Senate Water and Land Chair to Visit the Islands of Maui and Lana‘i

MAUI –Senate Water and Land Chair Malama Solomon will conduct site visits on the islands of Maui and Lana‘i from Wednesday, September 18 to Friday, September 20, 2013. Invited by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Senator will receive updates on various programs, projects, and concerns. Senator Gilbert Kahele, chair of the Tourism Committee, will also be joining the group.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
• Koa forest watershed project
• Iao Valley State Monument
• Lipoa Point

Thursday, September 19, 2013
• New DOCARE enforcement boat Ha’ena State Park
• Lahaina Harbor
• Manele Bay Small Boat Harbor
• Lana‘i Island watershed

Friday, September 20, 2013
• Lana‘i Island Baseyard

I applaud the Department of Land and Natural Resources for organizing these informative site visits and look forward to learning more about their work on the islands of Maui and Lana‘i,” said Senator Malama Solomon. “Through working collaboratively with the department we will be able to better define and address the needs of all of our islands.”

These visits are part of a number of statewide site visits the Senator and DLNR are conducting this interim.

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.

Senator Will Espero to Introduce Booting Regulation Legislation

In light of what is currently occurring in the local “Booting” industry, Senator Will Espero will introduce legislation next session to regulate and allow booting.  If passed, the legislation will allow booting of vehicles once strict rules are adopted by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs following public comments. Currently, Senate Bill 1214, to ban booting, is before the Governor, and a state Office of Consumer Protection lawsuit is also being heard in the courts to stop current booting.

Senator Espero believes booting can be less expensive and more convenient for drivers versus being towed and having the added expense and time involved.

I have no problem placing a cap on the amount a person can be charged after being booted,” said Senator Espero, who represents District 19 (‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages). “The idea of being booted and towed should also be discussed and possibly banned since this would be a double hit on a driver.”

Elements of legislation that Senator Espero supports that should be included in the regulation of the booting industry include:

  • The placement of clear proper signage for drivers indicating circumstances for booting
  • Machines/Equipment with written receipt capability for proof of parking payment
  • Cap on any towing if needed
  • 24 hour access to vehicle
  • Formal complaint/challenge process
  • A cap of $25-$50 for unlocking a boot.

 

Kupuna Caucus Receives Honor

The Hawaii State Legislature’s Kupuna Caucus was honored this morning for its years of outstanding service on behalf of Hawaii’s senior citizens and retirees. Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland was joined by her Co-Convener Representative Gregg Takayama in accepting the 2013 Distinguished Service Award at the Hawaii Alliance for Retired Americans and Kokua Council’s Seventh Annual Legislative Review. Representatives Marcus Oshiro, Bertrand Kobayashi and Cynthia Thielen along with members of the Caucus were also present.

This year the Hawaii State Legislature passed several priority measures from the Kupuna Caucus’ legislative package, including:  Senate Bill (SB) 102 (relating to the elderly), SB 106 (relating to aging), House Bill (HB) 120 (relating to health) and HB 200 (relating to the State Budget). These measures are currently being reviewed by the Governor.

SB 102, relating to the elderly: requires financial institutions to report instances of suspected financial abuse of an elder directly to the appropriate county police department and the Department of Human Services.

SB 106, relating to aging: establishes and funds a position for an Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Services Coordinator. Appropriates funds for programs and services that support the State’s elderly population, including Kupuna Care and Health Aging Partnership. Establishes the Task Force on Mobility Management.

HB 120, relating to health: requires the Department of Health to post on its website reports of all inspections at state-licensed care facilities occurring on or after January 1, 2015. It also establishes a Working Group on Licensed Care Facilities.

HB 200, relating to the State Budget: appropriates positions and funds for the operating and capital improvements program budget of the Executive Branch for fiscal years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. Effective July 1, 2013.

Funds for Kupuna Care, Aging Disability and Resource Center, Long Term Care Insurance Feasibility and Actuarial Analysis, the operations of the Senior Centers, Medicaid, Adult Protective Services and other elder services are included in this bill.

