Tuesday, January 26, 2016

HSPAN: Capitol On Demand

The Hawai‘i State Legislature and ‘Ōlelo Community Media unveiled a new statewide on-demand channel called HSPAN that will significantly increase the coverage of Capitol activities available to the public.

HSPAN – the Hawai‘i Statewide Public Access Network – was created to provide cable subscribers throughout the State with expanded access to the Legislature’s meetings and is already available for viewing. In addition to legislative hearings, the State executive offices, executive branch agencies, and the Judiciary will have access to provide content on HSPAN.

New remote-controlled Sony HD cameras have been installed in 16 conference rooms, both the House and Senate Chambers and the Capitol Auditorium. This will allow for multiple hearings to be captured simultaneously and distributed on HSPAN, Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s digital Channel 50.

The new statewide on-demand channel is in addition to the live coverage currently provided by Capitol TV, which airs on ‘Ōlelo Channel 49 and 54, and other community access stations across the State: Hō‘ike on Kauai, ‘Akakū on Maui and Nā Leo TV on the Big Island. Capitol TV is a State-contracted production company.

The new service will offer Hawai‘i residents significantly increased access to coverage of legislative activities. Committee hearings, floor sessions and any special sessions in the chambers, auditorium and hearing rooms can be archived on HSPAN for on-demand viewing.

‘Ōlelo partnered with Oceanic and the State of Hawai‘i to design and build the necessary infrastructure:

  • Oceanic provided fiber optic cable throughout the Capitol to connect all 16 conference rooms’ audio, video and data lines for the remote camera controls to the control room 
  • The clerk’s office and information technology staff designed and executed the recording and uploading workflow to be fully supported by their departments 
  • ‘Ōlelo developed the master plan for the design, purchase and roll-out of the hardware and software; installed over 30 Sony HD cameras; and designed and installed the upgraded control room
“The Senate has long been an advocate of government transparency and has strived to increase public participation in the legislative process,” said Senator J. Kalani English, Senate majority leader. “HSPAN follows our initiative to effect good governance and allows for our constituents, particularly on the neighbor islands, unfiltered accessibility to legislative action at the Capitol.”

“Our House members were very pleased with the initiative taken by ‘Ōlelo to provide this additional service to the public. It ties in and closely aligns with our ongoing efforts to provide more transparency in the Legislature and, more importantly, to make it easier for voters to get involved in their government and the process of governing,” said House Speaker, Rep. Joseph M. Souki. “My congratulations to ‘Ōlelo for this and its other efforts on behalf of the people of Hawai‘i.”

“Two years ago, the Legislature, the State of Hawai‘i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and ‘Ōlelo embarked on a project to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage for both the Senate and the House of Representatives,” explains Sanford Inouye, president and CEO of ‘Ōlelo. “The people of Hawai‘i can proudly say that we have a government that is significantly more accessible and transparent.”

For more information, visit www.olelo.org.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Women's Legislative Caucus Elects New Leadership, Expands Membership

During the annual meeting of the Hawaii Women’s Legislative Caucus (WLC), members from both the state Senate and House elected new co-conveners for the Caucus and voted to expand their membership to include women lawmakers at the county level.

At the January 12th meeting, the WLC voted as new co-conveners for 2016, Senators Rosalyn H. Baker and Laura H. Thielen and Representatives Lauren Kealohilani Matsumoto and Della Au Belatti. New co-conveners are elected every two years.

“I’m excited to step up to co-convene this wonderful group of women,” said Sen. Laura Thielen. “I look forward to continuing the important work of this group which has a great track record for bettering the lives of women.”

“It’s an honor to be in the company of these strong, smart women lawmakers and I believe together we can make a difference in the lives of women throughout the State,” said Rep. Lauren Matsumoto.

At the meeting, the WLC also decided to extend invitations to the women members of the four county councils to join state lawmakers in promoting legislation at the state and county levels.

“Last year we worked closely with the women members of the Honolulu City Council to protect the safety of victims of domestic violence. We found we could be much more effective when working on matters at both the state and county level,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker. “We look forward to expanding those efforts to every island.”

