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Hawaii Keiki Caucus Sets Priorities in 2017 Legislative Package

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

Photo courtesy: House Communications

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

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

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

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

SB497/HB578  RELATING TO PRESCHOOL OPEN DOORS PROGRAM

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

SB 498/HB580  RELATING TO EDUCATION

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

SB496/HB579  RELATING TO SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING

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

SB499/HB581  RELATING TO THE ZERO TO THREE COURT

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

SB500  RELATING TO AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE

HB663/SB501 Relating to Limited Service Pregnancy Centers

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

HB664/SB502 Relating to In Vitro Fertilization Insurance Coverage

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

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

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

HB666/SB504 Relating to Controlled Substances

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

HB667/SB505 Relating to Opioid Therapy Informed Consent Process

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

ADDRESSING AND REDUCING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

HB668/SB506 Relating to Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits

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

HB669/SB507 Relating to Domestic Abuse

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

HB670/SB508 Relating to Tax Credit

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

HB671/SB509 Relating to Equal Pay

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

CHILDREN’S HEALTH AND SAFETY

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

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

HB673/SB511 Relating to Child Care Facilities

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

HB674/SB512 Relating to Child Care Providers

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

OTHER

HB675/SB513 Relating to Contraceptive Supplies

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

HB676/SB514 Relating to Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

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

HB677/SB515 Relating to In Vitro Fertilization Procedure Coverage

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

HB678/SB516 Relating to Family Leave and Domestic Violence

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

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

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

HB680/SB518 Relating to Intimate Partner Violence

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

HB681/SB519 Relating to Officer-involved Domestic Violence

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

HB682/SB520 Relating to Police Commissions

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

HB683/SB521 Relating to Paid Leave

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

HB684/SB522 Relating to Safe Sleep Policy

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

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

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

Hawaiian Electric Companies and Nissan Offer Utility Customers $10,000 Rebate on a New Nissan LEAF

The Hawaiian Electric Companies and Nissan North America are offering electric utility customers a $10,000 rebate off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price on the all-electric Nissan LEAF® sedan at participating dealers.

Customers of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light Companies who buy a new 2016 or 2017 LEAF S, SV, or SL can receive the rebate at purchase by presenting their electric bill and the flyer available at www.hawaiianelectric.com/nissanleaf. The offer expires March 31, 2017, or while supplies last. The offer expires March 31, 2017, or while supplies last.

“This is an example of our efforts under the Drive Electric Hawaii initiative to accelerate clean, cost-effective, electric transportation in Hawaii and move us closer to achieving the state’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for business development and strategic planning. “We’re excited to offer our customers this opportunity to save money, reduce tailgate emissions and help break our state’s dependence on fossil fuels.”

Combining the special rebate and $7,500 in federal tax incentives, utility customers could save up to $17,500. The 107-mile range 2017 LEAF, which needs no gasoline, no oil changes and very little maintenance, has a list price starting at $30,680.

See your participating Hawaii Nissan dealer for details. Find a dealer near you at nissanusa.com/nissandealers/location/.

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

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

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

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

Hawaii Democratic Party to Release “Haven of Aloha” Call to Action Letter and Petition

With the prospect that the themes and statements of intolerance from the 2016 presidential and congressional elections could find their way into the laws and policies of our national government, the Democratic Party of Hawai’i releases a statement on Thursday explaining how that outcome is unacceptable to the people of Hawai’i and contrary to the core values of our society.

The letter, entitled ‘Haven of Aloha” is intended to serve as a recognition of the need for protecting members of the Party and community at large as well as a call for state and local officials to stand up for these values and fill the void of leadership in protecting the social safety net for all.

“We felt it necessary to articulate the values that we stand for and will not compromise. Other municipalities and states have issued similar statements, but ours is unique to our culture and place because it is framed in the Aloha spirit.” said Tim Vandeveer, Chair of the DPH. According to the statement, this is because in Hawai‘i, ‘we are defined by diversity and guided by Aloha.’

“We have much to be proud of in these islands. By the greatest margins in our nation, we overwhelmingly rejected the politics of bigotry, misogyny and hatred. But still, we must redouble our efforts,” Vandeveer stated, “It is in this context that the job of local city and state governments and judiciaries, becomes so important.”

“Our congressional delegation will stand up for us to ensure that we have a voice as the party in opposition to the potentially hostile agenda of the GOP-majority Congress and the President. However, where the social safety net is torn asunder at the federal level it will become incumbent upon our local leaders to utilize our values to bind together and preserve our quality of life and character of our society– to take leadership and responsibility for the most vulnerable among us as well as our youth and coming generations.”