During the 2013 legislative session the Legislature also worked to fund several programs that help to address the care, health and continued education and advancement of Hawaii’s Kupuna. Below includes a list of appropriation highlights:

  • $4,200,000       for Kupuna Care for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 (HB200, CD1)
  • $3,600,000       for Kupuna Care for Fiscal Year 2014 (SB106, CD1)
  • $300,000          for the Healthy Aging Partnership for Fiscal Year 2014  (SB106, CD1)
  • $70,000            for an Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Services Coordinator for Fiscal Year 2014 (SB106, CD1)
  • $175,000           for Catholic Charities Hawaii for the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center for Fiscal Year 2014 (HB200, CD1)
  • $50,000           for Moiliili Community Center for the Moiliili Senior Center for Fiscal Year 2014 (HB200, CD1)
  • $60,000          for the Waikiki Community Center for Fiscal Year 2014 (HB200, CD1)
  • $8,133,402     for operating costs for the Executive Office on Aging for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 (HB200, CD1)
  • $380,000       for a Long-Term Care insurance feasibility and actuarial analysis for Fiscal Year 2014 (HB200, CD1)

Background

The Kupuna Caucus was first convened in 2006 by Senator Chun Oakland and Representative Dennis Arakaki. The idea came out of the innovative 2005 Silver Legislature, attended by 150 seniors, who played the roles of legislators, lobbyists or observers. 20 bills were passed and delivered to the leadership of the House and Senate. All have since become law.

HOUSE FINANCE AND SENATE WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRS HOLD FIRST CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MEETING OF THE 2013 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Leaders Highlight Agreement on Several Significant Budget Items

Honolulu, Hawaii – The conference meeting to negotiate differences in the state budget between the House and Senate was held a week earlier than normal to allow more discussion time for conference members and avoid the last minute rush to act on other fiscal bills.

In his opening remarks today, Senate Ways and Means Chair, David Ige said, “This is an historic convening of the conference committee.  I cannot ever remember beginning this early in the session on the budget.  I would like to commend the House for its quick action and work in passing the budget over to the Senate early, and the Senate was inspired to do likewise.”

House Finance Chair, Sylvia Luke acknowledged the leadership of Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and House Speaker Joseph M. Souki “in making it possible for us to start the conference meetings early.”  Luke added, “Today we are not only ready to officially open conference meetings, we are ready to make significant decisions.”

Of the thousands of budget items facing the conference committee, two-thirds of them have already been agreed between what was contained in the House and Senate drafts of the budget.

Today, the chairs agreed to appropriate $100 million for fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and $117.4 million for FY2015 to begin payments on the unfunded liabilities.  Currently, the unfunded liabilities for the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund is $13.6 billion.

We believe that paying down the State’s unfunded liabilities must be a priority and can no longer be left to discretion,” said Senator Ige. “Additionally, this will put the State at the leading edge of national efforts to address this issue.”

Also today, the committee agreed on appropriating about $1.2 million each year to the Charter School Commission.  This appropriation would add 15 positions.

We both agreed to fully fund the Charter School Commission to ensure that they do have the resources to conduct the audits, to establish the performance contracts, to really do the public’s business to ensure that the public charter schools are capable of providing quality educational services to our children,” said Representative Luke.

The two sides also resolved differences on four other items today.

  • An allocation of $1 million to sustain the Hawaii Health Information Exchange (HHIE) contract for FY14. The HHIE is a local non-profit organization designated by the State of Hawaii to build the statewide health information exchange, a secure electronic network that allows health care providers to transmit patient medical information more efficiently.
  • Protection against invasive species by providing $750,000 in each of the next two years for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council. These funds will support a wide variety of invasive species prevention, control, and outreach projects across the state.
  • $4.7 million over the next biennium for risk management ensuring the state is adequately protected against catastrophic losses.
  • $700,000 for FY14 for the State Library System to purchase additional books, e-books, and other circulatory materials statewide.

Additionally, Ige and Luke highlighted some of the other notable budget items upon which there was agreement in the House and Senate budget drafts.

