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Rep. Gabbard and Senator Sanders Introduce “Raise the Wage Act”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D, HI-02) stood with Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate to introduce the Raise the Wage Act today.

The legislation would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 and index the minimum wage to the median wage growth thereafter. It has been 10 years since legislation was enacted increasing the federal minimum wage. When adjusted for inflation, about 40 percent of today’s workers earn less than the minimum wage in 1968. The Raise the Wage Act would give more than 41 million low-wage workers a raise, increasing the wages of almost 30 percent of the U.S. workforce.

“In my home state of Hawaiʻi, and across the country, far too many people are working one or two full-time minimum wage jobs, living in poverty, and barely scraping by. The federal minimum wage has fallen far behind inflation and has actually lost value over time, meaning working families are making less while paying more just to make ends meet. The federal minimum wage has stagnated for the last 10 years—it is long overdue for Congress to do the right thing for hard-working Americans and raise the minimum wage,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has supported legislation to raise the federal minimum wage throughout her time in Congress, and is an original cosponsor of the legislation introduced today to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She has also cosponsored legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.1869) to address wage discrimination across the United States.

Hawaii Ranked 5th Highest in Nation for Medical Marijuana Program

Hawaii Department of Health has received a “B” and ranked the fifth highest in the nation for its medical marijuana program, based on a recent report card of new, regulated medical marijuana distribution programs issued by Americans for Safe Access (ASA).

The national organization’s mission is to reduce barriers to medical cannabis by creating policies to improve access for patients and researchers, using legislation, education, litigation, research and other means.
According to the report card, “Hawaii is on track to become one of the best programs in the country if they continue with their timely implementation.”

The grades ranged from B+ to F-. Hawaii’s “B” grade was based on 430 points out of a total 500, earning a score of 86 percent. The highest grade of “B+” was awarded to Illinois, with 449 points and an overall score of 89.9 percent

The report used a point system to grade the medical marijuana programs in 44 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories Guam and Puerto Rico, based on five criteria:

  1.  Patients’ rights and protection from discrimination
  2. Access to medicine
  3. Ease of navigation
  4. Functionality
  5. Product safety protocols

The complete report can be viewed at: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/medical_marijuana_access_in_the_usa

 

Statement of Attorney General Doug Chin Regarding Today’s Fourth Circuit Ruling Against Trump Travel Ban

Today the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a nationwide injunction against President Donald Trump’s Revised Executive Order, dated March 6, 2017, banning travel from six Muslim-majority nations.

Attorney General Chin issued the following statement in response:

“Terrorism must be stopped, but not by sacrificing our constitutional principles or denigrating entire classes of people. Not even the President of the United States is above the U.S. Constitution.”

Today’s Fourth Circuit ruling noted that the text of the revised Executive Order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

On May 15, 2017, the State of Hawaii argued in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Hawaii federal district court Judge Derrick K. Watson’s order enjoining President Trump’s Executive Order nationwide on grounds that the Executive Order violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit’s decision in that case, Hawaii v. Trump, is still pending.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Trump’s Massive Budget Cuts Threaten Hawaii, American People

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today warned that the Trump Administration’s 2018 Budget Blueprint puts the health and safety of the most vulnerable in our country at risk with massive cuts to government programs that spur economic growth and provide critical services. The budget slashes $1.4 trillion from programs families in Hawaiʻi and across the country depend on, including:

  • $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid that serves over 348,000 people in Hawaiʻi
  • $191 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that serves over 170,000 people in Hawaiʻi
  • $72 billion in cuts to the Social Security’s disability program, which serves over 19,000 people in Hawaiʻi
  • $143 billion from federal student loans, including the elimination of federally subsidized loans and loan forgiveness programs that serve Hawaiʻi nurses, police officers, and teachers
  • $40.4 billion in cuts to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which assist one in eight Hawaiʻi keiki living in poverty

Click to read

In a speech on the House floor today, the congresswoman said, “The president’s budget proposal put forward today will be damaging to the people in our communities and the places that we call home. It cuts Medicaid by over $600 billion, cuts the food stamp program by over 25%, affecting the most needy within our communities. It slashes infrastructure programs, eliminates TIGER grants, cuts student loan and financial aid programs, and includes catastrophic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. In my home state of Hawai’i, this budget zeros out federal funding for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant, the Native Hawaiian Loan Guarantee Program, and cuts Native Hawaiian Education programs by $33 million dollars, crippling the progress that’s been made for over 30 years to strengthen Native Hawaiian early education, literacy, gifted and talented education programs, higher education, vocational programs and more. I strongly oppose this budget, and look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to pass a budget that actually serves the people and our planet.”

