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Senator Russell Ruderman’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Sen. Ruderman

Editors Note:  I only received one e-mail and got a follow-up later this afternoon.  The following post has been edited to reflect that miscommunication:

Sorry, Damon, my mistake. This was supposed to be first answer.

Questions:

1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

Answer:

I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail.

If new Big Island TAT funds all go to Big Island, then I will consider it.

2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE? YES OR NO?

YES,
This question is not clear on the outer island tax increase issue. I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail.( GE or TAT)

3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE? YES or NO

YES

This question is not clear on the outer island tax increase issue. I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail. ( GE or TAT)

I would support either GET extension if it funds rail w/o increasing TAT, or increasing ANY tax on outer islands.

Mahalo,
Russell

While I agree rail ought to be finished, there are two bigger concerns here for me. First, the project has been grossly mismanaged, and throwing more money at such a project without fixing the mismanagement is rarely a good idea.

Secondly here in Puna our only road in and out is the deadliest highway and the state and it’s the fastest growing district in the state. So I cannot agree to subsidizing Oahu’s project while our urgent needs go unmet.


Aloha Sen. Ruderman,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Puna Community Town Hall – June 27th

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

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

Senator Russell Ruderman on Friday’s Historic Vote – Endorses Schatz

Senator Russell Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman

Aloha Puna voters,

I hope you are all safe and recovering from Iselle. Hopefully most of you have electricity, and the rest will have it soon!

The voting issues caused by the storm are complex and frustrating. I am doing all I can to draw attention to the need for Puna voters impacted by the storm to have a fair opportunity to vote. For those assigned to a Pahoa voting place who were unable to vote, the issue remains unresolved.

For those assigned to HPP or Keonopoko, you will vote this Friday at Keonopoko, 7 am – 6 pm.

Both HPP voters and Keonopoko voters will vote at Keonopoko!

I am writing to encourage you to vote on Friday if this includes you. Due to the delayed voting, you will be the deciding votes in at least 3 races:

U.S. Senate
State Rep. Dist. 4
County Council Dist. 4

I urge you to vote for Brian Schatz for U. S. Senate.

Brian has been helpful in our crisis. More importantly he has reached out to me long before this election, before Puna become the momentary center of attention.

Brian has an excellent understanding of Puna’s real needs, including our need for transportation improvements, medical and emergency services, communications and connectivity, and more. Brian will be taking the lead in seeking funds for albizzia control as a long term, disaster preparedness issue.

Brian is approachable, honest, sincere, humble, and cares about people.

Above all, for me, Brian is a true environmentalist. He has shown concern for global warming, getting off oil, and invasive species, among other. Such concern is exactly what we need in Washington.

So please vote on Friday if you are in this group, and vote for Brian Schatz for U.S. Senate.

Mahalo,

Russell Ruderman, Hawai‘i State Senator

Senator Ruderman on “Dismissive Attitude Displayed By Election Officials” in Puna District Following Hurricane Iselle

I wish to express my concern for the people of Puna and my dismay at the seemingly dismissive attitude displayed by election officials concerning the primary elections in the Puna District.

Senator Russell Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman

Due to the damage caused by Hurricane Iselle on Friday, August 8, election officials made the decision to close two polling stations in the Puna district: Keonepoko Elementary School and at the Hawaiian Paradise Park Community Center. The decision was logical at the time, given that major roads to these polling stations were inaccessible due to fallen trees and electrical poles.

Unfortunately, however, there appear to be systemic, troubling failures in how this and subsequent decisions were carried out.  Residents who were able to reach these two polling stations despite the hazards were turned away and told that ballots would be mailed to them. This was initially a good plan, and allowed for the voters to address their immediate needs due to Hurricane Iselle. In the aftermath, election officials changed their minds and decided, without consideration of conditions on the ground (many residents are still without power, water, or internet) to instead require walk-in voting this Friday, August 15.  I am greatly concerned that the Election Office’s plan to mail notices and post signs on the sides of highways will not suffice due to number of residents that are still trapped and without communications.

I personally tried to contact Mr. Scott Nago, Chief Elections Officer, and to notify the offices of the actual candidates numerous times during the weekend to get some kind of update on what was happening on the ground, in the district. My calls went unanswered until late Monday when Mr. Nago contacted me AFTER a decision had already been made. Even during our conversation, Mr. Nago still failed to notify me of that decision.  This is extremely troubling and unfortunate.