  • $1.2 million in special funds over the next biennium to fund seven new positions, including environmental health specialists and engineers. These positions will monitor watershed and surface water quality, the state water reuse and green house gas program, air pollution control programs and the enforcement of clean water regulations.
  • Approval of $126,400 for two juvenile parole officer positions on the neighbor islands which will help keep youth with their families instead of requiring them to relocate to the Oahu Youth Facility.
  • $135,000 to fund three animal disease inspector positions that will assist in controlling livestock diseases.
  • An appropriation of $327,000 over the next two years for the Automated Fingerprint Identification System and Facial Recognition System maintenance. This will enable all county law enforcement agencies to keep their systems running 24-hours 7-days a week.
  • $100,000 in general funds and $225,000 in federal funds to upgrade 120 emergency sirens around the state.
  • Support for veteran services by providing $870,000 for the next two years for five new counselor positions, burial service support, special housing for disabled veterans, and program operations.
  • $456,000 each year in federal funds for domestic violence prevention and support services.
  • An increase in the special fund ceiling by over $700,000 for eight new food sanitation inspector positions to address an increasing number of food safety violations on Oahu.
  • Over $2.2 million for both years to restore 32 custodial positions for the maintenance and upkeep of Honolulu International Airport. As the first and last place that visitors will see during their trip, it is important to create a pleasant impression for all visitors to Hawaii.
  • Nearly $81 million in FY14 for the repair and maintenance of our state highways.

The conference committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow, Friday, April 12 in conference room 309 at 2:30 p.m.

Senate Votes to Pass More Than 100 Measures Ahead of Second Crossover

On April 9, 2013 the Hawaii State Senate voted to pass 136 measures on third reading ahead of Thursday’s Second Crossover deadline. Today marked the 46th day of the 27th Legislature.

Thursday is the last day for the Senate to pass House bills amended by the Senate and the House to pass Senate bills amended by the House on Third Reading. After Second Crossover, members of both chambers will review the amendments made to their bills by the opposing chambers and deciding whether to agree or disagree to them. Thursday is also the last day to disagree, and the Senate and House will then convene conference committees to work out the differences and reach final agreement.

To view the complete list of measures passed on third reading today by the Senate, click here.

State Senate Confirms Jobie Masagatani as Chairperson of the Hawaiian Homes Commission

(Senators confirm Jobie Masagatani as Chairperson of the Hawaiian Homes Commission.)

Honolulu –  The Hawaii State Senate today confirmed Jobie Masagatani as the Chairperson of the Hawaiian Homes Commission.  Upon confirmation, Masagatani had been serving as the Commission’s Chairperson Designate.

Jobie is well qualified to serve the people of Hawaii and the constituents of the Hawaiian Homes Commission,” said Senate Majority Brickwood Galuteria, who serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs and Tourism.  “I am confident that she has the vision and commitment to carry out the mission of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.”

She began her career as a Budget Examiner in the Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President of the United States. She returned to Hawaii in 1990 and worked as a Land Investment Analyst for the Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate.  In 1993, she became a Project Manager for Hawaii Real Estate Research and Education Center at the University of Hawaii.  Masagatani then served as Deputy to the Chairman of the Hawaiian Homes Commission from 1995-2002.

Subsequently, she took a position as Assistant to the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Queen’s Health Systems where she was instrumental in developing the strategic plan to address Native Hawaiian health issues. Masagatani eventually returned to public service when she was hired as the Public Policy Program Manger at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the School of Education at Northwestern University and continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Public Affairs/Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University.

Hawaii State Senate Introduces More Than 0ne Thousand Bills

This year, the Hawaii State Legislature introduced 2,872 bills. The Hawaii State Senate introduced 1, 388 bills on this first year of the 27th Legislative biennium. In the 2012 Session, Senators introduced 1,072 bills.

Wednesday, January 24, 2013 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 7, 2013. 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 by the March 7 deadline.

To see the current list of all Senate Bills introduced this Session, click on the link to the website report: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/report.aspx?type=introsbactive.

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 for your review.  The reports are easily downloadable for your use.  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.

Ask Your Senator

Education Week at the State Capitol is right around the corner! This year marks the 10th anniversary of Education week, which will be held from March 18 to March 22. Organized by the Hawaii State Senate Committee on Education, this interactive week-long celebration honors the achievements and innovative efforts of our local schools, educators and various programs throughout the state from early childhood to the university level. Hawaii State Senators are once again taking the event to the classroom with the “Ask Your Senator” project, to find out what our future leaders want to know about their State. This is the second year of the “Ask Your Senator” project.

