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Hawaii Takes Part in Multistate Settlement Against Moneygram

Settlement to Provide Restitution for Consumers that Used MoneyGram to Make Fraud Induced Transfers

Stephen Levins, Executive Director of the State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, today announced a settlement with Dallas based MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc. resolving a multistate investigation which focused on complaints of consumers who used MoneyGram’s wire transfer service to send money to third parties involved in schemes to defraud consumers. In addition to Hawaii, 48 states and the District of Columbia participated in this settlement.

Moneygram

Click to view details of settlement

“We believe that this settlement will help to protect vulnerable consumers from wire fraud”, said Levins. “Crooks routinely use wire transfers to con unwary consumers out of their money. Anytime someone insists that a money wire is the only method to transfer funds to them red flags should go up, especially if it involves a lottery or sweepstakes. No one should ever wire money to claim a prize. If you do, you’ve been scammed and you’ll never see your money again.”

The settlement has two main components. First, MoneyGram has agreed to maintain and continue to improve a comprehensive and robust anti-fraud program designed to help detect fraud and prevent consumers from suffering financial losses as a result of these types of fraud induced wire transfers. The program must be documented in writing and at a minimum, must include the following elements:

  • Mandatory and documented compliance training for agents and guidelines regarding when an agent’s conduct warrants suspension or termination;
  • Suspension or termination of agents who fail to take commercially reasonable steps to reduce fraud induced money transfers;
  • A hotline system – telephonic and electronic- where employees and agents can report noncompliance with anti-fraud measures;
  • Sound mechanisms to evaluate actual fraud rates and consumer losses from fraud induced money transfers in order to utilize that information to improve compliance; and
  • Continued enhancement of technology solutions, including its Anti-Fraud Alert System (AFAS).

Second, MoneyGram has agreed to pay a total of 13 million dollars to the states to fund a nationwide consumer restitution program and for the states’ costs and fees. Hawaii’s portion of the settlement will be $85,000.

The settlement provides for an independent third party settlement administrator who will review MoneyGram records and send notices regarding restitution to all consumers who are eligible to receive restitution under this settlement. Generally, consumers who are eligible for restitution previously filed complaints with MoneyGram between July 1, 2008, and August 31, 2009, regarding fraud induced transfers sent from the U.S. to foreign countries other than Canada.

More information about this settlement is available at the Settlement Administrator’s website: www.MoneyGramSettlement.com/.

In addition to Hawaii, the following states participated in the settlement: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

9 Year-Old Charter Student Brings Pipe Bomb to Hawaii School

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating a suspicious device found Wednesday (February 10) at a charter school in Kaʻū.

Kau Learning Academy

Kau Learning Academy

At 10:15 a.m. police received a call reporting a “pipe bomb” found in the possession of a student at the Kaʻū Learning Academy on the 94-1500 block of Kalua Circle in Discovery Harbor. Responding officers learned that school officials had found the suspicious device in the backpack of a 9-year-old boy.

The boy was arrested on suspicion of possessing an explosive device and then released to a family member while police continue the investigation.

Police notified the FBI, the U.S. Army’s Explosive Ordinance Detail on Oahu, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Hawaiʻi County Fire Department.

The school was evacuated for the rest of the day.

Declaration of Emergency Declared for Hawaii Island Due to Dengue Fever Outbreak

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi made a Declaration of Emergency due the outbreak of Dengue Fever on the Big Island of Hawaii.

To view the declaration click here:  http://records.co.hawaii.hi.us/WebLink8/PDF/2p3kvnm3psnzz055cirgyy55/16/Dengue%20Proclamaiton%20Mayors%2002-08-16.pdf

Dengue Declaration of Emergency

As of February 8, 2016*:

Since the last update, HDOH has identified 1 new case of dengue fever.  Currently,  as many as 2 of the confirmed cases to date are potentially infectious to mosquitoes. All others are no longer infectious.

Potentially infectious individuals
2 Illness onset 1/29/16 to 2/1/16
Cases no longer infectious
249 Illness onset 9/11/15 to 1/28/16
Past and present confirmed cases (Cumulative TOTAL)
251

Of the confirmed cases, 227 are Hawaii Island residents and 24 are visitors.
206 cases have been adults; 45 have been children (<18 years of age). Onset of illness has ranged between 9/11/15 – 2/1/16.

As of today, a total of 1124 reported potential cases have been excluded based on test results and/or not meeting case criteria.

League Of Women Voters of Hawaii on Election of Judges

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly opposes Senate Bills 2238 and 2239, scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on Wednesday, January 10th at 9:00 a.m.in Room 016.

Capital

Both measures propose preparation of a State Constitutional amendment to elect justices and judges in Hawaii. The League believes these steps would jeopardize selection of judges based on merit. Judicial independence is necessary for the Hawaii State Judiciary to operate as a co-equal third branch of government, including preservation of individual constitutional rights, fair and impartial adjudication of legal disputes, and fair and timely criminal prosecutions. The need for judges to spend money and time campaigning for election would detract from their ability to devote their professional time and energy to official duties.

The right to a fair trial is a founding principle of our democracy, and it’s a value that Americans believe in. New research shows the more TV ads aired during state supreme court judicial elections, justices are consciously or unconsciously less likely to vote in favor of criminal defendants. Moreover, the more campaign contributions from business interests the justices received, the more likely they were to vote in favor of business litigants appearing before them in court.

The revolution in financing political campaigns, especially since the 2010 Citizens United case, (which struck down federal limits on corporate and political spending) has allowed Political Action Committees (PAC’s) and Super PAC’s to advertise heavily in Mainland states where judges are elected. Last November spending in a seven-way race for seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court surpassed $15.8 million, with the top three candidates who collected the most money winning the seats.

SB 2238 and SB 2239 are undesirable for many reasons, but most especially because they would make it possible to leverage “dark” campaign money from obscure sources. Every litigant in a civil case or a defendant in a criminal case needs to know that his or her case will be heard by a judge whose loyalty is to the law, and whose integrity will not be compromised by campaign finance or political pressures.

We hope our legislators will realize how important it is to keep Hawaii’s judges independent and impartial, and will defeat these unwise proposals.

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

For more information, visit www.lwv-hawaii.com

Hawaii List of Applicants Applying for Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licenses

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) today posted the list of applicants for Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licenses. A total of 66 applications were received during the application period of Jan. 12, 2016, 8 a.m., Hawaii Standard Time (HST) to Jan. 29, 2016, 4:30 p.m. HST.

