HONOLULU, Hawai‘i – The Hawai‘i State Senate today unanimously confirmed Dakota K.M. Frenz to the District Family Court of the Third Circuit – Island of Hawai‘i and Michael K. Soong to the District Court of the Fifth Circuit – Island of Kaua‘i.

Dakota K.M. Frenz was most recently a sole proprietor of her own private law practice in Hilo specializing in criminal law, family law, and civil litigation/collections. Prior to opening her own law practice, Frenz was a partner at Laubach & Frenz, AAL, LLC, where she focused her legal practice in the same areas of law. Prior to entering private practice, Frenz served as deputy prosecuting attorney in the County of Hawai‘i where she handled cases in the District, Family, and Circuit Courts. In addition to her legal experience, she serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Ku‘ikahi Mediation Center, a member of the Board of Directors of the Hawai‘i County Bar Association, an arbitrator with the Court Annexed Arbitration Program, a member of the County of Hawai‘i Bench Bar Committee and Hawai‘i State Bench Bar Committee. She also volunteers with the Friends of Drug Court and the Self-Help Center in East Hawai‘i. Frenz is a graduate of Whittier Law School and was admitted to the Hawai‘i State Bar in 2006. Frenz fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Lloyd X. Van De Car.

“Ms. Frenz bring to the bench a reputation as an intelligent, hard-working and prepared advocate with substantial trial experience as a former county prosecutor and more recently as a private attorney,” said Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. “Her background and what people say about her makes it likely that she will be a very good addition to the District Family Court, one of the most challenging assignments for a Hawai‘i jurist.”

Michael K. Soong has nearly 30 years of trial experience and has been in private practice since 2009 focusing on criminal law, personal injury and plaintiff litigation. His work in the public sector includes being elected to two-consecutive terms as Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Kaua‘i. Prior to his tenure as the Prosecuting Attorney, he served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Kaua‘i, a Deputy Public Defender, and Deputy Corporation Counsel. Soong serves as a Board member of the Friends of the Kaua‘i Drug Court, and is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He also currently serves on the Royal Order of Kamehameha, Kaumuali‘i Chapter, Hokule‘a-Kaua‘i Crew member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and member of Na Kalai Wa‘a ‘O Kaua‘i. Soong is a graduate of Southwestern University School of Law and was admitted to the Hawaii State Bar in 1986. Soong will the vacancy due to the retirement of Judge Trudy K.T. Senda in December.

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CENTRAL OAHU, Hawai‘i – A major component of the Whitmore Project, Enterprise Zone No. 1, North Shore-Wahiawa-Mililani, has been re-designated till September 30, 2036. Working with the Honolulu City Council, City & County of Honolulu, and the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DEBDT), Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (Dist. 22 - Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o Acres, Wheeler, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, portion of Poamoho) helped push and usher the re-designation. The newly configured Enterprise Zone No.1, North Shore-Wahiawa-Mililani includes all the agricultural lands between Wahiawa and the North Shore.

Hawai‘i's Enterprise Zone Partnership Program was established in 1986 to stimulate economic growth by offering state and county tax incentives for certain types of businesses, such as agriculture, manufacturing, and technology. Eligible agricultural production and processing businesses are eligible for general excise tax and income tax exemptions, and receive a two-year exemption from any increase in property taxes resulting from new construction.

In addition to the re-designation of Enterprise Zone No. 1, Sen. Dela Cruz is working with the DBEDT and the Hawai‘i Foreign-Trade Zone No. 9 in applying for and establishing an ag-foreign trade zone within the agribusiness tech park. One benefit of a foreign trade zone is the deferring of tariffs and duties on imports and exports. This incentive will allow farmers to keep more cash on hand allowing them to reinvest into their businesses.

"We are looking at what Federal, State and County incentives we can layer to decrease the overhead cost of business for farmers. The State needs to be a proactive partner so we can decrease food imports, increase local food production, and keep our dollars in the local economy," said Sen. Dela Cruz. “We have to be aggressive with public-private partnerships to help our local businesses.”

Preserving agricultural land and providing economic incentives are only the first steps to revitalizing Hawai‘i's agriculture industry. Farmers still face challenges such as increased costs, month-to-month leases, global competition - all have contributed to the shrinking of Hawai‘i's agriculture industry while increasing foods imports, which is now almost 90 percent, according to industry analysts.

Sen. Dela Cruz has long supported and understood the farmers’ need to remain competitive in local markets, which includes creating value-added products and ag-tourism. Consolidating activities, such as processing, packaging, and retail into a single location creates a cluster for ag-businesses. Sen. Dela Cruz believes the Whitmore Agribusiness Technology Park can become a destination for the local and visitor industry creating a regional economic development hub in a rural community.

“Not only does this help in saving the agriculture industry or protecting agriculture lands, it is about creating jobs. Job creation and economic revitalization will help residents live, work, and play in their communities. Furthermore, creating jobs in the Central Oahu region will reverse traffic commutes into urban Honolulu," Sen. Dela Cruz added. "These types of development can be used as models for other regions in the State."

The ADC, University of Hawai‘i's School of Architecture Community Design Center, and the University of Arkansas Community Design Center is currently developing a master plan for the agribusiness tech park. Stakeholders expect plans to be completed by fall of next year.

Sen. Dela Cruz recognizes such initiatives in Central Oahu will not only help sustain the local agricultural industry, but hopefully grow Hawai‘i's local agricultural businesses towards a globally competitive future. It is his belief that the Whitmore Project serves as a model which can be replicated throughout the State.

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i – State Senator Mike Gabbard (Dist. 20 - Kapolei, Makakilo, and portions of ‘Ewa, Kalaeloa, and Waipahu) had the opportunity to showcase the Legislature’s progressive efforts in conservation and environmental protection at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress (WCC).

Held every four years, the WCC is considered the Superbowl of conservation events. This was the first time in its 60-year history the WCC was hosted in the United States and a record 10,000 delegates from 192 countries participated in the 10-day conference.

Sen. Gabbard was a panelist on the Aha Moku Advisory Committee on Sept. 4. The Legislature passed HB2806 in 2012, which became Act 288, setting up the advisory committee to provide the DLNR a systematic way to incorporate native Hawaiian knowledge of land and water management into its more western-based decision process. The Aha Moku is unique in that there is no other similar entity in the United States.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Land and Water, Sen. Gabbard shared how respect for cultural practices and natural resources are meshed with the goals of the Aloha+ Challenge, which set six ambitious sustainability goals by 2030. The value of kakou (people working together) of the Aha Moku are also being considered and is consistent with the state’s renewable energy goal of 100% renewable energy. Incorporating traditional cultural knowledge of native species is being included in addressing the invasive species problem statewide.

“Aha Moku presents our state with an awesome opportunity to incorporate Native Hawaiian cultural knowledge into the very fabric of our state policy making process,” Sen. Gabbard told the crowd. “On a more global scale, the incorporation of indigenous culture knowledge into decision making will make our world a more sustainable and peaceful place to live for future generations.”

Sen. Gabbard was also an invited speaker at the IUCN luncheon celebrating the signing of Act 125 into law, which is the most comprehensive anti-wildlife trafficking bill in the nation. Sen. Gabbard introduced the bill during the last legislative session, which recognized studies that showed Hawai‘i had the nation’s third largest market for ivory, after New York and California.

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