Kona Man Arrested After Shots Fired at Resort

Hawaiʻi Island police have arrested a 39-year-old Kailua-Kona man on suspicion of reckless endangering Saturday afternoon (April 5) in Kailua-Kona. Raymond Robinson was arrested at 12:20 p.m. on Saturday at a resort in Kailua-Kona.

HPDBadgeAt 12:03 p.m. Saturday, Kona Patrol officers responded to a report of shots being fired in the parking lot of a Kailua-Kona resort. Upon police arrival, Robinson was still firing a firearm while seated in a rental vehicle. Shortly thereafter, Robinson was taken into custody without incident. No one was injured during the incident and there were no reports of damage from the gunshots.

It was later learned that just prior to this incident, shots were reported fired at Robinson’s residence located off of Kakahiaka Road, in Kailua-Kona. There were no reported injuries at or around his residence.

Robinson is being held at the Kona cellblock while Detectives from the Area II Criminal Investigations Section continue the investigation.

Rules for Protests at Hawaii State Capitol Challenged as Unconstitutional in Federal Court

A federal lawsuit against the State Department of Accounting and General Services (“DAGS”) charges that outdated rules restricting public use of State property (including the Hawaii State Capitol rotunda and grounds) violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs for the lawsuit are the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (“ACLU”) and Pamela G. Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Action Group and ACLU board member. They are represented by Daniel M.Gluck, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU and Alexandra Rosenblatt of Chun Kerr, LLLC.

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Public access to grounds and rotunda, noted in the run-up to 2011 APEC meeting, now an issue for upcoming ASEAN meeting, April 1-2.

The lawsuit asks the court to require DAGS to remove burdensome requirements for obtaining a permit – including requirements that small groups have to get the government’s permission before holding a protest; that individuals have to agree to indemnify the State for any injuries arising from their protest (even if the injuries are caused by the protesters’ opponents); and that individuals or groups apply for a permit  weeks in advance (with no exception for spontaneous demonstrations in response to sudden events or news).

The ACLU informed DAGS of these problems over three and a half years ago (more than a year before the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting). The ACLU continued to inform the State of these problems through 2011, 2012, and 2013, but the State has neither changed its rules nor issued any new policies to correct these problems.

The ACLU has assisted several groups in navigating the unlawful permit process, but does not know how many other individuals or groups have been deterred from holding a demonstration because of DAGS’ unconstitutional rules. Honolulu now plans to host Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and defense ministers of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations April 1-2, and the ACLU hopes that this lawsuit will ensure that any individuals or groups that want to demonstrate on State property during the ASEAN Conference (or any other matter) are able to do so.

Daniel M. Gluck said: “After three years of being rebuffed by DAGS and the Attorney General?s office to resolve these issues administratively, it’s clear that the State won’t take any action without being sued.  We need to ensure that the free speech rights of all people are respected and protected, particularly on state grounds such as the Capitol, to show that our government is open, transparent, and participatory.”

Alexandra Rosenblatt said: “Current permitting practices could prevent people from gathering around a legislative measure or breaking community crisis. The State requires a fourteen day lead time for permits, yet legislative hearings only have a 2-3 day lead time. The State also requires that permit holders waive all claims against the state as a condition of exercising their first amendment rights. DAGS has made exceptions, but the absence of consistent, objective standards raises a concern that groups could be treated differently based on the content of their speech. When it comes to our government and state capitol there is no room for opaque rules that hinder community voices from being heard.”

The ACLU’s First Amendment Toolkit is a free guide for those considering demonstrations at the Hawaii State Capitol, or at parks, beaches, sidewalks and more statewide.

Healthy Schools Day at Capital Engages Policymakers in Hands-On Student Wellness Activities

As part of Education Week, the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Education (DOE) will conduct interactive demonstrations for legislators at this year’s Healthy Schools Day on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in the Capitol Rotunda from 9 to 11 a.m.

capitalPolicymakers will meet student gardeners, experience a fitness assessment that DOE students receive in PE class, and compete in a fitness relay race. Students in grades K-12 will assist and cheer on legislators. Demonstrations will showcase policies and programs in Hawaii schools that support healthy students, including school gardening and promising practices for health and physical education (PE).

