Sen. Solomon Announces Release of $1 Million for Kohala Hospital Repairs

Sen. Malama Solomon today announced the release of $1,000,000 in capital improvement funds for repairs and updates to Kohala Hospital. She issued the following statement:

“Mahalo to Governor Abercrombie for releasing the funding for much-needed repairs and improvements to Kohala Hospital,” said Senator Malama Solomon (District 4, Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona). “The hospital has served the small community for almost 100 years, and with these funds we can bring Kohala into the future and keep up with changes in healthcare.”

Kohala Hospital is a 28-bed Critical Access Hospital (CAH) with 24 hour emergency services. It has serving the North Kohala community since 1917.

Statement from Senate President Donna Mercado Kim on the Passing of Former Hawaii Island Lawmaker Robert “Bob” Herkes

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim today issued the following remarks on the passing of former lawmaker Robert “Bob” Herkes, who passed this week at 83:

“I am saddened to learRep Herkes Christmas 2011n of the passing of former lawmaker Robert “Bob” Herkes and my thoughts and prayers are with Jo-Anna and their family. Our state lost a revered man who dedicated his life to public service, and we were lucky to have him serve as a state senator, state representative and Hawaii County Council member. Even after leaving the Legislature, Bob never stopped contributing to the well-being of our state. The Senate in April confirmed him as a member of the Hawaii Tourism Authority Board and he was scheduled to attend his first meeting just a few days ago. Until the end, he was committed to improving the lives of Hawaii’s people.

“Bob cared deeply about his home and its people. He fought tirelessly to strengthen our communities and create a better life for all. Many will remember him for effectively passing legislation helping homeowners during the mortgage foreclosure crisis, and spearheading efforts to address the impacts of VOG on health and safety, agriculture, the economy and tourism. Because of his work, Hawaii Island received a mobile medical van that acts as a roving clinic in under-served areas.

“He was a respected lawmaker, sharp businessman and compassionate mentor and friend. We will miss him dearly.

“On behalf of the Hawaii State Senate, we offer our deepest condolences to his wife Jo-Anna, sons Bob, Ken and Dough, and all family and friends at this difficult time.”

Mililani High School Valedictorian Receives Scholarship From National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislatures

A Mililani High School graduate is one of just eleven students from across the U.S. selected to receive a college scholarship award from the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislatures (NHCSL).

Isis Usborne, a valedictorian from the MHS Class of 2014, will use the $3,000 grant to help with tuition and expenses as she enrolls at UH Manoa for the fall semester. The John S. Martinez Closing the Achievement Gap Scholarship was created in memory of the late Connecticut State Representative and former NHCSL President John S. Martinez to recognize the values most important to him – leadership, innovation, compassion and public service.

Applications for the award are accepted from high school seniors of Hispanic ethnicity who attend schools in legislative districts represented by state lawmakers who are also of Hispanic descent. Mililani High School is located in Senate District 18, represented by Senator Michelle Kidani who is of Puerto Rican descent. The school also serves students and families in the adjacent District 22, represented by Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, also of Puerto Rican descent. Both Senators are active members of the National Hispanic Caucus.

“Mililani is a diverse community where we celebrate and share each other’s heritage,” Senator Kidani said. “I encourage Hispanic students in my district to apply for this prestigious award each year, and we are so pleased to congratulate Isis for her outstanding accomplishments that easily qualified her for the Martinez scholarship.”

Isis has displayed admirable leadership, academic excellence and a passionate commitment to community. She was a Valedictorian in her graduating class with a 4.089 GPA – achieved while successfully completing six Advanced Placement classes. She received multiple honors for her academic work, including awards at district and state science and engineering fairs, and as a member of the Mililani High School We the People constitutional studies team that travelled to Washington, D.C. for national competitive events.

In her community, Isis has been a legislative intern and participated in numerous service activities – including tutoring and mentoring fellow students, campus beautification programs and events to promote health and environmental awareness. “Students like Isis who are high achievers always have a terrific support team behind them,” Senator Kidani added. “We are grateful to her dedicated teachers and mentors at Mililani High School and to her family and friends who have been with her through the last four years.”

Hawaii Island Receives $300,000 for Wastewater and Highway Improvements

Senator Malama Solomon (District 4 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona) released the following statement on the administration’s release of nearly $300,000 for wastewater and highway capital improvement projects on Hawaii Island:

• $47,000 for transportation improvements to Queen Kaahumanu Highway at the intersection of Kawaihae Road
• $250,000 for design and construction at Waimea Baseyard Wastewater Systems

“These projects are important to the people of Hawaii Island and I’m glad the governor released the funding for these much-needed improvements.

“Although there has been delays in work at Kawaihae Road and Queen Kaahumanu Highway intersection for a variety of reasons, I’m looking forward to its completion as changes will help with the flow of trafSen.MalamaSolomon_2013Legislature_Final(Cropped)fic and address safety concerns shared by the community.

“I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I did to ensure money flowed to projects such as the quarter of a million dollars for upgrades to wastewater systems in Waimea. Making these necessary upgrades will help create a more safe and effective sewer complex through the modernization of aging sewage treatment facilities.