An Analysis of Consumer Debt: How Does Hawaii Compare with the Nation?

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released a report today, “An Analysis of Consumer Debt: How does Hawaii Compare with the Nation?” The report examined various consumer debt categories.

The report highlights why our per capita debt is high, which is due to high housing prices in Hawaii, with 77 percent of our debt from mortgage debt.

Hawaii’s home ownership increased 10 percentage points from 46.9 percent in 1970 to 56.9 percent in 2015 while the U.S. home ownership increased less than one percentage point from 62.9 percent to 63.8 percent during the same time period.

Chief State Economist Dr. Eugene Tian noted that the high mortgage debt may also have negative impacts, including less consumers spending on other goods and services by home owners, increasing rental payment for renters, and the leakage of mortgage payment to out-of-state financial institutions.

Following are some of the highlights of the report:

  • Hawaii’s total consumer debt per capita increased from $51,810 in 2005 to $67,010 in 2015, ranking it second highest in the nation.
  • For mortgage debt per capita, Hawaii has been steadily increasing in the state rankings, from the sixth highest state in 2005 to the highest state in 2015.
  • Hawaii ranks low among states for auto loans per capita, while defaults for those with auto loans are close to U.S. average.
  • Hawaii residents have relatively high credit card debt. Hawaii ranked fourth in the nation in 2010 and 2015 for credit card debt per capita.
  • Hawaii ranks the lowest in the nation for per capita student debt.
  • For the other debt category (home equity lines of credit, consumer cards, and consumer-financed debt), Hawaii leads the nation for the average amount per capita at $5,300. This partially reflects Hawaii’s high residential real estate values and the home equity loan balances supported by these high values.

The report is available at: http://files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/economic/reports/consumer_debt_final.pdf

Reps. Gabbard, Perry Introduce Bill to Permanently End Warrantless Collection of Americans’ Emails

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Scott Perry (R-PA), both founding members of the Fourth Amendment Caucus, introduced legislation today to permanently codify protections on Americans’ privacy.

Last month, the NSA announced it is ending its collection of Americans’ Internet communications that merely mention identifying terms for foreign targets, but are not to or from those targets, also known as “about” surveillance. The legislation introduced today would permanently codify this policy change into law. Gabbard and Perry, both veterans of the Iraq War, also co-chair the Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “For years, the NSA has been collecting phone and online communications from everyday Americans across the country, defying the rights and liberties granted to us under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The 2008 FISA Amendments, specifically Section 702, has led to massive government-led exploitation of personal privacy through the collection of American citizens’ emails. We need serious reforms that balance the protection of our civil liberties and rights through our constitution, and also keep the American people safe. The NSA recently announced that they would stop collecting our emails and electronic communications under Section 702, but what is to say that it won’t start up again? Our legislation will keep our country from backtracking on this progress by permanently codifying this policy change and banning this privacy-invading collection from taking place again.”

Rep. Scott Perry said, “The NSA recently changed policy to prohibit the collection of electronic communications sent or received by American citizens that merely mention a foreign target of surveillance. This practice has long been used as an end-around the Fourth Amendment, and we commend the NSA for aligning their collection efforts with the Constitution. The legislation ensures that this important win for the American people cannot be reversed under future administrations. I thank Congresswoman Gabbard for her continued efforts on this issue and look forward to seeing this bill move quickly.”

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has long advocated for reforms that address our government’s responsibility to protect civil liberties and ensure a strong national defense. She has actively sought reforms to Section 702, the Patriot Act, introduced legislation to strengthen and expand the functions of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), and is a founding member of the bipartisan Fourth Amendment Caucus focused on protecting the privacy and security of Americans in the digital age.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Condemns New U.S. Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today condemned the Trump Administration’s new $460 billion arms deal with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—$110 billion immediately and $350 billion over the next 10 years—a country with a devastating record of human rights violations at home and abroad, and a long history of providing support to terrorist organizations that threaten the American people.  Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest sponsor and propagator of the extremist Wahhabi Salafist ideology that fuels terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.  Based on Saudi Arabia’s history and track record, there is a significant likelihood these weapons will be used against innocent civilians or end up in the hands of terrorist groups.

