Letter: Marijuana Dispensary Bill is “Insidious”

Dear Editor,

I’d like to congratulate the powers that be on Hawaii’s insidious medical marijuana dispensary bill!  We have made it so restrictive that we are discriminating against over 13,000 people.  This is a bad law, and all in the legislature have shown your true colors, besides Senator Ruderman.

It is amazing and apparent how the lobbyists and police control the legislature, and the only thing we can hope is the Governor vetoes it as being bad for the people of Hawaii.

The overburdonsome regulations will bite you in the okole!  Oh wait, I forgot that is your plan to keep it as illegal as you can to generate crime, unaffordable prices are sure to be the norm, as is the continuation of the black market.

Good Job (NOT),

Sara Steiner
P.O. Box 2011
Pahoa, Hawaii 96778

Hawaii House Passes Plethora of Last Minute Bills

As the close of session quickly approaches, the House today approved bills that address a wide range of issues. Among measures that passed final reading in the House were those increasing the tax state credit for low-income residents; providing additional funds for preschool for low-income families; requiring health insurers to provide coverage for children with autism; making sex trafficking a Class A felony; and establishing an affirmative consent task force to review and make recommendations on the University of Hawaii’s executive policy on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

HB500, CD1, the state budget bill, appropriates funds for operating and capital improvement costs of the Executive Branch for the current biennium, fiscal years FY2015-2016 and FY2016-2017, will now go to the Governor for his signature. The bill includes nearly $6.6 billion in general funds for FY2015-2016 and $6.862 billion in general funds for FY2016-2017.

In crafting the budget, House Finance Chair Rep. Sylvia Luke (Makiki, Punchbowl, Nuuanu, Dowsett Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa) looked to create a “better budget” in four ways, by: (1) limiting growth in the budget, (2) fueling economic growth through selective tax credits, (3) investing in people who need help the most, and (4) reducing the state’s unfunded liabilities and building up its Rainy Day funds.

Earlier, the House passed and sent on to the Governor a bill that raised the smoking age in Hawaii to 21. The bill also banned the sale and use of e-cigarettes in public places to anyone under 21.

Highlights of the measures passed include:

EDUCATION
SB64, CD1, makes an appropriation of $6,000,000 for the Preschool Open Doors Program.

HB820, CD1, establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning Public Prekindergarten Program to be administered by the Executive Office on Early Learning and provided through Department of Education public schools and public charter schools. Read more

It’s Alive: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill Survives Conference Committee

House Bill 321, which would establish seven marijuana dispensaries across the state,  is back from the dead.  After an impasse that nearly killed the bill, the House and Senate conferees at the Hawaii State Legislature  have advanced it  for a vote by the full legislature for a floor vote.

HB321, CD1 would establish a medical marijuana dispensary system and provide a total of eight dispensary licenses statewide, three in Honolulu, two on Maui County and Hawaii Island, and one on Kauai.  Each dispensary licensee would have the option to open up to two retail locations.  If the bill passes, the state will begin taking licensee applications from would-be dispensaries from January 11 to 29, 2016. The dispensaries would would begin selling medical marijuana and related products to qualifying patients or primary caregivers on July 15, 2016.

“I’m excited we will launch dispensaries in 2016,” wrote Sen. Josh Green (D-Kona), who heads the Senate Health Committee.  “The final draft included some provisions I fought for such as reciprocity with other states, the ability for ALL doctors to authorize MM cards and PTSD as an approved condition. I hope that all of the licenses ultimately are awarded to qualified, well intentioned local people who put Hawaii patient concerns first. We’ll have several dispensaries on Big Island in the coming years.”

But Green reportedly got into an impasse between himself and House Health Committee Chair Della Au Belatti that nearly killed the bill.   The dispute was over how licenses for the dispensaries would be issued–Green favored awarding them on a first come, first served basis. The bill moved forward after he was excused as conference committee representative and replaced by Sen. Will Espero (D-Ewa), the Senate Health Committee’s vice chair.  In place of the “first come first served” language, the current bill calls for the Department of Health to set up “a selection process and criteria based on merit for verified applicants.”

Asked how the deadlock was resolved, Green told the Chronicle, “We had the public safety chair  [Sen. Greg Takayama, D-Pearl City) decide that point. I contributed the health features of the bill,’  Green told the Chronicle.

“That was the real sticking point between Josh and Della. Josh wanted first come, first served. Josh wasn’t going to budge,” Rep. Richard Creagan (D-South Kona, Ka’u, Volcano) told the Chronicle.  “Della and Josh had worked very hard on it, but they just couldn’t get it across the finish line.”

“It’s been a long haul, to get this bill to this point, going to back to last session when we deferred an earlier effort to provide legal access to medical marijuana,” Belatti said.  “Because of a number of issues, including those relating to the safety and security of the dispensaries, we sought more studied input so that we would be on firm ground when drafting this year’s measure… If we were intensely focused on seeing this measure passed this session, can you imagine how patients who require medical marijuana to get by each day must have felt?  Some have waited 15 years for this day to come,” said Belatti.

