Monday, October 20, 2014

Rep. Karen Awana Opposes Proposal to Dispose of Illegal Fireworks in Nanakuli

Representative Karen Awana (Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili) today voiced opposition to a new proposal to store and dispose of a large cache of illegal fireworks at a rural property on the Waianae Coast.

A public notice was placed in the Star-Advertiser last week announcing that fireworks display firm Grucci Inc. is seeking an emergency permit to store and dispose of a fireworks cache at a property located at 87-879 Paakea Road. The notice failed to provide any information on the public comment period for the permit’s application before the Department of Health. Additionally, there has been no communication with the community from officials regarding the proposal.

The cache contains the remnants of the shipment of confiscated commercial grade fireworks that were involved in the 2011 fatal explosion at a Waikele storage bunker—which resulted in 5 deaths.

“This plan to bring hazardous fireworks into our backyard is downright exasperating. Both the state and city have used the Waianae Coast as a dumping ground for far too long,” said Representative Awana.

“We have seen the danger that it poses to the public and the community, and now they want to store and dispose of these fireworks here amongst our neighbors. There has been no outreach or information from the parties involved with the members of the community who are being forced to bear this weight. While I still oppose this proposal, I will work towards facilitating a public meeting with all stakeholders so that the community will have an opportunity to be briefed about the plan and provide their input,” added Awana.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Task Force Releases Updated Report to Establish Medical Marijuana Dispensary System in Hawaii

The Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force has announced the release of a newly updated report on the policies and procedures for access, distribution, security, and other relevant issues related to the medical use of marijuana in Hawaii. The report was produced by the Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and updates findings released in an earlier report first published in August 2009.

In 2000, the Hawaii State Legislature passed a law enabling the use of medical marijuana by qualified individuals. However, the law did not provide these individuals with a legal method of obtaining marijuana—making it illegal for patients and caregivers to get medical marijuana for legitimate use.

This year the Legislature passed HCR48, establishing under the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Public Policy Center, the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force to develop recommendations to establish a regulated statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana.

The updated LRB report highlights glaring uncertainties within Hawaii’s medical marijuana program in regards to the access and transportation of medical marijuana. The program currently only allows qualifying patients to use medical marijuana, but does not provide them with any method to obtain it other than for them to grow a limited amount on their own. However, the sale of marijuana—including seeds for cultivation—remains illegal under state law. As a result qualifying patients who suffer from cancer or other debilitating diseases are unable to legally acquire medical marijuana to find relief and improve the quality of their lives.

Additionally, it is uncertain whether or to what extent a qualifying patient or caregiver may transport medical marijuana anywhere outside the home on the same island, or island to island, without violating state drug enforcement laws.

“It has been over a decade since Hawaii took the historic step of legalizing medical marijuana to better the lives our residents. But as we have learned throughout the years and once again validated by the report, issues still exist with the program that need to be addressed,” said House Health Chair Della Au Belatti. “The task force is working towards improving our medical cannabis system with the goal of facilitating access for patients through a legal dispensary system or other means.”

The Dispensary System Task Force will submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including proposed legislation to the 2015 Legislature.

On Tuesday, September 9, from 9:00 – 11:00 am at the Hawaii State Capitol, Room 325, the Dispensary Task Force will be briefed by the Legislative Reference Bureau on its 2014 report.

Public hearings on Hawaii Island and Oahu have been scheduled by the Task Force to obtain public testimony on issues and concerns regarding dispensaries in Hawaii and any input on the updated Legislative Reference Bureau report. These public hearings are scheduled as follows:

· Hawaii Island (Hilo): Wednesday, September 10th at 5:00 pm. Aupuni Center.
· Oahu: Wednesday, September 24th at 5:00 pm. Hawaii State Capitol Auditorium.

The updated report and more information on the Dispensary Task Force is available online at

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rep. Awana elected as Vice-Chair of National Caucus of Native American State Legislators

The National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (NCNASL) has elected Representative Karen Awana (Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili) to serve on the Executive Committee as Vice-Chair of the Caucus. The election occurred during the NCNASL’s annual meeting held last month in Minneapolis.

The National Caucus of Native American State Legislators is comprised of state legislators from across the United States who work to promote a better understanding of state-tribal issues among policymakers and the public at large.

"The NCNASL is the premier group providing communication and discussion among state legislators from across the country on issues important to Native populations," said Representative Awana. "I am extremely honored and humbled to be able to contribute to the advancement of these issues on the national level.”

