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Guest Commentary – Audit the Honolulu Rail Project

Dear Damon,

When the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii first kicked off our “Audit the Rail” campaign, we had a feeling the idea would catch on.

Over the summer, we’ve seen respected voices across the state join the chorus.

At the outset, we did some digging and uncovered the fact that several HART board members supported a forensic audit of the rail.

Following that, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser published a story echoing our call to audit the rail explicitly for fraud, waste and abuse.

Then, Honolulu Councilmember Trevor Ozawa introduced a resolution to perform a special audit of the rail. Since then, at least four other Honolulu Council members have endorsed an audit.

And now, state legislators are floating the idea of auditing the rail, according to a presentation leaked to the press last week.

As influential voices across the state join the Grassroot Institute’s call to audit the rail, we intend to continue making a reasoned case for a full forensic audit.

If you have not yet signed our petition, please do so at AuditTheRail.com and share this e-mail with your friends.

Mahalo for helping this idea to catch on.

E Hana Kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO Grassroots Institute of Hawaii

A Message From Senator Kahele

Photo courtesy “Hawaii State Senate.”

Aloha,
This Monday, August 7, 2017 is the start of the new school year and I wanted to take this moment to welcome back our students, teachers and administrators and wish all of you a fantastic school year.

As the school year begins, there will be many students walking to school and crossing our streets. As a reminder to our drivers, please be extra vigilant of our keiki on our roadways starting next week.

I’m especially excited about the implementation of the Farm to School program into our Hilo schools this year. Led by Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui, the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture and The Kohala Center, the program emphasizes the use of more locally grown food within our public school cafeterias. The pilot phase took place last year at Kohala elementary, middle and high schools. This year, the program is expanding to Kalaniana‘ole Intermediate School, Ha‘aheo Elementary School and Keaukaha Elementary School.

Farm to School is focused on improving student health by reducing processed foods, sourcing local ingredients and serving nutritious meals cooked from scratch. The program will expand the relationship between Hawai‘i public schools and local agricultural communities. In the classroom, students will learn how their food choices as consumers impact their health, environment and community.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, I will be conducting a series of statewide visits to all University of Hawai‘i System campuses to speak with students, faculty, staff and administration. These site visits will be an opportunity to answer questions and hear concerns so that we can make the necessary changes to strive for a world class University of Hawai’i System.

To kick this off, I will be holding a Higher Education Town Hall on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 from 5:00PM to 7:00PM. I would like to invite the UH-Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College faculty, staff, students and administration. The town hall will be held at UH-Hilo in UCB 100 at the University Classroom Building.

Again, my office and staff are always available to you should you need any assistance. I hope to have an opportunity for us to talk story. Be sure to swing by my next Saturday with your Senator event on August 12, 2017.

Me ka haʻahaʻa,
Kaialiʻi Kahele

Committee Assignments for the Second Biennium of the Twenty-Ninth Legislature Announced

The committee assignments for the Second Biennium of the Twenty-Ninth Legislature were announced today and it reflects the division of the former Judiciary and Labor committee into the two separate committees, Labor (LBR) and Judiciary (JDC) committees:

  • President: Ronald D. Kouchi
  • Majority Floor Leader: Will Espero
  • Vice President: Michelle N. Kidani
  • Majority Whip: Kaiali’i Kahele
  • Majority Leader: J. Kalani English
  • Majority Whip: Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran
  • Majority Caucus Leader: Brickwood Galuteria

AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT (AEN) – Gabbard, Mike (Chair) Riviere, Gil (Vice Chair) Nishihara, Clarence K. Rhoads, Karl Ruderman, Russell E.

COMMERCE, CONSUMER PROTECTION, AND HEALTH (CPH) – Baker, Rosalyn H. (Chair) Jill N. Tokuda (Vice Chair) Chang, Stanley Espero, Will Ihara, Jr., Les Nishihara, Clarence K. Ruderman, Russell E.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, TOURISM, AND TECHNOLOGY (ETT) –  Wakai, Glenn (Chair) Taniguchi, Brian T. (Vice Chair) Baker, Rosalyn H. Galuteria, Brickwood Thielen, Laura H.

EDUCATION (EDU) – Kidani, Michelle N. (Chair) Kahele, Kaiali’i (Vice Chair) Espero, Will Riviere, Gil Taniguchi, Brian T.

GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS (GVO) – Kim, Donna Mercado (Chair) Ruderman, Russell E. (Vice Chair) Galuteria, Brickwood Keith-Agaran, Gilbert S.C. Rhoads, Karl

HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS (HWN) – Shimabukuro, Maile S. L. (Chair) Galuteria, Brickwood (Vice Chair) English, J. Kalani Green, Josh Riviere, Gil

HIGHER EDUCATION (HRE) – Kahele, Kaiali’i (Chair) Kim, Donna Mercado (Vice Chair) Espero, Will Keith-Agaran, Gilbert S. C. Kidani, Michelle N.

HOUSING (HOU) – Espero, Will (Chair) Harimoto, Breene (Vice Chair) Kahele, Kaiali’i Nishihara, Clarence K. Shimabukuro, Maile S. L.

HUMAN SERVICES (HMS) – Green, Josh (Chair) Chang, Stanley (Vice Chair) Harimoto, Breene Tokuda, Jill N. Wakai, Glenn

LABOR (LBR) – Tokuda, Jill N. (Chair) English, J. Kalani (Vice Chair) Chang, Stanley Ihara, Jr., Les Shimabukuro, Maile S. L.

JUDICIARY (JDC) – Taniguchi, Brian T. (Chair) Rhoads, Karl (Vice Chair) Gabbard, Mike Kim, Donna Mercado Thielen, Laura H.

PUBLIC SAFETY, INTERGOVERNMENTAL, AND MILITARY AFFAIRS – (PSM) Nishihara, Clarence K. (Chair) Wakai, Glenn (Vice Chair) Baker, Rosalyn H. Ihara, Jr., Les Thielen, Laura H.

TRANSPORTATION AND ENERGY (TRE) – Inouye, Lorraine R. (Chair) Espero, Will (Vice Chair) English, J. Kalani Harimoto, Breene Shimabukuro, Maile S. L.

WATER AND LAND (WTL) – Rhoads, Karl (Chair) Gabbard, Mike (Vice Chair) Inouye, Lorraine R. Kim, Donna Mercado Thielen, Laura H.

WAYS AND MEANS (WAM) – Dela Cruz, Donovan M. (Chair) Keith-Agaran, Gilbert S.C. (Vice Chair) English, J. Kalani Galuteria, Brickwood Harimoto, Breene Inouye, Lorraine R. Kahele, Kaiali’i Kidani, Michelle N. Riviere, Gil Shimabukuro, Maile S. L. Wakai, Glenn

2017 Rusty Scalpel Award Winner Is…

HB 375, CD 1 (Act 214, Session Laws of Hawaii 2017) has been selected by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Hawaii for their 2017 “Rusty Scalpel” award. The “Rusty Scalpel” award recognizes enactment of a bill whose subject has been substantially amended without opportunity for legislative review as required by the Hawaii Constitution.Article III, Section 14 of our State Constitution provides “Each law shall embrace but one subject which shall be expressed in its title.”  HB 375 was titled “Relating to Taxation”.   When introduced, HB 375 proposed amending income tax rates to negate any income tax liability for those at or below poverty thresholds. The Senate Ways and Means Committee was the first to drastically amend the bill, gutting its contents, and replacing it with provisions to repeal the sunset date for the refundable food/excise tax credit. Then during Conference Committee, the bill was drastically altered to appropriate $1 million, subject to a dollar for dollar match by the private sector, to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, working in conjunction with the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, for projects to address homelessness in tourist and resort areas.

Corie Tanida, of Common Cause Hawaii said, “While addressing homelessness in Hawaii is important and commendable, an ‘appropriation’ is not the same as ‘taxation’.  The final version of this bill doesn’t pass the relatively ‘low bar’ of having the bill’s subject match the bill’s title.”

Article III, Section 15 of our State Constitution provides that “No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each house on separate days.”  The unambiguous intent is to provide  the House and Senate, separately, the  opportunity to thoroughly review every single bill.  Amending a bill’s subject in conference committee without such review ignores this Constitutional requirement.

According to Ann Shaver, President of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, “The 2017 session was a ‘Good News, Bad News’ situation.  HB 375, CD 1 was the only real candidate for our 2017 ‘Rusty Scalpel’ award.  On the other hand, HB375, CD1 was the worst we’ve seen in the five years we have presented this award.”  On July 12, 2017, without the Governor’s signature, HB 375 became Act 214, Session Laws of Hawaii 2017.

