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Bills to Ban Coral-Killing Sunscreens Move Forward

The House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection today passed House Bill 600, introduced by Representative Nicole Lowen (District 6, Kailua-Kona, Holualoa), which would prohibit the sale of sunscreens containing the chemical oxybenzone.

The bill was introduced in response to recent studies that have concluded that oxybenzone disrupts coral development and growth.

“Our reefs are an essential economic driver of our tourism industry, they sustain our fish populations for fishermen, and are home to many species found nowhere else in the world. Safe, effective, and affordable alternatives to oxybenzone are available already. How can we, in good conscience, continue to needlessly allow the use of this chemical that we know causes damage to coral?” said Rep. Lowen.

The committee also moved a bill forward that would allow continued sale of oxybenzone products, but impose new labelling requirements. HB 600 will next go to the House Floor and then to the Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.

Hawaii Keiki Caucus Sets Priorities in 2017 Legislative Package

Expanding the eligibility age for children to attend the preschool open doors program, support for teacher training on social and emotional learning, and funding to establish an after-school program for public middle and intermediate schools are just some of the measures included in this year’s Keiki Caucus Legislative Package.

Photo courtesy: House Communications

“These bills and resolutions address a variety of issues that assure Hawai‘i’s children and their families are happy, healthy and ready to learn and to succeed,” said Sen. Karl Rhoads (S Dist. 13 – Dowsett Highlands, Pu‘unui, Nu‘uanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Punchbowl, Palama, Liliha, Iwilei, Chinatown, and Downtown). “The work we do together as a caucus is an investment in our future.”

Sen. Rhoads and Rep. Matt LoPresti are this year’s co-conveners of the Keiki Caucus. Keiki Caucus is a bipartisan group of House and Senate members and is supported by dozens of community advocates. Since 1994, the Keiki Caucus has been working with the community to develop proposals and initiatives that address the health and well-being of Hawai‘i’s youth.

“There is nothing more important in Hawaii than our keiki. As lawmakers, we need to do everything we can to protect and educate them,” said Rep. LoPresti (H Dist. 41 -‘Ewa, ‘Ewa Beach, ‘Ewa Gentry, ‘Ewa Villages, Hoakalei, Ocean Pointe). “This proposed legislation is thoughtful and proactive in reaching that goal. It’s never too early for social and emotional learning and anti-bullying education for our keiki – especially when children may be confused by current online rhetoric. They need better role models and we in the legislature can provide support to provide anti-bullying education this legislative session.

The Senate and House bills and resolutions submitted by the Keiki Caucus for the 2017 session include:

SB497/HB578  RELATING TO PRESCHOOL OPEN DOORS PROGRAM

Expands the qualifying age for the preschool open doors program to children four years old and younger.

SB 498/HB580  RELATING TO EDUCATION

Appropriates funds for the P4C Program of the University of Hawai‘i Uehiro Academy for Philosophy and Ethics in Education and for teachers of the Department of Education to train with the P4C Program.

SB496/HB579  RELATING TO SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

Requires the Department of Education to provide training on social and emotional learning to all youth-serving educators, health care professionals and counselors, and agencies and programs, as well as parents of students enrolled in public schools or public charter schools.  Appropriates funds to the Department of Education to conduct training on social and emotional learning.

SB499/HB581  RELATING TO THE ZERO TO THREE COURT

Appropriates funds for staff positions and various services to support the Hawai‘i zero to three court.

SB500  RELATING TO AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS

Establishes the R.E.A.C.H (resources for enrichment, athletics, culture, and health) program in the office of youth services to provide a standardized framework and funding for after-school programs in public middle and intermediate schools. Establishes that the R.E.A.C.H. program will be run by a program specialist to be appointed by the governor. Establishes a special fund to receive fees and other moneys to supplement the costs of administering and operating the R.E.A.C.H. program. Requires the office of youth services to report to the legislature.

HB577  RELATING TO A NON-BINDING REFERENDUM ON STATEWIDE COMMUNITY WATER FLUORIDATION

Proposes a non-binding, statewide referendum on whether the State should pursue policies and programs for community water fluoridation in order to improve the overall dental health of Hawaii’s children and adults.

SCR8/HCR11  ENCOURAGING THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES MED-QUEST DIVISION TO IMPLEMENT AN INCOME DISREGARD PROGRAM FOR WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES

The Med-QUEST Division of the Department of Human Services is encouraged to implement an income disregard program that will enable workers with disabilities to seek or maintain employment, while also retaining necessary Medicaid benefits and supports.

SCR9/HCR9  URGING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO CARRY ON ITS WORK TO BETTER ENGAGE COMMUNITY GROUPS IN THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN HAWAI‘I’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Department of Education is urged to carry on its work to better engage community groups in the education of children and youth in Hawai‘i’s public schools.

SCR10/HCR8  REQUESTING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION EDUCATION TASK FORCE

The Department of Education is requested to establish a Sexual Abuse Prevention Education Task Force.

SCR11/HCR10  ENCOURAGING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, AND JUDICIARY TO PERMANENTLY ESTABLISH AND ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION IN THE HAWAI‘I INTERAGENCY STATE YOUTH NETWORK OF CARE TO BETTER SERVE YOUTH AND FAMILIES WITH COMPLEX NEEDS IN THE STATE

The Department of Education, Department of Health and Department of Human Services are encouraged to form the Hawai‘i Interagency State Youth Network of Care (HISYNC) to increase collaboration among state agencies and to develop a system of care for children, youth and families.

SCR12/HCR7  URGING THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TO EXAMINE THE APPLICATION PROCESS FOR THE PRESCHOOL OPEN DOORS PROGRAM TO ENSURE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL FAMILIES

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is urged to examine the application process for the preschool open doors program to ensure accessibility for all families. DHS is also encouraged to consider a paperless or other, cost-free application process that is accessible for all families.

