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.

Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission Launches New Data Visualization Application

The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission launched a new data visualization application on its website, which will permit anyone to see how noncandidate committees which includes Super PACs are raising and spending money on 2014 state and county races.

In partnership with the State of Hawaii’s Office of Information Management & Technology (OIMT), Information & Communication Services Division (ICSD), and Socrata, the Commission unveiled its newest tool today on its website.

Access the Noncandidate Committee Data Visualization App

This new application will permit you to view charts of a noncandidate committee’s campaign spending data for a particular election period.  Similar to the candidate committee application which was released in November 2013, this app will permit you to view pie charts, a geo-map and a bar chart from data derived from the noncandidate committees’ reports which are filed electronically with the Commission from the last 6 years.  Highlights of the new app include:

  • Percentage of how contributions are funded (by individuals, candidate committees, noncandidate committees, vendor/business)
  • Percentage of contributions received from in-state versus out-of-state including geo-maps
  • Percentage of contributions by states as well as zip codes
  • Fundraising activity
  • Contributions to candidates categorized by office
  • Contributions to candidates categorized by party
  • Percentage of expenditures by category
  • Percentage of expenditures versus independent expenditures
  • Percentage of in-state versus out-of-state expenditures

campaign

This application was conceived to provide greater transparency and accountability in government and enable the public to follow the money of noncandidate committees’ participation in the elections in Hawaii.  “We hope this app will increase interest and voter engagement as we enter the primary election on August 9th and move towards the general election on November 4th,” said the Commission’s Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao.

For more information, contact:

Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao
Associate Director Anthony Baldomero
Campaign Spending Commission
Phone:  (808) 586-0285

State General Fund Ending Balance at $664.8 Million

The State of Hawaii concluded fiscal year 2014 with a $664.8 million ending balance, according to the preliminary close of 2014 accounts by the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS). The Department of Budget and Finance is providing this release as an annual update to the budgetary ending balance concluding fiscal year 2014.
Dags“Our financial house continues to be on a solid foundation, due to strong fiscal management,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie. “In 2013, we posted an ending balance of $844 million. We have now posted a positive ending balance of $664.8 million for 2014, after contributing $55.5 million to our state reserves via the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund and setting aside $100 million for the state’s unfunded liability for retiree health care benefits.”

DAGS is responsible for reconciling all the revenues and expenditures for every state department.  Based on its calculations, the state ended with $1.1 billion in cash, with $394.3 million in accrued expenses for an unreserved fund balance of $664.8 million.

“The Department of Budget and Finance reviewed the report from DAGS along with data from the state’s Financial System and concluded that of the $664.8 million approximately $126.3 million came from lapses or unexpended appropriations from state departments while still meeting significant financial obligations of the State,” said Finance Director Kalbert Young.  “Our consistent vigilance and administration in ensuring expenses are kept in check with projected revenues has once again assured Hawaii taxpayers that the fiscal condition of the state is and will remain soundly in the black.”

2014 “Rusty Scalpel” Winner Announced

The League of Women Voters and Common Cause Hawaii have a 2014 “Rusty Scalpel” winner, HB2434, CD1, Relating to the Transient Accommodations Tax! The two organizations offer a “Rusty Scalpel” award for the most altered bill whose original content is no longer recognizable because of “surgical techniques” that changed the original purpose of the bill.

hb2434During a Conference Committee near the end of the 2014 legislative session, without meaningful opportunity for public or agency comment, HB 2434 SD 2 was drastically amended. When introduced the measure was a bill to allocate $3 million of hotel tax revenues to a multi-purpose conservation fund. After the Conference Committee discarded the SD2, the bill morphed to a measure to refinance the Convention Center debt. Proceeds of the refinancing will be used to acquire the conservation easement at Turtle Bay, Oahu. Regardless of the final proposal’s merits, there was no compelling reason not to extend the session and hold public hearings on this important amended bill.

HB2434_SD2 Pdf File
HB2434_SD1 Pdf File
HB2434_HD2 Pdf File
HB2434_HD1 Pdf File
HB2434_CD1 Pdf File
HB2434 Pdf File

It disrespects Hawaii’s Constitution when a legislative committee adopts bill amendments with no rational connection to the subject of the bill referred to that committee. Article III, Section 14 of our Constitution specifically requires that each bill have a single subject expressed in the bill’s title and prohibits changing any bill’s title. Article III, Section 15 requires that each bill have three separate readings in each house of the Legislature. The unambiguous intent is to encourage informed public comment on all proposed legislation and thorough consideration of all relevant factors by both House and Senate subject matter committees. The public obviously is not aware of and cannot comment on substantive amendments being proposed in Conference Committee.