“Our successful DOH-DOE partnership has led to exceptional policies and programs for Hawaii public schools,” said Health Director Dr. Linda Rosen. “We want our senators and representatives to know about these initiatives so that we can continue to provide a healthy environment for our keiki and expand offerings statewide.”

The event will also celebrate DOE schools receiving the 2014 Excellence in Wellness Awards.

The awards are presented annually to schools that have reached high levels of achievement on the DOE Wellness Guidelines, a set of standards for schools that includes benchmarks for foods and beverages offered to students, health education, physical education, and other activities that support a healthy school environment. The Excellence in Wellness Awards are given to schools that score 90 percent or above on the state’s annual Safety and Wellness Survey. A total of 55 schools are receiving awards in 2014, up from 50 schools last year.

“We recognize the accomplishments of our school administrators who emphasize health and wellness,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “We commend them for promoting student health as it contributes to enhanced academic achievement and better learning.”

Hawaii public schools have direct contact with more than 80 percent of the state’s children ages five to seventeen. School settings are an ideal location to nourish children’s minds and bodies when they align classroom instruction with foods and beverages sold and offered on campus and support regular physical activity.

For more information about wellness in schools, please visit: http://www.hawaiipublicschools.org/BeyondTheClassroom/HealthAndNutrition/WellnessGuidelines/Pages/home.aspx or http://health.hawaii.gov/school-health/

 

Hawaii House of Reps Honors the Bishop Museum on Its 125th Anniversary

The state House of Representatives today honored the Bishop Museum on its 125th anniversary, four inductees to the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame, and three veteran war heroes who have since made significant contributions to the community.

Bishop honorees

Bishop Museum was recognized on its 125th anniversary for promoting the culture and history of Hawaii. Taking part in the floor presentation was Bishop Museum President and CEO Blair Collis; Allison Holt Gendreau, Chair of the museum’s Board of Directors; board member Watters O. Martin, Jr.; and Dr. Yoshiko Sinoto, Bishop Museum’s Kenneth Pike Emory Distinguished Chair in Anthropology.

Three outstanding community minded military leaders were also honored by the House. They included: Tim Guard, Chairman and CEO, McCabe, Hamilton & Remy; Ron Hayes, Admiral, U.S. Navy, Retired; and Joe Vasey, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, Retired. These individuals have distinguished themselves, not only as outstanding former military leaders, but also as civic leaders who have made a difference in the state through their significant contributions to the community at large.

The House also paid tribute to the 2014 Junior Achievement of Hawaii Business Hall of Fame laureates. Since 1975, the U.S. Business Hall of Fame presented by Junior Achievement has honored men and women who have made outstanding contributions to free enterprise and to the community. The Junior Achievement of Hawaii’s Business Hall of Fame recognizes laureates who have helped mold our free enterprise system, and who continue to reshape and improve the manner in which businesses operates in Hawaii.

Bill Proposes Sunshine Law Exemptions for City Council Members

Sunshine Week is next week, March 16-22, 2014.  This is an occasion for all of us to celebrate and facilitate citizen participation in government decision making.

But there’s little to celebrate with HB2139 HD 1 Relating to Public Agency Meetings. If passed by the Legislature this measure would create a loophole in Hawaii’s Sunshine Laws and allow a quorum or all members of a county council to attend and participate in discussions at free in-state meetings and presentations held by private interests.

It is common for private interests seeking county land use approvals, private businesses seeking county contracts and ad hoc “NIMBY” groups  to hold “informational meetings and presentations” for the purpose of advocating for or against special interest projects.  Currently, Hawaii’s Sunshine Law does not allow a council quorum to attend a “meeting or presentation”.  This helps prevent one-sided presentations, discussions and vote-trading in private followed by pro-forma public meetings where official votes are taken.

