Hawaii Senate Advances Bills Investing in Education

The Hawaii State Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means (WAM) today advanced bills that support Hawaii’s keiki through a variety of education initiatives. If passed, the measures would restore funds to support school athletic programs, improve the learning environment for students and invest in Hawaii charter schools.

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“Hawaii’s keiki are our greatest resource and it’s important that we give them every advantage for a better future,” said Senator David Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “To do that, we need to invest in every aspect of their education from academics to athletics to their learning environment.”

These measures will go to the Senate floor for third reading and if approved will move to the House for consideration.

The education measures passed today include:

SB2424 SD1: RELATING TO AIR CONDITIONING

Requires the department of education and department of accounting and general services, in consultation with the Hawaii state energy office of the department of business, economic development, and tourism and the Hawaii natural energy institute of the University of Hawaii, to develop a cooling master strategy and comprehensive study for the public schools and to report findings to the 2015 regular session of the legislature. Appropriates funds.

SB3083 SD1: RELATING TO SCHOOL ATHLETICS.

Appropriates general funds for fiscal year 2014-2015 for the school athletics program of the department of education. Authorizes additional coaching and assistant coaching positions for fiscal year 2014-2015 for the school athletics program.

SB2516 RELATING TO FACILITIES FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS

Appropriates funds for the state public charter school commission to allocate to charter schools for facilities projects based, in part, on the need and performance of the charter schools. Requires annual reporting to the legislature.

SB2517 RELATING TO CHARTER SCHOOLS

Authorizes the state public charter school commission to request the issuance of general obligation bonds from the director of finance and to allocate the proceeds for the design, planning, construction, repair, and maintenance of public charter school facilities. Creates a working group to determine criteria for and to prioritize the allocation of general obligation bond proceeds to the public charters schools. Specifies that public charter school facilities funded through the proceeds of general obligation bonds are owned by the State. Requires the state public charter school commission to report annually to the legislature. Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds to the state public charter school commission. Repeals on June 30, 2024.

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Hawaii Senate Committee Advances Bills Protecting the Environment

The Hawaii State Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means (WAM) today advanced legislation to protect and preserve the state’s natural resources. The committee passed bills that, if made law, would have immediate and far-reaching effects on beach shorelines, invasive species control, conservation, sustainability, climate change and disaster planning efforts.

Some members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee at Pohoiki on the Big Island.

Some members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee at Pohoiki on the Big Island.

“We must continually work together to maintain our unique island home for the health and pleasure of our families and, also, the stability of our economy through the visitor industry,” said Sen. David Ige, WAM Committee chairman. “These bills passed today touch on many facets of the environment both with immediate actions and long-term planning, and will require more meetings and consensus for success.”

The environment protection measures passed today include:

SB2742 – Establishes the Pacific-Asia Institute for Resilience and Sustainability to provide the structure and opportunity for a new generation of leaders to emerge who possess the ability to address Hawaii and the Pacific-Asia region’s risks from natural and man-made hazards and to develop solutions for sustainable economic growth within the region’s unique physical and cultural diversity.

SB3035 – Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds and appropriates funds for planning for and construction for the realignment of Kamehameha Highway mauka of Laniakea beach on the North Shore of Oahu.

SB3036 – Appropriates funds to the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program to create a North Shore beach management plan for the North Shore of Oahu stretching from Sunset beach to Waimea Bay.

The Senate WAM Committee last week advanced two joint majority package bills that support efforts to address invasive species and climate change. The measures are:

SB2343 – Appropriates funds to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council for invasive species prevention, control, outreach, research, and planning.

SB2344 – Addresses climate change adaptation by establishing the interagency sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation committee under the Department of Land and Natural Resources to create a sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation report that addresses sea level rise impacts statewide to 2050. Tasks the Office of Planning with establishing and implementing strategic climate adaptation plans and policy recommendations using the sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation report as a framework for addressing other statewide climate impacts identified under Act 286, Session Laws of Hawaii 2012. Appropriates funds for staffing and resources.

Bill to Make Hawaiian Bobtail Squid Hawaii’s Official State Microbe to be Heard Tomorrow

The Hawaiian Bobtail Squid – a two inch, glow in the dark creature – will have its moment in the spotlight tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, February 25. The Senate’s Committee on Technology and the Arts (TEC) will hear a bill designating vibrio fischeri as Hawaii’s official microbe.

image credit: guardian.co.uk

Image credit: guardian.co.uk

Vibrio fischeri is a bacteria which lives in a symbiotic relationship with the Hawaiian bobtail squid, giving the animal the power to produce bioluminescence, or light from a living organism. The squid is endemic to Hawaii and hunts at night on reef flats. However, moonlight casts a shadow onto the sea floor, which alerts predators to the squid’s presence. To counter this effect, the Hawaiian bobtail squid cultures vibrio fischeri in a special light-emitting organ, which allows it to become stealthy by projecting light that minimizes the dark shadow of its body.

