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Hawaii House of Representative Richard Onishi Disqualified From Running for Late Senator Kahele’s Senate Seat

Hawaii House Representative Richard Onishi (D-3) has been disqualified from running for late Senator Gilbert Kahele’s Senate Seat according to the Hawaii County Democratic Party.

Richard Onishi

According to the Chair for House District 2, Micah Alamedia, Onishi submitted 11 names on his “Statement of Candidacy” to run for the vacant seat, however, only 3 of those names were registered democratic members.

Candidates needed to have at least 5 members sign the Statement of Candidacy that were in good standing with the Democratic Party.

Each candidate did have the opportunity to verify that each of the folks that signed on the Statement of Candidacy were in good standing, however it appears that Rep. Onishi did not double check the signatures against the registered voters list.

The Hawaii Island Democratic Party will be meeting tomorrow at Keaukaha Elementary School at 10:00 am where members of the party will hold a vote and then select 3 nominees to be sent on to Governor Ige.  Governor Ige will then decide which of the three will replace the late Senators spot in office.

The following folks are still in contention, Margarita “Day Day” Hopkins, Donald Ikeda, Kaialii “Kai” Kahele, Shannon Matson, Kaloa Robinson, and Dolly Strazar. Representative Onishi will remain in office as a House Representative and no penalty will be held for not having 5 confirmed signatures.

Hawaii Island Democratic Party Releases List of Candidates Applying to Fill Late Senator Gilbert Kahele’s Seat

The Hawaii County Democratic party released the following list of folks that have submitted formal “Statements of Candidacy” to fulfill the late Senator Gilbert Kahele’s remainder of term in office:

Sen Kahele Candidates
According to Ballotpedia the following process is taken to select a vacancy in the Hawaii’s Legislature:

If there is a vacancy in the Hawaii Legislature, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement. For all vacancies, the governor must appoint a replacement within 60 days after the vacancy happens. The candidate is selected from a list of three prospective candidates submitted by the political party that last held the vacant seat. The party has thirty days after the vacancy to submit a list of prospective candidates. If the person leaving the seat is an independent (no party affiliation), the governor must select a resident from the vacant district that is not a member of any political party

My understanding is that this Saturday February 13th, the Big Island Democratic Party will select three (update) of the above candidates listed and send then those names to Governor Ige for him to decide who he will nominate to be in office.

While all of the above candidates are fairly well known, I personally believe that the Big Island Democratic Party should select our late Senators son, Kaiali`i Kahele, to the position as he knows most how his father would have wanted to vote on things in the Legislature.

Sen. Gilbert Kahele’s Son (Kaiali’i Kahele) Files Papers to Finish Out Senate Term

Last night at the Hilo Civic Auditorium, hundreds of folks paid their respect to the late Senator Gilbert Kahele.

Kai Kahele embraced by Malia Paul, Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Brian Schatz at his father's Celebration of Life.

Kai Kahele embraced by Malia Paul, Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Brian Schatz at his father’s Celebration of Life.

21 State Senators flew to the Big Island for the Celebration of Life, as well as current Hawaii State Governor Ige and former Governor Neil Abercrombie.  Former Hawaii County Mayor Dante Carpenter, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and current Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi all gave great tributes to the late Senator.

This evening I have learned that the beloved Senator’s own son, Kaiali’i Kahele has filed a “Statement of Candidacy” to fill the mid-term vacancy left by his fathers passing:
Kai Kahele Announcement

I myself think he would be a great replacement and hope that he is selected by the Democratic party to continue on with the things his father was working on.

“Kai” Kahele told me His (Sen. Gilbert Kahele) priorities are my priorities, Banyan Drive, UH-Hilo Aviation, Lanakila Housing, Covered Playgrounds at Haʻaheo and Waiakea Elementary schools amongst others. I am looking forward to spirited conversation on Saturday with the other candidates and sharing my vision, dreams and hopes for our Hilo community and our island.”

Senate Bill to Acquire Land at Kapua Bay Slated for Full Senate Vote – One of Three Bills Introduced by Late Sen. Kahele

Senate Bill 3071, which calls for the state to purchase land at Kapua in South Kona on Hawai‘i Island, is poised for a final vote by the full Senate this week.  

Kapua Bay

The bill proposes that the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), in consultation with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), engage in negotiations to acquire certain lands located at Kapua.  The proposed acquisition comprises four parcels that cover over 7,780 acres of land within the Agricultural and Conservation State Land Use Districts. It includes two parcels that are adjacent to the Manukā Natural Area Reserve. Funds would be appropriated to conduct an environmental study of the makai lands and the DLNR would be directed to attempt to reach an agreement for acquisition of the lands by December 31, 2016. 

SB3071 is one of three bills that the late State Senator Gil Kahele signed hours before his death on January 26.  The measure was particularly important to the late Senator, who grew up in the area and wanted to ensure the site was protected from development and preserved for future generations.

The bill passed second reading on February 5, 2016 and is scheduled for third reading before the full Senate on Tuesday, February 9, 2016.

Schatz, Senate Democrats Urge President Obama To Take Robust & Aggressive Actions to Address the Spread of Zika Virus – Comments on Dengue Fever Outbreak

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) joined 45 Senate Democrats today and released a new letter to President Obama urging a coordinated interagency response plan to address the spread of the Zika virus both at home and abroad.

Mosquito Bite

“As the dengue outbreak continues to impact communities on Hawai‘i Island, we need more aggressive action to contain it and to stop the threat of Zika, another mosquito-borne virus that is devastating dozens of countries around the world,” said Senator Schatz. “By increasing funding for critical government research and response programs, we can make real progress toward mitigating the impact of the Zika virus abroad and preventing its spread to Hawai‘i and the United States.”

The letter calls for the President to take a number of new actions, including taking the Zika virus into consideration as the Administration coordinates, and allocates resources in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY16, and moves forward with the President’s upcoming FY17 budget request, or subsequent amendments. Additionally, Senate Democrats are urging President Obama to:

  • Develop a coordinated interagency response plan to address the Zika virus both at home and abroad;
  • Direct USAID and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify key gaps in the international and country-level response in order to best inform our response plan and disseminate, where appropriate, at border crossings and airports;
  • Ensure that federal agencies work with state and local partners to develop a cohesive national strategy for the monitoring, identification, and reporting of domestic Zika infections;
  • Direct HHS and the Department of Homeland Security to develop educational materials to inform travelers regarding the risk of Zika virus exposure;
  • Ramp up research efforts, including at the National Institutes of Health, to better understand the link between the Zika virus, microcephaly, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and other public health impacts and accelerate rapid diagnostic and vaccine development; and
  • Encourage federal agencies to coordinate, collaborate, or share information with their international counterparts.

The Zika Virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquitoes, which are also found in the United States. For most, the symptoms of Zika are mild, but when pregnant women become infected, the effects can be devastating. Zika has been linked to microcephaly in developing fetuses, which can lead to below-average head size, developmental difficulties, and brain damage.

The full text of the Senate Democrats’ letter is below:

Dear President Obama:

The ongoing outbreak of the Zika virus requires an urgent and aggressive response from the United States. We are writing to urge you to develop a coordinated interagency response plan to address the spread of the Zika virus both at home and abroad, and protect pregnant women and children. We also recognize that much is still unknown about the Zika virus, and therefore urge you to consider the potential impact the Zika virus will have on the funding needs of the Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) Program at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Services Mosquito and Fly Research Unit, and other key programs in Fiscal Year (FY)17. We believe that a well-coordinated interagency response plan, coupled with strong investments in our research and response programs, is critical to addressing the Zika virus.

The Zika virus is transmitted via bites from the same kind of mosquitoes that carry dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever. For most, the symptoms of Zika are mild, but when pregnant women become infected, there is early evidence its effects can be devastating. Zika has been linked to microcephaly in developing fetuses, which can lead to below-average head size, developmental difficulties, and brain damage. Scientists are also evaluating a possible link between the Zika virus and Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare condition that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis. These potential impacts have spurred the World Health Organization to declare the rise in Zika-linked birth defects and neurological conditions a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

In the Americas, it is anticipated that the outbreak could infect up to 4 million people. Because Zika is carried by low-moisture dwelling mosquitos, local transmission is predicted to spread to all countries and territories where the Aedes aegypti is found, including the United States. There is a critical and urgent need for a robust and coordinated response at all levels of government, and it is necessary to enhance efforts to control outbreaks, counter the spread of the disease, and ultimately reduce the potential for outbreaks in the United States.

Investing in the effort to combat the Zika virus abroad is one of the most important things we can do to prevent widespread transmission of the virus at home. The USAID’s EPT Program helps developing countries prevent, detect, and control the outbreak of infectious diseases. The program has been able to successfully use the technical expertise of the CDC in African, Asian, and Latin American countries to combat infectious diseases like Zika. CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) further works to protect against the spread of diseases like the Zika virus both at home and abroad, while USDA’s Agricultural Research Services Mosquito and Fly Research Unit also plays a critical role in developing better means of mosquito detection, monitoring, and control.

