Hawaii State Senate Introduces More Than One Thousand Bills

This year, the Hawaii State Legislature introduced 2,894 bills. The Hawaii State Senate introduced 1,379 bills on this first year of the 28th Legislative biennium. The House introduced 1,515 bills.

Thursday, January 29, 2015 was the deadline for bill introductions. The measures were sent to their respective committees for consideration. The measures that are passed out of the committee(s) are sent to the Senate Floor to be voted on by the entire Senate body.

The First Crossover deadline is on Thursday, March 12, 2015. This is the last day for a final vote on a bill to occur in its originating chamber before it is passed on to the other chamber for further consideration. During First Crossover, all Senate bills that pass Third Reading must crossover to the House and all House bills that pass Third Reading must crossover to the Senate.

To see the current list of all Senate Bills introduced this Session, click on the link to the website report: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?year=2015&report=deadline&active=true&rpt_type=&measuretype=sb&title=Senate%20Bills%20Introduced.

You can also access that list and other lists of current legislation by going to the Legislature’s website, www.capitol.hawaii.gov, by clicking on the “Reports and Lists” button on the home page, and selecting one of the many lists and reports available. The reports are easily downloadable. On these reports, you can also find specific bills; just enter (Ctrl-F) and type in keywords to search through the titles, descriptions and report titles in the list.

Sen. Russell Ruderman Introduces Bills Addressing Big Island Issues

Sen. Russell Ruderman has introduced a number of bills this session to address Puna/Big Island’s unique issues.

“These bills need your support,” said Ruderman.  “Big Island endured serious damage from a tropical storm last year and faces uncertainty due to the impending lava flow.  Many of the bills I have introduced could help our district to be better prepared for disasters in the future.  I am also committed to focusing on food and agricultural sustainability this session.”

Several of the bills have already been scheduled for hearing. It is hoped that constituents in the Puna area begin tracking the bills on their individual Capitol webpage and submit testimony in support when a Bill is scheduled.

Below is a list of bills that Ruderman has introduced that relate to Puna and/or Big Island issues:

SB319
Conservation; Department of Land and Natural Resources; Sandalwood; Penalties; Fees
RELATING TO SANDALWOOD.
Prohibits the sale, export, and possession with intent to sell or export raw or unprocessed sandalwood timber, including whole or partial raw logs. Establishes penalties for the sale, export, or possession with the intent to sell or export raw or unprocessed sandalwood timber and establishes a violation as a misdemeanor.

SB322
Aquatic Life; Aquarium Permits; Fish; Sale of Aquatic Life for Aquarium Use Prohibited
RELATING TO WILDLIFE.
Criminalizes the sale of aquatic life for aquarium use and establishes the penalties for first and subsequent violations. Amends existing aquarium fish permit law to conform to the ban. Takes effect on 1/1/2016.

SB576
Mobile Health Unit; Appropriation
RELATING TO HEALTH.
Appropriates a grant to the Bay Clinic, Inc., for a mobile health unit to service the Puna district due to the threat of inaccessibility from the lava flow.

SB578
Elections; Voting; Elections by Mail; Absentee Voting; Appropriation
RELATING TO ELECTIONS.
Enable the office of elections to implement elections by mail in any interested county, beginning with the 2016 primary election. By 2018, requires all federal, state, and county primary, special primary, general, special general, and special elections to be conducted by mail. Enables absentee walk-in voting to continue prior to election day. Ensures limited polling sites in each county remain open on election day for absentee walk-in voting and to receive mail-in ballots. Appropriates funds for the implementation and administration of the election by mail program.

SB580
Puna Community Medical Center; Mobile Health Unit; Annex Medical Clinic; Emergency Appropriation ($)
MAKING AN EMERGENCY APPROPRIATION FOR THE PUNA COMMUNITY MEDICAL CENTER.
Appropriates funds as an emergency appropriation to the Puna Community Medical Center for a mobile health unit to service the Puna district due to the threat of inaccessibility from the lava flow.

SB586
Rat Lungworm Disease; Appropriation ($)
RELATING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII.
Appropriates funds to the University of Hawaii at Hilo for programs and studies related to rat lung worm disease.

SB589
Property Insurance; Hawaii Property Insurance Association; Renewal
RELATING TO INSURANCE.
Requires the renewal of property insurance, but permits insurers to deny renewal for nonpayment of an undisputed premium by a policyholder.

SB591
Invasive Species; Albizia Trees; Appropriation ($)
RELATING TO THE ENVIRONMENT.
Makes an appropriation to the Hawaii invasive species council for the coordinated management of albizia trees on Hawaii island and throughout the State.