The Sunshine Law ensures that county councils conduct the public’s business in public.  The existing law guarantees the public both advance notice and the opportunity to hear, question, and disagree with any private presentation to a county council quorum.  The existing law also guarantees the public both advance notice and the opportunity to listen to all discussions and decisions by a county council quorum.

HB2139

If HB 2139 HD 1 becomes law, all county council members could be invited to attend an “informational meeting or presentation” organized by proponents of a special interest project.  Prior public notice would not be required.  Only invitees might know about the “meeting or presentation” even if the event were open and “free” to the public.   At the “meeting or presentation”, the proponents could make a one-sided presentation in support of a special interest project and then discuss the project with a quorum or even all council members.  It would be possible for the host to structure the “meeting or presentation” to prevent the public from asking questions or participating in discussions.  Regardless of how many council members participate, minutes would not be required.

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii are not unsympathetic with county councils members who wish to remain actively engaged with their constituents. However, this does not justify amending the sunshine law to allow county council quorums to attend one-sided private presentations and discuss special interest projects without public notice.

Common Cause Hawaii is a state chapter of the national Common Cause organization. Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest. For more information, visit www.commoncause.org/HI

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

Senator Donna Mercado Kim to File for US House of Representatives

Hawaii State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is filing her nomination papers to run in the 1st Congressional District race today.

Donna Mercado Kim and son Micah

Donna Mercado Kim and son Micah

Kim will be flanked by friends and supporters as she takes the Oath and signs the paperwork to formally enter the race to represent Hawaii in Washington D.C.  This will take place at the State Office of Elections at 802 Lehua Avenue in Pearl City.

“Today, I am formalizing my candidacy for the US House of Representatives.  I look forward to a vigorous campaign where I plan to personally meet as many residents in the 1st Congressional District.  By filing these papers, I offer the voters the choice for a candidate with extensive experience at the local and state level, in starting a running a small business and proven leadership,” said Kim.

Kim has raised more than $330,000 in the first few months of her campaign, giving her a financial lead over her competitors in fundraising.

She is also the most experienced candidate in the race, with more than 3 decades in elective office.  Born and raised in Kalihi, Kim has served on the City Council, State House of Representatives and in the State Senate.

Commentary: Hawaii Speaker Endorses Jones Act Reform

Commentary from the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii:

The effort to improve Hawaii’s economy has taken an important step forward with the introduction of a series of resolutions supporting a limited exemption to the US-build requirement of the Jones Act. House Speaker Joseph Souki (D) was among the group who introduced HR 113 and HCR 153, which note that the Act, “disproportionately imposes an economic burden on and adversely affects Hawaii.” The resolution goes on to carve out the specifics of the limited exemption, taking care to refute the claim that the Jones Act is necessary to national defense or effective in protecting the US shipbuilding industry.

“This is a great day for both political cooperation and our economy,” stated Dr. Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. “The Grassroot Institute has long supported Jones Act reform, not only out of principle–for such protectionist legislation reduces our competitiveness and infringes on our liberty–but also out of simple compassion for Hawaii’s citizens and businesses. In cooperation with countless others, including Michael Hansen (President of the Hawaii Shippers Council and an advisor to Grassroot institute), Grassroot has worked hard to educate both legislators and the public on the need for Jones Act reform. The Jones Act is a burden on everyone who lives and works in Hawaii, acting as an invisible tax on every good that comes to our shores. A limited exemption, such as that envisioned by these resolutions, is a tremendous and positive step.”

Dr. Akina continued: “Moreover, we are happy to see that this is an issue that has gained bipartisan support. Not only was Speaker Souki one of the primary introducers, but he was joined by Reps. Ward (R), Brower (D), Cachola (D), Creagan (D), Evans (D) and Kobayashi (D). We also thank Senator Slom (R) for introducing SR 45 and SCR 93, the Senate versions. There should be no question of partisanship when it comes to improving the economy of our state, making it a better and more profitable place to do business and reducing the cost of living for our citizens. It is gratifying to see that this common sense issue is being treated with the gravity it deserves.”