We urge you to take the Zika virus into consideration as you coordinate and allocate resources in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY16 and move forward with your upcoming FY17 budget request or subsequent amendments.

At this time, it is also critically important that we take additional steps to respond to the ongoing outbreak and work to prevent additional cases of Zika from occurring in the United States. To meet this challenge we urge you to:

  • Develop a coordinated interagency response plan to address the Zika virus both at home and abroad;
  • Direct USAID and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify key gaps in the international and country-level response in order to best inform our response plan and disseminate, where appropriate, at border crossings and airports;
  • Ensure that federal agencies work with state and local partners to develop a cohesive national strategy for the monitoring, identification, and reporting of domestic Zika infections;
  • Direct HHS and the Department of Homeland Security to develop educational materials to inform travelers regarding the risk of Zika virus exposure;
  • Ramp up research efforts, including at the National Institutes of Health, to better understand the link between the Zika virus, microcephaly, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and other public health impacts and accelerate rapid diagnostic and vaccine development; and
  • Encourage federal agencies to coordinate, collaborate, or share information with their international counterparts.

By taking action now, we can make significant progress toward mitigating the impact of the Zika virus abroad and reduce the potential for Zika virus outbreaks in the United States. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Flags to Fly at Half-Staff in Honor of Hawaii State Senator Gilbert Kahele

As a mark of respect for the late Hawai’i State Senator Gilbert Kahele, Gov. David Ige has ordered the flags of the United States and State of Hawai‘i shall be flown at half-staff at all state offices and agencies, as well as the Hawai‘i National Guard, from sunrise to sunset on Monday, February 8, 2016.

Hawaii Flag Half Staff

“Senator Kahele was a dedicated public servant who spent the last few years working for the good of his beloved community at the Hawai‘i State Legislature. He was a respected and influential leader both in the legislature and in his hometown community of Hilo. On behalf of the people of Hawai‘i, I extend our heartfelt condolences to the Kahele ‘ohana,” said Gov. Ige.

Sen. Kahele grew up in the fishing village of Miloli‘i on Hawai‘i Island and graduated from Hilo High School. He enlisted and served in the U.S. Marines and worked for the Hawai‘i Department of Defense for more than three decades.

Kahele was appointed to the Hawai‘i State Senate in 2011 by former Gov. Neil Abercrombie. He served as chairman of the Tourism and International Affairs Committee.

Kahele worked to strengthen Hilo’s economy and was instrumental in obtaining funding to build the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He was also a staunch supporter of the School of Aviation at Hilo International Airport.

Previously, Kahele served as chairman of the Hawai‘i County Police Commission and vice chairman of the Democratic Party for East Hawai‘i.

Note: Flag orders are issued to coincide with the day of the memorial service.

Hawaii Kupuna Caucus Unveils 2016 Legislative Package

The Hawai‘i State Legislature’s Kūpuna Caucus today unveiled the package of bills that are being introduced in the 2016 Legislative Session.

Kapuna Caucus

The bills address a wide array of issues that impact our seniors’ health and safety, including funding for kūpuna care and aging and disability resource centers statewide. Measures to provide caregiver training and financing, as well as long term care services with a half percent General Excise Tax increase is also included as part of the package, along with bills aimed at supporting health care services for Hawai‘i’s aging population.

One such bill, SB2064 and its companion bill HB1881, appropriates funding to restore staff and long-term care services at Leahi and Maluhia hospitals within the Hawai‘i health systems corporation.  Both hospitals serve the highest number of individuals on Medicare and Medicaid, while reimbursements for care provided continue to decline. Both hospitals were forced to cut 64 staff positions and temporarily halt new admissions to remain operational due to an estimated $3.7 million deficit in fiscal year 2016.

“Our population is aging. Right now more than a third is 50 years old or older. We need to ensure there are enough facilities to assist our kūpuna so they can enjoy their golden years as best they can,” said Sen. Chun Oakland.

“Our seniors are the treasures of our community,” said Sen. Les Ihara, Jr. “Establishing the proper resources and services they need to live healthy, prosperous lives is what we intend to accomplish with these bills.”

“We need to increase the amount of services we provide to seniors because more and more seniors are living longer, living more healthfully, and living independently,” said Kūpuna Caucus co-convener, Rep. Gregg Takayama. “The resources we provide them as a state will enable them to continue to live independently for as long as possible.”

The Kūpuna Caucus, now in its 11th year, is comprised of a bi-partisan group of 18 House and Senate state legislators.  Members of the Kūpuna Caucus include a broad array of community organizations, government departments, and individuals concerned about the well-being of the elderly in our community.

Other bills included in the 2016 Kūpuna Caucus Package include:

  • SB2085/HB1878  RELATING TO AGING – Part I: Appropriates $5,100,000 for the Kūpuna Care program. Part II: Appropriates $1,710,000 for the aging and disability resource center. Part III: Appropriates $32,000 for fall prevention and early detection services for the elderly. Part IV: Appropriates $485,880 for the healthy aging partnership program. Part V: Appropriates $70,000 for an Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia services coordinator position and appropriates $200,000 for an Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia public awareness program.
  • SB2072 MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR THE KŪPUNA CARE PROGRAM – Makes an appropriation for the Kūpuna Care program to provide a safety net for all kūpuna and their caregivers.
  • SB2071  MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR THE AGING AND DISABILITY RESOURCE CENTER – Makes an appropriation for the aging and disability resource center.
  • SB2074  MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR FALL PREVENTION AND EARLY DETECTION SERVICES FOR THE ELDERLY – Makes an appropriation for fall prevention and early detection services for the elderly.
  • SB2073/HB1884  MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR THE OFFICE OF THE LONG-TERM CARE OMBUDSMAN – Appropriates $300,000 to the office of the long-term care ombudsman for three full-time (3.0 FTE) ombudsman specialist positions; one each on Kauai, Maui, and Hawai‘i.
  • SB2065  MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR THE HEALTHY AGING PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM – Makes an appropriation for the healthy aging partnership program of the Department of Health’s executive office on aging.
  • SB2066/HB1880  MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR SENIOR CITIZENS – Makes an appropriation for grants to various senior centers, Lanakila Multi-Purpose Center, Kapahulu, Mo‘ili‘ili, and Waikiki Community Center.
  • SB2075  MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR AN ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND RELATED DEMENTIA PUBLIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGN – Makes an appropriation for an Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia public awareness campaign.
  • SB2067/HB1876  RELATING TO HEALTH – Requires the Department of Health to require dementia training for caregivers. Requires the Department to establish training criteria and annual review the training program.
  • SB2070/HB1877  RELATING TO HUMAN SERVICES – Appropriates funds to the Department of Human Services to create one full-time program specialist position for Maui County within the adult protective and community services branch to oversee the foster grandparent program and senior companion programs on Maui, Moloka‘i, and Lana‘i.
  • SB2068/HB1882  RELATING TO COLLEGE SAVINGS PROGRAM TAX DEDUCTION – Provides an annual maximum deduction of $5,000 per individual or $10,000 for a married couple filing jointly for contributions made to the Hawai‘i college savings program.
  • SB2207/HB1883  RELATING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII CENTER ON AGING – Appropriates funds for a permanent full-time associate professor and permanent full-time assistant specialist position within the University of Hawaii center on aging.

Motorcade Tribute for Late Sen. Gilbert Kahele – Schedule for Final Tribute in Honolulu & Hilo

The public is invited to pay their respects to the late State Senator Gilbert Kahele as he makes his final journey home from Honolulu to Hilo.