“Saudi Arabia has spent hundreds of billions of dollars spreading their extreme Wahhabi Salafist ideology around the world, creating fertile ground for terrorist organizations like ISIS and al-Qaeda to recruit, while simultaneously providing direct support to terrorist groups who pose a direct threat to US interests and who are fighting to overthrow the Syrian government. The hypocrisy in the Trump administration’s actions toward Saudi Arabia began in February 2017 with the newly-appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo presenting Saudi Crown Prince bin Nayef with the George Tenet Award in recognition of Prince bin Nayef’s ‘excellent intelligence performance, in the domain of counter-terrorism and his unbound contribution to realise world security and peace.’ This hypocrisy continues now as the Trump administration talks tough against ISIS and terrorism, while selling weapons to, supporting, and praising a country that beheads dissidents, oppresses women, persecutes religious minorities, atheists, and LGBT people, and is the greatest supporter of terror groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS in the world today. This arms deal will enable Saudi Arabia to use U.S.-made weapons in their war crimes against Yemeni civilians in a brutal civil war, and continue perpetuating human rights atrocities at home and abroad,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has introduced H.R. 608, the bipartisan Stop Arming Terrorists Act, which would prohibit any Federal agency from using taxpayer dollars to provide weapons, cash, intelligence, or any support to armed militants who are allied with al-Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist groups, and it will prohibit the U.S. government from funneling money and weapons through other countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar who are directly or indirectly supporting terrorists.  Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard also recently sent a letter to Secretary Mattis urging an end to the United States’ military participation in Yemen’s civil war, where 19 million people need emergency support and which has never been authorized by Congress, and calling for a Congressional briefing on the White House’s strategy in Yemen.

Hawaii Attorney General Chin Urges Department of Justice to Rescind Harsh New Sentencing Guidelines

Coalition of States Ask for Dialogue with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Criminal Justice Issues

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin joined District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and attorneys general from 13 other states in calling for United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind new instructions for Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors that are neither smart on crime nor good for public safety. The state attorneys general also asked to meet with Sessions to discuss smarter, data-driven approaches to criminal justice policy that are better for public safety and more fiscally sound.

In a letter sent to Sessions, the attorneys general write that “there is a strong and bipartisan national consensus that the harsh sentencing practices reflected in the DOJ policy announced last week do not increase public safety, and that consensus is supported by strong data.” Additionally, they say that “the new DOJ policy runs contrary not only to this consensus, but to basic principles of equal justice and sound fiscal policy.”

Attorney General Chin said, “Jeff Sessions wants to turn back the clock to a generation when sentencing policies impacted minorities unfairly and led to overcrowded prisons. Much research conducted and data analyzed since the time I started as a Honolulu deputy prosecutor in 1998 has taught law enforcement what works better and what is more fair. At a time when crime statewide is relatively low, this new DOJ policy hurts our community.”

Click to read full letter

Joining Attorneys General Chin and Racine in today’s letter are attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state.

Hokulea Sets Sail for Hawaii and Historic Worldwide Voyage Homecoming

After 5 days in the community of Tautira – a  second home of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) and legendary canoe Hokulea – the crews of Hokulea and Hikianalia bid  a warm goodbye to their Tahitian voyaging ohana and departed on the final historic leg of the Worldwide Voyage: sailing home to Hawaii.

The people of Tautira have been the Tahitian caretakers of the canoes and crews of PVS since Hokulea’s maiden voyage in 1976. Upon arrival in Tautira, the crew payed homage to the family ties so important to the shared voyaging heritage of Hawaii and Tahiti, visiting the grave sites of leaders who helped build the connection more than forty years ago.

The crews were hosted at Mayor Papa Sane’s home and welcomed as family in this voyaging community so closely held to Hawaii’s own.

The morning of Wednesday, May 17, Hokulea, sister canoe Hikianalia, and escort vessel Gershon II began the final leg of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage departing from Tahiti to head back home to Hawaii. This last, historic stretch of the sail plan is expected to take 3-4 weeks (pending weather).

The canoes will make a celebratory return to Honolulu on Saturday, June 17 at Magic Island for a cultural welcoming ceremony followed by a grand celebration open to the entire community.

The week-long celebration will continue with the Malama Honua Fair and Summit, a three-day event at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center , which will highlight the voyaging, cultural, environmental, educational, and health and well-being missions of the Worldwide Voyage by sharing malama honua “stories of hope” and voyage-inspired initiatives and activities with the public.

The event’s inspirational speaker series will feature local and global speakers who have engaged with the Voyage including: Megan Smith, 3rd chief technology officer of the United States; Dieter Paulmann, founder of Okeanos Foundation for the Sea; and Ocean Elders Sylvia Earle, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Don Walsh. Registration for these events is now open at www.hokulea.com/summit.

Hawaii Department of Education Receives National Innovation Award From Education Commission of the States

The Education Commission of the States announced that the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) is the 2017 recipient of the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation. The Commission sited the Department’s broadly-supported and impactful education improvement efforts, including focusing school accountability on students’ college and career readiness; teacher and education leader support across the state; development of a comprehensive longitudinal data system; and investing in data literacy as reasons why Hawaii received the award.