Image credit: kahikai.org

Image credit: kahikai.org

The study of this chemical reaction has numerous medical and practical applications, such as testing for toxic compounds in water.

“We anticipate having a State Microbe will ignite interest in science for our kids. What could be more appropriate than a bacteria that creates a glowing blue squid that thrives just off our shores,” says Sen. Glenn Wakai, Chairman of the TEC Committee, “With 70% of our planet covered in water, it makes perfect sense to have Hawaii’s microbe tied to the ocean.”

Image credit: news.wisc.edu

Image credit: news.wisc.edu

What:   Hearing on SB 3124, designating a State Microbe

When: 1:15 p.m., Tuesday, February 25

Where: Capitol, room 414

More information on the bill can be found by going to this link: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=3124&year=2014.

Oregon became the first state to have an official microbe.  Lawmakers there designated saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as “brewer’s yeast” as its state microbe due to its importance to Oregon’s beer and winemaking industries. Wisconsin has attempted to turn lactococcus lactis into its official microbe, in recognition of its role in creating cheese.

Capital Improvement Funds Released for Kohala Elementary and Honoka’a High School

Senator Malama Solomon, District 4 – Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona, today commended the release of $7.73 million for various capital improvement projects (CIP) supporting student education in Hawaii.

Sen. Malama Solomon

Sen. Malama Solomon

Portions of these funds will go toward work in District 4, including:

  • Kohala Elementary, for American with Disabilities Act (ADA) projects, portion of $7,554,000
  • Kohala Elementary, for a special education portable, $80,000
  • Honoka‘a High School, for science lab upgrades, $100,000 for design work

“Supporting schools in my district is one of my main priorities as a lawmaker,” said Solomon. “The Legislature secured the funds for these very important projects last session and I’m glad to see the monies released so that work can get started. It’s imperative that we continue to provide students, teachers and staff with the resources for a favorable learning environment.”

House Bill 2533 Moves for Citizen-Funded Elections

The House Committee on the Judiciary today passed legislation that would revive Hawaii’s old partial public funding program for elections, which was originally implemented in 1980 by a mandate from citizens during the Constitutional Convention.

HB 2533

Representative Karl Rhoads (D – dist 29), Judiciary Chariman, said “Today was an important step in moving HB 2533 through the legislative process.  I’m hopeful that by the end of the legislative session we’ll have a viable public financing option for House candidates.”

House Bill 2533 would create a citizen-funding option for state House elections.  Last year a similar bill, HB1481, made it to the final hour of a Conference Committee, where it was stopped, but carried over to the 2014 Legislative Session and is still alive.  Advocates are counting on one of these bills to pass this year.

According to Carmille Lim, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, “This bill is one of the most significant democracy reform measures currently before the Hawaii Legislature. HB2533 has the potential to change Hawaii’s political landscape by requiring the candidates who opt-in to this program to focus on the concerns of the average constituent, instead of large donations from the wealthy donors and special interests who currently have a stronghold on Hawaii’s politics.”

A similar experimental program was implemented on the Big Island for County Council elections in 2010 and 2012 and was considered a success by citizens and candidates.

House Bill 2533 would allow candidates to go out and collect 200 signatures, accompanied with $5 donations, from voters in their districts, in exchange for a sum of money from the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund with which to run their campaigns.  The Election Fund, a special trust fund, currently has $2.9 million dollars and was established during the ’78 Constitutional Convention for the purpose of limiting the influence of private money on the lawmaking process.

“Delegates in the ’79 Constitutional Convention knew that big donations would corrupt politics, and they were visionary when they created the citizen-funded elections program,” said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii.  “Over time, legislators have let the program decay in favor of more private funding, so we applaud the legislators who are making an effort to revive this epic law,” he said.

The Election Fund is funded by an option three dollar check-off on state income tax forms.  The three dollars is allocated from tax money that an individual would already pay to the state.

Robert Harris, executive director of the Sierra Club agrees with the bill’s advocates.  “Developers and polluters pour millions of dollars into elections every year,” said Robert Harris, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. “Clean elections help ensure smart growth development and clean water for all of Hawaii’s residents.”

Hawaii Senate Tables Bill Legalizing Marijuana

Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee Defers Bill Legalizing Marijuana.  Advances Bills Decriminalizing Marijuana, Providing Medical Amnesty for Calling 911 for Overdose Emergency.
Marijuana LeafThe Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee today deferred Senate Bill 2733, a bill that would have legalized marijuana in Hawaii.

