Senate Hawaiian Affairs Caucus and OHA Take Issue with “Hula” App

Hawaii Leaders Urge CEO to Cease Use of the Native Hawaiian Word Hula

In defense of the cultural practice and intellectual property of Native Hawaiians, two leading state organizations on Hawaiian affairs are asking the creator of an app that helps people get tested for STDs to stop using and branding the word “Hula.”

The app, which at one point used marketing phrases as “it helps you get lei’d,” connects users to various STD testing facilities and promotes itself as the new platform to have discussions about STD.

The letter, signed by members of the Hawaii State Senate Hawaiian Affairs Caucus and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), is addressed to the chief executive office of, Inc., Ramin Bastani, and identifies two key issues that are of concern:

  • Hula is a sacred Native Hawaiian cultural expression and important cultural property;
  • Naming a commercial product after a Native Hawaiian sacred cultural expression without meaningful consultation is inconsistent with state, international, and the Native Hawaiian people’s policies.

Although recognizing and appreciating the efforts of the company to support STD awareness and prevention, the letter also notes that the use of word “Hula” is hewa (or wrong) because it “represents a highly insensitive, tactless and inappropriate misappropriation of a culturally sacred and cherished practice.”

“It’s unfortunate some think that it’s okay to throw culturally-meaningful expressions around without thinking about the group of people it may affect. Hula is a sacred dance that Native Hawaiians cherish,” said Senator Malama Solomon. “As Hawaiians it is our kuleana (or responsibility) to protect our cultural traditions. We don’t want to see continued disrespectful and inappropriate commodification of our culture.”

According to the letter, hula remains an important medium for the perpetuation and preservation of Native Hawaiian history and culture, and continues to be vital for the mental, physical and spiritual health of individuals as well as the Native Hawaiian Community.

The Hawaii State Constitution recognizes and protects Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, including cultural expressions and practices such as hula. The state legislature has also affirmed “that the Native Hawaiian people are recognized as indigenous, traditional knowledge holders and they have collective intellectual property rights. Additionally, the United States supports the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”), which confers upon indigenous peoples the right to maintain and control traditional knowledge, cultural traditions and intellectual property relating to their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression and manifestations.

Senators who signed the letter include: Senators Malama Solomon, Committee on Water and Land; Brickwood Galuteria, Senate Majority Leader; Clayton Hee, Judiciary Committee; J. Kalani English, Transportation and International Affairs Chair; Maile Shimabukuro, Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chair; Gilbert Kahele, Tourism Committee Chair and Michelle Kidani; Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair.

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To read the full letter, click here:  Hawaiian Affairs Caucus Letter to

Senate District 1 on Hawai‘i Island to Receive Nearly $52 Million in Funding

Yesterday the Hawai‘i State Senate approved on final reading HB1700, the state supplemental budget bill, which includes nearly $52 million for Hawai‘i Island’s Senatorial District 1 consisting of South Hilo, including portions of Pauka‘a, Pi‘ihonua, Ka?mana, Wai?kea, and Keaukaha, represented by Senator Gilbert Kahele.

“I fought to secure funding for our district so that our communities are maintained and that we remain economically viable,” said Senator Kahele. “Funding these projects and programs improve the quality of life for our residents so that we can enjoy time with our family and friends. I am pleased that my colleagues and I were able to report a final compromise bill out of the money committees last week that benefits all of Hawai‘i and that the full Senate could agree on.”

Highlights of funding to Senate District 1 include:

$200,000              Hawai‘i County Economic Opportunity Council
$2,000,000           Hilo Medical Center Primary Care Residency Program
$8,502,936           Foster Care Payment Rate Increases

$500,000              Lyman House Memorial Museum, construction of a new Island Heritage Gallery

$2,000,000           Youth Challenge Academy, upgrade and renovation of Keaukaha Military Reservation

$250,000              The Food Basket, Inc., repairs and maintenance

$329,000              Hawai‘i County Economic Opportunity Council, Botanical Garden

