Hawaii Moon RIDERS Honored at Capital

The House of Representatives today recognized the Iolani School and Kealakehe High School robotics team, known as the Moon RIDERS, for their work on the electrodynamic dust shield lunar project and their partnerships with PISCES, NASA, and Google Lunar Xprize. 

PISCES Executive Director Rob Kelso, Moon RIDERS, and members of the Hawaii House of Representatives.

PISCES Executive Director Rob Kelso, Moon RIDERS, and members of the Hawaii House of Representatives.

In February, the group was selected to take part in an experiment involving electrodynamic dust shield technology that will be conducted on the surface of the moon by the end of 2016. 

Kealakehe teacher Justin Brown, Kealakehe student Moon RIDERS, and Reps. Nicole Lowen and Mark Nakashima.

Kealakehe teacher Justin Brown, Kealakehe student Moon RIDERS, and Reps. Nicole Lowen and Mark Nakashima.

The selected Hawaii students will be mentored by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  The project came about through an agreement with PISCES and NASA to work on a Hawaii high school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project.

Big Island Legislators Secure Over $200 Million in Capital Improvement Funding for Island Projects

Big Island legislators secured over $200 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for various projects across the island in the House proposed budget.

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The proposed budget includes funding for various highway improvements, monies for Big Island schools, plans for a new hospital in Kona, and continued financial support to complete the Kona Judiciary Complex.

Notable CIP funding highlights for Hawaii County include:

  • $55 million in continued funding for the design and construction of a Judiciary Complex in Kona
  • $1.2 million for the plans and design of a new hospital in Kona
  • $2.35 million for the design and construction of a Kamuela post-harvest facility and vacuum cooling plant
  • $330,000 for improvements to the research campus in the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park
  • $30.212 for the construction of a new combined support maintenance shop complex for Hawaii Army National Guard at the Keaukaha military reservation
  • $1.675 million for Youth Challenge Academy renovations and improvements at Keaukaha military reservation
  • $2 million for the design of Building A phase 1 renovations at Hilo Intermediate School
  • $1 million for the construction of bleachers at Honokaa High School
  • $230,000 for the construction of drainage improvements and a raised covered walkway at Mountain View Elementary School
  • $450,000 for a new baseball batting cage at Waiakea High School
  • $1.58 million for the design of a new classroom building at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School
  • $300,000 for parking improvements at Kealakehe Elementary School
  • $8.5 million for the land acquisition, design, construction and equipment for a multi-purpose workforce development processing facility
  • $1 million for the design and construction for Pu’u Wa’awa’a structure improvements and dam compliance
  • $400,000 for the plans and design for improvements at the North Kawaihae small boat harbor
  • $600,000 for the land acquisition and design for a community center in Waiakea Uka
  • $200,000 for building renovations and improvements at the Paauilo slaughterhouse plant
  • $3.5 million for airfield improvements at Hilo International Airport
  • $61 million for the design and construction of a new airport rescue firefighters regional training facility at the Kona International Airport at Keahole
  • $1.425 million for physical modifications to improve navigational safety and operational efficiencies at Hilo Harbor
  • $3.6 million for Kohala Mountain Road drainage improvements by mile post 10.60
  • $8 million for the rehabilitation of Ninole Bridge along Mamalahoa Highway (route 11)
  • $15 million for repair and maintenance of feeder roads and alternate routes for Highway 130
  • $660,000 for land acquisition to extend the Daniel K. Inouye Highway from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway
  • $1.5 million for the construction of portable trailers at Hawaii Community College
  • $350,000 to renovate the tennis court at Honokaa High and Intermediate School
  • $2.46 million lump sum for renovations at Hilo High School
  • $1.23 million lump sum for renovations at Konawaena Middle School
  • $780,000 lump sum for renovations at Kohala High
  • $4.99 million for photovoltaic projects for East Hawaii HHSC region
  • $3.492 million total for renovations at Kona Community Hospital
  • $750,000 for an 80 bed intake unit at Hawaii Community Correctional Center to address overcrowding

 

Commentary – Group Disappointed in Child Molester Sentence

We’re appalled that an admitted child molesting teacher may spend just a year in prison.

We are deeply disappointed in Judge Glenn Kim’s decision to jail William Plourde so briefly. And we call on him to publicly explain why he gave such a lenient sentence – more appropriate for a purse snatcher than a child molester.

William Plourde

William Plourde

We beg officials in the Hawaii Catholic Church to aggressively reach out to anyone who saw, suspects, or suffered child sex crimes by Plourde and urge them to call police and prosecutors so that he might be charged again and kept away from kids longer. We suspect, based on our group’s 25 year history, that other current or former staff at Sacred Hearts Academy had inklings that Plourde had sexually violated kids but kept silent. We hope they’ll find the courage to step forward now.

It’s very possible that Plourde could be prosecuted and convicted for other child sex crimes. But the best way to make that happen is for Catholic school and church officials to use their vast resources to prod though who may have information or suspicions about Plourde to call law enforcement right away.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Finance Committee Passes Budget Bill to Fund Kona Courthouse

The House Committee on Finance passed today its drafts of several budget bills, including the budgets for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), the Judiciary and the Executive operating and Capital Improvement Projects (CIP).

Kona Judiciary

Kona Judiciary

 

Included in the CIP allocations is $55 million to fully fund the Kona Judiciary Project, which received partial funding in the last biennium. With this final allocation, the project would be able to finally move forward and begin construction.

“As a member of the House Finance Committee, I helped to ensure that the House position is to fully fund the courthouse this year. Hopefully, the Senate will leave the funding in there. West Hawaii has been waiting a long time for this and if we continue to wait, costs will increase and conditions in the current facilities will continue to deteriorate. It’s crucial to get this project funded this year,” said Representative Nicole Lowen (District 6 – Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa).

The budget bills will now move to the House floor for a full vote, and then to the Senate for their consideration.

Rep. San Buenaventura Bills Pass House, Advances to Senate

As the 2015 Legislature reached its midway point this week, a number of bills introduced by Puna Representative Joy San Buenaventura are now up for consideration by the Senate after being passed by the full House of Representatives.

Reps. Joy San Buenaventura and Richard Creagan on the House floor.

Reps. Joy San Buenaventura and Richard Creagan on the House floor.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to keep these bills alive halfway through the very rigorous process of creating legislation,” Rep. Buenaventura said.  “They represent real solutions to everyday issues and problems faced by the people of Puna in the aftermath of life changing natural disasters, and I will continue to push for them even as they move to the Senate chambers.”

Among the bills are several measures that seek to address concerns raised by residents affected by the recent natural disasters that have impacted the Puna region.