“Developing this partnership with the women from all counties just makes sense,” said Rep. Della Au Bellati. “By working together, we create a statewide effort of women leaders which only benefits all women in Hawaii.”

The WLC is currently finalizing the package of priorities to be introduced at the 2016 legislative session. The caucus will meet on Thursday, January 28 at the YWCA of Oahu, 1040 Richards Street, to announce the package of bills. The meeting will include a breakfast and panel discussion from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. A news conference will be held at 9 a.m.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Speaker Joseph M. Souki 2016 Opening Day Remarks

JANUARY 20, 2016

Fellow House members, welcome to the 2016 Regular Session of the Hawaii State Legislature. To say that I have seen my share of opening days at the Legislature would be, at my age, a bit of an understatement. Twenty-five or even ten years ago, who would have thought that we would be looking at medical marijuana in the way that we regard it today?

Who would have imagined the number of houses powered by solar panels that are on our roofs today?

Who would have foreseen the Internet or the impact of social media?

Times have changed and so has Hawaii.

Fundamental Needs
What has not changed are the fundamental issues that we grapple with every day here in this building: The economy and jobs, affordable housing and homelessness, the education of our children, the stewardship of our environment, and the protection of our basic rights — these needs never change.

What does change is our approach to them.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were all wondering whether we would ever see single digit interest rates again. But we have—and then some.

It wasn’t so long ago that we were all wondering whether we would ever see the end to the “Great Recession.” But we have, with a record number of visitors coming to the state in the last few years.

The economic cycle is pointing up and our local economy is on a roll. We have momentum on our side—not just economic momentum but a legislative one as well.

It’s About Momentum
Last year, this body took major steps to move us toward energy self-sufficiency.

We gave patients throughout the state access to medical marijuana with the creation of state supervised dispensaries.

We moved to resolve the longstanding financial crisis of Maui’s public hospitals.

We shored up our long-term financial stability by strengthening the Rainy Day Fund and Hurricane Relief Fund, as well as by addressing our unfunded liabilities.

These are not only very difficult and complex issues, but longstanding ones as well. Thank you for having the courage to tackle these and other tough issues over the last several sessions.

I believe we are on a roll, with momentum on our side. And that is not a small thing.

A few weeks ago, I watched the Alamo Bowl, where TCU found itself trailing at the start of the second half, by 31 points! I don’t know what the coach told them at halftime, but clearly, they came out in the second half, intent on fighting back. Momentum dramatically shifted and after three hard fought-overtime periods, they finally secured victory.

Ask any athlete, momentum can be such a powerful force in competition. I believe it can also be a powerful force in life as well. But what are we going to do with it?

Moving forward still takes hard work, boldness and determination. But imagine the good we can do if we leverage our momentum.

Affordable Housing and Homelessness
Homelessness seems as entrenched as any issue we’ve faced in recent times. However, the City and State have been working with many agencies and nonprofit organizations to shape a multipronged approach to assisting these individuals.

We need to support those efforts—not timidly but emphatically with sufficient funds to meet those needs.

And the same should go for the creation of more affordable homes and rentals.

We should refocus all of the state agencies who have a hand in developing affordable housing to leverage what is currently being done. We should start looking at how we can build affordable housing on state owned parcels along Oahu’s rail system.

And we should partner with the private sector so that more can be developed—and developed sooner rather than later.

Providing an adequate supply of affordable housing is the correct long-term solution so that families don’t fall into homelessness and despair.

Fine tuning the clinics
In 2000, we were the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Last year, we provided safe and reliable access for those who require it for health reasons.

As we move closer to implementation, let’s make sure that they’re done right and serve our people in the way they were intended.

Hawaii Health Systems Corporation
The action we took last year to shore up Maui’s public hospitals was groundbreaking. That formula may provide us with an answer to broader issues with other facilities in our statewide public hospital system.

That’s something we should explore.