Creagan who vice-chairs the House Health Committee, and who, like Green, is a certified emergency room physician,  noted,  “I don’t think anybody is overjoyed with this bill, but at least we have a bill.It’s not greatly changed from what it was Friday before the impasse, but it’s improved compared to the earlier versions….that the current version of the bill does eliminate a proposed 45 percent excise tax on medical marijuana, reducing it to “Just a normal excise tax, like anything else.” And the new bill, he said, would allow prescriptions by doctors other than primary care physicians, and will expand the definition of ailments for which marijuana can be described to include post-traumatic stress syndrome. Other condition such as insomnia and anxiety disorders may be added later: “The Health Dept. will be able to add conditions, and they said they would be working on that.“

The bill would not pre-empt the option of patients growing their own plants, he said. He suspected the dispensary prices would actually be higher than street prices on the Big Island. But, he believed, “One of the things medical dispensaries will do is that the strains will be better characterized.”
Creagan said he thought the bill will benefit O`ahu more than the big Island. “Probably more people on Oahu will use the dispensaries, because it will e easier and more convenient, and people on Oahu have more money,’ he commented. The big Island is actually in pretty good shape, because most people can get a hold of marijuana pretty easily anyway. Oahu—it’s just harder to grow it over there… People have an easier time to grow it on the Big Island, and a lot of people know how to grow it on the Big Island. ”

Creagan said he didn’t know much about the medical marijuana issue initially, but he’d gotten educated on it by talking to his constituents. Having the dispensary option, he believed, would make physicians more comfortable, and would help the process of “normalizing” the idea of medical marijuana use.

“I think that we’re just getting comfortable with the idea that marijuana is beneficial and safe, and is more safe than most prescription medication, he said, and noted that “ People are realizing that there was all this misinformation and misconceptions, and are now much more comfortable that marijuana is a a acceptable thing. He noted, for instance that the notion that marijuana was addictive had been fostered by a law enforcement system that mandated “drug treatment programs” for those caught using: “People got out of legal entanglements by agreeing to go to drug treatment programs…there was noway they were addictive, but it was just an easy way to get out of trouble with the law.”

He credited the legislator’s leaders for saving the bill.  When the deadlock occurred he said,  “The leadership recognized that it was more important not to let the bill die for relatively minor reasons.”

Open Letter to our Legislators: What’s Wrong with the Medical Marijuana Bill

Dear Senator Espero, other Legislators,

The reason you are having so much trouble with the dispensary bill is it is not good for the people of Hawaii. To tell you the truth, the amendments ruin it, and make compliance unaffordable and discriminatory for all but multimillionaires with health licenses.

For one, the definition of a “person” needs to be an actual person, not some shady LLC set up to steal profits from Hawaii residents. One license for one aspect (grow, manufacture, dispense) for one person. Give as many Hawaii residents (not big mainland growers, dispensary owners, pharmaceutical or tobacco companies) a chance to make a good living and people and the State of Hawaii will benefit from your aloha.

Two, if you feel in your heart that sick cancer patients on chemotherapy deserve a bit of chocolate or brownie to take their medicine, then give them the “edibles” from SB 682.

Three, throw away all the amendments (both House and Senate) and revert back to the original HB321. We can’t handle the overkill in compliances, there is a higher price for every unnecessary and burdensome requirement.

Unfortunately, the police, judicial system and NED are still in the grip of “reefer madness,” a self-perpetuating industry of prison for profit and stealing peoples assets through property forfeiture. Remember, the police and narcotics enforcement divisions should be focused on the extreme problems of ice, heroin, cocaine, meth, and other actual crimes like theft, robbery, assault: crimes with actual victims, not the cannabis plant. Please also remind yourself they are not doctors, and they have no business lobbying against laws aimed at giving people access to an allowed plant of their choice.

You as our law makers have got to rise above the money hungry crowd, and do what is right for the 13,000+ medical cannabis patients in the State of Aloha!

Thank you for your attention to this matter!

Sara Steiner
Pahoa, Hawaii

Legislature: Sex Traffickers Beware

A bill that would make pimping a felony and another that would establish a safe haven program for youthful abuse victims are among five public safety-relate bills that the State Senate bills that the State House of Representatives just approved:

SB265, SD1, HD1 replaces the term “promoting prostitution” with the term “sex trafficking,” a Class A felony, and includes the offense of sex trafficking in the Department of the Attorney General’s statewide witness program.

SB1211, SD1, HD1, relating to the Major Disaster Fund, would increase the expenditure ceiling on Major Disaster Fund moneys and require the Adjutant General to report any allotment of fund moneys or any expenditure of Fund moneys to the Legislature within one month of the allotment or expenditure.

SB871, SD1, HD3, relating to highway safety, authorizes the director of transportation to establish reciprocal licensing privileges to any person eighteen years of age or older who holds a license from another jurisdiction, under certain conditions.

SB979, SD2, HD1, requires the Office of Youth Services to coordinate a Safe Places for Youth Pilot Program until June 30, 2021. It would also establish a Safe Places for Youth Program Coordinator position. The bill would allow youth in crisis–including victims of family violence, school bullying and predatory adults– who are at least 14 but under 18 years of age to consent to accept services in the Pilot Program under certain circumstances.

 

Legislature: Let the Homeless Drive Legally

The Hawaii House of Representatives has now approved a Senate bill that would eliminate a major legal roadblock, literally, for the homeless.

SB273, SD2, HD2 addresses a a major problem for those who are homeless but otherwise eligible to drive: they needed to supply a address to the driver’s license examiner.   The bill requires the examiner to  “to accept a sworn statement from a victim services organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, correctional institution staff, a medical or health professional, or a verification letter from a homeless service provider as documentary evidence of a homeless person’s address.  The bill would also” waive all fees for homeless individuals” and would set up a “working group to enable homeless individuals in the State to obtain necessary documentary evidence.”