  • HB737, HD2 helps current and future homeowners who reside in lava zone areas that has been declared to be in a state of emergency to obtain and renew property insurance policies.  This Act also enables a homeowner, in such a lava zone, who had no prior property insurance coverage to purchase insurance coverage to be effective within six months from the date of policy acceptance. (Co-introducer)
  • HB1314 HD1 establishes the emergency home relocation special fund to assist persons dispossessed of their homes as a result of a natural disaster by providing for infrastructure development, grants, and loans. (Primary Introducer)
  • HB376 HD2 makes specific changes to the Chief Election Officer including designating the position as an at-will employee; and requires the State Elections Commission to conduct a performance evaluation and to hold a public hearing on the performance of the Chief Elections Officer. (Primary introducer)

Others bills introduced by Rep. San Buenaventura and passed by the House include:

  • HB847, HD1 appropriates funds for an Interdisciplinary Hawaii Health Systems Corp. (HHSC) Primary Care Training Program at Hilo Medical Center to address the shortage of primary care physicians—particularly on the neighbor islands and in rural communities. (Co-introducer)
  • HB851, HD1 appropriates funds to establish an advanced life support ambulance based in Puna. (Co-introducer)
  • HB1107 appropriates funds for the establishment and maintenance of a bookmobile that will serve the rural areas of the island of Hawaii. (Primary introducer)
  • HB1370, HD1 provides statutory authority for the Employees’ Retirement System Administrator to make direct payment to a former spouse of a member of benefits or portion thereof pursuant to valid court judgment, order or decree. (Primary introducer)
  • HB87 shields process servers from prosecution under criminal trespass statutes when performing their duties. (Primary introducer)

A full list of measures proposed by Rep. San Buenaventura is available at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?report=intro&year=2015&leg=San%20Buenaventura&rpt_type=first_pri.

Rail Surcharge, Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Among Key Bills Approved by Hawaii House

As the Thursday crossover deadline approaches, the House passed bills: modifying the state’s excise tax surcharge for rail, authorizing the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii, requiring health insurers with greater than 20 percent of the state’s small group insurance market to offer qualified health plans under the Hawaii Health Connector, and facilitating the creation of a private-public partnership for Maui’s public hospitals.

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The House also passed on to the Senate today another 200 bills including measures addressing the state’s infrastructure, local businesses and the economy, and participation and transparency in government.  The three areas reflect the focus of the House majority on improving and modernizing government that was identified at the start of the legislative session.

The House now stands in recess and will reconvene to take action on any remaining final measures for third reading on Thursday, March 12 at 12 p.m. To date, the House has approved more than 300 bills this session, which will now move to the Senate for its consideration.

Following Thursday’s crossover deadline, the House will focus its attention on HB500, relating to the state budget, which must be passed out of the committee on Finance by March 16 and voted on by the full body by March 18.

Key and topical measures passed by the House today include:

  • HB134, HD1, which removes the authority of the City and County of Honolulu to collect a tax surcharge beginning on January 1, 2016, but would allow all counties, including the City and County of Honolulu, to adopt a new tax surcharge at a rate of 0.25 per cent, beginning on January 1, 2017, and restricts the tax surcharge adopted by the City and County of Honolulu, if any, to be used for Honolulu’s rail project
  • HB321, HD1, which establishes and provides funding for medical marijuana dispensaries and production centers, mandates at least one dispensary in each county, and allows for the manufacturing of capsules, lozenges, oils and pills containing medical marijuana
  • HB1467, HD2, which enables Hawaii’s Health Connector to offer large group coverage to insurers and requires health insurers with a greater than 20 percent share of the state’s small group health insurance market to offer at least one silver and at least one gold qualified health plan as a condition for participating in the Health Connector’s individual market
  • HB1075, HD2, which authorizes the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation Maui Regional System to enter into an agreement with a private entity to transition one or more of its facilities into a new private Hawaii nonprofit corporation
  • HB1112, HD2, which reconsolidates Hawaii Health Systems Corporation’s (HHSC) operational administration and oversight by eliminating regional system boards, repealing certain limits on operational authority within HHSC and amending requirements for HHSC supplemental bargaining agreements for its employees
  • HB295, HD1, which limits compelled disclosure of sources or unpublished information by journalists, newscasters and persons participating in collection or dissemination of news or information of substantial public interest (Shield Law), and establishes exceptions
  • HB940, HD1, which prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices in places where smoking is prohibited
  • HB1089, HD2, which requires motor vehicle safety inspections to be conducted every two years rather than annually for vehicles registered in a county with a population of 300,000 or less
  • HB1090, HD2, which prohibits non-compete agreements and restrictive covenants that forbid post-employment competition for employees of a technology business to stimulate economic development in Hawaii’s technology business sector
  • HB1011, HD1, which defines dangerous wheels on motor vehicles and prohibits their use
  • HB631, HD2, which establishes the documentation required when a birth registrant requests the state Department of Health to issue a new birth certificate with a sex designation change;

In addition, bills relating to the focus of the House majority on improving and modernizing government include:

INFRASTRUCTURE

Education

  • HB820, HD2, which establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning Prekindergarten Program to be administered by the Executive Office on Early Learning and provided through Department of Education public schools and public charter schools
  • HB819, HD2, which requires state and county agencies and grantees that serve youth to adopt bullying prevention policies, and establishes a task force to assist the Governor with bullying prevention policies in the state

Energy

  • HB1504, HD2, which requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to study electric utilities, including organizational models and the conversion process, and establishes a cap on the Hawaii electricity reliability surcharge for interconnection to the Hawaii electric system
  • HB623, HD2, which increases the state’s renewable portfolio standards to 70 percent by December 31, 2035, and 100 percent by December 31, 2045, and adds the impact on renewable energy developer energy prices to PUC study and reporting requirements
  • HB264, HD1, which requires the PUC to establish a process for the creation of integrated energy districts or micro-grids
  • HB1286, HD2, which amends the state’s objectives and policies relating to energy facility systems, including a policy of ensuring that fossil fuels such as liquefied natural gas be used only as a transitional, limited-term replacement of petroleum for electricity generation and not impede the development and use of renewable energy sources
  • HB1509, HD3, which requires the University of Hawaii to establish a collective goal of becoming a net-zero energy user by January 1, 2035, establishes the University of Hawaii Net-zero Special Fund, and appropriates funds for capital improvement projects and for staff
  • HB240, HD1, which expands the types of businesses qualified to receive benefits under the state enterprise zone law to include service businesses that provide air conditioning project services from seawater air conditioning district cooling systems

The Environment

  • HB1087, HD1, which establishes a task force on field-constructed underground storage tanks in Hawaii, and changes the amount of the tax deposited into the Environmental Response Revolving Fund from five cents per barrel to an unspecified amount to support environmental activities and programs
  • HB440, HD1, which appropriates funds to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for projects related to watershed management plans, equipment for fire, natural disaster and emergency response, and forest and outdoor recreation improvement
  • HB438, HD1, which appropriates funds to the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission for restoration and preservation projects
  • HB444, HD3, which expands the scope of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Beach Restoration Plans and Beach Restoration Special Fund to include beach conservation and allocates funds from the Transient Accommodations Tax for beach restoration and conservation
  • HB620, HD2, which prohibits labeling of a plastic product as compostable unless it meets ASTM D6400 standards (American Society for Testing Materials)
  • HB722, HD2, which establishes a Lipoa Point Management Council within the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for the development of Lipoa Point, and appropriates moneys for land surveyor services, maintenance services and development of a master plan
  • HB1141, HD2, which prohibits new installation of a cesspool and new construction served by a cesspool after December 31, 2016, and authorizes the state Department of Health to develop rules for exceptions
  • HB749, which imposes on wholesalers and dealers a beach clean-up cigarette fee per cigarette sold, used or possessed, and establishes and allocates monies generated to the Beach Clean-Up Special Fund for litter removal from beach land