Members hope to encourage a broad awareness of state-tribal issues across the country and raise the profile of tribal issues throughout the state legislative arena. The effectiveness of the organization and the strength of individual Native American legislators, increase the ability of the state legislatures to more appropriately address tribal issues and develop public policy in cooperation with tribal governments.

Awana also serves as the Chair of the NCNASL Policy Committee on Economic Development. The committee meets to address all topics associated with economic development including financial partnerships, community and corporate boards, and investments in Native communities.

She is joined on the committee by fellow Hawaii lawmakers Senator J. Kalani English, Senator Brickwood Galuteria, Representative Ty Cullen, Representative Derek Kawakami, and Representative Mele Carroll.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Japan-Hawaii Legislators' Friendship Association Holds International Talks at Hawaii Convention Center

Hawaii State Legislators and members of the Japanese House of Councillors met yesterday to hold the second international meeting of the Japan-Hawaii Legislators’ Friendship Association (JHLFA) at the Hawaii Convention Center. The parties engaged in discussions on a wide range of common topics important to Hawaii and Japan focusing on political, economic, and business matters.

The association was formed to hold legislative-level dialogue to strengthen relationships between Japan and Hawaii.

Japan’s visiting delegation was comprised of members from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) majority party of the House of Councillors. The House of Councillors is the upper house of the Japanese National Diet, equivalent to the United States Senate.

Heading the Japanese delegation were JHLFA Chairperson Mr. Hiromi Yoshida and Chief Whip Masaji Matsuyama. Hawaii’s JHLFA Chairperson is State Representative Scott K. Saiki with Former Governor George Ariyoshi serving as Honorary Advisor. Participants at the meeting included sixteen members of the Japanese Diet, twelve Hawaii lawmakers, Hawaii Tourism Authority President Mike McCartney, Hawaii state officials, the Honolulu Consul General of Japan, the Hawaii Business Roundtable, and various local Japan-affiliated organizations.

The meetings commenced with private discussions between the parties on the political climate of Japanese and Hawaii relationships, followed by business and economic presentations on topics of mutual interest such as the facilitation and growth of tourism to Hawaii, the proliferation of renewable energies, and the international development of young emerging leaders in Hawaii and Japan.

The day’s sessions also included an awards ceremony to recognize individuals and organizations that have contributed to the development of economic and cultural ties between Hawaii and Japan. The honorees were:
  • Hawaii HIS Corporation - Honolulu Ekiden & Music
    • Mr. Konosuke Oda, General Manager
  • Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce
    • Mr. Wayne Ishihara, President
  • JALPAK International Hawaii Inc. - Hula Ho'olauna Aloha
    • Mr. Shinji Iijima, President
  • Japan Hawaii Travel Association
    • Mr. Akio Hoshino, President & Chair
  • Japanese Culture Center of Hawaii
    • Ms. Carole Hayashino, President & Executive Director
  • JTB Hawaii Inc. - Honolulu Festival
    • Mr. Tsukasa Harufuku, President & CEO
  • Kinki Nippon Tourist Company Inc. (Kintetsu) – Pan Pacific Festival
    • Mr. Manabu Yada, President
    • Mr. Masaharu Matsuoka, Vice President
    • Ms. Christine Kubota, Pan Pacific Festival Chair
  • Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu
    • Consul General Toyoei Shigeeda
    • Deputy Consul General Kazunari Tanaka

Friday, August 22, 2014

Statement by Speaker Joseph M. Souki on the passing of former Hawaii Island Legislator Robert Herkes

Representative Robert (Bob) Herkes

“Hawaii has lost a dedicated and passionate public servant who championed protecting consumer rights during his 18 years in the State House of Representatives. Bob worked tirelessly to pass legislation that strengthened the rights of residents in mortgage foreclosures. He was an early and strong advocate of natural disaster preparedness and was one of the first to call attention to the health effects of vog. He was a good legislator, highly respected by his colleagues and a great friend. I will miss him.

On behalf of the House of Representatives I would like to offer our condolences to his wife Jo-Anna and his sons Bobby, Kenny and Doug.”

Robert N. Herkes served in the State House for 18 years until 2012, representing District 5 (Puna, Ka'u, South Kona, North Kona).

