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Stalled in committee

January 30th, 2013
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Two proposals to have a greater portion of the fines and forfeitures collected from uncontested traffic infractions distributed to counties where the violations occur appear to have stalled in the Legislature.

The House Transportation Committee on Wednesday deferred House Bills 214 and 590.

Similar bills have been introduced in prior sessions by the Hawaii State Association of Counties, with little success. Counties have sought the funds to bolster law enforcement efforts, noting that county police forces are charged with enforcement of the laws, only to see the fines and forfeitures go to the state.

Transportation Chairman Ryan Yamane said he agrees with the intent of such proposals — to assist law enforcement — but there remains no mechanism at the county level to ensure that those funds would go toward the intended purpose. Funds would instead go to the counties’ general funds, with no guarantee that police departments would see a corresponding rise in their annual appropriations through the normal budgeting process.

Said Yamane (D, Mililani-Waipio-Waikele):

“Until some of those issues get worked out, I think there’s always going to be a concern about how the state gives any of the counties money.”

Adjustment

January 29th, 2013
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House lawmakers plan to take up the issue of the Public Land Development Corp. next week.

The House Committee on Water and Land has scheduled a public hearing on Saturday, Feb. 9, to hear various bills that would either repeal the PLDC altogether, make amendments to the law, or start from scratch and create a new agency with greater community input.

The PLDC, set up as the development arm of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, was given broad exemptions from land use, planning and zoning laws as incentives to attract private developers for projects on state land. But the new corporation has not developed a single project — and has yet to adopt administrative rules — after vehement protests from environmental, labor and some Native Hawaiian interests.

Prior to the 2013 session, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he would consider a repeal of the PLDC if the Legislature is unable to adjust the law to satisfy public objections.

In a news release Tuesday, Water and Land Chairwoman Cindy Evans (Kaupulehu-Waimea-Halaula) said:

“As the Chair of Water and Land I am approaching the issue from the standpoint of repeal. The PLDC cannot exist as is, something has to change; however, I am open to options and the most compelling argument will move forward.”

Fifth

January 24th, 2013
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U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa has been granted permission to serve on a fifth House subcommittee.

In a news release Thursday, Hanabusa’s office says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.,  approved a waiver allowing the exception to the Democratic caucus rule limiting members to four subcommittees.

Her latest assignment is to the Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, which oversees U.S. energy production and development on federal lands, including measures affecting geothermal and natural gas resources.

Hanabusa is the ranking member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, and serves on the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. She also serves on the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness, and Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.

Said Hanabusa, in a statement:

“I want to thank Leader Pelosi for allowing me to do more for Hawaii and our nation. This is an opportunity to bring an additional dimension to how we view natural resources issues facing our state. It gives us a voice in areas critical to our future. …

“The Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will have an impact on renewable and alternative energy development; job creation and economic development; and environmental protection, all areas that are vital for Hawaii. The subcommittee’s work will have an impact far into the future and calls on us to take the long view today. I am proud that I will be able to represent our state’s interests in those conversations.”

Women in combat

January 23rd, 2013
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According to news reports out of Washington, D.C. (see here and here, among others) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to announce Thursday the Pentagon’s lifting of its ban on women serving in combat roles in some of the most dangerous units in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Per NBC News:

The Pentagon chief will announce on Thursday that he is eliminating the direct ground combat exclusion — the Department of Defense policy that excluded women from assignment to units below the brigade level if the unit would be engaged in direct combat.

This will allow women to be assigned to select positions in ground combat units at the battalion level.

Hawaii’s U.S. House delegation includes freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard and fellow freshman U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, are the first female combat veterans elected to Congress.

In 2004, Gabbard deployed to Iraq with the 29th Brigade Combat Team and eventually served two tours of combat duty in the Middle East. She issued a statement in support of the Pentagon’s move, which read in part:

“Female service members have contributed on the battlefield as far back as the Civil War, when some disguised themselves as men just to have the opportunity to serve their nation. This decision by the Department of Defense is an overdue, yet welcome change, which I strongly support. I look forward to hearing the details of how this will be executed, and will support full and equal access for our highly capable female service members to serve our country in all roles, which will only stand to strengthen our Armed Forces, and our national defense.”

Hawaii U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, also supported the move.

In a statement, Hanabusa said:

“Throughout our history, women have played an integral role in our military. I applaud the Department of Defense for eliminating this outdated policy and recognizing the important, evolving role of women in the Armed Forces. I believe that all qualified Americans, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, should be given the same opportunity to serve their country.”

Update (Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.):

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, also supported the announcement. Her statement on the matter:

“Today’s news is a great step toward equality. These restrictions that block women from serving in active combat roles make no sense in today’s modern military. All Americans deserve the opportunity to defend our nation regardless of gender, and I know that the women who currently serve in the military think they should be treated the same as any other servicemember. Women serving in combat roles will strengthen our national security, and as a member of the Armed Services Committee, I will work closely with military and administration officials to see this change through.”

Legacy

January 17th, 2013
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With the 2013 Legislative Session under way, the Senate has wasted no time in starting the process of honoring the late U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye by renaming various structures and projects.

Senate lawmakers have, so far, introduced two bills toward honoring Inouye’s legacy.

Senate Bill 50 would rename the Saddle Road on the Big Island as the “Daniel K. Inouye Legacy Highway.” Inouye had secured tens of millions of federal dollars for the cross-island road heavily used by both residents and the military.

SB 100 would attach his name to the East-West Center, calling it the “Daniel K. Inouye East-West Center.” The center, a regional think tank that promotes cultural and educational exchanges among Pacific Rim nations, was often defended by Inouye, who helped secure federally earmarked funds that historically made up a portion of its annual operating budget.

