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.

 

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 16.

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.

“There are a growing number of concerns at the State Hospital,” said Senator Clayton Hee, co-chair of the Senate Special Investigative Committee on the State Hospital. “As we learn more about the inner workings at the State Hospital, it’s become clear that there are many issues that need addressing. We need to hold workers accountable for improper actions, but also equip them with the tools necessary to do their jobs.”

“The first step in solving a problem is to assess the current situation” said Senator Josh Green, co-chair of the Senate Special Investigative Committee on the State Hospital. “The hearings we hold attempts to gives us insight into what exactly is happening at the State Hospital so that we can begin to address and solve those issues with open and transparent governance.”

The next hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 16 at 11:00am in Room 16 of the Hawaii State Capitol to receive testimony from the following individuals for which subpoenas were issued:

  • Mark Fridovich, Adult Mental Health Division Administrator
  • William Elliott, Acting Hawaii State Hospital Administrator
  • Linda Rosen, Director of the Department of Health

Statement from Senator Espero

 

On the Governor’s Veto of SB2589, Relating to the Transfer of Harbor Police to the Department of Public Safety


Senator Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs, issued the following statement regarding Governor Neil Abercrombie’s veto of SB2589, relating to the transfer of harbor police from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Espero introduced the measure.

 

“I am disappointed the governor chose to veto SB2589, which transfers harbor police to the Department of Public Safety. It appears he listened to government bureaucrats more interested in protecting the status quo rather than making positive changes to the state’s law enforcement authority.

“The bill had support from both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety during the 2014 legislative session. There was no opposition. It appears that after Director Glenn Okimoto left the top post, underlings in DOT convinced the interim director to request a veto of the bill.

“The bill was part of a long-term plan to eventually consolidate all state law enforcement duties under one state agency. Currently, DLNR also has law enforcement officers as well.

“I believe the governor was given bad advice by his staff on this measure. I would like to see the issue revisited next session and once again passed out so that we can bring positive change to our law enforcement authority.”

 

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Statement from Senator J. Kalani Enlgish on the Launch of the Aloha+ Challenge

Sen. J. Kalani English today issued the following statement on the launch of the “Aloha+ Challenge: A Culture of Sustainability — He Nohona ‘Ae‘oia” with a dedication signing by the governor, four county mayors and leaders from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Senator English, chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs, was the primary introducer of SCR 69, a resolution supporting the Aloha+ Challenge.

“The Aloha+ Challenge will help keep us on the path to a sustainable future through coordinated efforts and strategic investments. It’s a commitment by government and our partners to hit our goal marks for clean energy, local food production, natural resource management, waste reduction, smart sustainable communities and green jobs and education.”

The Aloha+ Challenge sets six targets to be reached by 2030. They include:

  1. Clean Energy:  70 percent clean energy, including 40 percent from renewables and 30 percent from efficiency;
  2. Local Food:  At least double the local food production with a goal of 20-30 percent of food consumed being grown locally;
  3. Natural Resource Management:  Reverse the trend of natural resource loss mauka to makai by increasing watershed protection, community-based marine management, invasive species prevention and control, and restoration of native species;
  4. Waste Reduction:  Reduce the solid waste stream prior to disposal by 50 percent, through source reduction, recycling, and bioconversion;
  5. Smart Sustainable Communities:  Increase livability and resilience in the built environment through planning and implementation at the state and county levels;
  6. Green Workforce:  Increase local green jobs and education to implement these targets; and

For more information on SCR 69, visit: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2014/bills/SCR69_SD1_.htm

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Statement from Senator J. Kalani English on the Signing into Law of SB274, Establishing a Resilience and Sustainability Partnership

Senator  J. Kalani English today released the following statement on the signing into law of SB2742, a bill that establishes the Pacific-Asia Institute for Resilience and Sustainability. Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs, Senator English is the primary introducer of the measure and worked with stakeholders and colleagues throughout session to see the bill pass out of the legislature.