Governor Names Jessica Wooley as Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today announced that subject to her confirmation by the state Senate, he has appointed Jessica Wooley to serve as the state’s Director of Environmental Control. In addition to serving as the head of the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC), Wooley will serve the Governor in an advisory capacity on all matters relating to environmental quality control.

Jessica Wooley

Jessica Wooley

“Jessica is knowledgeable and experienced in issues pertaining to the environment, water resources, agriculture and land use,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie. “Her legal and public service background will be a great asset in protecting Hawaii’s fragile environment. Her energy and commitment to the issues involved with the OEQC is a big plus for Hawaii.”

“Today I am announcing that, if confirmed, I will be leaving the Hawaii State Legislature to work as the OEQC Director,” Jessica Wooley said. “As a public servant, I see this as a tremendous opportunity to have a greater impact. I will be honored to work with the Governor and his administration as we continually work to make sure our environment is resilient and able to support the public interest and all of Hawaii’s policy goals. We must always keep in mind that our very economy, our health and our safety depend on our ability to care for our environmental resources.”

Elected in 2008, Wooley currently represents District 48 (Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe) in the state House, serving as chair of the Agriculture Committee. Previously, she was an attorney at Legal Aid, an economist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Deputy Attorney General under Governors Ben Cayetano and Linda Lingle.

Wooley earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, along with a master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics and a Juris Doctor from the University of California Berkeley.

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United Response to John Doe vs. County of Hawaii GMO Lawsuit

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United is aware of the legal action  “John Doe vs. County of Hawaii” filed in State Superior Court against the County of Hawaii…

Farmers and Ranchers UnitedWe “STRONGLY SUPPORT and Stand United with our fellow Farmers in this suit. Brought by Farmers who are frightened by the potential implications of complying with these unjustified and intrusive requirements – specifically, harassment of their family and employees and vandalism of their operations by anti-technology activists.

In John Doe vs. County of Hawaii, the complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief from implementing the registration and disclosure provisions of “Hawaii Bill 113.”

Due to the immediacy of the registration deadline, this complaint seeks relief only in connection with the registration and disclosure requirements of Bill 113, even though the entirety of Bill 113 is legally invalid because it stands in direct conflict with numerous federal and state laws.

Signed into law on December 5, 2013, the County enacted Bill 113, which imposes a county-wide ban on the development, propagation, cultivation, and open-air testing of most GE crops.

The registration and disclosure requirements of Bill 113 unfairly target growers of genetically engineered crops, primarily papaya growers, by forcing them to disclose personal and commercially confidential information about themselves and their operations without any scientific or factual justification:

Without any assurances that the County can or will protect the registration information from public disclosure as allowed under Bill 113, these farmers and growers have good reason to believe that providing this information could result in real harm – including the vandalizing of their crops or intimidation or harassment of their family and/or employees.  Unfortunately, in recent years, anti-genetically engineered or anti-GMO agriculture political activism in Hawaiʻi (and throughout the United States) has crossed the line from a spirited debate to extremism, vandalism, and violence.

The lawsuit alleges that the disclosure provision of Bill 113 is in direct conflict with two State laws – the Uniform Information Practices Act and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act – and violates Plaintiff’s rights to privacy and due process under the Constitution of Hawaii.

Accordingly, it asks the court to enjoin or suspend the registration process until the court ultimately determines the lawfulness of the disclosure provision and how this information will be treated under state law.

Friday – Rally for Clean Elections

This Friday, March 7 from 5-6pm in front of Hopaco (280 Makaala St.) in Hilo everybody is invited to Sign Wave for Clean Elections. In 2008, Hawaii became the 9th state in the country to implement a comprehensive public funding (Clean Elections) program.

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A program was created for the Hawaii Island County Council elections beginning with the 2010 elections. That program was successful with the majority of winning county council members financed by the program. House Bill 2533 is currently making its way through the Hawaii State Legislature. It would create a Clean Election program for state representatives. Carmille Lim, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, said, “This bill is one of the most significant democracy reform measures currently before the Hawaii Legislature.