Kahele Motorcade

Sen. Kahele, who passed away suddenly on January 26, 2016, will be honored in a brief tribute as his motorcade passes the Hawai‘i State Capitol at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 2, 2016.  Members and staff of the State Legislature, Governor and Lt. Governor’s office, State Department Offices, State Sheriffs, Hawai‘i National Guard and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will be in attendance.  Ke Kahili Nui (Hawaiian feathered standards), kani pu (conch blowers), and the Kanikau (mourning chant) will be performed for the late Senator by members of the Hawaiian community.  Flags will also drop to half-staff upon arrival and raised after the motorcade leaves the Capitol. The motorcade schedule in Honolulu is as follows:

  • 8:50 a.m.         Motorcade will leave Nuuanu Memorial, travel via police escort  from Nuuanu to Punchbowl and onto Beretania St.
  • 9:00 a.m.         Stop in front of State Capitol
  • 9:08 a.m.         Motorcade leaves State Capitol
  • 9:09 a.m.         Bells toll at St. Andrews Cathedral
  • 9:25 a.m.         Arrive at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
  • 9:40 a.m.         Flag Folding Ceremony/Playing of taps by the Hawai‘i National Honor Guard

The Hawai‘i Island community is encouraged to pay their respects when the Senator’s motorcade passes through Hilo. The motorcade will tour many sites that Sen. Kahele was fond of in Hilo town, as well as significant locations throughout his childhood.  The motorcade schedule in Hilo is as follows:

  • 12:45 p.m.       Flight arrives in Hilo
  • 1:00 p.m.         Motorcade departs Hilo airport
  • 1:10 p.m.         Keaukaha Elementary School
  • 1:20 p.m.         Richardsons Ocean Park
  • 1:25 p.m.         Puhi Bay
  • 1:30 p.m.         Banyan Drive
  • 1:35 p.m.         Suisan
  • 1:40 p.m.         County of Hawai‘i Building
  • 1:41 p.m.         Hawai‘i State Building
  • 1:45 p.m.         Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary School
  • 1:50 p.m.         Hawai‘i County Fire Department Central Station
  • 1:55 p.m.         Hawai‘i County Police Department
  • 1:57 p.m.         Lanakila Housing
  • 2:00 p.m.         Mohouli & Komohana
  • 2:05 p.m.         Hilo High School
  • 2:06 p.m.         Hilo Intermediate School
  • 2:07 p.m.         Lanakila Learning Center
  • 2:10 p.m.         Federal Building, U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Hilo
  • 2:15 p.m.         Dodo Mortuary

A celebration of Sen. Kahele’s life will be held on Monday, February 8, 2016 at the Afook Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo.  Visitation begins at 4:00 p.m. Services for a final “Evening of Aloha” begins at 5:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

Democratic Party of Hawaii Seeking Candidates to Replace Late Senator Gilbert Kahele

Democratic Party of Hawaii

The Hawaii County Democratic Party is seeking candidates who are interested in an appointment to serve as the Senator of Senate District 1. I’m sure you are all aware of the recent passing of Senator Gil Kahele who served so honorably in this seat. Our party will hold a process to determine 3 names that we will forward to the Governor for his appointment to the seat.

You can send me an email at micahalameda@gmail.com and I will forward you a copy of our county’s process for filling mid term vacancies. To be eligible an individual must be a member in good standing of the Democratic Party for a minimum of 6 months. The candidate can not currently be under reprimand pursuant to Article 1 of the Constitution of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. There will be a mandatory meeting of all candidates seeking the seat at the Keaukaha Elementary School Cafeteria on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.

At the meeting candidates will present a 3 minute introduction and then will be interviewed by officers of the nine precincts who comprise Senate District 1. At the completion of the interview process the precinct and district officers will vote to determine the top three candidates to forward to the governor. The process will be under my leadership as the Democratic Party Chair of House District 2 which is located entirely within Senate District 1.

Prospective candidates are to provide to the County Chair, Phil Barnes, for dissemination to the appropriate selection body a written application including the following:

1. Credentials and reasons for consideration for the position
2. Evidence of party participation
3. Verified signatures of at least five (5) party members within Senate District 1.

Items 1 and 2 above should be sent to Chair Barnes by email, preferably as PDF files, for electronic distribution to selectors. His email address is greenhi3@yahoo.com. Your signatures to complete #3 need to be on a form from the Hawaii County Democratic Party which you can easily get by emailing Chair Barnes and need to be delivered by mail to Chair Barnes at 64 Amauulu Road Hilo, HI 96720.

The Deadline for applications to be in Chair Barnes possession is 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday February 10, 2016.

For further inquiries please contact micahalameda@gmail.com or at (808) 319-3371.

Aloha nui,
Micah Alameda, Chair
District 2

Senator Gilbert Kahele Big Island Celebration of Life – Process to Nominate Replacement at Legislature

On January 26th, Hawaii Senator Gilbert Kahele passed away.  A celebration of life for Senator Kahele will be held on Monday, February 8, 2016 at 5 p.m. at the Hilo Civic Auditorium.  A private burial at sea will be held at Kapua Bay.

Kahele Motorcade
The process to nominate a replacement for him at the State Legislature was explained by Big Island Senator Lorraine Inouye as following:

The process will be that the Hawaii County Party Chair, Phil Barnes, will be notifying the precinct presidents of senate District 1.

A meeting must be held to have precinct members cast votes for their person, instructions to be determined.

It goes to several rounds, a vote cast for candidates by precincts, until such time a final three, who survived, their names will be sent to the State Party Chair, who then forwards those 3 names to the governor.

The meeting will be somewhere in Hilo, at a date picked by the Party chair and his officers.  I understand it will be sometime this month.
Please continue to search on the Hawaii County website as, I am sure information will be posted, or contact your precinct president.

I am sure there will be a deadline and must be a Democrat.

Candidates must be a democrat in the Senate District 1 only. Candidates may not only be elected official.  The election area will be cordoned off to keep candidates and precinct members who will participate in the voting process in a secured section of the place to be determined, but cannot close such meeting from other democrats who would like to observe in another section of the event.

That is the democratic process.

I see nothing in the current statute in the HRS of Hawaii to deny observers.  But they cannot participate in this election process.

All instructions must be clear at the day of the voting and conducted by the County Party Chair and the State Party President.

Lorraine R Inouye
Senator – District 4

Senator Espero Introduces Medical Marijuana Bills

Hawai‘i joined the growing list of states across the nation in 2015 when Act 241 was signed into law, providing the framework for the first medical marijuana dispensary program. Today marks the deadline in which prospective applicants interested in obtaining a permit to operate a dispensary may submit their applications.

Capital

While the program continues to make progress under the State Department of Health, Senator Will Espero (Dist. 19- ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages) has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at improving the medical marijuana program and further help the patients who use it.

Among the measures introduced is SB2176, which would establish a medical marijuana oversight committee under the Department of Health. The committee would include licensed medical professionals and registered patients that monitor, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding the implementation of the use, cultivation, and dispensing of medical marijuana and the overall program.

Other medical marijuana bills being introduced by Senator Espero are:

SB2175 Requires the Department of Health to issue a third medical marijuana dispensary license for the county of Hawaii. Allows medical marijuana dispensaries to be open during certain hours on Sundays. Allows an individual convicted of a felony to be employed at or enter into a medical marijuana dispensary facility only if the individual has not been convicted of a felony within the six years immediately preceding employment or entry.

SB2177 Requires the Department of Health to issue a receipt that shall serve as a temporary registration certificate for the medical use of marijuana upon receipt of a written certification form completed by or on behalf of a qualifying patient. Increases penalty for fraudulent misrepresentation to a law enforcement official relating to the issuance of a written certificate by a physician.

SB2178 Allows arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, and stress to be included among the debilitating medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be authorized to be used.

SB2306 Allows the Department of Health to revoke a medical marijuana dispensary license under certain conditions and subject to a ninety day notice followed by a public hearing within fourteen days. Establishes a fine of up to $500 per day for any licensee who violates state law or administrative rules. Allows a licensee to appeal a fine to an ad hoc special committee. Allows the Department of Health to choose a new licensee if the department revokes a license.

SB2307 Beginning January 1, 2017, establishes a licensing system for medical marijuana growing facilities, production centers, and retail dispensing locations. Allows persons authorized to use and possess medical marijuana in other states to be treated similarly to qualifying patients in this State pursuant to rules adopted by the Department of Health after 1/1/2018. Authorizes the department of health to conduct criminal history checks on license applicants; licensees; prospective employees of growing facilities, production centers, and retail dispensing locations; subcontractors; and persons authorized to enter and remain on such premises. Repeals chapter 329D on December 31, 2016.

SB2308 Establishes a working group to research and make recommendations regarding medical marijuana edibles for human consumption.

SB2627 Establishes a medical marijuana commission to evaluate and make recommendations about the overall effectiveness of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the State.

SB2757 Authorizes the Department of Agriculture to establish a three-year industrial hemp research program to investigate the viability of industrial hemp as a building material for housing in the State. Requires a final report to the legislature prior to the convening of the regular session of 2019. Defines “industrial hemp”. Repeals 7/1/2019.

Wally Lau Announces Candidacy for Mayor of Hawaii Island – Resigns Post as Managing Director

Hawaii County Managing Director Wally Lau today resigned his position and announced he is running for mayor of Hawaii County.

Wally Lau

Wally Lau

Lau has helped manage the daily operations of the Hawaii County administration for the past seven years, as deputy managing director and managing director. His next step forward in a career of caring for people and strengthening our island community is to become mayor and leader of our Hawaii Island.

“I did not want any perception of a conflict of interest, or that 100 percent of my energies are not being invested in my job,” Lau said. “By resigning, I am able to focus on my campaign by meeting with people and sharing with them my values and my vision.”

Lau’s humility, honesty and fairness have earned him the respect of many in the community and as well as his co-workers. “I listen and respond,” Lau said. “I always seek for what is fair and pono.

“When presented with challenging decisions, I always ask – will it be in the best interest of the public? Is it good for the community?”