Investing in Hawaii’s Long-Term Future
In looking to our long-term future, we need to continue to scrutinize ways to keep us on a sound fiscal footing. Ways that include making sure that we can sustain ongoing state initiatives, whether it’s the Cancer Center, the Enterprise Technology Services, or any other recent endeavor.

We must continue paying down our unfunded liabilities, specifically our obligations to the public employees’ retirement fund.

Building our budgetary reserves now, puts us in a better position to weather any future economic slowdown, which is sure to come our way.

Our Kupuna
We need to help our kupuna by passing the bill introduced last session that will help family members care for their seniors after they come home from the hospital. Testimony on the measure supported the bill three to one.

More importantly, it will provide the kind of medical training for caregivers that is so essential to keeping our kupuna healthy.

In addition, I will be introducing a bill that will require all doctors practicing in Hawaii to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients. That too will help our kupuna, as well as those who must seek medical care but cannot afford it.

Help for the Counties
And we need to help our counties who help us support our number one industry, tourism. We can do that by raising the counties’ share of the tourism tax and building on earlier increases to the counties. That’s taking advantage of our momentum.

In addition, we need to help the workers on Maui affected by the closure of sugar operations at Hawaii Commercial and Sugar Company. And our actions have to be more than just creating another Hamakua Task Force.

The closure of those sugar lands on our last large-scale plantation marks the end of a remarkable, proud and historic era in Hawaii. Our grandparents, parents and all of us have been shaped by life around the plantations and the lessons learned on them. It reminds us of our history and where we came from, so that we can better plot the direction in which we want to go.

We will be working closely with A&B and the Administration to ensure that real help will be available. The end of an era cannot be the end of those workers’ dreams for a better life.

Our Keiki
Finally, you cannot talk about a long-term scenario without talking about the investment we make in our children. We need to repair and modernize our education infrastructure so that we give our keiki the best chance to learn and to prepare themselves for their future.

And we need to give them the best opportunity to secure good paying jobs so that they can support their families and create a better life for themselves. We can do that by ensuring that small businesses, the backbone of our economy, remain vibrant and strong.

Right now small business is having a tough time because of one primary reason: their lease rent have gone through the roof, increasing in some places by more than a thousand percent in a very short span of time.

Consequently, we’ve seen a string of locally owned shops and stores shut down in recent years. And it will not stop any time soon, driving more and more of them out of business. Unless we do something about it. And we can, if we have the determination and will.

We can level the playing field and change for the better the business landscape across the state—if we are willing to reinvent the rules that govern commercial leasehold lands.

Hawaii has done it before with lands supporting single-family and multi-family homes. Those historic actions gave the ordinary working person new opportunities for true homeownership, rejuvenated the local housing market and leveled the playing field for home buyers.

It’s time for us to think about the converting commercial leasehold lands in Hawaii to fee simple.

The Power of Momentum
Momentum—as powerful as it is—has no value if we don’t use it or leverage it.
Political pundits have noted that this is an election year. In other words, a year in which politicians seeking reelection do nothing to upset voters.

I am not asking you to upset voters, but to be bold in this election year and do what needs to be done for the greater good. We cannot lose the momentum we have built up. We must use it to keep us moving forward. I look forward to joining you in these endeavors and working with you on behalf of the people of Hawaii.

Thank you and aloha.

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Kihei High School Breaks Ground

Courtesy: Hawaii Department of Education
After decades of petitioning and planning, the long-awaited Kihei High School in South Maui broke ground off Piilani Highway 9 a.m. on Monday morning, January 11.

Representative Kaniela Ing (Kihei, Wailea, Makena), who has advocated for this project since his first election in 2012, expressed his excitement:

“As I knocked on doors in my neighborhood, people have made it clear that this is South Maui’s top priority. As my o’o hit the ground, I couldn’t help but get emotional. We have achieved the number one goal that we have set out to do. The people of South Maui should be very proud of themselves.”

Ing explained that the South Maui community has been waiting for this moment since the 1990’s. “I am ecstatic to see hundreds of hours of tireless work by so many people, over so many years, finally bear fruit.” He went on to note that while celebration is in order, “our work is not complete until 1,000 students are sitting in these classrooms.”

