Tuesday, January 26, 2016

HSPAN: Capitol On Demand

The Hawai‘i State Legislature and ‘Ōlelo Community Media unveiled a new statewide on-demand channel called HSPAN that will significantly increase the coverage of Capitol activities available to the public.

HSPAN – the Hawai‘i Statewide Public Access Network – was created to provide cable subscribers throughout the State with expanded access to the Legislature’s meetings and is already available for viewing. In addition to legislative hearings, the State executive offices, executive branch agencies, and the Judiciary will have access to provide content on HSPAN.

New remote-controlled Sony HD cameras have been installed in 16 conference rooms, both the House and Senate Chambers and the Capitol Auditorium. This will allow for multiple hearings to be captured simultaneously and distributed on HSPAN, Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s digital Channel 50.

The new statewide on-demand channel is in addition to the live coverage currently provided by Capitol TV, which airs on ‘Ōlelo Channel 49 and 54, and other community access stations across the State: Hō‘ike on Kauai, ‘Akakū on Maui and Nā Leo TV on the Big Island. Capitol TV is a State-contracted production company.

The new service will offer Hawai‘i residents significantly increased access to coverage of legislative activities. Committee hearings, floor sessions and any special sessions in the chambers, auditorium and hearing rooms can be archived on HSPAN for on-demand viewing.

‘Ōlelo partnered with Oceanic and the State of Hawai‘i to design and build the necessary infrastructure:

  • Oceanic provided fiber optic cable throughout the Capitol to connect all 16 conference rooms’ audio, video and data lines for the remote camera controls to the control room 
  • The clerk’s office and information technology staff designed and executed the recording and uploading workflow to be fully supported by their departments 
  • ‘Ōlelo developed the master plan for the design, purchase and roll-out of the hardware and software; installed over 30 Sony HD cameras; and designed and installed the upgraded control room
“The Senate has long been an advocate of government transparency and has strived to increase public participation in the legislative process,” said Senator J. Kalani English, Senate majority leader. “HSPAN follows our initiative to effect good governance and allows for our constituents, particularly on the neighbor islands, unfiltered accessibility to legislative action at the Capitol.”

“Our House members were very pleased with the initiative taken by ‘Ōlelo to provide this additional service to the public. It ties in and closely aligns with our ongoing efforts to provide more transparency in the Legislature and, more importantly, to make it easier for voters to get involved in their government and the process of governing,” said House Speaker, Rep. Joseph M. Souki. “My congratulations to ‘Ōlelo for this and its other efforts on behalf of the people of Hawai‘i.”

“Two years ago, the Legislature, the State of Hawai‘i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and ‘Ōlelo embarked on a project to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage for both the Senate and the House of Representatives,” explains Sanford Inouye, president and CEO of ‘Ōlelo. “The people of Hawai‘i can proudly say that we have a government that is significantly more accessible and transparent.”

For more information, visit www.olelo.org.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Women's Legislative Caucus Elects New Leadership, Expands Membership

During the annual meeting of the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus (WLC), members from both the state Senate and House elected new co-conveners for the Caucus and voted to expand their membership to include women lawmakers at the county level.

At the January 12th meeting, the WLC voted as new co-conveners for 2016, Senators Rosalyn H. Baker and Laura H. Thielen and Representatives Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto and Della Au Belatti. New co-conveners are elected every two years.

“I’m excited to step up to co-convene this wonderful group of women,” said Sen. Laura Thielen. “I look forward to continuing the important work of this group which has a great track record for bettering the lives of women.”

“It’s an honor to be in the company of these strong, smart women lawmakers and I believe together we can make a difference in the lives of women throughout the State,” said Rep. Lauren Matsumoto.

At the meeting, the WLC also decided to extend invitations to the women members of the four county councils to join state lawmakers in promoting legislation at the state and county levels.

“Last year we worked closely with the women members of the Honolulu City Council to protect the safety of victims of domestic violence. We found we could be much more effective when working on matters at both the state and county level,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker. “We look forward to expanding those efforts to every island.”

“Developing this partnership with the women from all counties just makes sense,” said Rep. Della Au Bellati. “By working together, we create a statewide effort of women leaders which only benefits all women in Hawaii.”