Children’s Health & Safety, Access to Healthcare and Violence Against Women Focus of Women’s Legislative Caucus in 2017

Women’s marches in Hawaii and around the world show solidarity for women’s rights

The health and safety of children, access to healthcare, and protecting women from violence is the focus of a House-Senate joint package of bills submitted this session by the Women’s Legislative Caucus.  The caucus consists of women members from the state Senate and House and county councils.

Members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus seek to promote sound legislation that represent the diverse interests of women across the state and improve the well-being of women, children and families.

“I want all women in Hawaii to know that they have rights and that those rights will be protected under the law,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa). “I was proud to take part in the Women’s March in Honolulu to show that we stand together and will be heard.”

“By coming together as the Women’s Legislative Caucus, we’re able to focus on measures that make positive changes in our communities,” said Senator Rosalyn Baker (South and West Maui). “When we create equal access to healthcare and opportunities for the women and children of Hawaii, we create healthier and safer communities for everyone.”

“This package of bills covers two main areas that continue to be important to all women in the State of Hawaii including access to health care and decreasing violence against women,” said Representative Lauren Matsumoto (Schofield, Mokuleia, Waialua, Kunia, Waipio Acres, Mililani). “We continue to propose legislation that will protect and make life better for women.”

Many of the issues addressed within the caucus package reflect the concerns of women nationwide. Several state legislators joined in the Women’s March held in cities across Hawaii, the nation and around the world, in support of gender equality and civil.

5 generations of women march in Hilo at the Women’s March to Washington

“It was empowering and gratifying to be a part of the historic Women’s March in Washington D.C.,” said Senator Laura Thielen (Waimanalo, Hawaii Kai). “The work we do at the state level to ensure that women’s rights are not diminished will be an important step in taking action on the message of unity and solidarity demonstrated over the weekend.”

A full list of official measures in the Women’s Legislative Caucus’s package for the current biennium is available on the Capitol website at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?report=package&pkey=12&year=2017&name=Women%27s%20Legislative%20Caucus .

The House and Senate bills submitted by the Women’s Legislative Caucus for the 2017 session include:

ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE

HB663/SB501 Relating to Limited Service Pregnancy Centers

Requires all limited service pregnancy centers to disclose the availability of and enrollment information for reproductive health services. Establishes privacy and disclosure requirements for individual records and information. Authorizes civil penalties and civil actions for enforcement and remedy.

HB664/SB502 Relating to In Vitro Fertilization Insurance Coverage

Removes discriminatory requirements for mandatory insurance coverage of in vitro fertilization procedures to create parity of coverage for same-sex couples, unmarried women, and male-female couples for whom male infertility is the relevant factor.

HB665/SB503 Relating to Health Insurance for Victims of Sexual Violence

Requires health insurance coverage for case management services by licensed mental health providers for victims of sexual violence.

HB666/SB504 Relating to Controlled Substances

Limits initial prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines to a maximum of seven consecutive days.

HB667/SB505 Relating to Opioid Therapy Informed Consent Process

Requires an opioid therapy informed consent process agreement to be executed between a patient and any prescriber of opioids within the State under certain conditions. Requires the administrator of the narcotics enforcement division to develop and make available a template of an opioid therapy informed consent process agreement for use in the State. Specifies the contents of the template. Limits initial prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines to a maximum of seven consecutive days.

ADDRESSING AND REDUCING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

HB668/SB506 Relating to Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits

Requires annual reporting to the legislature by the AG of statistical data pertaining to the testing of sexual assault evidence collection kits. Provides certain rights to sexual assault survivors. Institutes mandatory testing requirements in accordance with AG guidelines. Requires AG to report to 2018 legislature on the progress of implementing AG guidelines.

HB669/SB507 Relating to Domestic Abuse

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

HB670/SB508 Relating to Tax Credit

Creates the Hawaii Working Family Tax Credit, a refundable credit capped at 10 percent of the federal earned income tax credit.

HB671/SB509 Relating to Equal Pay

Prohibits enforced wage secrecy and retaliation or discrimination against employees who disclose, discuss, or inquire about their own or co-workers’ wages.

CHILDREN’S HEALTH AND SAFETY

HB672/SB510 Relating to Hawaii Keiki: Healthy and Ready to Learn Program

Formally establishes the Hawaii keiki: healthy and ready to learn program within the department of education. Establishes a special fund and appropriates $4,000,000 to expand and sustain the program.

HB673/SB511 Relating to Child Care Facilities

Requires DHS to publish reports of child care facility inspections and complaint investigations on DHS’s website. Creates an oversight committee for implementation of and compliance with publication requirements. Requires annual reporting to the Legislature. Makes an appropriation.

HB674/SB512 Relating to Child Care Providers

Requires all child care providers subject to regulation by the Department of Human Services to obtain and maintain liability insurance as a condition of licensure, temporary permission, or registration.

OTHER

HB675/SB513 Relating to Contraceptive Supplies

Authorizes pharmacists to prescribe and dispense self-administered hormonal contraceptive supplies to patients, regardless of a previous prescription from an authorized prescriber. Specifies requirements pharmacists must meet prior to prescribing and dispensing contraceptive supplies.

HB676/SB514 Relating to Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

Authorizes pharmacists to prescribe and administer the human papillomavirus vaccine to persons between eleven and seventeen years of age. Specifies requirements pharmacists must meet prior to administering the human papillomavirus vaccine.

HB677/SB515 Relating to In Vitro Fertilization Procedure Coverage

Amends insurance coverage requirements for in vitro fertilization to allow for expanded applicability.