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Hawaii Governor Vetoes Aquarium, Tiny House and Other Bills

Gov. David Ige announced that he has vetoed 13 of 15 bills on his Intent to Veto list.

HB 523 Relating to Recycling and HB 575 Relating to Public Lands will become law.

VETO LIST:

SB 1240         RELATING TO AQUATIC LIFE

This bill requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to define “sustainable” and establish a policy for sustainable collection practices through take limits. This bill also prohibits the DLNR from issuing new aquarium fish permits to use fine meshed traps or fine meshed nets and prohibits the transfer of permits after five years.

Rationale: Since the release of the Intent to Veto List on June 26, this issue has been highlighted across numerous local and national media outlets. The Office of the Governor has received thousands of phone calls and emails from constituents expressing their support for and opposition to this bill. The one thing everyone can agree on is that one of Hawai‘i’s most valuable resources, the coral reef, must be protected. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Gov. Ige agree that sustainable policies and practices are needed. The governor has no objection to the first part of the bill that requires the DLNR to define “sustainable” and establish policies for sustainable collection.

The DLNR is committed to working with all stakeholders to come up with a better solution. Discussions have begun on “limited entry” aquarium fisheries, expanding Fishery Replenishment Areas (FRAs) to O‘ahu, capping permit numbers, addressing catch limits, and establishing permit fees. Gov. Ige is committed to introducing legislation and/or administrative rules that will properly address all concerns, and create policy that will establish Hawai‘i as the best managed sustainable nearshore fishery in the world.

Regarding this measure, the governor has concerns that the science does not support the claims made in this bill. In West Hawai‘i, where approximately 80 percent of Hawai‘i’s aquarium catch comes from, FRAs were established to reverse the decline in fish populations. The Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and the DLNR have collected data over 17 years and completed more than 6,700 surveys in this area, and have found that aquarium fish populations are generally stable or increasing. Unfortunately, there is no similar data for O‘ahu, which is the other location where aquarium fish are caught. Based on the extensive scientific data from West Hawai‘i, it would be premature to phase out aquarium collecting permits.

Furthermore, it must be understood that this bill does not prohibit fish collecting. It simply prohibits the issuance of new permits to use small meshed nets and traps. The meshed nets and traps are an important tool for aquarium fish collectors. There is hope that this will eventually phase out the industry. This would take decades as currently proposed. The worldwide demand for aquarium species could lead to new and more destructive ways of collection.

SB 410           RELATING TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

This measure broadens the scope of collective bargaining negotiations by requiring negotiations on the implementation of terms and conditions of employment, including making these violations grievable by employees who disagree with such working conditions.

Rationale: This bill directly impacts the ability of state departments to effectively manage its workforce by negating management rights to direct its workforce and requiring union consent on such matters as assignment, transfer and discipline.

SB 562           RELATING TO TORT LIABILITY

This bill requires the Attorney General to defend any civil action or proceeding brought in any county, based on any negligent or wrongful act or omission of a lifeguard who provides lifeguard services at a state beach park.

Rationale: This bill is objectionable because it requires the Attorney General to defend the counties for any civil action or proceeding, without exception. Although the liability protections of Act 170 lapsed on June 30, 2017, the Attorney General will defend any civil action or proceeding based on acts or omissions of county lifeguards working on state beaches that are within the scope of the lifeguard’s duties.

HB 1414        RELATING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION

This bill requires the auditor to investigate and report on problems with the Department of Taxation’s tax system modernization project.

Rationale: The Department of Taxation is awaiting the findings and results of an independent verification and validation of the tax system modernization project, a study being done by an independent contractor. The State Auditor also stated that it may be difficult to identify and assess operational issues until the project is completed and there has been sufficient time for the department and users to identify any operational problems.

HB 1309        RELATING TO GRANTS

This measure requires the Director of Finance to seek repayment of operating grants appropriated by the Legislature, if the grantee discontinues the activities or services approved in the grant.

Rationale: This bill is contrary to the intent of Chapter 42F, Hawai‘i Revised Statues, which authorizes the Legislature to appropriate general funds to nongovernmental organizations for operations serving the public, only to require the reimbursement of such funds at a later date. Further, the Director of Finance does not have the capacity to monitor all grantee programs, and relies on each state agency to enforce the provisions of the grant application and contract between the agency and grantee. It would be more appropriate for repayment negotiations to be handled by the expending agency that has had the initial contractual relationship with the grantee, and not the Department of Budget and Finance.

