Senate’s Capitol Idol Raises Over $1,700 for the Hawaii Foodbank

The Capitol Idol II: The Return of Capitol Idol, a government talent show, raised over $1,700 for the Hawaii Foodbank. In 2012, the event raised $1,400.

Members of the executive branch and legislature didn’t hold anything back to win the coveted individual and team perpetual trophies. However, Blake Oshiro, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Neil Abercrombie, and his backup dancers outshone everyone with “Last Dance.”

Sen. Mike Gabbard organized the fundraiser and comedian Champ Kaneshiro volunteered as emcee.

“We all had a lot of fun for a good cause as we approach a hectic time during the legislative session,” said Gabbard. “We surpassed what we brought in last year and it’s all thanks to our guests and the performers.”

Performers included:

Team Executive Branch: Linda Rosen, Director of the Dept. of Health; Keali‘i Lopez, Director of the Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; Maria Zielinksi, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Accounting and General Services; Audrey Hidano, Deputy Director of the Department of Transportation; Keone Kali, Chief Information Officer; Joshua Wisch, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Taxation; Jesse Souki, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources; and Blake Oshiro, Deputy Chief of Staff

Team House: Reps. Lauren Cheap Matsumoto and Ken Ito

Team Senate: Sen. Russell Ruderman, backed by Sens. Rosalyn Baker, Will Espero, Mike Gabbard, Michelle Kidani and Suzanne Chun-Oakland;  Sen. Mike Gabbard; Sen. Malama Solomon with back-up singers Sen. Brickwood Galuteria and senate staff; and Da Kolohe Bruddahs, consisting of Sens. Mike Gabbard, Brickwood Galuteria and Russell Ruderman.


The Senate Celebrates the Japanese Women’s Society Foundation 60th Anniversary

The Senate today recognized the Japanese Women’s Society Foundation (JSWF) for their service to our Hawaii community and joined them in celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The Japanese Women’s Society was founded in 1954 to promote culture and provide education and quality services to the community while promoting friendship between the United States and Japan, cultivating fellowship among its members and encouraging members to engage in community service.  With the goal of being trendsetters in health and aging issues, and with an emphasis on women, JWSF helped to build Hale Pulama Mau, a progressive health care center at Kuakini Hospital, to serve elderly women of limited means. Since 2006, JWSF has offered scholarship awards to graduate students in the health care, social work, and arts and sciences fields whose focus is in gerontology and geriatrics.

The JSWF holds regular “friendship teas” with the women at Hale Pulama Mau, and the organization’s “Angels” welcome new residents as they transition from home to hospital.

The Hawaii Senate congratulates the Japanese Women’s Society Foundation in celebrating 60 years of JWSF’s efforts to serve elderly women.


HONOLULU – Senator Michelle Kidani has been elected a 2014 State Director with Women In Government (WIG) by her legislative colleagues.  State Directors help to define important issues in their states so that Women In Government can tailor programming to address these needs.

“Women In Government congratulates Senator Kidani for her election again this year,” said Marjorie Maginn, WIG President and Executive Director.  “She has been a State Director since 2009 and has been an important voice in the process by which WIG establishes policies and priorities.  We are pleased that Senator Kidani, a recognized leader in the Hawaii Legislature, will continue to share her leadership skills with other women policy makers across the country.”

“I have appreciated the work of Women In Government as a resource for the Hawaii State Legislature,” said Senator Kidani.  “I firmly believe it is important for us to be able to learn approaches to critical policy issues from our colleagues in the other 49 jurisdictions.  WIG conferences allow us to share best practices and experiences to advance the most effective public policies.”

Women In Government provides conference sessions that feature expert speakers on a variety of public policy issues and analysis of their impact on states.  Topics include healthcare reform, public health issues such as diabetes, cervical cancer prevention and childhood obesity, emerging issues in energy policy, the current status of women in state legislatures, economic security and other matters of importance to women and families.

Senator Kidani represents District 18 which encompasses the Central and West Oahu communities of Mililani Town, Waipio Gentry, Waikele, Village Park and Royal Kunia.  She was first elected to the Senate in 2008, and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means, Vice Chair of the Committee on Education, and as a member of the Committees on Higher Education, Human Services, and Hawaiian Affairs.  She also serves as Assistant Senate Majority Leader.