HB678/SB516 Relating to Family Leave and Domestic Violence

Allows an employee to take family leave in addition to victim leave when the leave is related to domestic or sexual violence against the employee or the employee’s minor child. Requires an employee to submit certification related to domestic or sexual violence of the employee or the employee’s minor child. Requires employer confidentiality of information related to domestic or sexual violence against the employee or the employee’s minor child.

HB679/SB517 Relating to Domestic Violence Training for State and County Employees

Requires any state or county agency to provide domestic abuse intervention training to their personnel whose job duties require or may require intervention in a domestic abuse situation.

HB680/SB518 Relating to Intimate Partner Violence

Requires licensees under the board of barbering and cosmetology to complete a one-time, one-hour training program on intimate partner violence awareness and education.

HB681/SB519 Relating to Officer-involved Domestic Violence

Specifies that citizen complaints against a police officer that involve allegations of domestic abuse against a family or household member on the part of the police officer shall not be required to be in writing or sworn to by the complainant.

HB682/SB520 Relating to Police Commissions

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

HB683/SB521 Relating to Paid Leave

Establishes a 6-week paid maternity and paternity leave policy for government employees to ensure that Hawaii’s working families are adequately supported during times of needing to provide care to a newborn or bond with a new child.

HB684/SB522 Relating to Safe Sleep Policy

Strengthens the safe sleep policy for child care facilities for children less than one year of age, including requiring placement of children on their backs for sleeping and establishing notice and annual training requirements; requires such facilities to report death of such a child to DHS.

HB685/SB523 Relating to Civil Actions for Sexual Offenses Against Minors

Allows a civil action for recovery of damages to be brought by persons subjected to sexual offenses as a minor against the person who committed the act at any time by repealing the statute of limitations. Repeals the period during which a victim of child sexual abuse may bring an otherwise time-barred civil action against the victim’s abuser or an entity with a duty of care, including the State and counties.

VIDEO: Senator Kahele Announcing the “Hilo Community Economic District” Bill

Senator Kai Kahele announces the “Hilo Community Economic District” Senate Bill that he is about to introduce during the 2017 Hawaii State Legislature.

Building on the work of the Banyan Drive Hawai‘i Redevelopment Agency, this bill will expand the application and scope of their effort and move toward crafting a master plan of all state lands in the Hilo urban core, including Banyan Drive, Wailoa State Park, Kanoelehua Industrial Area, the Hilo International Airport and Pier, and other nearby state lands.

“This initiative combines the strengths of the public sector, private enterprise, and the community to conduct long-range planning and community building unlocking the economic potential of East Hawaiʻi,” said Sen. Kahele. “This is truly a game-changer for Hilo. With this kind of synergy, we can build a Hilo for the future. A Hilo that our children can thrive in.”

Hawaii Chief Justice Delivers 2017 State of the Judiciary Address

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald delivered the State of the Judiciary address today at a joint session of the State Senate and House.
The Chief Justice began by thanking Judiciary supporters, including the Hawaii State Legislature: “I thank the Legislature for its strong support of the Judiciary.  We are grateful to all of you for funding construction of a new courthouse in Kona,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald.  “When that courthouse opens in 2019, it will provide the people of West Hawaii with a modern, efficient and secure place for obtaining justice.”

The Chief Justice also thanked Governor Ige for his strong support of the Kona courthouse and the Judiciary’s efforts to increase access to our civil justice system.

He acknowledged the Judiciary staff and judges for working every day to accomplish the Judiciary’s mission: “I am grateful to our eighty-two full time judges, many of whom are here today, and our dedicated staff who strive to ensure that everyone is treated with fairness and respect when they come before our courts.”

“One of the most fundamental roles of the courts is to ensure the safety and well-being of our community.  We do that in many different ways.  First and foremost, we provide a fair and transparent forum for the peaceful resolution of disputes.  We do a lot of that: this past fiscal year, alone, more than 100,000 cases were filed in Hawaii’s courts, along with hundreds of thousands of traffic and parking citations,” Chief Justice Recktenwald stated.

Although the Judiciary’s core mission is deciding cases, the Chief Justice shared about the court’s role that goes beyond the courtroom.  He talked about how the courts are helping to address the underlying problems that affect our community such as drug addiction and homelessness through programs like the Veterans Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, Drug Court, HOPE Probation, and the Steps to Avoid Eviction program.

The Chief Justice also discussed Family Court and the work being done to protect families and children.  He highlighted an innovative program to address truancy, started by judges in First Circuit (Oahu) Family Court, in partnership with the Departments of Education and the Attorney General, as well as the Office of the Public Defender.  Waianae Intermediate School was selected as the site to implement this pilot project last school year, since it had the highest rate of truancy among middle schools on Oahu.

“Of the 63 students in the program, most had missed more than 3 months of the prior school year,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald.  “The results were amazing.  78% of those students completed the school year with less than 10 unexcused absences.”

Another area with tangible results is the Judiciary’s efforts to increase access to justice.  In 2016, Hawaii was ranked among the top three states in the country for practices that provide access to justice.  These practices and initiatives include partnerships for Self-Help Centers, Hawaii’s Online Pro Bono (HOP), and self-help interactive form software, all of which assist individuals who cannot afford a lawyer to better navigate the legal system.  A recent study showed that for every dollar spent on civil legal services in Hawaii, more than $6 is returned to the economy.

Chief Justice Recktenwald also unveiled Hawaii Courts mobile, a free mobile app that will make it easier to access a wealth of information about the courts.  Hawaii is only the second statewide judiciary in the country to offer this service.  “We view technology as an opportunity to make the courts more transparent, more accessible, and more responsive,” he said.