“We felt Hawaii was not ready for legalization at this time,” said Espero. “With the passage of legalization bills in Colorado and Washington, however, these states will be test sites to see how legalization impacts the states and their residents.”

Another measure, Senate Bill 2358, which would decriminalize marijuana, was passed unanimously and will now go to the Judiciary and Labor Committee.  First time offense would be a $100 fine; second offense $250; three or more $500. No prison time would be involved.

The committee also advanced Senate Bill 2215, which would provide medical amnesty for those who call 911 when someone is overdosing.  “Many Hawaii residents have died because people are afraid to call for help when they are with someone overdosing.  This measure is a good Samaritan bill that gives limited immunity to those who seek medical assistance,” said Espero

Bruno Mars Ticket Fiasco Has Lawmaker Introduce Resolution to Assist Local Residents in the Future

If you’re a loyal fan standing in line to purchase a coveted concert ticket, and plan to attend that concert, you should be able to have more than six percent of a chance to purchase that ticket, said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. The lawmaker has introduced a resolution urging concert and entertainment venues to require only in-person ticket sales for the first 48 hours.

Capital Logo

The resolution was triggered by the disappointment of local residents after the quick sale – three concerts sold out in 2-hours – of tickets for local boy Bruno Mars’ Hawaii shows in April. It was later announced that people from the mainland and Canada snagged 42 percent of the 17,000 tickets. Even more frustrating was for those who stood in the long lines at the Blaisdell box office, only six percent of tickets were bought there. It’s also been reported that scalpers who purchased tickets in bulk are selling them for exorbitant prices. Kim is hoping to change this for concertgoers so that those who will actually go to a performance are able to purchase tickets from the original venue at the actual ticket price, and not from a secondary market at inflated prices.

“Despite waiting in line for hours, many fans were unable to purchase tickets to the upcoming Bruno Mars concert at the Blaisdell Center,” said Kim. “Anyone who takes the time to show up in person should have the opportunity to purchase tickets for at least the first two days before opening up to online sales. It’s unfortunate that out-of-state ticket brokers and scalpers will resell these concert tickets back to local residents for an enormous profit.”

The resolution names and urges the following entities to set purchasing terms: Hawaii Community Development Authority, Stadium Authority, Department of Enterprise Services of the City and County of Honolulu, Board of Regents, President of the University of Hawaii and Chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

These entities hold concerts at venues such as Kakaako Park, Aloha Stadium, the Neil S. Blaisdell Center, Waikiki Shell, University of Hawaii Stan Sheriff Center and the Hawaii Convention Center.

“Our residents should enjoy a night of entertainment without having to pay inflated prices,” said Kim.

Balancing Budget on Backs of UH Students Ill-Advised, Senate President Kim – Officials Blame Deficit on Miserable Football Season

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim is strongly urging University of Hawaii officials not to balance a potential $2 million budget deficit by raising student fees. Through a senate resolution, she points out the already high student fees per semester that amount to $1,400,000 per year to the UH Athletics Department. Students currently pay a $50 mandatory fee per semester.

Donna Mercado Kim and son Micah

Donna Mercado Kim and son Micah

Officials have blamed the deficit on a disappointing 1-11 football season with low ticket sales and the inability to meet a $1 million fundraising goal. However, although acknowledging these facts, the resolution also points out that the discontent and dissatisfaction of some longtime financial supporters with the leadership and transparency of the Board of Regents and the President, and their public statements on no longer contributing funds.

“University officials made bad leadership decisions and now we are seeing the result of them,” said Kim. “Why are we asking our students to pay for the shortfalls of university decision makers? We shouldn’t allow students to shoulder the burden of the UH Athletics Department or any other department.”

According to the resolution, student fees should be based on an objective criteria or an appropriate formula rather than an apparently arbitrary amount decided by the University. It goes on to say that if fees are raised to close a budget deficit, once it is balanced, those fees should be reduced accordingly.

“This is not what we want to teach our future generation of leaders,” she added. “By passing the buck to them, we’re saying ‘Look, if you make a mistake and don’t meet expectations, you can just force someone else to deal with it.’”

Governor Abercrombie Releases $475,000 in CIP Funds for Ka’u Hospital

Senator Russell Ruderman just announced on Facebook the following release of funds for the Ka’u Hospital on the Big Island:

Kau Hospital

I am very happy to announce that today I received notification from Governor Abercrombie that he has released $475,000 in CIP funds for the Ka’u Hospital Renovations, Repairs, and Maintenance.