Ann Shaver, League President, said “This makes a travesty of the democratic process. Just because there are enough votes to pass a measure doesn’t make it Constitutional. HB2434 CD1 proposed a new idea, maybe even a great idea, but it was obviously unrelated to the bill’s original purpose. The content of the CD1 stunned us; it was passed without a single public hearing when there was no emergency. “

Carmille Lim of Common Cause added, “Citizens should be able to participate in the legislative process in a fair and orderly manner. In this case, a $40 million dollar appropriation was grafted on to a major last-minute change, depriving many members of the legislature from the normal review and give and take of budget discussions. Gutting bills and replacing content with new and unrelated content that alters the bill’s original intention does a disservice to members of the public and distorts the legislative process.

“Last year the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other civic organizations petitioned both houses of the Legislature asking that they amend legislative rules to ban such practices, but the legislature chose to do nothing. Maybe a Constitutional amendment to prohibit this would make democracy work a little better.

In the 2014 session the League and Common Cause identified dozens of bills which were subjected to these techniques. For example, HB 193 concerned developer compliance with conditions for land use district boundary amendments while HB 193, SD 1 concerned use of State property for transit-oriented development. Or for example, SB 2535 concerned State acquisition of real property for agricultural production while SB 2535, proposed HD 1 concerned labeling of genetically modified food.

In general, when the subject of a bill was totally changed after cross-over, only one public hearing was held on the amended subject (with the Senate totally disregarding public testimony to the House, and the House totally disregarding public testimony to the Senate). However, HB2434, CD1 was our “winner” because not only was it a “gut and replace” no hearing was held on the CD1 version of the bill.

Common Cause Hawaii is a state chapter of the national Common Cause organization. Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to protecting and improving Hawaii’s political process and holding government accountable to the public interest. For more information, www.commoncause.org/states/hawaii/

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 http://www.lwv-hawaii.com/index.htm

House Tourism Chair to Introduce Legislation Banning Aerial Advertising

Representative Tom Brower (Waikiki, Ala Moana) announced plans to introduce legislation banning aerial advertisement in the state of Hawaii. The proposed legislation will seek to clarify the ambiguities and jurisdiction of aerial advertising written in federal, state, and city law. The measure will specifically make it illegal for a pilot to fly a plane out of a state airport for the purpose of towing a banner for advertisement.
Aerial Banner
“I have had discussions with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and state officials to identify what we can do. Due to the ambiguities of city, state and federal law, there is a need for legislation to add more clarity. Right now, we have federal and state laws that need further explanation,” said Brower. “Our skies are under federal and local jurisdiction, but state airport officials issue contracts and agreements with pilots and businesses. While the FAA has indicated that plane operators need to abide by state law and county ordinance, the contract signed by the particular pilot in question did not specifically allow or deny the operation of a tow banner business.”

The plane operator, Aerial Banners North (ABN), has received a federal waiver to conduct banner towing operations nationwide, but state and city officials have strongly asserted that aerial advertisement is illegal under local law. ABN has argued that the waiver allowing them to operate across the nation, and in Hawaii, supersedes any state or county prohibitions.

On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration clarified that the waiver granted to Aerial Banners North which authorizes the company to conduct banner towing operations nationwide, “does not waive any state law or local ordinance. Should the proposed operations conflict with any state law or local ordinance, or require permission of local authorities or property owners, it is the operator’s responsibility to resolve the matter.”

“I care about the threat of aerial banners flying over Hawaii’s tourist destinations, ruining the natural beauty, interfering with outdoor recreation and enjoyment of residents and tourists. Most importantly, if we don’t act, this will set a bad precedent, opening the flood gates for more aerial advertising in Hawaii’s skies,” added Brower, Chair of the House Tourism Committee.

Commentary – League of Women Voters on Passage of Same-Day Voter Registration Bill

The League of Women Voters-Hawaii applauds the passage of HB 2590, Relating to Elections, known as the same-day voter registration bill, which was signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie today.