The measure creates a revolutionary and innovative public-private partnership to better approach community resilience and improve how the world addresses disruptive changes through necessary collaboration on a global level. It would in essence create a significant and well-trained network of support for the issues facing the Pacific-Asia region. The Office of the Lieutenant Governor will act as the State’s liaison to assist the Institute in carrying out its duties, and the Institute will be eligible for grants and subsidies under chapter 42F.

“A lot of people put so much work into creating the Pacific-Asia Institute for Resilience and Sustainability and I am thrilled that the governor signed it into law today. Right now, here in Hawaii, we have concerns about rising seawater threatening our shoreline, and as lawmakers we are looking ahead at how we will face these challenges and adapt to changes. The foundation of the Institution is based on helping communities become resilient and sustainable through preventive measures: assess vulnerability, identify solutions and provide support.

“An example of the Institute’s work in practice is the collaboration of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Defense (DoD), the Pacific Disaster Center with Hawaiian Electric, U.S. Pacific Command, IBM and Mehta Tech Inc. to study the potential enhancement of the security, reliability and dependability of the electric grid on Oahu, and ways to apply analytics to better predict potential risks such as natural disaster,” he added. “The partners will look at how to improve the overall grid reliability and bridge the gap between efforts to integrate alternative energy solutions and efficiently manage consumption.

“We’ll see more of these types of efforts thanks to the establishment of the Institute.”

For more information on the law, visit: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=2742&year=2014

 

 

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Town Hall Meeting Scheduled to Discuss Little Fire Ant Infestation of Residential Areas in Mililani Mauka

Senators Donovan Dela Cruz and Michelle Kidani have scheduled a town hall meeting for concerned Mililani residents to discuss how the community can work together with city and state agencies to stop the spread of Little Fire Ants (LFA).

The meeting will be held on Monday, July 14 from 7-9 p.m. at Mililani Mauka Elementary School Cafeteria. Agencies invited to the meeting are the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Department of Health, and the Invasive Species Council.

The Dept. of Agriculture last week confirmed that at least eight homes on Auina Street in Mililani Mauka are positive for LFA and the infestation has spread to the gulch.

“We wanted to take swift action and bring our community together,” said Senator Kidani. “The best way for us to control the spread of the Little Fire Ants is to educate the public on how to detect and treat infestations.”

The LFA is considered the world’s most invasive species. It has been found on Hawaii Island since 1999 and in December 2013 was detected on hapuu logs (Hawaiian fern) on Maui and Oahu. More recently, six acres in Waimanalo has been treated after detection of LFA.

“We also want to give the community an opportunity to ask questions and share concerns,” added Senator Dela Cruz. “With this being residential areas, it’s a serious discovery, and surely triggers a lot of fear and questions in people. The meeting is intended to bring awareness and set a community effort in motion to help the state combat Little Fire Ants.”

The public should report concerns of LFA infestation at the toll-free PEST HOTLINE at 643-PEST (7378).

For questions about the town hall meeting, please call Senator Dela Cruz at 586-6090 or Senator Kidani at 586-7100.

Click the image to view a flyer on how to test for Little Fire Ants.

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Statement from Senator Will Espero on the Release of $2 million for Improvements to Oahu Veterans Center

Senator Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, issued the following statement today following the governor’s release of $2 million in capital improvement project funding for Oahu Veterans Center.

“My colleagues and I in the Legislature worked to include funding in the budget for Oahu Veterans Center because the center serves as a much-needed gathering place for veterans and the surrounding community.

“Our veterans served our nation with esteem and valor and as Independence Day nears, we remember to give thanks and to show our appreciation for those who served to defend our nation’s way of life. The Oahu Veterans Center goes a long way in improving the quality of life for our veterans and the community and I am pleased that the governor has released the funding.”

The funds will go towards the final construction phase of the center which includes a new meeting hall, improvements to the driveway and infrastructure for an air conditioning system and restroom facilities.