Ing noted that the project will benefit more than just South Maui because classrooms in Maui High and Baldwin are overcrowded, and traffic into town can be cumbersome. Its value also extends beyond education.

“This is more than just a school,” Ing said. “Our community currently does not have a stadium or even a gym. Through sports and clubs, our high school will give our young people a better sense of belonging and serve as a true hub for our community at large.”

Ing credited the project’s success to community advocacy, his relationships with key lawmakers, and a tear-and-send postcard he sent out to every South Maui home in 2013.

“It was inspiring to see how many pieces of testimony we got back and were sent on to the House Finance Committee,” he added. “It was the community voice that got Kihei High School in the budget.”

House Finance Chair, Rep. Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Nuuanu, Punchbowl, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa), who controls the State budget in the House, offered her support for Rep. Kaniela Ing's efforts.

“Kihei High School is an important project for the Kihei community,” Luke said. “Kaniela was instrumental in securing funding to begin construction of this new school, and I will continue to work with him to make sure this project gets completed.”

The Governor and the DOE also expressed their intent to see the project through completion. The school is estimated to open as early as 2018, depending on how the funding, design and contracts are secured and completed.

There have been some administrative hiccups along the way, hurdles that Ing said are inevitable for a project of this size.

“The scale of this project is an enormous. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control, but all you can do is be transparent with the community, never get discouraged, and keep moving forward. The important thing is it is happening now," he said

The Legislature met the Governor’s request to fully fund the $130 million project in 2013, but unforeseen fiscal challenges and administrative changes kept the department from spending $100 million of the funds. When Governor Ige’s administration took over in 2014, the department opted for a phased approach.

$30 million will be immediately available from the Legislature for the first phases of construction, which includes ground work, constructing wells, and an access road ($400,000 has been already awarded). Construction of classrooms and administration buildings will encumber the remaining appropriation.

According to Ing, the project will cost an additional $50-$100 million depending on the final design and cost of materials. Ing said he will work to get funding underway for Phase 2 in the next legislative session. “We want to do more with less,” he said, and noted that, “the project will take due diligence and requires fiscal responsibility.”

“I’m really excited that this will be the first Net Zero high school in the entire state,” said Ing, noting that the facility will be powered by clean and renewable sources with energy to come from the sun and wind. “It sets an example for what high schools should look like in the future. This is not your grandfather’s high school.”

Lawmakers Listen Community Meeting Draws Large Attendance in Ewa

Representative Matt LoPresti (Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ewa Villages, Hoakalei & Ocean Pointe) and leaders from the Hawaii State House of Representatives held a Lawmakers Listen session at the Ewa Makai Middle School on Saturday where they heard a wide range of concerns from residents in the area.

Discussions at the meeting focused on a number of topics including the upcoming legislative session, rail, traffic mitigation, heat abatement improvements in area schools, and infrastructure improvements to address overcapacity at district schools.

Members of the community were invited to share their questions and concerns directly with Rep. LoPresti, Speaker of the House Joseph M. Souki, and House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke. The group was also joined by Vice-Speaker John Mizuno and Energy and Environmental Protection Chair Chris Lee.

“Lawmakers Listen” is an ongoing series of community town halls across the state with district representatives, members of the House leadership, and committee chairpersons. The purpose of the meetings is for legislators to hear the concerns of area residents and to discuss solutions. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Legislature Commences New Year With Budget Hearings

The House Finance Committee and the Senate Ways and Means committee yesterday began a series of informational briefings to gain insight into Governor David Ige’s financial plan and the budgets for the various state departments. The joint committee was briefed by Wes Machida, the state budget director, on the overall executive state budget. The committee also heard from the state Department of Budget and Finance on its budget.

The money committees will continue to hold informational briefings with the remaining executive departments through Thursday, January 14. A schedule of upcoming budget hearings is available at http://ow.ly/WCwu4.

