Categorized | Featured, Government

The 27th Legislature of Hawaii opens

The 27th Legislature of Hawaii opens
(Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office)

(Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office)

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

Opening Day for the Twenty-Seventh Legislative session began at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.

As the economy shows positive signs of recovery, this year’s Opening Day ceremony included remarks by presiding officers, local musicians and honored guests on the chamber floor.

Local entertainers Brother Noland, Manoa DNA, the Gleemen Plus of Honolulu and Danny Kaleikini performed during session.

Sen. Joe Souki, Sen Sam Slom and Rep. Scott Saiki addressed their fellow state lawmakers in Honolulu on the opening day of the Legislature.

Remarks by Speaker Joseph M. Souki

My fellow members, and all of our guests, aloha and welcome to the 2013 Regular Session!

Before I begin, I would like to take a moment to recognize some of our distinguished guests: Sen. Schatz and Mrs. Schatz; Gov. Abercrombie; Lt. Governor Tsutsui; Chief Justice Recktenwald; Chair Machado; And of course, Senator Akaka and Mrs. Akaka.

I would also like to recognize the former governors; the mayors and county Council chairs; members of our military; and members of our Consular Corps.

And before I go on, I’d like to introduce my family.

Thank you all for being here to commemorate this momentous occasion with us.

We are here today to chart a path forward for our state.

With Hawaii’s economy on the rise, construction stable, tourism up, and unemployment down, there is reason for cautious optimism.

This is the moment we have been waiting for.

Over the past few years, the state budget was cut by over two billion dollars. Meanwhile, wages dropped, health benefit costs rose, many people were forced out of work.

The homeless population still grows – among them, war heroes, persons needing mental health services, families unable to pay their mortgage or rent.

We have the chance now, to rebuild what the recession took away.
Investment in projects and programs throughout the state is critical. But to strengthen economic development and job growth, to restore public services, we need to proceed intelligently.

Members, if we want to restore the safety net, put people back to work, and provide the best education, including early childhood education …

If we want to take care of people’s health, take care of our kupuna, and make sure the state’s health care system transitions into the new era of health care – smoothly and without undue delay …

If we want to improve our roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure — to reduce traffic, improve the mobility of our residents, and enhance safety — in every county …

If we want clean energy that uses the best renewable energy resources, including our ocean and solar resources …

If we want to be responsible stewards of Hawaii’s natural resources and our native plants and animals …

If we want to increase farming opportunities on agricultural land and the market for locally-grown products …

If we want to support the tourism industry and promote the Hawaii product to the world …

If we want to do all these things the people require — and yes, I know we do — we must enhance our revenue stream. We must put together a mix of strategies that will generate more state revenues — equitably.

One option may be to rethink tax credits. No, I’m not saying we should abandon all caution and fall for the marketing hype. Instead, let’s learn from our experience and do our due diligence. The film industry claims a tax credit will generate $350 million in revenues for the State. Should we turn our back on this? Let’s give it a serious and thorough look first.

But increasing revenue does not mean placing an unfair burden on those who can least afford it. Members, the top personal tax rate was down at 7-3/4 percent at one time and now it’s up to 11 percent – the highest in the nation. It’s time to look at rolling back the personal tax burden for people with lower incomes and the middle class, at least incrementally, over the next few years.

Members, I am humbled and honored to stand before you today.

Over my 30 years here, I have seen many faces come and go. I have seen our communities prosper, struggle, and prosper again.

But one thing that remains constant is the privilege and price of public service.

All of us know what it’s like to walk the district. We go door to door — we talk to our constituents. We ask them to entrust us with their vote and a seat in this chamber.

The price for this privilege is the responsibility each of us has to conduct ourselves with compassion and dignity. Every day, as you walk down these halls and on this floor, remember the hopes and dreams of the people of this state — and do your best for them.
Before I close, I would like to thank Speaker Calvin Say for his 14 years of leadership as Speaker of the House, and for maintaining the fiscal solvency of this State.

I look forward to working with each and every one of you this session. Thank you, very much, for the trust you have in me.

Aloha.