House Passes Health Bills

The State House of Representatives has voted to pass several dozen bills that crossed over from the Senate.  Among them are several bills related to health, including on that would create a statewide system for dispensing medical marijuana, and another that establishes a “mini-PLDC” for medical procurement.

SB682, SD2, HD1, relating to medical marijuana. Establishes a regulated system of medical marijuana dispensaries and production centers. Specifies that the number of licensed dispensaries and production centers increase gradually over an initial phase-in period. Prohibits counties from enacting zoning regulations or rules that prohibit the use of land for licensed dispensaries and production centers.
SB1228, SD2, HD3 establishes a process for special innovative procurement and generates a framework for public-private partnership in Hawaii. Appropriates funds for a temporary position to assist the Procurement Policy Board. Appropriates funds for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation to procure services to develop a master plan for the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital and Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital.

SB1291, SD2, HD2, relating to medical marijuana. Prohibits discrimination against medical marijuana patients and caregivers by schools, landlords, courts with regard to medical care or parental rights, employers, planned community associations, condominium property regimes, and condominiums.

 
SB964, SD2, HD1, relating to aging. Appropriates funds for the Kupuna Care Program and the Aging and Disability Resource Center. Requires appointment of an Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia services coordinator no later than July 1, 2017. Appropriates funds for the Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia services coordinator, fall prevention and early detection services for the elderly, the Healthy Aging Partnership Program, and an Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia public awareness campaign.

SB1028, SD2, HD1, relating to the Hawaii Health Connector. Attempts to harmonize requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act with the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act by implementing federal requirements for provider network adequacy through requiring that insurer contracts with federally-qualified health centers. Authorizes other means of generating revenue through provision of benefits administration services.

SB1338, SD2, HD1, relating to the Hawaii Health Connector. Authorizes large group insurance coverage under the Connector. Beginning Oct. 1, 2016, ends authorization to renew or issue transitional renewal policies. Requires notice to group health plans that offer continuation of coverage about options for affordable coverage under the Connector, in addition to the requirements under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA).

SB1117, SD2, HD1, relating to Hawaii Health Systems Corporation. Makes an emergency appropriation to support the functions of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.

SB1095, SD1, HD1, relating to health insurance. Defines the term “habilitative services” to be included in health care services, including but not limited to physical and occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, speech and swallowing therapy, applied behavior analysis, medical equipment, orthotics, and prosthetics, that help a person keep, learn, or improve skills and functioning for daily living.

SB791, SD1, HD2, relating to autism spectrum disorders. Requires health insurers, mutual benefit societies, and health maintenance organizations to provide insurance coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

SB1036, SD2, HD1, relating to substance abuse treatment. Establishes within the Department of Health a working group to address publicly-funded substance abuse treatment services. Appropriates funds.

SB768, SD1, HD1, relating to in vitro fertilization insurance coverage. Provides in vitro fertilization insurance coverage equality for women who are diagnosed with infertility by making available to them expanded treatment options, ensuring adequate and affordable health care services.

SB1032, SD2, HD2, relating to tobacco products. Expands the definition of “tobacco products” to include tobacco-free products containing nicotine that are intended for human consumption. Increases the license fee for wholesalers or dealers of cigarettes or tobacco products. Increases the retail tobacco permit fee for retailers engaged in the retail sale of cigarettes and tobacco products.

SB1030, SD1, HD2, relating to health. Increases the minimum age for the sale or possession of a tobacco product in a public place, and the sale or furnishing of a tobacco product, from 18 to 21. Defines “tobacco products” to include electronic smoking devices.

Commentary: What I want in the Next DLNR Chairperson

by Sen. Laura Thielen

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when we look back everything is different. —C. S. Lewis.

Dan Boylan has a column in this week’s Midweek asking what is needed in the next DLNR Chairperson. Here’s my two cents.

  • Hawaii is the Endangered Species Capitol of the world. We have decimated entire populations of life, and are rapidly continuing to do so;
  • Polluted waters running off land has killed our near shore estuaries and brutalized our reefs, decimating fisheries and marine life;
  • Invasive species are killing our native forests, reducing the waters that can reach our aquifers and choking our reefs – the two essential foundations for life on land and in our oceans
  • Developments stretch along our coast lines and uplands, blocking traditional practices and public access to beaches, ocean and forests – the public spaces where we practice religion, go to for sustenance, recreation and spiritual refreshment.

None of these things happened because of one, 10 or even 20 events. They happened because of thousands upon thousands of decisions over years.  Seemingly little decisions, like:

  • We can’t adopt regulations to reduce pollution running into the ocean – it’s too expensive.
  • We need a new hotel along this coast – its jobs and the backbone of our economy. People can still access the beach down the way.
  • Yes, its Conservation land, but the owner has the right to put it to a higher and better economic use, so we’re reclassifying it as “Urban.”

During this time, day by day, nothing seemed different. One by one these decisions are rationalized as necessary because each one has “little” impact on our natural and cultural resources.

But when we look back and remember what our islands were like when we were kids, we realize immense changes have happened. We realize that these thousands of decisions have permanently altered our state over the last 50 years.

The changes that took place in our islands since 1965 – the last 50 years – will be dwarfed by the changes that will take place over the next 50 years.