The 28th Hawaii State Legislature will convene the 2016 Legislative Session on Wednesday, January 20 at 10 a.m. in the House Chambers. This is the second year of the legislative biennium and the Legislature will hold a modest opening to the session with a business as usual approach. Floor proceedings will not include entertainment, and family members, friends and guests will not be seated on the chamber floors. Following the opening, legislators will have the discretion to host guests in their individual offices.

The public is welcomed to attend the opening floor sessions, however seating is limited. Chamber galleries will open at 9:45 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Governor will deliver his second State-of-the-State address during a joint session of the Legislature in the House chamber on Monday, January 25.

The public can access more information on hearings and session activities on the Legislature’s website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Rep. John Mizuno Receives Leadership Award

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org), a national not-for-profit organization funded by distillers dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, recognized Representative John M. Mizuno (District 28 - Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, portion of Lower Kalihi) with its 2015 Leadership Award.

Representative Mizuno sponsored House Bill 398, a companion bill to Senate Bill 982 which was enacted into law and supported by Responsibility.org. HB 398 provides immunity when seeking treatment for an emergency drug or alcohol overdose for oneself or another person. Often people fear the consequences of their own arrest when seeking emergency medical assistance for a friend or family member who may be in danger. When someone in America needs medical assistance, a call for help occurs less than 50% of the time. Fear of police involvement is the most common reason for not calling 911 during a medical emergency.

"Representative Mizuno has been a tireless advocate for the people of the 28th District of Hawaii" said Ralph Blackman, President and CEO of Responsibility.org. "We can't thank the Representative enough for his dedication and leadership. We believe Good Samaritan laws have the potential to save young lives when alcohol overconsumption results in a life threatening situation. We look forward to expanding our relationship and continuing to save lives in the future with Representative Mizuno."

The foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) is a national not-for-profit organization that leads the fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking. Funded by America's leading distillers (Bacardi U.S.A. Inc.; Beam Suntory; Brown-Forman; Constellation Brands, Inc.; DIAGEO; Edrington; Hood River Distillers, Inc.; and Pernod Ricard USA), Responsibility.org is dedicated to developing and implementing programs that guide a lifetime of conversations around alcohol responsibility and offering proven strategies to stop impaired driving.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Finance Committee Visits the Big Island

Members of the House Finance Committee, chaired by Representative Sylvia Luke, toured various sites on Hawaii Island to view first hand several projects and programs supported by the Legislature. The site visits provided committee members first hand insight into the status of ongoing projects and on other needs of the district.

Representatives Richard Onishi and Nicole Lowen who serve on the Finance Committee were joined by fellow Big Island lawmakers Clift Tsuji, Mark Nakashima, Cindy Evans and Richard Creagan on a wide range of activities that included a status update and site visit of Hilo Medical Center.

The committee visited Hamakua Mushrooms, Ookala Dairy Farm, Big Island Beef and met with Kamuela farmers to discuss and learn about their issues and concerns. The legislators also received a briefing by Hawaiian Homestead farmers participating in the Waimea Regional Community and Economic Development Program.

In Kona the committee toured projects at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii including the Taylor Shell Fish Farm and Cyanotech.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Finance Committee Visits Molokai

Members of the House Finance Committee, chaired by Representative Sylvia Luke, yesterday toured various sites on the island of Molokai to view first hand several projects and programs supported by the Legislature. The site visits provided committee members first hand insight into the status of ongoing projects and on other specific needs of the district.

Molokai Representative Lynn DeCoite (Molokai, East Maui, Lanai) serves as a member of the House Committee on Finance.

The committee conducted a wide range activities on the island including site visits to Kaunakakai Elementary School, Kaunakakai Library, the Molokai Dialysis Facility and Molokai Community Health Center, and areas impacted by invasive mangroves.

The committee also held a discussion with members of the Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance at the Lanikeha Community Center to learn about some of the issues and matters important to the district. The Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance received $1.75 million in 2014 for improvements and renovations to the Lanikeha Center and its certified kitchen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lawmakers Listen Community Meeting Draws Large Attendance in Haiku

Representative Lynn DeCoite (East Maui, Molokai, Lanai) and leaders from the Hawaii State House of Representatives held a Lawmakers Listen session at the Haiku Community Center last night where they heard a wide range of concerns from residents in the area.