WIG has also named Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and Hawaii Representatives Karen Awana and Lauren Matsumoto to serve as State Directors.

About Women In Government

Women In Government Foundation, Inc. is a national, non-profit, non-partisan organization of women state legislators providing leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums, and educational resources. Women In Government serves all 1,791 women who serve in state legislatures across the country.

Senate Judiciary Chair Announce Effort to Establish “No Fishing Zone” Around Ni’ihau Island

(Two owners of the Island of Ni‘ihau, Bruce and Leiana Robinson joined eight other island residents, DLNR Director William Aila, Deputy Director Esther Kiaaina and members from the Senate’s Hawaiian Caucus- Senators Clayton Hee, Michelle Kidani and Brickwood Galuteria at a press conference today, announcing efforts to resolve issues relating to the depletion of near shore fisheries on the Island of Ni‘ihau.)

Honolulu- Hawai‘i State Senate Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee in a press conference today announced that the Hawaii State Legislature and the Department of Land Natural Resources (DLNR) intend to respond individually to the depletion of near shore fisheries on the Island of Ni‘ihau.

Ni‘ihau is a constant and living reminder of the interdependence of man and nature,” said Senator Hee. “There is no question that unless the government takes dramatic proactive steps to reserve the near shore fisheries for the island population, their survival going forward is in jeopardy.”

Unlike every other populated Hawaiian Island, Ni‘ihau is the only island that does not have any commercial stores where food can be purchased.  As such, the near shore reef fishery serves as their predominant source of food.

With the fisheries of Kaua‘i Island becoming more depleted as the population has grown, accompanied by a disregard for taking care of the near shore fisheries, more and more people have been going to Ni‘ihau at greater frequency taking food sources upon which the native population of Ni‘ihau is totally dependent.

To protect these valued resources and resolve ongoing issues caused by the external exploitation of Ni‘ihau, Senator Hee announced that the Senate, in consultation with the Hawaiian Affairs Committee of the House, intends to introduce legislation to establish a “no fishing zone” law for Ni‘ihau Island. In addition, DLNR is currently analyzing a series of administrative rules to strike a balance between the protection of Ni‘ihau residents and offshore opportunities.

This is a unique situation unlike anywhere else in Hawai‘i and this unique situation calls for unique legislation,” said Senator Hee. “The Hawaiian Caucus of the Senate intends to introduce legislation that will in essence create a no-take zone around the island.”

Senators Discuss WSF with Public School Principals

Early this week, Senate Education Chair Jill Tokuda met with principals from the Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua Complex and Aiea-Moanalua-Radford Complex to discuss the impacts of the Weighted Student Formula (WSF). This week’s meeting was part of a set of statewide site visits the Senator is conducting this interim, as she meets with principals across the State to receive feedback and comments about the way public schools are funded through WSF. Area Senators Michelle Kidani, Glenn Wakai, David Ige, and Donovan Dela Cruz were also in attendance.

In 2004, the Legislature passed Act 51, which created the WSF with the goal of empowering Principals to act as the educational leaders of their schools. As the 10th anniversary of Act 51 approaches, the Senate Education Committee has been focusing on making sure that the significant reforms set forth in Act 51 have not only been put into place, but that the desired outcomes have been achieved.

Senator Michelle Kidani’s Floor Remarks on House Bill 200, the Hawaii State Budget

On April 3o, 2013, Senator Michelle Kidani, who serves as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and oversees Capital Improvements Projects for the Senate, offered the following remarks in support of House Bill (HB) 200, the Hawaii State Budget:

Senator Michelle Kidani, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, offers remarks in support of House Bill 200, the Hawaii State Budget.

Thank you Madam President. I rise in support of this measure.

This past session has been an interesting one to say the least. I say this because of how different this year has been from the last several, in which the State was dealing with the economic crises that gripped our economy and affected the entire nation. In the last few years, the creation of the CIP budget was driven in large part by the need for us to step in to provide that shot in the arm, that boost, to get things rolling again. The thought then was to get people back to work, to maintain and improve what we already had, while planning for the future needs of our state.

Now, thankfully, our economy is slowly improving and we have a job market, especially– in the construction industry–that is rebounding.

