Rep. Saiki 2018 Legislative Session Opening Day Remarks

The 2018 Hawai‘i Legislative Session started on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, with opening day remarks by House Speaker Scott Saiki:

These are tumultuous times.

This year, we must step up to the plate.

The State of Hawai‘i requires leadership now and the House of Representatives can and should provide that leadership.

Unfortunately, one need only look to the past weekend to see a glaring instance of the inability of government at various levels to manage major issues facing our state.

Saturday’s events reinforce the importance of the role of government. It also shines light on the role of the Legislature as the policymaker and as the check on the other branches of government. It is our duty to ensure that the three branches abide by their respective constitutional duties so that we all do our jobs well.

We rely on the executive branch to competently and efficiently implement our laws and to administer programs. This begins with basic functions. Some of these functions must be carried out without mistakes because, when mistakes happen, the public loses confidence in all of us.

We also rely on the Judiciary to fairly adjudicate and dispense justice. It is not the role of judges to make policy decisions from the bench. It is the Legislature’s duty to set policy, and we do this with the benefit of broader public input and context.

The legislative branch, and particularly we as the House of Representatives, begin this session with a renewed sense of purpose.

The House is in a unique position to provide leadership. Part of the reason is our composition. Our 51 members are diverse, experienced, and energetic. We represent some of the smallest units of government. Our members have a pulse on what real people actually think, what they do, and what they want.

This collective insight is very powerful and should not be taken lightly. We should use this insight to be bold and creative. We should always be thinking of how to make things better.

There are two painfully obvious challenges that confront our state – the lack of affordable housing and the increasing homeless population. They are full of complexity and competing interests that make them hard to solve. They will require commitment and courageous action, sustained over several years.

But the time to start is now.

HOUSING

There is a shortage of 65,000 housing units in Hawai‘i. The State has set a goal of building 22,500 affordable rental units by the year 2026, and encouraging the development of housing for all income levels.

There is a huge gap between what our working families are able to pay and the cost of building new housing in Hawai‘i. The state and counties must continue to partner with private and nonprofit developers to add to the affordable housing inventory and make these projects pencil out.

To address the financing gap, we should consider increases to programs such as the Rental Housing Revolving Fund, Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund and the Rental Assistance Revolving Fund.

These programs will subsidize rents, infrastructure and construction costs.

For the very low income, elderly and disabled, we should upgrade our public housing inventory. We should also invest in infrastructure in areas that are conducive to such housing, including areas near the proposed rail stations.

HOMELESSNESS

There are now over 7,000 homeless persons throughout the state, including 667 families.

The approach to homelessness is multifaceted and requires short and long-term action. But there is a model that we can adopt. That model is Kahauiki Village.

Kahauiki Village is an example of a successful public-private partnership that included the combined work of the state, the city, nonprofits, and the private sector, some of whom had not interfaced before.

It is a self-contained community that is comprised of 153 transitional homes, a preschool, a market, and a police meeting room. It also operates from a PV-generated battery system and is off the electric grid.

This model can be extended to homeless populations with substance abuse and mental health conditions.

One important takeaway is that Kahauiki Village represents what is possible if people and agencies at different levels work towards a common goal.

And even as we develop more transitional housing, we must also increase law enforcement to avoid encroachment into public spaces. This encroachment affects the quality of life for all, and we must find ways to divert it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA

These are the kinds of issues that our residents are counting on us to solve. But leadership is more than solving issues.

A year ago, President Obama said something in his Farewell Address to the Nation that reminds me of Hawai‘i’s situation today.

He spoke of the youth, diversity, and drive of Americans, and the potential that these traits offered to our country.

But the President also offered this warning:

“[T]hat potential will be realized,” he said, “only if our democracy works. Only if our politics reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.”

The people of Hawai‘i are looking to us for more than problem solving.

They are also looking to us to articulate and demonstrate a sense of shared purpose that calls others, calls on everyone, to join in.

The House will play a critical role in calling people together in common purpose, but to do it, I believe that each of us must embrace three things.

First, let’s be open to reform and to challenge the status quo. We can still honor the past, but build upon the foundation that was left for us. It is okay to do things differently.