The message is the core of a document the DPH created and invited the Congressional Delegation, State Executive, Senate and House leadership, the Mayor and City Council, and others to sign onto as a unified public statement of shared values to send notice of recognition and protection to potentially affected communities.

The letter serves as a call to action for party members and elected officials to stand up for all people, and fight to protect abiding values of liberty, social justice, economic justice, protection of the environment, and compassion and respect for the dignity and worth of the individual. It urges residents to continue to respect and welcome immigrants, refugees, people of all religions, races and sexual identities, as we work for the betterment of humankind.

“Hawai‘i must continue as a diverse, inclusive, and positive model for our fellow citizens across the ocean and beyond. May we always be an inspiring ‘Haven of Aloha’,” said Vandeveer.

Please join us at DPH Headquarters located at 627 South St. #105 on Thursday, January 26 at 2pm for a formal unveiling and release of the ‘Haven of Aloha’ document, list of signatories, additional statements of support and invitation for public participation via an islands-wide petition.

Hawaii Chief Justice Delivers 2017 State of the Judiciary Address

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Returns From Syria with Renewed Calls: End Regime Change War in Syria Now

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) returned to Washington, DC after a week-long visit to Damascus, Aleppo, and Beirut to see and hear firsthand the impact of the war in Syria directly from the Syrian people. She heard stories of suffering, pain, courage and hope from people all across the country.

Tulsi Gabbard meets with Syrian religious leaders in Aleppo, led by Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of the Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, and joined by Archbishop Joseph Tabji of Maronite Church of Aleppo, Rev. Ibrahim Nseir of the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo, and others. Each called for peace, and an end to foreign support of terrorists who are trying to rid Syria of its secular, pluralistic, free society. Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

She met with refugees, Syrian opposition leaders who led protests in 2011, widows and family members of Syrians fighting alongside groups like al-Qaeda, as well as those fighting on the side of the government.

Tulsi Gabbard visits with Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other humanitarian workers at the Jibreen shelter, housing nearly 1,400 families who fled mostly the eastern part of Aleppo City. Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

The Congresswoman also met with Lebanon’s newly-elected President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, Syrian President Assad, Grand Mufti Hassoun, Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, humanitarian workers, students, small business owners, and more.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met these women at the Barzi Community Center. Many of these women have husbands who are fighting on opposite sides of the war, but who find friendship and empowerment together in their daily sewing classes. They have hope to be able to provide for their family and take care of their children. When asked, “Where is your husband?” many reply, “He is lost.” Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released the following statement upon her return:

“My visit to Syria has made it abundantly clear: Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.

“As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, ‘Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.’ I had no answer.

“I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists—directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.

“From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the U.S. has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

“Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it. I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering.

“The U.S. must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The U.S. and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war.”

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) is a twice-deployed combat veteran who has served as the United States Representative for Hawaiʻi’s 2nd congressional district since 2013. As a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard traveled to Lebanon and Syria as part of a delegation led and sponsored by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS)–Ohio. The 7-day trip was approved by the House Ethics Committee, as required by House rules, and was not taxpayer funded. The trip included visits to Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut from January 14-22, 2017. Other members of the delegation included former Congressman and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and his wife, longtime peace advocates Elie and Bassam Khawam, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s husband, Abraham Williams.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met these children at a shelter in Aleppo. Their families fled the eastern part of the city. Many of these children have only known war, loss and hardship. Their families’ only wish is for peace. Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams.

Earlier this year, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act (H.R.608), legislation that would prohibit U.S. government funds from being used to support al-Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist groups. In the same way that Congress passed the Boland Amendment to prohibit the funding and support to CIA backed-Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980’s, this bill would stop CIA or other Federal government activities in places like Syria by ensuring U.S. funds are not used to support al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, ISIS, or other terrorist groups working with them. It would also prohibit the Federal government from funding assistance to countries that are directly or indirectly supporting those terrorist groups. The bill achieves this by:

  1. Making it illegal for any U.S. Federal government funds to be used to provide assistance covered in this bill to terrorists. The assistance covered includes weapons, munitions, weapons platforms, intelligence, logistics, training, and cash.
  2. Making it illegal for the U.S. government to provide assistance covered in the bill to any nation that has given or continues to give such assistance to terrorists.
  3. Requiring the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine the individual and groups that should be considered terrorists, for the purposes of this bill, by determining: (a) the individuals and groups that are associated with, affiliated with, adherents to or cooperating with al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or ISIS; (b) the countries that are providing assistance covered in this bill to those individuals or groups.
  4. Requiring the DNI to review and update the list of countries and groups to which assistance is prohibited every six months, in consultation with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, as well as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  5. Requiring the DNI to brief Congress on the determinations.