The concept behind the “Ask Your Senator” project is simple. We want to know what classrooms and students from across the State are thinking, by asking them to ask us, their Senators, a question. After the questions are collected, Senators will take the time to answer select questions through online videos, which will be shared with the students as well as with the wider community.

This project provides opportunity for students to lead the discussion, through student driven and student oriented questions. Students may take part of the “Ask Your Senator” project as a group (school or classroom) or as an individual student. The various ways you can participate are listed below. Questions will be collected between March 4th and March 13th. Once questions are selected, Senators will answer questions through videos which will be published online and sent back to the schools, classrooms, and individual students.

If you need help coming up with questions to ask, example questions could include topics in the areas such as: the legislative processes, issues or problems in your community, or general questions about the role of the legislature.

Ways to participate in “Ask Your Senator”

Email- Send your question (s) or video link to scomm@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Twitter- Use the hashtag #HIAskYourSen

Facebook- There are several ways you can send a message on Facebook:

* Share your message to the Hawaii Senate Majority Facebook page under the note Section, Ask Your Senator?
* Share your message with your Senator on their Facebook page.
YouTube/ Online Video- Email your YouTube/ Online video link to scomm@capitol.hawaii.gov.

If you would like your video to be shared on the Senate and Senate Caucuses’ webpages/ social media please complete the attached media release form: MEDIA RELEASE FORM (2013 Ask Your Senator)

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim’s Opening Day 2013 Remarks

Aloha.

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to welcome you to the Senate’s opening session of the 27th Legislature.

It’s heartwarming to see so many familiar faces, but this year begins with several newcomers to the Senate: representing Kahului and Wailuku is Gil Keith-Agaran… from Ka‘u and Puna comes Russell Ruderman … and from Windward Oahu and East Honolulu is Laura Thielen.  Please join me in welcoming them to these chambers.

Let’s also acknowledge the lone voice of the minority, Senator Sam Slom. While he’s but one strong, he’s been a devoted voice for his party and he’s “still here.”

I’ll confess that it’s a very humbling experience to stand before you this morning. I grew up a stone’s throw from this building, in Kalihi-Palama, as one of five kids in a poor working-class family.  Like many of you, both my parents worked and struggled to keep food on the table, and a roof over our heads.  Given those modest beginnings, never could I have imagined that I would someday be standing before you as Senate President.  I thank you, colleagues, for this tremendous privilege.

The Hawaii of our childhood was a lot different than it is today:

We had a smaller population, an economy still largely dependent on agriculture, no freeways, no traffic congestion, fewer of the social ills that we now see, and a smaller, and no doubt simpler, government.  We were blessed with a strong spirit of community.  We took care of each other.  As kids, we played with tops, bean bags, and marbles, in the streets with friends from the neighborhood.  We walked to school together and we were unburdened by the concerns that we worry about these days.  Places like Palama Settlement and my alma mater, Farrington High School, shaped our lives and prepared us to be responsible adults and leaders.

Then there was that special teacher, aunt, or uncle who mentored and influenced our lives.  For me, it was Kumu Hula Aunty Maiki Aiu, who instilled in me the traditional Hawaiian core values of aloha, lokahi (harmony), kuleana (responsibility) and  »ha‘a ha‘a (humility).  Through hula she taught me discipline, respect, hard work, and grace.  These values are the foundation of our kupuna that has been handed down from generation to generation. Mahalo Senator Solomon and the Beamer-Solomon halau for perpetuating this legacy.

While we may not have realized it at the time, the incredible changes that came with the Democratic revolution of 1954, statehood a few years later, and the socio-economic evolution that followed statehood, were the catalysts that built the foundation for much of the work we have continued to build upon to this day.  But like any structure, no matter how good the initial foundation,  it still requires upkeep and constant care.

The last recession may have weakened our foundation, so now is the time for reassessment and reinforcement.

Beyond our personal hopes and wishes, I speak of what the Legislature has done to further the progress of our people:  in our public education system … in the growth of charter schools … in the University of Hawaii.

Under Consumer Protection, Chair Roz Baker’s work for health insurance coverage for individuals and families… in laws that give protections to workers, guided by Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee … working for services that help our children and kupuna and those unable to help themselves, under the watch of Human Services Chair Suzanne Chun Oakland.