“It gives me great satisfaction to share with you that my Administration is releasing the following Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds for work in your District:

Ka’u Hospital, Hospital Renovations – $201,000

HHSC, Repair and Maintenance Projects, Statewide (Ka’u Hospital, Energy Audit) – $75,000

HHSC, Repair and Maintenance Projects, Statewide (Ka’u Hospital, Plumbing Upgrade) – $199,000

I understand how important these projects are to the people you serve in your District. Thank you for your work in securing these projects and I look forward to working together to see its completion.”

I appreciate the Governor’s New Day Work Projects initiative and thank him for his personal attention to this matter. The release of CIP funds for renovations to Ka’u Hospital is a welcome influx of needed funding to improve the infrastructure and safety for our community and projects like this will help improve the safety and health of our community in addition to help reduce unemployment in our district.

School Athletics Funding Bill Scheduled For Hearing

Athletics has become a key factor in helping students stay motivated and succeed in the classroom. However, after the downturn in the economy, many athletic programs and positions have been cut. State Senator David Ige introduced this session a measure that would restore some of these positions and programs.

Click to learn more

Click to learn more

He urges public school, teachers and coaches to submit testimony on Senate Bill 3083, and become an active participant in the legislative process. During the hearing, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 10 at 1:15 p.m., schools across the state will be able to provide live testimony via the Hawaii State Senate’s Statewide Videoconferencing Pilot Program, which launched this year. Lawmakers initiated the program last year allowing neighbor island residents the opportunity to provide testimony using technology. Many people, especially students, are unable to travel to the State Capitol to provide testimony in person. The Senate’s technology initiative will allow them to testify on SB3083

“The advent of videoconferencing technologies within the Senate gives students easier access to the legislative process,” said Ige, “allowing them to be stewards of their own education and to voice opinions on how school sports has personally affected their lives.”

Ige, who is chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, spoke with many coaches, parents and teachers about the important role athletics play in overall student development. “For many students in our public schools, the opportunity to play sports motivates and positively impacts their success in the classroom. “

SB3083 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Education Committee on Monday, February 10 at 1:15 p.m. in Room 414 of the State Capitol. Those wishing to submit testimony or to sign up to provide testimony via teleconferencing can do so by visiting www.capitol.hawaii.gov.   

Students Across State Testify Via Videoconferencing – Bringing the Legislature to Neighbor Islands Through Technology

Students from across the state participated in the legislative process by testifying via videoconferencing during a Senate hearing on two education bills.

Click to view the hearing

Click to view the hearing

Senate Bill 2441 establishes the R.E.A.C.H. program within the Office of Youth Services to provide a standardized framework and funding for after-school programs in public middle and intermediate schools.

sb2441The bill establishes a revolving fund to receive fees and other moneys to supplement the costs of administering and operating the program; appropriates funds for establishing the R.E.A.C.H. program to provide funding for after-school programs in middle and intermediate public schools; and establishes one full-time equivalent (1.0 FTE) position to support the program and appropriates funds for that position. Students from Hana High and Elementary School, Waiakea Intermediate School, Mililani Middle School and Molokai Intermediate School testified before the committee on this measure via video conferencing.

SB2446 requires the Department of Education to name the new public high school in Kihei, Maui the “Patsy Takemoto Mink High School,” in honor of the late United States Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink. Students from Kihei Public Charter School, Maui Waena Intermediate School and Maui High School testified on this measure via video conferencing.

SB2446

“Increasing access and transparency has always been a top priority for the Senate, and utilizing technology is an effective way of achieving this goal,” said Senator Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. “The measures before us impact our students and our schools, and the policies we draft are strengthened by their input and ideas. I look forward to seeing more individuals use this tool to provide testimony.”

Beginning this legislative session, all Hawaii residents will now have the chance to testify at hearings before the Senate Committees on Education (EDU) and Technology and the Arts (TEC) without physically being there. In January 2013, the Senate began a pilot project to allow neighbor island residents the opportunity to participate in the legislative process without traveling to Oahu. Understanding that access is also a barrier for Oahu residents, the committees now pilot the videoconferencing technology statewide.

In its inaugural year, the Neighbor Island Videoconferencing Program was piloted by the Senate Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Technology and the Arts.  In its second year, the two committees will continue to pilot this project, increasing the amount of constituents that can be reached and who can testify by expanding statewide. Hearing notices for the pilot project hearings will indicate that videoconferencing testimony will be allowed and contain a link to instructions for the public on how to participate.  Because this is a pilot project, there are some limitations to how many individuals are able to participate.  Following the completion of the legislative session, the project will be evaluated.