HB2590HB 2590 permits voter registration at absentee walk-in voting centers in 2016, and voter registration on Election Day at local precinct polling sites in 2018. These changes will make it more convenient to register to vote in Hawaii.

“Governor Abercrombie and the 2014 Legislature are to be congratulated for making voting in Hawaii more accessible to our citizens. By this action, voters in Hawaii will be able to go to the polls in increasing numbers, thus changing the pattern of low voter turnout of recent years,” stated League President Ann Shaver. “Experience has shown that same-day voter registration is also effective in getting younger voters to the polls.”

The League of Women Voters Hawaii has spent more than a decade fighting to improve voter turnout through same-day voter registration. Members have testified, lobbied legislators, and worked to educate the public about the importance of same-day voter registration in increasing voter turnout. The League worked for successful passage of HB 2590 in close collaboration with other civic groups, such as Common Cause Hawaii, and the bill’s primary sponsor, Representative Kaniela Ing.

“Representative Ing’s leadership on this issue was key to the bill’s passage, and we are pleased that we had such a strong ally in the struggle to make voter registration more accessible in our state,” said Shaver.

Several states already permit same-day voter registration, including Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary System Task Force Formed

The Public Policy Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa is convening the Medical Marijuana Dispensary System Task Force to develop recommendations for the establishment of a regulated statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana to provide safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualified patients.

Medical Marijuana

The first meeting was held today, Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 9:00 AM in Conference Room 325 of the State Capitol Building.

The task force will submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the Legislature no later than 20 days prior to the convening of the Regular Session of 2015.

For more information, please contact:

Susan M. Chandler, Public Policy Center · 956-4237

Representative Della Au Belatti, House Health Committee Chair · 586-9425

Peter Whiticar, Department of Health · 733-8443

Governor Abercrombie Signs 10 Bills Relating to Criminal Justice

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed ten criminal justice-related measures (Acts 112 to 121) addressing sex abuse, prostitution, crimes against children, violation of privacy, domestic violence, property crime, human trafficking, parking violations and law enforcement misconduct.

capital

“As I said in my State of the State Address in January, ‘Crimes against our common humanity will not be tolerated in Hawaii,’” Gov. Abercrombie said. “I commend the Legislature for addressing many areas of criminal justice as we work together to protect our citizens, especially our keiki.”

  • Senate Bill 2687 (Relating to Limitation of Actions) extends the period by an additional two years that a victim of child sexual abuse may bring an otherwise time-barred civil action against an abuser or entity with a duty or care, including the state and counties.
  • House Bill 2034 (Relating to Sexual Assault) removes the statute of limitations for criminal actions of sexual assault in the first and second degrees, as well as the continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14.
  • House Bill 1926 (Relating to Crime) amends the offense of solicitation of a minor for prostitution and the offense of prostitution to include sadomasochistic abuse under the definition of sexual conduct, including clarification that a law enforcement officer shall not be exempt from the offense while acting in the course and scope of duties. This measure also amends the applicability of a deferred acceptance of a guilty or nolo contendere plea and clarifies sentencing of repeat offenders and enhanced sentences for repeat violent and sexual offenders.
  • Senate Bill 702 (Relating to Child Abuse), known as “Alicia’s Law,” establishes an internet crimes against children special fund and an internet crimes against children fee of up to $100 for each felony or misdemeanor conviction. Fees will be deposited into the special fund, which will be used by the Department of the Attorney General to combat internet crimes against children. This measure also appropriates $62,500 into the new special fund.
  • House Bill 1750 (Relating to Public Order) expands the offense of violation of privacy in the first degree to include the disclosure of an image or video of another identifiable person either in the nude or engaging in sexual conduct without the consent of the depicted person with intent to harm substantially the depicted person.
  • House Bill 1993 (Relating to Domestic Violence) requires a police officer to make a reasonable inquiry of witnesses or household members when physical abuse or harm is suspected and order a no-contact period of 48 hours. This measure also makes the commission of physical abuse in the presence of a family or household member under the age of 14 a class C felony.
  • House Bill 2205 (Relating to Crime) imposes a mandatory minimum term of one year imprisonment upon conviction of habitual property crime and authorizes probation only for a first conviction.
  • House Bill 2038 (Relating to Human Trafficking) establishes the human trafficking victims services fund to be administered by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to provide support and services to human trafficking victims. This measure also imposes human trafficking victim fees to be imposed upon persons convicted of labor trafficking and prostitution offenses.
  • House Bill 1706 (Relating to Illegal Parking Upon Bikeways) sets a fixed fine of $200 for parking a vehicle on a bicycle lane or pathway.
  • Senate Bill 2591 (Relating to Law Enforcement), requires additional information from county police departments in their annual report to the Legislature of misconduct incidents that resulted in the suspension or discharge of an officer. This measure also allows the disclosure of certain information regarding officer misconduct in cases that result in discharge, after 90 days have passed following the issuance of the decision.