Lau said that principle will guide the county under his administration if elected, as he leads our island with aloha and a spirit of cooperation and collaboration with the community.

Lau’s vision is to meet the needs of the people, support and sustain a healthy economy, care for the environment and create a safer and better island community, where government is responsible, accountable and open.

“I have worked with many wonderful and hard-working county employees,” Lau said. “I look forward to continuing to work with them as we improve services to our island community.”

Lau said he will continue the current administration’s efforts of being accessible and responsive to the community. He will uphold a balanced administration that represents East and West Hawaii with a “how can” attitude and treating people with aloha.

Lau is prepared to address issues of public safety and disaster preparedness, homelessness, affordable housing, the need to improve our business climate, ensure efficiency of the county permitting process, improving maintenance of county facilities and properties, improving solid waste operations, exploring renewable energy projects that would provide lower rates for consumers without environmental tradeoffs, and diversified agriculture, all while preserving and protecting our environment.

Lau, 67, is married to Sandra Lau and they have a son, Kawika, and a daughter-in law, Lahela. He has two grandchildren and a great grandchild. Born on Oahu, he returned to the home of his ancestors where his grandparents are from – Naalehu and Keauhou. He graduated from Damien High School (1967) and has a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology by Central Washington State College (1971).

Lau’s work history of community dedication includes:

  • Managing director, Hawaii County
  • Deputy managing director, Hawaii County
  • Executive Director, The Neighborhood Place of Kona (prevention of child abuse and neglect and family strengthening)
  • Director of Alternative Education, Kamehameha Schools
  • Program Director, E Ala Ike — Kapulena, therapeutic school for special needs students
  • The Salvation Army Residential Treatment Center for Children

Lau’s participation in civic groups and services includes:

  • Board member, Hawaii Island United Way
  • Board member, Blueprint for Change (prevention of child abuse and neglect)
  • Juvenile Justice State Advisory Council, Prevention and Accountability sub-committee member
  • Board member, Ke Puka o Ke Ola (behavioral health care) Waimea
  • Member Royal Order of Kamehameha I (Moku o Kona)

For additional information, visit wallylau.com. Join the campaign on his Facebook page and follow @wally_lau on Twitter and Instagram. For volunteer opportunities or to make a donation to support Lau’s candidacy, email wallylau4mayor@gmail.com or call Friends of Wally Lau for Mayor at (808) 557-0213.

 

Access to Healthcare and Violence Against Women Focus of Women’s Legislative Caucus in 2016

Access to healthcare and violence against women is the focus of a House-Senate joint package of bills submitted this session by the Women’s Legislative Caucus.  The caucus consists of women members from the state Senate and House and county councils.  In addition, six additional bills and five resolutions were submitted by individual members as a result of their involvement with the women’s caucus. Capital

“Women’s issues have historically taken a backseat to other legislative priorities even though women in Hawai`i make up nearly half the population,” said Senator Rosalyn Baker (South and West Maui).  “That’s why there has always been a critical need for such a focus—especially in the areas of healthcare and violence against women, where government has been so slow in addressing their particular concerns.”

Violence against women has been making national headlines both in the sports world and in the home recently and has been a steadfast focal point for the caucus since its inception.

“While violence against women has come to the forefront in recent years, the problem persists across the entire spectrum of society and, clearly, more needs to be done to protect women in the workplace, in our schools and in their homes,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa).

Women’s health has been another major focus of concern in past sessions for the caucus and the 2016 legislative session will be no different.

“In Hawai`i where our families have always required two incomes to make ends meet, women in the workforce is not a new phenomenon,” said Senator Laura Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay).  “In fact, Hawai`i’s landmark legislation on healthcare was specifically created to address the needs of working women and families.  Today, we need to continue to build on that foundation to address the changing needs of women in today’s world.”

“Today women face the same issues that their mothers and grandmothers faced,” said Representative Lauren Matsumoto (Schofield, Mokuleia, Waialua, Kunia, Waipio Acres, Mililani).  “Yet the world has changed dramatically and so have women’s roles in society.  Our laws and protections need to change to meet their changing needs and to reflect the world in which we live today.”

A full list of official measures in the Women’s Legislative Caucus’s package for the current biennium is available on the Capitol website at http://ow.ly/XCh5h.

The House and Senate bills submitted by the Women’s Legislative Caucus for the 2016 session include:

ENSURING ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE

HB1895/SB2319, relates to prescription contraceptives, contraceptive services and supplies, and reimbursement.  Requires insurers to cover a three-month period for the first dispensing of prescription contraceptive supplies to the insured.  Requires insurers to cover a twelve-month period for the subsequent dispensing of the same contraceptive supply to the insured.

HB1896/SB2320, relates to prescriptive authority and contraceptive supplies.  Authorizes pharmacists to prescribe and dispense contraceptive supplies to persons eighteen years of age or older.  Specifies requirements pharmacists must meet prior to prescribing and dispensing contraceptive supplies.  Requires all insurers in the State, including health benefits plan under chapter 87A, Hawai’i Revised Statutes, and Medicaid managed care programs, to reimburse pharmacists who prescribe and dispense contraceptive supplies.

HB1897/SB2323, relates to health insurance coverage, sexually transmitted diseases.  Ensures insurance coverage for sexually transmitted disease screenings, including screenings for human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, during a female insured’s annual pelvic exam.

HB1898/SB2317, relates to maternal mortality review panel and the Department of Health.  Creates Maternal Mortality Review Panel for Hawai’i that conducts comprehensive, multidisciplinary reviews of maternal deaths with the purpose of identifying factors associated with those deaths to highlight system changes needed to improve services for all women.

HB1899/SB2326, relate to licensure for midwives.  Establishes licensure requirements for the practice of midwifery.  Requires the Director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to adopt rules regulating the practices of midwifery.

ELIMINATING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

HB1900/SB2318, relate to address confidentiality program, domestic violence, sexual offense and stalking.  Develops a mechanism to keep addresses confidential for domestic violence/sex assault survivors.  Establishes an address confidentiality programs that will give victims a substitute legal address to use in place of their physical address and can be used whenever an address is required for public records, such as voter or drivers’ license registries.  Requires courts to find, based upon a preponderance of the evidence, that the disclosure of a victim’s address is required in the interests of justice.

HB1901/SB2321, relates to domestic violence intervention training of first responders.  Requires any state or county agency who employs personnel whose job duties require or may require intervention in a domestic violence situation to provide such employees with a minimum of fifteen hours of domestic violence intervention training.

HB1902/SB2322, relates to sex trafficking.  Replaces the offense of Promoting Prostitution in the First Degree with Sex Trafficking to be classified as a violent crime.  Makes Sex Trafficking a class A felony and a strict liability offense if a minor is the victim of sex trafficking.  Provides that the offense of prostitution for a younger than eighteen years of age is a violation.  Expands the Department of the Attorney General’s Statewide Witness Program to include sex trafficking;  provides victims with access to criminal injury compensation;  and amends laws relating to civil liability for cases of coercion into prostitution.  Makes amendments to strengthen enforcement of laws and increase penalties against the sex trafficker.

HB1903/SB2325, relates to establishing law enforcement standards boards.  Establishes a law enforcement standards board for the certification of county police officers, state public safety officers, and employees of the departments of transportation and land and natural resources with police powers.  Establishes a special fund.  Appropriates funds.

HB1904/SB2324, relates to the composition of the county police commissions.  Amends the composition of the county police commissions to require that there are commissioners on each police commission that have experience or backgrounds in women’s issues, civil rights, and law enforcement.

Additional bills resulting from the Women’s Legislative Caucus include:

HB1905/SB2310, relates to domestic abuse protective orders.  Prohibits the court from granting mutual protective orders unless separate petitions are filed.

HB1906/SB2311, relates to Domestic Violence.  Removes certain unnecessary and redundant reporting responsibilities of the family courts and the department of human services in cases where temporary restraining orders are sought for alleged domestic abuse involving a family or household member who is a minor or incapacitated person.

HB1907/SB2309, relates to Sexual Assault.  Establishes the sexual assault kit tracking program. Requires a law enforcement agency to submit sexual assault kits obtained in connection to a criminal investigation to an authorized laboratory within 10 days, the laboratory to complete analysis within 6 months, and results to be uploaded to the state DNA database and data bank identification program and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Combined DNA Index System. Requires each law enforcement agency that obtains a sexual assault kit in connection to a criminal investigation to report to the department of the attorney general annually on the number of sexual assault kits in its possession. Requires the police department of each county, the department of public safety, and the division of conservation and resources enforcement to submit a report to the legislature prior to the convening of the regular session 2017 on the number of kits in its possession and progress on any backlog. Requires the legislative reports to be made available to the public.

HB1908/SB2312, relates to the Penal Code.  Redefines “sexual conduct” as that term is used in the offense of promotion of child abuse in the first, second, and third degrees.