“Hawaii worked diligently to positively change the landscape of education in the state and dramatically improved and enhanced the structure of education in its schools, as well as outcomes for its students,” said Jeremy Anderson, president of Education Commission of the States. “The state’s thoughtfully constructed policies, reforms and capacity-building programs provide teachers and education leaders with opportunities to increase the potential for both their professional success, as well as the success of their students, and also support the state in achieving its education goals.”

HIDOE’s suite of data tools includes a longitudinal data system that provides educators with real-time access to data and even allows for targeting underperforming student populations. The Department’s accompanying long-term investment in data literacy is evidenced by their Formative Assessment/Data Team initiative which engages 11,000 teachers statewide to participate in grade-level or content-based data teams using formative assessment data to inform and improve instruction.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Education approved the first iteration of HIDOE’s new accountability system, Strive HI, which shifted the system’s focus from 10th-grade proficiency to ensuring all students graduate ready to enter postsecondary institutions or the workforce. The accountability system extends beyond test scores to include broad measures, such as student growth, chronic absenteeism, college readiness and college-going. Results from the new accountability system showed increased college and career readiness from 2011 to 2015: 42 percent increase in the number of students taking Advanced Placement Exams; 74 percent increase in the number of students enrolling in Early College to earn University of Hawaii credits, and about one-third decrease of number of graduates needing remediation upon entering the University of Hawaii colleges.

Through its policy and program efforts, supported by a U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top grant, HIDOE developed a robust support system for its teachers and education leaders. One example is the statewide Induction and Mentoring Initiative, which pairs all first- and second-year teachers with an experienced mentor beginning their first day. This investment increased the five-year teacher retention rate, which rose over six years from 44 percent (2004 hires) to 52 percent (2010 hires). Additionally, HIDOE and the Hawaii State Teacher’s Association agreed to a progressive performance evaluation system based on evidence of both teachers’ practice and student learning and growth. To support school leaders, the Leadership Institute provides training programs with relevant and coherent curricula to the different leadership role groups, which better equips leaders to achieve success in their roles.

“This honor is a testament to the perseverance of our school leaders, teachers and community partners who supported the department in our effort to raise rigor and expectations for our students,” shared Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “Thank you to Education Commission of the States for recognizing our hard work and the progress we made transforming public education for Hawaii’s students.”

Education Commission of the States will present Hawaii with the award at the 2017 National Forum on Education Policy, taking place June 28-30 in San Diego.

The Frank Newman Award for State Innovation recognizes a state for any of the following:

  • Education improvement efforts that are replicable and hold valuable lessons for other states.
  • Bold and courageous policies, including existing approaches with evidence of significant impact on student achievement in the state.

Policies or programs that have bipartisan, broad-based support.

These significant efforts to improve education honor the late Frank Newman. For more information about the award, click here.

Reps. Gabbard, Garrett Urge House to Pass Federal Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Tom Garrett (VA-05) hosted a press conference today urging Congress to pass H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. They were joined by Beth Collins and Lisa Smith who shared their personal stories of how by providing CBD oil to their children who suffer from near-constant seizures, they risk Federal prosecution simply due to the conflicting laws between the state and Federal government. If passed, the bill would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list—treating it the same as substances like alcohol and tobacco.

Left to right: Haley Smith, Beth Collins, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Rep. Tom Garrett urge Congress to pass the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “Our archaic Federal laws relating to marijuana are hurting people, tearing families apart, turning everyday Americans into criminals, and negatively impacting our economy, all at a tremendous cost to taxpayers as billions are spent on an over-burdened and broken criminal justice system. As the opioid addiction epidemic continues to spread across the country, states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen addiction rates drop and opioid abuse deaths decrease by over 20%. Medical marijuana has helped children like Haley Smith living with Dravet syndrome reduce her seizures and other symptoms. But her mother Lisa lives with the fear of Federal prosecution every day. Our current policy makes no sense. This bill is a bipartisan effort that will be a great step forward in solving many of the fiscal and social challenges that our current policy is causing, and I urge my colleagues to support the passage of this bill.”

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard supports the full legalization of marijuana on the federal level as part of her overall effort toward criminal justice reform. She recently visited correctional facilities throughout Hawaiʻi, and met with inmates, criminal justice advocates and experts, health professionals, educators and others to discuss reducing recidivism and her continued efforts to pass federal criminal justice reform legislation like the SAFE Justice Act and the Sentencing Reform Act.

