Senator Kahele to Kick-Off Statewide Higher Education Tour at UH Hilo Next Wednesday

State Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele, Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, is announcing a statewide higher education tour for its committee members. The tour will also include discussions with students, faculty, staff and administrators, that will focus on “transforming the University of Hawai‘i System for the next decade.” Arrangements are being made to visit all 10 University of Hawai‘i System campuses and affiliated education centers this fall as follows:

  • University of Hawai‘i at Hilo 
  • University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa 
  • University of Hawai‘i at West Oahu 
  • University of Hawai‘i Maui College 
  • Hawai‘i Community College (Hilo) 
  • Honolulu Community College 
  • Kapi‘olani Community College 
  • Leeward Community College 
  • Windward Community College 
  • Kaua‘i Community College 
  • Hawai‘i Community College – Pālamanui (Kona) 
  • North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center (Honoka‘a) 
  • Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (Kaneohe)

To kick off the statewide tour, Senator Kahele is hosting an East Hawai‘i Higher Education Town Hall on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at UH Hilo in UCB100. Topics of discussion will include leadership, enrollment, tuition, governance, student life, facilities, athletics, community engagement and new programs. University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College students, faculty, staff, administrators and the community are encouraged to attend.

For questions regarding the higher education statewide tour or the town hall meeting, please contact the office of Sen. Kahele at 808-586-6760 or senkkahele@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Hawaii Senate Announces New Chairs and Reorganization – Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele New Majority Whip

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi announced several new committee chairs and an addition to Senate leadership as part of the Senate’s recent reorganization.

Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele was named the new Majority Whip today.

Senator Donovan Dela Cruz will be the new Ways and Means committee chair with Senator Gil Keith-Agaran serving as the Ways and Means committee vice chair.

The current Senate committee on Judiciary and Labor will be divided into two committees with Senator Brian T. Taniguchi chairing the Judiciary committee and Senator Jill N. Tokuda chairing the Labor committee.

Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele is the new Majority Whip.

These new positions are effective at the close of business on May 12, 2017.

A Message From Senator Kahele – Rat Lungworm Disease

Aloha,

For this week’s legislative update, I want to focus on Senate Bill 272, Senate Draft 2, House Draft 1 (SB272 SD2 HD1), Relating to Rat Lungworm Disease. With the recent flurry of news stories covering Rat Lungworm Disease in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Civil Beat and even the Atlantic, I feel it particularly important to update you on what the legislature is doing to address the situation.

SB272 SD2 HD1 appropriates an unspecified amount of funds to the University of Hawai`i at Hilo for programs, studies, and activities related to the prevention and eradication of rat lungworm disease. We know that we have to appropriately fund these efforts to put an end to this menace.

Currently, SB272 SD2 HD1 has passed third reading in the House. The Senate has already communicated its disagreement to the HD1 version because it changes the effective date to July 31, 2150. This strategy is known as “defecting the effective date” and either kills the bill or forces it into conference since it is a forgone conclusion that neither house will pass a bill with such an unrealistic implementation date.

Hopefully, this bill will go to conference. If it does, Representative Richard Creagan and I will likely be the lead-chairs for the conference committee and we’ll be able to work with our colleagues to put out a draft both houses can support.

As we move forward, stay up-to-date on this effort by following its progress on our capitol website or our weekly updates. Mahalo for all your support!

Me ka ha’aha’a,
Kaiali’i Kahele

University of Hawaii Volleyball Coach Dave Shoji to be Honored at the Capitol

In recognition of his years of dedication and devotion to the State of Hawai‘i and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Wahine Volleyball program, the Senate and House will celebrate “Dave Shoji Day” at the State Capitol on Thursday, April 13.

@DaveShoji on Twitter

“It is an honor to recognize Coach Shoji in the Senate,” said Sen. Kaiali`i Kahele, Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education and a former UH men’s volleyball player.

“His legacy and remarkable career is undeniable. As a member of the UH Menʻs Volleyball team from 1994-1997, I will always remember how kind he treated me as well as the advice and mentorship he gave me as a student athlete. I am honored to know him and wish him the very best in retirement. My appreciation for Coach Shoji is also extended to his wife Mary and children Cobey, Kawika and Erik for sharing Coach Dave with all of Hawaiʻi.”

“Coach Dave Shoji not only made Hawai‘i proud of the outstanding accomplishments of the University of Hawai‘i Wahine Volleyball team, he taught his players valuable life lessons in leadership, camaraderie and honor,” said Rep. Angus McKelvey, Chair of the House Higher Education Committee. “He brought the UH into the national spotlight as a program to be reckoned with, and gave us all tremendous pride in the talent of the young athletes he mentored.”

The floor presentation recognitions will be held at the beginning of the Senate and House regular sessions.

  • WHO: Members of State Senate and House, Retired UH Wahine Volleyball Coach Dave Shoji
  • WHAT: Floor presentations for Dave Shoji
  • WHEN: Thursday, April 13, 2017, 11:30 a.m.  Senate Session, 12 noon House Session
  • WHERE: Senate and House chambers, Hawai‘i State Capitol

A Message From Senator Kahele – Student Loan Debt

Senator Kahele and some kid!