SB 722           RELATING TO EFFICIENCY MEASURES

This measure requires the Director of Finance and a selected state department to develop and implement the efficiency measures pilot project as part of the state’s budget system.

Rationale: Imposing additional requirements for data collection on our state budget system requires re-programming older software on mainframe computers at a time when the state is upgrading its IT systems to cloud-based applications. Limited state resources would be better spent updating our budget IT programs into cloud-based applications.

SB 713           RELATING TO BUDGET DOCUMENTS

This measure requires the six-year program and financial plan and budget to include information on tax expenditures.

Rationale: Chapter 23, Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, currently requires the State Auditor to conduct periodic reviews of certain state tax credits, exemptions, exclusions, and deductions, and report such amounts for the previous three years, the current year, and the ensuing two years. These reviews and reports are essentially the same information as the additional reporting required in this bill. The Department of Taxation needs to focus its existing resources on improving tax collections by completing the implementation of our tax system modernization, rather than providing additional reports that may be of limited use to the overall budget process.

SB 1588        RELATING TO GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS

This measure prohibits the issuance of general obligation bonds to finance the repair and maintenance of capital assets where the repair and maintenance costs incurred add value to, and prolong the life of the assets for a period of less than ten years.

Rationale: This measure aims to more closely align the financing of debt with the depreciation of the state’s assets. However, like many other state and county governments, Hawai‘i is faced with a growing number of deferred maintenance projects and a limited pool of operation funds for such projects. Further, the record-keeping necessary to ensure compliance with the tiered structuring of the debt could not be done within existing resources, and would therefore increase the costs of the state’s debt management program.

SB 1073         RELATING TO THE STATE FOUNDATION ON CULTURE & THE ARTS

This measure appropriates funds to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to support its artist fellowship program.

SB 1074        RELATING TO THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HAWAII STATE CAPITOL

This bill appropriates funds to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to plan and coordinate the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Hawai‘i State Capitol.

Rationale for SB 1073 & SB 1074: These bills appropriate funds from the Works of Art Special Fund, which generally consists of proceeds from tax-exempt bonds. Under the Internal Revenue Code, proceeds from tax-exempt bonds cannot be used to finance operating expenses except under limited circumstances. This could potentially jeopardize the fund’s tax exempt status and adversely affect the state’s bond ratings.

HB 2               RELATING TO AGRICULTURE

This bill authorizes the placement of “tiny homes” of 500 square feet or less of living space within the state agriculture district of Hawai‘i County. These “tiny homes” will be used by farm workers or their immediate families on land currently being used for agricultural production.

Rationale: The Hawai‘i County Zoning Code (HCC Chapter 25) already allows for a “farm dwelling” as a permitted use of agricultural-zoned lands. By Zoning Code definition, a “farm dwelling” means a single-family dwelling located on or used in connection with a farm, or if the agricultural activity provides income to the family occupying the dwelling.

In 2015 and 2016, a total of 27 additional farm dwellings were approved by the County of Hawai‘i Planning Department. During that period, all applications for farm dwellings were granted. The administration is committed to working with Mayor Harry Kim and the County of Hawai‘i on addressing the affordable housing issue for farm workers on Hawai‘i Island.

HB 727          RELATING TO MOTORCYCLES

This measure allows the operator of a motorcycle or motor scooter to proceed cautiously between stopped lanes of traffic and on the shoulder lane of highways. The intent is to alleviate congestion and reduce the risk of injury or loss of life.

There is concern that this will compromise road safety. The shoulder lane is designed to accommodate stopped vehicles and emergency vehicles on highways, and bicycles on arterial roadways. While the intent of the bill is to reduce risk or injury or loss of life, there is concern that allowing shoulder lane use to these types of vehicles will instead create more danger for the operators of these vehicles.

HB 627          RELATING TO PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

This measure establishes the Office of Public-Private Partnerships within the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and appropriate funds for a state public-private partnership coordinator position.

Rationale: Rationale: My administration is fully supportive of public-private partnerships when they are shaped in the right way.  Over the past few years, many departments have engaged in exploring public-private partnerships to leverage private monies to improve on the services provided to the public. Recent affordable housing projects such as Kapolei Lofts are prime examples of how the state can partner with private developers to build affordable units on state lands.