Remarks by Sen. Sam Slom

Senate President Kim, Gov. Abercrombie, distinguished guests and overburdened taxpayers of Hawaii, on behalf of the entire Senate Minority, Aloha!

Thank God, this body will once again have daily prayer, because if ever there was a time elected officials should call on a higher authority for guidance, it is now.

“WE, the People.” That is the beginning of both the United States and Hawaii Constitutions and we need to remind ourselves, as elected officials, of the significance of these words. These are serious times requiring our best abilities and swift action.

It seems many of our residents, perhaps too many, believe we have lost our way and forgotten those limiting words as government becomes more dominant in our daily lives. There are negative consequences: a divided population, voter apathy, less confidence in us as elected officials and more social and financial problems. People in Hawaii are tired of being pushed around while told everything is fine. They know better.

Last month, the national emphasis was on the so-called federal “fiscal cliff,” involving excessive government taxation, spending, and debt. Actually, we fell off that cliff months ago. In Hawaii, more accurately we face the “financial Pali,” as government attempts to take away more freedoms and income from its citizens.

Forbes Magazine describes Hawaii as one of 10 “Death Spiral States.” Forbes and other watchdog organizations cite over taxation and rising tax burdens, increased state debt, massive unfunded liabilities, and an exodus of private employers, as dangerous for investors.

Nothing has really been resolved on the federal level, and while both sides continue to fight over the debt ceiling, fewer Americans are tuning in because they believe their elected officials are not accountable or transparent, and don’t know where to turn.

A nation and a state without accountability and lack of consequences set a dangerous precedent. We need meaningful change and must provide consequences for bad behavior and poor performance in government.

Last year, we tried to run roughshod over established environmental hearings procedures by granting government special and favorable fast track powers. We tried to fool the public into believing that initiatives such as the Public Land Development Corporation were good for them. PLDC should be repealed, not amended.

We don’t speak honestly to our constituents about the true costs and impact of major projects our state had undertaken like the heavy steel rail on Oahu, the $2 billion undersea electric cable, wind turbines covering neighbor Island landscapes so that they might power Oahu, and the costs associated with contract overages, add-ons, missing money and wasted funds. We must respect taxpayers enough to be truthful.

During Senate investigations of Hawaii’s only taxpayer supported state university — hearings demanded not by government officials but by concerned taxpayers and alumni who put their trust in the Senate — we discovered our excellent university is being run by bureaucrats who have not been responsible with taxpayer funds.

The problems go far beyond the $200,000 lost in the “Stevie Wonder Concert Blunder.” The UH Administration showers high salaries and enviable perks on administrators while lacking oversight of its hoards of public relations personnel, incompetent attorneys and old boys.

At our university, there is high cost and low achievement from our administration. What are the consequences so far? Nothing. Those involved with the Wonder Blunder and other careless spending still hold power and are paid well. They hope we will forget. We must not. There must be consequences for their actions.

Our Office of Elections is charged with only one duty every two years: organizing and holding fair, efficient and affordable elections for every voter. They booted it, not just last year, but in previous years. Not to print and distribute enough ballots thereby denying a citizen’s right to vote—an easy enough task—is criminal and should be punished, but instead, in Hawaii tradition, the same people continue in office. This must be changed. They need to be replaced.

Our judiciary has undergone a new initiative but problems still exist. Preference still appears for criminals and not restitution for victims, especially children.

Hawaii’s state Department of Health has badly mismanaged state recycling and several other programs they are responsible for. It’s not just me saying this; it is the Legislative Auditor, yet we do nothing to stop these practices.

As I predicted previously, Hawaii’s outlays for welfare and social services would exceed annual expenditures for government education. Late last year, that became a fact. Hawaii spends more on welfare and other social service programs than we do on educating our children.

Yes, there are people in need, but we must ensure we are not supporting those who choose not to work or be financially responsible. Leading the Nation in food stamps, and among the top for the homeless, are not badges of honor.

Our proposed new state budget would increase spending over the next two years by 8 percent and 11 percent, respectively, though there is not economic growth to support this increase in government.

Many are in denial about the consequences of continued spending growth.