$500,000              Hilo Harbor, modifications to improve navigational safety and operational efficiencies
$1,000,000           Saddle Road Extension from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway
$500,000              Puainako Street Widening

$33,000,000        College of Pharmacy, new instructional facility
$2,500,000           Astronomy, modernization and repair of 2.2 meter telescope on Mauna Kea
$500,000              College of Agricultural, Forestry and Natural Resource Management, establish the Hilo International Flight Training Center



Counties to Receive a Larger Share of the Hotel Tax

Bill to increasing the Transient Accommodations Tax revenues distributed to the counties passes out of the Legislature and will be enrolled to the Governor

The Hawaii State Legislature passed out on final reading a bill that will increase the counties’ share of the transient accommodation tax (TAT). The measure will now go to the governor for further consider. The governor can sign, veto or let the bill become law without his signature.

The Legislature believes that increasing the maximum amount of TAT revenues to the counties will allow them to better provide for public safety, parks, road maintenance and visitor-related services

House Bill 1671 will give the counties a combined $103 million per year for the next two years of the TAT revenues. The counties currently get a combined $93 million. In 2010, during the economic downfall and facing a budget deficit, the state placed a cap on the counties’ share of the TAT.

Despite a perceived $844 million surplus, the Council on Revenues mid-session lowered tax revenue growth from 3.3 percent to zero percent in 2014 and from 7.4 percent to 5.5 percent in 2015, amounting to more than half a million dollars less than expected. This session, the Legislature increased TAT revenues for two years, but found it prudent to require a study to determine the appropriate division of duties and responsibilities to provide public services before establishing a firm TAT distribution amounts.

“These funds will provide extra support and funds for all counties in our state,” said Senator Gilbert Kahele (District 1 – Hilo), chair of the Senate Committee on Tourism. “

With more than a million visitors each year, tourism plays a key role in how we care for our infrastructure. County services, facilities and infrastructure directly affect the visitor experience,and the funds for the counties will be used to ensure that our tourism industry is maintained and remains high quality.”

Sen. Kahele at conference committee meetings on the state budget.

“Tourism remains one of our state’s top industries and TAT revenue helps to fund activities to keep our state’s economy strong,” said Senator Ige (District 16 – Pearl City, Momilani, Pearlridge, ‘Aiea, Royal Summit, ‘Aiea Heights, Newtown, Waimalu, Halawa, Pearl Harbor), chair of the Ways and Means Committee. “Although revenue projections were lower than expected, an increase in the cap on TAT revenues shared with the counties will allow them to improve services that support the state’s economy overall. Obviously we would have wanted to do more for the counties, but given our financial constraints, we had to balance the needs and concerns of all aspects of our communities.”

Sen. Ige on the Senate floor speaking in support of the the state budget.

The transient accommodations tax is a tax that applies to certain rental activity in Hawaii. The tax is levied on gross income and is imposed only on gross rental income when renting in transient accommodations. A transient accommodation applies to a hotel room or suite, apartment, condominium, house, beach house, or similar living accommodation which is rented for less than 180-consecutive days by and regularly furnished to a transient (a person has a permanent place to live elsewhere.)


Senators Break from Conference to Observe Good Friday

Happy Good Friday. Legislators are breaking from conference committee meetings today after a week of getting together to hash out differences between House and Senate versions of bills.

The first bill out of conference was SB2901 SD1 HD1, a bill that would bring the State into compliance with federal motor carrier safety regulations by deleting any existing statutes or provisions containing federal requirements that are currently addressed in Hawaii Administrative Rules. This would help ensure exact compliance and avoid the possibility of a contradiction between federal and state rules and statutes.

Senators and Representatives meet in conference to discuss differences in SB2901

Throughout next week, senators and representatives will continue to meet in conference meetings to settle difference between the two chambers bills. If legislators come to a consensus on a conference draft of the bill, it will be decked for final reading and voted upon in each chamber. If a bill survives that last vote by May 1st, the adjournment date of the regular legislative session, it will be delivered to the governor to sign into law.