The WLC is currently finalizing the package of priorities to be introduced at the 2016 legislative session. The caucus will meet on Thursday, January 28 at the YWCA of Oahu, 1040 Richards Street, to announce the package of bills. The meeting will include a breakfast and panel discussion from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. A news conference will be held at 9 a.m.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Speaker Joseph M. Souki 2016 Opening Day Remarks

JANUARY 20, 2016

Fellow House members, welcome to the 2016 Regular Session of the Hawaii State Legislature. To say that I have seen my share of opening days at the Legislature would be, at my age, a bit of an understatement. Twenty-five or even ten years ago, who would have thought that we would be looking at medical marijuana in the way that we regard it today?

Who would have imagined the number of houses powered by solar panels that are on our roofs today?

Who would have foreseen the Internet or the impact of social media?

Times have changed and so has Hawaii.

Fundamental Needs
What has not changed are the fundamental issues that we grapple with every day here in this building: The economy and jobs, affordable housing and homelessness, the education of our children, the stewardship of our environment, and the protection of our basic rights — these needs never change.

What does change is our approach to them.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were all wondering whether we would ever see single digit interest rates again. But we have—and then some.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were all wondering whether we would ever see the end to the “Great Recession.” But we have, with a record number of visitors coming to the state in the last few years.

The economic cycle is pointing up and our local economy is on a roll. We have momentum on our side—not just economic momentum but a legislative one as well.

It’s About Momentum
Last year, this body took major steps to move us toward energy self-sufficiency.

We gave patients throughout the state access to medical marijuana with the creation of state supervised dispensaries.

We moved to resolve the longstanding financial crisis of Maui’s public hospitals.

We shored up our long-term financial stability by strengthening the Rainy Day Fund and Hurricane Relief Fund, as well as by addressing our unfunded liabilities.

These are not only very difficult and complex issues, but longstanding ones as well. Thank you for having the courage to tackle these and other tough issues over the last several sessions.

I believe we are on a roll, with momentum on our side. And that is not a small thing.

A few weeks ago, I watched the Alamo Bowl, where TCU found itself trailing at the start of the second half, by 31 points! I don’t know what the coach told them at halftime, but clearly, they came out in the second half, intent on fighting back. Momentum dramatically shifted and after three hard fought-overtime periods, they finally secured victory.

Ask any athlete, momentum can be such a powerful force in competition. I believe it can also be a powerful force in life as well. But what are we going to do with it?

Moving forward still takes hard work, boldness and determination. But imagine the good we can do if we leverage our momentum.

Affordable Housing and Homelessness
Homelessness seems as entrenched as any issue we’ve faced in recent times. However, the City and State have been working with many agencies and nonprofit organizations to shape a multipronged approach to assisting these individuals.

We need to support those efforts—not timidly but emphatically with sufficient funds to meet those needs.

And the same should go for the creation of more affordable homes and rentals.

We should refocus all of the state agencies who have a hand in developing affordable housing to leverage what is currently being done. We should start looking at how we can build affordable housing on state owned parcels along Oahu’s rail system.

And we should partner with the private sector so that more can be developed—and developed sooner rather than later.

Providing an adequate supply of affordable housing is the correct long-term solution so that families don’t fall into homelessness and despair.

Fine tuning the clinics
In 2000, we were the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Last year, we provided safe and reliable access for those who require it for health reasons.

As we move closer to implementation, let’s make sure that they’re done right and serve our people in the way they were intended.

Hawaii Health Systems Corporation
The action we took last year to shore up Maui’s public hospitals was groundbreaking. That formula may provide us with an answer to broader issues with other facilities in our statewide public hospital system.

That’s something we should explore.

Investing in Hawaii’s Long-Term Future
In looking to our long-term future, we need to continue to scrutinize ways to keep us on a sound fiscal footing. Ways that include making sure that we can sustain ongoing state initiatives, whether it’s the Cancer Center, the Enterprise Technology Services, or any other recent endeavor.

We must continue paying down our unfunded liabilities, specifically our obligations to the public employees’ retirement fund.