SB594
Coffee; Labeling; Geographic or Regional Origins; Percentage of Content Requirement; Hawaii-grown Coffee
RELATING TO COFFEE.
Requires a specific listing of the geographic origins of various Hawaii-grown coffees and the geographic or regional origins of the various coffees not grown in Hawaii that are included in a coffee blend to be listed on the front panel of a label. Increases the minimum percentage requirement for coffee blends to use geographic origin in labeling or advertising to 80 per cent coffee by weight from that geographic origin. Effective January 1, 2016.

SB597
Emergencies and Disasters; Postponed Elections; Distribution of Voting Results
RELATING TO ELECTIONS.
Requires the chief election officer or county clerk to exercise existing powers to postpone an election in affected precincts when the right to vote is substantially impaired due to an emergency or natural disaster. Prohibits the distribution of results from any precinct, whether or not designated for postponement, until after the final closing of the polls for an election postponed due to an emergency or disaster.

SB1013
Hooulu Lahui; Appropriation; Grant ($)
MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR A COMMUNITY CERTIFIED KITCHEN IN PUNA.
Appropriates funds to Hooulu Lahui to complete construction of a community certified kitchen in lower Puna.

SB1016
Emergency Medical Services; Advanced Life Support Ambulance; Puna; Appropriation ($)
RELATING TO HEALTH.
Appropriates funds to establish an advanced life support ambulance to be based in Puna on the island of Hawaii, including the acquisition of a vehicle and equipment and personnel costs for state-certified emergency medical services personnel.

SB1200
Puna Small Boat Harbor; General Obligation Bonds; Appropriation ($)
RELATING TO A SMALL BOAT HARBOR IN SOUTH PUNA.
Authorizes the director of finance to issue general obligation bonds to finance the design and construction of a small boat harbor in South Puna.

SB1257
Airport; Appropriation ($)
MAKING AN APPROPRIATION FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF AN AIRPORT IN PUNA.
Appropriates funds for construction of a small airport in South Puna due to the threat of inaccessibility from lava flow.

For assistance in submitting testimony online or for outer island residents who want to testify by video, contact the Public Access Room at: http://lrbhawaii.org/par/

A complete list of bills Introduced by Senator Ruderman can be found here:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?report=intro&year=2015&leg=Ruderman&rpt_type=first_pri

All bills introduced this session here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/main.aspx

Senator Josh Green schedules hearing on Health Insurance Coverage for Autistic Children

State Senator Josh Green M.D. (D – Kona, Kau), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, has scheduled a hearing on SB 791, RELATING TO AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS, which would require health insurers to provide coverage for autism diagnosis and treatment.

The hearing will be held on Friday, February 6 at 1:15 PM in Room 414 of the State Capitol.

“The autism rate has soared to as high as 1 in 68 children,” Green said, “and families across Hawaii are struggling with the enormous costs of the treatment they need to give their kids the best chance to lead healthy, productive lives.”

Green fought to pass similar legislation during the 2014 legislative session, and introduced SB 791 for the 2015 session on January 23 of this year. Experts on autism and affected families from Hawaii and across the country and are expected to offer testimony before the Senate Health Committee on February 6.

“Over 38 states have passed legislation to ensure that treatment for autism is covered by health insurance,” Green said, “because they know the huge financial costs of leaving autism left untreated, both to families and to the state.”

“It’s time for us to do the right thing for Hawaii’s kids and families struggling with autism,” Green said.

Green is an Emergency Room doctor with 15 years of experience caring for Hawaii’s families on Big Island.

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=791&year=2015

For more information, contact Senator Josh Green at (808) 937-0991 or at sengreen@capitol.hawaii.gov

$4 million Released for Waimea District/Regional Park

Sen. Lorraine Inouye (Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona) today announced Governor David Ige’s release of $4 million in general obligation bond funds appropriated by the Legislature to finance construction of various improvements to the Waimea District/ Regional Park. The administration notified stakeholders last month of the release of funds.

With matching funds from the County of Hawaii, the monies will implement Phase 1 of the master-planned 50-acre park that will offer diversified types of recreational activities including active play areas such as fields for soccer, baseball, and football, a community gymnasium, a multi-purpose community

Photo from pbrhawaii.com (PBR Hawaii & Associates, Inc.)

Photo from pbrhawaii.com (PBR Hawaii & Associates, Inc.)

building, a multi-use walkway and trail system, and other passive recreational areas.

The first phase is slated to cover 24 acres and includes work on a covered play court, multi-use community building, pavilion, two football/rugby/soccer fields, one youth baseball/softball field, and a multi-use walkway and trail. The second phase would add 26 acres and thus convert the facility to a regional park.

“I’m pleased that the governor released the much-needed and long-overdue funding for plans, designs and construction for this valued recreational facility in West Hawaii,” said Inouye. “Once the work is completed, it will benefit our community members by filling a void in both indoor and outdoor athletic and recreational activities. Everyone is excited about it and we’re looking forward to thrilling sporting events in the future.”