University of Hawaii

  • HB540, HD1, which seeks to improve the accounting and fiscal management system of the University of Hawaii by requiring the Board of Regents to submit to the Legislature before the end of each fiscal quarter a fiscal program performance report

Financial Stability

  • HB171, HD1, which appropriates funds for fiscal year 2015-2016 to be deposited into the Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund
  • HB172, HD1, which appropriates funds for fiscal year 2015-2016 to be deposited into the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund
  • HB1102, HD1, which requires the state Department of Taxation to conduct a study on modernizing the state tax collection system and submit a report to the legislature
  • HB1356, which establishes the Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund to stabilize the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund when there is insufficient money to cover the costs of providing benefits to employee-beneficiaries and dependent-beneficiaries, and caps employer contributions to the separate trust fund when the separate accounts for each public employer within the separate trust fund have a combined balance of at least $2 billion

Women

  • HB456, HD1, which provides a safe mechanism for reporting complaints regarding domestic violence when a police officer is involved
  • HB457, HD1, which appropriates funds for positions and materials to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
  • HB452, HD1, which appropriates funds to the Department of the Attorney General for statewide sexual assault counseling and support services for fiscal biennium 2015-2017 and, beginning with the 2017-2018 fiscal year, sets a minimum base budget of the state Department of the Attorney General for statewide sexual assault counseling and support services
  • HB459, HD2, which specifies additional elements in Hawaii’s existing sexuality health education law, including additional criteria regarding implementation of sexuality health education instruction, and requires the state Department of Education to provide certain types of sexuality health education information to the public and parents

Kupuna

  • HB1195, HD1, which increases the capacity of Type 1 Expanded Adult Residential Care Homes from two to three nursing facility level residents
  • HB600, HD1, which authorizes the state Department of Health to allow two private-pay individuals to be cared for in the same Community Care Foster Family home if certain requirements are met
  • HB493, HD1, which appropriates funds for a permanent full-time director and permanent full-time faculty specialist position within the University of Hawaii Center on Aging
  • HB492, which appropriates funds for the Judiciary to enter into contracts with community mediation centers for mediation services which can resolve disputes in a shorter timeframe and more economically than litigation and trial (Mediation serves two critical community needs: It increases access to justice for low income and vulnerable elderly residents to address legal disputes, and it provides the means to resolve family disputes, particularly those involving the care and needs of the elderly family member)

Consumer Protection

  • HB619, HD3, which clarifies standards and criteria for the Public Utilities Commission and Division of Consumer Advocacy to apply when determining whether to approve a sale, lease, assignment, mortgage, disposition, encumbrance, merger, or consolidation of an electric utility
  • HB737, HD2, which limits the total number of property insurance policies that an insurer may annually non-renew in a lava zone in Hawaii County during a state of emergency to 5 percent of the insurer’s policies in force, except for nonpayment of premiums or impairment of the insurer’s financial soundness and bars moratoria on residential property insurance in a lava zone in Hawaii County during a state of emergency if property insurance would be otherwise unavailable
  • HB268, HD2, which grants the director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs the power to issue cease and desist orders for the unlicensed practice of dentistry and for any other act or practice in violation of the dental licensing laws upon a specific determination that the failure to take such action may result in an immediate and unreasonable threat to personal safety or of fraud that jeopardizes or endangers the health or safety of patients or the public
  • HB1384, HD2, which requires additional Land Use Commission review for permit plan applications for wind turbines with over 100 kilowatt capacity and located within three-quarters of a mile of residential, school, hospital or business property lines

Social Safety Net

  • HB1377, HD1, which makes an appropriation to develop the specifications and pricing, as well as an implementation plan, for a web-based data system in the Early Intervention Section of the state Department of Health, and makes an appropriation for operating expenses and to establish one permanent coordinator position in the Children with Special Health Needs Branch of the Department of Health to improve social-emotional and behavioral outcomes for children birth to age five
  • HB253, HD2, which authorizes pharmacists to administer vaccines to persons between 14 and 17 years of age who have a valid prescription from the patient’s medical home
  • HB886, HD1, which extends the high-earner income tax brackets by an additional five years, raises the income tax credits provided to low-income households by the refundable food/excise tax credit and low-income household renter’s credit, and amends gross income thresholds for households qualifying for the low-income household renter’s credit
  • HB1091, HD1, which increases the standard deduction and allowable personal exemption amounts for all filing statuses, and increases the number of exemptions that may be claimed by taxpayers who are 65 years of age or older and meet certain income requirements
  • HB1295, HD1, which increases the low-income housing tax credit to 100 percent of the qualified basis for each building located in Hawaii

BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY

Agriculture

  • HB1042, which appropriates funds for grants-in-aid to the counties for assistance with identifying and mapping Important Agricultural Lands
  • HB205, HD1, which includes traditional Hawaiian farming and small-scale farming to the objectives and policies for the economy to the Hawaii State Planning Act

Invasive Species

  • HB482, HD 2, which establishes a full-time temporary program manager position in state Department of Agriculture for the Pesticide Subsidy Program

Tourism

  • HB197, HD2, which amends amount of Transient Accommodations Tax revenues allocated to the counties from a specified sum to a percentage of the revenues collected for the counties to address visitor industry impacts on county services and tourism-related infrastructure
  • HB825, HD1, which establishes licensing requirements and enforcement provisions for transient vacation rentals to be administered by the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
  • HB792, HD2, which amends the Hawaii Rules of Evidence to authorize nonresident property crime victims to testify in misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor property criminal proceedings by a live two-way video connection

Economic Development

  • HB1454, HD2, which establishes a nonrefundable income tax credit for taxpayers who incur certain expenses for manufacturing products in Hawaii, starting with the taxable years beginning after December 31, 2015 (Sunsets January 1, 2023)
  • HB867, HD1, which authorizes the director of finance to issue general obligation bonds to support the Pacific International Space Center for exploration systems’ basalt rebar initiative, including construction of a basalt rebar plant and engineering assessments of the manufactured basalt rebar
  • HB1482, HD2, which establishes a crowdfunding exemption for limited intrastate investments between Hawaii residents and Hawaii businesses, limited to no more than $1,000,000 raised over a twelve month period, and no more than $5,000 per investor
  • HB1282, HD1, which appropriates monies for an engineering assessment and study for establishing a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii to be conducted jointly by the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

IMPROVING GOVERNMENT

Elections

  • HB124, HD2, which requires the Office of Elections to implement elections by mail in a county with a population less than 100,000 beginning with the primary election in 2016 (In 2018, elections by mail will be held in one or more counties with a population of more than 100,000) and, thereafter, requires all federal, state, and county primary, special primary, general, special general and special elections to be conducted by mail
  • HB15, HD1, which creates a statewide standard for the distribution of absentee ballots
  • HB376, HD2, which specifies that the Chief Election Officer is an at-will employee, requires Elections Commission to provide notice and reason for removal of a Chief Election Officer, requires a performance evaluation of the Chief Election Officer after a general election, and requires a public hearing on the Chief Election Officer’s performance for purposes of considering reappointment
  • HB401, HD2, which provides that all applicants for a new or renewed driver’s license, provisional license, instructional permit or civil identification card must either clearly decline to register to vote or fill out the voter affidavit on their application before their application can be processed
  • HB612, HD2, which prohibits disclosure of votes cast in a postponed election, authorizes discretionary withholding of election results unrelated to postponement, clarifies Governor’s emergency postponement authority, and limits postponement period to seven days after an election

Transparency in government

  • HB1491, HD2, which requires non-candidate committees making only independent expenditures to report whether their contributors of $10,000 or more are subject to disclosure reporting requirements and provide information about the contributor’s funding sources
  • HB180, HD1, which clarifies the requirements relating to the statement of expenditures of lobbyists to be filed for a special session.