Oahu Veterans Center

The Oahu Veterans Center at Foster Village

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Completely Stopped Drivers Exempted from Electronic Device Ban

Other Amendments to the Law Go into Effect July 1, 2014


Changes to the cell phone ban passed by the Legislature in 2013, Act 74, which prohibits the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a vehicle, takes effect today.

The amendments to the law include exempting drivers who are completely stopped, changing the penalties for violations and making a violation a traffic infraction.

“After the law was passed in 2013, we at the Legislature received a lot of complaints about the vagueness of the law and the severity of requiring violators to go to court,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, a Maui senator and chair of the Committee on Transportation and International Affairs, who introduced the measure. “It was never our intention to require violators to go to court instead of mailing in a fine. We also wanted to be very clear about what a violation was. If someone is on their phone while pulled over and completely stopped with the engine turned off in a safe location out of traffic – that seems like a reasonable and safe use of an electronic device while in a vehicle.”

The fines for the new law have changed to a flat fee of $250 for first and multiple violations and $300 for violations in a school or construction zone.

“Driving while using your cell phone or any other electronic device is just plain dangerous and irresponsible,” added English. “Fines have proven to deter people from breaking the law, but more importantly, we want to keep the people of Hawaii safe. A person’s life is significantly more important than that Facebook post or text message.”

For more information on the law, visit: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=2729&year=2014

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Senator Will Espero Calls Upon Governor To Convene Special Ad Hoc Committee to Address Prison Problems

The recent prisoner escapes and ongoing problems with Hawaii’s prison system has prompted Ewa Beach Senator Will Espero to call upon Governor Abercrombie to convene an ad hoc committee made up of experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to address the operational inefficiencies within the Department of Public Safety. The committee would be tasked with identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to improve the operations of Hawaii’s prison system.

In addition to the escapes, the Department of Public Safety has been in the spotlight for a number of problems in recent years. Prison staff have been charged with bringing illegal drugs into the facility and during a recent Senate hearing, staffing issues and the use of paid sick leave were tied to the cancellation of family visits at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.

“Previous escapes by inmates at our state’s prisons are troubling and are too numerous. It appears that there may be operational inefficiencies that need addressing. My proposal to form this ad hoc committee will help to bring stakeholders and experts to the table to determine how we can improve upon a system that may be less than fully functional,” said Espero.

The ad hoc committee could be quickly convened by the request and appointment of members by the Governor with no funding being needed. “I think we can make headway into solving this problem if we get the Department of Human Resources Development, Accounting and General Services, Public Safety, non-profits, public sector unions, and other experts in the field of prison operations to come to the table and formulate a set of recommendations,” said Espero.


In a photo taken last week, Sen. Espero questions Department of Public Safety officials during an informational hearing regarding the recent cancellation of inmate visitation hours

Senator Will Espero serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Military and Intergovernmental Affairs.

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Senator Brickwood Galuteria Attends National Conference of State Majority Leaders

Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria recently attended the State Legislative Leaders Foundation’s (SLLF) second annual Conference of State Majority Leaders.

The conference is the only national educational program designed exclusively for all House and Senate Majority Leaders. Over the course of the program the Leaders meet with peers to take a close look and explore strategies for making their caucuses and institutions more effective while exploring the unique challenges associated with being Majority Leader.

The program is a mix of substantive discussions led by a preeminent faculty as well as a closed-door (everything is on the table) session open only to Majority Leaders. It is a gathering of individuals who share one of most important jobs in the legislature.

“In order to be an efficient and effective leader, it’s important to take part in these skills-training sessions to learn and share with others who are tasked with the same job our common goals, successes and problems,” said Majority Leader Galuteria. “I’ve heard the perspective of leaders from across the nation and will be able to bring that back to Hawaii to make our caucus and institution more effective.”

During one plenary session, lawmakers heard from West Virginia policy makers and administrators about innovative education programs such as “Feed to Achieve.” This program allows schools to offer free meals to all its students regardless of income. It establishes nonprofits to raise funds through private donations to pay for the meals and other food-related programs in the state’s public schools.

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