Senator Solomon to Hold Series of Legislative Community Meetings on the Big Island

Senator Malama Solomon will hold a series of legislative community meetings on Hawaii Island for residents of the 4th Senatorial District, which includes N. Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, and N. Kona.

Sen. Malama Solomon

Sen. Malama Solomon

The meetings are held for community members to attend and to voice their concerns on issues affecting the district and state and to share their priorities for the legislative session.

Solomon will be holding the series of meeting during the legislative session’s mandatory recess. “The original legislative intent of the annual mandatory recess was primarily to enable neighbor island legislators to meet on island with constituents to discuss priorities and concerns,” said Solomon.

SCHEDULE:

  • Thursday, February 20, 2014, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Elementary & Intermediate School Cafeteria, 27-330 Old Mamalahoa Hwy., Papaikou, HI
  • Friday, February 21, 2014, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Laupahoehoe Public Charter School Cafeteria, 35-2065 Old Mamalahoa Hwy, Waimea
  • Monday, February 24, 2014, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Kohala Senior Center, 65-1291A Kawaihae Rd., Kamuela
  • Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., North Hawaii Education and Research Center, 45-539 Plumeria St., Honokaa
  • Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Waikoloa Elementary School Cafeteria, 68-1730 Hooko St., Waikoloa Village, HI 96738

For more information, please call toll free 974-4000, Ext. 67335 or email sensolomon@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Senate Recognizes “Publisher of the Year” Dennis Francis of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The Hawaii State Senate today recognized Dennis Francis, president and publisher of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, who was recently named “Publisher of the Year” by Editor & Publisher Magazine, the leading journal of the newspaper industry.

Publisher of the Year

Publisher of the Year Dennis Francis

Francis merged Hawaii’s two daily papers, the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2010 and turned two struggling newspapers into one prosperous one. Over the past three years, the Star-Advertiser has successfully introduced a breaking news app for smart devices, created an innovative digital pricing structure, and promoted open and transparent government by filing lawsuits requiring public agencies to release information on their proceedings. Additionally, Frances is actively involved in the community and serves on a number of organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, American Red Cross, Aloha United Way and Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

Francis

“Francis is well-deserving of Publisher of the Year,” said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. “His successes in professional achievements are more than matched by his charitable work. On behalf of the entire Senate body, I commend Dennis for his many contributions to our community, and wish him many more years of success and fulfillment in his professional and personal endeavors.”

House Health Committee Passes Measures to Convert Health Connector From Private to State Agency

Moves to improve transparency, accountability and sustainability include changes to board membership of the Connector and creation of a state innovation waiver task force under the Affordable Care Act

The House Committee on Health today passed a number of measures addressing transparency, accountability and sustainability issues nagging the Hawaii Health Connector since its start up.The Health Connector is the state’s enrollment portal for coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Connector was created to match low income residents and small businesses with subsidized or affordable health plans under the ACA.

“I want to be clear that these measures are a work in progress and allows us to continue to establish a better framework and foundation so that the Health Connector can successfully move forward in fulfilling the goals of the Affordable Care Act,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa), who chairs the House Committee on Health.

“Even as the healthcare landscape changes around us,we need to be able to respond to the developing rules and regulations to allow the Health Connector to move forward in achieving its mission.”

HB2529

The centerpiece for the package of amended and approved bills is H.B. 2529, H.D. 1, which converts the Health Connector from a private non-profit entity to a State agency and initially places it under the Office of the Governor.

“It says something about the importance we place on this agency and the work it does on behalf of the people of Hawaii when we place it under the direct auspices of the Governor,” Belatti says.

The bill also creates a task force whose primary goal will be to develop a health reform plan to obtain a state innovation waiver from certain requirements of the ACA. This will allow the State

to be more innovative in its approach to fulfilling the goals and objectives of the Affordable Care Act while taking into consideration Hawaii’s unique health care environment and Hawaii’s Pre-paid Health Care Act.

“Given the low uninsured rate that Hawaii has enjoyed because of Hawaii’s groundbreaking Pre-paid Health Care Act, we believe that we have a good case to put before health officials in Washington D.C.,” Belatti said.

One of the more serious concerns of the committee was the current board’s inability to come up with a workable sustainability strategy for the long term. The creation of a sustainability fee would address some of those concerns over the next two years after federal funding ends in December 2014 and as the task force works on a more long-term solution.

The bill also creates greater accountability and transparency by requiring the Connector to comply with chapter 103F of the state procurement code, imposing public hearing and notice requirements pursuant to state statutes, changes the makeup of the Health Connector’s board of directors, broadens the appointing authority of Board members from the Governor to include the Speaker of the House and the Senate President, and creates greater opportunities for public participation in the Health Connector through a consumer, patient, business and health care advisory group.