A complete list of bills passed by the House to date is available on the Capitol website at:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?year=2015&report=deadline&active=true&rpt_type=firstCross&measuretype=HB&title=House%20Bills%20Crossed%20Over%20to%20the%20Senate

Hawaii State Legislature Forms Outdoor Heritage Caucus

Today, Senator Laura Thielen (25th Senatorial District) and Representative Cindy Evans (7th House District) announced the launch of the Outdoor Heritage Caucus.

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The caucus’s mission is to identify, protect, and promote the State of Hawai‘i’s heritage of subsistence hunting and fishing, outdoor cultural practices and recreational activities, and to foster appreciation and respect for outdoor heritage.

The caucus will focus on: (1) ensuring public access to public lands for the enjoyment of outdoor pursuits; (2) safeguarding the integrity of user-pays trust funds, license revenues, and other dedicated financial contributions by hunter men and women, fishermen and women, and outdoor recreational users; and (3) enhancing state aquatic and wildlife habitat conservation for current and future generations. Legislators in this caucus will watch national debate on issues related to outdoor cultural practices, recreational activities, and hunting and fishing.

“We are pleased to announce the formation of the Outdoor Heritage Caucus,” Evans stated. “With population growth and challenges of liability, many people are looking at our natural resources from different aspects. We need to find balance to make sure that we can use the outdoors but still maintain protection of our natural resources so we can pass on our practices. The group of legislators in this caucus would like to send a strong statement that we value the quality of life in Hawai‘i and perpetuate the joys and opportunities outdoors for future generations.”

“The Outdoor Heritage Caucus is a great way to showcase and advocate for outdoor recreation in Hawai‘i,” said Thielen. As more and more residents and tourists explore our state’s varied outdoor recreational opportunities, it is important to ensure that there is adequate support and funding for these opportunities.”

outdoor caucus

737 House Bills Continue Through Legislative Process

Measures relating to medical marijuana dispensaries, health, transparency in government, the state’s fiscal obligations, public hospitals and affordable housing

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One month into the session, 737 bills, a little more than half the 1,515 bills originally introduced by representatives for the 2015 Legislature, are still being considered.  The measures include bills relating to medical marijuana dispensaries, health care, transparency in government, the state’s public hospitals, affordable housing and the state’s fiscal obligations, including the Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund.

Today, Feb. 20, is the deadline for House bills to reach the final committee to which they’ve been referred.

Among the bills that continue to move through the legislative process in the House include measures that: create medical marijuana dispensaries and production centers, require the Office of Elections to implement elections by mail, appropriate funds for the Kupuna Care Program and an Aging and Disabilities Resource Center, require the UH Board of Regents to study the feasibility of selling or leasing the building housing the Cancer Center.

In addition, other House bills still alive include those that: address invasive species, increase the tax credit for low-income household renters, make permanent the counties’ authority to establish a surcharge on state tax, limit compelled disclosure of sources or unpublished information by journalists (Shield Law), and enable the Hawaii Health Connector to offer large group coverage.

All House measures that have passed the first lateral deadline can be viewed at http://1.usa.gov/1w7aLUy.

House Bill Would Create Videoconferencing Venue From Big Island

The House Committee on Legislative Management passed HB1054 last Wednesday, which would establish a pilot program to enable the House to receive live oral testimony from the County of Hawaii through audio or audiovisual technology.  The trial program would run through June 30, 2017.

Hawaii DOE educators used their computers to join the Access Learning legislative briefing via video conferencing. Clockwise, from top right: Moanalua Middle Principal Lisa Nagamine, Pahoa Elementary Principal Michelle Payne-Arakaki, and Keaau Elemenatry Principal Chad Keone Farias.

Hawaii DOE educators used their computers to join the Access Learning legislative briefing in 2014 via video conferencing. Clockwise, from top right: Moanalua Middle Principal Lisa Nagamine, Pahoa Elementary Principal Michelle Payne-Arakaki, and Keaau Elemenatry Principal Chad Keone Farias.

“This pilot program would remove one of the biggest hurdles facing Hawaii Island residents in voicing their opinions on issues that matter to them, without having to buy a plane ticket to Oahu to do so,” said Rep. Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau), who introduced the bill.

“I am also working with House staff and leadership on other ways we might be able to extend remote access to the Capitol to neighbor islands that might not require legislation.  The technology to be able to do this has been around for a while and government is running out of excuses for not using it.”

The proposal calls for the House to coordinate with the County of Hawaii to identify sites or facilities that have existing audio and audiovisual capabilities that could be used to allow residents to present live oral testimony. The bill also requires the House to consult with the County of Hawaii, the chief information officer, and the Disability and Communication Access Board, and appropriates monies to establish audio or audiovisual systems.

The bill now moves on to the House Judiciary Committee and, if passed, proceeds to Finance.

Applicants Wanted for Ethics and Campaign Spending Commissions

The Judicial Council is seeking applicants to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Hawai`i State Ethics Commission created by a term expiring on June 30, 2015. The council is also seeking nominees to fill two upcoming vacancies on the Campaign Spending Commission.
JudiciaryMembers of both commissions serve on a voluntary basis. Travel expenses incurred by neighbor island commissioners to attend meetings on O`ahu will be reimbursed.

Applicants must be U. S. citizens, residents of the State of Hawai`i and may not hold any other public office.

The Ethics Commission addresses ethical issues involving legislators, registered lobbyists, and state employees (with the exception of judges, who are governed by the Commission on Judicial Conduct). The five commission members are responsible for investigating complaints, providing advisory opinions, and enforcing decisions issued by the Commission. The Hawai`i State Constitution prohibits members of the Ethics Commission “from taking an active part in political management or political campaigns.”

The primary duty of the five members of the Campaign Spending Commission is to supervise campaign contributions and expenditures. Commissioners may not participate in political campaigns or contribute to candidates or political committees.

The Governor will select the commissioners from a list of nominees submitted by the Judicial Council.

Interested persons should submit an application along with a resume and three letters of recommendation (attesting to the applicant’s character and integrity) postmarked by March 13, 2015. to: Judicial Council, Hawai`i Supreme Court, 417 S. King Street, Second Floor, Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813-2902.

Applications are available on the Hawai`i State Judiciary website or by calling the Judicial Council at 539-4702.