This bill would also eliminate key barriers to developing an industrial hemp industry which would create jobs and provide economic opportunity to communities in Hawaiʻi, and across the country. The congresswoman has also supported legislation like the Industrial Hemp Farming Act to support the cultivation of industrial hemp in Hawaiʻi and nationwide.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Arguments in Hawaii v. Trump

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Seattle heard arguments today in Hawaii v. Trump. The panel consisted of Judge Ronald Gould, Judge Michael Hawkins, and Judge Richard Paez.

Attorney General Chin said: “In today’s argument, we asked the court to uphold Judge Watson’s order issuing a nationwide injunction against the second travel ban. We urged the court that Judge Watson’s well-reasoned decision should be affirmed. As expected, the panel judges asked informed and probing questions of both parties. We look forward to the court’s ruling.”

In his ruling issuing the nationwide injunction, Judge Watson wrote that “a reasonable, objective observer — enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance — would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”

Here is a brief timeline of events that led to today’s hearing:

  • January 27 – President Trump issued the first executive order. It banned entry for 90 days by citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The order also indefinitely halted refugees from Syria.
  • February 3 – U.S. District Court Judge James Robart in Washington issued an order blocking the ban nationwide.
  • February 9 – A three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Robart’s injunction. The panel consisted of Judge William Canby, Judge Richard Clifton, and Judge Michelle Friedland.
  • March 6 – President Trump issued the second executive order. It excluded Iraq from the list of Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were temporarily blocked. The ban, which was set to take effect on March 16, barred foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.
  • March 7 Hawaii filed the first challenge against the second travel ban.
  • March 15 – U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii blocked the second travel ban hours before it was set to begin. The temporary restraining order applied nationwide.
  • March 29 – Judge Watson granted the State’s request for a longer-term halt of the revised travel ban executive order.
  • April 7 – Department of Justice filed an opening brief seeking to overturn the preliminary injunction.

There is no set timeline for when the panel may issue a ruling. The injunction against the travel ban remains in place until the Ninth Circuit rules.

Global Survey Lands to Development of Hawaii Coral Plan

Two successive summers of serious coral bleaching in waters around the main Hawaiian Islands and in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands has led to the development of the first-ever Hawai‘i Coral Bleaching Recovery Plan.

According to DLNR Division of Aquatics (DAR) administrator Dr. Bruce Anderson, “Recent coral bleaching events around the Hawaiian Islands have been a major cause for concern, as healthy corals are key to our nearshore ecosystems and are the very foundations for the overall and long-term health of the ocean.  After serious and unprecedented bleaching events in 2015 and 2016, we sought advice from leading experts around the world on what types of management interventions might be most successful in minimizing long-term reef degradation resulting from bleaching.”

A steering committee, made up of representatives from DLNR/DAR, the University of Hawai‘i, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), surveyed opinions and best practices from experts around the and analyzed peer-reviewed literature related to coral bleaching and recovery.  The committee then held a workshop with local coral researchers and included their recommendations in the plan.

The report notes that “establishing a network of permanent no-take Marine Protected Areas and establishing a network of Herbivore Fishery Management Areas were the top-ranked actions arising from the expert judgment assessments and the literature analysis.”

“We set out to identify specific management actions we can take to mitigate the effects of coral bleaching and we succeeded in doing that,” said Anderson.  “Our goals now may include establishing protected areas around reefs that have naturally higher resiliency to bleaching, controlling algal overgrowth in selected locations by protecting herbivores, and replacing corals killed by bleaching events with new coral from another location. Anderson noted that “This is going to be a huge challenge, but we need to give it our best shot.  We’re extremely grateful to the experts here in Hawai‘i and around the world who helped make this recovery plan a reality.”

The Coral Bleaching Recovery Plan is available for download from the home page of DAR’s web site http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar under the “Notices” section.

Hawaii AG Joins in Call for Expansion of Medicaid Fraud Authority

Attorney General Doug Chin yesterday joined the attorneys general of 37 states and the District of Columbia urging the federal government to change its policy so state attorneys general can use federal funds to investigate and prosecute a wider range of Medicaid abuse and neglect cases.

The letter was sent to Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services, by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

Click to read letter

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides free or low-cost medical benefits to millions of Americans. More than 6.4 million people enrolled in the Medicaid program are age 65 or older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 persons age 65 and older who live at home will become a victim of abuse.

Attorney General Chin said, “The Hawaii Medicaid Fraud Control Unit receives thousands of complaints relating to fraud and abuse and neglect every year. We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute these cases. We hope that the federal government will hear our concerns and support our efforts to protect Hawaii’s most vulnerable residents.”

Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) investigate and prosecute state Medicaid provider fraud and resident abuse and neglect complaints in board and care facilities. In Hawaii, MFCU operates in the Department of the Attorney General.

According to the bipartisan letter signed by Attorney General Chin:

“[T]he current strict federal limitations on states’ ability to use MFCU assets to investigate abuse and neglect are outdated, arbitrarily restrict our ability to protect Medicaid beneficiaries from abuse and neglect as Congress intended, and should be replaced or eliminated.

We respectfully request you take swift action to eliminate federal regulations that needlessly narrow our use of these valuable assets. Instead, we request to be freed to use federal MFCU funds to detect, investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect committed against Medicaid beneficiaries or in connection with Medicaid-funded services to the fullest extent permitted by federal statute.”

The letter from NAAG offered two specific recommendations:

  • Allow MFCU federals funds to be used to investigate and prosecute abuse and neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries in non-institutional settings (i.e. home health care).
  • Allow use of MFCU federal funds to freely screen or review any and all complaints or reports of whatever type, in whatever setting.

A copy of the letter is attached.

Hawaii Senator Hirono: “Mr. President, what do you have to hide?”

Senator Mazie K. Hirono issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey:

“The President’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in this manner, under this pretext, and at this time is a total disservice to the American people.

“The country is asking, Mr. President, what do you have to hide?

“There is no question that President Trump wants the investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election, and the Trump team’s ties to those efforts, to just go away.

“Knowing this, it is hard to interpret the decision to fire Director Comey as being motivated by anything other than a desire to shut down or derail the FBI’s investigation. In fact, it only raises further suspicions about the Trump team’s ties to Russian interference in our election.

“For months, I have called for a special prosecutor and an independent investigation into this serious matter. We need a special prosecutor who will conduct an impartial, thorough investigation untainted by political considerations.”

Two Hawaii Youth Honored for Volunteerism at National Award Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Hawaii’s top two youth volunteers of 2017, Cierra Nakamura, 18, of Honolulu and Emma Tandara, 14, of Ewa Beach, were honored in the nation’s capital last night for their outstanding volunteer service during the 22nd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Cierra and Emma – along with 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country – each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps congratulates Cierra Nakamura, 18, of Honolulu (center) and Emma Tandara, 14, of Ewa Beach (right) on being named Hawaii’s top two youth volunteers for 2017 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Cierra and Emma were honored at a ceremony on Sunday, May 7 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where they each received a $1,000 award. (PRNewsfoto/Prudential Insurance)

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), named Cierra and Emma Hawaii’s top high school and middle level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C., for four days of recognition events.

Cierra, a senior at ‘Iolani School, collects donated toothbrushes, toothpaste and packages of dental floss for impoverished families in underdeveloped Asia-Pacific countries through a campaign she calls “Spreading Smiles Across Miles.” Her interest in Third World dental care was sparked at a 2012 fundraiser for a medical mission to Nepal. “I was in awe of the doctors and nurses who flew to Third World countries at their own expense to treat ailing patients,” said Cierra. “I wanted to take part in this noble effort.” But as a 13-year-old, she didn’t know what she could do.

A little research, however, alerted her to the fact that dental care in Nepal is almost nonexistent; toothbrushes and toothpaste are luxuries that most cannot afford. Cierra resolved to address this need by collecting 2,000 toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste and dental floss packages. She asked family members and friends for donations, then reached out to vendors at a Hawaiian dental convention. After exceeding her goal, she sent all of her collected supplies to Nepal, along with an instructional video she made with a dental hygiene professor to demonstrate proper oral hygiene procedures in Nepalese. Later, Cierra personally delivered toothbrushes and school supplies to kids in an orphanage in Vietnam, and is currently working to send dental supplies to the Philippines.

Emma, an eighth-grader at Ewa Makai Middle School, led an effort at her school to promote recycling of bottles, cans, paper products and old T-shirts. From the time she was very young, Emma accompanied her beloved grandmother in a wide range of volunteer activities. When her grandma died of cancer, Emma was moved to rededicate herself to community service.

She got that opportunity when she joined her school’s leadership team and elected to work on enhancing the school’s recycling program. She spearheaded the filming of a music video explaining her school’s green initiatives and how to properly sort recyclables, which was presented to the student body, teachers and staff at an assembly led by Emma and later shown to more than 300 educators across the state. Emma also led a recyclables sorting game at three elementary schools, helped coordinate two community recycling drives, and demonstrated how to turn old T-shirts into bags at an emergency preparedness fair. “Though my grandmother couldn’t stay forever, the work I’ve done in her spirit has become something that can,” said Emma.

“These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers.”