H.B 2529, H.D. 1, along with other companion bills, move on to hearings in the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce.

Council Chairs Seek Return of Projected $72 Million Hotel Tax Revenue to Counties

Council chairs from all four Hawaii counties jointly announced their support for legislation that would repeal the cap on distribution of hotel room tax revenue to the county governments.

County Council Chairs for the Hawaiian Islands

County Council Chairs for the Hawaiian Islands

Council Chairs Gladys Baisa of Maui County, Jay Furfaro of Kauai County, Ernie Martin of the City and County of Honolulu and J Yoshimoto of Hawaii County said they testified  in support of House Bill 1671 (2014), which was before the House Committee on Tourism on Monday, Feb. 3, at 9:30 a.m.

Revenue from the state’s hotel room tax, known as the transient accommodations tax or TAT, is partially remitted to the counties. Citing the state government budget shortfalls, the legislature imposed an artificial cap on the counties’ annual remittance three years ago, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue to each county.

The council chairs said county residents and county governments earn TAT revenue by supporting the visitor industry in countless ways, including by funding tourism promotion, providing police, fire and lifeguard services and maintaining roadways, beach parks and other public infrastructure. They say the revenue should be proportionally returned to the counties, under an established formula.

According to Mike McCartney, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, more than 8.2 million visitors traveled to Hawaii in 2013, a 2.6 percent increase from 2012, generating a total of $1.5 billion in state tax revenues.

Of the TAT revenue that’s returned to the counties, Kauai County receives 14.5 percent, Hawaii County 18.6 percent, Maui County 22.8 percent and the City and County of Honolulu 44.1 percent. Eliminating the artificial cap on distribution would mean the counties would realize additional annual revenue of more than $10 million each.

“We stand united and humbly ask the state legislators to lift the cap they imposed upon our counties three years ago.  Since then, the economy has improved.” Hawaii County Council Chair Yoshimoto said. “We ask that the State legislators allow the counties to receive our fair share of the TAT revenues so that we can provide the necessary services and meet our obligations to residents and visitors alike.

Hawaii County’s capped TAT revenue is $17.2 million. The TAT revenue distribution for Hawaii County would rise to more than $30 million (based on a projected increase of $13.4 million) if the cap is eliminated.

“In any given day, 21 percent of the population on Kauai is visitors,” Kauai County Council Chair Furfaro said. “It is one of our primary economic engines. If we want them to return to our island, we have to meet their high demands and expectations.”

Kauai County’s annual TAT revenue distribution is currently capped at $13.4 million. With the cap eliminated, Kauai County would expect to get $10.4 million in additional TAT revenue, based on Fiscal Year 2013 projections.

“Over the past few years, Honolulu contributed millions of dollars to upgrade and renovate several areas of Waikiki to enhance the visitor experience,” Honolulu City Council Chair Martin said. “The additional TAT revenues the counties receive would go a long way in maintaining our beaches and parks, to continue to promote our state as a premium visitor destination and, specifically for Honolulu, to avoid enacting poorly conceived revenue-enhancing measures that would negatively infringe upon our well-deserved and longstanding image as one of the most desired tourist destinations in the world.”

The City and County of Honolulu’s projected TAT revenue would be about $72.8 million ($31.8 million more than the current capped amount of $41 million) if the legislature removes the distribution cap.

Maui County’s TAT revenue distribution is projected go up by $16.4 million if HB 1671 is enacted. TAT revenue is currently capped at $21.2 million for Maui County.

“As promised, county officials will have a stronger and united lobbying effort this year to ensure that our constituents and visitors get what they deserve,” said Maui County Council Chair Baisa, noting the Hawaii Council of Mayors and Hawaii State Association of Counties also support repealing the cap. “We encourage the public to join us in supporting this measure by submitting testimony.”

Cumulatively, the counties would receive an estimated $72 million in annual revenue under HB 1671, which was co-introduced by all six members of the House of Representatives from Maui County, including Speaker Joseph M. Souki. During the Jan. 15 opening of the legislature, Speaker Souki expressed support for lifting the TAT cap during his remarks, saying, “It’s time.”

Rep. Tom Brower chairs the House Committee on Tourism. Testimony for HB 1671 is accepted at the legislature’s website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Senator Introduces Law Enforcement Bills

Senator Will Espero, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, introduced six bills related to law enforcement that address several concerns of public safety around the state.
capital

“These bills will improve and strengthen our law enforcement at the county and state level,” said Espero (D, ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages). “The bills are good for law enforcement officers and for the general public as a whole.”