Second, let’s view challenges through the lens of those who are impacted by them. Some of the most contentious issues in Hawai‘i arise when people believe that government does not consider their perspective or history. We need to do better at reconciling these differences – by drawing on the knowledge of all our people – including those impacted by the policies we create – to shape the path forward.

Third, let’s take a global approach to decision-making. Sometimes government is too focused on jurisdiction and turf. We need to move beyond that.

CONCLUSION

Members, we are at a moment in history where we cannot just be stewards. This legislative session is a call to broader involvement and decisive action. We must be courageous activists because the issues facing our state are too urgent to wait. I know that we are up to the challenge.

This year, we will rebuild a foundation that will help many residents throughout our state. And by doing so, we will advance Hawai‘i’s tradition of pioneering justice, fairness, and opportunity for all.

Thank you and best wishes for a productive session.

Hawai‘i State Senate Convenes

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, the Hawai‘i State Senate convened the second year of the 29th Legislative Biennium Session with a renewed commitment to protect and sustain the people of Hawai‘i and its natural resources and to strengthen communities through effective legislation.

The opening session commenced with an invocation by Pastor Matt Higa from New Hope Kaua‘i. The National Anthem and Hawai‘i Pono‘i was performed by Ms. Nalani Brun.

Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Senate Majority

Among the honored guests in the Senate Chamber were members of the Fukuoka Prefectural Assembly, Governor David Ige, mayors and council members from the neighbor islands.

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi opened the session with remarks on issues where he hopes the Senate will continue to provide leadership and pass meaningful legislation.

Senate President Kouchi encouraged Senators to continue to find ways to address the challenges of homelessness and follow through on the commitment to build affordable housing. With the state facing possible cuts of $12 million in federal aid, he asked Senators to remember to protect our kūpuna and to ensure they are providing adequate health services for each and every resident of the state. He also encouraged Senators to continue to grow the economy to maintain funding for much needed services.

Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Senate Majority

“Creating opportunities for each and every child in this state to close the income gap and to be able to reach for the stars and realize their dreams,” is the reason Senate President Kouchi emphasized education as a priority for the Senate, starting with providing funding to allow better training for teachers to give students the best education available.

President Kouchi called for support to expand the Promise Program, which provides tuition assistance for community college “so that financial need is not an obstacle to higher education and make college a reality for each and every student in Hawai‘i.”

He also wants to see an expansion of the Early College program, which brings university instructors to local high schools. Students are able to earn college credits while in high school, giving them the confidence to pursue higher learning and helping defray the cost of college, which is “a critical stepping stone to allow our children to find that pathway to success,” said Senate President Kouchi.

Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Senate Majority.

With the success of the Farm-to-School program that started in Kohala and is expanding to other schools, President Kouchi was encouraged to see a possible partnership between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education to grow the program that sources local fruits and vegetables, and most recently, locally grown beef. The Department of Education serves more than 100,000 meals a day making it essentially the largest restaurant in the state. “If we have a commitment from the largest restaurant in the State of Hawai‘i to purchase locally grown food, this is the way I see a path forward to put active production on agricultural land the state has purchased and we will be able to bring back farming and address the issue of food security.”

Reflecting on the events of Saturday’s false ballistic missile threat, President Kouchi told Senators “we found out how connected we are.” Just as in the moments when there was fear and the foremost thought was expressing love and appreciation for those closest to us, he encouraged Senators “to express love and hope and always be conscious of what you say.” He also vowed to work with the administration to determine the best practices and what is needed to ensure it does not happen again and how, as legislators, they can carry out their responsibilities to guarantee that each citizen and guest of the state will be safe.

Kouchi also assured the Governor that all 25 State Senators are committed to working on legislation that provide the best results for the people of Hawai‘i.

Photo courtesy Hawai‘i Senate Majority.

The Senate has committed to continue to fortify the state’s position as a leader in sustainability and climate change mitigation by working to implement the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at the state level. The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals is a voluntary international call for action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2018 Senate Legislative Program are posted on the Hawai‘i Senate Majority website.

“Hawai‘i was the first state in the nation to enact legislation that support the commitments and goals of the Paris climate accord,” said Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English. “The Sustainable Development Goals will continue the efforts of the Senate to build a more resilient state and improve the quality of life for future generations.”

Former President Clinton Visits Big Island

Former President Bill Clinton is currently enjoying time on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.