Lions and Taiko and Chefs – Celebrate Asian Fest at Queens’ MarketPlace

Queens’ MarketPlace is getting ready to crow on Friday, February 3, 2017 from 5-8 p.m., as they welcome the Year of the Rooster during the annual Asian Fest. The free event is a unique and popular way to experience and enjoy the music, cuisine and customs of China, Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, and other Asian cultures.
According to the Chinese zodiac, a Rooster year is supposedly full of patience and passion, bravery, some bravado, and hard work to reach success. Its motto is “Always higher, always going on,” appropriately for Queens’ MarketPlace, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.
Goings on at the shopping center ring in the Rooster Year in style, with great food, nonstop entertainment and a spectacular Lion Dance.

The centuries-old tradition, essential to New Year’s festivities in Hawai‘i, the colorful Chinese Lion Dancers perform acrobatic feats and leaps, interacting with the audience and parading through Queens’ MarketPlace from door to door. Participants young and old can “feed” the Lion small donations in red envelopes called lycee (provided) to bring good fortune in the year ahead.

Taiko also plays an essential part of Asian Fest, and the thundering drums of Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko of North Kohala kick off the excitement at the Coronation Pavilion. Their high-energy style of taiko brings movement and music together for a dramatic performance that captivates audiences of all ages.

Throughout Queens’ MarketPlace, chefs will provide food samples (while they last) from Charley’s Thai Cuisine, Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ, Island Gourmet Markets, Lemongrass Express, Paradise Pizza & Grill, Sansei Seafood, Steak and Sushi Bar, Sushi Shiono’s, Waikoloa Beach Marriott, A-Bay’s Island Grill, Roy’s Waikoloa, Mai Grille, Tropics Ale House and Dairy Queen.
Asian Fest is a complimentary event provided by Queens’ MarketPlace and its businesses as a celebratory start to the new lunar year. For more information, please call 886-8822 or visit www.queensmarketplace.net

Asian Fest Entertainment Schedule:

  • 5:00    Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko
  • 5:55    Hawaii Lion Dance Association
  • 6:30    Kona Daifukuji Taiko
  • 7:00    Visayan Dance Group, Filipino Dancers from University of Hilo
  • 7:20    Lion Dance begins at Island Gourmet Markets and proceeds door to door

Celebrating its tenth anniversary in the Waikoloa community, Queens’ MarketPlace in Waikoloa Beach Resort has earned a reputation among visitors and kama‘āina as “the gathering place of the Kohala Coast,” full of shopping opportunities, services and great food, along with entertainment and arts programs, movies under the stars and large-scale concerts in Waikoloa Bowl at Queens’ Gardens. For more information, visit www.QueensMarketPlace.net or call 886-8822.

Big Island Police Searching for 16-Year-Old Kona Boy Missing Since November

Hawaiʻi Island police are searching for a 16-year-old Kailua-Kona boy who was reported missing.

Thomas Salonia

Thomas Salonia was last seen November 7 in Kona.

He is described as 5-foot-5, 125 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes.

Police ask anyone with information on his whereabouts to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Invasive Beetle Species in Hawaii Can Now Be Identified Faster With New Genetic Test

Researchers at the University of Hawaii have developed a new genetic-testing method for identifying the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle, which promises to be much faster than existing physical identification methods. The new tool, reported in the Journal of Economic Entomology, could be a significant step toward keeping the species–a damaging pest to coconut palm trees that was first seen in Hawaii in 2013–from becoming widespread.

Coconut rhinoceros beetle and a similar species, oriental flower beetle, are nearly indistinguishable until they’ve grown to their later life stages, which makes early detection difficult. Currently, egg or larvae samples from the field had to be raised in a lab until their third life stage, which could take several weeks, before insect scientists could determine which species they were looking at.

However, a genetic testing method known as a multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay, can be used to identify the species with genetic material extracted from samples of the beetles’ eggs, larvae, or excrement. Researchers Shizu Watanabe, Ph.D., and Michael J. Melzer, Ph.D., of the Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, at UH identified genetic markers in the beetles’ DNA that can be used for differentiation via the test. Once samples are received in the lab, the PCR assay can be conducted in just a few hours, Melzer says.

