Progress in Hawaii’s Prison System

The Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental Affairs and Military Affairs, and the House Committee on Public Safety held a joint informational briefing on the status of the implementation of the Hawaii Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) yesterday.

Senators and representatives meet to hear  from the Council of State Governments Justice Center on the status of the State’s JRI.

JRI is a data-driven initiative that aims to reform the criminal justice system by making it more efficient, reducing prison populations, lessening crime rates, saving money and increasing public safety. The Council of State Governments Justice Center provided technical assistance by conducting a comprehensive analysis of Hawaii’s criminal justice data to identify challenges facing the state.

In response to the findings by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the Hawaii State Legislature in 2012 passed two bills, SB2776 CD1 and HR2515 CD1, that were signed into law, that reduces spending on corrections, and reinvest savings generated in strategies to reduce recidivism and crime, and increase public safety.

Policy analysts from the Council of State Governments Justice Center updated lawmakers on the current status of the JRI, one year after its implementation. Some highlights of its success include:

  • Passage of legislation requiring the use of a pretrial risk assessment which reduces sentences for certain parole violations and drug offenses, expands parole, and enhances community-based treatment and victims’ services
  • Hawaii’s incarcerated population declined 4 percent after the first year of implementation
  • The State saved $2.5 million from corrections population reductions in Fiscal Year 2013
  • The state allocated $3.4 million in Fiscal Year 2013 for expanding treatment programs and victims’ services, and initiating plans to establish a research and planning office

For more information about the Hawaii JRI, please visit the Council of State Governments Justice Center at

Solomon Supports New Laws Honoring Veterans and their Families

With a family of veterans, including a brother who lost his life during the Vietnam War, Senator Malama Solomon today attended the bill signing of HB2071 and HB1770 by Governor Neil Abercrombie in the ceremonial room to show her support of these bills.









Photo Credit: Office of Senator Malama Solomon

HB2071 designate the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Family Day,” and HB1170 requires notation of veteran status on state driver’s licenses and identification cards if desired by the applicant. Hawaii will join Illinois, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Guam in celebrating this day of remembrance

“Our military men and women deserve as much support and honor as we can provide,” said Solomon. “Today is a special day for my family and I. Both my father and brother, Randolph Solomon Sr. and Randolph Solomon Jr., are veterans, with my brother giving the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War. We love them very much and are so proud of their service to this great country.”


Hawaii Could Be Ground Zero For Improving NASA Communications With Next-Generation Spacecrafts

Senator Will Espero, along with officials from NASA, today held a press conference urging the approval of Senate Bill 2583 Senate Draft 1, a bill related to launching Hawaii’s aerospace industry through investment in a laser optical communications ground station. The measure is awaiting a hearing in the House Finance committee.

The purpose of the measure is to appropriate funds, on a matching fund basis, for an engineering assessment of a proposal to establish a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii to be conducted jointly by NASA and the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES). The study would include site surveillance and selection, an analysis of power and cooling requirements, environmental assessments and permits, an assessment of structural pads, and an analysis of roadways and clearances for the transportation of communications equipment. NASA also has the potential of investing up to $75 million into the project.

NASA currently communicates with its spacecraft through the use of Radio Frequency (RF) ground antennas. However, the ever increasing data rate requirements from more sophisticated instruments will soon surpass NASA’s ability to support ground antennas.

For the same mass and power, space laser communications technology has the potential to provide 10 to 100 times higher data rates than traditional RF systems. In 2013, this new technology was demonstrated with the Luna Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) experiment aboard the Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, which is now orbiting the moon.

“Aerospace technology research is a rapidly growing industry that has a lot of potential here on the islands,” said Espero, who introduced the measure. “NASA’s statistical analysis of weather patterns have found Hawaii to be the best location for its first operational laser communications station in a planned global network of ground stations. The project would have an astronomical effect on the economic future, by providing opportunities for improvements in Hawaii’s broadband and fiber optic infrastructure and providing high-tech jobs for our people.”


Military and Veterans Day at the State Capitol Tomorrow

Military  Veterans Day at the State Capitol1Tomorrow is Military and Veterans Day at the State Capitol. Exhibits and booths highlighting the contributions of Hawaii’s military and veteran organizations will be on display on the ground level, rotunda and third floor lanai.