Furthermore, many residents were assigned polling stations that remained opened; however, they could not reach them. These residents are not being offered an alternative means at all to cast a ballot. This is unacceptable, especially in light an analysis of Election Day precinct turnout showing an 11.5 percent turnout at Keaau High School, a 12 percent turnout at Pahoa Community Center and a 12.3 percent turnout at Pahoa High and Intermediate School. Mountain View Elementary School had a 14.3 percent turnout and an overall statewide turnout of 41.4% according to data compiled by the state Office of Elections clearly illustrates that turnout was badly affected.

These low numbers are in sharp contrast to the much higher turnout in the previous two elections, and indicate to me that many people who would normally have voted, could not because of the storm. These are my constituents, whom I know to be astute, active, and vocal when it comes to the political process. They are now being effectively disenfranchised by the unwillingness of election officials to take them into account. This is one more example of the unfairness of someone in Honolulu making a decision that unnecessarily punishes the people on a neighbor island without knowing, or seemingly caring, what the real conditions are on the ground.

Hawaii Law requires that the voting process to be complete 21 days after the primary election. My question is, why was a decision so hastily made to designate Friday the 15th as the day for elections for the two affected areas, when so many residents along Red Road, in Pohoiki, and other areas of Puna are still trapped by fallen trees? Not only is it is physically impossible for these voters to get to a polling station (and there is no plan to extend voting for hundreds of people in this situation), but the majority of these voters aren’t even aware that the decision has been made to reschedule the election in the first place.

The Governor, under Hawaii Revised Statutes 128-9(60 (6) Election hours, has the authority to adjust the hours for voting to take into consideration the needs of the citizens during such emergencies.

Hawaii Revised Statutes 128-9(60 (6) Election hours. To adjust the working hours of the voters during the national emergency and other emergency conditions, and for the purpose to suspend those provisions of section 11-131 which fix the hours for voting, and fix other hours by stating the same in the election proclamation or notice, as the case may be.

It is imperative that allowances be made to address the concerns and rights of eligible voters to be allowed to participate in our elections process. We still have the time and resources necessary to make amends and avoid the inevitable lawsuits that will be forthcoming should the decision to hold the voting on Friday stand. It is incumbent on officials to take the necessary actions to guarantee that all are afforded their Constitutional rights under law to that participation.

Sincerely,

Senator Russell E. Ruderman, Hawaii State Senate – 2nd District

Two Puna Polling Places CLOSED, Not Relocated!

Two Puna polling places, Keonopoko & HPP (Paradise Park) without electricity will not receive voters today!!! Voters assigned to those places will be mailed a ballot in next couple weeks, to be mailed back in. These poll results will not be final until then.

This info is verified by Stewart Maeda, Hawaii County Clerk.

Even worse news: Many residents along Red Road and in Pohoiki are trapped by fallen trees. They cannot get to their polling station in Pahoa. At this time there is no plan to extend voting for hundreds of people in this situation. I will be urging the State Elections officer, Scott Nago, to find a solution for these constituents. I hope others will do so as well.

Senator Russell Ruderman (via Facebook)

Senator Ruderman on $92,362 Grant-in-Aid for Pahoa Booster Club

The Hawaii State Legislature has appropriated $92,362 in Grant-in-Aid (GIA) funding for the Pahoa Booster Club. This grant will go to towards establishing the Pahoa football program serving the entire Puna area within the 96778 zip code, which includes all Pahoa public and charter schools, with the focus on an eight-man team. The Pahoa Booster Club was formed out of community desire to assist the Pahoa Regional Schools and their student athletic programs.

Senator Russell Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman

 “I would like to congratulate the Pahoa Booster Club on receiving this Grant-in-Aid award and for their tireless efforts and support of the youth in Puna. This grant will help to ensure that student athletes will get the support and resources they need to succeed in their desire to compete with their peers on the field,” said Senator Russell Ruderman. “All students deserve the opportunity to develop themselves not just academically, but also physically and mentally through organized athletics. Grants like this help equip them with the appropriate tools and services they will need to improve as individuals and these GIA funds will assist in laying down the foundation to achieve those goals.”

