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.


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

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.”


In the Community: Senator Espero’s Busy Week

Senator Espero (District 19, Ewa Beach) had a busy week meeting with students, and leaders and members of community organizations.

For his leadership on animal protection issues, Senator Espero was presented with the Humane Hawaii State Legislature Award from the Hawaiian Human Society. (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Will Espero)

Senator Espero also spoke with students from Campbell High School during a rally in support of air conditioning in public school classrooms. (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Will Espero)

Senator Espero met with the American Council of the Blind (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Will Espero)

Members of AARP met with Senator Espero to discuss their concerns. (Photo Credit: Office of State Senator Will Espero)

Hawaii Senate Committee Passes Bill to Establish a Commission on African American History and Culture

The Hawaii Senate Committee on Ways and Means today favorably passed Senate Bill 2598, a bill that would establish the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture.

African Americans first arrived in Hawaii in the 18th century and have since positively influenced the development and culture of Hawaii. However, their contributions are neither well known nor preserved. By establishing the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture, the people of Hawaii gain a fuller understanding of the cultural exchanges between the state and African Americans.

“Establishing the Hawaii Commission on African American History and Culture will allow us to honor the significance and impact of the African American experience in the state and promote awareness for Hawaii’s diverse multicultural society,” said Espero. “As Black History Month comes to a close, I am pleased that the Senate Committee on Ways and Means recognizes the significant contributions of African Americans in the state and the need to educate our citizens and visitors about them.”

The bill will go to the Senate floor for third reading and is expected to cross over to the House for consideration.


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.

Hawaii Aerospace Caucus Explores the ‘Final Frontier’

Initiatives include studies for a space exploration R&D park, international flight training center and a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii — State Senate and House legislators today announced the formation of the Hawaii State Legislative Aerospace Caucus.

Among the measures it has introduced this session are bills that call for studies for a space exploration research and development park; an international flight training center and associated aeronautical training programs at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii Community College; and a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii.

Other measures call for the banning of unmanned aircrafts, except by law enforcement agencies, to gather information, and exempts from the general excise tax amounts received from the construction of a space launch facility in the State to help reduce the overall cost of such construction.

The caucus is a joint bipartisan effort in collaboration with the private sector to develop a strong, secure and internationally competitive aerospace sector in Hawaii. It will be a highly visible, proactive and solution oriented organization ensuring academia, industry and government are in step with programs and policies which support a robust aerospace economic sector.

The caucus is co-chaired by Senator Will Espero, Senator Glenn Wakai, Representative Angus McKelvey and Representative Gene Ward. The legislative membership also includes Senator Russell Ruderman and Representatives Isaac Choy, Cindy Evans, Richard Fale, Faye Hanohano, Sharon Har, Ken Ito, Derek Kawakami, Bob McDermott, Mark Nakashima, Calvin Say, Clift Tsuji.

“This collaborative effort is a significant step forward in building upon the aerospace industry that we are establishing here in Hawaii,” said Representative Angus McKelvey, Chair of the Consumer Protection & Commerce Committee.

The group also includes the Aerospace Advisory Committee and Starlight Reserve Committee—
advisory councils made of public and private space industry experts. At the announcement, the
founding charter members also voted to include former Governor George Ariyoshi, a member of
the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) board and champion
for aerospace growth in Hawaii, as an honorary member of the Hawaii Legislative Aerospace

“Hawaii can be at the forefront of this industry by ensuring a strong, secure and viable aerospace sector,” said Senator Will Espero, Chair of the Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee. “It starts by bringing together community members from the education, business and government sectors to help create good policy that will help us meet competitive challenges to support a robust aerospace economy.”

“Nothing ignites the imagination like space. Hawaii needs to boldly move forward into this
area,” said Senator Glenn Wakai, Chair of the Technology and Arts Committee, “There are many
sectors in technology that can be replicated in other parts of the world. When it comes to
aerospace, Hawaii is ground zero. This is an industry that cannot pick up and leave the islands. It provides infinite economic opportunities and will ignite exploration in the minds of our keiki.”

“Aerospace can be a game changer for our economy,” said Representative Gene Ward. “One of
the main purposes of the aerospace caucus will be to highlight those opportunities and promote
legislation and regulation of an enabling environment.”

The primary purpose of the Aerospace caucus is to promote legislation that will develop a robust, growing aerospace field in Hawaii. These measures include:

SB3092 / HB1967 Relating to Higher Education (Companion Bills): Appropriates $450,000 for a program coordinator and technical support staff member to complete the necessary planning required for an international flight training center and associated aeronautical training programs at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii community college.

HB2151 / SB2583 Relating to PISCES and NASA Laser Communications Ground Station
Initiative (Companion Bills): Appropriates $500,000 for an engineering assessment of a
proposal to establish a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii.

HB2150 / SB2584 Relating to PISCES Planetary Sustainability Technologies Initiative
(Companion Bills): Appropriates $250,000 to support planetary sustainability technology
demonstrations and university-based competitions.

HB2152 / SB2585 Relating to PISCES (Companion Bills): Appropriates $1,500,000 to the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) to support administrative and general tasks, strategic program initiatives, and the preliminary development of the PISCES Research and Development Park.

SB2608 Relating to Unmanned Aircrafts: Prohibits the use of unmanned aircrafts, except by law enforcement agencies, to gather information and establishes certain conditions for law enforcement agencies to use an unmanned aircraft to obtain information. Requires all law enforcement agencies using unmanned aircrafts and the courts to report on their activities relating to unmanned aircrafts.

SB2582 Relating to Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Requires individual consent or a search warrant to track an individual through the use of unmanned aircraft systems. Prohibits the repurposing of data without a search warrant. Prohibits unmanned aircraft systems from carrying weapons onboard. Requires the police departments to implement guidelines of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Aviation Committee.

SB3053 Relating to Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Sites: Establishes the Hawaii unmanned aerial systems test site chief operating officer position to, among other things, serve on the Pan-Pacific Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Range Complex management team. Establishes an advisory board to oversee and manage unmanned aerial systems test site operations. Appropriates the funds to staff and operate Hawaii’s unmanned aerial systems test site activities.
HB2614 Relating to Taxation: Exempts from the general excise tax, amounts received from the construction of a space launch facility in the State.

For more information, please contact:

Senator Will Espero 808-586-6360
Senator Glenn Wakai 808-586-8585

House of Representatives
Representative Angus McKelvey 808-586-6160
Representative Gene Ward 808-586-6420


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.

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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