Puna Representative San Buenaventura Announces 2015 Package of Bills

First-term Puna Representative Joy San Buenaventura has introduced a slate of Puna related bills, in the aftermath of last summer’s Hurricane Iselle and in response to the ongoing lava flow from the Pu’u O’o vent.

Joy San Buenaventura“The residents of Puna face distinct issues that require us to take special action,” says San Buenaventura.  “By working together we can take on these problems and build a better and more vibrant community.  That’s why I’ve introduced these measures addressing a broad range of issues that Puna faces collectively and individually and will continue to face in the aftermath of this current flow activity.”

The following bills relate to the Puu Oo lava flow:

  • HB1314 Emergency Home Relocation Special Fund; Appropriation.  Establishes the emergency home relocation special fund to assist persons dispossessed of their homes as a result of a natural disaster. Appropriates funds.
  • HB1369 CIP; County of Hawaii; Road Repair and Maintenance; GO Bonds; Appropriation.  Authorizes general obligation bonds and appropriates funds to the county of Hawaii for the repair and maintenance of feeder roads and alternate routes for highway 130 and any portion of highway 130 under the jurisdiction of the county.
  • HB1106 CIP; 4th Representative District.  Authorizes issuance of general obligation bonds and appropriates moneys for capital improvement projects in the 4th representative district.
  • HB737 Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund; Hawaii Property Insurance Association.  Authorizes the Hawaii property insurance association to spend funds in the Hawaii hurricane relief fund to pay for extraordinary losses caused by the flow of lava or other volcanic activity.
  • HB1320 Emergency Management; Tree Maintenance.  Authorizes entry into private property to mitigate hazards posed by trees to utility and communications lines and roadways. Assesses a fine of $150 per day against a landowner whose property must be entered for this purpose.
  • HB383 Emergency Medical Services; Advanced Life Support Ambulance.  Makes an appropriation for one advanced life support ambulance to be based in Puna on the island of Hawaii and to be used from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and to include a vehicle, equipment, and personnel costs.
  • HB377 Mobile Health Unit; Appropriation.  Appropriates a grant to the Bay Clinic, Inc., for a mobile health unit to service the Puna district due to the threat of inaccessibility from the lava flow.
  • HB374 Transportation; Harbors; Kapoho Bay; Feasibility Study.  Requires DOT to contract for a study on the feasibility of establishing a harbor or port at Kapoho bay.
  • HB370 HPIA; Policy Renewals; Continued Coverage.  Requires member insurers of HPIA to renew policies that were in effect as of 1/1/2014. Provides for continued coverage under an existing HPIA policy upon a transfer in ownership of the property.
  • HB380 HPIA; Mandatory Issuance of Policies; Removal of Moratorium.  Requires member insurers of HPIA to offer a minimum number of policies proportionate to their market share on properties that are situated in the areas designated for coverage by the insurance commissioner and that have been previously and continuously insured since 06/01/2014. Prohibits HPIA from issuing or continuing a moratorium on issuing policies on those same properties.

 The following bills relate to Puna and the Big Island in general:

  • HB1107 Bookmobile; Big Island; Educational Materials; Department of Education; Appropriation.  Appropriates funds for the establishment and maintenance of a bookmobile that shall serve the rural areas of the island of Hawaii.
  • HR6 Cellular; Broadband; Rural Communities. Requests reports regarding state agency action to ensure access by rural communities to cellular and broadband services.
  • HB376 Chief Election Officer; Elections Commission; Evaluation; Term Length.  Changes the term of the chief election officer to 2 years. Requires the elections commission to conduct a performance evaluation of the chief election officer within 2 months of certifying election results, and hold a public hearing relating to the performance evaluation.
  • HB378 After School Bus Program; Island of Hawaii; Appropriation.  Restores funding for the after school bus program on the island of Hawaii that was excluded from the 2015-2017 executive biennium budget. Appropriates moneys.
  • HB1155 Albizia Trees; Conservation and Resources Enforcement Special Fund; Appropriation.  Makes an appropriation from the conservation and resources enforcement special fund to DLNR for the removal of albizia trees on public and private land.
  • HB1134 Judiciary; Third Circuit; Ho‘okele; Appropriations.  Appropriates moneys for equipment, supplies, and salaries for Ho‘okele legal self-help service centers in Hilo and Kona.
  • HB88 County Fuel Tax; Hawaii County.  Permit’s Hawaii County to expend its share of fuel tax revenues for maintenance of private subdivision roads. Specifies that public entities are not required to install infrastructure on these roads upon a private sale.

 The following bills relate to overall state issues:

  • HB87 Process Server; Criminal Trespass.  Shields process servers from prosecution under criminal trespass statutes when performing their duties.
  • HB371 Foreclosures; Asset.  Prohibits a mortgage creditor from executing on any asset of the debtor beyond the asset that is secured by the mortgage.
  • HB372 Marijuana; Civil Penalties for Possession of One Ounce or Less.  Establishes a civil violation for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana that is subject to fines.
  • HB373 Transient Accommodations Tax.  Amends amount of transient accommodations tax revenues allocated to the counties from a specified sum to an unspecified percentage of the revenues collected.
  • HB375 Attachment or Execution of Property; Exemptions.  Amends the thresholds for the exemption of real property from attachment or execution to be based upon the most recent real property tax assessment, regardless of value and for all types of property owners. Clarifies that attachment or execution does not apply to a debtor who is not delinquent in payment of income taxes, real property taxes, or mortgages. Bases the value threshold of certain personal property exempted from attachment and execution on the fair market value as adjusted by the consumer price index. Exempts child support moneys and tax refunds from the federal earned income tax credit and federal or state child support tax credit from attachment and execution.
  • HB381 Homeowners’ Associations; Planned Community Associations.  Expands the law on planned community associations to apply to homeowners’ associations so that all disputes are mediated instead of going to court.
  • HB382 Employees’ Retirement System; Division of Pension.  Requires the Employees’ Retirement System to divide pensions between a retired employee and non-employee former spouse or civil union partner, upon application and pursuant to a qualified domestic relations order. This has the effect of ensuring that employees for the full pension benefits and in the event of domestic violence spouse, victim need not ask for their share of pension.
  • HB833 Transient Accommodations Tax; Counties; Revenues.  Makes permanent the current amount of transient accommodations tax revenues allocated for distribution to the counties. This allows the county of Hawaii to file and the State cannot lessen the county’s share of the annual hotel room tax
  • HB834 Check Cashing; Deferred Deposits.  Requires the written agreement for the deferred deposit of checks to also state that all cumulative fees charged for deferred deposit transactions shall not exceed an annual percentage rate of 39%.
  • HB1204 Procurement; Sustainable Procurements Manager; Appropriation.  Appropriates funds for a new position within the state procurement office tasked with facilitating the development and implementation of procurement processes for public agencies and private organizations for the purpose of food sustainability in Hawaii.
  • HB1205 Hawaii-grown Food Procurement Task Force; Procurement; Appropriation.  Establishes and appropriates funds for the Hawaii-grown food procurement task force for the purpose of creating recommendations for increasing procurement of food grown in Hawaii by State departments and agencies.
  • HB1206 University of Hawaii Sustainability Office; Appropriation.  Establishes the University of Hawaii sustainability office.  Appropriates funds.