 

Senator Russell Ruderman: Reversal of Fate – “… I Support Safe Geothermal Development”

Aloha Constituents and Concerned Citizens,

I want to thank everyone who supported my position in objecting to the process used to create and pass House Bill 252. Please know that all the emails and calls that each senator received were crucial to the approval of the important amendment I proposed this morning.  Without your public comments, this may not have happened. I remain concerned that due process, including public comment, was by-passed, yet as the process was going forward regardless, including a major improvement was the best course of action to take.

Rudderman and Geothermal

I object strongly to the process that introduced geothermal permitting procedures into an unrelated bill, HB252, without public notice of the changes or opportunity to testify. While the bill has some desirable provisions, the lack of transparency is difficult to support. The procedures used to by-pass public input are potentially unconstitutional, as is the fact that HB252 now contains two unrelated subjects. It is unfortunate this kind of politics persists in our State legislature.

Earlier in the session we had two bills on this issue, HB106 and HB932.  HB106, which restored County oversight and contested case hearings, was supported by Hawaii County Council, OHA, Puna community groups, and 90% of testifiers.  HB106, which had the support of the majority of the subject matter committees, was deferred, probably in hopes of passing HB932 instead, yet HB932 did not have support in committee. HB932does restore county oversight, but replaced contested case hearings with forced mediation and made changes to the definition of geothermal.  It was opposed by all community groups and individuals, yet supported by Hawaii County Mayor and DLNR.

The last minute language inserted in HB252 is similar to HB932. Inserting this language, from the bill with the least support, thwarts the desires of the impacted community, the Hawaii County Council, and OHA. The voice of the community was ignored by this objectionable procedure. This continues a long-standing trend that has resulted in the problems and controversy we now have over poorly planned geothermal development.

Instead of voting “no,” in what appeared to be a losing battle to kill the bill, I submitted an amendment to improve HB252. My amendment removes the requirement for mediation from this bill. As senator of the only district with geothermal development, I am aware of some of the problems that result from poorly regulated planning. Required mediation processes proved profoundly unsuccessful in 1990. The agreements reached in mediation were violated, and the enforced mediation process is widely reviled by the community. The affected communities deserve the right to contested case hearings, as is the common remedial action in most planning disputes. By removing references to mediation, citizens’ rights are protected, and one of the most objectionable portions of HB252 is corrected.

My community and I support safe geothermal development. We simply desire fair treatment and due process to ensure a safe community. Given that the amendment was approved; I can now support this bill instead of opposing it, since it does provide for the reinstatement of county oversight that was taken away in Act 97.

Again, I want to thank everyone who submitted comments and will continue to remain vigilant when similar tactics are applied to legislation that could negatively affect my district and the State. You provided a voice that was heard loud & clear! No new testimony is needed at this time.

Thank you for your support and involvement!

Mahalo,

Senator Russell E Ruderman

Hawaii State Senate

Senator Ruderman’s Legislative Goals for 2013

Aloha! TODAY was the last day of bill introduction here at the Hawaii State Legislature and I’d like to share my goals for the 2013 legislative session, as well as the bill’s I’ve introduced.

Senator Russell Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman

I’ll be working hard for you in the State Senate to bring infrastructure dollars to our district, boost rural economic development and assist our small farmers, expand access to higher education opportunities, support sensible, low-cost and low-impact renewable energy development, and protect Hawaii’s precious near-shore coral reefs.  In addition to co-sponsoring many measures from other Senators, I’ve introduced the following bills.

INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING FOR THE DISTRICT

“Fuel tax revenues for private road maintenance” (SB382) would permit the County of Hawai‘i to appropriate a portion of fuel tax revenue funds for the maintenance of subdivision roads that are used by the public. This would benefit everyone using these roads, in particular those who are currently “double-hit” with community association dues in addition to the tax at the pump.

“2013 Capital Improvement Projects.” (SB377) My appropriation wish list for the district includes funding requests for road improvements for Hwy 130, the Puna Community Medical Center, Pohoiki Park Swim Area, albizia control, and a new elementary school for Hawaiian Paradise Park..

RENEWABLE ENERGY: SENSIBLE, LOW-COST, LOW-IMPACT

“Utility interconnection & grid saturation cap” (SB366) would remove barriers to PV by requiring the utility – not homeowners – to pay for any interconnection study for 10kW or smaller systems to hook up to the grid.