Building our budgetary reserves now, puts us in a better position to weather any future economic slowdown, which is sure to come our way.

Our Kupuna
We need to help our kupuna by passing the bill introduced last session that will help family members care for their seniors after they come home from the hospital. Testimony on the measure supported the bill three to one.

More importantly, it will provide the kind of medical training for caregivers that is so essential to keeping our kupuna healthy.

In addition, I will be introducing a bill that will require all doctors practicing in Hawaii to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients. That too will help our kupuna, as well as those who must seek medical care but cannot afford it.

Help for the Counties
And we need to help our counties who help us support our number one industry, tourism. We can do that by raising the counties’ share of the tourism tax and building on earlier increases to the counties. That’s taking advantage of our momentum.

In addition, we need to help the workers on Maui affected by the closure of sugar operations at Hawaii Commercial and Sugar Company. And our actions have to be more than just creating another Hamakua Task Force.

The closure of those sugar lands on our last large-scale plantation marks the end of a remarkable, proud and historic era in Hawaii. Our grandparents, parents and all of us have been shaped by life around the plantations and the lessons learned on them. It reminds us of our history and where we came from, so that we can better plot the direction in which we want to go.

We will be working closely with A&B and the Administration to ensure that real help will be available. The end of an era cannot be the end of those workers’ dreams for a better life.

Our Keiki
Finally, you cannot talk about a long-term scenario without talking about the investment we make in our children. We need to repair and modernize our education infrastructure so that we give our keiki the best chance to learn and to prepare themselves for their future.

And we need to give them the best opportunity to secure good paying jobs so that they can support their families and create a better life for themselves. We can do that by ensuring that small businesses, the backbone of our economy, remain vibrant and strong.

Right now small business is having a tough time because of one primary reason: their lease rent have gone through the roof, increasing in some places by more than a thousand percent in a very short span of time.

Consequently, we’ve seen a string of locally owned shops and stores shut down in recent years. And it will not stop any time soon, driving more and more of them out of business. Unless we do something about it. And we can, if we have the determination and will.

We can level the playing field and change for the better the business landscape across the state—if we are willing to reinvent the rules that govern commercial leasehold lands.

Hawaii has done it before with lands supporting single-family and multi-family homes. Those historic actions gave the ordinary working person new opportunities for true homeownership, rejuvenated the local housing market and leveled the playing field for home buyers.

It’s time for us to think about the converting commercial leasehold lands in Hawaii to fee simple.

The Power of Momentum
Momentum—as powerful as it is—has no value if we don’t use it or leverage it.
Political pundits have noted that this is an election year. In other words, a year in which politicians seeking reelection do nothing to upset voters.

I am not asking you to upset voters, but to be bold in this election year and do what needs to be done for the greater good. We cannot lose the momentum we have built up. We must use it to keep us moving forward. I look forward to joining you in these endeavors and working with you on behalf of the people of Hawaii.

Thank you and aloha.

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Kihei High School Breaks Ground

Courtesy: Hawaii Department of Education
After decades of petitioning and planning, the long-awaited Kihei High School in South Maui broke ground off Piilani Highway 9 a.m. on Monday morning, January 11.

Representative Kaniela Ing (Kihei, Wailea, Makena), who has advocated for this project since his first election in 2012, expressed his excitement:

“As I knocked on doors in my neighborhood, people have made it clear that this is South Maui’s top priority. As my o’o hit the ground, I couldn’t help but get emotional. We have achieved the number one goal that we have set out to do. The people of South Maui should be very proud of themselves.”

Ing explained that the South Maui community has been waiting for this moment since the 1990’s. “I am ecstatic to see hundreds of hours of tireless work by so many people, over so many years, finally bear fruit.” He went on to note that while celebration is in order, “our work is not complete until 1,000 students are sitting in these classrooms.”

Ing noted that the project will benefit more than just South Maui because classrooms in Maui High and Baldwin are overcrowded, and traffic into town can be cumbersome. Its value also extends beyond education.

“This is more than just a school,” Ing said. “Our community currently does not have a stadium or even a gym. Through sports and clubs, our high school will give our young people a better sense of belonging and serve as a true hub for our community at large.”

