Archive for June, 2011

New assignments

June 30th, 2011
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New City Council Chairman Ernie Martin today announced the revised list of City Council committee assignments.

The news release and full committee lineup:
City Council Committees

Expectations

June 30th, 2011
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U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, who is running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, put out a fundraising appeal today asking  donors to beat the deadline to have their contributions appear on her quarterly campaign-finance report in July.

While it does not make a difference operationally whether donors give their money today or Friday, Hirono notes — correctly — that reporters and pundits will use the quarterly reports to measure her strength against former congressman Ed Case.

Tomorrow, we’re going to start pulling together the numbers for our Senate campaign’s first ever public fundraising report to the Federal Election Commission. And every contribution that we receive before midnight tonight — hopefully including yours — will be included.

But you and I aren’t the only people who’ll be interested in seeing how many donors we’ve been able to recruit over the last month and a half.

The press, pundits, and potential opponents are going to pore over these numbers, too.

This will be their first, objective glimpse into the strength of our campaign going forward.

Pride Reception

June 29th, 2011
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After outlining his views on gay marriage at a news conference earlier today — he stopped short of endorsing it — President Barack Obama hosted a reception at the White House for various gay pride groups to further discuss his position.

According to White House officials, the reception observing LGBT Pride Month included invited Administration officials, elected officials and LGBT grassroots and community leaders from around the country.

The list of expected attendees:

Administration Officials:
John Berry, Director of the US Office of Personnel Management
Nancy Sutley, Chair, CEQ
Brad Kiley, Director of the White House Office of Management and Administration

Elected Officials:
Hon. Blake Oshiro, Majority Leader, Hawaii State House, HI
Hon. Dwight Chong, Hawaii State House, HI
Hon. Jeanette Oxford, Missouri General Assembly, MO
Hon. Diane Sands, Montana House of Representatives, MT
Hon. Christopher Cabaldon, Mayor West Sacramento, CA
Hon. Darryl Moore, Berkley City Council, CA

Community Leaders:
Sue Fulton, Former US Army Captain
Antonio “Dave” Garcia, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo LGBT Center
Bishop Mary Glasspool, Diocese of Los Angeles
Harriet Hancock, Founder of the Columbia South Carolina LGBT Community Center
Rick Jacobs, Chair of the Courage Campaign
Verna St. Clair King, Civil Rights Activist
Caleb Laieski , Anti-Bullying Activist
Marisa Richmond, Transgender and Civil Rights Activist
Glenn Magpantay, LGBT AAPI Civil Rights Attorney
Olivia Tai, LGBT College Youth Leader
Dontaee Williamson, LGBT High School Youth Leader

Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa) was the primary author of legislation signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to legalize civil unions in Hawaii for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Dwight Chong is better known to constituents as “Pono.”

`Hawaiian president’

June 29th, 2011
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U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., stumping in South Carolina in her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, told the audience that she plans to compete everywhere, including Hawaii.

From CNN:

Bachmann said she plans to win decisive early victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina on her way to the White House. She promised to follow that with a national campaign – even in the heavily Democratic state of Hawaii.

“We want to win Hawaii,” she said. “And we think that there is a certain Hawaiian president who should go back to Hawaii!”

Bachmann stopped in Hawaii in February as part of national speaking engagements to test the waters for a potential campaign.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, had strong island ties. The Navy veteran and former Vietnam War prisoner also had a natural constituency in the state’s large military and veteran population. But McCain received less than 30 percent of the vote against Hawaii-born Barack Obama.

Endorsed

June 28th, 2011
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EMILY’S List, one of the nation’s most influential political action committee, on Tuesday endorsed U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

The endorsement further improves Hirono’s standing among progressives and will likely help her with fundraising against former congressman Ed Case.

Hirono also won the EMILY’s List endorsement in 2006, when she faced then-state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and others in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District covering rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands. U.S. Rep. Hanabusa has said she will announce in August whether she will run for Senate.

From EMILY’s List:

Mazie Hirono has spent her career fighting for the people of Hawaii and we are excited to endorse her campaign for the United States Senate,” said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List. “Mazie has been a tireless advocate for public schools and quality early childhood education. She has consistently championed the rights of women and families in Hawaii and we need her strong voice in the Senate holding the line against the Republican war on women. The EMILY’s List community was proud to support her in the past, loves her fighting spirit, and looks forward to helping her make history as the Senate’s first Asian-American woman in November.