The Senate Minority again will develop and put online, an alternative approach to the budget. Ineffective programs and personnel must be jettisoned.

There is a new, expensive, taxpayer subsidized proposal to put our 4 year olds in government schools. The $30 million Early Education program is widely supported by politicians, non-profits that will gain financially, unions, and a well funded lobbying group.

The proponents ultimately want the state to pay for care for children beginning in their infancy, and starting at age 4 is just the beginning.

I oppose this further intervention by a government that has not been able to provide even an average education with existing programs and billions of annual subsidies in the government schools.

We would not be preparing these children to “succeed,” only to start earlier in the government bureaucracy.

Compulsory public unions in Hawaii flaunt their power and are out of control. The HGEA seized a “most favored nation clause,” guaranteeing them every possible unearned benefit that is bitterly unfair and burdensome to Hawaii taxpayers.

The United Public Workers refused to take a 5 percent pay cut the same as all other state workers — without any consequence — and are now being rewarded by binding arbitration with a 6 percent raise.

I for one, will strongly oppose an $8 million so-called “emergency” appropriation to reward the UPW, and call on my colleagues to stand up also.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association, which signed a contract agreeing to drug testing and other requirements during the previous Administration, refused to comply and there were no consequences.

Now they too want more money and benefits. For our keiki? It’s not about the children; it is about money and power.

Senate President, you previously called attention to, and presided over, an investigation of unwarranted and costly public employee overtime.

The issue has not gone away and in some cases it, and the spiked income pensions overtime allows, is more rampant. Whistleblowers and good, hardworking state and county employees come to me seeking to end bad practices. Many times, their supervisors fail them. We need to end these practices and support hard working employees while weeding out the others.

Our attention in the first days of the 27th Legislature will not be on providing consequences for poor behavior and performance. More likely, we’ll light up the debate on marijuana, roll the dice on gambling, and try to make it easier to die by suicide, after escaping abortion.

On a side note, we should do everything possible to help free our neighbor, Roger Christie, from unjust federal imprisonment and loss of civil liberties on the grounds that he is a “dangerous criminal” because of his marijuana position.

We need to focus on the priority items in our community, especially our economy. Hawaii’s economy has not turned around. The Visitor Industry single handedly is propping up our dismal performance. But if we adjust current record-breaking arrival and expenditure data, we are looking at the same visitor levels as occurred in the 1980s.

Construction, retailing, wholesaling and manufacturing are all doing poorly, no matter what some pundits would like you to believe. Just talk to our people in those industries to learn the truth. Then, do everything to improve our business climate.

The loss of our very special Senior Senator, Daniel Inouye, in December, has enormous consequences – social, political and fiscal. He is already missed. His absence does allow for political changes and more independence; His legendary power will be fought over.

The estimated $450 million he brought to this economy annually, and his political and fiscal clout, are gone. Hawaii had many years to prepare for this impact but we didn’t. We need to search for other private market economic alternatives to boost our economy, not for a single politician to fill this void.

Hawaii could attract many new employers who provide jobs and tax revenue if we listened to those in our business community and repaired our business climate. Instead, Hawaii government continues to be hostile to business. The recent loss of the Tesoro Refinery and regular closure of bench mark businesses are just symptoms of a government that rewards its own incompetence and risky government “investments” of public money, while punishing hard working private risk takers.

We need to look objectively at states like Wisconsin, Michigan and 22 others, to debate “Right to Work” legislation, not to punish compulsory unions, but to incentivize all workers, and allow them to choose whether or not to join a union and pay dues. It is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

And by the way, wouldn’t it be wonderful if legislators could always act at the same speed to produce good legislation and dismiss bad laws as the governor did when appointing Lt. Gov. Schatz as senator, a new Lt. Gov., and Senators and Representatives?

We must act quickly for the people; not just a political party.

In Hawaii, we have not done our best on behalf of Hawaii’s people. We can and must do better. I believe in an even greater Hawaii with more choices and opportunities for all of our residents. We have it in our power to make it so. Our people and culture are our greatest resources. They are counting on us. We must not fail them.