Sen.Kai Kahele, President Bill Clinton and Sen. Brickwood Galuteria. PC: Sen. Kahele.

Clinton was the 42nd president to serve our country, serving from 1993 to 2001. 

Hawai‘i State Sens. Kai Kahele and Brickwood Galuteira got to meet with him on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, for about 45 minutes.

“We talked about Hawai‘i and how much it has to offer the world and how America could use a little bit of aloha right now,” said Sen. Kahele.

Besides talking with the former president, the Senators gave him a portrait of the famed Polynesian voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a.

The former president will be on the Big Island until Monday, Jan. 15.

Big Island Resident Ka‘ehu‘ae‘e Announces Run for Governor

Big Island resident Wendell Ka’ehu’ae’a has once again thrown his hat into the political scene here on the Big Island of Hawaii.

On his Facebook account this evening, he has announced that he will run for the Governor of Hawaii.

The following was posted to his account:

For GOV 2018. IMUA “NO MORE LIES”. Wkaehuaea@Yahoo.com. P.O. Box 6848 Hilo, Hawaii 96720. Graduated Farrington High School, Honolulu 1960. U.S. Navy, Veteran, 1960-1964. Serve under Admiral John McCain, 7th Fleet Pacific. Aloha Airlines, Honolulu Terminal. Suisan, Hilo. Cost Accountant and Sales. Build two Radio Stations. KAHU AM Panaewa, Hilo. KAHU FM Pahala, Ka’u. Puna Sugar, Supervisor Cultivating Department. Hawaiian Homes Farm Lot. Panaewa, Hawaii. For 30 Years. Hawaii Community College at Hilo. AA Liberal Arts 1997. University of Hawaii at Hilo. BA Communication, BA Political Science, and a Minor in Economics 2000. Nā Leo ‘O Hawaii. Community Access Television. Hilo. Community Outreach Producer. Goals and Promise. Get All Hawaiians on the waiting List on the Lands State-wide. Support All Programs for Seniors, Veterans and Handicap. IMUA, “NO MORE LIES”. Mahalo for Your Support.

Senator Hirono Lashing Out at President Trump – Calls for His Resignation

Senator Mazie Hirono is going off on Twitter today and has called for the resignation of President Donald Trump:

5 hours ago

. is a misogynist, compulsive liar, and admitted sexual predator. Attacks on Kirsten are the latest example that no one is safe from this bully. He must resign.

VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls on FCC to Uphold Net Neutrality Protections

With three days before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) makes a final decision on net neutrality, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) urged the commission to reject corporate-led efforts to unravel open, fair, and equal Internet access and to listen to the voices of the majority of Americans that support current protections on net neutrality.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“In three days, the Internet as we know it could change forever. On December 14th, the FCC will be taking a vote on whether or not to get rid of net neutrality protections that keep the Internet open, fair, and equal for everyone.

“Repealing these protections will allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to control the levers of the Internet—stifling access, deciding the websites you and I can visit and use, and making it impossible for small businesses to compete against industry giants. It will hurt our students, entrepreneurs, working families, and all who rely on the Internet for things like education, healthcare, and employment as a level playing field of opportunity.

“The FCC must protect the people it’s supposed to be serving—not big, corporate interests—and make sure the Internet remains a place where everyone has a seat at the table.”

President Trump to Land in Hawaii Tomorrow Morning

President Trump is scheduled to land in Honolulu tomorrow morning, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at the Hickam Airforce Base.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) for the island of O‘ahu for Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.


The President is expected to stay on the military base and no roads or traffic will be stopped during his time on O’ahu.

The following operations are not authorized within this TFR: flight training, practice instrument approaches, aerobatic flight, glider operations, parachute operations, ultralight, hang gliding, balloon operations, agriculture/crop dusting, animal population control flight operations, banner towing operations, sightseeing operations, maintenance test flights, model aircraft operations, model rocketry, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and utility and pipeline survey operations.

Lifelong Kona Resident Announces Run for County Council Seat

Bronsten “Kalei” Kossow will run for Kanuha’s vacant District 7 seat on the Hawai‘i County Counil. Courtesy photo.