 

Women’s Legislative Caucus’ Package Focuses on Safety and Well-Being of Women

DSC_0626The Women’s Legislative Caucus, consisting of members from both the state Senate and House, today announced a joint package of measures for the 2015 legislative session.

The package of bills cover five areas of concern to women of all ages and economic background, including improving reporting and enforcement of domestic violence and sexual assaults, reducing violence and sexual assaults on college campuses, ensuring women’s access to healthcare, addressing Hawaii’s high cost of living faced by working families, and restoring public trust of Hawaii’s law enforcement community.

“Domestic violence, campus assaults, perceived unsympathetic law enforcement officials—all of these issues remain ongoing concerns for women of all ages from all backgrounds,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa). “Whenever we think we are making progress, reports like the recent Star Advertiser article on the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of 55 college campuses across the nation punctures that balloon.”

“It shows we need to continue to press our case for better reporting and enforcement of domestic violence and sexual assault on our schools campuses, for greater transparency and accountability from our law enforcement entities, for better access to health care for women, and for greater support for women who are often more vulnerable to the high cost of living in Hawaii.”

“This year’s caucus package represents the collaborative work of women legislators and the Women’s Coalition, the community counterpart to the Women’s Legislative Caucus,” said Senator Rosalyn Baker (South and West Maui). “These bills address some of the important societal issues facing women and girls – security in home, workplace and community.

“In the package we also highlight our concern for women’s health.  Breast and cervical cancer still goes undetected for too many women in Hawaii.  One of our bills will provide funding to expand screening and treatment services to underserved, at-risk women.  These cancers can be successfully treated and cured, if found early.  This bill’s modest investment will save suffering, healthcare costs and lives.  Together, our package will help to create a safer and healthier environment and contribute to a better quality of life for Hawaii’s women and their families.”

“Our state has the highest cost of living in the nation and we are in dire need of affordable housing,” added Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland (Liliha, Palama, Iwilei, Kalihi, Nuuanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Lower Tantalus, Downtown).  “A 2011 housing study informed the state that we will be 50,000 housing units short by 2016.  This creates a perfect storm for many low-income earners, many of whom are women supporting their families, who are trying to get by paycheck to paycheck and keep a roof over their heads. Amending the income tax credit for low-income renters is one strategic component that will put more money in their pockets to support their families.”

“Different decades of women banding together can make a powerful sisterhood which will make our communities, state and world a safer and better place,” said Representative Cynthia Thielen (Kailua, Kaneohe Bay).

This year’s package is dedicated to the Women’s Coalition in recognition of their commitment and advocacy for women and girls.

The Women’s Coalition, established in 1990 by former State Representative Annelle Amaral, is a coalition of community organizations and volunteers from across the state that raise awareness and advocate for important issues to women and families.  Through its own collaborative processes, the Women’s Coalition assists the Caucus in creating its legislative practice.

The Women’s Legislative Caucus is made up of all the female members of the state House and Senate.  Each year the caucus presents a package of bills relevant to the well-being of women and families and supports the bills throughout the legislative session. Belatti, Baker, Chun Oakland and Thielen serve as co-chairs of the Caucus.

IMPROVING REPORTING & ENFORCEMENT PRACTICES RELATED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULT

HB446/SB384, relating to the Confidentiality Program, Confidentiality Program Surcharge Fund and Confidentiality Program Grant Fund

Establishes the Address Confidentiality Program to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault relocate and keep their addresses confidential.  Creates the Address Confidentiality Program Surcharge Fund.

HB447/SB390, relating to domestic abuse, Department of Human Services and Family Court

Removes certain unnecessary and redundant reporting responsibilities of the family courts and the Department of Human Services 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.

HB448/SB386, relating to domestic violence fatality reviews and Department of Health

Requires the Department of Health to conduct reviews of domestic violence fatalities, near-deaths, and suicides.  Requires the DOH to enter into a memorandum of understanding to develop procedures for obtaining information relating to near-deaths resulting from intimate partner assaults.  Requires reviews to commence within one year following the death, near-death, or suicide.  Requires information and recommendations from the review process to be compiled for system reform efforts.

HB453/SB391, relating to psychologists continuing education, ethics and domestic violence

Amends the continuing education requirement for psychologists to include at least three credit hours of ethics training and at least two credit hours of domestic violence training.

HB452/SB393, relating to statewide sexual assault services, the Attorney General, base budget and appropriations

Appropriates funds to increase the base budget of the Department of the Attorney General for statewide sexual assault services for fiscal biennium 2016-2017 to $2,380,000 per fiscal year. Beginning with the 2017-2018 fiscal year, requires the base budget of the Department of the Attorney General for statewide sexual assault services to be at least $2,380,000 per fiscal year.