One of the bills, SB2590, prompted by the Christopher Deedy trial, in which the defendant, a federal agent, was charged with murder after shooting a man at a fast-food restaurant after a night of bar-hopping, seeks to prohibit all county and state law enforcement officers from the consumption of alcohol while carrying a firearm. (On Aug. 26, 2013, a Honolulu judge declared a mistrial as the jury was unable to reach a verdict.)

“We expect the best from those who serve and protect, and we hold them to the highest standards,” said Espero. “This bill helps to ensure the safety of both civilians and law enforcement in the state.”

“On another issue of firearms, I’ve introduced a bill that would establish an online firearms registration process to streamline the process for owners and officials,” he added, “One of the biggest complaints about government is inefficiency. With this measure, everyone will save time and money.”

IMPROVING AND STRENGTHENING LAW ENFORCEMENT

SB2937 Relating to a Law Enforcement Standards Board

Establishes a statewide law enforcement standards board for the licensing and certification of county police officers, state public safety officers, and employees of the departments of transportation and land and natural resources with police powers. Establishes a special fund. Appropriates funds.  Hawaii is only state in the nation without any state-level regulation of police.

SB2591 Relating to Law Enforcement

Requires the chief of each county police department to submit an annual report to the legislature of misconduct incidents that resulted in suspension or discharge of a police officer from the calendar year immediately prior to the year of the report submission. Requires the county police departments to provide updated information in each successive annual report until the highest non-judicial grievance adjustment procedure has concluded. Requires the county police departments to retain the disciplinary records in accordance with its record retention policy or for at least six months, whichever period is longer.

SB2589 Relating to Law Enforcement

Transfers the law enforcement functions of the harbors division of the department of transportation to the department of public safety, effective July 1, 2016.

SB2938 Relating to Firearms Registration

Requires each county to establish an online firearms registration process to be fully implemented by July 1, 2015.

SB2590 Relating to Firearms

Prohibits state and county law enforcement officers who are authorized to carry firearms from consuming alcohol or ingesting prescription medications that would impair the judgment or physical response of the employee while carrying a firearm. Prohibits the consumption of alcohol for an unspecified number of hours prior to carrying a firearm.

SB2588 Relating to Unsworn Falsification to a Law Enforcement Officer

Creates the offense of unsworn falsification to a law enforcement officer and a penalty of not less than a misdemeanor.

Senate Bill Restores Resources for Hawaii Public School Athletics

State Senator David Ige (D-16 Pearl City, Momilani, Pearlridge, ‘Aiea, Royal Summit, ‘Aiea Heights, Newtown, Waimalu, Hālawa, Pearl Harbor), chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has introduced Senate Bill 3083, which, if passed, would make an appropriation to restore resources to the athletic programs in public schools throughout the state. The measure would also increase the positions authorized for school athletics and allow the Department of Education to create, fill and fund full-time equivalent, permanent, or temporary positions for fiscal year 2014-2015 for its athletic programs.

SB3083

SB3083 is also supported by Senator Michelle Kidani (D-18 Mililani Town, portion of Waipi‘o Gentry, Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia), vice chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Jill Tokuda (D-24 Kāneohe, Kāneohe MCAB, Kailua, He‘eia, ‘Āhuimanu), chairwoman of the Education Committee.

“During the time of the ‘Great Recession’, the athletic programs at public schools have borne much of the brunt of the budget cuts made in education. This measure will help to provide additional resources to assure the development and safety of our high school athletes,” said Ige. “For many students in our public schools, the opportunity to play sports motivates and positively impacts their success in the classroom. In recognizing the positive influence coaches and athletics can have on our students, this measure helps illustrate the investment we are making in our students to help them succeed in both the classroom and on the playing field.”

SB3083 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Education Committee on Monday, February 10 at 1:15 p.m.  Those wishing to submit testimony or to sign up to provide testimony via teleconferencing can do so by visiting www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Land Exchange Next Step in Creating Central Oahu Agriculture Hub

State senators introduced this session land exchange legislation that would help protect agricultural and conservation lands, boost the agricultural industry and put the appropriate entities in the proper places to grow a better Hawai‘i. The measure is supported by eighteen lawmakers in the Hawai‘i State Senate, including the bill’s main sponsor Senator Donovan Dela Cruz (D- Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o Acres, Wheeler, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village, and portion of Poamoho).

sb3065
The measure, Senate Bill 3065, Relating to Land Exchange, would allow the Department of Land and Natural Resources to exchange state-owned parcels in Kapolei for 20,000 acres of agricultural and conservation lands in Central O‘ahu. The lands, currently owned by the Castle & Cooke, surround the 1,207 acres of arable land purchased by the state for $13 million in 2012.
The land acquisition was part of a detailed plan for the future of Hawai‘i known as the Whitmore Project, an initiative to revitalize Hawai‘i’s local agriculture industry by bringing farmers and the state together to increase local food production, create jobs, engage in partnerships, and provide affordable housing.