Governor Abercrombie Signs Bill Updating Hawaii’s Emergency Management Laws

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed House Bill 849 (Act 111), a measure that updates the state’s emergency management statues, including clarification of the relationship between state and county emergency management agencies and the emergency management functions and powers of the governor and mayors.

hb849

The bill was introduced in the 2013 legislative session and updates laws more than 60 years old that were primarily focused on nuclear attack and civil unrest.

“This measure will ensure that the state is better prepared for all catastrophic events, both natural and manmade, in safeguarding the people of Hawaii,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “In addition, this act will better integrate state and county disaster response planning and reorganizes the authorities and responsibilities of government leaders, providing the public with increased clarity during difficult and uncertain circumstances.”

The signing of this bill also changes the name of State Civil Defense to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. Hawaii was the last state to retain the use of civil defense in reference to its emergency management agency. This change brings Hawaii in line with modern best practices and updates the outdated language and references used in prior statutes.

Act 111 also establishes an Emergency Reserve Corps and authorizes the 24/7 State Warning Point, both critical increases in the state’s readiness to respond to hazards. It does not significantly change the governor’s emergency powers, but it does vest county mayors with emergency authorities independent of the state emergency management structure.

Governor Abercrombie Signs 5 Bills Relating to Energy

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed five energy-related measures (Acts 106 to 110) that address solar energy device warranties or guarantees, the energy systems development fund, the Public Utilities Commission, modernization of the electric grid and a car-sharing vehicle surcharge tax.

Energy Bills

“We spend billions of dollars a year on imported oil,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Let’s keep our money within the state by investing in clean, renewable energy development that will reduce carbon emissions in the process, helping to mitigate climate change. These bills are critical to Hawaii’s future and demonstrate our commitment to a more sustainable state for our residents.”

Senate Bill 2657 (Relating to Renewable Energy) requires contractors installing solar energy devices to notify private entities that installation may void roofing warranties or guarantees and to obtain written approval and follow written instructions for waterproofing roof penetrations from the roof manufacturer, unless the private entity forgoes the roofing warranty or guarantee. The measure also requires a roofing contractor that waterproofs roof penetrations related to the installation of a solar energy device to honor the roof warranty or guarantee.

Senate Bill 2196 (Relating to Energy) reestablishes the energy systems development special fund that was repealed on June 30, 2013. The measure also extends the allocation of revenues collected from the environmental response, energy and food security tax, also known as the “barrel tax,” to various special funds from 2015 to 2030.

Senate Bill 2948 (Relating to the Public Utilities Commission) transfers the administrative placement of the Commission from the Department of Budget and Finance to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and clarifies its authority to concerning standard administrative practices, including operational expenditures and hiring personnel. The measure also enables the commission chair to appoint, employ and dismiss an executive, fiscal and personnel officer.

House Bill 1943 (Modernization of the Hawaii Electric System) amends the Public Utilities Commission principles regarding the modernization of the electric grid.

Senate Bill 2731 (Relating to a Car-sharing Vehicle Surcharge Tax) establishes a car-sharing vehicle surcharge tax.

Governor Abercrombie Signs Bills in Support of Agriculture

Joined by Board of Agriculture Chair Scott Enright, legislators and Hawaii agriculture industry stakeholders, Gov. Neil Abercrombie yesterday signed six agriculture and land-related measures into law that address agricultural enterprises, invasive species, the makeup of the state Land Board, and clarifications to the agricultural cost tax credit. Ag Bill Signing

“Agriculture is a crucial component of our state’s sustainability, essential to keeping our dollars here in Hawaii and supporting thriving rural communities,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “These bills are important for the defense of our unique ecosystem, natural resources and economy. It is also our duty to care and protect the land beneath our feet, which gives us life and defines our culture.”