On behalf of the Senate Minority, I pledge our efforts to support good legislation regardless of who introduces it; to examine and report honestly on the impact of all bills; to work towards ending Legislative exemptions for laws we pass on others and to end counter-productive practices, such as “gut and replace” bills, which lack transparency.

We celebrate our individual God-given liberty and our ability to change for the better. Our goal should not just be a “New Day,” but instead, a better day. This is not a partisan issue. We can navigate a different course. We can make that happen by a vision of what Hawaii can be. For, We, The People. Let’s begin today.

Aloha and Mahalo, God Bless Hawaii, our armed forces men and women and the United States of America.

Opening Day speech by Rep. Scott K. Saiki:

Mr. Speaker, colleagues and guests,

I would like to begin this morning by thanking some people.
First, and I know I can say this on behalf of all members, thank you
to the residents of our respective communities who have given all of us the opportunity to represent them in the Legislature.

Second, thank you to our families and friends – many of whom are seated with us today. They are the ones who stand by us and believe that we are trying to do the right thing. They make more sacrifices than we do. We thank them for their support and presence in our lives.

Third, there is a member of our Democratic caucus whom we would like to recognize. He is grounded and strives to teach House members to be grounded themselves, to be responsible and to be practical and philosophical. He serves his community, our state and our body with distinction. Thank you to Rep. Calvin Say and his family for their service and sacrifice throughout the years.

Finally, there is another House member whom I would like to thank. This Representative also serves with distinction and with steadfast allegiance to our democratic process. He has been a statesman and has made our transition an orderly one. Thank you to Rep. Marcus Oshiro.

Mr. Speaker, we are all here because we have a common goal. We want to ensure that the State of Hawaii is and continues to be a place where we all live in safety, with dignity, and with fair opportunity. This is not a partisan concept – it is embraced by all.

Every legislative session, thousands of students from elementary, middle and high schools throughout the State visit the State Capitol. They usually tour the building and observe our House floor session. The members also meet with them and usually give them a mini civics lesson.

There are two subjects that we discuss with students that I believe are pertinent today.

The first subject is the symbolism of the State Capitol. The building
itself represents a volcano that is surrounded by coconut trees and the ocean. Our House chamber is decorated in earth tones and a sun lamp. In contrast, the Senate chamber is shaded in ocean blue with a moon lamp.

I have to say that it is more appropriate that earth colors are on our
side – because everyone agrees that the House is the more grounded body in the Legislature.

But don’t tell the Senate President I just said that.

Because we have more members and smaller districts, we have a constant check on the pulse of our community.

Mr. Speaker, the second subject that we discuss with students is the legislative process. We explain that the Legislature is an independent and co- equal branch of government and that legislators pass laws. What we don’t really explain is how the Legislature and legislators do their work.

Maybe that’s on purpose. Everyone knows the saying about the similarities between lawmaking and sausage making. But perhaps the lawmaking process doesn’t have to always be that way.

As we keep mindful of the memory of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, we should remember his qualities as a statesman who placed the bigger picture and the greater good ahead of personal politics.

A colleague of his, Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, recently said this of Sen. Inouye: “He was a counselor to younger members like me, a great listener, and a Senator who always put his nation and the people of Hawaii ahead of partisan politics and his own ambition.”

Mr. Speaker, we should follow Sen. Inouye’s lead, for we know
that the public wants us to work together to produce results.

There are 51 members in this body. Each brings experience and
perspective. We will rely upon each member to play a meaningful role in the Legislature.

After all, that is what we are all elected to do.

Simply put and geographically speaking, our State is too small, and our challenges too large, for there to be division within the people’s House.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude by introducing the newest
members of our body. It takes a lot to be a candidate for public office – to put your name and reputation into a public arena – and worse yet, to sign wave every morning and pau hana.

I would like to begin by introducing our two quasi-freshmen.

* Former Rep., Former Sen., and Current Rep. Bert Kobayashi

* Former Rep., Former Councilmember, and Current Rep. Romy Cachola

Mr. Speaker, we also have five true freshmen who take their work
seriously and want to make a difference. Please join me in welcoming them.