However, there is concern that the lone position of a state public-private partnership coordinator will not be sufficient to adequately coordinate interagency collaboration, maintain analysis reports, and develop future public-private partnership opportunities. Having one office manage all public-private partnership contracts, proposals, and negotiations for the state may create a bottleneck that will slow the progress for agencies already involved in these partnerships.

HB 523 Relating to Recycling will become law with the governor’s signature.

HB 575 Relating to Public Lands will become law without the governor’s signature.

Hawaii State Legislature Will NOT Convene Override Special Session

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (Kauai, Niihau) and State House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (McCully, Kakaako, Kaheka, Downtown) today announced that the Hawaii State Senate and the Hawaii State House of Representatives will not convene a special session to override any bills on Governor David Ige’s Intent to Veto list.

On June 23, Gov. Ige notified the legislature of his intent to veto 15 bills passed during the 2017 Legislative Session. The Hawaii State Constitution requires the governor to notify the Legislature of the bills he intends to veto by June 26.

The Governor has until July 11 to officially veto any of these measures by returning them to the Legislature with his statement of objections. The House and Senate will review the Governor’s rationale for returning any measure and consider those concerns next session.

Bills on the Governor’s intent to veto list include:

SB 1240 RELATING TO AQUATIC LIFE

This bill requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to define “sustainable” and establish a policy for sustainable collection practices through take limits. This bill also prohibits the DLNR from issuing new aquarium fish permits to use fine meshed traps or fine meshed nets and prohibits the transfer of permits after five years.

SB 410  RELATING TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

This measure broadens the scope of collective bargaining negotiations by requiring negotiations on the implementation of terms and conditions of employment, including making these violations grievable by employees who disagree with such working conditions.

HB 2 RELATING TO AGRICULTURE

This bill authorizes the placement of “tiny homes” of 500 square feet or less of living space within the state agriculture district of Hawai‘i County. These “tiny homes” will be used by farm workers or their immediate families on land currently being used for agricultural production.

HB 727 RELATING TO MOTORCYCLES

This measure allows the operator of a motorcycle or motor scooter to proceed cautiously between stopped lanes of traffic and on the shoulder lane of highways. The intent is to alleviate congestion and reduce the risk of injury or loss of life.

Click here to view all bills on the Governor’s Intent to Veto list.

Democratic Party of Hawaii Launching “Summer of Resistance and Renewal” Program

This week, the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) is launching their “Summer of Resistance and Renewal,” a nationwide organizing program geared toward engaging and activating party members and activists in the grassroots.

“The goal of the program will be to reconnect Hawai‘i Democrats with one another and with voters, rebuild a sense of political unity, and afford our residents an opportunity to identify mutual areas of concern and address their issues through the vehicle of party activism” said Tim Vandeveer, State Party Chair. “With these efforts, we seek to recruit new members, train new leaders, and increase voter turnout in Hawai‘i by 10% in the 2018 elections.”

Through a fellowship program made possible by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the DPH selected five local organizers, each of whom bring a unique perspective to the program and diverse background in electoral politics, labor organizing, or community activism. DPH leadership engaged traditional allies such as labor organizations, as well as newer grassroots “resistance” groups to apprise them of the project and invite them to participate in the program.

The Hawai‘i organizers recently spent a full week at a training camp in Washington D.C. where they met with DNC leadership and learned about national issues from prominent Democratic elected officials. They also participated in Congressional town halls, Resistance events, and a Healthcare vigil on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Though much of the focus of the national program has focused on converting the energy generated in resistance to the Trump administration into political power during next year’s midterms, Vandeveer feels that this is only part of the goal.

“We cannot focus on resistance alone,” Vandeveer said. “Saying ‘no’ to the cruel and draconian policies of this administration is important, but we must also demand bold action and do the hard work of organizing for social change. We need to renew our historical role as the party of ideas and solutions that benefit working people. This means building upon our proud local history as a party of diversity and inclusion.”

“The ‘Summer of Resistance and Renewal’ begins this month with plans to knock on doors, engage Democratic Party members, host events, and make a difference in our communities. Make sure you’re a part of the movement and find an event near you at resistsummer.com.”

Puna’s Democratic Delegate Loses Long Fight With Brain Cancer

Yesterday, Puna resident Timothy (Tim) Law passed away from his long fight with brain cancer.

Tim Law

Tim ran for District 5 County Council back in 2014 and was active in the Democratic Party here on this island.  In 2016 he served as Puna’s Delegate at the State Democratic Party Convention.