The Chief Justice concluded the address by talking about the challenges of the future and the values that will guide the Judiciary as it moves forward.  These values include transparency and integrity.

“Integrity means standing up for what is right, even when it is not easy or comfortable to do so,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald.  “For judges, it means faithfully applying the law to the facts of each case, without regard to the popularity or status of the parties, or fear of reprisal.  Throughout Hawaii’s history as a state, our courts have been open to all.  Our merit-based system of judicial selection and retention gives judges the independence to make the call when the legal interests of a minority are challenged by the will of the majority. Our judges are grateful for that trust and ever mindful of the great responsibility that accompanies it.

Hawaii House Leadership Reacts to State of the State Address

House Speaker Joseph Souki said Gov. David Ige’s State of the State Address did not contain any real surprises, but he is happy the speech showed support for education, rail on Oahu and making adjustments to the administration’s proposed state budget.

Photo Courtesy House Democrats

“We need to collaborate to get this done. He’ll have to make some (budget) adjustments, but for the foreseeable future, the economy doesn’t look bad,” said Souki.

Souki said even though the Council on Revenues predicts less tax income for the state in the near future, the three basic elements of our economy – tourism, military support and construction – all are performing strong right now.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said he supports the governor’s goal of investing to create a better school system, but hopes to see the details of his plan flushed out in the bills he submits to the Legislature.

Hawaii Representative Urges Community-Based Measures to Protect Coral Reefs

Napili Bay project to study oxybenzone-pollution prevention

State Representative Angus McKelvey reinforced his commitment to protecting Hawaii’s coral reefs by endorsing the Napili Bay and Beach Foundation’s upcoming study on strategies to manage oxybenzone pollution.

Oxybenzone is a chemical found in many sunscreens, and presents a serious threat to coastal coral reefs. Coral reefs are not just ecologically important; they are also highly valued by the tourism industry and residential communities. Evaluating the feasibility and effectiveness of community-based management strategies is therefore important to a variety of stakeholders.

“I am especially happy that the Napili Bay foundation has been selected to conduct this study. This shows that businesses, community groups, and others share in the concern for our coral reefs,” said McKelvey. “Currently, no reliable data regarding oxybenzone-pollution management strategies exists.

Thanks to the Napili Bay and Beach Foundation’s proactive efforts, this critical information will be available to make informed decisions about protecting not only Napili Bay’s coral reefs, but also elsewhere across the globe.”

The study will determine the effectiveness of a multi-pronged public relations campaign to promote alternatives to using sunscreens that contain oxybenzone. It will encompass an environmental and demographic assessment pre- and post-campaign launch. Toxicity assays will be measured against two control sites, where no campaign will occur.

“As one who burns early and often, and is a skin cancer survivor, I know how important it is to protect yourself from the sun,” McKelvey said, “but there are many products that, along with sensible sun habits, can protect your skin and our reefs.”

Hawaii Representative Issues Statement in Response to Zuckerberg Lawsuit

Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) issued a statement in response to the controversy surrounding Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s 100-acre Kauai estate, and will be introducing legislation through his House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, and Hawaiian Affairs to address issues with “quiet title” and “Kuleana Lands” law.

“Zuckerberg is using the same legal loophole that sugar barons have historically exploited to scoop thousands of acres of Hawaiian lands. Zuckerberg’s actions may be legal and slightly more transparent, but it doesn’t make them right,” Ing said.

“We need to look at this issue through the eyes of the families affected. Here we have the world’s sixth richest individual, with a team of the world’s best lawyers, suing you, then asking you to make a deal. Obviously, no matter how expensive, you will lawyer up too.”

Ing claims that in these cases, defendants typically spend more on attorney fees than any payout they may receive. “So in the end, you have a mainland billionaire exploiting our legal system, and bullying his way through local residents, all to build his beach playground. This is not the intent of the law.”

Ing said that the State should take partial blame, because of outdated Kuleana Land title laws. A major problem with Kuleana Lands is that over generations of inheritances, land is divided into such tiny parcels that are legally worth nothing and not worth fighting over, if records can even be found. But Ing says these incremental losses adds up, and that of the original 23,000 acres designated Kuleana Lands, only a few thousand remain.

Ing claims there are better ways to address the dispute. “I was always taught that when disputes arise, to approach folks with aloha, talk story, and try to ho’oponopono. In Hawaii, you don’t initiate conversation by filing a lawsuit,” said Ing. “If Zuckerberg truly cared about Hawaiian culture, and these families, he would (1) let them hui together as a trust, rather than fighting them off one by one, then, (2) he would pay for and enter mediation to reach a fair deal without litigation.”

Ing’s bill, which is being drafted and will be submitted by next Wednesday, will require just that. “My proposal is fair and will help address this and hundreds of other quiet title cases that are weighted too heavily for the plaintiff. It goes well beyond sympathy for Native Hawaiians, because it could happen to anyone. We must stop mainland billionaires from stacking money to tilt Hawaii’s legal system against local residents.”

Hawaii State Senate 29th Biennium Legislative Session Convenes

Members of the Hawai‘i State Senate convened the 29th Biennium Legislative Session reaffirming their commitment to work collaboratively in addressing the state’s most pressing problems and ready the state to be sustainable and prepared for the future.

A photo from Senator Kahele’s Facebook page.

Today’s opening session commenced with an oli by kumu hula Leina‘ala Pavao and included an invocation by Kahu Curt Kekuna, Pastor of Kawaiahao Church. The National Anthem was performed by Ms. Nalani Brun and Hawai‘i Pono‘i by Mr. Nick Castillo.  The Kahaluu Ukulele Band and Na Hoku Hanohano nominee Shar Carillo and Kaua‘i artists Loke Sasil and Shay Marcello also provided entertainment during today’s program.

