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House Passes State Budget, Other Measures on the Final Day of the 2012 Legislative Session

The Hawaii House of Representatives today took action on its final bills of the session. One of the major bills discussed and approved was the supplemental state budget, which addresses the state’s most basic needs, particularly in human services, education, and agriculture.

“This session, as we come out of the Great Recession, the House focused on economic recovery, assisting new industry and job creation,” said Speaker Calvin Say. “We passed a balanced budget that supports programs and services vital to serving Hawaii’s people, as well as other legislation that supports long-term planning and accountability to improve government services.”

House Finance Chair Marcus Oshiro, during his floor remarks, noted the top ten reasons his colleagues should vote yes on a budget that moves to “reprioritize, rehabilitate, and renew” the character and delivery of government services. They are:

  1. $250,000 to develop an Early Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Prevention Program for the state, one of the Governor’s initiatives
  2. $1.0 million for the Freeway Service Patrol on Oahu, which starts at Fort Weaver Road, and will extend coverage to Ainakoa Street
  3. $1.4 million and 19 positions for staffing shortages – electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and housing specialists – who will get uninhabitable rental units repaired for waitlisted applicants without a roof over their heads
  4. $2.5 million to launch the Watershed Initiative, a program to protect priority watersheds throughout the State
  5. $3.3 million for Hawaii’s adult education program will provide GED, English as a second language, and competency-based programs necessary to attain a degree
  6. $3.4 for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to bring prisoners home from out of state, provide rehabilitation services, and strengthen victims assistance programs at both the state and county levels
  7. $22.9 million for Medicaid capitation payments will maintain critical access to health care for those in need of a safety net
  8. $26.4 million for the continued construction of UH-West Oahu, and $3.3 million for a bookstore, dining and catering services, and parking lot management at the new Kapolei campus opening in August
  9. $700,000 for the statewide institutionalization of the Na Pua No’eau Program, a successful program that provides educational opportunities for Native Hawaiian children and emphasizes a college education within the University’s system
  10. $14.0 million for the weighted student formula will ensure student support in the classroom.

Rep. Oshiro also shared his disappointment in the missed opportunity to begin addressing the long-term cost of retirement benefits for state workers. The House’s position this session was to put a $50 million down payment on the unfunded liability in the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund, but was unable to get agreement during budget negotiations.

“The longer we wait to set aside any money for this obligation, the more expensive it will become,” said Rep. Oshiro during his floor remarks on the budget bill. “We will no longer be arguing about how much to spend on human services programs, agriculture or education. The only thing we will be paying for will be the fixed costs of government – debt service, Medicaid, and retirement benefits – pension and health care – for government employees.”

