforts to ramp up its data collection and reporting. The legislature could further facilitate HC&S’s already expressed cooperation with DOH in tightening up its no-burn criteria.

2. Secondly, identify plots suitable for mechanical, no-burn harvesting and the associated costs. Create a sensible public-interest-driven economic incentive for conversion.

HC&S already owns mechanical harvesters that it has used in a 10,000 acre pilot project years ago, but insufficient yield precluded permanent conversion. The legislature should expand the 5-year tax credit already provided to Important Agricultural Land designated areas to include the landscaping and infrastructure costs of converting plots to mechanical, no-burn, and environmentally-friendly harvesting practices.

3. Lastly, incentivize HC&S to convert or lease out land for biofuel or food crop. Make alternative crops and harvesting methods make economic sense.

HC&S has received millions of dollars in grants to identify more profitable alternative crops, all to no avail. Some have come close, but require a small boost to compete with federal sugar subsidies. The legislature should further expand Important Agricultural Land tax credits to reduce costs for farmers looking to lease HC&S sugarcane land to grow food or energy crops like kalo, sunflower, or hemp. As long as the result is more profitable, it would make sense for HC&S to act immediately to help diversify our agriculture industry and create a more independent and sustainable future for Hawaii.

“The children of HC&S employees breathe the same air as everyone else, and no one wants to see a neighbor lose their job. It’s time for leaders to craft solutions that unite, not divide, our community like mechanical harvesting and alternative crops. We all want to keep Maui green, so let’s move forward together.”

Ing has been meeting with all stakeholders involved to draft a bill package that will be ready for introduction in the 2016 legislative session. He is also exploring immediate solutions that can be done administratively or at the County level.

New Law Helps Children Born with Facial Abnormalities

The measure signed into law today by Governor Ige dramatically impacts the lives of several dozen Hawaii families that include children born with cleft palates or other facial abnormalities.

In Hawaii, approximately one in every 500 babies is born with what is called an “orofacial anomaly.” For example, between 2007 and 2012, 61 babies were born with a cleft lip or palate and 83 were born with other craniofacial defects at the Kapiolani Medical Center.

Rep. Della Au Belatti, House Health Committee Chair, said it’s crucial to correct these defects, not just for visual appearance, but because this condition affects basic functions such as eating, chewing, speech and breathing. The complicated treatment to correct these kinds of birth defects usually requires multiple surgeries ranging from about $5,700 to $20,000 or more.

House Bill 174, introduced by Rep. Gregg Takayama (D-Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades), requires health insurers to cover such orthodontic treatment, as do 16 other states.

“For families whose children have a cleft lip and palate, the range of medical, dental and other services can exceed $100,000 from birth until late adolescence,” testified Eileen Matsumoto, a registered nurse for more than 35 years.

The cost of reconstructive surgery is covered by medical insurance but not the full cost of the medically necessary orthodontic procedures required to prepare for these surgeries, which usually amount to more than $10,000 over a child’s lifetime.

These treatment costs are already fully covered by Med-QUEST for poor families but not by private health insurers for Hawaii’s working families.

The State Legislative Auditor reports the cost to all policyholders would be minimal – probably increasing premiums by two cents to four cents per member per month, based on the experiences of California and Massachusetts.

The measure has been called “Anya’s Law” after one of its active supporters, 6-year-old Anya Maga, who testified for the measure along with her parents, who are residents of East Honolulu.

$29 Million in CIP Funding Slated for Windward Oahu

With the close of the 2015 legislative session, Windward Oahu legislators secured $29.635 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for various projects in their districts.  Significant infrastructure funding was provided for public school renovations, local community organizations, and substantial highway improvements.

Notable CIP funding highlights for Windward Oahu include:

  • $186,000 for renovations and facility improvements at the Kahaluu Multi-Purpose Community Center (Grant-in-Aid)
  • $4.117 million for cafeteria expansion at Castle High School
  • $240,000 to rewire the fire alarm system at Kalaheo High School
  • $350,000 for Building C repair and maintenance at King Intermediate School
  • $3.35 million for STEM Building renovations at Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School
  • $500,000 for the construction of a new two story outpatient care facility at the Waimanalo Health Center (Grant-in-Aid)
  • $1.5 million to the Pacific American Foundation Hawaii, Inc. for the construction of a new facility for education, research and employment programs (Grant-in-Aid)
  • A total of $2.7 million for the Kawainui Environmental Restoration Project
  • $1.5 million for the design of a shared use pathway at Hamakua Marsh
  • $192,000 for the installation of a waste water treatment system at Heeia Pier
  • $5.25 million total for highway widening and other improvements along Kahekili Highway from Likelike Highway to Kamehameha Highway
  • $4.15 million for the widening of Keaahala Road from Kahekili Highway to Pookela Street
  • $1.5 million for improvements along Kalanianaole Highway from Olomana Golf Course to Waimanalo Beach Park. Improvements include the design of turning lanes, sidewalks, curb ramps, bike paths, upgrading traffic signals, utility relocation, and other miscellaneous improvements
  • $4.1 million for the widening of Castle Hills access road from Keaahala Road to Kupohu Street