Art at the Capitol 2014 Concludes

Last Friday was the 6th annual Art at the Capitol, where lawmakers welcomed the public to tour their offices to view the publicly held artwork there.

This year’s theme was Illuminating the Legislative Process for the featured complementary chandeliers hanging in the Senate and House chambers at the Hawaii State Capitol.

The “Sun” and “Moon” by kinetic artist, Otto Piene, hang in the House and Senate chambers of the Hawaii State Legislature at the State Capitol

The kinetic light sculptures were commissioned by the State of Hawaii and installed in the koa-lined chambers of the House and Senate in 1971. The House Sun is a gold-plated sphere with 132 smaller golden orbs while the Senate Moon is a silver ball of 630 chambered nautilus shells. The featured artist, Otto Piene was unable to attend the event, but was interviewed speaking about the two complementary sculptures.

Art at the Capitol began in 2008 as Senator Brian Taniguchi’s initiative to welcome the public to view the variety of state-owned artwork displayed not just in the open areas of the State Capitol, but the legislative offices as well.  More than 900 pieces of artwork in the collection of the Hawaii State Foundation on Arts and Culture’s Art in Public Places Program are displayed at the State Capitol.

Two string quartets in the Hawaii Youth Symphony Orchestra played music for guests as they enjoyed the artwork in various legislators’ offices.

Many of the artwork in the Art in Public Places collection are done by artists local to the area. Some were on hand to talk about the works displayed in various offices.

Senator Ige with artist Steve Martin, who created the stoneware vessel displayed in his office.

Some senators provided additional entertainment and refreshment for guests.

Senator Gabbard shows off his Jean Charlot painting and offers his wife’s homemade toffee treats to constituents and guests.

Senator Jill Tokuda entertains guests with music from a harpist and flutist in her office for Art at the Capitol

Many legislators personally welcomed visitors to their offices.

Senator Espero greets guests to his office

Senator Kidani describes painting above her workstation a calming window

Senator Nishihara poses with guests in his office

Senators’ staff were also on hand to discuss the artwork in the offices.

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim’s staff members rest under a wall of photographs.

Many people brought their families to the First Friday because appreciation of art has no age limits.

Guests in show off their 2014 Art at the Capitol packet in Senator Green’s office.

Senator Kahele and Senate Sergeant of Arms, Ben Villaflor taking a break to listen to the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra quartet

The evening was a fun and successful one and we hope that you will join us next year at Art at the Capitol.

Senators to Honor Hokule‘a Crew Members Ahead of Worldwide Voyage

Sen. Gilbert Kahele Introduces Resolution Urging the Governor to Proclaim 2014 Year of the Worldwide Voyage

As the Legislature navigates its way through the 27th Legislative Session making important policy decisions on issues that affect Hawai‘i’s people, it takes inspiration from the crew members of the Hokule‘a and their dedication to shared values of and responsibility for caring for the land and its people while honoring Hawai‘i’s heritage and culture.

With great admiration, Hawai‘i senators on Monday, March 10 at 11:30 a.m. in the Senate Chambers will recognize and honor the crew of the Hokule‘a in a special floor presentation as they prepare for the second leg of their worldwide voyage, aptly referred to as “Malama Honua,” or “Care for the Earth.” The voyage will be done almost entirely using traditional Polynesian navigation methods, known as wayfinding. This is the first voyage of its kind and involves using ancestral knowledge of star patterns, ocean movement, marine life, weather patterns and other signs of nature. As crew members will say, the Hokule‘a represents Hawai‘i’s culture, heritage and connection to ancestors.

“The Hokule‘a’s international travels will soon begin and it’s important to the Senate that each crew member knows that the state and its lawmakers support their mission and stands unwavering behind their efforts,” said Sen. Gilbert Kahele (District 1 Hilo), who spearheaded the upcoming presentation ceremony. “A floating classroom, the Hokule‘a will carry our diverse and accepting culture throughout the Pacific building relationships and raising awareness about the importance of ocean protection.”