“The department has posted the names of applicants in accordance with Chapter 11-850, Hawaii Administrative Rules,” said Keith Ridley, chief of the DOH Office of Health Care Assurance. “All other information on dispensary applications is confidential as we move into the evaluation and selection process.”

Click to enlargee

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The medical marijuana dispensary law, Chapter 329D, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), allows DOH to award a total of eight licenses initially: three licenses for the City and County of Honolulu, two dispensary licenses each for the County of Hawaii and the County of Maui, and one dispensary license for the County of Kauai. Each dispensary licensee will be allowed to operate up to two production centers and two retail-dispensing locations.

DOH expects to select and announce licensees by April 15, 2016. A dispensary licensed pursuant to Chapter 329D, HRS, may begin dispensing medical marijuana not sooner than July 15, 2016, with the approval of the Department.

For more information about the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Licensing Program, go to http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuana/

Waipi‘o Valley Stakeholders Alliance Offers United Voice on Bishop Museums Announcement to Sell Its Waipi‘o Valley Lands

On January 8, 2016, Bishop Museum issued a public announcement they are moving forward with the sale of the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Capt. Cook and 537 acres of land in Waipi‘o Valley.

Green areas represent Bishop Museum Land.

Green areas represent Bishop Museum Land.

While the news has taken most of Hawai‘i by surprise, it is not the case for the Waipi‘o Valley community. Over the past 20 years, the Museum has periodically considered selling it’s Valley holdings, and there have been several proposals by State legislators for the state to purchase the lands, the most recent in 2014.

Since 2013, the Waipi‘o community has undergone major changes, with three of the most committed groups becoming more organized and actively seeking ways to work together collaboratively on matters that impact the Valley and surrounding communities.

In late 2015 the Waipi‘o Taro Farmers Association, the Waipi‘o Community Circle and Ha Ola o Waipi‘o Valley formed the Waipi‘o Valley Stakeholders Alliance as a mechanism to reach general consensus and provide a unified voice when communicating with government officials, Bishop Museum and the general community.

Founded in 1989, the Waipi‘o Taro Farmers Association (WTFA) is the oldest active organization in Waipi‘o Valley. The Association is made up of generational taro farming families who lease the majority of Bishop Museum ’s lands in the Valley. WTFA represents the surviving edge of the Native Hawaiian culture in Waipi‘o Valley and serves as Bishop Museum ’s primary land managers and local community advisors.

Formed in 2000, at the request of 13 community members, the Waipi‘o Community Circle (the Circle), serves as a general community forum. The Waipi‘o Valley Information & Education Officer Program was created by the Circle, as were the five large interpretive signs at the rock wall near the pavilion. A small group of Circle volunteers provided general oversight of the Information & Education Officer program from 2007 until 2014 when the program moved to the Department of Parks & Recreation. This group also represents the efforts of Auntie Ku’ulei Badua who was responsible for initiating “Friends of the Waipi‘o Community Park ” (the former Rice/Thomas property, at the Waipi’o lookout).

Founded in 2014 Ha Ola o Waipi‘o Valley (Ha Ola) is a membership organization of Valley residents, farmers, cultural educators and practitioners, and Waipi‘o tour operators. The organization is guided by elected Officers with support from the County of Hawaii , the State of Hawaii , Kamehameha Schools and Friends of the Future. Ha Ola was formed to provide representation for Valley stakeholders who were not recognized in the State’s 2013 proposed Senate Bill to purchase Bishop Museum’s lands in Waipi‘o. Among Ha Ola’s current projects are River Maintenance in collaboration with WTFA, stewardship of Kamehameha Schools Valley beach parcels, eradication of Little Fire Ants in the Valley and a 2016 Kalo Festival.

The Waipi‘o Valley Stakeholders Alliance, combines the strengths of all available community and advisory resources and is committed to protecting current lessees and ensuring the community has a lead voice in proactively engaging Bishop Museum in discussions about the future stewardship of its’ Waipi‘o Valley lands.

For more information about the Alliance contact:

Alliance Community Liaison: Jim Cain, Cell: 333-0457 kinglaulau@hotmail.com

Alliance Culture & Education Liaison: Ka‘iulani Pahio, Cell: 960-5272 kaiulani@kalo.org

Security Guards Indicted for Taking Bribes at Honolulu Airport

An Oahu grand jury indicted four Securitas law enforcement and traffic control officers for accepting bribes from taxi and shuttle drivers at the Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin announced.

SecuritasDeputy Attorney General Albert Cook said, “Securitas employees Ruben Corpuz Alonzo, Ranie A. Ilagan, Gay Manicia Gatchalian and Euriphides Magalang allegedly solicited and accepted more than three thousand dollars in monetary payments from taxi and shuttle drivers at the airport. In exchange the defendants provided customers to these drivers and allowed the drivers to circumvent the rules and regulations relating to taxi and shuttle drivers and ground transportation at the Honolulu International Airport.”

“These indictments followed a months-long, complex undercover investigation conducted by the FBI in conjunction with Special Agent Investigators at the Attorney General’s office. Taxi drivers complained about certain officers at the airport taking bribes and showing favoritism to those willing to pay,” said Attorney General Chin.

The four Securitas employees were indicted for bribery, a violation of section 710-1040, Hawaii Revised Statutes. This is a class B felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $25,000.00 fine.

The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are found guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

Securitas receives about $33 million a year to provide security.

“25 by 25” Bill to be Heard by Public Safety Committee

“OCCC is severely overcrowded and in disrepair. Native Hawaiians are over represented in our prison population. One third of Hawaii’s prisoners are housed in Arizona. Over 60% of the inmate population in the U.S. are non-violent, primarily for drug related offenses. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate on any nation in the world.

None of this is new information, but what are we doing to address these issues?” states Rep. John M. Mizuno (Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley and portions of Lower Kalihi) who introduced HB2001 with a provision to reduce the State’s prison population by 25% by the year 2025. “We have already set a goal for renewable energy for the State; it is time to set a goal for our prison population that is currently costing state taxpayers millions of dollars every year and has been one of the fastest growing segments of the state budgets.”

House Bill 2001 (HB2001) will be heard tomorrow – February 4th – at 10:00am at the State Capitol conference room 309 by the Public Safety Committee.

Stolen StuffMichael Kitchens, creator of the 42,000 strong community watch group, Stolen Stuff Hawaii, believes in striking at the core of the problem. “We have to attack the root cause for crime…the factors that drive someone to relapse into crime even after punishment.  This commission will study these factors and offer alternative strategies that can combat recidivism and provide opportunities for the misguided to become productive members of society.”