The new method will help “ensure that eradication efforts are being directed at coconut rhinoceros beetle and not oriental flower beetle. This assay will help to prevent any misidentification in the field,” Melzer says. “Such misidentifications might result in resources targeting oriental flower beetle, or worse, ignoring a coconut rhinoceros breeding site because the specimens discovered were identified as oriental flower beetle.”

“For species that require highly technical expertise for identification, molecular assays represent a reasonably straight-forward approach for identification, either as stand-alone assays or in parallel with morphological identification,” Watanabe and Melzer write in their article. “For pests of regulatory concern, rapid and accurate insect identification is essential, and molecular assays can address these needs.”

Open Application Period Underway for Preschool Open Doors Program

The Department of Human Services encourages families to apply for its Preschool Open Doors (POD) program, which is currently open until Friday, March 31, 2017.  Applications received during this period will be considered for preschool participation during July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

This program, which currently serves more than 1,500 children statewide, provides child care subsidies to eligible low- and moderate-income families to pay preschool tuition. POD aims to provide children whose families might otherwise not be able to afford preschool the opportunity to gain essential skills to be successful in school and in life.

To qualify for the program, children must be eligible to enter kindergarten in the 2018-2019 school year (born between August 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013). Families are reminded that a child must be five years old on or before July 31 to enter kindergarten. Families may choose any one of the 433 state-licensed preschools. Underserved or at-risk children receive priority consideration for the POD program, and funds are limited.

Interested families may request an application from the Department’s POD contractor, PATCH, by visiting www.patchhawaii.org or calling 791-2130 or toll free 1-800-746-5620.  PATCH can also help families locate a preschool convenient for them.

Applications must be received by March 31, 2017 to be considered during the July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 program period. Applications should be dropped off, mailed, faxed, or emailed to the following:

PATCH – POD
560 N. Nimitz Hwy, Suite 218
Honolulu, HI 96817
Fax: (808) 694-3066
Email: PODAdmin@patch-hi.org

Eligibility and priorities for POD program selection are detailed in HAR §17-799, which is available online at humanservices.hawaii.gov/admin-rules-2/admin-rules-for-programs. For more information about other DHS programs and services, visit humanservices.hawaii.gov

Volcanoes National Park Identifies Victim of Fatal Two-Vehicle Crash

The male victim of a fatal two-vehicle accident that occurred in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Saturday afternoon has been identified as 65-year-old Paul Hernandez of New Jersey.

Nāmakanipaio Campground (NPS Photo)

National Park Service rangers are seeking witnesses to the crash which happened on Highway 11 near the intersection of Nāmakanipaio Campground around 1 p.m. on Sat., Jan. 21.

Hernandez was traveling northbound on Highway 11 in a white Hyundai Elantra sedan. According to a witness, the Hyundai left its lane of travel as if doing a U-turn, and was struck by a blue Toyota Scion headed south, driven by a 33-year-old local male. Hernandez was fatally injured upon impact. The local male was transported by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center.

Anyone with information regarding this accident is asked to call Park Dispatch at (808) 985-6170.

Hawaii Representative Issues Statement on Zuckerberg Reconsidering Lawsuits

“I am heartened to hear that Mark Zuckerberg is reconsidering his lawsuits against the indigenous kuleana land owners on Kauai,” said State Rep. Kaniela Ing.

“This shows the power everyday people wield when we band together to stand up for Native rights and our ‘aina. The people’s voice can and will overcome big money and celebrity–even against the fifth richest man in the world,” Ing said, referencing the videos and articles he shared on Facebook regarding the issue, which garnered over 170,000 views and thousands of shares each.

“Hawaii has always been a welcoming place, but over time, we have learned what exploitation can look like. In his eagerness to join our island community, Zuckerberg may have overlooked the diligence needed to dutifully enculturate and address an understandably skeptical community.

“I mahalo Mark Zuckerberg for his words of aloha and willingness to talk, but I will not stand down until he follows through with action.”

Ing said three steps Mr. Zuckerberg could take: “(1) officially drop the lawsuits; and, (2) donate to the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation to help protect native families from future Quiet Title actions. Then, (3) join us at the table to restart a positive dialog as mutual stewards of land and culture.”

“In the meantime, we should all maintain aloha and grant Mr. Zuckerberg a chance to meet his promise to talk story, explain his intentions, and make right with the community. We will be here watching and willing to share our mana’o.”