Tim was a father, a husband, an activist and a surfer who loved the ocean.  He was active in the Pahoa Community and his wife Susan will probably remain active in the community.

Prayers go out to his Ohana as they carry on the torch.

 

Landmark Cost of Living Reduction Bill to be Signed Into Law

Gov. David Ige will sign House Bill 209, a landmark cost of living reduction bill, into law on Monday, July 10 in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office.

HB 209 establishes a state earned income tax credit, mirroring the federal earned income tax credit, to help low-income workers retain a larger percentage of their yearly income. The bill also permanently extends the higher rates of the refundable food/excise tax credit, which makes it less costly for those in need to afford necessities like food.

“Creating a state-level earned income tax credit is the most significant anti-poverty measure passed by the Legislature in decades,” said House Speaker Scott K. Saiki.

HB 209 is a financially responsible measure that is financed through the restoration of the highest income tax brackets that existed until 2015.

“HB 209 is all about helping working people keep more of what they make. At its core, it’s a compassionate, fair, and responsible reform to tax policy that helps to alleviate Hawaii’s oppressive cost of living,” said Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, author and introducer of the bill.

According to the Department of Taxation, HB 209 will give $130 million back to low-income families in the first six years of the credit. More than 107,000 people claim the federal earned income tax credit and would potentially be able to claim the state credit. Additionally, the Refundable Food/Excise Portion amounts to $110 per exemption per claimant.

Hawaii Governor’s Statement on the Request for Voter Roll Data from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

Governor Ige’s Statement on the request for voter roll data from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

The State of Hawai‘i has received no request for voter roll data from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.  Taking a look at what other states have received, I’m skeptical.  At this point, we have no assurance that personal information would be secured.  It also appears that the commission aims to address voter fraud.  By all accounts, incidents of actual voter fraud are extremely rare.  I’m concerned this type of investigation would lead to a denial of voter access.  When we get the request, I will share my concerns with state and county elections officials.

From what I’ve heard, I don’t think we should share these records.

Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki Responds to Governor’s Intent to Veto List

Rep. Scott K. Saiki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, issued the following statement in response to Gov. David Ige’s list of bills he intends to veto.

Rep. Scott Saiki

“After reviewing the list, the House and Senate leadership will determine whether to convene an override session to address any bills that are actually vetoed. If an override session is not warranted, members may reintroduce their bills in the 2018 session and work to address the Governor’s objections at that time,” said Speaker Saiki.

According to the Hawaii State Constitution, the Legislature may convene on or before Tuesday, July 11, 2017 in Special Session to override a veto. Specific bills may be amended and need a two-thirds vote in both chambers to pass.

On July 11, any measure that has not been signed or vetoed by Gov. Ige will become law with or without his signature.

Governor Ige to Sign New Bills Into Law Tomorrow

Hawaii Governor David Ige is scheduled to sign the following bills into law tomorrow, Thursday, June 22nd at a bill signing ceremony at the state capital building.

HB 511, HB 852: Ethics – Increases administrative fines for ethics violations, lobbying law and failure to file financial disclosure statements on time.

SB 611: Fire Sprinklers – Extends prohibition on county requirements for automatic sprinklers or sprinkler systems.

HB 1179: Rental Housing Projects – Expands the types of rental housing projects that can be exempt from general excise taxes.

SB 718: Community Courts – Establishes a community court outreach project in the City & County of Honolulu.

HB 845: Inmate Re-entry IDs – Requires the Dept. of Public Safety, various agencies, to issue civil ID cards to inmates and assist in obtaining inmates’ birth certificates, social security cards and other ID necessary for successful reentry into society.

HB 957: Heat Abatement – Authorizes the Dept. of Education to borrow moneys interest-free from the HI Green Infrastructure Loan Program for heat abatement measures at public schools.

HB 916: Loan Repayment for Health Care Professionals – Makes an appropriation for the health care provider loan repayment program administered through the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

HB 89, HB 90: Hospital and Nursing Sustainability – Continues the Hospital Sustainability and Nursing Facility Sustainability Programs for two years.