“In reviewing the State’s probation system, the commission that would be established by the bill could evaluate current practices relating to incarceration, crime prevention and education with a focus on reducing spending on corrections and reinvesting the savings gained in strategies that will increase public safety and reduce recidivism.

The Governor in his recent State of the State Address noted the need to tear down the Oahu Correctional Facility in Kalihi and build a new facility in Halawa ‘to take advantage of all that we have learned about incarceration, and the need to give inmates a real opportunity to change their lives.’ recognizing that the current facility is ill equipped to effectively lower the recidivism rate in the State. We need to develop effective programs that offer greater opportunities for offenders’ rehabilitation”

Hawaii Attorney General and Office of Consumer Protection Warn Residents About Recent ‘Government Imposter’ Scams

Attorney General Doug Chin and Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Protection Stephen Levins are warning the public about two recent attempts by scammers to obtain personal data from Hawaii residents by posing as representatives of state government.

In one scam the Hawaii Public Housing Authority (“HPHA”) received multiple complaints from people trying to apply online for Section 8 housing vouchers. In so doing applicants found themselves on a website that asked for credit card and social security number information. The ‘government imposter’ site mentions the HPHA and seems to perform a credit check. The suspected website is not the HPHA’s and is in no way affiliated with the HPHA.

Executive Director of the HPHA Hakim Ouansafi said: “The HPHA alerted the Attorney General, Honolulu Police Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) so that the State’s most vulnerable population does not fall victim to this type of scam. The HPHA never requires fees or credit checks to apply for any of its programs. Potential applicants for Section 8 or public housing should be vigilant when asked to provide private information and should contact the HPHA directly at (808) 832-6040 if they have any concerns about websites, advertisements, postings, etc.”

In another scam people reported receiving emails that claim to include a “membership certificate” and “official letter” from the Director of the Department of Budget and Finance. This email asks the recipient to raise funds in order to allow them to “gain rights to certain benefit.” The email includes two attachments with official-looking seals and claims to be sent by a representative of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in Washington, D.C.

Copies of the government imposter scam letter and scam certificate are below.

Attorney General Chin said “If you receive a suspicious message that claims to be from a government agency, do not click on any links in the email or respond to the email or call with any personal or financial information. When in doubt, please report the suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

According to Executive Director Levins “The best way to guard against this kind of illegal conduct is to be very careful when you give out your personal information. Never provide it to someone who telephones or emails you out of the blue. And always remember, just because someone claims that they are from your bank or from a government agency doesn’t mean that they are.”

There are several ways to spot possible ‘government imposter’ scams. Among other things these scam emails typically involve messages that:

  • Are poorly written;
  • Are sent from ‘.com’ email addresses rather than ‘.gov’ email addresses;
  • Say you have won a lottery or sweepstakes;
  • Say you owe a fake debt; or
  • Ask you to wire money right away, often to a foreign country.

For more information about how to recognize a government imposter and report such scams, please visit this consumer protection information website of the Federal Trade

Commission: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0048-government-imposter-scams.

Example of the scam letter being circulated

Example of the scam letter being circulated

Bogus Certificate

Bogus Certificate

Neighbor Island Lawmakers Ask Governor NOT to Sign Wastewater Rule Change – New DOH Rules Would Ban New Cesspools Statewide

Nearly a dozen legislators are asking Governor David Ige not to sign off on a proposed state Department of Health rule change that would ban new cesspools statewide.  A letter, dated February 1, was signed primarily by neighbor island state representatives and senators whose constituents include many rural communities that rely on existing cesspools or the ability to install new ones.

CesspoolThe letter points out that a previous version of the rule change would have required conversion of all cesspools to septic systems, and would have cost Big Island homeowners, with over 50,000 cesspools, $1.5 billion.

“A bill to do that same thing was introduced into the Legislature in 2015 and DID NOT PASS.  In fact, a bill to ban new cesspools was NOT passed.  The will of the Legislature should thus be clear,” the letter states.  “Furthermore, this rule change greatly discriminates against the poorest of our citizens who might not be able to afford to build a home if a septic system is required.

“While the department claims that these rule changes are necessary to protect the public health and preserve our natural resources, the arguments in that regard are weak and unsubstantiated, and in fact contradictory and contrary to current legislative intent.”

The letter also notes that septic systems in Hawaii cost between $20,000 to $30,000 to install, compared to cesspools which range from $2,000-$3,000.

Neighbor island representatives and senators signing the letter include: Speaker Joseph M. Souki (Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku, Waikapu), Rep. Mark Nakashima (Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo), Rep. Richard Creagan (Naalehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona), Rep. Richard Onishi (Hilo Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano), Rep. Clift Tsuji (Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea), Rep. Cindy Evans (North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala), Rep. Angus McKelvey (West Maui, Maalaea, North Kihei), Rep. Kyle Yamashita (Spreckelsville, Pukalani, Makawao, Kula, Keokea, Ulupalakua, Kahului), Rep. Lynn DeCoite (Nahiku, Paia, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Molokini), Senator Russell Ruderman (Puna, Kau), and Senator Lorraine Inouye (Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona).

Hawaiian Aha Convention Does Not Represent the Public

Despite a Supreme Court injunction that halted the race-based election sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission, government contractor Na’i Aupuni unilaterally transformed the election into an “everybody wins” scenario, seating everyone who had been on the ballot.  The resulting convention–the stated intent of which is to formulate a government for Native Hawaiians–begins today amid continued controversy over the actions of Na’i Apuni and OHA and whether any tribal entity developed from the meeting will be able to pass legal muster.

Hawaiian Activist Walter Ritte escorted out of a meeting.

Hawaiian Activist Walter Ritte escorted out of a meeting.  Click to view video

The lawsuit against the election is still ongoing and currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, Native Hawaiian activists continue to protest the political aims of Na’i Apuni and OHA, questioning OHA’s management of funds intended for the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

“The Aha convention clearly does not represent the voices of Hawaii’s citizens in general nor of Native Hawaiians in particular,” stated Keli’i Akina, Ph.D., President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and a plaintiff in the case against the election. “Whatever document or governing organization the delegates come up with will have no more force of law or moral authority than a wish list put together by any group of 150 or so individuals.  The participants in this convention have been misled by organizers if they believe that they are able to start a viable race based government. Their efforts are also at risk as the status of the Na!I Aupuni  process is still an open case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals”

Dr. Akina continued, “The more than 6.5 million dollars of public funds that have been wasted on the Native Hawaiian roll and Aha convention have robbed Hawaiians of money that should have been spent on housing, education, jobs, and health services.”