HB1909/SB2313, relates to Equal Pay.  Amends the provisions for equal pay and sex discrimination for substantially similar work, clarifies the employer defenses.  Prohibits employer action regarding wage disclosure.

HB1910/SB2316, relates to Health and Health Insurance.  Requires a child to receive at least one dosage of the human papillomavirus vaccine prior to attending seventh grade, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. Authorizes pharmacists to prescribe and administer the human papillomavirus vaccine to persons between eleven and seventeen years of age. Specifies requirements pharmacists must meet prior to administering the human papillomavirus vaccine. Requires all insurers in the State, including health benefits plans under chapter 87A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and Medicaid managed care programs, to reimburse the costs of human papillomavirus vaccination services.

CAUCUS PACKAGE RESOLUTIONS

(To Be Introduced)

EXPANDING COMMUNITY-BASED WORK FURLOUGH PROGRAMS FOR FEMALE OFFENDERS

Encourages the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to continue and expand its community-based work furlough programs to assist in transitioning formerly incarcerated female inmates back into society.

REQUESTING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO AFFIRM ITS COMMITMENT TO TITLE IX

Requests a report from the Department of Education regarding its compliance with the requirements of Title IX, including the status of its Title IX policies, procedures, staffing and statistics to the Legislature not later than 20 days prior to the convening of the Regular Session of 2017.

Creating paid family leave task force

Creates a task force to examine the costs, benefits, and challenges of instituting a paid family leave system in the state.

AFFIRMING THE STATE OF HAWAI’I’S SUPPORT OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Recognizes and affirms the State of Hawai’i’s gratitude to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands for providing vital health care services to women and families statewide.

URGING U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES (USCIS) TO RESTART BASIC IMMIGRATION SERVICES VIA MOBILE ROUTE TO NEIGHBOR ISLANDS Applicants with immigration applications adjudicated by USCIS must travel to Honolulu for fingerprinting and interviews, which presents a substantial barrier to the immigration process for non-Oahu residents. Women are disproportionally impacted because one out of five women on neighbor islands are foreign-born, as compared to 14.9 percent of men

Hawaii State Senate to Hold Public Memorial for the Late Senator Gilbert Kahele

The Hawai‘i State Senate will open its doors to members of the public who wish to express their sympathies to the family of the late Senator Gilbert Kahele.

Senator Kahele Empty Desk

A condolence book will be made available to sign within the Senate Chambers and will be shared with the family. 

  • WHO:  Hawai‘i State Senate
  • WHAT:  Public memorial to be available in Senate Chambers
  • WHEN:  Wednesday, January 27, 2016, After session (around 12:30 p.m.) to 5:00 p.m. and Thursday, January 28, 2016 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • WHERE:  Senate Chambers – Hawaii State Capitol

Hawaii Senate Statement on Passing of Gilbert Kahele

It is with heavy heart and great sadness that the Hawai‘i State Senate reports the passing of Senator Gilbert Kahele, Senator of the First Senatorial District.

Sen Kahele Profile

Surrounded by his loving family, Sen. Gil Kahele passed peacefully at 7:55 a.m. surrounded by family at Queens Medical Center.

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi issued the following statement on the passing of Sen. Kahele:

“The Hilo community and the State of Hawai‘i today has lost a great Senator, a gentleman, and passionate advocate who cared deeply about public service and the people he represented. I am honored to have served with him and I know his fellow colleagues in the Senate feel the same. 

Senator Kahele’s family thanks the public for their words of support and aloha and respectfully asks for privacy at this difficult time.

Senator Kahele’s staff will be in the office to handle the concerns and issues of the district. His Tourism and International Affairs committee will be handled by the Vice Chair, Sen. J. Kalani English.

I send heartfelt condolences to the Kahele family as we mourn the loss of this remarkable man.”  

Sen. Gil Kahele, 73, has served in the Senate since 2011, when he was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie for the 2nd District, encompassing the communities of Hilo, Puna and Ka‘u on Hawai‘i Island. In 2012, he was elected to represent the community of Hilo, now known as the 1st Senatorial District as a result of reapportionment.

As a visionary and proponent for strengthening Hilo’s economy, Sen. Kahele sought ways to help create jobs and business in his district. Among his many accomplishments, Sen. Kahele was instrumental in bringing much needed funding to build the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.  He also was a staunch supporter behind the creation a world-class School of Aviation at the underutilized Hilo Airport and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Services for Sen. Kahele are pending.

Rep. Ing & Thielen Introduces Industrial Hemp Legislation – Will Allow Individuals to Research, Grow and Sell Hemp in Hawaii

Representatives Kaniela Ing (Kihei, Wailea, Makena) and Representative Cynthia Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) are joining forces to introduce a measure that expands industrial hemp research, growth, cultivation and marketing activities in Hawaii.  Following the models used in other states, including Kentucky and Colorado, the bill supports partnerships with the private sector to further explore industrial hemp’s potential contribution to the state’s economy.

hemp legislationAlexander and Baldwin’s recent announcement that it will end sugar production at Maui’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S) will free about 36,000 acres of agriculturally zoned land at the end of 2016, prompting question over what crop would replace sugar.

“There is a huge groundswell of support from the general public and members of the agriculture sector to legalize industrial hemp,” said Rep. Ing.  “While hemp is not a magic bullet for Hawaii’s struggling agriculture industry, it does deserve our consideration, especially with the closing of sugar operations by HC&S.

“I believe industrial hemp now has bi-partisan support, as well as widespread support across generations.  It’s time has come.”

“With its ability to cleanse the soil of toxins, industrial hemp could be an environmentally friendly replacement for our agriculture industry,” says Representative Thielen, a longtime and enthusiastic supporter of legalizing industrial hemp.

“Hemp is often grown without pesticides or herbicides due to its natural ability to ward off unwanted insects and weeds.  Furthermore, hemp’s potential as a biofuel feedstock could be a game-changer for Hawaii.  There are over 25,000 different uses for hemp and in U.S. alone, the market for hemp seed oil and fiber is approximately $600 million a year.”

Full Text – Hawaii State of the State By Governor Ige

Gov. David Ige today delivered his second State of the State address. The governor outlined his plans for a renaissance for Kalihi, including the future of the O‘ahu Community Correctional Center, air conditioning for Hawai‘i’s public schools, affordable housing which is key to addressing homelessness across the state and proposed investments in public housing, the Hawai‘i State Hospital, agriculture and the environment and innovation economy.

State of the State Ige

A copy of Governor Ige’s address follows:

Speaker Souki, President Kouchi, former governors, distinguished justices of the courts, representatives of our congressional delegation, members of the Hawaii State Legislature, county mayors and other elected officials, honored guests, family and friends,

Good morning and aloha.

After Alexander & Baldwin announced the end of sugar production on Maui, I visited the people who work there.  Among them was a diesel mechanic, a fourth generation plantation worker, whose family history was interwoven with the sugar plantations.

He talked with pride about his work and life, and I shared that pride in recalling my own family’s life on the plantation.  I was also struck by the realization that his family’s future would forever be altered by the closure of sugar.

Like many of you here, I was saddened for those workers whose lives will be changed forever.  At the same time, I reflected on the challenges that we face moving forward.

Today, we live in a time of extraordinary change, where the past seems to have little relevance to what is happening today, let alone tomorrow.  And while the past doesn’t provide us with a precise roadmap to the future, it does give us the very things we need to find our path:  values, sensibilities and the ways in which we treat each other—with aloha.

Sugar is gone, as are many other aspects of the Hawaii we once knew.   In their place, however, there is an exciting new world beckoning us.  And that is what I want to talk about this morning—about this new world and the challenges we face as we govern—about doing things the right way to make things happen.

TRUTHFULNESS
It begins with being truthful.  We, in government, are obligated to be truthful, even when the truth is not easy or popular.  When we live without truth, our actions fail to pass the test of time.  Moreover, we tend to repeat our mistakes because we have not learned from them.

A few years ago, we saw the demise of the SuperFerry.  Its failure has been attributed to environmental objections and a hostile court.  But that is not exactly what happened.  The fact is the state failed to follow the law.  When we tried a legal end run, it also failed.  The point is the state should have followed the law and done the right thing in the first place.

While the circumstances are very different, we are now going through some very difficult days with the Thirty Meter Telescope.  When I visited Mauna Kea last April, I felt deeply that something was not right.

Even though I personally believe that the telescope needs to be built, it was also clear to me that many things have gone very wrong along the way.  As a result, I have taken the time to listen to a lot of people—listening to their hopes as well as their concerns.

In its recent ruling, the Supreme Court did not say don’t do this project.  What it did say was that the state didn’t do the right things in the approval process.  It told us we needed to do a better job of listening to people and giving them a real opportunity to be heard.

The unrelenting search for truth, knowledge and understanding is an essential part of our human makeup.  It helps us become who we are.

So does our obligation to be true to our past and cultural heritage.