  • The impacts Japanese investments had on our economy in the 80s – a country with 130 million people – will be dwarfed by the rapidly growing investments from China – a country with nearly 1 ½ billion people.
  • The impacts climate change will have on our resources – including our water supply, our reefs and marine life, our beaches, and our watersheds – will be formidable.
  • The never-ending drive for economic growth built upon our old model of sprawling development will continue to erode our culture, our “sense of place” – the intangible essence of what makes Hawaii “Hawaii.”

Yes, we need a Chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Commission of Water Resource Management who understands business, development, and economics. Yes, we need to develop to meet our population’s needs.

But we also need a DLNR Chairperson who understands that the seemingly innocuous decisions made day by day are not innocuous. They are cumulative.

And unless they know that in their very heart and soul, and can explain it to the people who fight for the short term profit over the long term vision, and convince our public and civic leaders that we must follow a new path where development does not come at the expense of our environment and our culture, then we stand to lose at an escalating pace that which we cannot afford to lose.

Our Hawaii.

Editor’s Editor’s Note: Sen. Thielen chairs the Senate Committee on Land and Water, and was one of the key figures in defeating Governor David Ige’s nomination of lobbyist Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Senate Land and Water Committee Approves Kaluhiwa as DLNR Deputy Chair

 The Senate Committee on Water and Land has voted , 7-0, to send Kekoa Kaluhiwa, Governor Ige’s pic for deputy chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, on to the full Senate with a positive recommendation.  Those who opposed often emphasized Kluhiwa’s previous jobs as a lobbyist for the shipping industry; one asked, for instance, if Kaluhiwa would recuse himself on any matters related to land leases for GMO seed crops, since his former employers profited from shipping seed corn. But Kaluhiwa’s credentials as a former Kamehameha Schools land manager involved with conservation issues may have outweighed his lobbyist background in the senator’s minds; even Puna’s Russell Ruderman and committee chair Laura Thielen, among the harshest critics of Carleton Ching,  Ige’s fallen nominee for DLNR Chair, voted in favor of Kaluhiwa.  For more background on Kaluhiwa, see our earlier story, “DLNR Hearings, Round 2.”

DLNR Confirmation Hearings, Round 2….

Governor Ige’s nomination of Carleton Ching to run the Department of Land and Natural Resources went down in flames a few days ago, with Ige withdrawing Ching’s name after a flood of negative testimony and a straw vote that demonstrated that Ching couldn’t be confirmed by the full Senate. Now it’s the turn of Ige’s pick for Deputy to the Chairperson of DLNR, Kekoa Kaluhiwa, who is also controversial.

At 2:45 p.m. tomorrow, Kaluhiwa’s nomination goes before the Senate Committee on Water and Land, whose negative recommendation of Ching was a major nail in Ching’s coffin. But  Kaluhiwa’s resume raises some of the same alarm bells that went off for conservationists re Ching’s nomination.  Like Ching, Kaluhiwa has been a lobbyist–in Kaluhiwa’s case, for Horizon Lines, where, among other duties, he assisted company executives in strategizing campaign contributions and necessary reporting to the Campaign Spending Commission” and “assisted in monitoring bills relating to the maritime industry.  He also served as a registered lobbyist for Young Brothers during the 2014 legislative session, when “primary bills of interest related to invasive species protection and possible restructuring of the Public Utilities Commission.”  NextEra Energy also employed him for public relations work related to the PUC:he was “retained to assist with community relations efforts specific to the development of an electric transmission cable between Oahu and Maui.  Since the PUC did not allow that projec tmove forward, he says, he did not actually “conduct any community outreach,” although he did attend some public meetings related to the project.  He claim he did not “participate in or have knowledge of” any of NextEra’s other Hawaii-related projects, including its proposed purchase of HECO and HELCO.

But Kaluhiwa says his undergraduate course work continued courses not only in  “political science, management theory” and “economics,” but also in “climate change, land tenure and wildlife management.” He also points to his 11 years of service with U. S. Senator Daniel Akaka and his Hawaiia heritage as assets he could use at the DLNR.  As a graduate intern with the Land Assets Division of Kamehameha Schools, he worked on hunting issues an feral ungulate control, two areas with which the DLNR is also heavily involved.  To monitor and or testify on Kaluhiwa’s hearing, click here.

Also up for consideration before the Water and Land Committee tomorrow are three less controversial appointments: Ige’s naming of Keith Downing, Ulalia Woodside and  Christopher Yuen to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.  To monitor and/or testify on those nominations, click on the links attached to their names.

 

Commentary: House Budget Guts Funding for Key DLNR Programs

 

Aloha, everyone,
In the last few weeks, I thought it became apparent to everyone that the Department of Land and Natural Resources is seriously underfunded given its mandate to protect our land, water, cultural and natural resources, and Hawaiian sites for our people and future generations.

I guess I was wrong! The state House of Representatives recently passed its budget bill, HB 500 HD 1, and eliminated or reduced funding for several important DLNR programs described below. HB 500 HD 1 crossed over to the Senate, where it will be heard by Ways and Means any day now. We hope critical funding for DLNR programs will be replaced by the Senate or House and Senate negotiators in conference committee.

We Need Your Kokua Now!