A list of documents and filing associated with the case of Akina v. Hawaii can be viewed at:  http://new.grassrootinstitute.org/2015/10/akina-v-hawaii-the-documents/

Click here to watch a video of Walter Ritte protesting the process.

Hawaii 9th Least Dependent State on the Gun Industry

According to a recent study, Hawaii is the 9th least dependent state on the gun industry.

With President Barack Obama’s executive orders on gun control and recent changes to state gun legislations, the personal finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2016’s States Most Dependent on the Gun Industry.

Gun Industry

To determine which states depend most on the arms and ammunitions industry both directly for jobs and political contributions and indirectly through firearm ownership, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across eight key metrics.

Hawaii’s Dependence on the Gun Industry (1=Most Dependent; 25=Avg.)

  • 47th – Number of Firearms-Industry Jobs per Capita
  • 50th – Average Wages & Benefits in the Firearms Industry
  • 51st – Total Firearms Industry Output per Capita
  • 49th – NICS Background Checks per Capita
  • 29th – Gun-Control Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita
  • 46th – Gun-Rights Contributions to Congressional Members per Capita

For the full report, please visit:
http://wallethub.com/edu/states-most-dependent-on-the-gun-industry/18719/

Source: WalletHub

Big Island Police Investigating Shooting at Popular Surf Spot

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating an early morning shooting in Hilo that left a man hospitalized.

At about 4:35 a.m. Sunday (January 31), police responded to several reports of gunshots in the Honoliʻi lookout area. Responding officers observed evidence of a shooting and closed off Kahoa Road to await detectives and crime scene specialists to process the scene.

Honoli'iAt around the same time, patrol officers at Hilo Medical Center on an unrelated call were informed by hospital staff that a shooting victim had arrived at the emergency room. They learned that a 31-year-old Kona man had been taken to the hospital by a private vehicle following the shooting at the lookout.

The victim underwent surgery and was later transferred to an Oahu hospital in guarded condition for further treatment.

Detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigations Section are continuing the investigation, which is classified as a second-degree attempted murder.

Police ask anyone who may have witnessed the shooting to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311 or contact Detective Clarence Davies at 961-2383 or clarence.davies@hawaiicounty.gov or Detective Todd Pataray at 961-2382 or todd.pataray@hawaiicounty.gov.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the island wide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.00. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers does not record calls or subscribed to any Caller ID service. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Senator Espero Introduces Medical Marijuana Bills

Hawai‘i joined the growing list of states across the nation in 2015 when Act 241 was signed into law, providing the framework for the first medical marijuana dispensary program. Today marks the deadline in which prospective applicants interested in obtaining a permit to operate a dispensary may submit their applications.

Capital

While the program continues to make progress under the State Department of Health, Senator Will Espero (Dist. 19- ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages) has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at improving the medical marijuana program and further help the patients who use it.

Among the measures introduced is SB2176, which would establish a medical marijuana oversight committee under the Department of Health. The committee would include licensed medical professionals and registered patients that monitor, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding the implementation of the use, cultivation, and dispensing of medical marijuana and the overall program.

Other medical marijuana bills being introduced by Senator Espero are:

SB2175 Requires the Department of Health to issue a third medical marijuana dispensary license for the county of Hawaii. Allows medical marijuana dispensaries to be open during certain hours on Sundays. Allows an individual convicted of a felony to be employed at or enter into a medical marijuana dispensary facility only if the individual has not been convicted of a felony within the six years immediately preceding employment or entry.

SB2177 Requires the Department of Health to issue a receipt that shall serve as a temporary registration certificate for the medical use of marijuana upon receipt of a written certification form completed by or on behalf of a qualifying patient. Increases penalty for fraudulent misrepresentation to a law enforcement official relating to the issuance of a written certificate by a physician.

SB2178 Allows arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, and stress to be included among the debilitating medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be authorized to be used.

SB2306 Allows the Department of Health to revoke a medical marijuana dispensary license under certain conditions and subject to a ninety day notice followed by a public hearing within fourteen days. Establishes a fine of up to $500 per day for any licensee who violates state law or administrative rules. Allows a licensee to appeal a fine to an ad hoc special committee. Allows the Department of Health to choose a new licensee if the department revokes a license.

SB2307 Beginning January 1, 2017, establishes a licensing system for medical marijuana growing facilities, production centers, and retail dispensing locations. Allows persons authorized to use and possess medical marijuana in other states to be treated similarly to qualifying patients in this State pursuant to rules adopted by the Department of Health after 1/1/2018. Authorizes the department of health to conduct criminal history checks on license applicants; licensees; prospective employees of growing facilities, production centers, and retail dispensing locations; subcontractors; and persons authorized to enter and remain on such premises. Repeals chapter 329D on December 31, 2016.

SB2308 Establishes a working group to research and make recommendations regarding medical marijuana edibles for human consumption.

SB2627 Establishes a medical marijuana commission to evaluate and make recommendations about the overall effectiveness of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the State.

SB2757 Authorizes the Department of Agriculture to establish a three-year industrial hemp research program to investigate the viability of industrial hemp as a building material for housing in the State. Requires a final report to the legislature prior to the convening of the regular session of 2019. Defines “industrial hemp”. Repeals 7/1/2019.

Lawmaker Working with Stolen Stuff Hawaii Founder Drafts “25 by 25” Bill

Vice Speaker John Mizuno (Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, and portions of Lower Kalihi) announced today that he is working with Michael Kitchens, the founder of “Stolen Stuff Hawaii” (SSH) which is a statewide community watch group assisting victims of stolen property and crime. Mizuno drafted the bill because of his concerns with the crime rate and the high rate of recidivism in Hawaii. Mizuno adds, “Prisoners who are released, only to be re-sentenced in Hawaii’s correctional facilities or transferred to a prison on the mainland cost state taxpayers millions of dollars every year.”

Stolen Stuff

Representative Mizuno is working with Mr. Kitchens to fine tune the language of the bill after the SSH community voiced concerns over certain portions of the bill. Mizuno adds, “Mr. Kitchens and I had a great discussion on the current bill draft and we agreed that should this measure be scheduled for a hearing, testimony will be provided by SSH to amend the bill to remove the three strikes law portion due to its absence in current Hawaii state law. In addition, SSH would recommend removing the need to raise the monetary thresholds for felony theft in Hawaii as it is contrary to the spirit of the bill.”

Mr. Kitchens provides, “Working with Representative Mizuno has given our group of over 42,000 members valuable opportunity to voice their concerns as well as give insight into the problems our community faces when dealing with repeat criminal offenders. This bill is about dealing with the root causes which are lack of education, poverty, illegal drug use, mental health issues, and having the proper support groups that will keep those who commit crimes from returning to that life once their time is served.”