Matching

June 28th, 2011
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Publicly financed candidates for Hawaii County Council will likely no longer be eligible for extra money to compete against big-spending opponents after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday struck down a similar law in Arizona.

The court, in a 5-4 decision, held that an Arizona law which provided publicly funded candidates with matching funds to compete against privately financed candidates and independent interest groups “substantially burdens political speech” protected by the First Amendment.

A Hawaii County pilot project offers similar equalizing funds to publicly financed candidates who are outspent by privately financed opponents, a provision modeled after the Arizona law.

“We believe it’s going to impact the program,” said Kristin Izumi-Nitao, the executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission, which oversees the pilot project.

The pilot project was approved by the state Legislature in 2008 to test the viability of publicly financed political campaigns over three county council election cycles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Eight council candidates received about $150,000 in public funding under the project in 2010 and four were elected – three incumbents and one newcomer. None of the candidates received any equalizing funds because their opponents did not reach the threshold.

Kory Payne, the executive director of Voter Owned Hawaii, which supports public financing for candidates, said a majority on the Supreme Court appears intent on giving the wealthy an even greater influence in politics.

He said the court’s decision Monday — in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett – was in the same vein as the court’s ruling last year – in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – that allowed unlimited independent political spending by corporations.

“Wealthy elites and people who have access to more capital are going to have more “speech” than average Americans,” Payne said.

Voter Owned Hawaii, Common Cause Hawaii and other interest groups will ask state lawmakers next year to amend the pilot project to respond to the court’s ruling. A bill that stalled in committee this year would have given publicly financed candidates a 4 to 1 match on small donations to help them compete against privately financed opponents, an adjustment that may not have the constitutional risk of equalizing funds.

“I don’t see why they would not pass” the bill next year, Payne said of House and Senate leaders.

But the Campaign Spending Commission is concerned that the bill has no trigger for publicly financed candidates to demonstrate that they need the 4 to 1 match to compete, so candidates could stockpile public funds.

`Unacceptable’

June 27th, 2011
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After Gov. Neil Abercrombie released his potential veto list on Monday afternoon, there was some surprise at the state Capitol that his official proclamations did not include any rationale other than the bills were “unacceptable” to the governor.

Abercrombie’s policy staff has been privately explaining to the sponsors of the bills why they made the list, but the official proclamations do not contain any explanations.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, Abercrombie’s spokeswoman, issued a news release that listed the bills and, in most cases, the reasons for the governor’s concerns.

House Bill 56 allows the family court to award reasonable visitation rights to grandparents if the denial of visitation would cause significant harm to the child. This bill would make it more difficult for grandparents to visit their grandchildren.

House Bill 318 establishes an interagency task force on vog to discuss the impact of vog on the people of Hawai’i and find ways to address these issues. The establishment of an interagency task force at the county level is redundant with a statewide task force already in place to address the effects and impact of sulfur dioxide hazards in various counties and communities.  It also places a mandate onto the counties and does not appropriate funds for the task force.

House Bill 545 requires electronic voter registration on the Office of Elections website by January 1, 2014.  The Governor objects because the estimated cost is $2.5 million, but no appropriation is provided.

House Bill 667 creates the food safety and security program within the Department of Agriculture.  Although the Governor believes food safety is important, this bill does not provide any funding to implement the specified mandates, nor does it provide any authority to establish administrative rules.

House Bill 680 repeals the requirement that the Hawaii Community Development Authority consider recommendations by the Kakaako Makai Community Planning Advisory Council in developing, accepting, and implementing any plans for the Kakaako makai area.

House Bill 1134 repeals Part V of the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act and Act 99, Session Laws of Hawaii 1994, relating to the future termination of the prepaid health care law.  Further investigation is needed on whether approval of this bill would have unintended consequences to Hawaii’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) waiver.

House Bill 1155 specifies class A and B felonies that require mandatory minimum prison terms under the repeat offender statute. It also reinstates, adds, and deletes certain class C felonies that require the mandatory minimum prison terms under the repeat offender statute.  This bill will significantly change the current policy on how the criminal justice system addresses the problem of repeat offenders that was originally enacted since 1976.  This bill would make the repeat offender law inapplicable to all felony drug offenses, ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition by persons convicted of certain crimes, and insurance fraud felony convictions.

House Bill 1164 authorizes the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to consider the sale or exchange of Sand Island parcels to leaseholders.  DLNR has repeatedly stated that the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) is not interested in selling or exchanging the lands under the Sand Island master lease into a hundred small lot transfers with a hundred separate land transactions that could result in the Department owning several non-contiguous lots.