Notable Measures that passed today

  • HB2319 Venture Accelerator Program.  HB2319 establishes a venture accelerator funding program under the Hawaii strategic development corporation to assist the State’s technology businesses to compete for investment capital.
  • HB2873 PISCES. HB2873 transfers the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) from the University of Hawaii to the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism’s Office of Aerospace Development, and establishes a PISCES board of directors. In addition, SB112 Space Tourism, appropriates funds for the application of a spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration to establish space tourism in Hawaii, subject to matching federal funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
  • HB1953 Emergency Medical Care. HB1953 provides for the medical needs of Leeward Oahu in light of the closure of Hawaii Medical Center’s two hospitals, by appropriating $1 million to increase the on-call availability of emergency medical services and ambulance services.
  • SB2939 Revenue bonds for St. Francis. SB2939 authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds of up to $80,000,000, for St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii to finance the construction, improvement, and equipment of certain Hawaii Medical Center East facilities.
  • HB2275 Hospital Sustainability Fee. HB2275 ensures access to health care for Medicaid recipients by establishing a hospital sustainability fee on public and private hospitals to attract matching federal funds.
  • HB2740 Extending Sunset Provision on Naptha Fuel Tax. HB2740 extends the sunset provision relating to the reduction of the fuel tax on naptha sold for use in a power-generating facility through 2015. This extension is key for the people of Hawaii, providing much needed assistance to counter the rising cost of fuel.
  • HB2626 Safe Routes to School. HB2626 establishes the Safe Routes to School Program within the Department of Transportation and establishes a Safe Routes to School Program Special Fund. A surcharge of $25 for speeding violations in a school zone and a $10 surcharge on various other traffic violations occurring in a school zone will be deposited into the Safe Routes to School Program Special Fund.
  • SB2115 Charter School Reform.  SB2115 establishes a new chapter governing charter schools based on the recommendations of the Charter School Governance, Accountability, and Authority Task Force established by Act 130, Session Laws of Hawaii 2011.  The intent of the Act is to establish a new charter school law that creates a solid governance structure for Hawaii’s charter school system with clear lines of authority and accountability that will foster improved student outcomes.
  • SB2545 Early learning. SB2545 establishes the early learning advisory board to replace the early learning council and eliminates junior kindergarten programs with the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Students are required to be five years of age on July 31 of the school year in order to attend kindergarten.
  • HB1755 Electronic Voter Registration. HB1755 updates voter registration laws, including authorizing the acceptance of electronic applications to register to vote, beginning with the primary election of 2016. It appropriates $500,000 for an online voter registration system.
  • SB2220 Boiler and Elevator Safety.  SB2220 establishes the boiler and elevator special fund to collect and deposit fees for inspections, permits, and examinations of boilers, pressure systems, elevators, kindred equipment, and amusement rides. The purpose of the bill is to address the backlog of safety inspections.  It provides for sufficient operating costs to carry out the purpose of the boiler and elevator safety law.
  • HB2226 Victim Notification. Codifies the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System and establishes an Automated Victim Information and Notification System Special Fund.
  • HB2113 Aerial Fireworks.  Bans the ignition, possession, selling, offering for sale, and use of aerial luminaries.

The governor has 45 days from the time a bill was received to veto it, sign it into law, or allow it to pass into law without his signature.

In his closing speech today, Speaker Say also recapped important bills that passed earlier in the session.  Here is an excerpt:

“At the beginning of the session, the Legislature proceeded to move bills to address imminent problems.  Three bills were reported out of carryover conference committees, passed by both houses, and signed into law in February by the Governor.  HB 608, which became Act 1, provided state assistance to The Queen’s Medical Center for an organ transplant center in the wake of the closure of the Hawaii Medical Center.  SB 239, which became Act 2, extended the funding of the John A. Burns School of Medicine with tobacco settlement funds, an action necessary for the viability of the School.  HB 809, which became Act 3, authorized the University of Hawaii to issue $100 million more in revenue bonds, an action intended to fund construction projects for economic revitalization.

Through January and February, the Legislature fast tracked HB 2096, a bill to prevent a substantial increase during 2012 of the unemployment insurance contribution rates for businesses.  If not for the bill, businesses would have had to absorb a multi-million dollar increase in their unemployment insurance contributions, diverting capital from other more productive purposes.  HB 2096 was passed by the Legislature and, on March 9, signed by the Governor as Act 6.Perhaps most notable of the early session accomplishments, the Legislature expedited the passage of SB 2783, the OHA public land trust agreement.  Passage of such legislation had eluded the Legislature for many years.  This session was different because of the prevailing spirit of cooperation.  At the urging of Governor Abercrombie and OHA, the Legislature passed SB 2783, and it was signed into law as Act 15 on April 4.

You should all be proud of yourselves for the early session accomplishments.  They make an impressive resume by themselves.”

Governor Abercrombie – “Bills that Invest in Hawai’i’s Future Pass Legislature”

With the end of the 2012 Legislative session today, hundreds of measures now come to Governor Neil Abercrombie for his approval. Among these are priority bills that were addressed in his State of the State which are investments that will shape Hawai’i’s future in critical areas including elderly care, early childhood education, environment and energy.