Members of the community were invited to share their questions and concerns directly with Rep. DeCoite, Speaker of the House Joseph M. Souki, legislative leaders and Maui Representatives Yamashita, McKelvey, Ing and Woodson.

'Lawmakers Listen' is an ongoing series of community town halls across the state with district Representatives, members of the House Leadership, and Committee Chairpersons. The purpose of the meetings is for legislators to listen to the concerns of area residents and to discuss solutions.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Contest Asks Students to Be Conductors of Change in Hawaii's Renewable Energy Future

Lawmakers are calling on students to amp up their brain power and share bright ideas to make Hawaii a renewable energy leader in the second annual Hawaii: Next 50 Contest. All Hawaii students in grades 4 -12 are invited to create an essay, poster or video submission that answers the question, "Over the next 50 years, what can I do to help Hawaii reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal?"

"Last year we received more than 450 entries from keiki from across the state were amazed to see the innovative range of their ideas," said Representative Mark Nakashima, who spearheaded the revival of the Hawaii: Next 50 Contest. "This year we wanted to take that same enthusiasm and focus it on one of our state's most pressing issues: the necessity of renewable energy to end our dependency on oil."

The Hawaii: Next 50 Contest is inspired by former Governor George Ariyoshi's book, Hawaii: The Past Fifty Years, The Next Fifty Years, which provided a retrospective look into our islands' history as a state and prompts the next generation to think about what social, cultural, and economic roads we can take to keep Hawaii moving forward into the next century.

"It's imperative that young people know they don't have to wait to graduate or become an adult to join the conversation in shaping our state," said Ariyoshi. "The book was my vision of a progressive Hawaii and it's exciting to see what concepts the up-and-coming generation develops if we just ask."

Winners will be honored during a floor presentation at the Hawaii State Capitol, attend a luncheon with legislators, receive a monetary prize, and have their project published online.

The contest is a collaboration of the Hawaii State House of Representatives, Hawaii Future Caucus, and aio Foundation. More information can be found on the contest website at www.HawaiiNext50.com and questions can be directed to HawaiiNext50@gmail.com.

Hawaii: Next 50 Contest

WHO: Students enrolled in grades 4 – 12 are eligible to enter.

WHAT: Students are asked to read Hawaii: The Past Fifty Years, The Next Fifty Years and respond to the question "Over the next 50 years, what can I do to help Hawaii reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal?"

Submissions will be accepted in two categories: essay and visual arts (poster or video).

Free copies of Hawaii: The Past Fifty Years, The Next Fifty Years are available by request at www.HawaiiNext50.com.

WHEN: All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on January 31, 2016. Winners to be announced in March 2016.

WHY: To challenge the up-and-coming generation to become stakeholders in shaping our future. Winners will be honored during a floor presentation at the Hawaii State Capitol, attend a luncheon with legislators, receive a monetary prize, and have their project published online.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rep. Chris Lee Meets with President Obama on Nation's Economic Agenda

Rep. Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimanalo) was among 50 Democratic state lawmakers from around the country to meet with President Barack Obama today at the White House. The President urged the lawmakers to adopt his domestic economic agenda at the state level because he doesn’t expect Congress to take much action for the remainder of his presidency.

The discussion focused on the need by the states to tackle the issues of raising the minimum wage, ensuring paid sick leave for workers, family leave, pay equity and enhancing college affordability.

After the meeting with the President, Rep. Lee joined seven other state lawmakers including Assemblyman Michael Blake of New York and Rep. Pricey Harrison of North Carolina in a press conference to talk about the meeting and the issues discussed.

During the media availability Rep. Lee said, "Issues like paid family leave and medical leave aren't red or blue issues. They will benefit everyone and are overwhelmingly supported by people around the country, but Congress has been unable to take action.