Ing credited the project’s success to community advocacy, his relationships with key lawmakers, and a tear-and-send postcard he sent out to every South Maui home in 2013.

“It was inspiring to see how many pieces of testimony we got back and were sent on to the House Finance Committee,” he added. “It was the community voice that got Kihei High School in the budget.”

House Finance Chair, Rep. Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Nuuanu, Punchbowl, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa), who controls the State budget in the House, offered her support for Rep. Kaniela Ing's efforts.

“Kihei High School is an important project for the Kihei community,” Luke said. “Kaniela was instrumental in securing funding to begin construction of this new school, and I will continue to work with him to make sure this project gets completed.”

The Governor and the DOE also expressed their intent to see the project through completion. The school is estimated to open as early as 2018, depending on how the funding, design and contracts are secured and completed.

There have been some administrative hiccups along the way, hurdles that Ing said are inevitable for a project of this size.

“The scale of this project is an enormous. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control, but all you can do is be transparent with the community, never get discouraged, and keep moving forward. The important thing is it is happening now," he said

The Legislature met the Governor’s request to fully fund the $130 million project in 2013, but unforeseen fiscal challenges and administrative changes kept the department from spending $100 million of the funds. When Governor Ige’s administration took over in 2014, the department opted for a phased approach.

$30 million will be immediately available from the Legislature for the first phases of construction, which includes ground work, constructing wells, and an access road ($400,000 has been already awarded). Construction of classrooms and administration buildings will encumber the remaining appropriation.

According to Ing, the project will cost an additional $50-$100 million depending on the final design and cost of materials. Ing said he will work to get funding underway for Phase 2 in the next legislative session. “We want to do more with less,” he said, and noted that, “the project will take due diligence and requires fiscal responsibility.”

“I’m really excited that this will be the first Net Zero high school in the entire state,” said Ing, noting that the facility will be powered by clean and renewable sources with energy to come from the sun and wind. “It sets an example for what high schools should look like in the future. This is not your grandfather’s high school.”

Lawmakers Listen Community Meeting Draws Large Attendance in Ewa

Representative Matt LoPresti (Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ewa Villages, Hoakalei & Ocean Pointe) and leaders from the Hawaii State House of Representatives held a Lawmakers Listen session at the Ewa Makai Middle School on Saturday where they heard a wide range of concerns from residents in the area.

Discussions at the meeting focused on a number of topics including the upcoming legislative session, rail, traffic mitigation, heat abatement improvements in area schools, and infrastructure improvements to address overcapacity at district schools.

Members of the community were invited to share their questions and concerns directly with Rep. LoPresti, Speaker of the House Joseph M. Souki, and House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke. The group was also joined by Vice-Speaker John Mizuno and Energy and Environmental Protection Chair Chris Lee.

“Lawmakers Listen” is an ongoing series of community town halls across the state with district representatives, members of the House leadership, and committee chairpersons. The purpose of the meetings is for legislators to hear the concerns of area residents and to discuss solutions. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Legislature Commences New Year With Budget Hearings

The House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means committee yesterday began a series of informational briefings to gain insight into Governor David Ige’s financial plan and the budgets for the various state departments. The joint committee was briefed by Wes Machida, the state budget director, on the overall executive state budget. The committee also heard from the state Department of Budget and Finance on its budget.

The money committees will continue to hold informational briefings with the remaining executive departments through Thursday, January 14. A schedule of upcoming budget hearings is available at http://ow.ly/WCwu4.

The 28th Hawaii State Legislature will convene the 2016 Legislative Session on Wednesday, January 20 at 10 a.m. in the House Chambers. This is the second year of the legislative biennium and the Legislature will hold a modest opening to the session with a business as usual approach. Floor proceedings will not include entertainment, and family members, friends and guests will not be seated on the chamber floors. Following the opening, legislators will have the discretion to host guests in their individual offices.

The public is welcomed to attend the opening floor sessions, however seating is limited. Chamber galleries will open at 9:45 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Governor will deliver his second State-of-the-State address during a joint session of the Legislature in the House chamber on Monday, January 25.

The public can access more information on hearings and session activities on the Legislature’s website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.