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bills by logging onto the Capitol website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

A full list of measures proposed by Rep. San Buenaventura is available at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?report=intro&year=2015&leg=San%20Buenaventura&rpt_type=first_pri.

 The public is also invited to a community meeting later this month at the Pahoa Community Center on Feb. 27, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. The community is welcomed to stop by to voice their concerns and to receive a legislative update from Rep. San Buenaventura.

Anyone wishing to receive information and updates via email can join Rep. San Buenaventura’s email list by sending a request to sanbuenaventura1@Capitol.hawaii.gov.

Bill Introduced to Curb Domestic Violence by Law Enforcement Officers

Vice Speaker John M. Mizuno introduced HB1199 which requires law enforcement agencies to adopt and implement a written policy on domestic violence committed or allegedly committed by law enforcement officers.

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The bill also requires standards to be adopted as well as training deadlines, administrative procedures and reporting requirements. The bill requires public and private non-profit domestic violence advocates to be consulted when adopting policies.

“A victim of domestic violence is placed in an especially precarious position if her abuser happens to be a law enforcement officer” said Mizuno. “It is imperative that strong policies, procedures and training are in place so that incidents such as the recent indictment of a police officer for assault on his girlfriend can hopefully be prevented in the future.  If officers receive the proper training and clearly understand the agency’s policies and potential consequences regarding domestic violence we should be able to lower incidences by law enforcement officers in the future.”

Women’s Legislative Caucus House-Senate Joint Package Focuses on Safety and Well-Being of Women

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

2015 Women's Legislative Caucus Members

2015 Women’s Legislative Caucus Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMPROVING REPORTING & ENFORCEMENT PRACTICES RELATED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULT

HB446/SB384, relating to the Confidentiality Program, Confidentiality Program Surcharge Fund and Confidentiality Program Grant Fund

Establishes the Address Confidentiality Program to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault relocate and keep their addresses confidential.  Creates the Address Confidentiality Program Surcharge Fund.

HB447/SB390, relating to domestic abuse, Department of Human Services and Family Court

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

HB448/SB386, relating to domestic violence fatality reviews and Department of Health

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

HB453/SB391, relating to psychologists continuing education, ethics and domestic violence

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

HB452/SB393, relating to statewide sexual assault services, the Attorney General, base budget and appropriations

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

REDUCING VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULTS ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

HB451/SB387, relating to affirmative consent and the University of Hawaii system

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

ENSURING ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE

HB455/SB385, relating to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, the Department of Health and appropriations

Appropriates funds to the Department of Health for the breast and cervical cancer control program.

ADDRESSING HAWAII’S HIGH COST OF LIVING FOR WORKING FAMILIES

HB454/SB392, relating to the income tax credit and low-income household renters

Amends income tax credit for low-income household renters to adjust for inflation.  Applies to taxable years beginning after 12/31/2015.

RESTORING PUBLIC TRUST WITH TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY OVER POLICE POLICIES & PROCEDURES

HB449/SB388, relating to county police departments, domestic violence policies and standards of conduct

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

HB450/SB389, relating to police commissioners, county police commissions, composition and requirements

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

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bills by logging onto the Capitol website at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?report=package&pkey=12&year=2015&name=Women%27s+Legislative+Caucus

For more information, please contact:

Senate

  • Senator Rosalyn Baker 808-586-6070
  • Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland 808-586-6130

House of Representatives

  • Representative Della Au Belatti 808-586-9425
  • Representative Cynthia Thielen 808-586-6480

 

Hawaii Chief Justice Delivers State of the Judiciary Address

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald delivered the State of the Judiciary address today at a joint session of the State Senate and House.

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald

The mission of the Judiciary is to deliver justice for all.  We do that in many different ways, both in the courtroom and in the community. We ensure that people are treated fairly, whatever their background. We uphold the rights and protections of the constitution, even when doing so may be unpopular.  We provide a place where people can peacefully resolve their disputes, as well as opportunities for them to move forward from the circumstances that brought them before the courts,” said CJ Recktenwald.

One key focus of the State of the Judiciary address was “Access to Justice,” and the Judiciary’s efforts to provide equal justice to all.  CJ Recktenwald thanked the Access to Justice Commission for achieving “amazing results with extremely limited resources,” and the many attorneys who volunteer their time towards this mission.

He highlighted the opening of self-help centers in courthouses across the state.  Since the first center opened in 2011, more than 7,600 people have been assisted, at almost no cost to the public.  The Judiciary is also using technology to expand its reach and accessibility. In partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Hawaii State Public Library System, interactive software to help litigants fill out court forms, is now available on the Judiciary’s website and libraries statewide.

Additional Judiciary initiatives highlighted in the address include:

  • Expansion of the Veterans Treatment Court to the Big Island
  • First Circuit Family Court’s Zero-to-Three Court, which is designed to meet the needs of infants and toddlers whose parents are suspected of abuse or neglect
  • Permanency Court, which focuses on the needs of kids who are “aging out” of the foster care system
  • Courts in the Community Outreach Program, which gives high school students the opportunity to go beyond textbooks and experience an actual Supreme Court oral argument.

CJ Recktenwald also discussed several new initiatives, including: a HOPE Pretrial Pilot Project, designed to apply the same HOPE strategies to defendants who have been charged with crimes and released on conditions prior to their trials; the Girls Court program, which will be expanding to Kauai next month; and confirmed plans for an environmental court to be implemented as scheduled by July 1, 2015.

CJ Recktenwald also addressed the challenges of the future.  One of the challenges he discussed was the need to improve infrastructure and to provide a new courthouse to meet the needs of the growing West Hawaii community.

“Currently in West Hawai‘i, court proceedings are being held in three different locations, in buildings that were not designed as courthouses, which in turn has led to severe security, logistical, and operational problems,” described CJ Recktenwald.  “To address these concerns, we have proposed building a centralized courthouse in Kona,” he added.

The Judiciary launched a new website this week dedicated to the Kona Judiciary Complex Project.  This website displays the preliminary design plans, provides project updates, and welcomes feedback from the public.

CJ Recktenwald concluded the address by thanking the more than 1,800 justices, judges, and judiciary staff “who put their hearts and souls” into making equal justice for all a reality each and every day.  He also thanked all the volunteers and partners in the community and other branches of government who work side-by-side with the Judiciary towards fulfilling the mission of providing justice for all in Hawaii.

West Hawaii Community Forum to be Held Next Week

The next Community Forum sponsored by Community Enterprises will be held on Thursday, January 15, at 6:00 pm at the Old Kona Airport Park, Maka’eo Pavilion.
West Hawaii Community Forums

This month’s forum will feature briefings by four West Hawaii State Legislators: Senate District 3 Senator Josh Green, District 7 Representative Cindy Evans, District 6 Representative Nicole Lowen and District 5 Representative Richard Creagan. The legislators will discuss their Committee assignments, their priorities for legislation affecting the State and West Hawaii in particular. State Senator Lorraine Inouye is unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts. The evening program will also feature a brief update of County Council business by a West Hawaii County Councilperson.

A panel discussion will follow the individual presentations and the audience will have the opportunity to present questions to the Legislators. Sherry Bracken will serve as moderator for the evening program.