I said earlier that this year has been an interesting one. In some ways, the prioritization and vetting process done for the CIP budget was more difficult than in past years. This bill will fund thousands of worthwhile and critically needed projects; projects that will impact the lives of our residents now, and for many years to come. However, this bill is not perfect. There are projects, while valuable, while needed, while important for our state, we were not able to fund this year. These decisions were asked were made after doing our due diligence, being thoughtful, careful and mindful of our responsibilities.

HB200 CD1 proposes a CIP budget for Fiscal Biennium 2103-2015 in the amount of just over $3 Billion, of which $1.36 billion is funded by General Obligation or Reimbursable Bonds.

We will continue the progress made in renovating, repairing and maintaining existing state-owned facilities to utilize our current resources and reduce general fund expenditures in the future.

The CD proposes nearly $400 million to fund these types of projects for the Department of Education, Department of Health’s Waimano Ridge facility, Hawaii Health System Corporation’s network of hospitals, and hundreds of other projects in the UH system, DLNR, and DAGS.

We also looked at previous requests to fund aging infrastructure to move people, goods and materials which has been in disrepair or unusable. To address this we focused considerably on transportation. The basics… repairing our highways, expanding our harbors, and renovating and modernizing our airports.

Approximately $1.2 billion is appropriated for the Department of Transportation for projects such as $70 million for the expansion of Kona International Airport to meet the requirements of increasing visitor arrivals. Another $140 million is included for Honolulu International Airport, for improvements and upgrades for the main gateway to our state.

We are also supporting increased capacity at our harbors, statewide, to handle the import and export of goods and products, as well as dozens of highway improvements and bridge repairs. These projects will continue the process of addressing the declining conditions of our highways and transportation infrastructure.

Another priority was to designate appropriations for projects needed to address future capacity needs and economic growth.

HB200 CD1  includes $38.2 million to build an Advanced Technology and Science Center at Honolulu Community College and $11.8 million for a dedicated facility for the Allied Health program at UH-West O`ahu.

Additionally, funding for the renovation and expansion of the Foreign Trade Zone facility was included to keep this business incubator functional.

We also appropriated $18.4 million for Ewa Makai Middle School, to complete the campus and reduce overcrowding in schools in the Ewa plain.

There is always much talk about keeping agriculture land in agriculture and an opportunity arose to purchase over 20,000 acres of Dole Foods agriculture land on the North Shore of Oahu.  The Senate included $175M in Revenue bonds and $12.5M in G.O. bonds to take advantage of this opportunity.

This bill also invests in the State’s aging and obsolete IT infrastructure by appropriating over $130 million for informational systems to begin the process of creating a statewide information network,  streamline tax collections, maintain and share critical health information, as well provide for a secure communication network for the islands.

One of these is the Trans-Pacific cable project. By 2015, the state will be close to reaching full capacity of its existing broadband network. In addition, Hawaii is being bypassed as a vital communication hub in the Pacific. This project will begin to address these concerns and move Hawaii to the forefront in telecommunications technology.

In closing, I would like to thank Senate President Kim, Chair Ige, and our counterparts in the House for their support and hard work in crafting this CIP budget.  I believe we all look forward to the positive impact this budget will have on the State.


Collaboration Leads to the Conclusion of Budget Meetings Ahead of Deadline

House and Senate Conference Leaders Announce $3 Billion in Capital Improvement Projects

Honolulu – Lead Senate and House negotiators on the State Budget bill announced they closed negotiations three days ahead of an internal deadline.  Discussions between the Senate and House on finalizing the budget started well ahead of schedule this year, marking a paradigm shift in the approach taken to complete the work of the legislative session.

“The House and Senate committed to working together to finish the budget ahead of schedule,” said Senator David Ige, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.   “By completing work on the budget early, we have more time to consider the state financial plan and make thoughtful decisions on what bills should move forward.”

Finishing work on the budget early also creates a better environment for Senate and House negotiators working on other measures.  Rational decisions can now be made without the immense pressure of looming deadlines.  The conference committee meetings for the State Budget began nearly a week earlier than normal to avoid the last minute rush to get conference bills out for final vote.  This is a marked change from the last minute rush of typical legislative sessions.