Schedule of signings:

  • 9:30 a.m.      Ethics — HB 508, HB 511, HB 852
  • 10:00 a.m.    Fire Sprinklers — SB 611
  • 10:30 a.m.    Rental Housing Projects — HB 1179
  • 11:00 a.m.    Community Courts — SB 718
  • 11:30 a.m.     Inmate Re-Entry IDs — HB 845
  • 2:30 p.m.      Heat Abatement — HB 957
  • 3:00 p.m.      Loan Repayment for Health Care Professionals — HB 916
  • 3:30 p.m.      Hospital & Nursing Sustainability — HB 89, HB 90

These signings will be streamed LIVE through the governor’s website.

Puna Community Town Hall – June 27th

An evening of legislative discussion and insight with Senator Russell Ruderman and his special guest, Senator Josh Green.Take advantage of this opportunity to weigh-in on the 2017 Legislative Session and give your input on legislation for 2018!

Additional information will be provided about participating directly in the legislative process.  Light refreshments will be served.

Democratic Party of Hawaii Votes to Accept Former Republican Representative Fukumoto Into Party

On Saturday June 17th, members of the O‘ahu County Committee (OCC) of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) voted unanimously to accept the application of Representative Beth Fukumoto to become a member of the DPH.

The vote comes as the final step in a process required by party bylaws for elected officials switching parties and after several meetings with Rep. Fukumoto, including one-on-one discussions with elected members of the party as well as State Chair Tim Vandeveer, the OCC Executive Committee, and DPH caucus members.

Dr. Rich Halverson, Chair of the O‘ahu County Committee stated “though talk of Rep. Fukumoto’s request to become a Democrat has been ongoing for months, we received her formal application less than one month ago. We were pleased to meet with Rep. Fukumoto and take this vote in a way that we felt was timely and inclusive for everyone involved.”

Of the vote, DPH State Party Chair Tim Vandeveer said “we have maintained from the beginning that we would ensure Rep. Fukumoto a fair process and that should things align and unfold accordingly, we in Democratic leadership would welcome her in. I applaud the O‘ahu County Committee for their work.”

“I firmly believed that our Party should hold Rep. Fukumoto to no stricter an ideological standard than anyone else with a ‘D’ behind their name that currently sits in the big square building” explained Vandeveer. “While I agree with the notion that we should seek to elect better Democrats and not just more Democrats, I also understand that we are a ‘big tent’ party that is welcoming of many different ideas and viewpoints. This is the balance that confronts us.”

Of the process, Rep. Fukumoto said “(Saturday)’s vote was the result of weeks of meetings and conversations with Democratic Party members about our mutual goals, passions, and how we can work together to make a better life for the people of Hawai‘i. I got involved in politics with the goal of making Hawai‘i more affordable for local families, and I’m looking forward to doing that work with the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i.”

Democratic Party of Hawaii Remarks on Hokule’a Homecoming

Tomorrow, (Saturday) June 17th, members of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) will join the thousands of Hawai‘i residents at Magic Island to honor the iconic voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a as it concludes its epic three-year sail connecting cultures and people around the world and returns home to the Hawaiian Islands.

The Democratic Party of Hawai‘i fully supported the mission of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage to weave a lei of hope around the world through sharing indigenous wisdom, groundbreaking conservation and preservation initiatives, creating global relationships, and discovering the wonders of Island Earth.

“The support and recognition of the voyaging spirit of the Hawaiian people is reflected in our platform, the proud history of our Hawaiian Affairs caucus, and even in the logo of our state party,” said DPH Chair Tim Vandeveer. “We honor and celebrate the achievements of all the Hōkūle‘a ‘ohana and welcome them home.”

The DPH Hawaiian Affairs Caucus has helped to share a set of FAQs that were developed in consultation with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the KS Hoʻokahua Cultural Vibrancy Group and invited members to participate in tomorrow’s ceremonies by doing the mele located at: www.kanaeokana.net/hokulea. https://www.facebook.com/HawaiiDems/ For more information contact: tim@hawaiidemocrats.org

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Encourages Economic Opportunity for Hawai‘i Businesses at Annual “Hawai‘i on the Hill”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today spoke at the Hawai‘i on the Hill Policy Summit, where she thanked Hawai‘i business leaders and stakeholders for coming to Washington, D.C. and engaging with leaders to increase economic opportunity for Hawaii.  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard later visited the Fourth Annual Taste of Hawai‘i reception on Capitol Hill which featured over 70 members of Hawaii’s local business community, ranging from food and beverage companies to representatives from energy, tourism, and farming industries.