Among the honored guests in the Senate Chamber were government officials from the Fukuoka Prefecture, Consul General Yasushi Misawa of Japan, Commander Ulysses Mullins, United States Coast Guard, Hawai‘i State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald, Governor David Ige, Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, and former Governors George Ariyoshi, John Waihe‘e, Ben Cayetano, and Neil Abercrombie, and mayors from the neighbor islands.

In his remarks, Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi pressed his Senate colleagues to work towards building our economy and creating educational opportunities for the younger generation in Hawai‘i.

Senator Kouchi recognized Chenoa Farnsworth, managing partner of Blue Startups, a Honolulu-based startup support program, for her efforts in supporting entrepreneurship and creating jobs to build the economy in Hawai‘i.  Farnsworth also manages the Hawai‘i Angels investment network, which has invested over $40 million in startup companies. She also co-founded Kolohala Ventures, a Hawai‘i-based venture capital firm that invested $50 million into Hawai‘i-based technology start-ups.

In highlighting the successes of Hawaii’s education system, Senator Kouchi mentioned Waimea High School principal and Masayuki Tokioka Award winner, Mahina Anguay. The Senate President said Anguay represents the best of Hawai‘i’s school administrators and under her leadership, a record number of students at Waimea High School are now the first in their family to attend college.

Senate President Kouchi also introduced Sarah Kern, who is currently a teacher at Wai‘anae High School. Kern was Valedictorian at Kaiser High School and graduated with a degree in Biology from Tufts University where she made the Dean’s List throughout her four years. The Senate President said Kern was a shining example of Hawai‘i’s young people who come home to pursue noble, but not necessarily high-paying careers, such as teaching.

“We need to create the economy to support all of our citizens,” said Senator Kouchi. “We need to support principals like Mahina and just as importantly we need to support teachers like Sarah who are on the frontline, so that we can create the educational opportunities for our young people.”

Senator Kouchi went on to say, “the only equalization that we can offer our children is a quality education to ensure that they get the tools and the skills to compete in the global market that they are going to enter.”

The Senate President introduced Mr. Kevin Johnson, the former Mayor of Sacramento and professional basketball player, whom he lauded for his work in establishing award-winning after school programs, reading programs and programs for the homeless.

Senate President Kouchi said he has been meeting with Johnson and hopes to work with him to address many of the concerns in Hawai‘i that mirror those of the Mayor’s hometown. “Our problems are not unique to the rest of the world. Where we have others who have found success why not find those who can help us solve our problems,” said Senator Kouchi.

The Senate President also referenced the Senate Majority Legislative Program which outlines the main themes for the State Senate.

“The Senate Majority Legislative Program serves as a guide as to where we will focus our work over the next sixty days and continue to build upon the work from the previous session,” said Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English.

The public can access more information on hearings and session activities on the Hawai‘i State Legislature’s website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov

Hawaii House of Representatives Opening Day Remarks

In his opening day remarks, Speaker of the House Joseph M. Souki called on members of the House of Representatives to extend the general excise tax to finance rail, to find viable alternatives to prison incarceration and to provide human compassion to those who are mentally ill and terminally sick.

“We have a lot on our plate for this session. And the last revenue forecast by the Council on Revenues does not make our job any easier,” Souki told legislators. “But we’ve been there before, as lawmakers and as a community. And we will together find solutions to our most pressing issues.”

In his speech, Souki also supported making needed changes to our public education system and completing the privatization of Maui’s public hospitals.

He called on legislators “to look for solutions like rail to relieve traffic on our roads. It does come with a high cost, but make no mistake, rail is the key to the future of Oahu.”

Souki wants to remove the sunset date on the original general excise tax financing bill, but only if we reduce the tax rate with the city making up the difference. He also wants to reduce administrative costs from 10 to 5 percent.

He proposed a feasibility study to see if elevated toll roads would make sense for Honolulu.

“We must employ a multi-faceted approach, utilizing our buses, flex scheduling and technology that allows distance learning, tele medicine and alternative workplaces to reduce commuter travel,” he said.

With our prisons severely overcrowded and an estimated 10 years needed to build a new one, Souki suggests using electronic bracelets to confine those guilty of misdemeanor, white collar or non-violent crimes to their homes.

“With new technology, we can employ varying degrees of restrictions based on the crime committed, and monitor movements of those under supervision,” he said. “What I’m talking about is creating a whole new level of Non-Institutionalized Incarceration.”

Souki said human compassion is important to everyone in Hawaii and we can see our family members who are near death that need our support.

“Those who are suffering from a terminal illness and are of sound mind should be given the opportunity to decide how they will end their own lives,” Souki said.

He will submit a bill to allow medical aid in dying this session.

The House will continue to provide food and rental tax credits for low income families that are about to expire, Souki said.

“There is nothing more important to human dignity than food on the table and a roof over your head,” Souki said.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki welcomed the five new members to the House and asked the returning representatives to draw from their aspirations to be constructive and find solutions to our most pressing challenges.

“The need for Hawaii to be functional has never been more critical. In just two days, the United States will undergo profound change,” Saiki said. “We need to be ready and we need to overcome differences so that we can make Hawaii more effective and viable.”

Saiki asked the representatives to heed the words of President Obama to not demonize each other but listen, fight for our principles and find common ground.

(LINKS TO FULL SPEECHES, SOUKI, SAIKI)

Commentary – Former Councilman Airlifted to Oahu, Cardiac Care Unit Wanted at Kona Hospital

Former Council member Dominic Yagong is the latest high profile community member to be airlifted for heart or stroke problems to Maui Memorial or Queen’s on Oahu. Please ask your Hawaii State Senator and Council members to include a Cardiac Care unit in the state budget. It would be $2 million to remodel the ER at Kona Community Hospital and money for a stipend for two cardiologists.