These, and so many other programs and services that enrich our lives and contribute to our quality of life, we can and must continue.

After several years of belt-tightening, we’re greeting this session with a rosier economic outlook.  The Council on Revenues has projected that tax revenues will increase by five percent this year, indications that the economy continues to improve. Our visitor industry remains strong, and other industries like construction are poised to make a comeback.

Tourism deserves a special mention.  The visitor industry continues to be a driving force for the economy, helping to power our recovery.  Last year, tourism brought two billion dollars more to the economy over the year before.  More than 166,000 jobs are supported by tourism, and its indirect impact is just as far-reaching.

Our island visitor bureaus, our worldwide marketing partners, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority, under the leadership of Mike McCartney and board chair Ron Williams, deserve our applause for these accomplishments.

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit demonstrated that Hawaii has a global presence.  Our host culture can teach, touch, bridge, and inspire those who embrace Hawaii and our people.  Hawaiian music and dance transcend differences in race, nationality, or language.  Aunty Maiki Aiu’s passion to preserve and perpetuate this aspect of Hawaiian culture inspired me and that’s why I have long advocated the establishment of a museum/center of Hawaiian music and dance.  An ideal location would be atop the Hawaii Convention Center. What better place to share the heart and soul of our host culture with residents and visitors alike.  Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs Chair Brickwood Galuteria and I challenge the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to work together to make it happen.

But with the strong visitor numbers and prospect of more revenues, and what I’d term “pent-up demand” to restore the budget cuts we’ve had to make, it might be tempting and politically popular for us to return to the spending patterns of more prosperous times.  We should proceed with caution.  After all, the salary cuts for state employees will expire this year.  The administration is negotiating new labor agreements with the public employee unions and this will be a major cost item in the budget.

Nationally, the Presidential campaign and Congressional wrangling over the federal budget reflect great divisions in our nation.  Here at home, we face monumental changes in politics.  The death of our senior Senator Dan Inouye which we are still mourning and the retirement of beloved Senator Daniel Akaka have triggered a ripple effect that will have an impact on our State.

We still have lingering fiscal concerns and potential new ones, among them possible cutbacks in federal funding, and many are looking to the state to make up the difference.  Add to this the backlog of repair and maintenance needs for schools, parks, public housing, state buildings, and our infrastructure.  There are initiatives to establish a state-run early education program, a new prison, and more affordable housing, as well as proposals for more grants-in-aid and other public support.

Despite all of these demands, and the anticipation of better economic times, I hope, first and foremost, that there will be NO new tax burdens thrust upon our citizens … that we will not automatically open the taxpayers’ pocketbooks to every budget request, every new proposal, every capital improvement project.

I am not saying that we should not consider new initiatives.  After all, the Legislature is a forum for new ideas, new ways of doing things to better our quality of life.  But as we weigh their merits, let’s also look at the merits of what we already have.  Reevaluating and reassessing what we have in place may not be sexy or innovative, but these must be done if we are to achieve our purposes more efficiently and effectively than we have been.

While we consider early childhood education proposals, it’ s imperative that we resolve our problems with the teachers’ contract, school bus services, and the many challenges facing the Department of Education and our charter schools.  To help resolve these and other cost items, I call upon the administration to work with us to eliminate salary overpayments to state workers and abuses in overtime and sick leave. These translate into millions of dollars.  Let’s use these savings and the additional revenues forecast by the Council on Revenues to accelerate fixing our schools, funding kupuna care, reducing the unfunded liability of the state pension system, and repairing our roads and aging infrastructure.

The collapse of the Farrington High School’s auditorium-roof was a loud warning,that we need to quickly assess the structural soundness of our aging facilities. Fortunately no one was injured, but we may not be so lucky the next time.

Likewise, we mustn’t create or reinstitute public programs without a thorough examination of their long-term obligations.  If we authorize new positions, what are the long-term financial obligations with regard to rising labor, pension, and health care costs?  For every new building, how much will it cost to operate, maintain, and eventually repair or replace?  Those costs should be factored into our five-year balanced budget requirement and we’ll look to Ways and Means Chair David Ige and Vice Chair Michelle Kidani to help us accomplish this.