“I was honored to welcome business, community, and state leaders from Hawai‘i to Washington during this annual visit, where they showcased the great economic opportunities and achievements of our state.  They brought the aloha spirit with them, and lots of lei, making great connections and leaving a strong impression on policymakers and leaders in Washington.  I look forward to continuing to work with these great partners towards policies and opportunities that will strengthen our Hawai‘i economy,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background:

Wednesday’s policy summit ushered in the third and final day of Hawai‘i on the Hill, an event organized by the Hawai‘i Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Senator Mazie Hirono to highlight Hawaii’s contributions to the country.

Beginning with the King Kamehameha I Lei Draping Ceremony on Sunday and ending with the Taste of Hawai‘i today, Hawai‘i stakeholders, business owners, and friends of our Aloha state gathered to celebrate what makes Hawai‘i unique and special. 2017 marked the fourth consecutive year that the Hawai‘i Chamber of Commerce has partnered with local and national organizations to introduce representatives from Hawaii’s public and private sectors to federal policymakers.

Councilmember Ruggles to Introduce Proposed Property Tax Amendment

On Monday, June 5, at a Special Council Meeting, Councilmember Jen Ruggles will discuss her amendment to Mayor Kim’s proposal to raise property taxes through proposing an entirely new tax rate structure. She says her scenario will cause almost 88% of property owners to pay less taxes in the long run through exemptions compared to the Mayor’s plan, and balances the budget while not increasing the minimum tax, agricultural, and homeowner rates. Ruggles plan would increase tax rates and provides automatic exemptions for the residential, apartment, commercial, and industrial classes.

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Ruggles’ plan would amend Mayor Kim’s Resolution 213-17 which raised taxes in every class except affordable rental. He’s also proposed to double the minimum tax from $100 to $200 which passed it’s first reading on May 18th. Ruggles was the only dissenting vote. “Doubling the minimum tax is a hundred percent increase on the poorest of poor, including disabled veterans and non-profits,” said Ruggles, “I want to ensure the county is not putting the burden on those who can least afford it.” An increase in the minimum tax would cause the tax payment for up to 50,188 properties to increase.

Ruggles said she’s introduced this amendment because she is concerned that across the board increases on all property owners are regressive, and her plan protects low to middle range homes and businesses. For example, 1,548 businesses in the commercial class with property valuations under $456,000 would pay average of $215 less, when compared to the Mayor’s plan, according to Ruggles’ calculations.

Ruggles’ plan would increase residential to $11.7 per thousand with a $30,000 exemption, commercial and industrial to 11.7 with a 40,000 exemption, apartment to 12.5 with a $20,000 exemption, and increase hotel, resort, and conservation to 12.5. The exemptions, if passed would become effective next year. “This means that for the first year every business assessed under $465,000 would pay a little more, and then see a net savings after the second year when the exemptions take place,” explained Ruggles, “for example, Suisan, a local business assessed at $239,000, would pay $239 more than the rates proposed by the mayor for the first year, then pay $229 less every year thereafter.”

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For the apartment class, an apartment valued at $119,000 rented at Waiakea Villas would pay $136 less than the Mayor’s rate under Ruggles’ plan. However, a property in a Waikoloa Resort complex, valued at $421,200 would pay $70 more per year.

“The exemption system shields low and mid-range property values while allowing those who can afford it to pay a little more,” said Ruggles.

Ruggles amendments will be heard on Monday, June 5th, and testimony will be taken at 9am.

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.

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.

VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Rejects All PAC Contributions

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard today announced that she will reject all political action committee (PAC) donations to her campaign moving forward and released the following statement regarding her decision:

“From the day I was elected to Congress, I promised myself I’d never allow money to influence the decisions I make on behalf of the people who elected me to serve them. Furthermore, I’ve refused to accept contributions from industries like Wall Street banks, Big Pharma, Tobacco, Liquor, and, more recently, Defense. However, from here on out, I’ve made the decision not to accept money from any political action committees.

“Here’s the bottom line: we cannot allow the future of our nation and our politics to be driven and shaped by special interests. Citizens United has exposed a major problem for the future of our country—there is far too much dark money influencing our politics. Our policies and our future must be driven by the American people and their interests.

“I believe in the power of the people and our ability to take action toward a brighter future. When we are informed, involved, and working together toward a common goal, we are more powerful than any special interest group. This is why we need to get corporate money and lobbyists out of politics and elevate the voices of the people of our country.”