Additionally, Major General Darryll Wong will hold a briefing on the status of the Hawaii National Guard and State Department of Defense at 8:30 a.m. in Room 312.

This very special event reminds us of the importance of our military and shares the experiences of our veterans, teaches future generations about events of historical significance and honors those who have fought for our freedom and inspired us to become a better nation.

Hosts Senator Will Espero and Representative Mark Takai invites all senators, representatives, staff and the general public to attend.

Senate and House Lawmakers Schedule Briefing on Navy Fuel Leak

gabbard 2013Senator Mike Gabbard, Chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, today announced that Hawaii lawmakers are taking action to protect and inform the public through an informational briefing on the Navy fuel leak situation and its impacts on our water resources.

Committees on subject matters relating to energy and environment, health, and public safety and military affairs from both the Senate and House will sit down with Navy officials and other relevant government agencies (to be announced at a later date) to learn more about the situation: how it happened, what are the impacts, and what’s being done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

The joint Senate-House informational briefing is scheduled for Friday, March 7, 2014 at 1 p.m. at the Hawaii State Capitol in Room 329. 

State of Hawaii Poised to Take Part in FAA Drone Testing

Honolulu- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today the selection of six institutions to test unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in sites located across several states in the US, including the State of Hawaii.

The University of Alaska was amongst the list of institutions elected by the FAA, and will test UAS in seven climatic zones with test sites range locations in Hawaii and Oregon.

 I am pleased to see the work of the Hawaii State Office of Aerospace Development come to fruition as the federal government has identified our islands as an ideal location for UAS research,” said Senator Will Espero, Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety  and Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “This research has the potential to grow and diversify our economy, bringing high paying jobs to our residents. It will enhance Hawaii as a test site for technology and robotics.”

The proposed research plan includes development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation.  In addition, Alaska plans to work on safety standards for UAS.

UAS have a multitude of benefits including emergency preparedness, disaster responses, search and rescue, weather research and data collection, invasive species control, ocean and other scientific research,” said Espero. “Policymakers need to define the line with which government and the private sector may operate drones to protect the privacy of all citizens.”

During the 2012 Legislative Session, the Hawaii State Legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 137 SD1 HD1, requesting the Office of Aerospace Development to develop and promote a partnership in aerospace with the State of Alaska to expand and diversify both states’ economies and the United States Space Program. The Legislature also passed Senate Resolution 73 SD1, requesting the director of the Office of Aerospace Development to coordinate comments and identify a lead entity to prepare a proposal, on behalf of the state, for Hawaii to be selected as one of the Federal Aviation Administration’s six unmanned aircraft system test sites.

Hawaii Launches Initiative to Reform Juvenile Justice System

Governor Neil Abercrombie, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, and Representative Mele Carroll (on behalf of Speaker Joseph Souki) today announced the launch of a new effort to increase public safety and hold juvenile offenders accountable for their actions, while reducing costs to Hawaii taxpayers. A new bipartisan, inter-branch working group will analyze the state’s juvenile justice system and develop data-driven policy recommendations for the 2014 Legislature.

In response to today’s launch, SenatePresident Donna Mercado Kim offered the following remarks:

I want to thank the members of the Hawaii Juvenile Justice Working Group for taking on this task.

I look forward to working with the Governor, with Speaker Souki and the members of the Legislature in passing legislation during the upcoming session so that we will be able to create a better juvenile justice system.

It costs $190,000 per year for a bed to put a youth into our correction facility and that is unacceptable. $190,000, that’s more than the cost of a four year education at the University of Hawaii or K through tenth grade at most of our private schools here in Hawaii.

And despite spending this huge amount, more than half of the youth that we put in those beds return to the system. We need a system that will hold our juvenile offenders accountable, protects public safety and controls the costs.”

To view today’s press release from the Office of the Governor:

Hawaii State Senator Brickwood Galuteria Honored with Patrick Henry Award

Honolulu- Hawaii State Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria was recently selected as a recipient of the Patrick Henry Award from the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) and the Hawaii National Guard Association for his significant contributions to the Hawaii National Guard.