* Richard Onishi
* Nicole Lowen
* Justin Woodson
* Kaniela Ing
* Takashi Ohno
* Gregg Takayama

I want our freshmen to know that we senior members of this body
will support them, serve as examples, and work to advance them as leaders.

Mr. Speaker, I know that this will be a productive legislative session that will produce good results for our State.

Thank you very much.

Remaks by Senate President Donna Mercado Kim:

Aloha.

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to welcome you to the Senate’s opening session of the 27th Legislature.

It’s heartwarming to see so many familiar faces, but this year begins with several newcomers to the Senate: representing Kahului and Wailuku is Gil Keith-Agaran… from Ka‘u and Puna comes Russell Ruderman … and from Windward Oahu and East Honolulu is Laura Thielen. Please join me in welcoming them to these chambers.

Let’s also acknowledge the lone voice of the minority, Senator Sam Slom. While he’s but one strong, he’s been a devoted voice for his party and he’s “still here.”

I’ll confess that it’s a very humbling experience to stand before you this morning. I grew up a stone’s throw from this building, in Kalihi-Palama, as one of five kids in a poor working-class family. Like many of you, both my parents worked and struggled to keep food on the table, and a roof over our heads. Given those modest beginnings, never could I have imagined that I would someday be standing before you as Senate President. I thank you, colleagues, for this tremendous privilege.

The Hawaii of our childhood was a lot different than it is today:

We had a smaller population, an economy still largely dependent on agriculture, no freeways, no traffic congestion, fewer of the social ills that we now see, and a smaller, and no doubt simpler, government. We were blessed with a strong spirit of community. We took care of each other. As kids, we played with tops, bean bags, and marbles, in the streets with friends from the neighborhood. We walked to school together and we were unburdened by the concerns that we worry about these days. Places like Palama Settlement and my alma mater, Farrington High School, shaped our lives and prepared us to be responsible adults and leaders.

Then there was that special teacher, aunt, or uncle who mentored and influenced our lives. For me, it was Kumu Hula Aunty Maiki Aiu, who instilled in me the traditional Hawaiian core values of aloha, lokahi (harmony), kuleana (responsibility) and »ha‘a ha‘a (humility). Through hula she taught me discipline, respect, hard work, and grace. These values are the foundation of our kupuna that has been handed down from generation to generation. Mahalo Senator Solomon and the Beamer-Solomon halau for perpetuating this legacy.

While we may not have realized it at the time, the incredible changes that came with the Democratic revolution of 1954, statehood a few years later, and the socio-economic evolution that followed statehood, were the catalysts that built the foundation for much of the work we have continued to build upon to this day. But like any structure, no matter how good the initial foundation, it still requires upkeep and constant care.

The last recession may have weakened our foundation, so now is the time for reassessment and reinforcement.

Beyond our personal hopes and wishes, I speak of what the Legislature has done to further the progress of our people: in our public education system … in the growth of charter schools … in the University of Hawaii.

Under Consumer Protection, Chair Roz Baker’s work for health insurance coverage for individuals and families… in laws that give protections to workers, guided by Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee … working for services that help our children and kupuna and those unable to help themselves, under the watch of Human Services Chair Suzanne Chun Oakland.

These, and so many other programs and services that enrich our lives and contribute to our quality of life, we can and must continue.

After several years of belt-tightening, we’re greeting this session with a rosier economic outlook. The Council on Revenues has projected that tax revenues will increase by five percent this year, indications that the economy continues to improve. Our visitor industry remains strong, and other industries like construction are poised to make a comeback.

Tourism deserves a special mention. The visitor industry continues to be a driving force for the economy, helping to power our recovery. Last year, tourism brought two billion dollars more to the economy over the year before. More than 166,000 jobs are supported by tourism, and its indirect impact is just as far-reaching.

Our island visitor bureaus, our worldwide marketing partners, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority, under the leadership of Mike McCartney and board chair Ron Williams, deserve our applause for these accomplishments.