REDUCING VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULTS ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

HB451/SB387, relating to affirmative consent and the University of Hawaii system

Requires the University of Hawaii system to establish and enforce an affirmative consent standard for all policies and protocols relating to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking as a condition of receiving state funds for student assistance.

ENSURING ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE

HB455/SB385, relating to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, the Department of Health and appropriations

Appropriates funds to the Department of Health for the breast and cervical cancer control program.

ADDRESSING HAWAII’S HIGH COST OF LIVING FOR WORKING FAMILIES

HB454/SB392, relating to the income tax credit and low-income household renters

Amends income tax credit for low-income household renters to adjust for inflation.  Applies to taxable years beginning after 12/31/2015.

RESTORING PUBLIC TRUST WITH TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY OVER POLICE POLICIES & PROCEDURES

HB449/SB388, relating to county police departments, domestic violence policies and standards of conduct

Requires each county police department to post its policies relating to domestic violence, officer-involved domestic violence, and standards of conduct on its official website.

HB450/SB389, relating to police commissioners, county police commissions, composition and requirements

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.

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bills by logging onto the Capitol website at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?report=package&pkey=12&year=2015&name=Women%27s+Legislative+Caucus

Keiki Caucus Unveils 2015 Legislative Package

The Keiki Caucus, a bipartisan group of House and Senate members, today unveiled its 2015 legislative package of priority measures that addresses a variety of issues related to ensuring the protection and welfare of Hawaii’s children and youth. The package includes five key areas of focus including safety and well-being, education, health and early intervention, local food and healthy meals, and affordable housing.

In a press conference held this afternoon, state lawmakers and community advocates emphasized three key proposals. They include creating a 5-year Safe Places for Youth pilot program, establishing the R.E.A.C.H. (Resources for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture, and Health) program in the Office of Youth Services, and implementing policies that address bullying and create safer schools for children.

“The driving force behind this package and the collaboration between all stakeholders is to give our children and youth the best opportunities now and into the future,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (13
Liliha, Palama, Iwilei, Kalihi, Nu‘uanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Lower Tantalus, Downtown), co-chair of the Keiki Caucus. “This includes providing the necessary after-school programs and services that provide our keiki with a safe, inspiring environments and continuing to support bullying awareness and prevention initiatives.

“Our keiki represent our state’s most precious resource. They are our future and the reason why we need to invest in the youth today for a better tomorrow,” said Rep. John Mizuno (Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, portion of Lower Kalihi), co-chair of the Keiki Caucus.

“The REACH program is poised to have a significant impact on Hawaii’s future.  It provides middle school students with dynamic after-school activities that keep them engaged in school and on track towards graduation,” said Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui.  “With the support of the Keiki Caucus, I hope to see the REACH bill move through the Legislature successfully,” said Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui.

###

The Keiki Caucus is a bipartisan group of 27 House and Senate members joined by a community resource group of over 150 children and youth advocates, various non-profits, educators, youth, parent groups, researchers, agency officials, businesses and other experts working to develop initiatives to address a variety of issues affecting Hawaii’s children and youth, including education, health, child safety, youth development, food security, and other critical issues. The Keiki Caucus is co-chaired by Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland and Rep. John Mizuno.

 

 

2015 Package

* Indicates priority identified at the 2014 Children and Youth Day Summit

SAFETY and WELL-BEING

BILL NUMBER DESCRIPTION
SB979

HB395

  • Relating to Youth*

Requires the office of youth services to coordinate a five-year safe places for youth pilot program to establish a network of safe places where youth in crisis can access safety and services. Establishes the position of safe places for youth program coordinator. Allows youth in crisis under 18 years of age to consent to services in the safe places program under certain circumstances. Makes an appropriation.

 

EDUCATION

BILL NUMBER DESCRIPTION
SB980

HB397

Relating to Afterschool 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 afterschool programs in public middle/intermediate schools. Establishes a revolving fund to receive fees and other moneys to supplement the costs of administering and operating the program.

SB865 Relating to Bullying

Requires educational institutions and all youth-serving agencies to create and implement anti-bullying policies. Establishes a bullying prevention task force to provide guidance. Outlines the requirements for each institution or agency’s policy and specifies reporting, investigation, and appeals procedures involving incidents of bullying. Provides immunity to reporters of bullying in the event of a cause of action for damages arising from the making of a report. Requires institutions and agencies to establish annual bullying prevention programs for youth and to provide bullying prevention training to all employees and volunteers who have significant contact with youth. Requires institutions and agencies to report aggregate figures regarding bullying to the governor and requires the governor to report to the legislature regarding bullying and the effectiveness of anti-bullying policies.