One of the items that the two sides were able to come to agreement upon was a balanced reduction of vacancies throughout state departments in order to cut costs and ensure accurate financial reporting. After considering input from the departments, the two Chairs announced that roughly 200 positions—down from the proposed 1,000—will be reduced to save nearly $8 million.

“Chair Ige and I believe that in order to efficiently and effectively use state resources, the departments need to instill a sense of accountability and responsibility in their management of vacant positions. We have made it very clear that the Legislature wants to have all departments accurately use money we give them for its intended purpose and not for other things,” said Representative Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Committee.  “I would like to really thank them for understanding what we are trying to accomplish and for providing information to ensure that the most effective decisions are made in staffing.”

On the opening day of the conference committee for the state budget, the chairs agreed to appropriate $100 million for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and $117.4 million for FY 2015 to begin payments on the unfunded liabilities.

Currently, the unfunded liabilities for the employer-union health benefits trust fund is $13.6 billion.

Over the upcoming fiscal biennium, the Legislature’s final draft of the executive budget is more than $250 million under the Governor’s budget proposal.

Today, appropriations for Capital Improvement Programs (CIP) and grants for non-profits (Grant-In-Aid) were announced.  The committee funded $30 million in projects for non-profit organizations on every island in the state.

“In conferencing with the House members, the intent of this biennium’s CIP negotiations has been to identify what needs to be funded by the state, while staying within the executive bond issuance plan as much as possible. For General Obligation bonds, this was just over $1.32 billion for the biennium to cover projects related to agriculture, education, social services, and technology,” explained Senator Michelle Kidani, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means who oversees Capital Improvements Projects for the Senate.

“This proposed budget keeps the CIP budget within the state’s debt ceiling and Executive Bond issuance plan,” said Representative Luke.”

On funding public school facilities, Luke said, “We have agreed to fund the Department of Education over $400 million for repairs, upgrades and issues that have plagued our educational facilities for many years. You can’t have a 21st century school with 20th century electrical wiring!”


House Bill 200, relating to the State Budget, will now go before the full House and Senate for a final vote.


See attachment for highlights of the Capital Improvement Projects (Pg 1)/ highlights of the Capital Improvement Projects (Pg 2).

See attachment for highlights of Grant-In-Aid recipients.

Senate Committee on Ways and Means Passes State Budget Bill

 Honolulu – The Senate Committee on Ways and Means passed House Bill 200 with amendments today.  The Senate’s version of the bill is approximately $141 M less in general funds than Governor Abercrombie’s budget proposal.   The bill appropriates funds for the operating and capital improvement budget of the Executive Branch for the fiscal biennium years 2013-2015.

 Although the revenue forecast continues to improve, we took a cautious and conservative approach in our version of the budget,” said Senator David Ige, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.   “We reduced the executive branch’s request by approximately $141 million, while making strategic investments in our community.”

Here are some of the highlights of the bill:

$26.5M                 Executive Office of Early Learning, includes early childhood education program

$55M                     Department of Education’s weighted student formula

$54.5M                 Office of Information Management & Technology

$200M                  Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund, unfunded liabilities

$5.2 M                  Agricultural task force and livestock feed development program

$5.2 M                  Agricultural resource management programs and projects, including Kunia agricultural park irrigation systems

$25M                     Sequestration contingency fund to address nationwide federal spending reductions

$355,000            Hawaii Refinery Task Force

$8M                       Hawaii Growth Initiative

$1M                       Hawaii Health Information Exchange

$3.9M                   State energy projects

$205.5M              Medicaid

$874,000           Veteran services

$1.8M                   Homeless shelters and services


The capital improvement programs include $2 billion in all means of financing for the fiscal year 2014 and $990M for fiscal year 2015,” explained Senator Michelle Kidani, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means who oversees Capital Improvements Projects for the Senate.

Highlights of the capital improvement program:

$1.2B                     For Department of Transportation projects, such as $70 million for the expansion of the Kona International Airport, $140 million for Honolulu International Airport, as well as increased capacity at our harbors ($250 million), and dozens of road improvements and bridge repairs.

$120M                  For informational systems in various departments to streamline tax collections, maintain and share critical health information, as well provide for a secure communication network for the islands.