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit demonstrated that Hawaii has a global presence. Our host culture can teach, touch, bridge, and inspire those who embrace Hawaii and our people. Hawaiian music and dance transcend differences in race, nationality, or language. Aunty Maiki Aiu’s passion to preserve and perpetuate this aspect of Hawaiian culture inspired me and that’s why I have long advocated the establishment of a museum/center of Hawaiian music and dance. An ideal location would be atop the Hawaii Convention Center. What better place to share the heart and soul of our host culture with residents and visitors alike. Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs Chair Brickwood Galuteria and I challenge the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to work together to make it happen.

But with the strong visitor numbers and prospect of more revenues, and what I’d term “pent-up demand” to restore the budget cuts we’ve had to make, it might be tempting and politically popular for us to return to the spending patterns of more prosperous times. We should proceed with caution. After all, the salary cuts for state employees will expire this year. The administration is negotiating new labor agreements with the public employee unions and this will be a major cost item in the budget.

Nationally, the Presidential campaign and Congressional wrangling over the federal budget reflect great divisions in our nation. Here at home, we face monumental changes in politics. The death of our senior Senator Dan Inouye which we are still mourning and the retirement of beloved Senator Daniel Akaka have triggered a ripple effect that will have an impact on our State.

We still have lingering fiscal concerns and potential new ones, among them possible cutbacks in federal funding, and many are looking to the state to make up the difference. Add to this the backlog of repair and maintenance needs for schools, parks, public housing, state buildings, and our infrastructure. There are initiatives to establish a state-run early education program, a new prison, and more affordable housing, as well as proposals for more grants-in-aid and other public support.

Despite all of these demands, and the anticipation of better economic times, I hope, first and foremost, that there will be NO new tax burdens thrust upon our citizens … that we will not automatically open the taxpayers’ pocketbooks to every budget request, every new proposal, every capital improvement project.

I am not saying that we should not consider new initiatives. After all, the Legislature is a forum for new ideas, new ways of doing things to better our quality of life. But as we weigh their merits, let’s also look at the merits of what we already have. Reevaluating and reassessing what we have in place may not be sexy or innovative, but these must be done if we are to achieve our purposes more efficiently and effectively than we have been.

While we consider early childhood education proposals, it’ s imperative that we resolve our problems with the teachers’ contract, school bus services, and the many challenges facing the Department of Education and our charter schools. To help resolve these and other cost items, I call upon the administration to work with us to eliminate salary overpayments to state workers and abuses in overtime and sick leave. These translate into millions of dollars. Let’s use these savings and the additional revenues forecast by the Council on Revenues to accelerate fixing our schools, funding kupuna care, reducing the unfunded liability of the state pension system, and repairing our roads and aging infrastructure.

The collapse of the Farrington High School’s auditorium-roof was a loud warning,that we need to quickly assess the structural soundness of our aging facilities. Fortunately no one was injured, but we may not be so lucky the next time.

Likewise, we mustn’t create or reinstitute public programs without a thorough examination of their long-term obligations. If we authorize new positions, what are the long-term financial obligations with regard to rising labor, pension, and health care costs? For every new building, how much will it cost to operate, maintain, and eventually repair or replace? Those costs should be factored into our five-year balanced budget requirement and we’ll look to Ways and Means Chair David Ige and Vice Chair Michelle Kidani to help us accomplish this.

The author Richard Schickel wrote, “The law of unintended consequences pushes us ceaselessly through the years, permitting no pause for perspective.” With that thought in mind, we should pause to review the laws we have on the books. Are they working? Are they serving their intended purpose or are they barriers?

The Legislative Auditor—I’d be remiss in not acknowledging the outstanding work of Marion Higa, who’s an icon and who we wish well in her retirement — the Auditor is only able to evaluate a fraction of our innumerable public programs.

The “Report on the Implementation of State Auditor’s 2008 Recommendations” was released last February. It stated that less than one-third of the 2008 recommendations have been implemented. We could definitely do better in acting on the Auditor’s recommendations, and not wait until a problem is reported by the news media or brought to our attention by constituents.