Our military service members and their families embody the spirit of selfless service, making incredible sacrifices to protect our freedom,” said Senator Brickwood Galuteria, who represents Senate District 12, encompassing Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako, McCully, Moiliili. “I am deeply touched and humbled to have been selected for this prestigious award. I will continue to do my best to work with the Hawaii National Guard and others to ensure that Hawaii’s servicemen and women receive the support they deserve.”

The Patrick Henry Award, the civilian counterpart to the NGAUS Distinguished Service Metal, was created in 1989 and recognizes local officials and civic leaders, who, in a position of great responsibility, distinguish themselves with outstanding and exceptional service to the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Guard or NGAUS.

This award recognizes Senator Galuteria for his unequaled political support to the Department of Defense of the State of Hawaii, the Hawaii National Guard and the Military in Hawaii,” said Ray Jardine, who is the president and CEO of Native Hawaiian Veterans LLC and recommended Galuteria for the award. “His hard work and dedication in our State Legislature has had a direct and positive impact on the quality of life of our service members, creating a legacy that will be felt for generations to come.”

Senator Galuteria has been an unwavering champion for Hawaii’s military service members and their families,” said Major General Darryl D.M. Wong. “His exceptional leadership and work at the Legislature has demonstrated his passion and advocacy for the servicemen and women that serve this state and our nation.”

Galuteria is serving his second term as a Hawaii State Senator and is the Majority Leader of the Senate.  During his tenure at the State Senate Galuteria has served as chair of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and Tourism, and as a member on various committees.  He currently sits on the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs.

An award ceremony will be held in September 2013 as part of the 135th NGAUS General Conference and Exhibition in Hawaii.

Governor Signs Measure to Enhance Hawaii’s Firearm Registration Requirements

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie today signed into law a measure to promote gun safety and enhance registration requirements for firearms brought into Hawaii.

Senate Bill 69, relating to firearms, closes a loophole in Hawaii’s firearms law by requiring individuals who bring into Hawaii firearms produced outside of the State to undergo a background check.

With the recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newton, Connecticut, gun violence has been thrust into the forefront of many discussions across the country, including here in Hawaii,” said Senator Will Espero, who introduced the measure and chairs the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “This measure promotes gun safety by strengthening Hawaii’s firearm registration requirements and ensuring that individuals bringing firearms into our State are receiving proper background checks.”

Under Hawaii’s previous law, a person arriving in the State with a firearm was required to register the firearm, but no permit process or background check was required.  This created a loophole which allowed individuals who might have been prohibited from acquiring a firearm in Hawaii the ability to  acquire a firearm outside of this State, where a permit process or extensive background check may not be required, then possess and be considered a registered firearm owners after registering with the county police department.

SB 69, requires county police departments under certain conditions to fingerprint, photograph and perform background checks on individuals who wish to register a firearm that was procured out-of-state. The measure also authorizes the police departments to assess a fee for conducting a fingerprint check and specifies the amount of the fee. Additionally, it extends the time period for registering a firearm procured out-of-state for consistency with the time period for registering firearms obtained in or imported into the State.

Governor Enacts Homeland Security Law

(Senator Will Espero joins the Governor for the signing of Senate Bill 680, relating to homeland security.)

Honolulu- Governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law today a measure aimed at strengthening homeland security in the State of Hawaii. Senate Bill 680 enacts a homeland security law to establish a State Homeland Security Office within the Department of Defense and authorize the establishment of county organizations for homeland security.

“Hawaii’s geographic location makes us vulnerable to homeland security threats,” said Senator Will Espero, who introduced the bill and chairs the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs.  “By establishing a Homeland Security Office within the State, this measure demonstrates Hawaii’s commitment to ensure the continued safety of our citizens and visitors. The recent incident in Boston shows the need for local jurisdictions to be very attentive and take the initiative on security issues. ”

“Currently, the main focus of the State Department of Defense is mostly civil defense or emergency preparedness and the National Guard,” Espero explained. “The new office will complement the Federal Department of Homeland Security, providing a comprehensive program to help protect Hawaii’s residents, infrastructure and government from terrorism and other attacks.”

Under the law, the adjutant general will serve as the director of the State Homeland Security Office.   The office is tasked to prepare comprehensive plans and programs for homeland security and homeland defense, conduct studies and surveys of the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure and other tasks.

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