The investments made in the Department of Transportation focus our attention on addressing the less than ideal conditions of our roads and infrastructure, expanding our harbors and renovating the first thing our visitors see—our airports.  We also continue to move our State into the 21st century by allocating funds towards upgrading the State’s aging and obsolete IT infrastructure,” said Kidani.

The House Bill 200 HD1 SD1 moves on to the full Senate for a vote.

Senators Respond to Landmark Signing of the Native Hawaiian Roll

(Legislators joined together to sign the petition at Washington Place.) (L-R Senator Pohai Ryan, Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, Senator Michelle Kidani, Representative Faye Hanohano, Senator Gilbert Kahele and Senator Clayton Hee.)

Honolulu- Officials and members of the public joined together at Washington Place today for the historic signing of the Native Hawaiian Roll. The signing was accompanied by a petition of signatures in support of the roll.

State Senators offered the following remarks in response to the landmark signing of the Native Hawaiian Roll:

Today’s signing is a great testimony to the courageous individuals who decades ago saw injustice and stepped forward,” said Senator Brickwood Galuteria, chairman of the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs. “The inauguration of this roll marks the next step in the framework towards self-governance for the Hawaiian people.”

The signing of this legislation signifies an important stage in the long journey towards justice and self-determination for the people of the first nation of these islands,” said Senator Clayton Hee, author of the measure which established the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. “The people of Hawai‘i and, in particular, the native Hawaiian people have the opportunity and privilege to move forward together toward self determination with a renewed sense of optimism for our future together as one.”

This is a historic and positive day for the State of Hawai‘i and the Native Hawaiian community, many have waited decades for this recognition,” said Senator Malama Solomon, who was the chief negotiator of the measure. “The signing of the Native Hawaiian Roll moves forward the reconciliation process for mending relations between the State of Hawai‘i and the Native Hawaiian people.“

(Senator Galuteria and Trustee Apo joined Senators Akaka and Inouye and signed the petition in Akaka’s Washington D.C. office.) (Courtesy of the Office of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka)

In 2011 Governor Neil Abercrombie enacted Senate Bill 1520, the Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill, into law as Act 195. In addition to formally recognizing Native Hawaiian people as “the only indigenous, aboriginal, maoli people of Hawai‘i,” the measure also established the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission (NHRC).

Comprised of five members, one from each county and one at-large seat, NHRC was tasked with the responsibility of preparing and maintaining a roll of qualified Native Hawaiians as defined by the act. The roll is to be used as the basis for participation in the organization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Governor Signs Bill to Establish the Office on Early Learning

(Senate Education Chair Jill Tokuda, Vice Chair Michelle Kidani, Senator David Ige, and Representative Della Au Belatti join Governor Neil Abercrombie for the signing of Senate Bill 2545 into law.)

Honolulu – Today Governor Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 2545, Relating to Education, into law. The measure establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning.

Currently, Hawaii is just one of eleven states without a publically funded preschool program. SB 2545 works in concert with the Governor’s Early Childhood Education Initiative to help the State join the rest of the country and meet its goal of providing a viable early learning system for Hawaii’s youngest keiki.

“What we know as parents and what the research tells us is clear: access to developmentally and age appropriate educational opportunities makes a difference,” said Senate Committee on Education Chair Jill Tokuda.

SB2545 establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning to provide for the necessary coordination and cooperation amongst all relevant governmental departments and agencies. In addition, the existing Early Learning Council will transition into its new role as the Early Learning Advisory Board, providing guidance and perspective from the public and private sector.

To assist in the implementation of a uniform early learning program SB 2545 will phase out Junior Kindergarten, repealing the program at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. In 2008 Hawaii established Keiki First Steps, a statewide early learning system, focused on maximizing public and private resources to ensure the delivery of services throughout our communities.

“SB2545 represents the very first steps of Keiki First Steps,” said Senator Jill Tokuda. “ The measure calls on the Office to develop an implementation plan and projected financials to ensure a seamless transition to an early learning system, focusing on those targeted four year olds most impacted by the loss of Junior Kindergarten”.

The measure also clarifies a law passed in 2010 by making clear that a child must be at least 5 years old by July 31st in order to enter kindergarten, but pushes back this mandate back to the 2014-15 year to align with the implementation of Keiki First Steps, and focused on ensuring all children have meaningful options.

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