“As a lawmaker, I look forward to what they will bring back regarding recommendations for charting a new course or more so how we as a state shall adjust our sails toward sustainable practices for food, energy and the environment that they’ve picked up from other places and cultures,” said Kahele. “Their mana‘o would be an added value to helping legislators in future policy decisions.”

Kahele has also introduced two resolutions supporting the efforts of the Hokule‘a. One resolution urges Gov. Neil Abercrombie to proclaim 2014 as the Year of the Worldwide Voyage while the other urges the state and state entities to support the Hokule‘a and their crew as they journey around the world.

Last May, the Hokule‘a began the first of 22 legs planned for the voyage around the world right here in Hawai‘i. The next leg begins in May and will take them to Tahiti, from there, and over the next four years, they will travel to 26 countries and stop at 85 international ports – sailing more than 47,000 miles. The crew consists of 260 individuals from 16 countries including navigators, students, educators, scientists, documenters, medic, cultural leaders and global ambassadors.

“Our experiences and shared knowledge are really the things that define our lives,” Kahele said. “We all can learn from each other, and the voyages of the Hokule‘a reminds us of this. We’re all in this together so we need to care for each other, work together. During our own journey, while we finish out the second half of the legislative session, we intend to keep the spirit of Hokule‘a in our hearts.”


Senator Kahele Welcomes a Granddaughter

Senator Gilbert Kahele welcomed a granddaughter yesterday. ‘Iolana Malaea Kahele was born at home in Hilo at 6:55pm on February 12, 2014. Congratulations to Senator Kahele!


Hawaii State Senators Go Red For Women

Hawaii State senators wore red today in support of National Wear Red Day, a movement to raise awareness for the battle against heart disease in women.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women and is more prevalent in women than men. Now in its 10th year, the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign has saved lives by raising awareness of this serious issue.

From Left: Hawaii State Senators Kahele, Nishihara, Tokuda, Thielen, Solomon, Kim, Baker, Keith-Agaran, Shimabukuro, Chun Oakland

Senator Rosalyn Baker made the following announcement today on the Senate floor today.

“I just wanted to call to everyone’s attention: Some of us have red on for a reason. This is Go Red for Women Day, an acknowledgement that heart disease is one of the number one causes of deaths of women, and heart attacks manifest themselves very differently in women than they do in men. So, I would encourage all of the women here to know what the warning signs are and to watch out for your diet, and for all of our male colleagues who have women in their lives in whatever forms – sisters, daughters, moms, spouses – that you encourage them to know the warning signs and take care of their diet. Your health is a great concern to all of us, and happy Go Red for Women Day, and aloha.”

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.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Visits Hawai‘i Island

Senators visit the Pohoiki Swim Area and Boat Ramp. (L-R: Sen. Laura Thielen, Sen. Michelle Kidani, Sen. J. Kalani English, Sen. Donna Mercado-Kim, Sen. David Ige, Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, and Sen. Russell Ruderman.)

Earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Hawai‘i Island Senators, and the Senate President conducted site visits across Hawai‘i Island. Led by Ways and Means Chair David Ige, Ways and Means Committee members, Hawaii Island Senators Malama Solomon, Josh Green, Gil Kahele, and Russell Ruderman, and Senate President Donna Mercado Kim toured and were updated on various programs, projects, and concerns.

While on Hawai‘i Island, Senators visited the Kona Airport, Judiciary Courthouse, Kona Community Hospital, UH Hawai‘i Community College Palamanui Site, Waimea Middle School, Puna Community Medical Center, Pahoa Public Library, Pohoiki Swim Area and Boat Ramp, Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy Research Labs, UH Hilo Student Housing, Old Hilo Memorial Hospital, and Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy Modules. They also held a community informational meeting at the Waimea Middle School cafeteria.

The Hawai‘i Island visit is part of a number of statewide site visits the Senate Ways and Means Committee will conduct this interim.

Senators tour the Kona Community Hospital.

Senators hold a community informational meeting at Waimea Middle School.

(Photos Courtesy: The Senate Ways and Means Committee.)

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