1. Please call both your state representative and your state senator as soon as possible, say that you live in their district, and politely urge them to restore drastic cuts to the DLNR’s budget in budget bill HB 500 HD 1. If you would like to provide specific information, ask them to include the following:

* $13m for the Natural Area Reserve Fund, $6.8m in the Legacy Land Fund, and $6.3m in the Forest Stewardship Fund (all of which are supported by conveyance tax revenues that are at historic highs because of the booming residential and commercial real estate markets (which put added pressure on natural resources like fresh water);

* $6m in general funds for Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council programs;

* $750,000 for wildlife and emergency response equipment for DLNR;

* Funding for the Division of Conservation and Resourc Enforcement, (DOCARE), DLNR for community fisheries enforcement units on Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i

* Funding for the Division of Aquatic Resources, DLNR, for the Humpback Whale Sanctuary State Co-Manager and for Community-based Subsistence Fisheries Area Planner and Marine Regulation and Policy Specialist to support community-based marine management like H?‘ena, P?p?kea, Mo‘omomi, Ka‘?p?lehu, etc.

2. After you call your state representative and state senator, please email all representatives and senators at reps@capitol.hawaii.gov and sens@capitol.hawaii.gov and politely urge them to do the same as above.

3. Share this Kokua Alert with others and ask them to contact their representatives and senators. Mahalo nui loa!

FYI: Here is a summary of the drastic cuts to the DLNR’s budget in HB 500 HD 1:

– Natural Area Reserve Fund – Governor’s FY16 request of $13m spending authority; House reduced to $0 (the FY15 spending authority for the NAR Fund had been $8m)

– Legacy Land Conservation Fund – Governor’s FY16 request of $6.8m spending authority; House reduced to $0 (the FY15 spending authority had been $5.1m)

– Forest Stewardship Fund – Governor’s FY16 request of $6.3m spending authority; House reduced to $5m (the same level as the FY15)

– Hawai?i Invasive Species Council programs – Governor’s FY16 request of $4m general funds; House reduced to $0 (the FY15 Legislature provided $5.75m to HISC programs)

– Native Resources & Fire Protection – Governor’s request for $750,000 in general funds for needed wildfire and emergency response equipment was denied by the House.

– DOCARE – NO funding included in the House budget for:

o Community Fisheries Enforcement Units on Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i

o Makai Watch Coordinator

– Division of Aquatic Resources – NO funding included in the House budget for:

o Humpback Whale Sanctuary State Co-Manager

o Community-based Subsistence Fisheries Area Planner and Marine Regulation and Policy Specialist to support community-based marine management like Haena, Pupukea, Mo`omomi, Ka‘upulehu, etc.

Footnote: The NAR Fund and Forest Stewardship Fund use conveyance tax revenue to manage forest and watershed resources through the State Natural Area Reserves (mostly ceded land), Forest Reserves, Watershed Partnerships, Natural Area and Forest Stewardship partnerships with private landowners, and the Hawai‘i Youth Conservation Corps. The Legacy Land Fund provides State matching funds to purchase and protect cultural, natural, agricultural, historical, and recreational resource lands. The Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council provides funding for critical invasive species prevention, eradication, control, research, and education programs.

House of Representatives Contact Information (To find your state representative, go to http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/findleg.aspx?street=Enter%20Street%20Name)

–Marjorie Ziegler,
Kaneohe, O`ahu
Editor’s Note: Marjorie Ziegler is the executive director of the Conservation Council of Hawaii

Capital Improvements Budget Is Out

  The state legislature’s proposed annual budget is out, with its annual gift to the construction industry: the Capital Improvement Projects  (CIP) funding.  The biggest CIP allocations on this island are a $61 airport firefighters’ training facility at Kona Airport, $55 million in continued funding for the Judiciary Complex in Kona, and $8.5 million for a “multi-purpose workforce development processing facility.” Other big island projects include: 

·         $1.2 million for the plans and design of a new hospital in Kona

·         $2.35 million for the design and construction of a Kamuela post-harvest facility and vacuum cooling plant

·         $330,000 for improvements to the research campus in the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park

·         $30.212 for the construction of a new combined support maintenance shop complex for Hawaii Army National Guard at the Keaukaha military reservation

·         $1.675 million for Youth Challenge Academy renovations and improvements at Keaukaha military reservation

·         $2 million for the design of Building A phase 1 renovations at Hilo Intermediate School

·         $1 million for the construction of bleachers at Honokaa High School

·         $230,000 for the construction of drainage improvements and a raised covered walkway at Mountain View Elementary School

·         $450,000 for a new baseball batting cage at Waiakea High School

·         $1.58 million for the design of a new classroom building at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School

·         $300,000 for parking improvements at Kealakehe Elementary School

·         $1 million for the design and construction for Pu’u Wa’awa’a structure improvements and dam compliance

·         $400,000 for the plans and design for improvements at the North Kawaihae small boat harbor

·         $600,000 for the land acquisition and design for a community center in Waiakea Uka

·         $200,000 for building renovations and improvements at the Paauilo slaughterhouse plant

·         $3.5 million for airfield improvements at Hilo International Airport

·         $1.425 million for physical modifications to improve navigational safety and operational efficiencies at Hilo Harbor

·         $3.6 million for Kohala Mountain Road drainage improvements by mile post 10.60

·         $8 million for the rehabilitation of Ninole Bridge along Mamalahoa Highway (route 11)

·         $15 million for repair and maintenance of feeder roads and alternate routes for Highway 130

·         $660,000 for land acquisition to extend the Daniel K. Inouye Highway from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway

·         $1.5 million for the construction of portable trailers at Hawaii Community College

·         $350,000 to renovate the tennis court at Honokaa High and Intermediate School

·         $2.46 million lump sum for renovations at Hilo High School

·         $1.23 million lump sum for renovations at Konawaena Middle School

·         $780,000 lump sum for renovations at Kohala High

·         $4.99 million for photovoltaic projects for East Hawaii HHSC region

·         $3.492 million total for renovations at Kona Community Hospital

·         $750,000 for an 80 bed intake unit at Hawaii Community Correctional Center to address overcrowding

Governor Withdraws Ching Nomination

The end, when it came, took the form of a one-sentence letter for from Governor David Ige  to Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and members of the Senate.