 

LEGISLATIVE OFFICES WILL BE CLOSED FRIDAY AS TROPICAL STORMS ISELLE AND JULIO HEAD TO OAHU

House Speaker Joseph M. Souki and Senate President Donna Mercado Kim today announced that Legislative offices will be closed on Friday, August 8, 2014.  All non-essential legislative personnel are being asked to stay at home and off the roads as tropical storms Iselle and Julio bear down on Oahu.

Employees are encouraged to take precautions for their personal safety and follow media reports for up to date information on the pending storms.

The State Capitol will also be closed on Saturday, August 9 as both house chambers will be used by the Office of Elections as its Control and Counting Center Operations.

Normal office hours are expected to resume on Monday, August 11th unless otherwise directed.

 

Lawmakers Hold Briefing on the State’s Application and Plan for Community Services Block Grant

The Hawaii State Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor and the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment will hold an informational briefing Friday to get an update on the State of Hawaii’s Application and Plan for Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) for fiscal years (FY) 2015 and 2016.

“The Community Services Block Grant provides federal funding for Hawaii to determine its goals and objectives and implement initiatives to address poverty issues,” said Senator Clayton Hee, chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. “CSBG grant funding improves the quality of life and raises the welfare of our state’s residents.”

“We rely on this federal funding to enhance the livelihood of our state,” said Representative Mark Nakashima, chair of the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment. “When we address the root causes of poverty, we can begin to plan for improvements to lessen poverty’s effect.”

The State of Hawaii’s CSBG Application and Plan for FY 2015 and 2016 was released for public comment on June 9, 2014. Federal law requires the state to post its plan and hold public hearings on the matter.

CSBG is administered federally by the Office of Community Services within the Administration of Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services and by the State of Hawaii Department of Labor’s Office of Community Services at the local level. CSBG funding is used to support efforts to assist low-income families and individuals. Funding is available to all four county Community Action Agencies including Honolulu Community Action Program, Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council, Maui Economic Opportunity, and Kauai Economic Opportunity.

The State CSBG Application and Plan for FY 2015 and 2016 is available online at: http://labor.hawaii.gov/ocs/files/2012/11/CSBG-State-Plan-2015-2016.pdf

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State Hospital Administrators Subpoenaed to Testify Before Senate Investigative Committee

The Hawaii State Senate continues its investigation into allegations of misconduct at the State Hospital on Wednesday, July 30 at 10 a.m. in Room 16 of the Hawaii State Capitol.

Scheduled to testify are the following individuals for which subpoenas were issued:

  • William May, Hawaii State Hospital Administrator
  • William Sheehan, Hawaii State Hospital Associate Administrator of Clinical Services

“We’re continuing our investigation into the Hawaii State Hospital and asking the relevant and hard-hitting questions so that we can make it a safer place for employees and patients while ensuring proper execution in employment policies practices,” said Sen. Clayton Hee, co-chair of the Senate Investigative Committee on the State Hospital. “We are also looking forward to discussing with Mr. May the future of the hospital and how he anticipates to get there.”

“We have held nine hearings thus far and each time we learn something new do about the environment of the hospital,” added committee co-chair Sen. Josh Green, who is also an emergency department physician. “As the process moves on, we’re seeing some changes and by the end of our investigation I expect to have comprehensive understanding of all its problems, from worker injuries to accusations of nepotism and mismanagement.”

Senator Clayton Hee and Senator Josh Green at the July 16, 2014 hearing of the Senate Special Investigative Committee on the Hawaii State Hospital.

The Special Investigative Committee on the State Hospital was formed during the 2014 legislative session to conduct an investigation of the workplace safety of psychiatric workers and allegations of administrative improprieties and failure to conform to established employment policies and practices at the Hawaii State Hospital. The hearings began in March to receive testimony from subpoenaed individuals and has been ongoing as senators take a wide-ranging and in-depth look at the State Hospital.

For more information on the investigative committee, please visit: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/specialcommittee.aspx?comm=hsh

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Lawmakers Highlight Need for More Affordable Housing and Statewide Coordination at Informational Briefing with State and City Agencies

Joint Senate and House informational briefing on affordable housing in Hawaii

With the shortage of affordable housing options for the moderate income workforce, Hawaii lawmakers today held a joint Senate and House informational briefing to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii.

Senators and representatives heard from various government agencies to learn about the status of existing and planned affordable housing projects, and their plans to address the growing need for affordable housing as the state’s population and housing demands increase.

“We convened this informational briefing because there’s an urgent need for affordable housing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. “And it’s necessary that we get everyone involved at each level and at the same table to discuss where we are at, what we are doing and what needs to be done to meet the housing needs of Hawaii’s residents.”

In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) released the Hawaii Housing Planning Study which revealed 50,000 new units needed to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet demands. Of that number, based on Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) income guidelines, about 19,000 are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and below. (This is $43,250 for 1-person household, and $61,750 for 4-person household). HHFDC has procured a new updated study that will be released later this year.