Rep. Mizuno introduced House Bill 2001 (HB 2001) which would establish a Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform in the Governor’s Office. Mizuno’s bill requires the Commission to develop a statewide framework of sentencing and corrections policies to further reduce the State’s incarcerated population by 25% by year 2025. The bill also directs the Commission to develop a plan to reduce spending on corrections and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.

Mizuno provides, “I read that the ‘Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections issued recommendations Tuesday for steps the Justice Department, Congress, judges and prison officials can take to cut the prison population. According to the AP news story the panel says that if all recommendations were implemented, the federal inmate count could drop by 60,000 by 2024 and save the nation’s taxpayers $5 billion dollars.'” Mizuno adds, “The recommendations by that Task Force on Federal Corrections seems to be in line with my bill to reduce Hawaii’s prison population by 25% by year 2025. In reviewing the State’s probation system, the commission shall include, but not be limited to, an evaluation of the State’s current practices relating to incarceration, crime prevention, and education with a focus on reducing spending on corrections and reinvesting the savings gained in strategies that will increase public safety and reduce recidivism.

In essence we want to substantially reduce crime, thus ensuring safer communities statewide, while providing an employment or trade skill to our people who are incarcerated, so when they are released they can secure employment, pay taxes, and enjoy life as a contributing member of our society.”

Mizuno adds, “Working with Mr. Kitchens and the SSH group has been extremely meaningful and rewarding, because this demonstrates the legislatures willingness to partner with the community. At the end of the day we are all working together to reduce crime, reduce recidivism, and reduce costs to our taxpayers. If we do this right we will have stronger families and stronger communities, which will reflect a stronger State.”

Hawaii Attorney General “Fantasy Sports Contests FanDuel and DraftKings” Constitute Illegal Gambling

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin issued a formal advisory opinion today stating that daily fantasy sports contests, such as those run by FanDuel and DraftKings, constitute illegal gambling under existing state laws.

Fan DuelDraft Kings“Gambling generally occurs under Hawaii law when a person stakes or risks something of value upon a game of chance or upon any future contingent event not under the person’s control,” said Chin. “The technology may have changed, but the vice has not.”

Nearly sixty million Americans participate in fantasy sports, with the vast majority playing in a league with friends or colleagues that might be considered “social gambling” which is legal in Hawaii. In contrast, daily fantasy sports contests typically involve competitions between hundreds or thousands of people, are played daily, involve wagers of up to $1,000, and allow each individual multiple entries leading to top prizes of up to $1 million.

“Hawaii is generally recognized to have some of the strictest anti-gambling laws in the country,” said Chin. By statute the Attorney General provides opinions upon questions of law submitted by the Governor, the state legislature or its members, or a state agency head. The Department of the Attorney General is weighing next steps, including civil or criminal enforcement, consistent with its opinion.

The text of Attorney General Opinion 2016-01 is attached.

Big Island Policeman Arrested on Assault of 72-Year-Old Senior Citizen

A Hawaiʻi Police Department officer has been arrested in connection with a confrontation late Friday (January 22) while off duty at an apartment complex in Kailua-Kona.

Jami Harper (photo from 2012)

Jami Harper
(photo from 2012)

At 11:14 p.m. Friday, Kona Patrol officers responded to a report of a disturbance at an apartment building on the 75-5600 block of Kuakini Highway. Investigation revealed that 39-year-old Jami Harper, an off-duty Kona Patrol officer, had confronted a 72-year-old man who lived in the apartment above him. Following the confrontation, Harper requested police assistance and medics.

The 72-year-old man was taken to Kona Community Hospital, where he was treated for facial injuries and then released on Saturday (January 23).

Also Saturday, Harper was taken to Kona Community Hospital for a medical condition. He was then transferred to Hilo Medical Center, where he remained until Wednesday (January 27). Upon his release from the hospital, he was arrested and taken to the Hilo police cellblock while detectives from the Area II Criminal Investigations Section continued the investigation.

At 11:28 a.m. Wednesday, Harper was charged with ­­­­­second-degree assault. His bail was set at $2,000, and he remains at the cellblock. Unless he posts bail, his initial court appearance will be Thursday (January 28) in Hilo District Court.

In addition to the criminal investigation, the Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards will conduct an internal administrative investigation into the incident. Harper has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of that investigation.

Rep. Ing & Thielen Introduces Industrial Hemp Legislation – Will Allow Individuals to Research, Grow and Sell Hemp in Hawaii

Representatives Kaniela Ing (Kihei, Wailea, Makena) and Representative Cynthia Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) are joining forces to introduce a measure that expands industrial hemp research, growth, cultivation and marketing activities in Hawaii.  Following the models used in other states, including Kentucky and Colorado, the bill supports partnerships with the private sector to further explore industrial hemp’s potential contribution to the state’s economy.

hemp legislationAlexander and Baldwin’s recent announcement that it will end sugar production at Maui’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S) will free about 36,000 acres of agriculturally zoned land at the end of 2016, prompting question over what crop would replace sugar.

“There is a huge groundswell of support from the general public and members of the agriculture sector to legalize industrial hemp,” said Rep. Ing.  “While hemp is not a magic bullet for Hawaii’s struggling agriculture industry, it does deserve our consideration, especially with the closing of sugar operations by HC&S.

“I believe industrial hemp now has bi-partisan support, as well as widespread support across generations.  It’s time has come.”

“With its ability to cleanse the soil of toxins, industrial hemp could be an environmentally friendly replacement for our agriculture industry,” says Representative Thielen, a longtime and enthusiastic supporter of legalizing industrial hemp.

“Hemp is often grown without pesticides or herbicides due to its natural ability to ward off unwanted insects and weeds.  Furthermore, hemp’s potential as a biofuel feedstock could be a game-changer for Hawaii.  There are over 25,000 different uses for hemp and in U.S. alone, the market for hemp seed oil and fiber is approximately $600 million a year.”