House Bill 2533 has the potential to change Hawaii’s political landscape by requiring the candidates who opt-in to this program to focus on the concerns of the average constituent, instead of large donations from the wealthy donors and special interests who currently have a stronghold on Hawaii’s politics.” The Clean Elections bill from last legislative session, HB 1481 was killed in conference committee by Oahu legislator, Clayton Hee. Supporters of the bill are determined to pass Clean Election legislation this session. Supporters include: The League of Women Voters, The Sierra Club, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Jimmy Carter, Nancy Pelosi, the Star Advertiser and the Honolulu Weekly.

House Bill Directs the PUC to Accomodate Modernization of Hawaii’s Electric Grid System

The House passed a measure that will help resolve the inability for thousands of Hawaii families to install photovoltaic solar panels while being left in limbo by electric utilities. The measure directs the Public Utilities Commission to establish new guidelines and rules that will support the upgrade and modernization of Hawaii’s electric grid and accommodate growing energy generation from residential and business customers.

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Representative Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimanalo) who introduced the bill said, “We cannot let families make an investment to save on their electric bills but then be left waiting months or years for utilities to finally connect them to the grid. They should be able to connect to the grid in a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost, and know what to expect before they put their money down.”

HB 1943, HD 2 asks the commission to address technical, policy and economic issues associated with modernizing the state’s electric grid and include policies that would support a diverse portfolio of renewable energy resources and expand options for customers to manage their own energy use. The measure also directs the PUC to begin proceedings to discuss upgrades to the grid no later than July 14, 2014. The bill was drafted in response to the inability of the current grid system to accommodate all of the individuals and businesses interested in purchasing their own photovoltaic system and hooking it up to the grid.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its review.

Bill Establishes Commission on African American History and Culture

The Hawaii Senate Committee on Ways and Means today favorably passed Senate Bill 2598, a bill that would establish the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture.

Photo Courtesy of Hawaii Senate Communications Office: Senate Committee on Ways and Means advance measures before the First Decking deadline on Friday, Feb. 28

Photo Courtesy of Hawaii Senate Communications Office: Senate Committee on Ways and Means advance measures before the First Decking deadline on Friday, Feb. 28

African Americans first arrived in Hawaii in the 18th century and have since positively influenced the development and culture of Hawaii. However, their contributions are neither well known nor preserved. By establishing the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture, the people of Hawaii gain a fuller understanding of the cultural exchanges between the state and African Americans.

“Establishing the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture will allow us to honor the significance and impact of the African American experience in the state and promote awareness for Hawaii’s diverse multicultural society,” said Espero. “As Black History Month comes to a close, I am pleased that the Senate Committee on Ways and Means recognizes the significant contributions of African Americans in the state and the need to educate our citizens and visitors about them.”

The bill will go to the Senate floor for third reading and is expected to cross over to the House for consideration.

Hawaii Senate Advances Bills Investing in Education

The Hawaii State Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means (WAM) today advanced bills that support Hawaii’s keiki through a variety of education initiatives. If passed, the measures would restore funds to support school athletic programs, improve the learning environment for students and invest in Hawaii charter schools.

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“Hawaii’s keiki are our greatest resource and it’s important that we give them every advantage for a better future,” said Senator David Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “To do that, we need to invest in every aspect of their education from academics to athletics to their learning environment.”

These measures will go to the Senate floor for third reading and if approved will move to the House for consideration.

The education measures passed today include:

SB2424 SD1: RELATING TO AIR CONDITIONING

Requires the department of education and department of accounting and general services, in consultation with the Hawaii state energy office of the department of business, economic development, and tourism and the Hawaii natural energy institute of the University of Hawaii, to develop a cooling master strategy and comprehensive study for the public schools and to report findings to the 2015 regular session of the legislature. Appropriates funds.

SB3083 SD1: RELATING TO SCHOOL ATHLETICS.

Appropriates general funds for fiscal year 2014-2015 for the school athletics program of the department of education. Authorizes additional coaching and assistant coaching positions for fiscal year 2014-2015 for the school athletics program.

SB2516 RELATING TO FACILITIES FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS

Appropriates funds for the state public charter school commission to allocate to charter schools for facilities projects based, in part, on the need and performance of the charter schools. Requires annual reporting to the legislature.