That’s why it’s so unfortunate that our past and our future have been pitted against each other on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  As Governor, I am committed to realigning our values and our actions. They are what define us as a community and allow us to move forward – proud of our past and facing our future with strength and confidence.

I am committed to pursuing this project and I hope its sponsors will stay with us.  And this time, we will listen carefully to all, reflect seriously on what we have heard and, whatever we do in the end, we will do it the right way.

A PUBLIC TRUST
Governing the right way also means managing public funds as a public trust.  That’s especially true when it comes to taking care of our debts and obligations.

The state’s obligation to the public pension and health benefit funds represent two of our biggest fixed expenses.  We need to find better ways to meet this challenge.  Their continued growth is a challenge that will remain with us for many years.  We must find ways to do better in meeting this challenge so as not to burden future generations of taxpayers.

Last year, we changed the way in which we funded those obligations that will save hundreds of millions of dollars in the future.  In the past, the state’s contributions to the fund were made in installments that spread over 12 months.  By consolidating those contributions into a single payment at the beginning of each fiscal year, we will realize contributions or taxpayer savings of up to half a billion dollars over the next 20 years.

Furthermore, my supplemental budget request to the Legislature includes paying 100 percent of the annual required contributions rather than 60 percent for the next two fiscal years.  If authorized, this will further save more than $300 million in required contributions over the next 20 years.

Tax Modernization Program
We’ve also been working hard to implement expenditure control policies and create fiscal initiatives such as a tax modernization program.
While the history of the tax department’s computer programs is not a good one, the recent initiative to upgrade those programs is on time, on budget and meeting our first-year expectations.  It will take until 2018 to complete, but we are already seeing progress in the collection of the general excise and transient accommodation taxes.

Greater efficiencies have increased tax revenues and saved taxpayer dollars.  At the same time, our tax-fraud unit identified over $20 million in fraudulent claims in the last fiscal year and, so far this year, it has found another $11 million.  Let’s be clear. Stopping tax fraud is about fairness for all those who faithfully pay their share each year.

We know this work delays tax refunds and we are working hard to minimize those delays.  If you bear with us during this transition, we will soon have a system that will be better able to catch fraud, without the time, cost and work required to do so today.

Federal Funds
In some cases, the state has struggled to spend federal monies in a timely way.  This issue has vexed us for too long.  We are starting to make progress.  The Department of Transportation reduced its Fiscal Year 2015 project pipeline balance by over $100 million.  This is the largest drop in five years and is the lowest it has been since Fiscal Year 2002.

I am also pleased to announce that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined that our State Department of Health is now in compliance in spending down the Drinking Water Fund.  As a result, the remaining balance totaling $8 million for Fiscal Year 2015 is being released for use locally.

We have more work to do on this critical issue, but we are making real progress.

Bond Financing
We also know that when public funds are managed better, the cost of borrowing money decreases.  Last November we completed a $750 million state bond sale—the first for this administration—and were able to refinance some of our bonds.  This resulted in savings of about $61 million in our debt service requirement.

Because of all these initiatives, we were able to balance the state budget by last June, even though the state was projected to close the last fiscal year in the red.

Maui Public Hospitals
While we have made progress, there continues to be areas of concern.  One of these is the operation of the hospitals on our neighbor islands and in rural communities.  It is getting harder and harder for us as a state to operate these hospitals well.

We need the resources the private sector can bring to bear on the increasingly complex issues and challenges of health care.  We recently signed a historic agreement transferring the operation and management of the Maui Region health care facilities from the state to Kaiser Permanente.  There is still work ahead but this is a great step forward.  Thanks to all of you for working with us to make this happen.

In these and many other ways, we are committed to maintaining your trust—the public’s trust—and to closely mind the state’s purse strings as we prioritize and invest in the projects and programs that are long overdue.

WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY
When we govern in the right way, we conduct the people’s business WITH the community, not against it or around it or without it.  I’ve long had strong concerns about the way the redevelopment in Kakaako proceeded.  So do a lot of people who felt left out.

We have a great opportunity to learn from past experience and do things differently going forward.  We have an immediate opportunity to get it right in Kalihi.

One of the harshest realities facing us today is that we need to tear down the Oahu Correctional Facility in Kalihi and build a new facility in Halawa.  The jail is severely overcrowded and in disrepair and we must take action.

Therefore, I am introducing a bill to move this forward.

The facility will be designed to take advantage of all that we have learned about incarceration, and the need to give inmates a real opportunity to change their lives.  Once the correctional facility has been moved, we can take advantage of the transit-oriented development opportunities created by the rail transit system.

In the next couple of weeks, I intend to put together a group of community leaders who will convene a series of community meetings to let Kalihi speak about what Kalihi wants and what role it will play in the future of Honolulu.

The land at Dillingham and Puuhale could be used for affordable housing, open space for recreation, commercial development and the jobs that it would bring, education and many other possibilities.  And there are other state housing and mixed-use developments in various stages of planning and development in Kalihi.

In short, this is a tremendous opportunity to reposition Kalihi for the future.

This Kalihi 21st Century initiative truly gives us the opportunity to do community planning the right way.  No one deserves this more than the people of Kalihi.

This is long overdue.

GOVERNING WITH COMPASSION
Governing in the right way is about people.  That’s why we will do what needs to be done with compassion.

Homelessness in Hawaii presents a complex and difficult issue.  On one hand, we need to ensure that our parks and sidewalks remain open and safe for all to use.  But we will do this with compassion and respect, especially when families with young children are involved.  We will be sure that shelters are available for them.

We cannot force people into shelters, but we can do our best to help those families.  That’s why we increased funding for the Housing First effort and organized a Landlord Summit to encourage acceptance of more low-income and homeless tenants from building owners.

We are also currently in the final stages of renovating a 5,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Kakaako to house up to 240 people a year.  This facility will not be just another shelter.  Instead, it will be a Family Assessment Center that will quickly connect families to longer term housing.

An additional $8.3 million has been included in my budget for Fiscal Year 2017 to operate the Family Assessment Center, expand the Housing First Program on the neighbor islands, and establish a new Rapid Re-housing program throughout the state.

The ultimate goal of the state’s efforts to address homelessness is to make permanent housing available.

I am also pleased to announce that the state will be investing $5 million immediately to jumpstart a new public-private partnership with Aloha United Way.  It will provide direct funding for rapid re-housing, homeless prevention services and establish a statewide referral system. It will also develop long-term homeless strategies to address the needs of the most vulnerable individuals, including unaccompanied youth and those with chronic health concerns.

This initiative is expected to provide immediate relief to an estimated 1300 households.

My thanks to the Legislature, county mayors and the many community groups committed to helping homeless families and individuals throughout the state.

Affordable Housing
You cannot talk about homelessness without talking about the major reason why it has become so widespread.  And that is the lack of affordable housing.  It is estimated that 66,000 housing units are needed in the coming years. The state alone cannot fill the gap, but the state wants to do its part.

That’s why we are working with the private sector to develop a comprehensive approach to reduce regulatory barriers, strengthen financial tools, streamline procedures and re-orient policies toward increasing housing production.  We’ve expanded our partnerships with the private sector to build more affordable homes and rentals across the state.

Last year, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation awarded about $10 million in low-income housing tax credit and $108 million in loans and bonds to leverage over $660 million in total development costs.

This year, because of the great demand, we are seeking $75 million for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund to make more money available for low-income rentals.

But the biggest roadblock to developing more homes is the lack of adequate infrastructure that allows housing projects to even begin.  The state can make a major contribution by funding projects such as roads and water systems.

That’s why I am proposing legislation to allow us to use the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund for infrastructure development.  We are also asking for a $25-million increase to that fund in Fiscal Year 2017.

Public Housing
We’re also thinking outside the box in renovating the state’s public housing facilities.

The North School Street redevelopment project will be one of three Oahu public housing initiatives to enter into a public-private partnership that allows for a mixed-use/mixed income model.  Kuhio Park Terrace and Mayor Wright Homes are the other two.

These projects will redefine our concept of public housing and make it more efficient, more welcoming and more compassionate.

With the Mayor Wright Homes, we are in the process of formulating a master development agreement with Hunt Companies that has the potential of adding additional mixed-income units.  A development agreement with the Michaels Group for phase two of Kuhio Park Terrace is also imminent, with the potential for additional affordable units.

Private Sector and County Initiatives
There are other purely private sector projects in various stages of development that will contribute thousands of additional units, including Hoopili in East Kapolei and Koa Ridge in Central Oahu.  Combined, there will be over 10,000 units coming on line in the next few years.  While that is still not enough, it is a solid beginning.

We will also need innovative help from other levels of government.  I want to thank Honolulu Mayor Caldwell and the City Council for thinking out of the box to create an “accessory dwelling unit” plan to increase rentals.