For more information, please contact:
Representative Jarrett Keohokalole (Kaneohe, Heeia, Ahuimanu, Kahaluu, Haiku Valley, Mokuoloe)

Representative Ken Ito (Kaneohe, Maunawili, Olomana)

Representative Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimanalo)

Over $91 Million in CIP Funding Slated for West Oahu

With the close of the 2015 legislative session, West Oahu legislators secured over $91 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for various projects in their districts.  Significant infrastructure funding was provided for the construction of a new building at UH – West Oahu, with additional support for air conditioning and head abatement improvements for the area’s public schools.

Notable CIP funding highlights for West Oahu include:
  • $24 million for the construction of the University of Hawaii – West Oahu Allied Health and Administration Building
  • $5 million for air conditioning and heat abatement improvements at Ilima Intermediate and Kaimiloa Elementary School
  • $2 million for air conditioning and electrical upgrades at Ewa Beach Elementary School
  • $780,000 for air conditioning and electrical upgrades for Buildings C & D at Ewa Elementary School
  • $500,000 for the construction of the Kapolei Community Development Corporation Center multi-purpose facility
  • $750,000 for electrical upgrades at August Ahrens Elementary School
  • $2.373 million for Phase 1B of the administrative building construction at Honowai Elementary School
  • $1.45 million for the construction of a new covered walkway from the cafeteria to Building D at Kaleiopuu Elementary School
  • $1.9 million for the design and construction of additional parking, new bus lanes, and drop off zones at Kapolei Middle School
  • $1.045 million for ADA accessibility improvements at Makakilo Elementary School
  • $750,000 for the construction of an administration building at Waianae Elementary School
  • $2 million for the renovation, expansion, and/or the connection of two existing Searider Productions media buildings (SP and T) at Waianae High School
  • $2.5 million campus wide electrical upgrades and site improvements at Waipahu Elementary School
  • $350,000 for upgrades to the culinary academy at Waipahu High School
  • $50,000 for technology equipment upgrades at the Filipino Community Center (Grant-in-Aid)
  • $250,000 for flood control and drainage improvements to Eku Stream
  • $2.5 million to replace piers at the Waianae Small Boat Harbor
  • $54 million total for the construction of a new fuel pier facility and other improvements at Kalaeloa Barbers Point Harbor
  • $7 million total for H-1 improvements along the Makakilo to Palailai interchange and to construction a new Kapolei interchange
  • $400,000 for Farrington Highway improvements between Honokai Hale and Hakimo Road
For more information, please contact:
Representative Henry Aquino (Waipahu)

Representative Ty Cullen (Royal Kunia, Village Park, Waipahu, Makakilo, West Loch)

Representative Matthew LoPresti (Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe, West Loch)

Representative Sharon Har (Kapolei, Makakilo)

Representative Jo Jordan (Waianae, Makaha, Makua, Maili)

Bill Mandating Native Hawaiian rights Training Signed into Law

Governor Ige this morning signed into law HB207 which will require certain state councils, boards, and commissions to attend a course administered by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) on native Hawaiian customs and rights.

The course will be administered by OHA and shall apply to members of the Land Use Commission, Board of Land and Natural Resources, Commission on Water Resource Management, Environmental Council, the Agribusiness Development Corporation, Board of Agriculture, Legacy Land Conservation Commission, Natural Area Reserve Systems Commission, Hawaii Historic Places Review Board, and the Board of Health.

"Harmony among a diverse population and a strong respect for our host culture is what gives Hawaii its reputation of a place of Aloha. Some recent controversies have called into question our state's commitment to Native Hawaiian issues,” said Representative Kaniela Ing, Chairperson of the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs.

“This measure takes basic steps to ensure that the next generation of public servants will be more knowledgeable of the historical and cultural context of the place for which they are tasked to make decisions. After all, Native Hawaiian issues are everyone's issues, and everyone's issues are Native Hawaiian issues.”

The law will take effect on July 1, 2015.