Aloha, I hope this week’s update finds you well. As Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, I have made it my mission to address the ever increasing costs associated with getting a University of Hawai’i System (UH System) degree.

To address this issue, my team and I crafted a Hawai’i Promise Program bill to create a “last-dollar” scholarship program for all UH System students who fell just short of the funds they would need to get a degree. We also introduced a Tuition Moratorium bill to preclude the UH System from increasing student tuition for an unspecified period, during which a detailed review of the UH System’s expenditures and revenue could take place.

In July 2015, President Barack Obama recognized the burden of the cost of higher education and issued Dear Colleague Letter GEN 15-14 to forbid loan guaranty agencies from charging fees for up to sixteen percent of the principal and accrued interest owed on Federal Family Education Program Loans (FFEPL), if the borrower entered the government’s loan rehabilitation program within sixty days of default. However, on March 16, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Dear Colleague Letter GEN 17-02 meant to revoke the federal guidance issued by President Obama.

By this action, President Trump is forcibly removing a safety net for FFEPL borrowers at the worst possible time. The total national student loan debt has grown to $1.3 trillion with a corresponding increase in the national average of debt per borrower at $37,172. Of the 44.2 million borrowers across the nation, 11.2% or just under 5 million borrowers are in default.

In response to President Trump’s action, my team and I put together SCR139 SD1, which urges the reinstatement of GEN 15-14 and requests legislative support or administrative action to allow borrowers in default a chance to rehabilitate their loans and successfully repay student debt without being charged steep collection fees by guaranty agencies. I hope you will join me in supporting this resolution. 

As the session continues, we will remain vigilant and committed to make higher education more affordable. We know education is the key to better paying jobs, job security, and economic stability for our families. That’s why it is critical that we make higher education 100% accessible to people of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Me ka ha’aha’a,
Kaiali’i Kahele

Sen. Kahele & Rep. Todd Urge County of Hawaii to Reconsider Terminating East Hawaii Organics Facility Contract

We write to express our sincere concern regarding the County of Hawaii’s recent decision to terminate the East Hawaii Organics Facility Contract.

As you are well aware, the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill has a remaining usable life of one to three years and the County has worked hard to find a solution to this problem.  The proposed composting facility is the perfect antidote to this issue and will provide multiple benefits to our community, such as diverting 54% of our County’s organic waste, providing nutrient rich compost to our vital agricultural industry, eliminating invasive species through enhanced mulching aw well as promoting a renewed sense of self sustainability and recycling education on our Island.

The project would work with all Department of Education schools on our island by directing all food waste, paper, compostable dishes, and plastics to the landfill at $21.25 per ton, $63.75 less than what it currently cost.  It would also enable us to educate and instill in our State’s next generation the value of composting, sustainability, and what it truly means to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  This project can be a model for the rest of the State and we have no doubt would be implemented statewide in a few years.  We envision every Island; one day will have its own organic composting facility.

In addition there are potentially several new initiatives to stimulate the agriculture industry on our Island and part of these initiatives require the availability of nutrient rich compost to encourage farming and growing our own food among local farmers and private residents.  The proposed composting facility will produce 40 tons of organic, naturally rich compost once fully operational and this can have a major impact on the agriculture and horticulture industry on Hawai’i Island as well as future farming sustainability initiatives.

The proposed composting facility will also directly address our Islands invasive species epidemic by converting green waste and untreated wood pallets to enhanced mulch and heating it to a specific temperature that will eliminate all known invasive species to include: rapid ohia death, little red fire ants, coqui frogs, coconut rhinoceros beetle, coffee berry borer and the banana bunchy top virus.  Although this process is already occurring at the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill, the enhanced mulch from the composting facility would be of better quality and a product that would be safe for our farmers and community.  This enhanced mulch, in high demand in East Hawai’i, would continue to be distributed at no cost and would substantially decrease the mulch currently imported from the U.S. Mainland.

We also understand the concerns of our neighbors in Pana’ewa and Keaukaha and the proposed sites proximity to the Department of Hawaiian Homes Land agricultural farm lots.  These concerns must be addressed and there are alternate sites in East Hawai’i that the proposed project could be relocated to.  We are willing to work with the County to locate an alternative site on State land should the project be allowed to proceed.

Finally, we are concerned that the termination of this project, which was approved unanimously by the previous County Council that provided for the issuance of a $10.6 million bond, will send the negative message to private industry and investors that the County of Hawai’i does not honor its contractual obligations and decisions. Pending litigation to recover costs associated with the contract termination could amount to millions of dollars in legal fees that County taxpayers will have to shoulder.  This is clearly not in the County’s best interests.

In conclusion, we strongly urge the County of Hawai’i to reconsider terminating this critically important project.

Sincerely,

Hawai’i State Senator Kaiali’i Kahele and Hawai’i State Representative Chris Todd

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

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

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

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