“I hereby respectfully withdraw the nomination of Carleton Ching as Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.” it read.

The governor’s letter apparetly arrived just minutes before the full Senate was scheduled to vote on the nomination. Ige reportedly pulled the nomination after learning that he didn’t have enough votes in the Senate to win approval.  Ching’s nomination was advanced to the Senate last week with a negative recommendation from the  Senate Committee on Water and Land, after the committee heard testimony that ran 9-1 against confirming Ching, a lobbyist for developer Castle and Cook. Since then, senators reportedly have gotten a flood of calls from constituents protesting the nomination,   and senators  coming to the capitol this morning were greeted with a  rally protesting the nomination. Opponents cited Ching’s lack of experience in conservation and preservation issues and his close ties to developers, including his involvement in the pro-development Land Use Research Foundation, which had lobbied for the weakening of conservation and preservation laws.  Governor Ige has until April 6 to submit a new nomination if he wants the Senate to approve a new DLNR head this session.

As  of 6 p.m. this evening the Governor’s own Web page still had no announcements or press releases about the withdrawal of Ching’s nomination.

 

 

Right Man, Wrong Job: Senate Committee Refuses to Endorse Carleton Ching Nomination

The members of the State Senate Committee on Water and Land almost unanimous think that Carleton Ching is a “nice guy” and an “honorable man.”

“If you are not confirmed, I really do hope we can find a way for you to serve us, because your skills are very much needed.” noted committee member Maile Shimabukuru, and O`ahu Democrat.

But like most of her fellow committee members, she doesn’t think he’s the right man to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The committee has voted 5-2 against Governor David Ige’s nomination of Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The nomination now goes to the full senate with a negative recommendation.

Voting “Aye” on a motion “to NOT ADVISE AND CONSENT to the nomination”—in other words, to oppose it—were Committee Chair Laura Thielen and Sens. Shimabukuro, Russell Ruderman, and Gil Riviere; voting “aye” with reservations was Sen. Les Ihara; “nay” (supporting the nomination” were Committee Vice Chair Brickwood Galuteria and Sen. Sam Slom.  Ruderman (D-Puna) was the only Big Island senator serving on the committee.

The committee heard two days of testimony in which opponents, especially conservationists and environmental groups, questioned Ching’s lack of experience in conservation, his work as a lobbyist for developer Castle and Cook, and his position with the Land Use Research Foundation, or LURF, which has lobbied for the weakening of environmental protections and historic preservation. The criticism grew so vociferous that Thielen actually apologized to Ching’s family for having to sit through it. But that didn’t prevent Thielen, herself a former DLNR chair, from grilling Ching, or from expressing her negative impressions of Ching’s responses. She especially focused on Ching’s professed ignorance of some of the anti-environmental stands that LURF had publicly espoused, including LURF’s support of the Public Land Development Corporation, the short-lived government organization that would have sponsored “public/private partnerships” to develop state lands, but which died due to massive public opposition. As Ruderman noted, about 90 percent of those testifying opposed Ching’s nomination, and those who favored it came almost exclusively from the development community.

“It seems irresponsible for someone who was on a Board of Directors for nearly a decade to be completely unfamiliar with repeated lobbying positions taken by his employees over that entire period of time,” Thielen wrote on her Facebook page at the end of the first day of testimony. “It’s worrisome that he wouldn’t be familiar with the public concerns about allowing developments to bypass zoning and land use laws, when that was such a big debate recently. But the most discouraging part to me was that he didn’t understand that the very development permits that he supported eliminating are the exact permits that our Supreme Court ordered the State and counties to make sure that traditional and cultural gathering rights are protected, and public rights to access public beaches are protected. If you don’t have these permits, then there is no way to ensure that coastal developments can’t cut off access to shoreline for surfing, gathering, swimming, or spiritual refreshment for our many residents who are jammed into lower-rent housing in our inland areas.”

When testimony was over, Thielen recommended against affirming the nomination. She began her statement by quoting Article 12 of the State Constitution, which enshrines native Hawaiian gathering and access rights.

“To me, Article 12 and the other article on the public trust doctrine for our state lands and our private lands in our state is the very essence of what makes Hawaii unique,” she said, noting that the article established “not just Native Hawaiian rights, but the right of the public to access public lands.” She cited a court ruling that established that hotels could not shut the public out of public beaches.

“If the public beaches are public lands, then we have the right to access them. These rights are not a balance. These rights should not be compromised,” she maintained. “…The chair of the Dept. of Land and Natural resources makes many, many, many, many decisions within that agency that never reach the board, that never rise to the level of attention of the governor. Every day they are approached by people who are competing for the immediate use of resources for their immediate gain or personal desires. They are the one voice in the cabinet, often arguing with the governor, often arguing with the other member of the cabinet, to speak to the fiduciary obligation…to future generations and their rights to access those resources, their rights to have open space.…”

After listening to him, she said, “I just didn’t see that commitment and understanding on these constitutional rights and on the rights and values of the resources just in their natural state and how to weigh that against the demands of private property owners for the immediate profit at the expense of the long term resources.”