SB2517 RELATING TO CHARTER SCHOOLS

Authorizes the state public charter school commission to request the issuance of general obligation bonds from the director of finance and to allocate the proceeds for the design, planning, construction, repair, and maintenance of public charter school facilities. Creates a working group to determine criteria for and to prioritize the allocation of general obligation bond proceeds to the public charters schools. Specifies that public charter school facilities funded through the proceeds of general obligation bonds are owned by the State. Requires the state public charter school commission to report annually to the legislature. Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds to the state public charter school commission. Repeals on June 30, 2024.

Hawaii Senate Committee Advances Bills Protecting the Environment

The Hawaii State Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means (WAM) today advanced legislation to protect and preserve the state’s natural resources. The committee passed bills that, if made law, would have immediate and far-reaching effects on beach shorelines, invasive species control, conservation, sustainability, climate change and disaster planning efforts.

Some members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee at Pohoiki on the Big Island.

Some members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee at Pohoiki on the Big Island.

“We must continually work together to maintain our unique island home for the health and pleasure of our families and, also, the stability of our economy through the visitor industry,” said Sen. David Ige, WAM Committee chairman. “These bills passed today touch on many facets of the environment both with immediate actions and long-term planning, and will require more meetings and consensus for success.”

The environment protection measures passed today include:

SB2742 – Establishes the Pacific-Asia Institute for Resilience and Sustainability to provide the structure and opportunity for a new generation of leaders to emerge who possess the ability to address Hawaii and the Pacific-Asia region’s risks from natural and man-made hazards and to develop solutions for sustainable economic growth within the region’s unique physical and cultural diversity.

SB3035 – Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds and appropriates funds for planning for and construction for the realignment of Kamehameha Highway mauka of Laniakea beach on the North Shore of Oahu.

SB3036 – Appropriates funds to the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program to create a North Shore beach management plan for the North Shore of Oahu stretching from Sunset beach to Waimea Bay.

The Senate WAM Committee last week advanced two joint majority package bills that support efforts to address invasive species and climate change. The measures are:

SB2343 – Appropriates funds to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council for invasive species prevention, control, outreach, research, and planning.

SB2344 - Addresses climate change adaptation by establishing the interagency sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation committee under the Department of Land and Natural Resources to create a sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation report that addresses sea level rise impacts statewide to 2050. Tasks the Office of Planning with establishing and implementing strategic climate adaptation plans and policy recommendations using the sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation report as a framework for addressing other statewide climate impacts identified under Act 286, Session Laws of Hawaii 2012. Appropriates funds for staffing and resources.

Bill to Make Hawaiian Bobtail Squid Hawaii’s Official State Microbe to be Heard Tomorrow

The Hawaiian Bobtail Squid – a two inch, glow in the dark creature – will have its moment in the spotlight tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, February 25. The Senate’s Committee on Technology and the Arts (TEC) will hear a bill designating vibrio fischeri as Hawaii’s official microbe.

image credit: guardian.co.uk

Image credit: guardian.co.uk

Vibrio fischeri is a bacteria which lives in a symbiotic relationship with the Hawaiian bobtail squid, giving the animal the power to produce bioluminescence, or light from a living organism. The squid is endemic to Hawaii and hunts at night on reef flats. However, moonlight casts a shadow onto the sea floor, which alerts predators to the squid’s presence. To counter this effect, the Hawaiian bobtail squid cultures vibrio fischeri in a special light-emitting organ, which allows it to become stealthy by projecting light that minimizes the dark shadow of its body.

Image credit: kahikai.org

Image credit: kahikai.org

The study of this chemical reaction has numerous medical and practical applications, such as testing for toxic compounds in water.

“We anticipate having a State Microbe will ignite interest in science for our kids. What could be more appropriate than a bacteria that creates a glowing blue squid that thrives just off our shores,” says Sen. Glenn Wakai, Chairman of the TEC Committee, “With 70% of our planet covered in water, it makes perfect sense to have Hawaii’s microbe tied to the ocean.”