Senator Chun Oakland and Representative Hashem receive updates on existing and planned affordable housing projects from government agency officials

“Hawaii’s workforce deserves to live in housing they can afford,” said Rep. Mark Hashem, chair of the House Committee on Housing. “Nearly half of Hawaii’s homeless population are working persons who are unable to afford steady permanent housing. In addition to addressing the housing shortage for those at AMI, we also need to ensure there is enough help for hard-working low-income individuals to obtain housing units.”

During the briefing, lawmakers questioned the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) about reserved housing requirements for workforce housing in the Kakaako district.

“Our constituents remain concerned that developers are reserving affordable housing units at the 140% of AMI mark, which is not reasonable for many of Hawaii’s working population,” said Chun Oakland. “HCDA needs to be doing more to address the housing needs of the people at 100% of AMI and below.”

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, questioned the siloed approach to planning for affordable housing projects for transit oriented development (TOD).

Senator Dela Cruz at a July 23, 2014 informational briefing on affordable housing

“It seems like all agencies have their own plan and no one is working together,” said Dela Cruz. “Instead of this siloed approach to workforce housing in relation to TOD, there must be an overall statewide approach. There’s going to be housing located around the various TOD stations. Why are we not working together?”

This past session, the legislature created a TOD Working Group to bring together all major players to plan for the future in a comprehensive and succinct way.

Senator Espero at a July 23, 2014 informational briefing on affordable housing

Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, expounded on the effect veterans returning home will have on Hawaii’s housing needs in the future.

“Our veterans fought for our nation’s principles of freedom and liberty and deserve to raise their families in housing they can afford,” said Senator Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “As our veterans return home, we need to ensure they have access to services to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian life.”

Other issues related to affordable housing discussed included the growing number of people on the waitlist of public housing and Hawaiian homelands. In public housing, there is approximately 30,000 people waitlisted (using three people per family as the average). That is about 10,000 families on the waitlist. For Hawaiian homelands, 26,926 applicants are waitlisted and 43,080 applicants are pending.

During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved measures to help with affordable housing. They include:

  • SB2542 (Act 163) – Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to 50% beginning July 1, 2014. It is estimated that this law will generate $33,100,000 for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, which is used to leverage funds for the building of affordable housing units.
  • HB2251 (Act 162) – Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750 million to $1 billion. The program will help first-time buyers afford a 30-year mortgage at a competitive rate and provides down payment assistance. There’s a high demand for this type of financing and in 2013 the total dollar value of requests exceeded the amount available. Increasing this amount will allow for the continuation of development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income households.

The following government agencies who provided testimony include Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Department of Defense, City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Housing.

All of the briefing material posted here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2014/testimony/INFO_TESTIMONY_HMS-EGH-PSM-HSG_07-23-14.pdf

Statement from Senator J. Kalani English on the Release of $500,000 for New Lanai Community Health Center

Senator J. Kalani English today released the following statement on the release of $500,000 in capital improvement grant funds for a new Lana’i Community Health Center (LCHC) facility. Sen. English represents District 7, which includes Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, and Kaho‘olawe.

Rendering of the new Lanai Community Health Center

Floor plan of the of the new Lanai Community Health Center

“My colleagues and I worked hard to secure the $500,000 in the state budget to help fund the LCHC project.

“The people of Lana’i deserve a new center in a prime location to provide better access for those who need these types of necessary healthcare and dental services. With its larger design in a central location, more people in this remote area will receive care from top-notch professionals.

“The healthcare providers at LCHC have over the years showed their commitment to the people of Lana‘i. In fact, several of the Center’s doctors were named in Honolulu Magazine’s Best Doctors in Hawaii list. I also applaud the Center’s officials and staff on the work they have done to see this new facility come to fruition.”

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Tranquility Base Day in Hawaii

This Sunday (July 20) will mark the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, when Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans in history to walk on another world. This seminal event helped launch humankind’s first steps beyond Earth, and the State of Hawaii played an instrumental role in both training the Apollo astronauts for their historic mission (at multiple lava fields on the Big Island of Hawaii) and in providing a communications link with the Apollo spacecraft (through the Koke’e Tracking Station on Kauai) during its sojourn to the lunar surface.

In recognition of this occasion and our State’s support for and continued involvement with space exploration, the Hawaii State Legislature unanimously passed SCR 82 during the 2014 Session, which established July 20, 2014 as “Tranquility Base Day” in Hawaii. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also commemorating this historic occasion through a video presentation in which he discusses Hawaii’s role in the Apollo Program, as well as the substantial scientific, educational, social, and commercial opportunities and benefits the aerospace industry in general (and space exploration in particular) can bring to our Aloha State.

“Hawaii has positioned itself to become an active participant in the aerospace industry,” said Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “Space tourism, regional unmanned aerial systems test site, small satellite launches, a research park on the Big Island based on space exploration, robotics, and laser telecommunications are areas that Hawaii can be a leader in the aerospace world.”

“We are on the verge of expanding and establishing a niche market around science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he added. “This industry will be good for Hawaii residents, our nation, and the world.”

For more information, please contact the office of Senator Will Espero at 808-586-6360 or the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development at 808-383-9811.

 

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