Bronsten “Kalei” Kossow has announced he will run for Dru Mamo Kanuha’s vacant seat on the Hawai‘i County Council.

Kanuha’s open seat represents District 7, which includes Kealakekua, Kona Scenic, Kainaliu, Honalo, Keauhou, Kahalu‘u, Hōlualoa, Kona Hillcrest, Pualani Estates, Sunset View, Kuakini Heights, Kona Vistas, Ali‘i Heights and Kona Industrial.

Kossow is a lifelong resident of Kona who attended Hōlualoa Elementary and Kealakehe Intermediate Schools before graduating from Makua Lani Christian School. While a junior in high school, he earned his Eagle Scout award, and soon after received the Honor of Vigil.

A former Boy Scout lodge-vice chief for Hawai‘i Island, Kossow has served as an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 79, and a section-vice chief for the Pacific Region. He is currently working toward his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with the University of Hawai‘i.

“I am proud to be born and raised in this beautiful community,” Kossow said. “I am eager to jump into the conversation and continue the discussion of the current issues that our community is facing such as: creating efficiency in government; pushing for temporary housing for our homeless, working with both County and State agencies to expand the services to those who need assistance; investing in a long-term plan to implement Kona water well security; striving for renewable and alternative energy sources; and enhancing agriculture development for food sustainability.”

Kossow is also a member of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, a former paraprofessional for Aloha Council, and current finance chair for Kona Coast Boy Scouts of America. He is also a game management advisory commissioner for Hawai‘i County District 7, as well as a flight coordinator for Paradise Helicopters.

Bill Signed into Law to Make APEC Travel Card Permanent

BIN file photo.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card program has been signed into law by the President.

Introduced by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and Steve Daines’ (R-Mont.), the bill allows Americans and citizens from APEC nations to access fast-track processing lanes at Daniel K. Inouye Honolulu International Airport and airports across the U.S. and Asia-Pacific area.

“The APEC Business Travel Card program has benefited hundreds of Hawai‘i residents by making it easier to travel and conduct business across a region critical to our local economy and jobs,” said Sen. Hirono. “This newly signed law reaffirms the importance of travel to our country’s engagement with the nations of the Asia-Pacific.”

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the United States–we must make every effort to expand markets to create new good-paying jobs,” said Sen. Daines. “I’m thrilled to see President Trump sign this bill into law to open new opportunities for businesses.”

Prior to congressional action, permission for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to issue APEC Business Travel Cards was set to expire Sept. 30, 2018.

Over 200 Hawai‘i residents actively hold a card. On average, cardholders save 43 minutes in airport wait times.

The bill, called S. 504, is supported by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce, U.S. Council for International Business, National Foreign Trade Council, U.S. Travel Association, Global Business Travel Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China and the National Center for APEC.

Joint House Hearing Held on Reef Protection

Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing, chair of the Hawai‘i House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs, held a joint legislative informational briefing on Thursday, Nov. 2, at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol on “Reef Madness: Can We Save Hawaiʻi’s Marine Ecosystems?”

Rep. Kaniela Ing

Featured topics included coral bleaching, overfishing and pollution. Presentations were given by the Reef Recovery Lab, the University of Hawaiʻi, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources and the Surfrider Foundation.

“This conversation is crucial,” said Rep. Ing. “Hawaiʻi has the expertise and will, so we just had to pull everyone together. Policymakers learned a ton from experts, regulators and NGOs. The consensus was that the governor’s goal to protect 30 percent of nearshore fisheries by 2030 is important, but it needs teeth. I will be introducing a mandate to establish a statewide network of marine protected areas. DLNR publicly expressed support.

“Secondly, Hawaiʻi should join literally every other coastal state to issue non-commercial fishing licenses,” said Rep. Ing. “This will allow for more effective management, data collection and more fish for everyone.”

“As for coral bleaching, carbon emissions is the root cause,” he continued. “Pollution, sewage and toxic sunscreens are contributing factors. My committee will be considering a ban on sunscreen containing oxybenzone, and expansion of cesspool conversion credits, and ways to expedite our 100% renewable energy and transportation goals.”

“It was amazing—so much vital research by some of the best in the world all in one place,” said Ing.