Image credit: news.wisc.edu

Image credit: news.wisc.edu

What:   Hearing on SB 3124, designating a State Microbe

When: 1:15 p.m., Tuesday, February 25

Where: Capitol, room 414

More information on the bill can be found by going to this link: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=3124&year=2014.

Oregon became the first state to have an official microbe.  Lawmakers there designated saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as “brewer’s yeast” as its state microbe due to its importance to Oregon’s beer and winemaking industries. Wisconsin has attempted to turn lactococcus lactis into its official microbe, in recognition of its role in creating cheese.

Capital Improvement Funds Released for Kohala Elementary and Honoka’a High School

Senator Malama Solomon, District 4 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona, today commended the release of $7.73 million for various capital improvement projects (CIP) supporting student education in Hawaii.

Sen. Malama Solomon

Sen. Malama Solomon

Portions of these funds will go toward work in District 4, including:

  • Kohala Elementary, for American with Disabilities Act (ADA) projects, portion of $7,554,000
  • Kohala Elementary, for a special education portable, $80,000
  • Honoka‘a High School, for science lab upgrades, $100,000 for design work

“Supporting schools in my district is one of my main priorities as a lawmaker,” said Solomon. “The Legislature secured the funds for these very important projects last session and I’m glad to see the monies released so that work can get started. It’s imperative that we continue to provide students, teachers and staff with the resources for a favorable learning environment.”

House Bill 2533 Moves for Citizen-Funded Elections

The House Committee on the Judiciary today passed legislation that would revive Hawaii’s old partial public funding program for elections, which was originally implemented in 1980 by a mandate from citizens during the Constitutional Convention.

HB 2533

Representative Karl Rhoads (D – dist 29), Judiciary Chariman, said “Today was an important step in moving HB 2533 through the legislative process.  I’m hopeful that by the end of the legislative session we’ll have a viable public financing option for House candidates.”

House Bill 2533 would create a citizen-funding option for state House elections.  Last year a similar bill, HB1481, made it to the final hour of a Conference Committee, where it was stopped, but carried over to the 2014 Legislative Session and is still alive.  Advocates are counting on one of these bills to pass this year.

According to Carmille Lim, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, “This bill is one of the most significant democracy reform measures currently before the Hawaii Legislature. HB2533 has the potential to change Hawaii’s political landscape by requiring the candidates who opt-in to this program to focus on the concerns of the average constituent, instead of large donations from the wealthy donors and special interests who currently have a stronghold on Hawaii’s politics.”

A similar experimental program was implemented on the Big Island for County Council elections in 2010 and 2012 and was considered a success by citizens and candidates.

House Bill 2533 would allow candidates to go out and collect 200 signatures, accompanied with $5 donations, from voters in their districts, in exchange for a sum of money from the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund with which to run their campaigns.  The Election Fund, a special trust fund, currently has $2.9 million dollars and was established during the ’78 Constitutional Convention for the purpose of limiting the influence of private money on the lawmaking process.

“Delegates in the ’79 Constitutional Convention knew that big donations would corrupt politics, and they were visionary when they created the citizen-funded elections program,” said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii.  “Over time, legislators have let the program decay in favor of more private funding, so we applaud the legislators who are making an effort to revive this epic law,” he said.

The Election Fund is funded by an option three dollar check-off on state income tax forms.  The three dollars is allocated from tax money that an individual would already pay to the state.

Robert Harris, executive director of the Sierra Club agrees with the bill’s advocates.  “Developers and polluters pour millions of dollars into elections every year,” said Robert Harris, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. “Clean elections help ensure smart growth development and clean water for all of Hawaii’s residents.”

Hawaii Senate Tables Bill Legalizing Marijuana

Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee Defers Bill Legalizing Marijuana.  Advances Bills Decriminalizing Marijuana, Providing Medical Amnesty for Calling 911 for Overdose Emergency.
Marijuana LeafThe Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee today deferred Senate Bill 2733, a bill that would have legalized marijuana in Hawaii.