His political career began in 1982 when he served on the Hawai'i County Police Commission. Then in 1994, he was elected to the Hawai'i County Council. In 1988, he was appointed to the State Senate to fill the seat vacated by former Hawai`i Island Senator Richard Henderson. He was elected to the State House in 1992, ran for Hawai'i County Mayor in 2000, and was re-elected to the State House in 2002. A retired hotel executive, Representative Herkes graduated with honors from Cornell Hotel School and worked in the hospitality industry for 40 years.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Representative Rida Cabanilla Recognized as Global Woman of Distinction

Representative Rida Cabanilla (Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe) has been selected by the Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World. Honorees are invited to attend the Filipina Leadership Summit and awards gala on October 5-8, 2014 in Makiti, Philippines.

The 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World Award™ recognizes Filipina women who are influencing the face of leadership in the global workplace, having reached status for outstanding work in their respective fields and are recognized for their leadership, achievement and contributions to society, mentorship and legacy. Annual and past awardees are asked to mentor a young Filipina protégé through the FEMtorship program to develop the next generation of Filipina global leaders.

“I am truly proud to be honored by an organization so relentlessly dedicated to the development and promotion of women across the world,” said Cabanilla. “I intend to contribute my own talents and experience in building the future of our community and I look forward to the exciting opportunity to mentor a young woman so that she too may one day be a benefit to society.”

“The Global FWN100™ women are dynamic entrepreneurs, practitioners, community leaders and executives who have moved through the ranks in large organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies. They are powerful examples of women doing extraordinary work who will motivate our youth and future leaders,” said Thelma Boac, Chair of the Global FWN100™ Worldwide Search and Selection Committee. “They were selected based on the size and scope of their positions, influence in their industries and their communities, board affiliations and other leadership roles. Nominations were received from 16 countries.

FWN is a nonprofit professional association based in San Francisco, California with members worldwide founded to increase awareness of the activities, careers and status of women of Philippine ancestry. FWN’s mission is to advance Filipina women in the global workplace through programs and activities that enhance public perceptions of Filipina women's capacities to lead and to build the Filipina community's pipeline of qualified leaders, to increase the odds that some Filipina women will rise to the president position in the private and public sectors worldwide.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Representative Rida Cabanilla Urges Governor to Implement Statewide 'Return to Home' Program

Representative Rida Cabanilla (Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe, West Loch) urged Governor Neil Abercrombie to implement the ‘Return to Home’ program created to reduce homelessness in Hawaii.

SB515 (2013), signed into law as Act 222 (SLH 2013) by Governor Abercrombie in June 2013, created and appropriated $100,000 for a three-year ‘Return to Home’ pilot program, an initiative to provide one-way airfare tickets for eligible homeless individuals to return home to their families on the mainland. However, the Department of Human Services—the coordinating department as written in law—declined to establish and administer the program.

The intent of the program would reduce the ever growing problem of homelessness in Hawaii and ensure that individuals who find themselves homeless in the islands are able to reconnect with family and support networks where they would have the opportunity to recover. Additionally, the program would possibly further save Hawaii taxpayers millions of dollars in welfare costs that would have been spent on homeless individuals who have travelled to live in the state.

“The Governor has not released the $100,000 that was appropriated in the 2013 state budget for the ‘Return to Home’ program for the homeless. This appropriation is much needed to decrease the homeless population in our state, to return these stranded homeless individuals from the mainland to an environment of their choosing, and most importantly to preserve these funds for our own homeless kamaaina. Let us implore the Governor to release the money and create the program,” said Cabanilla.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tourism Chair Tom Brower to Introduce Legislation Banning Aerial Advertisement

Representative Tom Brower (Waikiki, Ala Moana) announced plans to introduce legislation banning aerial advertisement in the state of Hawaii. The proposed legislation will seek to clarify the ambiguities and jurisdiction of aerial advertising written in federal, state, and city law. The measure will specifically make it illegal for a pilot to fly a plane out of a state airport for the purpose of towing a banner for advertisement.

“I have had discussions with U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and state officials to identify what we can do. Due to the ambiguities of city, state and federal law, there is a need for legislation to add more clarity. Right now, we have federal and state laws that need further explanation,” said Brower. “Our skies are under federal and local jurisdiction, but state airport officials issue contracts and agreements with pilots and businesses. While the FAA has indicated that plane operators need to abide by state law and county ordinance, the contract signed by the particular pilot in question did not specifically allow or deny the operation of a tow banner business.”

The plane operator, Aerial Banners North (ABN), has received a federal waiver to conduct banner towing operations nationwide, but state and city officials have strongly asserted that aerial advertisement is illegal under local law. ABN has argued that the waiver allowing them to operate across the nation, and in Hawaii, supersedes any state or county prohibitions.