Even Galuteria and Slom acknowledged that they had problems with some of Ching’s responses. “Some of the things that were revealed in this particular process for me were rather curious,” admitted Galuteria, including “The obvious question of your LURF participation.” But he took Ching at his word that he could transfer his loyalties from Castle and Cook to the state. “You’re being portrayed as a company man, someone who will do the bidding of the company. If confirmed by the full Senate, you will be THIS company man…We will expect that loyalty of you for the state o f Hawaii.” And he noted that previous DLNR chairs had come from corporate backgrounds and succeeded, though they hadn’t to deal with such organized opposition—or “advocacy,” as he called it.

Slom, the Senate’s lone Republican, also acknowledged the strength of that organized opposition.

“We have very strong and positive environmental laws. We have very strong and positive environmental organizations. If this person is confirmed, you are not going to let him get away with anything.”

Slom noted that he had opposed the PLDC and some of the projects that Ching had advocated as a Castle and Cooke lobbyist. But he also said he was “a businessman. I’m proud of it,” and maintained that businessmen, not the government, were needed to rescue the state from its economic doldrums.

“When a nominee comes before us…and we ask him questions and give him a colonoscopy as we have with this nomination, you have a choice. You can believe what the nominee says, or not. You can believe what the governor says, or not,” he said. He chose to believe Ching and the governor.

Ruderman spoke at greater length than any senator aside from Thielen. While he acknowledged that Ching was “A very nice man, an honorable man with obvious integrity, very likeable,” he felt that his nomination “will harm the future of our state…. Not just potential harm to the environment or our precious resource, but the certain harm to our trust in public government..”

“I accept in some cases I may not politically like a nominee but they still may be qualified, but that is not the case here,” he maintained, observing that Ching had “no real experience or aptitude for the mission.” He called Ching’s nomination “The PLDC issue times ten: instead of a branch of the DLNR devoted to development, we’re now looking at refocusing the at entire department through the lens of development, instead of stewardship and preservation.” And he echoed a DLNR employee’s testimony that “The nominee’s entire career track has been the polar opposite of DLNR’s mission.” Like other committee members, he was troubled by Ching’s “effort to distance himself” from LURF’s activities. He was also troubled by Ching’s repeated referenced to land as “a piece of dirt” – phrase that he found indicative of Ching’s attitude.

“If there are no better qualified applicants, then the answer is to cast a wider net,” he said, and suggested promoting someone from within the DLNR itself.

Riviera was also unimpressed by Ching’s answers, which he thought were often evasive, and with Ching’s lack of knowledge of environmental law. “The lens you see things through….ultimately was a deciding factor,” he told the nominee. “We’re almost asking you to come to DLNR and act against your own instincts.”

Oddest of all was Les Ihara’s commentary. A fence sitter to the last, he said he would oppose Ching’s nomination in committee—“with reservations,” but support it on the Senate floor next week—also “with reservations.”

Letter: Shame on You, Clifton Tsuji

Dear Editor,

Shame on Rep. Clift Tsuji from Hawaii island for killing the bill for pesticide buffer zones around schools, HB1514. What kind of person won’t protect kids from pesticide poisoning?  And it’s reported that as House Ag committee chair, he even cut off testimony from people who flew from neighbor islands to testify. How low can a politician go?  Tsuji unfortunately has become a mascot for corporate special interests, even given the dubious distinction of Biotech legislator of the year.  He should now be given the “poison award” by school children throughout Hawaii.  As a former banker, now politician, Tsuji deserves to be publicly shamed and exposed as a legislator that acts against the common good, including children’s health and safety.

Jim Albertini

More Bills to Watch: Public Housing and Homelessness

One of the most intractable of problems, in a state where campaign contributions are dominated by the real estate and construction industries, is affordable housing.  State Representative Mark Hashem (D-O`ahu) who chairs the House Committee on Housing,  notes that 40 percent of the state’s homeless are working people who simply can’t afford housing–no surprise, he says, since  “In 2011, a study prepared for the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) noted that 50,000 new units will need to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet the demand generated by changing demographics and economic conditions”–a challenge, he says, that the state has been “woefully inadequate” in addressing.

But this year it’s been members of the State Senate who seem to be taking the lead on this issue, with Hashem often the sole introducer of House companion bills for the Senate Initiatives. At least 22 bills related to housing and homelessness  have been introduced, from routine funding authorizations to a bill, sponsored by Puna Sen. Russell Ruderman, that would make it easier to build housing for agricultural workers, to a measure co-sponsored by Big Island Senators Lorraine Inouye and Mark Nakashima, that would legalize, for the first time, trailer parks in the state. While some county measures, especially on O`ahu, have been criticized for criminalizing homelessness, the state bills generally emphasize promoting more affordable housing–although one make it easier for the state to confiscate property of public housing tenants, especially if they’re evicted for some reason.

By far the most active of Big Island legislators in this area is Sen. Josh Green, whose deep pockets from medical industry contributions may make him  less susceptible to pressure from the real estate industry.  Green has introduced or co-introduced no fewer than nine bills in this session’s “Joint Package of Bills to Address Affordable Housing and the Homeless.”

Below are the bills officially tagged as part of that package, along with Big Island legislators who’ve placed their names on the bills as introducers. To follow or testify on any of these bills, click on the underlined links.