“We felt Hawaii was not ready for legalization at this time,” said Espero. “With the passage of legalization bills in Colorado and Washington, however, these states will be test sites to see how legalization impacts the states and their residents.”

Another measure, Senate Bill 2358, which would decriminalize marijuana, was passed unanimously and will now go to the Judiciary and Labor Committee.  First time offense would be a $100 fine; second offense $250; three or more $500. No prison time would be involved.

The committee also advanced Senate Bill 2215, which would provide medical amnesty for those who call 911 when someone is overdosing.  “Many Hawaii residents have died because people are afraid to call for help when they are with someone overdosing.  This measure is a good Samaritan bill that gives limited immunity to those who seek medical assistance,” said Espero

Bruno Mars Ticket Fiasco Has Lawmaker Introduce Resolution to Assist Local Residents in the Future

If you’re a loyal fan standing in line to purchase a coveted concert ticket, and plan to attend that concert, you should be able to have more than six percent of a chance to purchase that ticket, said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. The lawmaker has introduced a resolution urging concert and entertainment venues to require only in-person ticket sales for the first 48 hours.

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The resolution was triggered by the disappointment of local residents after the quick sale – three concerts sold out in 2-hours – of tickets for local boy Bruno Mars’ Hawaii shows in April. It was later announced that people from the mainland and Canada snagged 42 percent of the 17,000 tickets. Even more frustrating was for those who stood in the long lines at the Blaisdell box office, only six percent of tickets were bought there. It’s also been reported that scalpers who purchased tickets in bulk are selling them for exorbitant prices. Kim is hoping to change this for concertgoers so that those who will actually go to a performance are able to purchase tickets from the original venue at the actual ticket price, and not from a secondary market at inflated prices.

“Despite waiting in line for hours, many fans were unable to purchase tickets to the upcoming Bruno Mars concert at the Blaisdell Center,” said Kim. “Anyone who takes the time to show up in person should have the opportunity to purchase tickets for at least the first two days before opening up to online sales. It’s unfortunate that out-of-state ticket brokers and scalpers will resell these concert tickets back to local residents for an enormous profit.”

The resolution names and urges the following entities to set purchasing terms: Hawaii Community Development Authority, Stadium Authority, Department of Enterprise Services of the City and County of Honolulu, Board of Regents, President of the University of Hawaii and Chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

These entities hold concerts at venues such as Kakaako Park, Aloha Stadium, the Neil S. Blaisdell Center, Waikiki Shell, University of Hawaii Stan Sheriff Center and the Hawaii Convention Center.

“Our residents should enjoy a night of entertainment without having to pay inflated prices,” said Kim.

Balancing Budget on Backs of UH Students Ill-Advised, Senate President Kim – Officials Blame Deficit on Miserable Football Season

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is strongly urging University of Hawaii officials not to balance a potential $2 million budget deficit by raising student fees. Through a senate resolution, she points out the already high student fees per semester that amount to $1,400,000 per year to the UH Athletics Department. Students currently pay a $50 mandatory fee per semester.

Donna Mercado Kim and son Micah

Donna Mercado Kim and son Micah

Officials have blamed the deficit on a disappointing 1-11 football season with low ticket sales and the inability to meet a $1 million fundraising goal. However, although acknowledging these facts, the resolution also points out that the discontent and dissatisfaction of some longtime financial supporters with the leadership and transparency of the Board of Regents and the President, and their public statements on no longer contributing funds.

“University officials made bad leadership decisions and now we are seeing the result of them,” said Kim. “Why are we asking our students to pay for the shortfalls of university decision makers? We shouldn’t allow students to shoulder the burden of the UH Athletics Department or any other department.”

According to the resolution, student fees should be based on an objective criteria or an appropriate formula rather than an apparently arbitrary amount decided by the University. It goes on to say that if fees are raised to close a budget deficit, once it is balanced, those fees should be reduced accordingly.

“This is not what we want to teach our future generation of leaders,” she added. “By passing the buck to them, we’re saying ‘Look, if you make a mistake and don’t meet expectations, you can just force someone else to deal with it.’”