Some examples include the HI-5 recycling program, the Public Land Development Corporation, airport procurement contracts, Charter Schools, certain tax credits, and a host of other statutes and requirements that affect us all. We need to either fix or repeal laws that are not working as they were intended, or which have created burdens that were unforeseen at the time of their establishment. To accomplish this, I call upon my fellow House and Senate members to use the post-session interim to initiate these evaluations, since there is never enough time in our hectic 60 day legislative session. Our extensive network of boards and commissions could also assist us in this oversight and evaluation process.

Higher Education Chair Brian Taniguchi has the task of following up on the issues raised during the Special Committee on Accountability’s hearings on the University of Hawaii. What resonated from those hearings is that those appointed as stewards of the public’s trust are responsible for the performance of the organizations they oversee and therefore must be held accountable. Yes, we are indebted to these volunteer public servants for their willingness to devote their time without compensation. But we also need them to be the public’s watchdogs. Beyond their Senate confirmations, they should be called back to report to this body on what they see as the problems, as well as the opportunities, facing the organizations they help govern.

In order to assure food security, farmers need our assistance and commitment to preserve prime agricultural lands. These are long-standing goals that have been slow to accomplish. In a recent visit to Israel, I was surprised to learn that Israel produces 95 percent of its food, despite the fact that more than half of its land is desert and the climate and lack of water resources do not favor farming. If Israel can successfully farm on desert land, then imagine how much we can produce on our lands. So we need to seriously preserve prime farm lands by purchasing them, as we did with the Galbraith Estate. I ask Agricultural Committee Chair Clarence Nishihara to pursue this. I also urge the counties to expedite the completion of their identification and mapping of important agricultural lands.

Because of my experience on the Honolulu City Council and the Hawaii State Association of Counties, I am an advocate for county home-rule. There’s more we can do to streamline the duplication and overlapping of state/county jurisdictions that are confusing to those we serve. Let’s not forget that we serve the same constituency and they don’t care whose jurisdiction it is, they just want it done! In accomplishing this, we could realize additional savings and be more efficient. With former Council members Governor Abercrombie, Senators Donovan Dela Cruz, Kalani English, and Vice President Ron Kouchi, I am hopeful that we can all work together with the counties to finally resolve these issues.

Respecting home-rule also has the added benefit of making government less Oahu-centric. Our new Lieutenant Governor and Maui resident Shan Tsutsui made that point in accepting his appointment and I believe it’s an important cause worth pursuing.

A step in that direction is the Senate’s launch of a pilot video conferencing project this session. The Education Committee and the Technology and Arts committee will be utilizing video conferencing in their hearings, to enable and encourage the participation of neighbor island residents. Our thanks to Chairs Jill Tokuda and Glenn Wakai for leading the Senate in this endeavor.

I’m excited, colleagues, about working with all of you, the members of the House of Representatives, Governor Abercrombie and his administration, and our community in the weeks ahead. Much of what I outlined today did not occur overnight and will take more than one legislative session to accomplish. So let’s begin today!

In closing, I am reminded of this quote, “When we least expect it, life sends us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change.” What better opportunity than now to heed these words.

Colleagues, we come from different places, different backgrounds. You have your own reasons and your own stories for being here. And while we may have differing opinions on the issues of the day, we must be united in our commitment to this institution, to collaboration, to being accountable to the constituents we serve, to building a better Hawaii and to “live aloha.” This is our challenge.

God Bless you all!

Mahalo.

Supported by the House of Representatives, Speaker-elect Joe Souki (District 8 – Wailuku, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Waikapu) announced leadership positions and chair and vice-chair positions for the 2013 session.

Vice-Speaker – Representative John Mizuno

Majority Leader – Representative Scott Saiki

Majority Floor – Representative Karen Awana

Majority Whip – Representative Romy Cachola

Majority Whip – Representative Ken Ito

Majority Whip – Representative Sharon Har

Speaker Emeritus– Representative Calvin Say

Committee on Finance
Chair, Representative Sylvia Luke (District 25 – Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa)

Vice-Chair, Representative Scott Nishimoto (District 21 – Kapahulu, McCully, Moiliili)

Vice-Chair, Representative Aaron Johanson (District 31 – Moanalua, Red Hill, Foster Village, Aiea, Fort Shafter, Moanalua Gardens, Aliamanu, Lower Pearlridge)