Grounded Vessel at Kohanaiki to be Removed By Salvage Firm – Operator Cited

Salvage operations are expected to begin this week to remove a 39’ Coast-Guard documented powerboat “Hoku Kea,” which ran aground Friday evening off Kohanaiki beach, west Hawaii. 
Hawaii County closed Kohanaiki Beach Park pending removal of the boat and hazmat. Fuel leaked from the boat onto the immediate area of the beach, and debris from the boat was also found in the area.
Kohanaiki Beach Park

Kohanaiki Beach Park

The “Hoku Kea” is owned by Hoku Boats LLC. The owner had pollution insurance which hired PENCO to remove 400 gallons of diesel, a few quarts of oil and seven batteries on Sunday morning. They have also signed a contract with Cates International which will be on site tomorrow morning to begin the salvage removal process.   
The vessel owner was cited by DLNR for operating a vessel without a valid boating safety certificate required by state boating rules.
Swimmers and surfers are being asked to stay out of the water until authorities can clean up the fuel spill and remove the boat and debris from the area. 

Full Text – Hawaii State of the State By Governor Ige

Gov. David Ige today delivered his second State of the State address. The governor outlined his plans for a renaissance for Kalihi, including the future of the O‘ahu Community Correctional Center, air conditioning for Hawai‘i’s public schools, affordable housing which is key to addressing homelessness across the state and proposed investments in public housing, the Hawai‘i State Hospital, agriculture and the environment and innovation economy.

State of the State Ige

A copy of Governor Ige’s address follows:

Speaker Souki, President Kouchi, former governors, distinguished justices of the courts, representatives of our congressional delegation, members of the Hawaii State Legislature, county mayors and other elected officials, honored guests, family and friends,

Good morning and aloha.

After Alexander & Baldwin announced the end of sugar production on Maui, I visited the people who work there.  Among them was a diesel mechanic, a fourth generation plantation worker, whose family history was interwoven with the sugar plantations.

He talked with pride about his work and life, and I shared that pride in recalling my own family’s life on the plantation.  I was also struck by the realization that his family’s future would forever be altered by the closure of sugar.

Like many of you here, I was saddened for those workers whose lives will be changed forever.  At the same time, I reflected on the challenges that we face moving forward.

Today, we live in a time of extraordinary change, where the past seems to have little relevance to what is happening today, let alone tomorrow.  And while the past doesn’t provide us with a precise roadmap to the future, it does give us the very things we need to find our path:  values, sensibilities and the ways in which we treat each other—with aloha.

Sugar is gone, as are many other aspects of the Hawaii we once knew.   In their place, however, there is an exciting new world beckoning us.  And that is what I want to talk about this morning—about this new world and the challenges we face as we govern—about doing things the right way to make things happen.

TRUTHFULNESS
It begins with being truthful.  We, in government, are obligated to be truthful, even when the truth is not easy or popular.  When we live without truth, our actions fail to pass the test of time.  Moreover, we tend to repeat our mistakes because we have not learned from them.

A few years ago, we saw the demise of the SuperFerry.  Its failure has been attributed to environmental objections and a hostile court.  But that is not exactly what happened.  The fact is the state failed to follow the law.  When we tried a legal end run, it also failed.  The point is the state should have followed the law and done the right thing in the first place.

While the circumstances are very different, we are now going through some very difficult days with the Thirty Meter Telescope.  When I visited Mauna Kea last April, I felt deeply that something was not right.

Even though I personally believe that the telescope needs to be built, it was also clear to me that many things have gone very wrong along the way.  As a result, I have taken the time to listen to a lot of people—listening to their hopes as well as their concerns.

In its recent ruling, the Supreme Court did not say don’t do this project.  What it did say was that the state didn’t do the right things in the approval process.  It told us we needed to do a better job of listening to people and giving them a real opportunity to be heard.

The unrelenting search for truth, knowledge and understanding is an essential part of our human makeup.  It helps us become who we are.

So does our obligation to be true to our past and cultural heritage.

That’s why it’s so unfortunate that our past and our future have been pitted against each other on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  As Governor, I am committed to realigning our values and our actions. They are what define us as a community and allow us to move forward – proud of our past and facing our future with strength and confidence.

I am committed to pursuing this project and I hope its sponsors will stay with us.  And this time, we will listen carefully to all, reflect seriously on what we have heard and, whatever we do in the end, we will do it the right way.

A PUBLIC TRUST
Governing the right way also means managing public funds as a public trust.  That’s especially true when it comes to taking care of our debts and obligations.

The state’s obligation to the public pension and health benefit funds represent two of our biggest fixed expenses.  We need to find better ways to meet this challenge.  Their continued growth is a challenge that will remain with us for many years.  We must find ways to do better in meeting this challenge so as not to burden future generations of taxpayers.

Last year, we changed the way in which we funded those obligations that will save hundreds of millions of dollars in the future.  In the past, the state’s contributions to the fund were made in installments that spread over 12 months.  By consolidating those contributions into a single payment at the beginning of each fiscal year, we will realize contributions or taxpayer savings of up to half a billion dollars over the next 20 years.

Furthermore, my supplemental budget request to the Legislature includes paying 100 percent of the annual required contributions rather than 60 percent for the next two fiscal years.  If authorized, this will further save more than $300 million in required contributions over the next 20 years.

Tax Modernization Program
We’ve also been working hard to implement expenditure control policies and create fiscal initiatives such as a tax modernization program.
While the history of the tax department’s computer programs is not a good one, the recent initiative to upgrade those programs is on time, on budget and meeting our first-year expectations.  It will take until 2018 to complete, but we are already seeing progress in the collection of the general excise and transient accommodation taxes.

Greater efficiencies have increased tax revenues and saved taxpayer dollars.  At the same time, our tax-fraud unit identified over $20 million in fraudulent claims in the last fiscal year and, so far this year, it has found another $11 million.  Let’s be clear. Stopping tax fraud is about fairness for all those who faithfully pay their share each year.

We know this work delays tax refunds and we are working hard to minimize those delays.  If you bear with us during this transition, we will soon have a system that will be better able to catch fraud, without the time, cost and work required to do so today.

Federal Funds
In some cases, the state has struggled to spend federal monies in a timely way.  This issue has vexed us for too long.  We are starting to make progress.  The Department of Transportation reduced its Fiscal Year 2015 project pipeline balance by over $100 million.  This is the largest drop in five years and is the lowest it has been since Fiscal Year 2002.

I am also pleased to announce that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined that our State Department of Health is now in compliance in spending down the Drinking Water Fund.  As a result, the remaining balance totaling $8 million for Fiscal Year 2015 is being released for use locally.

We have more work to do on this critical issue, but we are making real progress.

Bond Financing
We also know that when public funds are managed better, the cost of borrowing money decreases.  Last November we completed a $750 million state bond sale—the first for this administration—and were able to refinance some of our bonds.  This resulted in savings of about $61 million in our debt service requirement.

Because of all these initiatives, we were able to balance the state budget by last June, even though the state was projected to close the last fiscal year in the red.