SB977

HB1794

Relating to the Department of Education*

Appropriates funds to raise awareness of mental health issues and provide mental health training for public school administrators, teachers, and other school personnel. Appropriates funds to establish additional public school counselor positions in the public schools.

 

 

 

EDUCATION (cont.)

SCR5

HCR11

 

Concurrent Resolution

Encouraging public and charter schools to provide information to parents of all public school students in the sixth grade regarding human papillomavirus vaccinations.

SCR-Pending Introduction

HCR12

Concurrent Resolution

Requesting the Board of Education to include financial literacy as part of the public school curriculum at all levels and to include a financial literacy class among high school graduation requirements.

Pending Introduction Concurrent Resolution*

Requesting the Board of Education to establish a life skills education program at each public high school for students in grades nine through twelve.

Pending Introduction Concurrent Resolution

Requesting the Board of Education to include financial literacy as part of the public school curriculum at all levels and to include a financial literacy class among high school graduation requirements.

Pending Introduction Concurrent Resolution

Requesting the Department of Education to support the Kids’

Savings project.

 

HEALTH and EARLY INTERVENTION

BILL NUMBER DESCRIPTION
SB978

HB396

Relating to Youth*

Appropriates funds to support anti-bullying and suicide prevention efforts in Hawaii’s public schools.

SB981

 

  • Relating to Health
  • Appropriates funds to continue administration of the Hawaii home visiting program, a hospital-based early identification designed to enhance health and safety outcomes and prevent child abuse and neglect, and ensure continuation of home visiting services in certain priority high-risk neighborhoods.
SB982

HB398

  • Relating to Medical Amnesty
  • Establishes limited immunity for individuals who seek medical assistance for themselves or others experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose or other medical emergency.

 

 

Senate and House Adopt Resolutions Opposing Army Personnel Reductions

10/23/2014 Special Session - Day 2

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, District 22 – Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o Acres, Wheeler, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, portion of Poamoho

The Hawaii State Senate and House of Representatives adopted resolutions (Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 and House Concurrent Resolution 3) strongly opposing the U.S. Army’s proposal to cut back on the number of soldiers at Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter. The Senate unanimously adopted the resolutions while in the House three voted with reservations and one voted no.

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who represents the senate district where Schofield Barracks is located, offered these floor remarks during yesterday’s floor session:

As the Army is holding its Listening Sessions next week Tuesday and Wednesday, it was proposed that each chamber respectively introduce a Concurrent Resolution showing our support for our Army personnel and bases.

The Army is proposing to make significant cuts at both Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter. The obvious impacts would be a hit to our economy: $1.35 billion in payroll and $92 million in sales tax revenues.

However –we must also consider the threats from neighboring countries in the Asia-Pacific, the threat to national security.

Our communities would see the loss of volunteers for events and programs; school could be closed.

All 30 Army installations across the nation are being reviewed.

Fort Campbell, Kentucky held their Listening Session earlier this week and had to stage 3 locations due to over 1,500 people attending (*communities are stepping up as this is a very serious issue).

This is a “leave nothing unsaid” effort by communities across the nation who don’t want to see their bases downsize or risk closure.

If sequester cuts return in 2016, we stand to lose almost the 20,000 Army personnel at both of our bases.

The Day the 28th Legislature Opened


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

Opening Day, the first day of the legislative session, is an exciting time for all. Attendees rise early and flock to the Hawaii State Capitol to get first-come, first-served seats in the Senate chamber. Filled with curiosity and anticipation, they look out over the guardrails as lawmakers, dignitaries, families and friends greet each other with lei and hugs and take obligatory photos.

The Hawaii State Senate celebrated the opening of the 28th Hawaii State Legislature in a unique way by taking a trip back in time. Along with performances by Danny Kaleikini, Robert Cazimero, Marlene Sai, Debbie Nakanelua, Jeff Auhoy, Na Leo Pilimehana, Keauhou and Halau ka Liko pua o Kalaniakea, short screenings of archived footage of Hawaii’s talented musicians and kumu hula charmed the audience. The recordings complemented Senate President Donna Mercado Kim’s opening remarks and report that a facility to house and preserve Hawaiian music of yesterday and today, the Center for Hawaiian Music and Dance, is on track to be constructed atop the Hawaii Convention Center. The blast to the past highlighted Kim’s call to “dedicate ourselves to preserving what we treasure and to what makes Hawaii special.”

In her opening remarks, Kim highlighted several important issues to be addressed this session including invasive species, housing and homelessness, and public hospitals. She also shared several proposals, including:

  • Dedicating revenue from transient accommodations tax (TAT) to restore sand on beaches lost by erosion;
  • Creating an “all mail” election;
  • Establishing an office of the Inspector General to investigate fraud;
  • Abolishing the Land Use Commission to make the permitting process more efficient;
  • Starting the discussion of allowing the counties to enact a half-percent tax that would be earmarked for housing, transportation, road improvements and enforcement of transient vacation rentals;
  • Ensuring the construction of the Institute of Culinary Institute of the Pacific.