Senate Bill 1230 exempts nonresidential structures used for agricultural or aquaculture operations from county building permit requirements. This bill address a problem that needs to be resolved, however, there are ambiguities in the bill on the implementation process.  The Governor plans to sign another bill that establishes a task force to look at impediments for the permitting processes.

House Bill 1405 requires the Office of Planning to establish a statewide system of greenways and trails.  In developing this system, the Office is required to meet with various state departments and the counties and review systems of greenways and trails.  The Office currently has a staff of six people that focus almost exclusively on meeting federal mandates.  Effective implementation of this measure requires resources and funding that the Office does not currently have.

House Bill 1505 establishes the State Facility Renovation Partnership Program, which would allow the sale of certain state facilities to private investors who would improve the facility and lease it back to the state.  The Governor is opposed to the sale of state facilities to private entities. Additionally, there are potential debt service issues with the sale of public buildings previously financed with general obligation bonds that may currently be outstanding.

House Bill 1520 directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to investigate an On-Bill Financing Program for residential electric utility customers to finance purchases of energy efficient or renewable energy devices and systems through their regular electric utility bills.

House Bill 1654 terminates a conditional use permit issued by a county agency to facilities intended for group living facilities or group homes that do not use the permits or cease operations for one year. There is a technical flaw in this bill.

Senate Bill 23 establishes within DLNR, the aha kiole advisory council, which may advise the Office of the Chairperson of the BLNR and the Legislature on issues related to land and natural resource management through the aha moku system.  The Council is self-selected, is not confirmed, has no terms of service, cannot be removed for cause and would select its own Executive Director and staff.  This is essentially a private entity that would receive annual taxpayer funds with no oversight.

Senate Bill 40 establishes a tracking system for the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine. In conference committee, the Legislature added “ephedrine” to also be tracked and reported. There is a technical flaw in this bill because the title of the bill is “relating to pseudoephedrine.”

Senate Bill 44 requires the Department of Public Safety to establish performance indicators for inmate reentry system; and requires reports, using key performance indicators, to be provided to the legislature.  It creates the corrections and program report as a consolidated report of other annual reports. This bill does not allow enough time or resources for PSD to accomplish the intended outcomes of the bill.

Senate Bill 49 requires the Director of Public Safety to report to the Governor, and the Governor to report to the legislature any death of an inmate or correctional facility employee within 48 hours. DPS currently does this and there is another statute that covers this procedure.

Senate Bill 217 eliminates the statute of limitations for civil actions brought by victims of sexual offenses as a minor against the person who committed the act(s) and authorizes suits against a legal entity in certain circumstances. This bill appears to allow an employer, including the state, to be sued for the criminal acts of its employees.  This is contrary to well-established tort and agency law and is in direct contravention of the State Tort Liability Act (STLA), Chapter 662 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

Under the STLA, the State cannot be sued for the criminal or intentional acts of its employees.  The elimination of a statute of limitations for a civil claim also raises grave constitutional and fairness concerns.  If a claim can be brought after an unlimited passage of time, it is likely that documents will be lost or destroyed and witnesses will die or move away.  The accused, even those falsely accused, will not be able to defend himself, herself, or itself and true justice will not be achieved.

Senate Bill 590 extends the sunset date of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act Commission by six months. The Governor already signed House Bill 383 into law as Act 26 that does the same thing.

Senate Bill 1417 establishes the minimum number of members necessary to constitute a quorum for the State Rehabilitation Council to ten; and establishes the number of votes necessary to validate any action of the Council to at least a majority of quorum. The Governor believes that rather than reduce quorum, we should get people to serve on the Council who will participate and attend meetings. Reducing the number of votes necessary to validate any action of the council to 6 out of a 21 member council is not a fair representation of the Council.

Senate Bill 1493 requires all new and replacement lights to be fully shielded.  This is a noteworthy goal given the effects of night lighting on our native wildlife, astronomy and night viewing activities.  However, the funding implications of this mandate are potentially enormous given federal lighting standards for our highways.

Senate Bill 1511 increases the maximum lease terms for aquaculture operations from 35 to 65 years and defines “aquaculture” under Section 171-59(b), Hawaii Revised Statutes.  The Governor believes oceans are always changing and providing 65-year leases is not prudent.  In addition, the definition of aquaculture is too broad.