“Virtual net-metering” (SB379) is a proposal to allow renters or property owners to purchase solar electricity at an offsite location and receive credit to their meter and utility bill for the renewable energy produced at the remote location. This would expand access to solar power and extend this opportunity to those who currently can’t take advantage of it.

­ “Solar loan guarantee program & revolving fund” (SB368) would allow homeowners to secure a loan guarantee from the State for loans made for solar energy devices, including PV and solar water heating. This would make solar investments available to lower- and middle- income households, lowering their energy costs.

“Biodiesel-Blended Fuel” (SB372) will require increasing levels of biodiesel in all on-road diesel sold in Hawai’i starting from a B5 blend in 2015 to a B20 blend in 2025. Unlike ethanol, biodiesel is being produced in Hawai’i and these blended rates do not harm engines.

“Repeal of Act 97 – Geothermal Development” (SB371). Act 97 passed in 2012 as a way to fast-track geothermal development in Hawai’i.  It stripped the Counties of land use control and opened all lands in the State to geothermal development. Repealing Act 97 will return control to the county and community, and strengthen home rule.

“Fracking Prohibition” (SB375) would ban any hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Hawai’i until proper oversight and permitting are established. Fracking can inject harmful chemicals into the earth and has been linked to earthquakes, groundwater pollution, and other impacts.

EXPANDING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

“UH-Hilo Learning Center Needs Assessment” (SB380) would provide a needs assessment conducted by the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management at UHH for a higher education learning center in Puna.  This effort will advance development of agricultural production and processing businesses in the district and support entrepreneurs and new job creation in Puna and Ka`u.

“Charter School Funding” (SB362) would create a uniform formula and parity for funding of charter school facilities. This bill would direct the board of education, DOE and the charter school commission to develop the formula.

BOOSTING RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & SUPPORTING SMALL FARMERS

“Family Farm Income Tax Break” (SB363) would give an income tax exemption on the first $50,000 in annual income to individuals earning their primary income from farming.

“Legalizing Raw Milk” (SB364) would allow retailers, distributors and producers to sell whole, unpasteurized milk, subject to rules by the Department of Agriculture to protect against food-borne illness.

“Direct Farm to Consumer Food Sales” and “Home-based Food Production and Sales” (SB373 and SB367) would exempt producers of unprocessed Hawai‘i grown agricultural products from Department of Health rules when selling directly to the consumer, and allow home based baking businesses to sell food items directly to consumers provided certain conditions are met.

“Sustainable Living Research” (SB361) is a proposal that would allow innovative practices, designs and technologies for community development, natural resource conservation, soil improvement, building practices, food, timber, water and energy production, material conservation and onsite waste management. These innovations are often pioneered by alternative communities.

“Tax on Seed Exports” (SB365) would eliminate the exemption to the GET tax currently extended to GMO seed export crops grown in Hawai’i and valued at over $225,000,000 of gross income a year.

“Protection of Agriculture Products against Invasive Species” (SB370) requires a permit from the Department of Agriculture to import, introduce, or develop any new species of genetically engineered organism. The department would conduct a public hearing to determine whether to grant a permit.

MĀLAMA I KA ‘ĀINA, MĀLAMA I KE KAI

“Aquarium Fish Collection Ban” (SB374) would prohibit the taking of reef fish for sale for aquarium purposes.

GOOD GOVERNMENT

“Public Election Funding Pilot Program; Amendments”(SB381) This bill adjusts Big Island’s public funding pilot project based on voter feedback. It changes the funding formula for County Council races to the average amount of money spent by winning candidates in the last two election cycles across all county district races, resulting in equal funds for all districts.

“Neighbor Island Video Testimony” (SB369) would require both chambers of the legislature to implement rules to permit residents to present testimony through audiovisual technology. This year, a project is being piloted in the Senate Education and Technology Committees.

I encourage you to get involved by following legislation and providing testimony on these and other bills by:

1.     Registering at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/login/register.aspx

2.     Subscribing to hearing notices you are interested in

3.     Providing testimony

Please feel free to contact me by phone, email, or mail to voice your concerns about District 2 (Puna-Ka’u) and state-wide legislation.

Mahalo!

Senator Russell Ruderman

senruderman@capitol.hawaii.gov

Toll free: (808) 974-4000 ext. 6-6890

(808) 586-6890

State Capitol

415 S Beretania St., Room 217

Honolulu HI 96813