Yagong posted the following on his Facebook page:
“Medivac to Queens hospital tomorrow morning. Spending the night in Waimea ER after experiencing severe chest pains at Basketball game in Honokaa. Sorry girls for missing announcing your game. I’ll be fine,,,,got my lucky Green Bay cap with me! Thanks Kahea for calling EMT. No worries…thumbs up!”

THE PROBLEM: There is a 2- hour window when patients need to be treated in order to expect a full recovery. Think about where you live on the Big Island. From my home it would take 45 minutes to get to Kona Community Hospital Emergency Room, then the time to be diagnosed and then get the helicopter and then the 45 minute + time to Oahu, getting checked in and a cardiologist hopefully is at the hospital and you need to be seen, an Operating Room hopefully is available. Get the picture? Other important island residents to be airlifted are Mayor Kim, Council Chair Pete Hoffmann and OHA Representative Bob Lindsey.

I talked to an architect who specializes in building hospitals and a medical planner at NBBJ Architects. There is currently no facility or any cardiologists to staff a dedicated cardiac care unit for West Hawaii. We agreed that Kona Community Hospital (KCH) was the best location for a Cardiac Care unit. Kona Community Hospital has one cardiologist, Dr. Michael Dang who travels from Honolulu. Dr. Larry Derbes is an interventional cardiologist in private practice in Kona, who agrees that a Catheterization Lab to do stents and ablations and to treat strokes, would save lives and result in better outcomes and quality of life for cardiac patients. He is eager to help. I talked to Jay Kreuzer, is the CEO of KCH, and has also been a cardiac patient. He pointed out that staffing the Catheterization Lab is the biggest challenge because we lose doctors, because the Medicare reimbursement rate of only 93% of the actual cost is compounded by Hawaii Medical Services Association (Hawaii’s biggest healthcare insurer), which compensates at only 110% of the Medicare Reimbursement. He told me that there is an airlift almost every day from KCH to either Queens in Honolulu or Maui Memorial and they are usually for heart or stroke patients.
I also met with Dr. Frank Sayre, Chair of the Board for the West Hawaii Regional Hospital Board of Directors, which oversees Kona Community Hospital and the North Kohala Community Hospital. He agreed with Jay Kreuzer. He told me that he had discussed setting up a “funded chair” for specialists (similar to academic chairs) as a stipend to keep doctors on the island.
SOLUTIONS:
1. A HYBRID CATHETERIZATION LAB/ OPERATING ROOM FOR KONA COMMUNITY HOSPITAL was recommended by architect and planner. The recent flooding of the Operating Room at KCH presents an opportunity to remodel the Operating Room and accommodate Cath Lab equipment.
2. STAFFING: An annuity with the Hawaii Community Foundation or the Kona Community Hospital Foundation to generate a yearly stipend for two cardiologists to establish a “chair position.
Please get in touch with your State Representatives and State Senators to include these items as allocation in their Budget Legislation for the coming year.
There has been some discussion about building a new hospital sometime, but even if that were started tomorrow, it would still take about 6 years to be built, with land acquisition, EIS, plans, hiring a contractor and building. We need a Cardiac Care unit NOW to save our friends and family and allow heart attack and stroke patients to recover fully and at home on our island. Please ask your Hawaii State Senator and Council members to include a Cardiac Care unit in the state budget. It would be $2 million to remodel the ER at Kona Community Hospital and money for a stipend for two cardiologists. Healthy people are happy people.

For more information go to this site: https://debbiehecht.com/2016/06/21/a-cardiac-care-unit-for-the-big-island-of-hawaii/

Debbie Hecht
Kailua-Kona

Hawaii Child Advocates Announce Legislative Priorities

Hawaii Children’s Action Network (HCAN) released their annual “Children’s Policy Agenda” today.  HCAN was created to help nonprofits, businesses, government, and citizens advocate for policies aimed at improving kids’ lives.

According to the group’s executive director Deborah Zysman, the event is all about collaboration.  “A diverse group of policy experts, non-profits advocates and coalitions have come together to prioritize the next steps we can take to make Hawaii the best place for children. Together, we share a common goal to improve the health, economic security, and education of our children,” said Zysman.

Over fifty organizations participated in the creation of this year’s Agenda.  Issues are categorized by economic security and equality, strengthening families, child safety, health and wellness, and education. All contain policy ideas that will be led by various groups.

Senator Karl Rhoads (D-13) and Rep. Matt Lopresti (D-41), new co-chairmen of the Keiki Caucus, supported HCAN for the launch.  The Keiki Caucus previously was chaired by former Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland until she retired last fall.

“We realize that of course kids are indeed our future,” said Rhoads.  “It’s an honor to chair this Caucus and to help carry the torch of doing what we need to do to make Hawaii a great place for children to grow up,” he said.

According to Lopresti, the future looks bright for the cooperation between citizen groups and lawmakers.  “We rely on citizen groups and issue experts in the same way that advocates rely on lawmakers to keep making progress,” said Lopresti.  “The Children’s Policy Agenda is a great way for us to open up the channels of dialogue and share expectations,” he said.

More information about the Children’s Policy Agenda can be found at www.hawaii-can.org

Hawaii State Senate Unveils 2017 Legislative Program

Our communities, environment, sustainability and public safety are areas of which the Hawai‘i State Senate will focus in the 29th Legislative Biennium.

The areas are incorporated under four over-arching themes that embrace Hawaiian values and collectively form the Legislative Program the Hawai‘i State Senate will use as a guide throughout the Regular Session of 2017.   