Senate Bill 1559 establishes incentives for important agricultural lands.  However, this measure does not provide penalties or resolution for failure to comply, does not identify the agency responsible for monitoring compliance and does not address how the monitoring agency will be able to distinguish Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) and non-IAL source products.  In addition, incentives should be targeted toward certain agricultural goals and not the general category of important agricultural lands.

`Good sense’

June 24th, 2011
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie, asked Thursday night whether he has heard from the 28 members of boards and commissions that he has asked to resign, said: “Some people I have, some people I haven’t.”

“I just think it makes good sense for anybody who comes in to do it. So I thought, as I said, quite candidly for them, this is not a comment on your service any more than it was for the elected Board of Education (replaced by an appointed board),” the governor told reporters after a community meeting at Washington Middle School.

“But I think the record so far of the appointed board is pretty good, and I’d just like that opportunity. There’s a lot of things that, as you can see tonight, people are anxious about, they’re a little bit scared, they’re a little concerned that we’re not going to be able to move on things like housing that fast enough.

“So I just simply wanted the opportunity to be able to put forward our vision.”

Earlier Thursday, William Aila, Abercrombie’s choice as director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the chairman of the land board, said the board’s six other members do not have to resign and would likely stay on until their terms expire.

Two board members — Robert Pacheco of the Big Island and Ron Agor of Kauai — said they would not resign. The others either declined comment, said they would inform the governor in writing, or were not available for comment.

*Update: Lisa Judge, who represents Maui on the Land Use Commission, said Friday that she will not resign.

`Honor bound’

June 22nd, 2011
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Travis Thompson, the chairman of the state Public Housing Authority and one of 28 members of boards and commissions that Gov. Neil Abercrombie has asked to resign, has informed the governor he plans to stay.

Thompson, who, like the others, was appointed by Gov. Linda Lingle and confirmed by the state Senate, told the governor in a letter that he feels honor bound to fulfill the commitment he made to the former governor and state lawmakers. Thompson represents Maui on the Public Housing Authority.

According to Donalyn Dela Cruz, Abercrombie’s spokeswoman, the administration as of Wednesday afternoon had only received one letter in response to the governor’s request. Marcia Klompus, a Lingle appointee to the Stadium Authority and wife of Lenny Klompus, Lingle’s former senior communications advisor, told the governor she, like Thompson, would stay on.

Others have publicly discussed their intentions but apparently have not formally responded, or the responses have yet to be received. For example, Ferd Lewis, the Star-Advertiser sports columnist and writer, reports that the chairman of the Stadium Authority anticipates that seven of nine members will remain.

From Thompson’s letter:

Your letter of June 15, requesting my resignation as a member of the Board of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, has been carefully considered.

As a member of the Board, I have been reviewed and subsequently confirmed three times by the Senate of the Hawaii State Legislature, for a specific term of office. In the most recent confirmation hearing, my appointment was approved to serve a term ending June 30, 2012.  I feel honor bound to fulfill the commitment I made to the Legislature, and the previous Governor. Therefore, I will not be resigning.

The public members of the Board of Hawaii Public Housing Authority were appointed to serve staggered terms of office. It was the intent of the Legislature to ensure that there would be continuity in the policy direction and leadership of the State’s public housing.  I personally experienced the challenge of having an entirely new Board of Directors, when the Board of the former Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii resigned en masse in late 2002. It took months for the new Board to form together in an effective leadership role.

As of July 1, 2011, you will have appointed at least seven of the eleven Board positions. With a quorum requirement of six, the new directors can potentially vote in the majority to implement the new directions that you seek.  It is my belief that your recent appointees will benefit from the knowledge and experience of the carry-over directors. I personally will continue to support any and all improvements in providing safe, sanitary housing for the current and future clients of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.

Matilda Yoshioka, Thompson’s colleague on the Public Housing Authority, who represents Kauai, plans to mail a response to the governor on Thursday telling him that she will resign.

“I am honoring his request,” she said.

High speed

June 21st, 2011
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed a bill into law to temporarily exempt the development of broadband infrastructure from state and county permitting requirements.

The law allows for permitting exemptions for five years – from 2012 to 2017 – on broadband upgrades on existing utility poles and conduits used for telecommunications. Telecommunications companies would also be exempt from new utility pole replacement regulations on broadband upgrades.

The law is intended to expand access to high-speed Internet service in Hawaii.

“This is the first major step, I believe, in making a commitment to broadband expansion and capacity and availability that will literally give us the opportunity to have a future here in Hawaii, most particularly a future for our young people,” Abercrombie said.

The Hawaii broadband task force has posted an interactive map for consumers to find broadband access.