2013 Hawaii Legislative Session Begins – Opening Day Speech By Representative Scott Saiki

Hawaii House Representative Scott Saiki

Hawaii House Representative Scott Saiki

Mr. Speaker, Colleagues and Guests,

I would like to begin this morning by thanking some people.

First, and I know I can say this on behalf of all members, thank you to the residents of our respective communities who have given all of us the opportunity to represent them in the Legislature.

Second, thank you to our families and friends – many of whom are seated with us today. They are the ones who stand by us and believe that we are trying to do the right thing. They make more sacrifices than we do. We thank them for their support and presence in our lives.  

Third, there is a member of our Democratic caucus whom we would like to recognize. He is grounded and strives to teach House members to be grounded themselves, to be responsible and to be practical and philosophical. He serves his community, our State and our body with distinction. Thank you to Representative Calvin Say and his family for their service and sacrifice throughout the years.

[ lei presentation – Rep. Luke ]

Finally, there is another House member whom I would like to thank. This Representative also serves with distinction and with steadfast allegiance to our democratic process. He has been a statesman and has made our transition an orderly one. Thank you to Representative Marcus Oshiro.

[ lei presentation – Rep. Awana ]

Mr. Speaker, we are all here because we have a common goal. We want to ensure that the State of Hawaii is and continues to be a place where we all live in safety, with dignity, and with fair opportunity. This is not a partisan concept – it is embraced by all.

Every legislative session, thousands of students from elementary, middle and high schools throughout the State visit the State Capitol. They usually tour the building and observe our House floor session. The members also meet with them and usually give them a mini civics lesson.

There are two subjects that we discuss with students that I believe are pertinent today.

The first subject is the symbolism of the State Capitol. The building itself represents a volcano that is surrounded by coconut trees and the ocean. Our House chamber is decorated in earth tones and a sun lamp. In contrast, the Senate chamber is shaded in ocean blue with a moon lamp.

I have to say that it is more appropriate that earth colors are on our side – because everyone agrees that the House is the more grounded body in the Legislature.

But don’t tell the Senate President I just said that.

Because we have more members and smaller districts, we have a constant check on the pulse of our community.

Mr. Speaker, the second subject that we discuss with students is the legislative process. We explain that the Legislature is an independent and co- equal branch of government and that legislators pass laws. What we don’t really explain is how the Legislature and legislators do their work.

Maybe that’s on purpose. Everyone knows the saying about the similarities between lawmaking and sausage making. But perhaps the lawmaking process doesn’t have to always be that way.

As we keep mindful of the memory of Senator Daniel K. Inouye, we should remember his qualities as a statesman who placed the bigger picture and the greater good ahead of personal politics. A colleague of his, Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, recently said this of Senator Inouye:

“He was a counselor to younger members like me, a great listener, and a Senator who always put his nation and the people of Hawaii ahead of partisan politics and his own ambition.”

Mr. Speaker, we should follow Senator Inouye’s lead, for we know

that the public wants us to work together to produce results.

There are 51 members in this body. Each brings experience and perspective. We will rely upon each member to play a meaningful role in the Legislature.

After all, that is what we are all elected to do.

Simply put and geographically speaking, our State is too small, and our challenges too large, for there to be division within the people’s House.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude by introducing the newest members of our body. It takes a lot to be a candidate for public office – to put your name and reputation into a public arena – and worse yet, to sign wave every morning and pau hana.

I would like to begin by introducing our two quasi-freshmen.

19 Former Representative, Former Senator, and Current Representative Bert Kobayashi

30 Former Representative, Former Councilmember,

and Current Representative Romy Cachola

Mr. Speaker, we also have five true freshmen who take their work seriously and want to make a difference. Please join me in welcoming them.

District 3 Richard Onishi

6 Nicole Lowen

9 Justin Woodson

11 Kaniela Ing

27 Takashi Ohno  

34 Gregg Takayama

I want our freshmen to know that we senior members of this body will support them, serve as examples, and work to advance them as leaders.

Mr. Speaker, I know that this will be a productive legislative session that will produce good results for our State.

Thank you very much.

 

2013 Hawaii Legislative Session Begins – Opening Day Speech By Representative Joseph Souki

Joseph Souki

Hawaii House Representative Joseph Souki

My fellow members, and all of our guests, aloha and welcome to the 2013 Regular Session! Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to recognize some of our distinguished guests:

  • Senator Schatz and Mrs. Schatz
  • Governor Abercrombie
  • Lt. Governor Tsutsui
  • Chief Justice Recktenwald
  • Chair Machado
  • And of course, Senator Akaka and Mrs. Akaka.

I would also like to recognize the former Governors; the Mayors and County Council Chairs; members of our military; and members of our Consular Corps.  And before I go on, I’d like to introduce my family.

Thank you all for being here to commemorate this momentous occasion with us.  We are here today to chart a path forward for our state.
With Hawaii’s economy on the rise, construction stable, tourism up, and unemployment down, there is reason for cautious optimism. This is the moment we have been waiting for.

Over the past few years, the state budget was cut by over two billion dollars. Meanwhile, wages dropped, health benefit costs rose, many people were forced out of work.  The homeless population still grows – among them, war heroes, persons needing mental health services, families unable to pay their mortgage or rent.

We have the chance now, to rebuild what the recession took away.

Investment in projects and programs throughout the state is critical. But to strengthen economic development and job growth, to restore public services, we need to proceed intelligently.

Members, if we want to restore the safety net, put people back to work, and provide the best education, including early childhood education,
If we want to take care of people’s health, take care of our kupuna, and make sure the state’s health care system transitions into the new era of health care – smoothly and without undue delay, If we want to improve our roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure — to reduce traffic, improve the mobility of our residents, and enhance safety — in every county, If we want clean energy that uses the best renewable energy resources, including our ocean and solar resources, If we want to be responsible stewards of Hawaii’s natural resources and our native plants and animals, If we want to increase farming opportunities on agricultural land and the market for locally-grown products, If we want to support the tourism industry and promote the Hawaii product to the world, If we want to do all these things the people require — and yes, I know we do — we must enhance our revenue stream. We must put together a mix of strategies that will generate more state revenues —- equitably.

One option may be to rethink tax credits. No, I’m not saying we should abandon all caution and fall for the marketing hype. Instead, let’s learn from our experience and do our due diligence. The film industry claims a tax credit will generate $350 million in revenues for the State. Should we turn our back on this? Let’s give it a serious and thorough look first.

But increasing revenue does not mean placing an unfair burden on those who can least afford it. Members, the top personal tax rate was down at 7-3/4 percent at one time and now it’s up to 11 percent – the highest in the nation. It’s time to look at rolling back the personal tax burden for people with lower incomes and the middle class, at least incrementally, over the next few years.

Members, I am humbled and honored to stand before you today.

Over my 30 years here, I have seen many faces come and go. I have seen our communities prosper, struggle, and prosper again.  But one thing that remains constant is the privilege and price of public service.

All of us know what it’s like to walk the district. We go door to door — we talk to our constituents. We ask them to entrust us with their vote and a seat in this chamber.

The price for this privilege is the responsibility each of us has to conduct ourselves with compassion and dignity. Every day, as you walk down these halls and on this floor, remember the hopes and dreams of the people of this state — and do your best for them.

Before I close, I would like to thank Speaker Calvin Say for his 14 years of leadership as Speaker of the House, and for maintaining the fiscal solvency of this State.

I look forward to working with each and every one of you this session. Thank you, very much, for the trust you have in me. Aloha.