“On many of these issues, we’re continuing the work that had begun in the previous legislative sessions,” said Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English. “We recognize the importance to be self-reliant and take care of our island home. There’s also a responsibility to be prepared for the future, ensuring that the next generation is not saddled with problems we can do our best to address right now.”

The 2017 Legislative Program for the Hawai‘i State Senate is as follows:

Ola Lehulehu – People and Communities

  • Education – We will collaborate with educational leaders and interested stakeholders to identify and focus on priority educational needs and opportunities. We will strive to produce workforce-ready graduates to provide opportunities to cultivate and diversify the workforce and economy of Hawai‘i.
  • Affordability – We acknowledge Hawai‘i’s extremely high cost of living and the financial stress this places on many individuals and families. We will therefore explore options to increase affordability for residents, including avenues to better support low-income wage earners in Hawai‘i.
  • Social Services – We will support the State’s core functions, including strengthening our social safety net to ensure our keiki, kūpuna, families, and individuals are protected. We will also continue to support the creative coordination of social service and educational strategies that address the multi-faceted nature of homelessness.
  • Health Care – We will support collaborative efforts to ensure that funding for Native Hawaiian health care continues. We will further support Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders by focusing on essential social and cultural determinants that improve health outcomes amongst our indigenous population. We will also encourage options to improve health care for our keiki and our residents in rural areas and will support collaborative efforts to provide better dental care for keiki and adults throughout our communities.
  • Food Security – We will further explore opportunities and policies that support our local farmers, encourage good agricultural practices, and increase our local food production. Efforts that support food self-sufficiency will have positive effects on our local job market and economy.

 Aloha Kaiāulu Ho‘oulu – Preparedness

  • Community Development – We will work diligently to understand and promote smart community development, in particular transit-oriented development. We recognize transit-oriented development as a unique opportunity to address many socio-economic challenges. Because land along public transportation corridors presents an opportunity for the State to maximize land development, we support collaboration with interested stakeholders, including private businesses and non-profit organizations. We are also committed to supporting affordable housing and necessary infrastructure to strengthen our community.
  • Government Services – We will focus on improving the efficiency and modernization of government services, including election participation. We will continue to encourage the enhancement of the State’s information technology systems and incentivize the use of technology. We will also support efforts to advance innovation-oriented projects that improve living standards in Hawai‘i, while streamlining resources to most efficiently and effectively promote innovation and economic growth.
  • Financial Analysis – The Hawai‘i State Senate is committed to analyzing tax credit cost information provided by state agencies; assessing the viability of existing tax credits, exemptions, and exclusions; and determining whether each tax credit, exemption, or exclusion continues to be useful and beneficial to the State.

 Aloha Honua – Climate Change and Energy

  • Environment – We will protect and preserve Hawai‘i’s natural resources by exploring ways to improve agricultural practices and mitigate climate change impacts. We are committed to supporting the preservation of Hawai‘i’s unique geographical features, including coastlines and watersheds. In addition to supporting existing conservation and enforcement efforts, we will encourage the use of innovative technologies to combat invasive species, address biosecurity risks, conserve the State’s water resources, address changing sea levels, and protect the State’s fragile marine ecosystem.
  • Sustainability – We will continue our commitment to renewable energy alternatives that are practical and economical for the State and take into account Hawai‘i’s natural environment and terrain. With recent progress and clean energy goals in mind, we will further encourage the availability of renewable energy and advance projects to improve energy efficiencies.

 Pono Kaulike – Transforming Justice

  • Rehabilitation – We will explore alternatives to incarceration and options to reduce the recidivism rate amongst our incarcerated population, through means such as strengthening community ties. We will support efforts that enable incarcerated individuals to develop useable skills that will help in their transition back into their communities.
  • Public Safety – In an effort to promote continued public safety, we will encourage effectiveness, transparency, and interagency collaboration, and insist on higher standards of conduct and appropriate training.

It is the Hawai‘i State Senate’s sincere hope that we can work collaboratively with the House of Representatives, the Governor, and the Judiciary to achieve all the goals outlined in this Program.

Hawaii Representative Sponsors $15 Minimum Wage Bill

State Representative Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui), is sponsoring legislation to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage to $15 by 2019 and $22 by 2022. The bill will also tie the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index and eliminates the exemption for tipped employees. Ing says the bill will be the nation’s most progressive “living wage” law, and encompasses the spirit of the grassroots Fight for $15 movement.

“Hawaii is the most expensive state in the nation. Other high cost of living states and cities like Seattle, California, and New York have already passed $15 minimum wage laws,” said Ing. “Working families are struggling, so we as legislators have a moral obligation to act. The evidence shows that raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour is the single most impactful policy for Hawaii’s most vulnerable.”

Ing said that jurisdictions that have already won their “Fight for $15” are seeing businesses thrive, new restaurants open, and reduced income inequality. Hawaii is late to the party, and we need the raise desperately.

“I expect various big-money special interests to oppose the bill, but my hope is that empirical facts, popular opinion, and baseline morality will in prevail in the end,” he said.

For more information please see http://Hawaiifightfor15.com or its Facebook page at http://Facebook.com/fightfor15hawaii.

Hawaii Applicants Wanted for State Ethics and Campaign Spending Commissions

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

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

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

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

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

Interested persons should submit an application along with a resume and three letters of recommendation (attesting to the applicant’s character and integrity) postmarked by February 4, 2017 to:  Judicial Council, Hawai`i Supreme Court, 417 S. King Street, Second Floor, Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813-2902.

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

Hawaii Governor Appoints Chris Todd to Fill Late Rep. Clift Tsuji’s Seat

After careful consideration of three nominees selected by the Hawai‘i County Democratic Party, Gov. David Ige today appointed Chris Todd to the State House of Representatives, District 2. Todd will fill the seat left vacant by the late Rep. Clift Tsuji, who died on Nov. 15, 2016.