“It’s a privilege to celebrate these students not only for outstanding volunteer service, but for the example they’ve set for their peers,” said Jayne Ellspermann, president of NASSP. “These honorees prove that one person truly can make a difference.”

Youth volunteers in grades 5-12 were invited to apply for 2017 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards last fall through schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and affiliates of the HandsOn Network. More than 31,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service – and, in so doing, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 22 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.

For more information about The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards and this year’s honorees, visit  http://spirit.prudential.com or www.nassp.org/spirit.

Hawaii Department of Education Announces New Partnership with Tahiti Schools

The Hawaii State Department of Education brought together education leaders, teachers and students to celebrate the homecoming of Hōkūleʻa announce a newly signed agreement between the Department and Tahiti’s Ministry of Education that will carry on the mission of Mālama Honua.

Nainoa Thompson shared a message to educators about the importance of the “Promise to Children,” and the journey it took to get to the launch of the worldwide voyage. Photo Credit: Department of Education

After implementing nearly four years of lessons connected to the Worldwide Voyage of Hōkūleʻa, the Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will engage in a formalized partnership with Tahiti schools. Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi today made the announcement to education leaders, teachers and students who have incorporated Mālama Honua into their learning.

The shared agreement was established last month during a meeting that coincided with Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia’s arrival in Tahiti. Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson also attended the meeting.

“Tahiti and Hawai’i currently enjoy student exchanges through our respective network of schools,” said Superintendent Matayoshi. “Tahiti’s Education Minister and I signed a commitment to help facilitate these exchanges through a teacher exchange program; to share strategies and curriculum, and lastly start to develop a digital network of resource sharing between schools.”

Superintendent Matayoshi stressed that the work done by educators is the “Education Wa’a” of the Mālama Honua journey. She addressed educational leaders, teachers, and partners this morning at Chaminade University’s Clarence T.C. Ching Conference Center.

The program included a recap of highlights from Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia’s port visits to school projects that incorporated Mālama Honua such as school gardens, community clean ups, environmental research and revitalization and video projects.

King William Lunalilo Elementary Principal Amy Kantrowitz noted, “There has been a change in the mindset of our students, they are much more aware of their responsibility to care for our Island Earth, to care for our culture and each other. That’s what we’ve been instilling these past few years – it’s not just an activity, it’s a way of thinking.”

During the gathering, Thompson shared a message to educators about the importance of the “Promise to Children,” and the journey it took to get to the launch of the worldwide voyage.

“It must’ve been five years ago that I had a meeting with Superintendent Matayoshi, and we talked about an idea about sailing around connecting it to education – strengthening education,” shared Thompson. “I want to thank her for her vision and her trust. We would never have taken the risk of the voyage unless we knew it would be worth it.”

Thompson stated once Hōkūleʻa returns home, the mission will continue with a statewide sail to visit 100 schools.

The “Promise to Children” was established in November 2013 and signed by educational leaders and hundreds of individuals in support of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s worldwide voyage and the mission of Mālama Honua. The agreement emphasized that lessons passed along to students will inspire them to explore, discover and learn about the Island Earth.

For more information about HIDOE’s integration of the Promise to Children and Mālama Honua into its schools and curriculum, click here.

Hawaii Marks Start of Wildfire Season with a Party, Demonstrations & Education #WildfireReadyHI

Compared to large mainland wildfires, Hawai‘i’s are relatively small. Yet the percentage of land mass burned each year in the islands is equal to or exceeds the acreage burned in many western states.

The importance of land and homeowners to be fire ready is the theme of National Community Wildfire Preparedness Day events and activities across the country today. At the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area on Hawai‘i Island’s west side, Elizabeth Pickett watched as several non-profit organizations set up booths and exhibits for the first-ever Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness. Pickett is the executive director of the Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO), which with DLNR, and two dozen other State and federal government organizations and various non-profits are supporting the second year of a public and media awareness campaign: Wildfire LOOKOUT!

Pickett explained to people who dropped by the HWMO booth, that just because they may never have personally experienced a wildfire close to their home or property, that doesn’t mean they weren’t impacted. She explained, “Especially in our island environment the negative impacts of a wildfire in a specific location usually has detrimental impacts many miles away that can persist for years and even decades. You often hear people refer to “mauka to makai,” and that effect pertains to wildfire. Once land is stripped of trees and vegetation it becomes much more prone to erosion and the introduction of invasive species and soot and sediment can wash from mountain forests to the sea where it can choke out life in coral reefs.”