TODAY at 4:00 – Hawaii Representative to Participate in Protest Against Trump

State Representative Kaniela Saito Ing will join “Resistance” groups at 4 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Hawaii State Capitol to send a clear message to President Donald Trump who is visiting Oahu before embarking on a trip to Asia.

Rep. Kaniela Ing

Ing will hold a sign that reads “Aloha means goodbye.”

“Aloha is a Hawaiian value rooted in the idea of love for one another, that we are all connected. I deeply support this concept,” said Rep. Ing. “But in order for Hawaii to remain a welcoming place of tolerance and aloha, we need to draw the line at leaders who incite fear and hate for personal gain. Trump rose to power by telling whole groups of people – ¬like immigrants, women, and transgendered individuals – that they are not welcome in our society.

“Hawaii is the most diverse state in the nation, and just a few days ago Trump literally said, ‘Diversity sounds like a good thing, but it is not a good thing.’ That statement alone undermines the values that make Hawaii, Hawaii. So yes, aloha means ‘hello,’ but it also means ‘goodbye.’ ”

Ing explained that Trump’s policy is personal to him and many others in Hawaii.

“My grandfather was a Japanese-American WW II veteran who fought overseas for our country, despite facing discrimination back home,” Ing said. “This administration evidently supports the idea of internment camps, in 2017, people.

“I’m afraid of turning on the news around my toddler son because I fear this president will teach him it’s OK to sexually assault women. We cannot afford to normalize any of this behavior.”

Ing will also be marching and speaking at the “The Nightmare Must Go!” protest at Ala Moana Beach Park starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4.

Rep. Gabbard: DNC Rigged Presidential Primary & Damaged Party

Some have said that the Democratic National Committee rigged the presidential primary, which, in turn, damaged the party so badly that the Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Hawaiʻi Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard released a statement on Thursday, Nov. 2, calling for major reform to the DNC in response to an exposé of a rigged presidential primary written by Donna Brazile, the interim DNC chair who stepped in after Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was removed:

“Today we heard from Donna Brazile that what many suspected for a long time, is actually true: the DNC secretly chose their nominee over a year before the primary elections even occurred, turning over DNC control to the Clinton campaign. The deep financial debt, closed door decision-making, complete lack of transparency, and unethical practices are now front and center.

“Today’s news points to how deeply broken our campaign finance laws are, and how they have only served to weaken individual candidates, while empowering political parties and special interests. These laws essentially allowed the Clinton campaign to bypass individual campaign contribution limits by funneling millions of dollars through the DNC and state parties, taking control of the DNC in the process.

“Along with the recent retaliatory purge of Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison supporters from the DNC’s Executive Committee, this is further evidence of a party and a campaign finance system that needs to be completely overhauled and reformed. These reforms must empower the people and take our party back from the special interests of a powerful few.

“We must bring about real campaign finance reform. The DNC must get rid of the undemocratic system of super delegates, who have the power to swing an election, making up one-third of the votes any candidate needs to secure the nomination. The party must push for open or same-day registration in Democratic primaries in every state across the country to ease and encourage voter engagement instead of making it more difficult. If there is any hope of strengthening our party, they must stop this ‘more of the same’ mentality and start caring more about people than protecting the status quo.

No more games. No more retaliation. No more picking winners and losers. We must act now to take back our party—a party that belongs to the people—and fight for a new path forward that is open, transparent, accountable, inclusive, and that actually strengthens our democracy.”

Rep. Gabbard is a Democrat who has served as the U.S. Representative for Hawai‘i’s Second Congressional District since 2013. She was vice chair of the DNC from 2013 to 2016, when she resigned to support Bernie Sanders for president. She has been calling for an end to superdelegates in the Democratic Party’s nomination process and open Democratic primaries. Rep. Gabbard is a major in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard and has served on two Middle East deployments. She is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Puna Community Town Hall Meetings Hosted By Senator Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman will be hosting Puna Community Town Hall Meetings on Tuesday, October 24th in Pahoa and Wednesday, October 25th in Volcano:
I will be presenting some of my proposed legislation for the 2018 Legislative Session, and I invite you join me and take advantage of this opportunity for me to hear from you and give your input on these proposed measures, as well as hear your ideas for additional legislation to be introduced this next year.