“From the start of the session to the end, there was a commitment by the Legislature to work collaboratively towards creating policies for the benefit of the State of Hawai’i,”said Governor Abercrombie. “I congratulate the House and the Senate for their dedication and support of priority measures that will have a lasting impact on generations to come.”

One of the most progressive measures is SB 2785, which establishes a framework for any interisland cable proposal to be developed, financed and considered. The Public Utilities Commission would have approval authority for any proposed project.

“This is a long-term infrastructure investment that is needed now,”stated Governor Abercrombie. “An integrated grid will stabilize energy prices and equalize rates between the islands, which will benefit all of us. As I mentioned at the start of the session, there is no legislation more critical to our future.”

In addition, two other Administration bills will work to increase the amount of renewable energy that can be used on our electrical grid. SB 2787 will give the Public Utilities Commission the ability to set reliability standards, and SB 2752 will make it easier for HECO to take on renewable energy projects.

Two of the Administration’s Justice Reinvestment Initiatives also passed. These measures (SB 2776 and HB 2515) are aimed at making the state’s criminal justice system more efficient and improve accountability. But most importantly, these initiatives increase public safety through evidence-based policy models proven in 14 other states that reduce recidivism and invest savings back into community programs and supervision.

Other Governor priority measures that were also approved by the Legislature include:

SB 2778 –Making an appropriation for early childhood health. This bill takes the first steps to help reverse the alarming trend of childhood obesity, which has increased by 38 percent in 10 years. This will be achieved by analyzing specific data to identify children at risk, establish awareness of early childhood obesity, promote best practices, and establish a task force for the prevention of childhood obesity.

SB 2779 –Relating to the aging and disability resource centers.  This measure appropriates $1.4 million to create aging and disability resource centers in each county to streamline access to long-term supports and services for older adults with disabilities and family caregivers. These centers are “one-stop shops”for information and assistance.

SB 1269 and HB 2487 –These are critical measures that continue from last year’s Act 163 towards addressing the state’s significant unfunded liability. Prospectively, these bills will help to curb the future incursion of additional liability while not affecting current employees and their accrued rights and benefits.

The Legislature appropriated $300,000 for the Governor’s Early Childhood Education goal to further develop and implement the components of our state’s comprehensive early childhood system and to develop a phased plan for a public-private preschool program for 4-year-olds.

The state budget includes $5 million in funding for the Administration’s Watershed Protection plan for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. This appropriation is for the immediate protection of priority watershed forests to replenish Hawai’i’s water supplies and provide many other fundamental benefits to Hawai’i’s environmental health.

Earlier this session, Governor signed HB 608, which appropriated state funds to The Queen’s Medical Center to perform kidney and liver transplants and to the National Kidney Foundation of Hawai’i to maintain its chronic kidney management program. The Governor also enacted a bill that settles Office of Hawaiian Affairs’unresolved claims to income and proceeds from ceded lands and conveys parcels of lands in Kaka’ako Makai valued at $200 million to resolve the dispute.

“We can all be proud of the successes that were achieved by the Administration and the Legislature working in a spirit of cooperation and commitment to the public good,”stated Governor Abercrombie. “We set out to invest now for the future and I believe that’s exactly what we have accomplished.”

To view the Governor’s actions on legislation, including a list of Acts, please visit http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/selectreport.aspx.

Mayor’s Office Announces Student Mālama Award Winners

The Office of Mayor Billy Kenoi is pleased to announce the winners of the first Hawai‘i Island Student Mālama Award, a program that highlights and celebrates student stewards of sustainability on Hawai‘i Island. Outstanding student leaders and groups in this field will be awarded $500 scholarships.

Mayor Kenoi spoke at the morning’s Mayor’s Breakfast Fellowship and said the following on his Facebook page, “Mahalo to the Exchange Club of Hilo for a morning of food, friends, song, and prayer at the this morning’s Mayor’s Breakfast Fellowship!”