Big Island State Representative Cindy Evans emphasized the need for everyone in Hawai‘i to become aware of these impacts and to do their part to prevent wildland fires. She’s seen first- hand the devastation and destruction, these often fast moving fires cause. Evans said, “Even the loss of one home is one too many when you consider that with a little awareness, people truly can prevent wildland fires.”  In emphasizing personal responsibility, Representative Evans explained that each person needs to be fire smart, which means taking steps around your home and property to eliminate combustible materials that can heighten or accelerate the spread of a fire. Experts say being fire wise also means not idling cars over dry grass or tossing cigarette butts on the ground. In Hawaii virtually all wildland fires are caused by people and historically have burned across highly unique, native forests, sometimes resulting in the destruction of rare native plants and insects.

Chief Eric Moller leads the firefighting and emergency services team at the US Army’s Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA). His two dozen firefighters are responsible for prevention and suppression of fires on more than 450 square miles of federal land, but through mutual aid agreements can and do respond to fires island-wide. During his opening remarks to kick off the Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness, he commented, “The wildfire threat is across islands throughout the Pacific.  What people don’t realize is that when firefighters are called to battle a human-caused wildland fire, response to other structure fires or medical emergencies can be delayed.”  He too reinforced the need for all island residents to become “fire wise.”

Adusalaam Moultaala of Brooklyn, N.Y., was one of the first people to visit booths and take in the displays at the wildfire awareness party.  He’s considering buying a home on the Big Island, maybe even in a forested area like Puna or Ocean View.  He found the fire safe information he received invaluable, and especially how it connected being fire safe with overall environmental health from the mountains to the ocean.  Jennifer Ahier of Kona brought her three keiki to the event and they enjoyed games, displays and a tour of a fire truck.  She said her two youngest don’t yet understand what being fire smart means, but today was definitely a start.

In addition to educational and awareness displays and information, the Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness included food, yoga, dance, and musical performances. Throughout the month of May the HWMO is sponsoring a photo contest featuring wildfire protection-related actions.  You can participate via Instragram or Twitter using the hashtag #WildfireReadyHI or e-mail photos to admin@hawaiiwildfire.org

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Votes Against Republican Healthcare Bill

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the following statement after voting against the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill is opposed by the AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the National Disability Rights Network, the AFL-CIO, the National Farmers Union, the National Education Association, among others. The bill passed the House by a vote of 217-213 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“The bill that passed today is not a healthcare bill—it’s a big handout to insurance and pharmaceutical companies. This bill slashes $880 billion from Medicaid, strips away health benefits like maternity care, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services, expands a crippling age tax on our seniors, eliminates healthcare tax credits for over 7 million veterans, and breaks the bank for those with pre-existing conditions. While corporations rake in over $600 billion in tax breaks, many low-income Americans will see their coverage drop completely. This partisan bill was rushed through, resulting in corporate benefits on the backs of the people.

“We need real healthcare reform that brings down costs, increases access to quality care, and ensures basic health services are available to all Americans. As a cosponsor of H.R.676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, I’m working towards a system that will provide universal healthcare to all Americans—a standard met by nearly every other industrialized nation.”

Earlier this week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spoke against the American Health Care Act on the House floor and urged Congress to vote no.

Auli’i Cravalho to Perform National Anthem at PBS’ Memorial Day Concert

Hawai‘i’s own Auli‘i Cravalho, star of Disney’s Moana, is scheduled to open this year’s National Memorial Day Concert on PBS with a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The concert will be broadcast from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Auli‘i Cravalho

PBS Hawai‘i will air the National Memorial Day Concert Sunday, May 28 at 7 pm, with an encore broadcast at 9 pm. It will also be live streamed online on Facebook Live and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and available as Video on Demand for a limited time only, May 28 to June 10.

Oscar nominee and Emmy and Tony-Award winner Laurence Fishburne will join Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna to host the 28th annual edition of the PBS broadcast, which regularly ranks among the public television network’s highest-rated programs.

For almost three decades, PBS has presented this night of remembrance dedicated to the country’s men and women in uniform, their families at home and all those who have given their lives for our country. Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, who has co-hosted the concert for the past eleven years, will present a 75th anniversary salute to the Doolittle Raiders, the aviators who changed the course of World War II in the Pacific.

The all-star line-up for the event includes: General Colin L. Powell USA (Ret.); Renée Fleming; Vanessa Williams; Scotty McCreery; John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting; John Ortiz; Christopher Jackson; Ana Ortiz; Ronan Tynan; and Russell Watson, in performance with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly. Additional performers to be announced.

The program is a co-production of Michael Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C.  Executive Producer Michael Colbert has assembled an award-winning production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television’s most prestigious entertainment awards shows including the Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards, Tony Awards, Saturday Night Live and more.