Families in our community are hurting. I have friends just starting families who are being forced to choose between caring for their newborns or keeping their jobs. That isn't right. The United States is the last developed nation in the world without meaningful paid family leave. If Congress won't act to fix that, then it's up to us at the state level,” Lee said.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lawmakers Call for Exploration of Publicly Owned Utilities for Hawaii

Today, more than forty state and county leaders representing all islands -- including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents -- joined together to commit to putting the best interests of the public first and called for moving forward to examine the potential of public utilities owned by the people.

“Public utilities don’t need higher rates to make profits for shareholders, and as a result they tend to have significantly lower rates than for-profit utilities across the country. We have an obligation to explore this option, especially if it can save residents a lot more money in the long run.” said Rep. Chris Lee (D-Kailua, Waimanalo) and Chairman of Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

“As Republicans and Democrats we have differences. But, we can all agree that the skyrocketing cost of electricity is detrimental to local families. Until NextERA provides a framework for customer savings, it would be irresponsible not to explore options like co-ops and other alternatives,” said Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto-Chang (R-Mililani, Mililani-Mauka).

“As more and more people seek ways to become energy self-sufficient, we need to rethink our traditional electrical power distribution. As the future heads towards decentralized systems, now is the time for us to explore public ownership as an option that could best serve the needs of Oahu residents,” commented Oahu City Council Chair Ernie Martin.

In addition to state legislators from every island, key county officials seeking to examine the potential of locally-owned public utilities such as co-ops include Oahu City Council Chair Ernie Martin, Big Island County Council Chair Dru Kanuha, Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo, Maui County Councilmember Don Guzman, Chair of the Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture, & Recreation Committee, Big Island County Councilmember Margaret Willie, Chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability, Big Island County Council, Big Island Councilmember Karen Eoff, Chair of the Committee on Finance, and many others.


Legislators in Support
As of 9/3/15

Oahu Representative Chris Lee, Chair, Energy and Environmental Protection Committee
Oahu Representative Della Au Belatti
Oahu Representative and Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto-Chang
Oahu Representative Matt LoPresti
Oahu Representative Cynthia Thielen
Oahu Representative Tom Brower
Oahu Representative Takashi Ohno
Oahu Representative Lauren Matsumoto
Oahu Representative Bert Kobayashi
Oahu Representative Feki Pouha
Oahu Representative Jarrett Keohokalole
Big Island Representative Nicole Lowen
Big Island Representative Cindy Evans
Big Island Representative Mark Nakashima
Big Island Representative Richard Creagan
Maui Representative Kaniela Ing
Maui Representative Lynn DeCoite
Kauai Representative Dee Morikawa
Maui Representative Justin Woodson
Oahu Senator Glenn Wakai
Oahu Senator Gil Riviere
Oahu Senator Laura Thielen
Oahu Senator Mike Gabbard
Oahu Senator Maile Shimabukuro
Big Island Senator Gil Kahele
Big Island Senator Josh Green
Big Island Senator Russell Ruderman
Oahu Council Chair Ernie Martin
Oahu Councilmember Ikaika Anderson
Oahu Councilmember Kym Pine
Oahu Councilmember Trevor Ozawa
Maui Councilmember Don Guzman, Energy Chair
Big Island Council Chair Dru Kanuha
Big Island Councilmember Margaret Willie, Energy Chair
Big Island Councilmember Karen Eoff
Big Island Councilmember Greggor Illagan
Big Island Councilmember Maile David
Kauai Council Chair Mel Rapozo
Kauai Councilmember Gary Hooser
Kauai Councilmember Ross Kagawa
Kauai Councilmember Mason Chock

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rep. Clift Tsuji Recovering After Successful Procedure for Sebaceous Carcinoma

State Representative Clift Tsuji (Keaukaha, Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea) underwent successful Mohs micrographic surgery this month for skin cancer. The specialized procedure’s published cure rates range up to 99% for previously untreated cancers, and was performed on an outpatient basis at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu in August.

“One becomes more aware of the lack of specialized surgeons on the Big Island when such a delicate procedure is necessary,” said Rep. Tsuji. “I truly believe we have amongst the best of health care providers and facilities. Unfortunately, in such procedures as mine, the surgery must be performed by a surgeon in Honolulu.”