My staff and I will also be discussing how you can be directly involved in the legislative process – by submitting language for legislation, contacting legislators and submitting testimony, and how to track legislation as it is referred to various committees and moves through the legislature.
Light refreshments will be served.

Senator Russell E. Ruderman
Senatorial District 2 – Puna-Ka’u

Live Stream with Bernie Sanders at UH Hilo – Proposed Legislation to Make Tuition Free

Tomorrow, Tuesday October 10th, the University of Hawaii Hilo registered group Global Hope, will be showing a nation-wide streaming of Bernie Sanders proposed legislation to make public colleges and universities tuition free.

The presentation will be at 7:00pm at University of Hawaii Hilo in UCB 100.

Many in Hawaii support Bernie Sanders and will be interested in this proposal.

Democratic Party of Hawai‘i Statement on the Passing of Former DPH Executive Director Flo Kong Kee

It is with profound sorrow that the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) learned today of the passing of former DPH Executive Director, officer, and leader Flo Kong Kee.

Ms. Kong Kee was a longtime Party official, having served at different times over the last three decades as State Party Executive Director, State Treasurer, District Chair, Precinct President, delegate to numerous state and national conventions, and most recently as Delegate Page for the DPH during the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“Flo was a person of tremendous generosity, class, and kindness,” said Tim Vandeveer, DPH Party Chairperson. “She exemplified grace under pressure and always put our party first,” Vandeveer stated, adding “Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this difficult time.”

Information regarding memorial services will be shared when made available.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Fights to Prevent the FCC From Dismantling Broadband Internet Standards

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) signed a bicameral letter to urge Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai not to relax Internet broadband standards for millions of Americans across the country which would most adversely affect rural, tribal, and low-income communities. The FCC announced in a Notice of Inquiry that it would consider lowering the standards of broadband Internet access speeds from 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload to 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, while also classifying a mobile Internet connection as a suitable replacement for home broadband.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“It is indisputable that high-speed broadband Internet access is essential to succeed in today’s economy, and that rural, tribal and low-income communities already face significant obstacles to accessing 21st century jobs, training programs, and educational opportunities.  According to the FCC’s own 2016 report, 39 percent of rural Americans and 41 percent of tribal communities lack access to acceptable internet speeds, creating significant obstacles that often inhibit them from doing things like promoting their business, communicating with their families, and accessing education tools.  I’ve heard this firsthand from constituents in my district who live in very rural communities.  Often, the only access to the Internet for kids in school was through a parent’s wireless hotspot signal.

“The FCC should be looking at how to expand and strengthen the infrastructure and high-speed Internet in America’s rural, tribal and low-income communities.  By opting instead to lower the bar and redefine what constitutes an acceptable Internet connection, the FCC continues on its current trend towards favoring corporate interests over American consumers.  Should the FCC’s proposals move forward, they will create more obstacles for working Americans by putting them behind the technology curve.

“I firmly support the expansion of high-speed Internet access to rural and tribal areas, which is why I cosponsored H. Con. Res. 63, which calls for the availability of high-speed Internet for all Americans.”

Notices to Women Regarding Access to Family Planning Services Must Be Allowed, State Argues

Yesterday the Department of the Attorney General filed a memorandum opposing an attempt by certain religiously-affiliated organizations to prevent a new law concerning women’s access to information regarding reproductive health services from being enforced. The law, Senate Bill 501 (2017), was passed by the Hawaii state legislature on May 4, 2017, and signed into law as Act 200 on July 12, 2017. It requires limited service pregnancy centers to notify women in writing regarding the availability of state-funded reproductive health services.

The Department’s memo argues that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over several Western states including Hawaii, already upheld a similar law passed by California in 2015.
The opposition memo states in part:

The Legislature has found that “[m]any women in Hawaii … remain unaware of the public programs available to provide them with contraception, health education and counseling, family planning, prenatal care, pregnancy-related, and birth-related services.” To address this concern, [Act 200] was enacted into law. It requires “limited service pregnancy centers,” as defined in the Act, to disseminate a written notice to clients or patients informing them that Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services.

A similar filing was made in a related case yesterday as well.

Hawaii Senate Adjourns Special Session

Members of the Hawai‘i State Senate adjourned Special Session today after the House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 4 to provide funding for the completion of the City and County of Honolulu’s rail transit project and bills to approve collective bargaining costs.