Maui Public Hospitals
While we have made progress, there continues to be areas of concern.  One of these is the operation of the hospitals on our neighbor islands and in rural communities.  It is getting harder and harder for us as a state to operate these hospitals well.

We need the resources the private sector can bring to bear on the increasingly complex issues and challenges of health care.  We recently signed a historic agreement transferring the operation and management of the Maui Region health care facilities from the state to Kaiser Permanente.  There is still work ahead but this is a great step forward.  Thanks to all of you for working with us to make this happen.

In these and many other ways, we are committed to maintaining your trust—the public’s trust—and to closely mind the state’s purse strings as we prioritize and invest in the projects and programs that are long overdue.

WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY
When we govern in the right way, we conduct the people’s business WITH the community, not against it or around it or without it.  I’ve long had strong concerns about the way the redevelopment in Kakaako proceeded.  So do a lot of people who felt left out.

We have a great opportunity to learn from past experience and do things differently going forward.  We have an immediate opportunity to get it right in Kalihi.

One of the harshest realities facing us today is that we need to tear down the Oahu Correctional Facility in Kalihi and build a new facility in Halawa.  The jail is severely overcrowded and in disrepair and we must take action.

Therefore, I am introducing a bill to move this forward.

The facility will be designed to take advantage of all that we have learned about incarceration, and the need to give inmates a real opportunity to change their lives.  Once the correctional facility has been moved, we can take advantage of the transit-oriented development opportunities created by the rail transit system.

In the next couple of weeks, I intend to put together a group of community leaders who will convene a series of community meetings to let Kalihi speak about what Kalihi wants and what role it will play in the future of Honolulu.

The land at Dillingham and Puuhale could be used for affordable housing, open space for recreation, commercial development and the jobs that it would bring, education and many other possibilities.  And there are other state housing and mixed-use developments in various stages of planning and development in Kalihi.

In short, this is a tremendous opportunity to reposition Kalihi for the future.

This Kalihi 21st Century initiative truly gives us the opportunity to do community planning the right way.  No one deserves this more than the people of Kalihi.

This is long overdue.

GOVERNING WITH COMPASSION
Governing in the right way is about people.  That’s why we will do what needs to be done with compassion.

Homelessness in Hawaii presents a complex and difficult issue.  On one hand, we need to ensure that our parks and sidewalks remain open and safe for all to use.  But we will do this with compassion and respect, especially when families with young children are involved.  We will be sure that shelters are available for them.

We cannot force people into shelters, but we can do our best to help those families.  That’s why we increased funding for the Housing First effort and organized a Landlord Summit to encourage acceptance of more low-income and homeless tenants from building owners.

We are also currently in the final stages of renovating a 5,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Kakaako to house up to 240 people a year.  This facility will not be just another shelter.  Instead, it will be a Family Assessment Center that will quickly connect families to longer term housing.

An additional $8.3 million has been included in my budget for Fiscal Year 2017 to operate the Family Assessment Center, expand the Housing First Program on the neighbor islands, and establish a new Rapid Re-housing program throughout the state.

The ultimate goal of the state’s efforts to address homelessness is to make permanent housing available.

I am also pleased to announce that the state will be investing $5 million immediately to jumpstart a new public-private partnership with Aloha United Way.  It will provide direct funding for rapid re-housing, homeless prevention services and establish a statewide referral system. It will also develop long-term homeless strategies to address the needs of the most vulnerable individuals, including unaccompanied youth and those with chronic health concerns.

This initiative is expected to provide immediate relief to an estimated 1300 households.

My thanks to the Legislature, county mayors and the many community groups committed to helping homeless families and individuals throughout the state.

Affordable Housing
You cannot talk about homelessness without talking about the major reason why it has become so widespread.  And that is the lack of affordable housing.  It is estimated that 66,000 housing units are needed in the coming years. The state alone cannot fill the gap, but the state wants to do its part.

That’s why we are working with the private sector to develop a comprehensive approach to reduce regulatory barriers, strengthen financial tools, streamline procedures and re-orient policies toward increasing housing production.  We’ve expanded our partnerships with the private sector to build more affordable homes and rentals across the state.

Last year, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation awarded about $10 million in low-income housing tax credit and $108 million in loans and bonds to leverage over $660 million in total development costs.

This year, because of the great demand, we are seeking $75 million for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund to make more money available for low-income rentals.

But the biggest roadblock to developing more homes is the lack of adequate infrastructure that allows housing projects to even begin.  The state can make a major contribution by funding projects such as roads and water systems.

That’s why I am proposing legislation to allow us to use the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund for infrastructure development.  We are also asking for a $25-million increase to that fund in Fiscal Year 2017.

Public Housing
We’re also thinking outside the box in renovating the state’s public housing facilities.

The North School Street redevelopment project will be one of three Oahu public housing initiatives to enter into a public-private partnership that allows for a mixed-use/mixed income model.  Kuhio Park Terrace and Mayor Wright Homes are the other two.

These projects will redefine our concept of public housing and make it more efficient, more welcoming and more compassionate.

With the Mayor Wright Homes, we are in the process of formulating a master development agreement with Hunt Companies that has the potential of adding additional mixed-income units.  A development agreement with the Michaels Group for phase two of Kuhio Park Terrace is also imminent, with the potential for additional affordable units.

Private Sector and County Initiatives
There are other purely private sector projects in various stages of development that will contribute thousands of additional units, including Hoopili in East Kapolei and Koa Ridge in Central Oahu.  Combined, there will be over 10,000 units coming on line in the next few years.  While that is still not enough, it is a solid beginning.

We will also need innovative help from other levels of government.  I want to thank Honolulu Mayor Caldwell and the City Council for thinking out of the box to create an “accessory dwelling unit” plan to increase rentals.

Perhaps the greatest opportunities for housing on Oahu rest with transit-oriented development.  We will be working closely with you on affordable housing initiatives in this key area.  And mahalo to Mayor Carvalho of Kauai, Mayor Arakawa of Maui, Mayor Kenoi of Hawaii Island, and their respective county councils for stepping up their island-tailored efforts to house our people.

Hawaii State Hospital
Compassion must also extend to those who struggle each day with mental health issues.  Behavioral health issues are often the underlying cause of many of our social, health and economic challenges.  In fact, mental health is the single-most pressing unmet health issue facing our state.

That’s why we’re investing $160.5 million in a new forensic mental health facility on the grounds of the State Hospital in Kaneohe.  And we’ve budgeted $4.7 million in Fiscal Year 2017 to cover projected operating deficits at the State Hospital.