Committee on Judiciary
Chair, Representative Karl Rhoads (District 29 –Kalihi, Palama, Iwilei, Chinatown)

Vice-Chair, Representative Sharon Har (District 42 – Kapolei, Makakilo)

Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce
Chair, Representative Angus McKelvey (District 10 – West Maui, Maalaea, North Kihei)

Vice-Chair, Representative Derek Kawakami (District 14 – Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa, Wailua

Committee on Legislative Management

Chair, Representative Scott Nishimoto (District 21 – Kapahulu, McCully, Moiliili
Vice-Chair, Representative John Mizuno (District 28 –Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, portion of Lower Kalihi)

Committee on Education
Chair, Representative Roy Takumi (District 35 – Pearl City, Manana, Waipio)

Vice-Chair, Representative Takashi Ohno (District 27 – Nuuanu, Liliha, Pauoa, Alewa Heights

Committee on Higher Education
Chair, Representative Isaac Choy (District 23 – Manoa, Punahou, University, Moiliili

Vice-Chair, Representative Linda Ichiyama (District 32 – Moanalua Valley, Salt Lake, Aliamanu)
Committee on Water and Land
Chair, Representative Cindy Evans (District 7 – North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala)

Vice-Chair, Representative Nicole Lowen (District 6 – Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau)

Committee on Ocean Management & Hawaiian Affairs
Chair, Representative Faye Hanohano (District 4- Puna)

Vice-Chair, Representative Ty Cullen (District 39, Royal Kunia, Village Park, Waipahu, Makakilo, West Loch)

Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection
Chair, Representative Chris Lee (District 51 – Kailua, Waimanalo)

Vice-Chair, Representative Cynthia Thielen (District 50 – Kailua, Kaneohe Bay)

Committee on Transportation
Chair, Representative Ryan Yamane (District 37 – Mililani, Waipio Gentry, Waikele)

Vice-Chair, Representative Linda Ichiyama (District 32 – Moanalua Valley, Salt Lake, Aliamanu)

Committee on Labor
Chair, Representative Mark Nakashima (District 1 – Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo)

Vice-Chair, Representative Mark Hashem (District 18 – Hahaione, Kuliouou, Niu Valley, Aina Haina, Waialae, Kahala)

Committee on Public Safety
Chair, Representative Henry Aquino (District 38 – Waipahu)

Vice-Chair, Representative Kaniela Ing (District 11 – Kihei, Wailea, Makena)

Committee on Health
Chair, Representative Della Au Belatti (District 24 – Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa)

Vice-Chair, Representative Dee Morikawa (District 16 – Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea)

Committee on Human Services
Chair, Representative Mele Carroll (District 13 – Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Paia, Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai, Moloka’i, Molokini)

Vice-Chair, Representative Bertrand Kobayashi (District 19 – Waialae Kahala, Diamond Head, Kaimuki, Kapahulu)

Committee on Housing
Chair, Representative Rida Cabanilla (District 41- Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe, West Loch)

Vice-Chair, “New Maui Rep” District 9 Representative (District 9 – Kahului, Puunene, Old Sand Hills, Maui Lani)

Committee on Tourism
Chair, Representative Tom Brower (District 22 – Waikiki, Ala Moana)

Vice-Chair, Representative Romy Cachola (District 30 – Sand Island, Mokauea, Kapalama, Kalihi Kai)

Committee on Economic Development & Business Affairs
Chair, Representative Clift Tsuji (District 2- Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea)

Vice-Chair, Representative Gene Ward (District 17 – Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley

Committee on Agriculture
Chair, Representative Jessica Wooley (District 48 – Kaneohe, Heeia, Ahuimanu, Kahaluu, Haiku Valley, Mokuoloe)

Vice-Chair, Representative Richard H.K. Onishi (District 3 – Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano)

Committee on Military and Veterans Affair, International Affairs & Culture and the Arts
Chair, Representative K. Mark Takai (District 33- Aiea)

Vice-Chair, Representative Ken Ito (District 49 – Kaneohe, Maunawili, Olomana)

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Oct 24, 2014 / 5:15 pm

 

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