The biggest take away for most on this day would probably be the encouraging sense of hopefulness and the resounding call for cooperation amongst legislative leaders and the administration.

Find out more about the Legislature, lawmakers and how tot track bills by visiting the legislative website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim’s 2015 Opening Day Speech

2015 Opening Day

Aloha and Welcome to the Opening of the 28th Legislature!

Only in Hawaii can you experience a Legislative opening with so many flowers of Aloha. On behalf of my colleagues, I want to thank our families, friends and well-wishers for these beautiful expressions.

These flowers bring to mind this song, made popular by the folk trio – Peter, Paul and Mary:
Video of Where have all the flowers gone?

While this recording dates back more than 50 years, the power of its message has not diminished with time. These lyrics got me thinking…

And asking: Where have all our beaches gone?
Where has all the Hawaiian entertainment in Waikiki gone?
Where are the Koa and Ohia-Lehua trees? The fish and opihi?
And when will we ever learn that once it’s lost, we may not be able to get it back?

Music and Dance Center
From 1935 to 1975, the world tuned in to their radios to hear the voice of Webley Edwards. Each week, on his “Hawaii Calls” broadcast, he invited the world to experience our Hawaiian Islands, our culture and our music. The show at its peak was heard on over 750 stations around the globe.

Fortunately, most of the “Hawaii Calls” programs are not lost. In fact we will soon be realizing our goal of capturing and preserving our cultural past. Two years ago Senator Brickwood Galuteria and I proposed establishing a Center for Hawaiian Music and Dance. The Legislature appropriated funds to the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the ground work has been laid.
Tourism Chair Gil Kahele and I are happy to report that we are on track to construct this facility atop the Hawaii Convention Center. It will house, preserve, and maintain our Hawaiian music of yesterday and today….

And capture the stories of our talented musicians, kumu hula, before their work is lost. We’re doing this for future generations so they, too, will have a lasting appreciation and understanding of our enriching heritage.
With the help of HTA board chair Aaron Sala, our program later this morning will highlight a part of this past.

Environment
When “Hawaii Calls” opened each week with the sounds of the gentle surf on the beach at Waikiki, no one thought we’d ever be asking, “Where have all the sand on our beaches, and our native Hawaiian forests gone and what are we doing about it?”
Sadly, we are witnessing a significant depletion of sand on our famous beaches. Two years ago, the Department of Land and Natural Resources added 24,000 cubic yards of sand to Waikiki Beach at a cost of over $2 million. But a UH study found one-fourth of the replenished sand was gone a year later.

Can you imagine how economically and environmentally devastating it will be if we cannot find an effective solution to address this problem?

Which is why Energy and the Environment Chair Mike Gabbard and I are proposing dedicated funding using existing TAT revenues for the maintenance and restoration of beaches across the state. This bill would make available a steady source of funds to implement recommendations from a joint DLNR/County study and help preserve our marine environment.

Just as devastating is invasive species – one of the greatest threats to agriculture, the environment, and our health and lifestyle. We simply can’t afford to let up on our efforts to aggressively find and eradicate these pests.

In this vein, I am excited that in September of 2016 the World Conservation Congress will convene for the first time in 60 years in the United States, and they have chosen Hawaii as the host site for its 17th Congress. Held every four years, this is the world’s largest and most important conservation event. It aims to improve how we manage our natural environment.

This event will give us an opportunity to showcase to the 160 member countries and 8,000 delegates from around the world, Hawaii’s diversity in nature, culture, conservation, and sustainability. An extraordinary assemblage of more than 28,000 native plants and animals of which 90 percent are endemic, makes the Hawaiian Islands one of the world’s most ecologically diverse locations.

A huge mahalo to Chipper Wichman of the Federal National Botanical Gardens on Kauai for working tirelessly on this bid for the past 10 years, as well as the Department of Land and Natural Resources which is the lead State agency.

Voting

I pose another “where have they gone” question, and that is “Where have all the voters gone”? In the last election Hawaii experienced a record low voter turnout.

While this body has certainly supported initiatives to encourage greater participation we must do better to remove all the barriers and excuses. “All Mail” elections should accomplish that.

Both Oregon and Washington, have implemented vote-by-mail elections, resulting in high voter participation rates of 70 to 80 percent.

I look to our new Judiciary Chair Gil Keith-Agaran to move us towards “all mail” ballots, to be phased in over the 2016 and 2018 elections.

But colleagues, “all mail” elections are just the means; people must want to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
So we as legislators must do our part by restoring the public’s trust in government by giving them reasons to register and vote.