On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration clarified that the waiver granted to Aerial Banners North which authorizes the company to conduct banner towing operations nationwide, “does not waive any state law or local ordinance. Should the proposed operations conflict with any state law or local ordinance, or require permission of local authorities or property owners, it is the operator’s responsibility to resolve the matter.”

“I care about the threat of aerial banners flying over Hawaii's tourist destinations, ruining the natural beauty, interfering with outdoor recreation and enjoyment of residents and tourists. Most importantly, if we don't act, this will set a bad precedent, opening the flood gates for more aerial advertising in Hawaii's skies,” added Brower, Chair of the House Tourism Committee.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tanning Beds for Minors Ban Signed Into Law

HB611 HD1 CD1, a measure to protect the health of minors by making it unlawful for tanning facilities to allow individuals under age 18 to use tanning equipment utilizing electromagnetic radiation, was signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie. The law will allow the Department of Health to impose fines of up to $250 for a first violation and $500 for subsequent violations.

“Young people are especially susceptible to the risk of skin cancer from ultraviolet radiation,” said Representative Gregg Takayama (Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades), who introduced the bill. “The use of indoor tanning devices are directly linked to skin cancer. Studies show indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma that those who do not tan indoors.”

“This bill protects minors by preventing them from using indoor tanning equipment until they reach an age when they are better able to weigh the benefits and dangers of the practice,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa), House Health Committee Chair.

“Many people don’t know that tanning via artificial ultraviolet light delivers 10-15 times higher the radiation than the mid-day sun” noted Senator Roz Baker (South and West Maui) who introduced similar legislation in the Senate. “I’m delighted to see this bill become law because it will help save lives,” she concluded. 

Senator Baker is also immediate past chair of the Hawaii Pacific Board of the American Cancer Society.  The American Cancer Society has made this legislation a priority nationwide, and Hawaii is the tenth state to enact such a law.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Juvenile Life Sentences Without Parole Abolished

Hawaii has taken a step towards recognizing that juveniles are constitutionally different from adults and that these differences should be taken into account when children are sentenced for adult crimes. Signed into law today by Governor Neil Abercrombie, HB2116 eliminates the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.

“Hawaii is one of a shrinking number of states that still allows life sentencing without parole for juvenile offenders,” said the bill’s introducer Representative Karen Awana (Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili). “In addition, it has been uniformly rejected by the international community and it’s time we remove this law from our books. Right now the United States is the only nation in the world that allows children to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.”

Hawaii’s current law establishes that persons who are convicted of first degree murder or first degree attempted murder are to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole—regardless of age. The changes to the law would maintain a mandatory life sentence for those above eighteen years old, but would sentence persons under the age of eighteen years old at the time of the offense to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.

According to The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, a national advocacy group, Hawaii now joins numerous other states who have eliminated or do not allow juvenile life without parole sentences. Such states include Texas, Wyoming, Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado, Montana, and Alaska. Additionally, other states have created measures to provide youths convicted of violent crimes an opportunity for resentencing later in life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Long Time Kahaluu Resident George Okuda Sworn into Office

George Okuda was officially sworn in today as a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives by Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. Okuda was appointed by Governor Abercrombie to represent House District 48 (Kaneohe, Heeia, Ahuimanu, Kahaluu, Haiku Valley, Mokuoole) previously held by Representative Jessica Wooley who was appointed Director of the Department of Health's Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Okuda will serve out Wooley’s term until a new member is elected in the November general election.

"I want to thank Governor Abercrombie and Speaker Souki for having the confidence in me to carry out the duties of the office. I look forward to working with them along with those in the community to fulfill the responsibilities of my position,” said Okuda. “During the next few months I will be focusing on addressing the concerns and issues of the residents in the 48th district.”

House Speaker Joseph M. Souki said, “George is familiar with the Legislature and the issues of the Windward area and will serve the community well as its representative in the months ahead. He has been involved in managing legislation and working with various constituents, community groups, and state officials including with school principals to attain much needed capital improvement funding at schools in the windward district.”

Okuda served as an aide to Representative Ken Ito (Kaneohe, Maunawili, Olomana) since 2000. Prior to that he worked for former State Senator Bob Nakata (Kaneohe , Kaaawa, Hauula, Laie, Kahuku, Waialua, Haleiwa, Wahiawa, Schofield Barracks, Kunia). He has been a resident of Kahaluu since 1973, and served on the Kahaluu Neighborhood Board for six years including two as its Chair.

Okuda earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is a licensed civil and structural engineer who previously worked for Hawaiian Electric Company.