Perhaps the greatest opportunities for housing on Oahu rest with transit-oriented development.  We will be working closely with you on affordable housing initiatives in this key area.  And mahalo to Mayor Carvalho of Kauai, Mayor Arakawa of Maui, Mayor Kenoi of Hawaii Island, and their respective county councils for stepping up their island-tailored efforts to house our people.

Hawaii State Hospital
Compassion must also extend to those who struggle each day with mental health issues.  Behavioral health issues are often the underlying cause of many of our social, health and economic challenges.  In fact, mental health is the single-most pressing unmet health issue facing our state.

That’s why we’re investing $160.5 million in a new forensic mental health facility on the grounds of the State Hospital in Kaneohe.  And we’ve budgeted $4.7 million in Fiscal Year 2017 to cover projected operating deficits at the State Hospital.

No one who has ever visited these facilities would ever question the need for these improvements.  We must address the severe overcrowding as well as the safety of our state employees.  We will work with you to find ways to accelerate the design and construction of this critically needed facility.

It is long overdue.

FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN
Governing in the right way also looks to the future.  For me, our highest single obligation is to take care of our children.

We need to cool our classrooms now, in energy-efficient ways that align with our commitment to end our dependence on imported fossil fuels.  Clean energy technology is changing rapidly and it’s becoming more efficient.  The Department of Education has already launched an energy-efficiency program called Ka Hei.  This is a start and we need to take it farther.

I am working with the DOE, other state departments, utilities and clean energy companies to cool 1,000 public school classrooms by the end of this year and thousands more each year through the end of 2018.

We are going to get this job done.

To start, we will use $100 million of Green Energy Market Securitization funds to immediately install energy-efficiency measures and air conditioning units in classrooms where our children need it the most.  By using existing GEMS program dollars, the Department of Education and its energy-efficiency partner, OpTerra, can quickly access affordable financing for a large portion of its cost to air condition our classrooms.

I know you share my concerns.  Let’s work together to support our kids.  You have my personal commitment that I will do all in my power to serve them.  I’ll work with anyone else who wants to do the same.

This, too, is long overdue.

LEGACY BUILDING
Finally, good governance creates a legacy—what we leave our children.

When I look at all the things we are doing right now, I see two legacy building elements in our current budget:  They are strengthening our economic foundation and encouraging innovation.

Economic Foundations
Tourism is one of our primary economic engines, generating over $14 billion each year in visitor spending and employing nearly 150,000 workers.  It’s essential for us to maintain our global position as a leader in the industry.

To do this, we need to make travel to Hawaii as easy as possible by expanding U.S. Customs pre-clearance for international visitors, particularly from Japan.  Honolulu is the fourth largest port of entry in the United States.

Through a CIP funding appropriation, we want to establish Kona as a second international airport, giving visitors more travel options and conveniences.

We are also asking for funds to modernize our airports and automate the passport control system.  This will enrich the visitor experience and encourage more carriers to fly here.

Agriculture and the Environment
In agriculture, we must move more aggressively to take on threats to our homegrown resources, with the creation of the Hawaii Invasive Species Authority.

Yes, it’s long overdue.

The authority is just part of a broader framework for sustainability in Hawaii that will connect all of our efforts in resource protection, water production and fishery restoration to support sustainable communities throughout the state.

Maui Sugar Lands
As I noted earlier, the end of sugar production in Hawaii provides us with new opportunities.  Here is the fundamental question:  In the future when we look upward to Central Maui, will we see green productive farmlands, a fallow dust bowl or more homes for the super wealthy?

We must learn from the failures of the past and vow not to repeat them.  Because we are running out of chances.

And so we will work steadfastly with Alexander & Baldwin and Mayor Arakawa to keep these lands in agriculture as a first priority.  This is a long-term top agenda item for everyone who loves what Hawaii stands for and where we came from as a people.

Our Military Family
The military is also a primary driver of our economy, and a very important one.  But that’s not how I want to focus on it today.

Many of us have friends and neighbors serving in the military here.   They are so much a part of us that we sometimes forget the risks and dangers that are a constant part of their lives.

We were tragically reminded of this when we lost twelve Marines recently.  I know we all grieve and pray with their families.  We were also reminded of the importance of what our military does in protecting democracy and peace in the Pacific and throughout the world.

And so to our military members and veterans here in the chamber today—to those who we owe so much—I’d like to ask them to stand and be recognized.

The Innovation Economy
In years past, our parents were forced to confront the reality that times were changing—that the plantations could no longer drive Hawaii’s economy, and a new economic engine had to be found.

Their answer was tourism. Today, with tourism at near capacity, we face a similar dilemma.

For those who haven’t noticed, innovation, fueled by technology, is driving the global economy at breakneck speed.  We simply must create an economic environment that enables Hawaii’s entrepreneurs to turn ideas into products and services so that we can compete in today’s global economy.

And we know that deploying a strong broadband capacity is critical to that kind of environment.

More importantly, innovation is not just a technological phenomenon.  It crosses all industries, including agriculture, fashion, “media and design,” clean energy, and healthcare.  And it creates good paying jobs that keep our best and brightest here where we need them.

For that reason, I am proposing we set aside $30 million over the next six years from our corporate tax revenues to support innovation enterprises.

We also need to support accelerator and venture fund activities to give talented entrepreneurs the means to create new products and services.  In addition, our investments will also help attract private money.

My strongest personal partner in this is University of Hawaii President David Lassner.  We are members of the Islander Wonk’s Club; there’s a sign-up sheet outside.  So it’s not too late to join!

VALUE BASED ACTIONS
Finally, making things right to make things happen is not just a nice slogan.

If we are truthful and act accordingly, if we value the public trust, if we govern with the people, if we are strong yet compassionate, if we take special care of our children, if we look to all of our futures, then we can more than meet the challenges we face today and tomorrow.

I began my remarks by talking about the end of sugar and the values handed down to us from our parents and grandparents who worked on those plantations.  I talked about the importance of transforming those values into action.

That takes leadership.  The kind of leadership and guidance provided by the late Ron Bright.

Ron was a teacher at Castle High School who transformed Hawaii, one student at a time, by engaging them in the performing arts.  He understood the importance of values.

His classroom was the theatrical stage where he directed generations of students in an imaginary world.  But the lessons they learned there were about life and the real world.  In his productions as artistic director of Castle’s Performing Arts Center, Ron celebrated our differences, reminded us of our common humanity and joyfully depicted life in all of its manifestations.

At this time, I’d like to recognize Ron’s family who is with us today.

Ron’s total commitment to the affirmation of life through education must continue to guide us.  Today, we need only watch the news on TV to see examples of man’s inhumanity to man, triggered by the fear of differences—racial, religious, national.  There are of course real dangers in the world that must be squarely met.

But it is also true that the world is becoming a smaller place where pluralism is increasingly the rule rather than the exception.  These conditions call less for fear and hostility and more for the unyielding affirmation of diversity.  We have found a way in these islands—anchored by a remarkable host culture and the enriching waves of immigration from east and west—to value and venerate who we are.

Many and yet one.

It is a lesson we have learned over time and it is an active pledge we must keep and live by every day.  The transcendent call from our island state to the surrounding world is that when we demean others we betray ourselves.

There is a finer, better way.  Pledge to it, make it real every day and lead the way.

Mahalo, and I look forward to the work ahead.

2016 Legislative Session Opening Day Remarks by Speaker Rep. Joseph M. Souki

Capital

Fellow House members, welcome to the 2016 Regular Session of the Hawaii State Legislature. To say that I have seen my share of opening days at the Legislature would be, at my age, a bit of an understatement. Twenty-five or even ten years ago, who would have thought that we would be looking at medical marijuana in the way that we regard it today?

Who would have imagined the number of houses powered by solar panels that are on our roofs today?

Who would have foreseen the Internet or the impact of social media?

Times have changed and so has Hawaii.

Fundamental Needs

What has not changed are the fundamental issues that we grapple with every day here in this building: The economy and jobs, affordable housing and homelessness, the education of our children, the stewardship of our environment, and the protection of our basic rights — these needs never change.

What does change is our approach to them.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were all wondering whether we would ever see single digit interest rates again. But we have—and then some.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were all wondering whether we would ever see the end to the “Great Recession.” But we have, with a record number of visitors coming to the state in the last few years.

The economic cycle is pointing up and our local economy is on a roll. We have momentum on our side—not just economic momentum but a legislative one as well.

It’s About Momentum

Last year, this body took major steps to move us toward energy self-sufficiency.

We gave patients throughout the state access to medical marijuana with the creation of state supervised dispensaries.

We moved to resolve the longstanding financial crisis of Maui’s public hospitals.

We shored up our long-term financial stability by strengthening the Rainy Day Fund and Hurricane Relief Fund, as well as by addressing our unfunded liabilities.

These are not only very difficult and complex issues, but longstanding ones as well. Thank you for having the courage to tackle these and other tough issues over the last several sessions.