Castle & Cooke has listed the land for sale at $175,000,000 and has also been supportive of the idea of a land exchange. The State currently owns land near areas where transit-oriented development is in the works.

“A land exchange with Castle & Cooke makes real sense here,” said Sen. Dela Cruz, “We have to look at all our options and think outside the box to help diversify Hawai‘i’s ag industry and preserve our lands. The state would spend little to no taxpayer money, and the exchange would allow for the appropriate entity to oversee smart development around transit plans and put the State in a place where it can provide opportunities for farmers and preserve lands.”

“Wahiawā can be an ag industrial hub,” he added. “These lands are up for sale and anything can happen to them. Do we want to see them parceled out and developed or do we want to see them as part of a plan that supports agriculture and our farmers?”

Big Island Police Still Conducting Marijuana Raids in Puna

One man has been charged and another released following their arrests during the execution of a marijuana search warrant last week in the Hawaiian Acres subdivision in Puna.

1/28/14 UPDATE: Vice officers served the search warrant Friday morning (January 24) at a home on Road 1 and recovered 51 marijuana plants [corrected number] (ranging in height from 1 to 3 feet), 168.5 grams of dried processed marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Raymond Eastridge

Raymond Eastridge

Two 45-year-old residents, Raymond Eastridge and John Holloway, were arrested at the scene and taken to the South Hilo police cellblock while Vice detectives continued the investigation.

After conferring with prosecutors, Holloway was released without charges. Eastridge was charged with second-degree promoting marijuana, second-degree promoting a detrimental drug, third degree promoting a detrimental drug and possessing drug paraphernalia.

His bail was set at $7,250. He remained at the cellblock until his initial court appearance Monday afternoon (January 27).

Legislative Hawaiian Affairs Caucus Hosts “E Kama’ilio Kākou” – Let’s Talk Story

Events feature speaker series on Kaho’olawe, Hawaiian focus Education, Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Hawaiian music

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Speakers covering a wide range of Hawaiian issues and topics highlight Legislative Hawaiian Affairs Caucus Week at the Capitol, January 27-30, and will culminate in a status report to legislators from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).

“E Kama’ilio Kākou” (Let’s Talk Story) features topics ranging from “The Evolution of Modern Hawaiian Music” to “The Sexual Colonization of the Hawaiian people.” Speakers include Aaron Mahi, former director of the Royal Hawaiian Band; Hina Wong-Kalu, director of Culture at Halau Lokahi Public Charter School; Michael Naho’opi’i, executive director of Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission; and Drs. Lilikalā Kame’eleihiwa and Keali’i Gora from the UH School of Hawaiian Studies.

“These events provide a wonderful opportunity for the lawmakers and the public to learn about a range of contemporary Hawaiian issues and subjects of interest to not only Native Hawaiians but everyone in Hawaii,” said Hawaii Island Representative Faye Hanohano (Puna), chair of Ocean Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs Committee.

On Friday, January 31, lawmakers will also present certificates recognizing a number of Native Hawaiian artists including Solomon Enos, Sharon Lum Ho, Hanalei Hopfe, Minnie Ka’awaloa and Meleanna Aluli Meyer on the floor of the House of Representatives at the start of its regular session at noon. OHA will present a report to legislators from 11 to 11:30 a.m. in Conference Room 423.

FEATURED SPEAKERS:

MONDAY January 27 – Aaron Mahi, former Director of the Royal Hawaiian Band, City & County of Honolulu

Topic: “The Evolution of Modern Hawaiian Music”

Capitol Auditorium, 5:30-7 p.m.

TUESDAY January 28 – Drs. Lilikalā Kame’eleihiwa PhD & Keali’i Gora PhD, UH School of Hawaiian Studies

Topic: “The Sexual Colonization of the Hawaiian People”

Conference Room 309, 5:30-7 p.m.

WEDNESDAY January 29 – Hina Wong-Kalu, Director of Culture at Halau Lokahi Public Charter School

Topic: Mālama Iwi Kupuna; Hawaiian Focus Education; Hawaiians in the LGBT community

Capitol Auditorium, 5:30-7 p.m.

THURSDAY January 30 – Michael Naho’opi’i, Executive Director of Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission

Topic: “Status of Our Beloved Kaho’olawe Island”

Capitol Auditorium, 5:30-7 p.m.