No one who has ever visited these facilities would ever question the need for these improvements.  We must address the severe overcrowding as well as the safety of our state employees.  We will work with you to find ways to accelerate the design and construction of this critically needed facility.

It is long overdue.

FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN
Governing in the right way also looks to the future.  For me, our highest single obligation is to take care of our children.

We need to cool our classrooms now, in energy-efficient ways that align with our commitment to end our dependence on imported fossil fuels.  Clean energy technology is changing rapidly and it’s becoming more efficient.  The Department of Education has already launched an energy-efficiency program called Ka Hei.  This is a start and we need to take it farther.

I am working with the DOE, other state departments, utilities and clean energy companies to cool 1,000 public school classrooms by the end of this year and thousands more each year through the end of 2018.

We are going to get this job done.

To start, we will use $100 million of Green Energy Market Securitization funds to immediately install energy-efficiency measures and air conditioning units in classrooms where our children need it the most.  By using existing GEMS program dollars, the Department of Education and its energy-efficiency partner, OpTerra, can quickly access affordable financing for a large portion of its cost to air condition our classrooms.

I know you share my concerns.  Let’s work together to support our kids.  You have my personal commitment that I will do all in my power to serve them.  I’ll work with anyone else who wants to do the same.

This, too, is long overdue.

LEGACY BUILDING
Finally, good governance creates a legacy—what we leave our children.

When I look at all the things we are doing right now, I see two legacy building elements in our current budget:  They are strengthening our economic foundation and encouraging innovation.

Economic Foundations
Tourism is one of our primary economic engines, generating over $14 billion each year in visitor spending and employing nearly 150,000 workers.  It’s essential for us to maintain our global position as a leader in the industry.

To do this, we need to make travel to Hawaii as easy as possible by expanding U.S. Customs pre-clearance for international visitors, particularly from Japan.  Honolulu is the fourth largest port of entry in the United States.

Through a CIP funding appropriation, we want to establish Kona as a second international airport, giving visitors more travel options and conveniences.

We are also asking for funds to modernize our airports and automate the passport control system.  This will enrich the visitor experience and encourage more carriers to fly here.

Agriculture and the Environment
In agriculture, we must move more aggressively to take on threats to our homegrown resources, with the creation of the Hawaii Invasive Species Authority.

Yes, it’s long overdue.

The authority is just part of a broader framework for sustainability in Hawaii that will connect all of our efforts in resource protection, water production and fishery restoration to support sustainable communities throughout the state.

Maui Sugar Lands
As I noted earlier, the end of sugar production in Hawaii provides us with new opportunities.  Here is the fundamental question:  In the future when we look upward to Central Maui, will we see green productive farmlands, a fallow dust bowl or more homes for the super wealthy?

We must learn from the failures of the past and vow not to repeat them.  Because we are running out of chances.

And so we will work steadfastly with Alexander & Baldwin and Mayor Arakawa to keep these lands in agriculture as a first priority.  This is a long-term top agenda item for everyone who loves what Hawaii stands for and where we came from as a people.

Our Military Family
The military is also a primary driver of our economy, and a very important one.  But that’s not how I want to focus on it today.

Many of us have friends and neighbors serving in the military here.   They are so much a part of us that we sometimes forget the risks and dangers that are a constant part of their lives.

We were tragically reminded of this when we lost twelve Marines recently.  I know we all grieve and pray with their families.  We were also reminded of the importance of what our military does in protecting democracy and peace in the Pacific and throughout the world.

And so to our military members and veterans here in the chamber today—to those who we owe so much—I’d like to ask them to stand and be recognized.

The Innovation Economy
In years past, our parents were forced to confront the reality that times were changing—that the plantations could no longer drive Hawaii’s economy, and a new economic engine had to be found.

Their answer was tourism. Today, with tourism at near capacity, we face a similar dilemma.

For those who haven’t noticed, innovation, fueled by technology, is driving the global economy at breakneck speed.  We simply must create an economic environment that enables Hawaii’s entrepreneurs to turn ideas into products and services so that we can compete in today’s global economy.

And we know that deploying a strong broadband capacity is critical to that kind of environment.

More importantly, innovation is not just a technological phenomenon.  It crosses all industries, including agriculture, fashion, “media and design,” clean energy, and healthcare.  And it creates good paying jobs that keep our best and brightest here where we need them.

For that reason, I am proposing we set aside $30 million over the next six years from our corporate tax revenues to support innovation enterprises.

We also need to support accelerator and venture fund activities to give talented entrepreneurs the means to create new products and services.  In addition, our investments will also help attract private money.

My strongest personal partner in this is University of Hawaii President David Lassner.  We are members of the Islander Wonk’s Club; there’s a sign-up sheet outside.  So it’s not too late to join!

VALUE BASED ACTIONS
Finally, making things right to make things happen is not just a nice slogan.

If we are truthful and act accordingly, if we value the public trust, if we govern with the people, if we are strong yet compassionate, if we take special care of our children, if we look to all of our futures, then we can more than meet the challenges we face today and tomorrow.

I began my remarks by talking about the end of sugar and the values handed down to us from our parents and grandparents who worked on those plantations.  I talked about the importance of transforming those values into action.

That takes leadership.  The kind of leadership and guidance provided by the late Ron Bright.

Ron was a teacher at Castle High School who transformed Hawaii, one student at a time, by engaging them in the performing arts.  He understood the importance of values.

His classroom was the theatrical stage where he directed generations of students in an imaginary world.  But the lessons they learned there were about life and the real world.  In his productions as artistic director of Castle’s Performing Arts Center, Ron celebrated our differences, reminded us of our common humanity and joyfully depicted life in all of its manifestations.

At this time, I’d like to recognize Ron’s family who is with us today.

Ron’s total commitment to the affirmation of life through education must continue to guide us.  Today, we need only watch the news on TV to see examples of man’s inhumanity to man, triggered by the fear of differences—racial, religious, national.  There are of course real dangers in the world that must be squarely met.

But it is also true that the world is becoming a smaller place where pluralism is increasingly the rule rather than the exception.  These conditions call less for fear and hostility and more for the unyielding affirmation of diversity.  We have found a way in these islands—anchored by a remarkable host culture and the enriching waves of immigration from east and west—to value and venerate who we are.

Many and yet one.

It is a lesson we have learned over time and it is an active pledge we must keep and live by every day.  The transcendent call from our island state to the surrounding world is that when we demean others we betray ourselves.

There is a finer, better way.  Pledge to it, make it real every day and lead the way.

Mahalo, and I look forward to the work ahead.