Click here for the list of bills

After signing what are now Acts 100 through 105, the Governor proclaimed June 16-22, 2014, “Pollinator Week in Hawaii,” coinciding with National Pollinator Week. The observance is held to promote awareness of valuable crop pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, beetles, ants and flies, with benefits ranging from crop pollination to ensuring healthy watershed.

Since 2010, the Abercrombie Administration has built a substantial record of achievement in support of agriculture and the people of Hawaii. Learn more about these and other accomplishments here.

 

Subsidy Program to Combat Coffee Berry Borer Signed Into Law

Coffee growers to receive direct financial assistance to control infestation

House Bill 1514, a measure introduced by Representative Nicole Lowen (District 6-Kailua Kona, Holualoa) to combat the devastating effects of the coffee berry borer (CBB) infestation, was signed into law today by Governor Neil Abercrombie.

The law creates a five-year subsidy program under the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to grant subsidies for coffee farmers to assist in offsetting the costs of combating the coffee berry borer beetle. The law also includes $500,000 in funding for the program.

Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei)

Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei)

“Subsidy programs like this have helped in other coffee-growing regions to provide an incentive for farmers to adopt best practices, and I’m hopeful that it will do the same in Kona.  Direct assistance from the State is critical for our coffee farmers, and this bill accomplishes that,” said Rep. Lowen.

Under the program, a single coffee farmer may receive reimbursement for the expense of the organic fungus used to control the pest of up to $600 per year per acre of land in coffee production, but not more than $9,000 per year. The legislation will go into effect on July 1, 2014.

In recent years the coffee berry borer beetle has become a major threat to Hawaii’s coffee industry, which is responsible for $30 million in revenue annually.  Past efforts by Representative Lowen have provided additional funds of $800,000 funds to help mitigate and study the infestation. This program will further help protect and maintain Hawaii’s coffee industry.

Line-Item Reduction of State Budget Needed

Line-Item Reduction of State Budget Needed, Budget Bill (HB1700) and Bond Declaration Bill (HB1712) Not in Alignment

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, along with Attorney General David Louie and Finance Director Kalbert Young, announced a plan yesterday to address an inconsistency in the amount of approximately $444 million between the budget bill and the bond authorization bill passed by the Legislature that is preventing each bill from being signed into law.

abercrombieheader“The proposed solution is the most efficient path to resolving this situation without the need for any additional costs to the taxpayer,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “I have consulted with the Speaker of the House, Senate President and the Department of Education. Working together, we believe we can enter the new fiscal year with a functional budget.”

The Department of the Attorney General and the Department of Budget and Finance advised the governor that the projects authorized in the Budget Bill (HB1700) exceed the amount certified in the Bond Declaration Bill (HB1712).

“Due to legal issues, I have advised the governor that he would not be able to sign the executive supplemental budget bill for fiscal year 2015 in its current form,” said Attorney General David Louie. “In addition, once the budget bill is reconciled, the Bond Declaration Bill could be signed no earlier than July 1, 2014.”

The Department of Budget and Finance reviewed the appropriations and declaration bills and was able to identify that the sources of the discrepancies were in the areas of state educational facilities improvement (SEFI) authorizations, the Judiciary budget, standalone appropriation bills and lapsed projects.

“We were able to pinpoint specific areas that were omitted in the bills passed by the Legislature and have concluded that it will require the governor to reconcile these bills in order to begin the new fiscal year, which starts July 1, with a working supplemental budget,” said Director of Finance, Kalbert Young.

Working with legislative leaders and the Department of Education (DOE), Gov. Abercrombie’s proposed solution would temporarily reduce the general obligation bond appropriation of SEFI projects through a line-item reduction in the budget bill. The total amount of bond projects authorized in HB1700 will therefore not exceed the amount certified in the bond declaration bill HB1712. This would be predicated on the need that the Legislature make-whole the amount reduced from the SEFI authorization when it reconvenes in regular session in January 2015. The DOE confirmed that it will plan to minimize impacts on projects already in the queue. This will necessitate a degree of project management and coordination that was not previously anticipated.

West Hawaii Community Forum to Feature West Hawaii Legislators

The May 13th Community Forum at the main pavilion at Old Kona Airport will feature West Hawaii Legislators who will provide an update on the recently adjourned legislative session. If you want to learn more about State activities and projects affecting West Hawaii, come to the free Community Enterprises’ May 13 Community Forum. Representatives Richard Creagan and Nicole Lowen and State Senator Malama Solomon will also be available for questions.