Good Government – Restore public Confidence
As Senate President I pledge to continue to bring transparency and accountability to the legislative process. Government officials should be held accountable for broken promises, miscalculations and bloated assumptions.

Therefore I propose we establish an office of the Inspector General that would investigate complaints alleging fraud, waste, abuse or corruption and I have asked Government Operations Chair Donovan Dela Cruz to help shepherd this legislation.

I also propose that we expand mandatory ethics training to all lobbyists, members of all boards and commissions, and employees responsible for procurement, administering state contracts or regulating private organizations.

Finances
From a financial standpoint, we have good reasons to be hopeful. The backbone of our economy has been our visitor industry and our hard working small businesses.

Despite a recent report by the Council of Revenues and other forecasts indicating that our economy may be slowing, our year-to-date tax collections are up. Tourism is experiencing consecutive months of double-digit growth in arrivals and spending, prompting the Council of Revenues to increase their forecast by 1 percent which translates to $55M each year.

Infrastructure
But, colleagues, the State and the counties continue to face many fiscal challenges.

As a former City Councilmember – and note that there are 5 of us in the Senate – we must work collaboratively with all the counties in addressing homelessness, providing affordable housing, and streamlining the land use approval process.

Together with Economic Development & Technology Chair Glenn Wakai, we believe it is time to consider giving the counties more local control over land use classifications by eliminating the Land Use Commission and overlapping operations to make the permitting process more efficient.

But with more control comes greater accountability, and in that regard the counties are urged to step up the enforcement of transient vacation rental ordinances. The state and counties are losing millions of dollars in TAT and GET revenues, money which we cannot afford to ignore.

So, I am looking to Ways and Means chair Jill Tokuda to begin the discussion of whether the counties should be granted the option of enacting a half-percent tax provided that it is earmarked specifically for housing, transportation, road improvements and Transient Vacation rentals enforcement.

Hearings on this measure will allow the Transportation Committee, chaired by Clarence Nishihara, to scrutinize the rail financial plan and obtain a full accounting for the half-percent tax surcharge the City has received thus far.

Majority Program
Certainly the issues facing us are daunting, so Senators led by Majority Leader Kalani English have spent the last few months formulating the Senate’s Majority Legislative program. Our focus is on Energy & Food Resiliency, Government Effectiveness and Community Well-Being & Smart Growth.

This brings me to the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation. HHSC is facing a $50 million shortfall for the next fiscal year and about $1 billion or more in capital improvements in the next decade. While we are on the verge of a private/public partnership for Maui, I call upon Health Chair Josh Green and Commerce & Consumer Protection Chair Roz Baker to finally resolve the HHSC issue.

Human Services Chair Susanne Chun-Oakland has the challenging task of addressing our homeless population and the shortage of affordable housing along with helping our family caregivers as they care for our Kupuna. It will take all of us pulling together, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, the counties, and private sector to come up with viable solutions.

Education
Senators, throughout our history, education has been the pathway to socio-economic success for generations of island people.
With the adoption of ACTS 51 and 130 our students have since experienced unprecedented growth in our national assessment test scores in math and reading.

Did you know that more students are graduating from high school, more enrolling in college, and fewer need remedial support?

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently visited Hawaii, something that has not happened in over 20 years. He spoke about Hawaii’s performance, saying, “The progress has been extraordinary. Hawaii by any objective measure – is one of the fastest improving states in the nation – top five states.”

But there is more work to be done. With Education Chair Michelle Kidani we have every reason to expect more improvements in our public education system, especially given the new governor’s commitment and insight.

Community Colleges
In the same light, higher education is vital in helping diversify our economy with jobs that pay a living wage for our workers.
Public higher education is driven by the University of Hawaii System. The 3 baccalaureate campuses and 7 community colleges ensure that our people have the education they need to be ready to compete and be successful in this workforce.

Note, too, that Education has grown into an industry in itself. For instance, UH has brought in 400 Million in research dollars in FY 2014 and is 12% to 15% ahead of the pace for the current year.

Not enough is said about the vital role that community colleges play in providing an affordable and flexible education. Their graduation rates have doubled and students who go on to receive degrees in STEM have increased 15 fold. Students are better prepared to move on to higher degrees or succeed in the workforce.

Many are finding success in Hawaii’s fashion industry which is generating more than $750 million in annual sales, $20 million in tax revenues and 3600 jobs, with huge growth potential.

Kini Zamora of Kapolei and Waianae’s Ari South are shining examples of the UH’s role in career development. Kini was one of the top three finalists in season 13 of the popular “Project Runway” TV series. Ari also finished in the top three in season 8.
Even after attending the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Kini said that they were teaching the same things he learned at HCC.