This forum is being held just a few days before the opening of the Legislative session and will be a good opportunity to discuss topics that are of concern to West Hawaii and to inform our Legislators about State issues that you think should be a priority this legislative session. Health care, education (all levels), infrastructure (highways, harbors, etc.), agriculture, truth in labeling, tourism, and the state budget are topics that are expected to be addressed.

The doors will open at 5:30 pm and pupus and beverages will be served. The program is free and open to the public. For more information please call John Buckstead at 326-9779 or email jbuckstead@hawaii.rr.com.

Community Enterprises Inc. is a private non-profit organization with a 501c (3) designation from the IRS. Its mission is to bring educational resources to the residents of West Hawaii so they can better participate in the public policy issues that affect their lives and their communities. Visit us at our website www.konatownmeeting.org.

Legislature Slashes Pahoa Booster Club Funding – Payments Still Not Received

In May the Hawaii State Legislature appropriated $92,362 in Grant-in-Aid (GIA) funding for the Pahoa Booster Club. This grant was to go towards establishing the Pahoa football program serving the entire Puna area within the 96778 zip code, which includes all Pahoa public and charter schools, with the focus on an eight-man team. The Pahoa Booster Club was formed out of community desire to assist the Pahoa Regional Schools and their student athletic programs.

Parents have wondered where this money has gone and I’ve received comments like:

I heard that the $90K funding the new Pahoa Booster Club received to fund the 8 man football team hasn’t reached Pahoa school yet. You heard anything about that?…

I inquired with the Pahoa Booster Club and was forwarded the following from their accountant:

On October 9th the following was received from the DOE in reference to the GIA requestes that had been approved.

Due to declining tax revenue collections, on September 2, 2014, the Governor needed to impose a $24 million restriction (withholding) on the Department of Education’s general fund appropriation for the current fiscal year (7/1/14-6/30/15).  To implement this restriction the Department of Education, with the approval of the Board of Education, will need to withhold a portion of each grant-in-aid appropriation as well as funding for many educational programs.

Booster FundingGuidance from the Budget Execution Policies that announced the $24 million restriction related to grant-in-aid appropriations is that “departments should refrain from requesting release of these types of appropriations until the start of the second half of the fiscal year.”  What this is referring to is the prior written approval of the Governor that is required prior to the finalization of a contract with organizations that received grant-in-aid awards by the Legislature.  So what the Budget Execution Policies are saying is Department’s should not even initiate the process until the second half of the fiscal year.  http://budget.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/EM-14-06-FY-15-Budget-Execution-Policies-Instructions.pdf

Despite these instructions the Department of Education has already initiated the process and requested the Governor’s approval to release funds for all of the GIA’s appropriated through the Department’s EDN100 and EDN200 budgets.

We are currently awaiting approval for the finalization of contracts.

Keep in mind that even if the Governor approves the release of funds at a level higher than reflected above, unless a portion of the $24 million restriction is lifted the Department will only be able to expend up to the amounts in the last column of the table above.

At this point the football grant, under fiscal sponsor Kalani Honua, was reduced from $92,362 to $78,562.

On November 17, the contract was sent to the Booster Club, dated Nov 10, for the full amount of the original grant, $92,362 with a payment schedule calling for a 2nd quarter payment of $87,362.    On November 18,  a purchase order was received, dated 10/23/14 in the amount of $78,562.

Because of the different dated and numbers, the Booster Club invoice was submitted to the DOE for the amount of $87,362, which appear to be the correct amount because the contract was dated after the purchase order.

Last week, I received a phone call from the DOE that the invoice needed to be for the amount of the purchase order.  That revised invoice was sent by Kalani Honua with a copy of the purchase order today.  We are required to send hard copy, not fax or pdf.

The DOE has agreed to expedite processing as soon as the invoice is received.

I hope this explanation helps.

 

Hawaii House Leadership and Committee Assignments Announced

House Speaker Joseph M. Souki today announced the appointments of the House of Representatives Majority leadership lineup for the 28th Legislature which convenes on January 21, 2015.

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“The team that we have formed represents the kind of talents and abilities that will best serve our residents and will address the issues facing our state,” said Speaker Souki. “We look forward to engaging in meaningful discussions with Governor-elect David Ige and his administration to continue to identify ideas and solutions to help Hawaii move forward.”

Members of the House Leadership are as follows:

  • Speaker of the House              Joseph M. Souki
  • Vice Speaker                           John M. Mizuno
  • Majority Leader                      Scott K. Saiki
  • Majority Floor Leader             Cindy Evans
  • Majority Whip                         Ken Ito
  • Asst. Majority Leader             Chris Lee
  • Asst. Majority Leader             Roy M. Takumi
  • Speaker Emeritus                    Calvin K.Y. Say

2015 House Committee Chairpersons:

  • Agriculture (AGR)

Clift Tsuji, Chair

Richard H.K. Onishi, Vice Chair

  • Economic Development & Business (EDB)

Derek S.K. Kawakami, Chair

Sam Kong, Vice Chair

  • Veterans, Military & International Affairs (VMI)

Romy M. Cachola, Chair

Ken Ito, Vice Chair

  • Tourism & Culture and the Arts (TCA)

Tom Brower, Chair

Takashi Ohno, Vice Chair

 

  • Labor & Public Employment (LAB)

Mark M. Nakashima, Chair

Jarrett Keohokalole, Vice Chair

 

  • Public Safety (PBS)

Gregg Takayama, Chair

Kyle T. Yamashita, Vice Chair

 

  • Transportation, (TRN)

Henry J.C. Aquino, Chair

Matthew LoPresti, Vice Chair

 

  • Health (HLT)

Della Au Belatti, Chair

Dee Morikawa, Vice Chair

 

  • Housing (HSG)

Mark J. Hashem, Chair

Richard Creagan, Vice Chair

 

  • Human Services (HUS)

Mele Carroll, Chair

Bertrand Kobayashi, Vice Chair

 

  • Energy & Environmental Protection (EEP)

Chris Lee, Chair

Nicole E. Lowen, Vice Chair

 

  • Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs (OMH)

Kaniela Ing, Chair

Nicole E. Lowen, Vice Chair

 

  • Water & Land (WAL)

Ryan I. Yamane, Chair

Ty J.K. Cullen, Vice Chair

 

  • Education (EDN)

Roy M. Takumi, Chair

Takashi Ohno, Vice Chair

 

  • Higher Education, (HED)

Isaac W. Choy, Chair

Linda Ichiyama, Vice Chair

 

  • Finance (FIN)

Sylvia Luke, Chair

Scott Y. Nishimoto, Vice Chair

 

  • Legislative Management (LMG)

Scott Y. Nishimoto, Chair

John M. Mizuno, Vice Chair

 

  • Consumer Protection & Commerce (CPC)

Angus L.K. McKelvey, Chair

Justin H. Woodson, Vice Chair

 

  • Judiciary (JUD)

Karl Rhoads, Chair

Joy San Buenaventura, Vice Chair

Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force Announces Updated Report on Policies and Procdures

UDATE: The meeting will not be open for public testimony.

The Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force has announced the release of a newly updated report on the policies and procedures for access, distribution, security, and other relevant issues related to the medical use of marijuana in Hawaii. The report was produced by the Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and updates findings released in an earlier report first published in August 2009.

Medical Marijuana

In 2000, the Hawaii State Legislature passed a law enabling the use of medical marijuana by qualified individuals. However, the law did not provide these individuals with a legal method of obtaining marijuana—making it illegal for patients and caregivers to get medical marijuana for legitimate use.

This year the Legislature passed HCR48, establishing under the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Public Policy Center, the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force to develop recommendations to establish a regulated statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana.

The updated LRB report highlights glaring uncertainties within Hawaii’s medical marijuana program in regards to the access and transportation of medical marijuana. The program currently only allows qualifying patients to use medical marijuana, but does not provide them with any method to obtain it other than for them to grow a limited amount on their own. However, the sale of marijuana—including seeds for cultivation—remains illegal under state law.  As a result qualifying patients who suffer from cancer or other debilitating diseases are unable to legally acquire medical marijuana to find relief and improve the quality of their lives.

Additionally, it is uncertain whether or to what extent a qualifying patient or caregiver may transport medical marijuana anywhere outside the home on the same island, or island to island, without violating state drug enforcement laws.

“It has been over a decade since Hawaii took the historic step of legalizing medical marijuana to better the lives our residents. But as we have learned throughout the years and once again validated by the report, issues still exist with the program that need to be addressed,” said House Health Chair Della Au Belatti. “The task force is working towards improving our medical cannabis system with the goal of facilitating access for patients through a legal dispensary system or other means.”

The Dispensary System Task Force will submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including proposed legislation to the 2015 Legislature.

On Tuesday, September 9, from 9:00 – 11:00 am at the Hawaii State Capitol, Room 325, the Dispensary Task Force will be briefed by the Legislative Reference Bureau on its 2014 report.

Public hearings on Hawaii Island and Oahu have been scheduled by the Task Force to obtain public testimony on issues and concerns regarding dispensaries in Hawaii and any input on the updated Legislative Reference Bureau report.  These public hearings are scheduled as follows:

  • Hawaii Island (Hilo): Wednesday, September 10th at 5:00 pm. Aupuni Center.
  • Oahu: Wednesday, September 24th at 5:00 pm. Hawaii State Capitol Auditorium.

The updated report and more information on the Dispensary Task Force is available online at http://www.publicpolicycenter.hawaii.edu/projects-programs/hcr48.html

Hawaii Earns Top Ranking in National Report on Progress in Open Data

One of 6 States to Receive a Perfect Score from Center for Data Innovation

The State of Hawaii is ranked among the top states for progress in open data in a new report (http://www.datainnovation.org/2014/08/state-open-data-policies-and-portals/) published this week by the Center for Data Innovation, the leading think tank studying the intersection of data, technology and public policy.

Click for more information.

Click for more information.

“This national recognition shows that collaborative and determined efforts on the part of this administration and the Legislature, together with our private sector partners and the public, have made great strides since launching our state’s business and information transformation in 2011,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “We have developed a strong open government program that is rapidly improving transparency and accountability of state government.”

Hawaii was one of six states (Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma and Utah) to receive a perfect score in the Center for Data Innovation’s report, which evaluated states based on the contents of their open data policies and open data portals. Points are awarded for the presence of an open data policy, quality of open data policy, presence of an open data portal, and quality of an open data portal.

“Open data that does not compromise security or privacy is becoming more readily available to the public through data.hawaii.gov, recognizing that it belongs to the people of Hawaii,” said the Governor’s Chief Advisor on Technology and Cybersecurity, Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia, who launched Hawaii’s Open Data Portal as Hawaii’s first chief information officer. “This award demonstrates that Hawaii can set a new national standard of excellence for open government.

“I’d like to acknowledge our dedicated state personnel at the Offices of Information Management Technology (OIMT) and Information Practices, as well as our partners at the Hawaii Community Foundation, Hawaii Open Data, and Socrata. We all need to support State CIO Keone Kali and his OIMT team as they continue to enhance the standard of excellence for the State of Hawaii.”

Hawaii’s Business & Information Technology/Information Resource Management (IT/IRM) Transformation Plan and initiatives have received national recognition for innovation winning 20 national awards including being the only state recipient for the Fed 100 Award in 2013 and Government innovator of the Year in 2014. For more information on the plan, visit OIMT’s website at oimt.hawaii.gov.

The Center for Data Innovation is a non-profit, non-partisan research institute affiliated with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. For more information about the center, visit datainnovation.org.

Hawaii Missed Opportunities to Improve Drinking Water Infrastructure

Millions of dollars in federal funds intended for drinking water projects in Hawaii and four other states have sat unspent, according to a federal report.

The report, issued July 16, follows one in 2011 in which the EPA's OIG said the DWSRF program was not doing enough to find water systems that weren't compliant with regulations and could benefit from the program. The EPA provides the DWSRF funds to the states.  Click to view report

The report, issued July 16, follows one in 2011 in which the EPA’s OIG said the DWSRF program was not doing enough to find water systems that weren’t compliant with regulations and could benefit from the program. The EPA provides the DWSRF funds to the states. Click to view report

The Office of Inspector General for the Environmental Protection Agency said it found that five states reviewed — Missouri, California, Connecticut, Hawaii and New Mexico — have $231 million in unspent balances above the goal level in the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans for cities, towns and local water districts to make drinking water infrastructure improvements.

We found that the EPA and the five states we reviewed took many actions to reduce DWSRF unliquidated balances, but those actions have not reduced DWSRF unliquidated balances to the goal of below 13 percent of the cumulative federal capitalization grants awarded.

For the period we examined the five states reviewed — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri and New Mexico — executed small numbers of loans each year and did not maximize the use of all DWSRF resources, including capitalization grant awards. State programs reviewed were not adequately projecting the DWSRF resources that would be available in the future to enable the states to anticipate the amount of projects needed to be ready for loan execution in a given year.

As a result, $231 million of capitalization grant funds remained idle, loans were not issued, and communities were not able to implement needed drinking water improvements.

We also noted that states’ project lists included in the capitalization grant application —called fundable lists —did not reflect projects that would be funded in the current year and overestimated the number of projects that will receive funding.

Less than one-third of the projects on the fundable lists we reviewed resulted in executed DWSRF loans during the current grant year.

We found that, generally, these states did not have a consistent “ready-to-proceed” definition.

When projects are not ready to proceed, expected environmental benefits are delayed.

Because states use the fundable lists to justify their annual capitalization grants, the fundable lists should communicate to the EPA and the public the projects that will be funded with taxpayer money.

Recommendations and Planned Corrective Actions

  • We recommend that the Assistant Administrator for Water require states with unliquidated obligations that exceed the Office of Water’s 13-percent-cutoff goal to project future cash flows to ensure funds are expended as efficiently as possible.
  • We also recommend that the Assistant Administrator develop guidance for states on what projects are to be included on the fundable lists and require regions, when reviewing capitalization grant applications, to ensure states are complying with the guidance.

The EPA agreed to take sufficient corrective actions on most of the recommendations.  The EPA still needs to take steps to ensure states have adopted the EPA’s guidance on the definition of “ready to proceed.