Dr. K. Marty Fletcher, the West Hawaii Director for the University of Hawaii programs will provide an update of current educational opportunities and potential future programs at the upcoming Palamanui Campus. Dr. Fletcher will also be available to answer questions from those attending.

Christianne Abella

Christianne Abella

Community Enterprises will make a special presentation to Christianna Abella, an 8th grader at Konawaena Middle School and Hawaii State Spelling Bee champion.

The May 13 West Hawaii Community Forum will be held from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Maka`eo Old Airport Pavilion. Pupus and beverages will be served.

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.

For more information please contact John Buckstead at 326-9779 or email at jbuckstead@hawaii.rr.com.

Senator Ruderman on $92,362 Grant-in-Aid for Pahoa Booster Club

The Hawaii State Legislature has appropriated $92,362 in Grant-in-Aid (GIA) funding for the Pahoa Booster Club. This grant will go to 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.

Senator Russell Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman

 “I would like to congratulate the Pahoa Booster Club on receiving this Grant-in-Aid award and for their tireless efforts and support of the youth in Puna. This grant will help to ensure that student athletes will get the support and resources they need to succeed in their desire to compete with their peers on the field,” said Senator Russell Ruderman. “All students deserve the opportunity to develop themselves not just academically, but also physically and mentally through organized athletics. Grants like this help equip them with the appropriate tools and services they will need to improve as individuals and these GIA funds will assist in laying down the foundation to achieve those goals.”

 

Governor Abercrombie Signs Bill Making Kindergarten Mandatory for All 5 Year Olds

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed Senate Bill 2768 (Act 76), a measure that makes kindergarten mandatory for children who will be at least 5 years of age on or before July 31 of the school year, unless otherwise exempt.

SB2768 Signing Ceremony

SB2768 Signing Ceremony

“Mandatory kindergarten builds on this administration’s early childhood education initiative by providing continuity in a child’s learning experience,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “This legislation assists in implementation of Common Core State Standards designed for kindergarten to grade 12, and places our students on the path to success in today’s global marketplace.”

“This bill aligns with the Department of Education goals and supports our young children so they may be successful learners,” stated Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.

“Now that Hawaii has finally joined the vast majority of states that have a state-funded prekindergarten, it is critical that kindergarten be seen as the logical and required next step,” said state Executive Office on Early Learning Director GG Weisenfeld. “With the rigors of the Common Core State Standards that are in place starting in kindergarten, we have to ensure our children get off to a good start, and this will really help every child to be successful.”

State Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Jill Tokuda said, “High-quality kindergarten establishes a firm foundation for a child’s educational future, helping to ensure growth and success as they move forward. Establishing mandatory kindergarten is an important part of creating our early learning system, especially as we call upon students to develop deeper levels of understanding through the Common Core.”

“There is no greater core function of government than providing our children the opportunity to succeed in life through public education,” House Education Committee Chair Rep. Roy Takumi said. “Mandatory kindergarten is a key part of this effort and a timely one at that. Until now, there has not been a need to require all families to enroll their children in kindergarten. But as we establish the first foundations of Hawaii’s early learning system, we need this important support to bridge the way for our children to succeed from prekindergarten throughout their school careers.”

Act 76 will take effect by the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. It amends the Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 302A-411 and 302A-1132, which lists exemptions from mandatory attendance.

Senator Josh Green Announces Over $60 Million for West Hawai’i

Sen. Josh Green

Sen. Josh Green

Aloha Friends,

I am pleased to report that this year the State Legislature has approved over $60 million for West Hawai’i to improve our region’s transportation, education, healthcare, and justice systems.

These important new investments in our community’s roads, schools, and hospitals will continue to create jobs, stimulate our economy, and build our community for years to come.

I am particularly pleased to report that the Legislature has designated $35 million for the Kona Judiciary Complex, a facility which represents a major state investment in the development of West Hawai’i and will house 230 full-time employees when it is completed. In 2011, the Legislature appropriated $12 million for land acquisition and design of the complex, and this year the Legislature approved $35 million with the intention of approving an additional $55 million to complete construction in the coming years.