I believe we are on a roll, with momentum on our side. And that is not a small thing.

A few weeks ago, I watched the Alamo Bowl, where TCU found itself trailing at the start of the second half, by 31 points! I don’t know what the coach told them at halftime, but clearly, they came out in the second half, intent on fighting back. Momentum dramatically shifted and after three hard fought-overtime periods, they finally secured victory.

Ask any athlete, momentum can be such a powerful force in competition. I believe it can also be a powerful force in life as well. But what are we going to do with it?

Moving forward still takes hard work, boldness and determination. But imagine the good we can do if we leverage our momentum.

Affordable Housing and Homelessness

Homelessness seems as entrenched as any issue we’ve faced in recent times. However, the City and State have been working with many agencies and nonprofit organizations to shape a multipronged approach to assisting these individuals.

We need to support those efforts—not timidly but emphatically with sufficient funds to meet those needs.

And the same should go for the creation of more affordable homes and rentals.

We should refocus all of the state agencies who have a hand in developing affordable housing to leverage what is currently being done. We should start looking at how we can build affordable housing on state owned parcels along Oahu’s rail system.

And we should partner with the private sector so that more can be developed—and developed sooner rather than later.

Providing an adequate supply of affordable housing is the correct long-term solution so that families don’t fall into homelessness and despair.

Fine tuning the clinics

In 2000, we were the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Last year, we provided safe and reliable access for those who require it for health reasons.

As we move closer to implementation, let’s make sure that they’re done right and serve our people in the way they were intended.

Hawaii Health Systems Corporation

The action we took last year to shore up Maui’s public hospitals was groundbreaking. That formula may provide us with an answer to broader issues with other facilities in our statewide public hospital system.

That’s something we should explore.

Investing in Hawaii’s Long-Term Future

In looking to our long-term future, we need to continue to scrutinize ways to keep us on a sound fiscal footing. Ways that include making sure that we can sustain ongoing state initiatives, whether it’s the Cancer Center, the Enterprise Technology Services, or any other recent endeavor.

We must continue paying down our unfunded liabilities, specifically our obligations to the public employees’ retirement fund.

Building our budgetary reserves now, puts us in a better position to weather any future economic slowdown, which is sure to come our way.

Our Kupuna

We need to help our kupuna by passing the bill introduced last session that will help family members care for their seniors after they come home from the hospital. Testimony on the measure supported the bill three to one.

More importantly, it will provide the kind of medical training for caregivers that is so essential to keeping our kupuna healthy.

In addition, I will be introducing a bill that will require all doctors practicing in Hawaii to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients. That too will help our kupuna, as well as those who must seek medical care but cannot afford it.

Help for the Counties

And we need to help our counties who help us support our number one industry, tourism. We can do that by raising the counties’ share of the tourism tax and building on earlier increases to the counties. That’s taking advantage of our momentum.

In addition, we need to help the workers on Maui affected by the closure of sugar operations at Hawaii Commercial and Sugar Company. And our actions have to be more than just creating another Hamakua Task Force.

The closure of those sugar lands on our last large-scale plantation marks the end of a remarkable, proud and historic era in Hawaii. Our grandparents, parents and all of us have been shaped by life around the plantations and the lessons learned on them. It reminds us of our history and where we came from, so that we can better plot the direction in which we want to go.

We will be working closely with A&B and the Administration to ensure that real help will be available. The end of an era cannot be the end of those workers’ dreams for a better life.

Our Keiki

Finally, you cannot talk about a long-term scenario without talking about the investment we make in our children. We need to repair and modernize our education infrastructure so that we give our keiki the best chance to learn and to prepare themselves for their future.

And we need to give them the best opportunity to secure good paying jobs so that they can support their families and create a better life for themselves. We can do that by ensuring that small businesses, the backbone of our economy, remain vibrant and strong.

Right now small business is having a tough time because of one primary reason: their lease rent have gone through the roof, increasing in some places by more than a thousand percent in a very short span of time.

Consequently, we’ve seen a string of locally owned shops and stores shut down in recent years. And it will not stop any time soon, driving more and more of them out of business. Unless we do something about it. And we can, if we have the determination and will.

We can level the playing field and change for the better the business landscape across the state—if we are willing to reinvent the rules that govern commercial leasehold lands.

Hawaii has done it before with lands supporting single-family and multi-family homes. Those historic actions gave the ordinary working person new opportunities for true homeownership, rejuvenated the local housing market and leveled the playing field for home buyers.

It’s time for us to think about the converting commercial leasehold lands in Hawaii to fee simple.

The Power of Momentum

Momentum—as powerful as it is—has no value if we don’t use it or leverage it.

Political pundits have noted that this is an election year. In other words, a year in which politicians seeking reelection do nothing to upset voters.

I am not asking you to upset voters, but to be bold in this election year and do what needs to be done for the greater good. We cannot lose the momentum we have built up. We must use it to keep us moving forward. I look forward to joining you in these endeavors and working with you on behalf of the people of Hawaii.

Thank you and aloha.

UH Hilo Student Senator Amber Shouse Reappointed – Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Gail Makuakane-Lundin Being Replaced

On December 8, 2015 UHHSA Senator Amber Shouse was reappointed to her position of Senator at Large by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Gail Makuakane-Lundin. Makuakane-Lundin is being replaced. Makuakane-Lundin declined to comment.

UHHSA Senator Amber Shouse

UHHSA Senator Amber Shouse

Shouse said, “I am thankful the wrong has been righted. I hope UH Hilo can further bring justice to this situation. I am looking forward to serving the student body as I was elected to do.”

Shouse had been unjustifiably removed from UHHSA on October 2, 2015, and then again on October 5 by a cabal led by UHHSA President Lazareth Sye and Treasurer Melinda Alles. Campus Center Director Ellen Kusano was present during the meeting and did not discourage the unjust removal.

Kusano sent an email to Sye on 9/28/15 mentioning Shouse in a derogatory manner 4 days before the removal saying, “Amber persists in believing that I’ll be the puppetmaster of the advisor just as she believes I’m UHHSA’s puppetmaster.  She needs to realize that whoever is feeding her this garbage needs to be ignored. … I hope she hears what Aunty Gail is really saying rather than what she wants to think Aunty Gail is saying.” Kusano has declined to comment. Shouse has filed complaints with UH Hilo.

Vice President Abraham Jose, former UHHSA Data Director Kawehi Kanoho-Kalahiki, COBE Senator Alison Pham, Senator David Khan, Senator Jessica Penaranda, Senator Nick Nguyen, Daniel Woods along with Sye and Alles were responsible for Shouse’s unjustified removal. Only Senator Pham chose to comment. She said,  “I would like extend my sincerest apologies to Ms. Shouse for how she was removed. I hope we can improve UHHSA to provide a better, more fair, and more transparent student government for UH Hilo.”

UHHSA Adviser Shara Mahoe sent an email responding to Shouse’s 10/27/15 appeal saying, “The preponderance of the evidence collected supports your allegation that you [Shouse] did not overstep your boundaries as an UHFISA Senator by communicating directly…with Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Gail Makuakane-Lundin and Dean of Students, Kelly Oaks.”

Shara Mahoe stepped down as UHHSA Adviser on 11/5/15. At the 10/8/15 UHHSA meeting Mahoe had requested funding from UHHSA to supplement her income possibly in violation of state law.

President Sye and the rest of UHHSA have yet to issue a formal apology to Shouse for the unjust removal.

UHHSA Senator Briki Cajandig said, “Amber’s reinstatement was a fair and ethical decision. She has always deserved her spot on the Senate and represents students to the best of her ability with integrity. I’m so glad we have the chance to work together once again.”

Dean Kelly Oaks was also present at the 10/5/15 UHHSA meeting, the 2nd meeting Shouse was unjustifiably removed. She declined to comment regarding the reappointment.

Former UHHSA senator and UHSUnews reporter Jennifer Ruggles said, “Our student government receives $170,000 in student fees every year and unsettling events like this discourage student participation. It’s alarming how the student affairs administrators who oversaw Shouse’s removal, like Director Kusano, continue to allow such undemocratic behavior at a place of higher learning.”

UH Hilo has not commented.

For more information contact UHSU at: uhstudentunion@gmail.com

Hawaii State Accepting Grants-in-Aid Applications Starting Next Week

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Jill Tokuda and House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke announced that qualified nonprofit and other organizations will again be able to apply for State Grants-in-Aid (GIA) that may become available and will be under consideration during the 2016 Regular Session.

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

In order to allow the Legislature time to thoroughly review applications, the deadline to submit grant applications will be 4:30pm on January 22, 2016.  Last year, the Legislature awarded nearly $30 million in grants to non-profits across the state.

Information on the GIA process will be made available on the Legislature’s website (www.capitol.hawaii.gov) next week. Any questions, contact the Ways and Means Committee at 808-586-6800 and the Finance Committee at 808-586-6200.