Court Dismisses Sandwich Isles Communications Lawsuit Against the Public Utilities Commission

Attorney General Doug Chin announced that state circuit judge Rhonda A. Nishimura today dismissed a lawsuit filed by Sandwich Isles Communications against the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Sandwich Isles, which provides phone and internet services to residents of Hawaiian home lands, sued the PUC to restore millions of dollars in federal subsidies that were suspended in 2015 by federal regulators. Judge Nishimura ruled from the bench, granting the PUC’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

After federal regulators suspended subsidies to Sandwich Isles in 2015 and 2016, the PUC issued decisions declining to certify it as an eligible telecommunications carrier. Sandwich Isles must be designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier to receive a type of federal subsidy granted to communications companies to provide services to certain rural or other hard-to-reach geographic areas. After the PUC issued its decision, Sandwich Isles appealed to the circuit court.

The PUC declined to issue the certification in September 2016 because it was waiting for the results of a federal audit of the participation by Sandwich Isles in the federal subsidies program. The subsidy payments to Sandwich Isles were suspended by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 because of the audit and those subsidies are still suspended. In December 2016, as a result of the audit, the FCC ordered that Sandwich Isles pay substantial fines and repay the federal government more than $27 million in overpayments.

Attorney General Doug Chin stated, “Given the federal audit and its findings, the Public Utilities Commission was right to act with caution in this situation.”

The FCC’s orders are in the process of being implemented. Today’s ruling does not impact those proceedings. A written order from Judge Nishimura is forthcoming.

Coast Guard and Fire Department Searching for Man Swept Out to Sea Off Maui

The Coast Guard and Maui Fire Department are searching for a man swept out to sea near Kahului, Maui, Tuesday.

Missing is a 34-year-old Caucasian man last seen wearing dark shorts, no shirt with a shaved head.

Currently searching are an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and HC-130 Hercules airplane crew, both from Air Station Barbers Point, the crew of USCGC AHI (WPB 87364) and ground crews from Coast Guard Station Maui.

Maui Fire Department is searching with a helicopter crew and additional ground crews are conducting shoreline searches. An incident command post has been established at Olivine Tide Pools.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Command Center were notified at 9:15 p.m., Monday, of two people swept out to sea near the Olivine Tide Pools. One person was recovered and safely transported to Maui Memorial reportedly in stable condition.

The Coast Guard issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast requesting that mariners in the area keep a sharp look out and report any sighting to command center watchstanders at 808-842-2600.

On-scene weather conditions are reportedly winds 24 mph with waves at 9 feet.

UH Hilo International Nights 2017

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo International Student Association presents International Nights 2017 on Friday, February 10, and Saturday, February 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the UH Hilo Performing Arts Center. This annual event features performances from around the world and is a favorite among students, the community, and visitors.
This year’s shows feature 15 performances spanning Asia, the Pacific, Europe and the Americas. Crowd favorites such as Tupulaga O Samoa Mo a Taeao representing Samoa, and Taishoji taiko representing Japan, are back. Other performances showcase the unique cultures of the Philippines, France, Micronesia, Ireland, India, Kiribati, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the US.

Tickets are $12 for General admission and $5 for students, children, and senior citizens. Tickets may be purchased with cash or checks at the PAC Box Office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, or at the door if tickets are still available the night of the shows. Advance ticket purchase is recommended as tickets typically sell out prior to the shows.

For ticket information, contact the PAC Box Office at 932-7490. For more information, visit http://hilo.hawaii.edu/international/IN.php.

Hawaii Residents Can Spot the Space Station Tonight

Hawaii residents can spot the International Space Station tonight (depending on clouds).

It will be visible beginning tonight, Tuesday, January 24 at 7:25 PM. It will be visible for approximately 2 minutes at a maximum height of 51 degrees. It will appear 28 degrees above the West Southwest part of the sky and disappear 36 degrees above the North part of the sky.

County of Hawai‘i Planning Department Releases the Downtown Hilo Multimodal Master Plan for Public Comment and Announces Community Meeting

The County of Hawai‘i Planning Department announces the release of the Downtown Hilo Multimodal Master Plan (DHMMP) Public Review Draft and the kickoff of the public review period, which runs through March 6, 2017.

The DHMMP Draft can be downloaded online at www.hawaiicountycompletestreets.com. Written comments may be sent by e-mail to downtownhilo@hawaiicounty.gov, or by mail to the County of Hawaiʻi Planning Department at 101 Pauahi Street, Suite 3, Hilo, Hawaiʻi 96720.