Eligible projects included, but were not limited to topics such as renewable energy and energy efficiency; agriculture, such as school gardens and local foods; resource management, such as zero waste; community-based volunteerism, social and community service; and environmental projects, such as conservation and preservation of the ocean, land and forest.

Click for application form

Scholarships will be awarded to winners in K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade categories. The following is the list of winners in each grade category:

Elementary:  Kahakai Elementary Green Team

Intermediate:  Kua O Ka La Intermediate School Hui Lokahi

High School:  Makana Agcaoili, Pahoa Intermediate and High School Green Club President

“Mahalo to all the students, schools, teachers, families, and community members who supported this year’s projects,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi. “We look forward to honoring more great projects that mālama our unique and beautiful home, Hawai’i Island.”

Hawaii Launches Disaster Preparedness Pilot Program

Today is a perfect day to prepare—for the unexpected. That describes the theme of a pilot education campaign to encourage Hawai‘i residents to fully prepare for large-scale emergencies and disasters, before they happen. The pilot launched Wednesday, May 2, following Tsunami Preparedness Month in April.

Hawai‘i’s four county mayors, each with emergency management stories to tell, are rallying to kick off and support the campaign. They agree that the price of an unprepared Hawaii is too high.

Project research confirms that Hawai‘i residents are no strangers to disaster. Eighty-nine percent of residents say they have experienced a large-scale disaster, but only 25 percent say they are very prepared. Eighty-two percent of residents also believe that government and community organizations are primarily responsible for their preparedness. Many residents said they were too busy or that they never thought about preparing. Others even admitted to being lazy or resigned to wait until the need arises.

“Many people are not as prepared as they think are. Many others would wait until it is too late to prepare. We’ve seen lines at gas stations and grocery stores when storms head our way,” said Mayor Peter Carlisle, “The goal of this campaign is to determine the best ways to get individuals, families and businesses ready for disasters—before they come. “We need to educate our community about what it means to be fully prepared: emergency kits that are complete and sufficient for seven days; a plan that describes what each family member or employee can do during an emergency; and staying informed about emergency situations, including knowing evacuation routes and shelter locations.”

Counties, under the leadership of their emergency management programs, work together every day to help residents plan and prepare for catastrophic events such as natural disasters and human-caused disasters, including terrorism. The City and County of Honolulu is leading this project for the counties under the FEMA Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program. O‘ahu is the site for the pilot campaign to determine what messages and methods of communication are most likely to improve disaster preparedness.

“Hawai‘i has island-specific disaster preparedness challenges affected by a combination of economic, language and cultural factors. But the state is also blessed with committed organizations that serve vulnerable populations and help in outreach,” said Melvin N. Kaku, Honolulu’s Director of Emergency Management. “There is no better time than now to prepare.”

The campaign includes public service announcements that include a TV spot, several radio spots, print advertising, environmental advertising, point-of-purchase displays at retail locations and a significant online/social media presence.

The pilot campaign is supported by significant in-kind donations from media outlets and retailers, and is supported by Retail Merchants of Hawai‘i. Throughout the month of May, retailers will promote disaster preparedness through in-store education and product displays that highlight both disaster preparedness supplies and information about what it means to be fully prepared.

For more information about the pilot campaign, or to download a complete media kit, visit www.GetReadyHawaii.org.

Big Island Police Seeking 20-Year-Old Puna Man for Questioning Regarding Several Investigations

Big Island police are asking for the public’s help in locating a 20-year-old Puna man wanted for questioning.

Dyson Kepano

Dyson Kepano of Keaʻau is described as 5-foot-6, 135 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair. He is known to frequent the Puna and Hilo districts.

Police want to speak to him about several police investigations, including burglary, theft and forgery. In these cases, someone broke into homes and stole personal checks and other items. The checks were then forged and cashed or attempted to be cashed at banks and at other establishments in Hilo.

Police ask that anyone with information on Kepano’s whereabouts call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.