[Ari tells us, “The fashion technology program at Honolulu CC is the best program in the state. The instructors gave me the tools and support to be successful.”]

I’m delighted that joining us here today is Kini Zamora.

With Kini and Ari joining the ranks of our “Made In Hawaii” businesses like Tori Richards, Iolani Sportswear, Mamo Howell and others, Hawaii can surely compete as a fashion power house and attract international students to our fashion program.

The culinary arts program at various community college campuses is another example of education as an industry. The advanced training being developed by the Culinary Institute of the Pacific will train students to excel in the culinary arts and restaurant management, as well as attract students from Asia, Europe, Canada, and the mainland who want to come here to learn about our regional cuisine.

It’s a shame though that this project has lagged. So, Higher Education Chair Brian Taniguchi and I will work to ensure that Construction begins soon on the first phase of this long awaited facility at KCC on the slopes of Diamond Head. With renowned local chefs like Roy Yamaguchi, Allan Wong, Russell Siu, Sam Choy and others this has got to be a priority.

Collaboration
Ladies and gentlemen, the Senate is a body of highly capable and dedicated individuals and I am humbled to serve as President. I thank you, members for this privilege.

While we represent different constituencies, we share a commitment and responsibility to do the people’s business, always mindful that the voters have entrusted us with their future.

The Senate stands ready, and committed, to collaborate with Speaker Souki and the members of the House of Representatives, with our lone Republican Sam Slom, and with our mayors and county officials.

We are eager to work with our former Senate colleagues, the new governor, David Ige, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, and an Ige administration that is committed to putting people back to work.

There is no one who better understands the State’s challenges of balancing the needs of our citizens with our limited State resources than the former chair of the Senate’s Ways and Means committee, Gov. Ige.

Governor, I’m confident that together, we will listen and work in the best interests of the people we represent.

A Spirit of Hope
While I began this speech concerned about what Hawaii has lost over time, I am nevertheless very optimistic about our future, a future that includes the aerospace industry and space tourism, championed by Senator Will Espero and which is projected to be a million dollar industry in Hawaii.

Hawaii has an incredible history of achievement. We are the beneficiaries of the hard work, sacrifices, and spirit of hope of our parents and those who came before us. And there’s absolutely no reason that, together, we can’t continue to build on this legacy we’ve inherited.

Hawaii’s own Marcus Mariota said it best at a news conference after he accepted the prestigious Heisman Trophy. Marcus told reporters, “In Hawaii, when one person is successful the whole state is successful.” Mahalo Marcus for the success you have brought to our great State. And we join you in thanking all of the people who nurtured, mentored and sacrificed to help you be successful and in the process lift us all. Marcus joins other keiki o ka aina like President Obama, Grammy award winner Bruno Mars, Maui’s Shane Victorino and a host of island people who are just as accomplished and successful in their own fields and in their own lives.

I close by acknowledging the sacrifices of my mother and in particular my son, Micah who has been my inspiration. Yes our children are the reasons for us to put aside partisan politics and individual differences.

Let us dedicate ourselves to preserving what we treasure and to what makes Hawaii special. There is much we can do because all is not lost, YET.

Colleagues we have been given much….and as it is often quoted: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” The expectation is for us to work together to make Hawaii a place we can be proud to leave to our children. Mahalo!

Senator Josh Green schedules Informational Briefing on the costs of untreated autism to the state

5/14/14 State Hospital Hearing

State Senator Josh Green M.D. (D – Kona, Kau), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, has scheduled an Informational Briefing on the costs of autism to the state of Hawaii, particularly the costs of untreated autism. The briefing will be held in Room 414 of the State Capitol on Thursday, January 22 at 1:15 PM.

“The rate of autism has soared to as high as 1 in 68 children,” Green said, “and families across Hawaii are struggling with the enormous costs of the treatment they need to give their kids the best chance to lead healthy, productive lives.”

The purpose of the briefing is to determine the cost of autism spectrum disorders to the state of Hawaii, and in particular the long term costs of untreated autism. The following speakers will address the Senate Committee on Health:

Lorri Unumb, Esq. – Vice President, State Government Affairs, Autism Speaks

Gina Green, PhD, BCBA-D – Executive Director, Association of Professional Behavior Analysts

Michael L. Wasmer, DVM, DACVIM – Director, State Government Affairs, Autism Speaks

“Dozens of states have passed legislation to ensure that treatment for autism in children is covered by health insurance,” Green said, “because they understand the huge financial costs of leaving autism left untreated, both to families and to the state. We need to look at those costs carefully and make the right decision for Hawaii’s families, kids, and taxpayers.”

Green is an Emergency Room doctor with 15 years of experience caring for Hawaii’s families on Big Island.

For more information, contact Senator Josh Green at (808) 937-0991 or at sengreen@capitol.hawaii.gov

 

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