A community meeting is planned for February 15, 2017 from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in Downtown Hilo, 76 Kamehameha Avenue. The event will include open house displays and a presentation on the DHMMP Draft at 5:00 pm. Discussion and input are encouraged.

Please contact Melissa White at (808) 628-5861 or mwhite@ssfm.com if you wish to request an auxiliary aid or service, other reasonable modification, or language interpretation to access this meeting no later than February 10, five days prior to the event, to arrange for accommodations.

ABOUT THE DHMMP

The Downtown Hilo Multimodal Master Plan (DHMMP) has its roots in EnVision Downtown Hilo 2025: A Community-Based Vision and Living Action Plan, which set a community-defined and shared vision for Downtown Hilo as a vibrant, sustainable, safe, healthy, and active community.  Action item number 6.1 of the EnVision 2025 Plan is: “development of a master plan to include traffic circulation, parking, and pedestrian streetscape.” The County of Hawaii Planning Department initiated the DHMMP to fulfill this action item and craft a plan that can be implemented to achieve the community’s shared goals.

The Downtown Hilo Multimodal Master Plan was developed over a two-year period and refined through more than 15 community events, from focus groups with Downtown users, landowners, and businesses to a community event that included activities and demonstrations of complete streets concepts. Input indicated strong support for making Downtown Hilo more walkable, bike friendly, and vibrant for people of all ages and abilities.

Eight major themes emerged as part of the community outreach process that represented important needs and issues to be addressed through multimodal improvements.  These became the DHMMP’s organizing themes:

  • Improve Downtown Hilo’s multimodal environment and connectivity to key destinations;
  • Celebrate and elevate Keawe Street’s identity as Downtown Hilo’s “Main Street”;
  • Improve multimodal connections between Downtown Hilo and the Bayfront;
  • Highlight Kamehameha Avenue as a retail and visitor destination by improving the pedestrian-friendly environment along the building frontage and adjacent mauka-makai streets;
  • Make bicycling attractive and safe, with a more complete bicycle network and supporting facilities;
  • Calm traffic to slow speeds through Downtown and direct through-traffic to alternate routes to achieve a more walkable environment;
  • Incorporate parking and transit solutions that make it easier to “park once and walk” to destinations in Downtown Hilo;
  • Ensure improvements preserve and enhance Downtown Hilo’s character and charm and make it more inviting and safe.

Alternatives and final recommendations for six multimodal transportation components were developed and refined with extensive input from the community and key stakeholders: 1) circulation patterns; 2) pedestrian improvements; 3) bicycle facilities; 4) parking; 5) transit; and 6) streetscape design. The DHMMP includes phasing recommendations for implementing the proposed improvements.

For additional information, please contact Hans Santiago at (808) 961-8288 or downtownhilo@hawaiicounty.gov.

Kehena Beach Drowning Victim Identified

Hawaiʻi Island police have initiated a coroner’s inquest investigation into the death of a North Kohala man who was swimming in rough water at Kehena Beach in Pāhoa, Sunday afternoon (January 22).

Kehena Beach

Police and Fire Department personnel responded to a 12:06 p.m. call of a man in distress in the water off the Kehena Beach shore. Several people attempted to assist the man back to shore but were unable to get to him due to the rough ocean conditions. The swimmer was last seen going under the water. His body was later recovered by fire/rescue personnel approximately 100 feet from shore.

He has been identified as 43-year-old Erik Collins of Kapaʻau.

An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

Food and Drug Administration Issues Warning Letter to Hawaii Company

Following inspections, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter that was recently made public to a Hawaii company that produces tuna sandwiches.

Hawaiian Ono Services Inc., Honolulu has 15 days to respond to FDA the warning letter in writing. FDA has not yet issued a closeout letter for the company as of this post.

Click to read warning letter

In a Jan. 10 warning letter to owner and president, Sung Cha Ku, the FDA cited “serious violations of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation” in the Federal Code. An FDA inspection on dec. 8-9, 2016, revealed the problems.

“… your refrigerated ready-to-eat tuna salad sandwiches, containing cooked tuna, are adulterated, in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health,” according to the warning letter.

Violations included failure to have a HACCP plan to “control the food safety hazards of histamine, pathogen growth, allergens and metal inclusion;” employees’ failure to follow proper hygiene practices while handling food with their bare hands; and using a sanitizer solution that didn’t have any sanitizer in it.

“Similar observations of poor employee hygienic practices have been made during our previous inspections of your facility,” the warning letter states.

“We may take further action if you do not promptly correct these violations. For instance, we may take further action to seize your products and/or enjoin your firm from operating.”