Rep. Chris Todd

Todd was born and raised in Hilo, where he earned his college degree in economics and political science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He held several positions at the Suisan Fish Market before becoming distribution manager for Hawai‘i Paper Products last year.

Todd coaches football at Hilo High School. His wife, Britney, is a teacher at Kalanianaole Middle School.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity to serve my community. I look forward to the hard work ahead and will always keep an open door and mind,” Todd said.

The governor is required by law to make his selection from a list of nominees submitted by the Democratic Party.

Hawaii State Now Accepting Grants-in-Aid Applications for 2017

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Jill Tokuda and House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke announced that qualified nonprofit and other organizations are able to apply for State Grants-in-Aid (GIA) that may become available and will be under consideration during the 2017 Regular Session.

Previous grants were appropriated to nonprofit and other organizations for various public purposes that were recognized as priorities and seen as complimentary to state government functions, including health, educational, workforce development, and social services and cultural and historical activities.

In order to allow the Legislature time to thoroughly review applications, the deadline to submit grant applications will be 4:30 p.m. on January 20, 2017.  Last year, the Legislature awarded nearly $37 million in grants to various organizations across the state.

Information on the GIA process is available on the Legislature’s website (www.capitol.hawaii.gov). For any questions, please contact the Ways and Means Committee at 808-586-6800 or the Finance Committee at 808-586-6200.

Rod S. Tanonaka Named House Sergeant-At-Arms

Rod. S. Tanonaka has been named the State House of Representatives Sergeant-at-Arms effective January 3, 2017.

capitalTanonaka replaces Kevin R. Kuroda who held the position since 2003. Kuroda announced his retirement last month to address personal and family concerns.

“Kevin has done an outstanding job and we will miss his steady presence at the Capitol,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki. “We also believe Rod has the experience and skills needed to capably fulfill the requirements of the position.”

Tanonaka previously served as Chief of Staff for the late U.S. Rep. K. Mark Takai and prior to that held the same post for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa during her first term in office.

The Sergeant-at-Arms Office’s duties include providing security for the offices and chambers of the state House. The staff attends and maintains order during all House sessions and is responsible for executing the commands of the House leadership.

Representative Joy A. San Buenaventura Chosen for 2016 Western Legislative Academy

The Council of State Governments West (CSG West), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization serving Western state legislators of both parties in 13 Western states, has selected Hawaii Representative Joy A. San Buenaventura as a participant in its prestigious training institute for lawmakers in their first four years of service.  The purpose of the Western Legislative Academy is to build excellence and effectiveness in state legislators in the Western region.

rep-joy-fb-pictureAdmission to the Western Legislative Academy is very competitive and is based on commitment to public service, desire to improve personal legislative effectiveness and interest in improving the legislative process.  Out of 88 applicants from throughout the Western United States, 44 state legislators were selected as members of the Western Legislative Academy Class of 2016.

The Western Legislative Academy convenes from November 30 – December 3, 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colorado for three and a half days of intensive training in subjects such as legislative institutions, ethics, communications, negotiations, time management and leadership.  Faculty is drawn from academia, former military and the private sector.  A highlight of the training is an afternoon at the US Air Force Academy working on personal assessments and team building.

San Buenaventura is a 2nd term Hawaii State Representative for the District of Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii. She is vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee and is a member of Transportation and Housing committees.  She is one of only two state representatives in the medical marijuana working group.

Prior to being a legislator, she has been a country attorney for more than 30 years specializing in appeals, litigation and family law.  She has volunteered as a mediator with Kuikahi mediation, as an arbitrator with the Judiciary and as a lawyer with Volunteer Legal Services and with the Judiciary’s self-help clinic.  Joy has had several jury trials and multiple bench trials, and 25 years ago, she was the first attorney in the state to pursue breast implant litigation. She has won all of her appeals to the Hawaii Supreme Court; is a former per diem District Court Judge from 1991-1995, the youngest judge then; and a former University of Hawaii lecturer.

The Council of State Governments West is the Western region of the national Council of State Governments, which is based in Lexington, Kentucky.  Regional offices of CSG are located in Sacramento, Chicago, Atlanta and New York.

Funding for the Academy comes from the Colorado Springs-based El Pomar Foundation, which is dedicated to excellence in nonprofit organizations, and from Western state legislatures and corporate sponsors. The El Pomar Foundation also donates the campus for the Western Legislative Academy.

Senator Kaialiʻi Kahele to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education

Newly elected State Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele (Dist. 1 – Hilo), was selected to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education (HED) by Senate leadership earlier today. Sen. Kahele will fulfill the final two years of his late father’s term in the Senate representing the residents of Hilo after being elected to the seat on November 8, 2016.

senator-kai-kahele-profileSen. Kahele, a 1992 graduate of Hilo High School, pursued his higher education at Hawai‘i Community College, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and received his Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 1998.

As Chair of HED, Sen. Kahele will oversee the formulation of legisation for the University of Hawai‘i System – including three baccalaureate universities, seven community colleges and four educational centers across Hawai‘i. In addition, his committee purvue includes the Senate confirmation of the University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents.

Sen. Kahele will also serve as Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Education (EDU) with Chair, Sen. Michelle N. Kidani.

“It is an honor and I am humbled to represent the residents of Senate District One in Hilo,” said Sen. Kahele. “I appreciate the trust and confidence the Senate Leadership has in me with these important committee assignments. I have a passion for education and providing quality, affordable education for all keiki, at all levels, across our State. Working together with Senator Kidani, I am looking forward to reshaping P-20 education throughout Hawai‘i and providing opportunities for our children to compete in the global arena as well as giving them the tools to shape the future of our Island home.”