The author Richard Schickel wrote, “The law of unintended consequences pushes us ceaselessly through the years, permitting no pause for perspective.”  With that thought in mind, we should pause to review the laws we have on the books.  Are they working?  Are they serving their intended purpose or are they barriers?

The Legislative Auditor—I’d be remiss in not acknowledging the outstanding work of Marion Higa, who’s an icon and who we wish well in her retirement — the Auditor is only able to evaluate a fraction of our innumerable  public programs.

The “Report on the Implementation of State Auditor’s 2008 Recommendations” was released last February. It stated that less than one-third of the 2008 recommendations have been implemented. We could definitely do better in acting on the Auditor’s recommendations, and not wait until a problem is reported by the news media or brought to our attention by constituents.

Some examples include the HI-5 recycling program, the Public Land Development Corporation, airport procurement contracts, Charter Schools, certain tax credits, and a host of other statutes and requirements that affect us all.  We need to either fix or repeal laws that are not working as they were intended, or which have created burdens that were unforeseen at the time of their establishment. To accomplish this, I call upon my fellow House and Senate members to use the post-session interim to initiate these evaluations, since there is never enough time in our hectic 60 day legislative session.  Our extensive network of boards and commissions could also assist us in this oversight and evaluation process.

Higher Education Chair Brian Taniguchi has the task of following up on the issues raised during the Special Committee on Accountability’s hearings on the University of Hawaii. What resonated from those hearings is that those appointed as stewards of the public’s trust are responsible for the performance of the organizations they oversee and therefore must be held accountable. Yes, we are indebted to these volunteer public servants for their willingness to devote their time without compensation. But we also need them to be the public’s watchdogs. Beyond their Senate confirmations, they should be called back to report to this body on what they see as the problems, as well as the opportunities, facing the organizations they help govern.

In order to assure food security, farmers need our assistance and commitment to preserve prime agricultural lands. These are long-standing goals that have been slow to accomplish. In a recent visit to Israel, I was surprised to learn that Israel produces 95 percent of its food, despite the fact that more than half of its land is desert and the climate and lack of water resources do not favor farming. If Israel can successfully farm on desert land, then imagine how much we can produce on our lands.  So we need to seriously preserve prime farm lands by purchasing them, as we did with the Galbraith Estate. I ask Agricultural Committee Chair Clarence Nishihara to pursue this. I also urge the counties to expedite the completion of their identification and mapping of important agricultural lands.

Because of my experience on the Honolulu City Council and the Hawaii State Association of Counties, I am an advocate for county home-rule. There’s more we can do to streamline the duplication and overlapping of state/county jurisdictions that are confusing to those we serve. Let’s not forget that we serve the same constituency and they don’t care whose jurisdiction it is, they just want it done! In accomplishing this, we could realize additional savings and be more efficient.  With former Council members Governor Abercrombie, Senators Donovan Dela Cruz, Kalani English, and Vice President Ron Kouchi, I am hopeful that we can all work together with the counties to finally resolve these issues.

Respecting home-rule also has the added benefit of making government less Oahu-centric.  Our new Lieutenant Governor and Maui resident Shan Tsutsui made that point in accepting his appointment and I believe it’s an important cause worth pursuing.

A step in that direction is the Senate’s launch of a pilot video conferencing project this session.  The Education Committee and the Technology and Arts committee will be utilizing video conferencing in their hearings, to enable and encourage the participation of neighbor island residents.  Our thanks to Chairs Jill Tokuda and Glenn Wakai for leading the Senate in this endeavor.

I’m excited, colleagues, about working with all of you, the members of the House of Representatives, Governor Abercrombie and his administration, and our community in the weeks ahead.  Much of what I outlined today did not occur overnight and will take more than one legislative session to accomplish.  So let’s begin today!

In closing, I am reminded of this quote, “When we least expect it, life sends us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change.”  What better opportunity than now to heed these words.

Colleagues, we come from different places, different backgrounds. You have your own reasons and your own stories for being here.  And while we may have differing opinions on the issues of the day, we must be united in our commitment to this institution, to collaboration, to being accountable to the constituents we serve, to building a better Hawaii and to “live aloha.” This is our challenge.

God Bless you all!

Mahalo.

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