Tsuji added, “I am aware that keeping healthy is very important. But also as a public official, I’m committed to serve our community under various conditions. I will continuously strive to do both.”

The prognosis for the Big Island lawmaker is favorable and he is resuming full activity and work schedule.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ewa Lawmaker Calls on Businesses to Help Cool Schools

Rep. LoPresti signs letters to local businesses seeking donations
State Representative Matthew LoPresti (District 41 - Ewa, Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe) is starting a community program to tackle the problem of high temperatures in our classrooms. The program, Cool Schools 4 Ewa, encourages local businesses to donate large fans or high capacity portable air conditioning units to schools in the Ewa area.

The ‘Cool Schools 4 Ewa’ program is off to a strong start with an initial donation of 54 large fans, with six provided personally by Representative LoPresti and another 48 from an anonymous contributor. The cooling fans were purchased with a discount provided by City Mill.

In addition to the program, Lowe’s Home Improvement has already donated 35 fans directly to Campbell High School.

Currently, many of the state’s public school classrooms are not equipped with air conditioning or cooling equipment. Temperatures in Honolulu have risen considerably which has resulted in high temperatures in our classrooms. In the Ewa district—one of the hottest regions on Oahu—classroom air temperatures have reached in excess of 100 degrees. Four of the top five schools on the Department of Education air conditioning priority list are in Ewa Beach.

Schools assisted by the program include Ewa Elementary, Ewa Beach Elementary, Holomua Elementary, Kaimiloa Elementary, Ilima Intermediate, and Campbell High School.

“Countless concerns have been expressed by the community regarding the temperature of our classrooms,” said LoPresti. “This is a significant problem that needs to be addressed, and I believe this program will engage our local businesses to step up and support the education of our children. With their help, we can create a comfortable and positive learning environment for our keiki.”

“As an educator and a father of two young children, this issue is near and dear to me. I gladly wanted to donate several units on my own and I hope to see more donations follow,” added Representative LoPresti. “I also want to thank and truly express my gratitude to those who have already contributed to this worthy and much needed cause.”

Since taking office, LoPresti, a member of the House Education Committee, has worked to secure $8 million total in funds for air conditioning in Ewa Schools including Ilima Intermediate School, Ewa Beach Elementary School and Ewa Elementary School. He also successfully petitioned Governor Ige to release $2.3 million in funds for air conditioning upgrades at James Campbell High School.

Businesses or individuals interested in donating can contact the Office of Representative LoPresti at 586-6080 for more information.

LoPresti Praises DOE Plan for Air Conditioned Portables at Campbell High School

State Representative Matthew LoPresti (District 41 - Ewa, Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe) was pleased to learn today that James Campbell High School will receive eight portables with built in air conditioning amounting to 15 classrooms for their campus to address heat and capacity issues.

“I am pleased that these fully air-conditioned portable classrooms will be coming to Campbell High School towards the end of this year. I have heard constant concerns regarding overcrowding and classroom temperatures of over 100 degrees and this is becoming a serious health risk for students and teachers. This is a big step, but if we don’t do even more soon, we will continue to put the health of students and teachers at risk,” said LoPresti.

Since taking office this year, over the past eight months, LoPresti, a member of the House Education Committee, worked tirelessly to secure $8 million total in funds for air conditioning in Ewa Schools including Ilima Intermediate School, Ewa Beach Elementary School and Ewa Elementary School. He petitioned Governor Ige to release, and he has released, $2.3 million in funds for air conditioning upgrades for James Campbell High School. LoPresti also pushed for $4 million for James Campbell High School to address the capacity crisis there, to design more classroom space, and this money was included in the last budget.

“These 15 new classrooms killed two birds with one stone,” said LoPresti.

The portable classroom structures were originally used during the emergency lava evacuation for Keonepoko Elementary School. When it became clear these portables would not be needed, Representative LoPresti requested (May 6, 2015) that they be sent to James Campbell High School.

“I am pleased at the quick turnaround from my request in May to getting a commitment for these 15 air conditioned classrooms just 3 months after,” said LoPresti