Over on the city side, there already has been chatter about attaching Inouye’s name to the $5.26 billion rail transit project. Inouye was a staunch advocate for the rail and helped secure $1.55 billion in federal funds.

#askjill

January 17th, 2013
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Senate Education Chairwoman Jill Tokuda is taking to the Twitterverse to field comments and questions on the creation of a state-funded early learning system in Hawaii.

The “Twitter Town Hall” is set for Tuesday, Jan. 22 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Participants can tweet questions and comments, receive live answers and view the Senator’s replies by using the hashtag #askjill.

Tokuda (D, Kailua-Kaneohe) will be tweeting answers to questions through her Twitter handle @jilltokuda.

Terry Lock, Executive Director of the Executive Office of Early Learning, has been invited to join the Twitter Town Hall, the Senate said in a news release.

No spin zone

January 11th, 2013
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A week after calling for an apology from him, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa appeared Friday on conservative host Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program to confront him about a recent report examining Hawaii’s liberal values and his characterization of the islands’ Asian population.

Hanabusa said producers contacted her to see if she wanted to discusss the matter on air.

“I think whenever you’re able to tell him what you think, irrespective of whether he’s listening or he will be convinced or not, the reason you’re doing it is because you’re hoping that there’s some people out there whose image of Hawaii that he may have painted will somehow think twice about what he has said,” Hanabusa said in an interview after the segment, taped earlier Friday, aired on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

The entire segment here from Mediate.com:

Hanabusa called for an apology from O’Reilly last week, catching the attention of MSNBC host Ed Schultz and Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert:



The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Blood in the Water – Bill O’Reilly’s Racial Insensitivity
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Majority package

January 10th, 2013
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Majority Democrats in the Senate unveiled Thursday their package of bills for the 2013 session with the theme of No Na Mamo, or “for all generations.”

In a news release, Senate President Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa) said:

“The Senate Majority strives to be open, inclusive, and collaborative in its decision-making on initiatives impacting the State of Hawaii. We look forward to laying a solid foundation to build a stronger economy and move Hawaii forward for all generations.”

The majority package focuses on three areas: 1) food and energy resiliency, 2) supporting people, strengthening communities and 3) government efficiency and accountability.

Specific proposals in each of those areas include:

Food and Energy Resiliency

• The Senate Majority will continue to advance the Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative. The State has made significant progress towards its goal of increasing the amount of locally produced renewable energy. The Senate Majority will continue to align government regulations and policies with clean energy goals, facilitate processes for developing renewable energy, deploy renewable generation and grid infrastructure, and explore next generation technologies and new applications of existing technologies.

• The Senate Majority will focus on efforts to encourage food resiliency across Hawai’i, such as increasing production and consumption of locally grown food. The Senate will examine the progress and goals of the Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative and consider replicating those efforts and goals into a workable Food Resiliency Initiative.

Supporting People, Strengthening Communities

• Supporting the education of our keiki will remain a top priority for the Hawai’i State Senate. Collaborating with educational leaders and interested stakeholders to identify and focus on several priority educational needs and opportunities will help prepare our students to reach their potential and encourage them to be successful, productive members of the community.

• The Senate Majority will support and strengthen Hawai’i’s public higher education system, being mindful that each of our ten campuses statewide is helping to prepare our students for college and career success.

Government Efficiency and Accountability

• The Senate Majority supports accountability and transparency of government by insisting on high standards of ethical conduct and open decision-making.

• The Senate Majority encourages long-term planning and efficiency efforts to fundamentally change the character and delivery of government services. The Senate will continue to promote the enhancement of the State’s information technology services and support the Governor’s Chief Information Officer as he works on modernizing business and technology infrastructure for the people of Hawai’i.

• The Senate Majority will draw upon the recommendations of the Senate Special Committee on Accountability for the improvement of the operational and financial management of the University of Hawai’i and continue to support the University of Hawai’i as it carries out those recommendations and initiatives.

Limelight

January 3rd, 2013
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As the 113th Congress was sworn-in on Thursday, Hawaii’s newest Senator and House member took the opportunity to appear on national news programs.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono — the first Asian-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, the first female senator from Hawaii, the first Buddhist senator and one of a record-high 20 female senators overall — appeared with her colleagues in a piece for “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer.”



Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu in Congress and, along with U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, one of the first female combat veterans in Congress, had a brief stint in “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” where she appeared with Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in a piece highlighting “rising stars” of their respective parties.

On the label of being a rising star, Gabbard said:

I’m just grateful. The overwhelming feeling that I feel today is grateful to the people of Hawaii for placing their trust and confidence in me. It’s a great responsibility and we have a lot of work to do and I will do my best to serve them and to be their voice and to work hard to move our country and to move Hawaii forward.

‘Scramble’ complete

December 28th, 2012
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A day earlier, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he looked forward to the “scramble” that would take place in the Senate after the promotion of Senate President Shan Tsutsui to lieutenant governor.

The scramble took less than 24 hours to complete, as Senate Democrats on Friday announced a reorganization behind Vice President Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa).

Sen. Ronald Kouchi (Kauai-Niihau) will serve as Senate vice president and Sen. Brickwood Galuteria (D, Kakaako-McCully-Waikiki) wil continue on as Majority Leader. Sen. David Ige (D, Pearl Harbor-Pearl City-Aiea) also retains his chairmanship of the important Ways and Means Committee.

Senators say there was a strong desire to reorganize quickly and have as little disruption as possible, with Kim, the vice president and presiding officer following Tsutsui’s departure, being a logical choice to assume the role of president.

Below, the press release from the Senate Majority with details of the committee assignments:

Kim_News Release