During this Special Legislative Session, as part of its constitutionally mandated duties, the Senate considered for advise and consent and approved a total of 50 gubernatorial appointments to 34 boards and commissions and one deputy director position.

Among those confirmed this week:

  • James Griffin, to the Public Utilities Commission
  • Douglas Shinsato to the U.H. Board of Regents
  • Robert Masuda as Deputy to the Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources
  • Marcus Oshiro as the Chairperson and Representative of the Public of the Hawai‘i Labor Relations Board

A complete list of actions taken during the Special Legislative Session can viewed at capitol.hawaii.gov.

Senate Roll Call – Who Voted for What When It Came Down to the Rail

Today at the Hawaii State Capitol Building in Honolulu, the Senate voted 16-9 in favor of moving Senate Bill 4 over to the House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 4 Report Title:  County Surcharge on State Tax; Extension; Transient Accommodations Tax; Appropriations:

Authorizes a county that has adopted a surcharge on state tax to extend the surcharge to 12/31/2030. Authorizes a county to adopt a surcharge on state tax before 3/31/2018, under certain conditions. Decreases from 10% to 1% the surcharge gross proceeds retained by the State. Allows the director of finance to pay revenues derived from the county surcharge under certain conditions. Clarifies uses of surcharge revenues. Establishes a mass transit… (See bill for full description.)

Many folks were wondering who voted yes and no on moving this bill forward and I was able to obtain the following roll call sheet from today’s hearing and for what it’s worth… all four Big Island Senators voted against moving this bill forward:

Mayor Harry Kim Opposed to Permanent Cap on Counties’ Transient Accommodation Tax


Testimony by Harry Kim, Mayor, County of Hawai’i before Senate Ways & Means Re: SB 4:

The County of Hawai’i opposes the permanent cap on the counties’ share of the Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT). This cap is unnecessary to achieve all other aspects of the bill to finance Honolulu’s rail. The bill proposes to finance rail by extending the General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge period to 12/31/2030, increasing the share of the surcharge that goes to rail by decreasing the administrative charge retained by the State, and increasing the TAT rate by 1% and dedicating all of that increase to rail. There is no reason related to rail financing to cap the share of the TAT to the counties.

A cap on the counties’ TAT share is contrary to the Legislature’s own working group report and the original intent of the TAT tax summarized as follows:

  • Working Group Recommendation. The working group recommended the Tourism Special Fund receive $82 million in FY 2016 and increase in subsequent years in line with the Consumer Price Index for Honolulu, $31 million constant for the Convention Center-Turtle Bay-Special Land Develop Fund, and the remainder split between the State and counties at 55% for the State and 45% for the counties. Based on total TAT revenues in 2016 of $444 million, the $103,000,000 cap represents 31% of the remainder of the TAT after allocations to the Tourism Special Fund ($82 million) and the Convention Center-Turtle Bay-Special Land Development Fund ($33 million). As a result of the cap, the counties’ share will only get worse as tourism grows.
  • Nexus to Tourism Services. The incidence of the TAT is primarily on visitors, so the TAT tax revenues should fund public services which benefit visitors. The UH Economic Research Organization (UHERO) estimated that the counties pay for 53% of the services for which visitors directly benefit (UHERO Working Paper No. 2016-4). These services include police and fire protection, rescue, parks, beaches, water, roads, and sewer systems.
  • Act 185 (1990). Recognizing that “many of the burdens imposed by tourism falls on the counties,” the legislature created the TAT as a “more equitable method of sharing state revenues with the counties” (Conference Committee Report 207 on HB No. 1148). The legislature deemed at that time that the fair allocation was 95% of the total TAT revenues to the counties.

The State has multiple sources of revenues. The counties only have property tax, motor vehicle weight tax, and public utility franchise tax. Our out-of-control homeless problems are a symptom of the soaring cost to rent or own a home in Hawai’i. And you want to offer us the power to increase the GET tax, the most regressive form of taxation that impacts the lower income the greatest. We already had to increase our property tax to make ends meet. With the collective bargaining decisions dominated by the State, we again will face possible increases. We ask only for our fair share as recommended by the Working Group, to maintain quality services that uphold the tourism industry and affordability for our people.