This year the Legislature has also approved an additional $2.4 million to complete the construction of phase I of the new West Hawai’i Community College Campus at Palamanui, bringing the state investment in the new campus to $14.9 million in addition to private investment of close to $20 million. This new campus will give our young people the option of pursuing higher education in West Hawai’i, and will serve as an educational resource for our entire community.

In addition, the Legislature has renewed the Hospital Sustainability Act, which will this year bring than $62 million in federal money to help strengthen and support hospitals in Hawai’i, including millions of dollars for Kona Community Hospital and North Hawai’i Community Hospital on the Big Island.

Projects approved for West Hawai’i during the 2014 legislative session include:

  • Kona Judiciary Complex -$35 million for design and construction of the new Kona Judiciary Complex, a planned 142,00 square-foot facility on a 10-acre parcel across from the West Hawai`i Civic Center in Kona
  • Kona Community Hospital – $5 million for renovations and upgrades to Kona Community Hospital, including $2 million for elevator replacement, $2 million for electrical upgrades, and $1 million for asbestos abatement
  • Kona International Airport – $3.4 million for airport improvements including $1.9 million for design for improvements to the south ramp taxiway and ramp and other related improvements, and $1.5 million for design and construction of an international arrivals building
  • Ka`u Irrigation System – $2.5 million for design and construction of improvements to the irrigation system including ground and site improvements, equipment and appurtenances
  • NELHA – $2.5 million for plans, design, and construction to complete the exploration phase for potable water, to include well siting studies, field investigations, environmental assessment, permitting, plans and specifications for the exploratory well
  • West Hawai’i Community College at Palamanui – $2.4 million for design and construction of the completion of Phase I of the new West Hawai’i Community College Campus at Palamanui
  • Saddle Road Extension – $2 million for design of a new roadway and/or realignment and extending the Saddle Road from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway
  • West Hawai’i Veterans Cemetery – $1.6 million for plans, design, and construction of a non-potable water well including pumps, piping and appurtenances, water tank, and power generation system for West Hawai`i Veterans Cemetery
  • Public High School Improvements – $1.1 million for improvements to Public High Schools including $550,000 for Ka`u High School for construction to provide improvements for the current locker room and gym restoration, $300,000 for Kealakehe High School for design of upgrades to an all-weather and synthetic track, and $250,000 for Konawaena High School for design and equipment for the installation of a new lighting system for the gymnasium, ground and site improvements, equipment, and appurtenances
  • West Hawai’i Community Health Center – $1 million for construction of the West Hawai`i Community Health Center in Kona
  • Lai Opua 2020 – $950,000 for construction and improvements for the parking lot and road
  • Hawai’i Ocean View Estates Water Resources  – $725,000 for plans and design for the expansion of water resources
  • Kona Historical Society – $200,000 to provide project funding to develop educational programs, increase staffing and volunteer recruitment and training, improve cultural and historic sites, and maintain grounds and facilities
  • Hawai’i Island Humane Society – $200,000 for plans, design, construction and equipment for the Hawai`i Island Animal Community Center, Phase I
  • Project Vision Hawai’i – $79,214 to expand Big Island health screening services for the poor and disabled

As your State Senator, I will continue to work hard every day to improve our transportation, education, healthcare, and justice systems and make our roads, schools, and hospitals in West Hawai’i the best that they can be.

Let’s keep working together to achieve even greater results in the coming years, and to make West Hawai’i and our entire state an even better place to live.

Aloha,

Josh Green
State Senator
District 3, West Hawai’i

Governor Abercrombie Signs Bill Authorizing Industrial Hemp Research Program

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed Senate Bill 2175 (Act 56), a measure that allows the University of Hawaii (UH) College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) to establish a two-year industrial hemp remediation and biofuel crop research program.

Governor Abercrombie Signs Bill Authorizing Industrial Hemp Research Program

Governor Abercrombie Signs Bill Authorizing Industrial Hemp Research Program

Act 56 authorizes the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp in accordance with requirements established by the federal Agriculture Act of 2014, which allows higher education institutions and state departments of agriculture to conduct industrial hemp research.

“Hawaii’s environment and economy will benefit from this research,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. “Industrial hemp can be used to decontaminate soil and increase the state’s production of biodiesel, therefore reducing our dependency on imported fuel.”

Act 56, which takes effect July 1, requires the state Department of Agriculture to certify the industrial hemp seed stock and verify that plants grown are not marijuana. The program will be limited to one test site. It also states that the dean of the UH CTAHR must submit a final report, including any proposed legislation, to the Legislature prior to start of the 2016 legislative session.