 

Priority Bills

Bill Number

Description

SB120

Relating to Affordable Housing
Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds and the appropriation of funds for deposit into the rental housing trust fund and the dwelling unit revolving fund to finance affordable rental housing development and infrastructure development. Appropriates funds for the construction of micro apartment housing units. Appropriates funds to the department of human services to continue to administer housing first programs for chronically homeless.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Josh Green

SB477

Relating to Public Housing

Appropriates funds for the plans, design, construction, and equipment to develop, upgrade, or renovate public housing facilities in the State.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Lorraine Inouye.

SB973

HB280

Relating to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority
Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds and appropriates funds for the redevelopment, design, and construction of the Hawaii public housing authority administrative offices, the creation of public housing and affordable rental housing, and the development of a small commercial space at the Hawaii public housing authority’s North School street location.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Josh Green

SB267

HB282

Relating to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority

Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds to the Hawaii public housing authority to leverage funds for the redevelopment of the Mayor Wright Homes property. Requires dollar-for-dollar matching with private or federal funds before appropriations shall be made available.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Josh Green

SB121

HB736

Relating to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority

Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds and appropriates funds for the redevelopment, design, and construction of the Hawaii public housing authority’s Kuhio Homes and Kuhio Park Terrace low-rise properties.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Josh Green

SB970

Relating to Rental Housing

Allows a portion of conveyance tax revenues dedicated to the rental housing trust fund to be monetized to increase the amount of funding for the rental housing trust fund. Authorizes the issuance of revenue bonds to finance the rental housing trust fund.

No Big Island sponsors.

SB976

Relating to Mixed-Use Residential Projects

Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds and the appropriation of funds for the planning, design, and construction of the juvenile services center portion of the mixed-use project at 902 Alder street, Honolulu, Oahu.

No Big Island sponsors.

SB392

HB454

(Women’s Caucus)

Relating to Housing

Amends income tax credit for low-income household renters to adjust for inflation. Applies to taxable years beginning after 12/31/2015.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Lorraine Inouye; Reps. Cindy Evans, Joy SanBuenaventura, Nicole Lowen

SB122

HB345

Relating to Taxation

Imposes a conveyance tax on the conveyance of a controlling interest of an entity that has an interest in real property in the State. Applies to conveyances occurring after 06/30/2015. Effective 07/01/2015.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Josh Green

SB969

HB764

Relating to Farm Worker Housing

Allows one or more employee dwellings to be built on an agricultural park lot or non-agricultural park lot that is leased by a long-term lessee with lease terms of at least thirty-five years and a lot size of at least five acres, with restrictions. Appropriates an unspecified amount from the general fund to be expended by the department of agriculture to develop farm worker housing.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Russell Ruderman

Other bills:

SB156/HB274Authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds for the rental housing trust fund and new public housing redevelopment.

Big Island Sponsor: Sen. Josh Green

SB478 – Establishes 30 permanent full-time equivalent multi-skilled worker civil service positions in the Hawaii public housing authority to assist and support public housing operations statewide.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Lorraine Inouye

SB972 – Makes permanent the exemption from state civil service persons hired or contracted to repair and maintain vacant state housing units. Effective June 30, 2015.

No Big Island sponsors.

SB124/HB768 – Expands the Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s authority to dispose of property seized, abandoned or remaining upon eviction in and around federal, elder or elderly, or state low-income housing projects.

Big Island sponsors: Sens. Gil Kahele, Russell Ruderman

SB123/HB767 – Clarifies trespassing in the second degree at Hawaii Public Housing Authority housing projects as a nonresident who enters or remains unlawfully or without authorization on the property. The Hawaii Public Housing Authority is required to post signs notifying trespassers of illegal entry.

 Big Island sponsors: Sens. Josh Green, Gil Kahele, Russell Ruderman

SB971 – Ensures that certain eligible housing projects will remain affordable for certain minimum periods in order to be certified for exemption from general excise taxes.

No Big Island sponsors

SB974 – Authorizes the rental housing trust fund (RHTF) to be used for spaces for public uses within mixed-use residential developments in which the residential component consists of rental housing units. Establishes a separate mixed-use residential development subaccount within the RHTF to make loans or grants for the development, pre-development, construction, acquisition, preservation, and substantial rehabilitation of spaces for public uses within mixed-use residential developments in which the residential component consists of rental housing units. Clarifies that assistance from the RHTF may be made for new construction, rehabilitation, or preservation of spaces for public uses in mixed-use residential developments. Makes appropriation from general fund for deposit into the mixed use residential development account.

No Big Island sponsors

SB975 – Adds a preference for rental housing trust fund project applicants that receive federal low-income housing tax credits. Takes effect on 1/1/2016.

No Big Island sponsors.

SB155/HB766 – Making an appropriation for the construction of micro apartment housing units.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Josh Green

HB765 – Appropriates funds to the department of human services to continue to administer housing first programs for chronically homeless individuals.

 No Big Island sponsors.

SB763/HB1265 – Requires and appropriates funds for the department of land and natural resources, in consultation with the department of human services, to establish mobile home parks throughout the State for individuals whose family income is no more than 250 per cent of the federal poverty level. Allows private sector to develop mobile home parks.

Big Island sponsor: Sen. Lorraine Inouye, Rep. Mark Nakashima

SB1362 – Restricts the ability of the Hawaii housing finance and development corporation to use the rental assistance revolving fund for projects relating to affordable rental housing.

Big Island sponsors: Sens. Josh Green, Lorraine Inouye, Gil Kahele.