District 4 on Hawaii Island to Receive Almost a Half-Billion Dollars in Capital Improvement Project Funding

Residents of the new North Hawai‘i Senate District 4 were assured they will receive a larger share back of the General Excise Taxes (GET) and Transient Accommodation Taxes (TAT) that this community generates as a result of the passage on final reading today of the 2014 Legislature’s supplemental budget bill, according to District 4 Senator Malama Solomon.

Sen. Malama Solomon

Sen. Malama Solomon

With the passage of this biennium budget (HB 1700 CD1), Sen. District 4 will receive close to a half-billion dollars in Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) — $380M in the first year of the biennium and $100M in this, the second year of the biennium budget, said Sen. Solomon.

District 4 includes Hilo, Hāmākua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikōloa, Puakō, Kawaihae and North Kona.

“Up until these past three years, our large district has not received back a fair share of the revenue it generates. After more than 15 years of serious neglect, coupled with population growth and shifting economic and community priorities, our District’s public facilities – schools, parks, agricultural infrastructure, roads and hospitals – are aging and some are in alarming disrepair.  I am very grateful that we were able to secure the support of Senate and House colleagues to fund repairs and, in some cases, make dramatic improvements that will both create short term construction employment, and also enhance quality of life, protect the environment, and address serious health, safety and social needs,” said Sen. Solomon.

Highlights of CIP funding to District 4 include:

AGRICULTURE & FOOD SELF RELIANCE

  • $1.7M Waimea Irrigation System Improvements
  • $1M Lower Hāmākua Ditch Watershed Project
  • $3.5M Waimea Homestead Community Agricultural Park (Waimea Nui)

EDUCATION

  • $9.89M Waimea Middle School (construction and equipment for a 9-Classroom Science-Technology Building)
  • $1,7M Kanu O Ka ‘Āina Learning ‘Ohana (construction of a new community recreation center emergency shelter that would double as a school-community cafeteria and recreation center)
  • $2M Honoka‘a Elementary School (construction of student drop off and parking area)
  • $2M Honoka‘a High School (athletic facility improvements)
  • $300,000 Kealakehe High School (construction of an all‐weather and synthetic track)

UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI‘I AT HILO

  • $33M College of Pharmacy (a new instructional facility)
  • $2.5M Astronomy (modernization and repair of 2.2 meter telescope on Mauna Kea)
  • $500,000 College of Agricultural, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (establish the Hilo International Flight Training Center)

HAWAIIAN HOMELANDS

  • $60,000 Kailapa Community Association in Kawaihae (plan for a resource center)

HUMAN SERVICES

  • $250,000 The Food Basket, Inc. (repairs and maintenance)

HEALTH

  • $1M West Hawai‘i Community Health Center

LABOR AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

  • $200,000 Hawai‘i Island Humane Society (construction of the Hawaii Island Animal Community Center)

LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

  • $3,000,000 Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a Structure Improvements and Dam Compliance
  • $8,000,000 Waimea District/Regional Park Plans (A 1:1 match with the County of Hawai‘i)

TRANSPORTATION

  • $1.9M Kona International Airport at Keahole (south ramp taxiway and ramp improvements)
  • $500,000 Hilo Harbor (modifications to improve navigational safety and operational efficiencies)
  • $2M Wai‘aka Stream Bridge replacement and realignment at Kawaihae Road
  • $2M Highway 130 and Homestead Road intersection improvements
  • $1M Saddle Road Extension from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway
  • $1M Sidewalk Improvements to Māmane Street in Honoka‘a
  • $1M Traffic Operational Improvements to existing intersections and highway facilities

Mamalahoa Highway

  • $6.2M Drainage improvements by Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a Ranch Road
  • $4.5M Drainage improvements at Kāwā
  • $810,000 Rehabilitation or replacement of Hīlea Stream Bridge

Belt Road

  • $500,000 Rehabilitation or Replacement of Pāhoehoe Stream Bridge
  • $4.9M Drainage improvements by Hakalau Bridge
  • $1.3M Rehabilitation or replacement of Nīnole Bridge

DEFENSE

  • $2M Youth Challenge Academy (upgrade and renovation of Keaukaha Military Reservation)

 TOTAL

$100.215M