Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Funding for Hilo Residency Program Signed into Law

Bill signing (from l to r)
Rep Clift Tsuji, Gary Yoshiyama, Lori Rogers, Acting Governor Shan Tsutsui, Boyd Murayama, Howard Ainsley, Kristine McCoy, Sen Gil Kahele and Rep Mark Nakashima

Honolulu, Hawaii -- Acting Governor Shan Tsutsui signes HB 417 appropriating $1.8 million for the Hilo Medical Residency Program.  The bill, which has had many champions and has been approved by the legislature in numerous forms over the past several years.  Unfortunately, for a host of reasons, the money never benefitted the program which seeks to provide the first permanent full time medical residency program on a neighbor island.

This program is seen as critical to attracting medical school graduates to begin their medical careers in the islands which greatly increases the odds that they will eventually open their practices on the neighbor islands as well.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Waiakea High School Class of 2013


The Waiākea High School graduated its 34th class last night at Edith Kanaka'ole Stadium.  The Class of 2013 "Manta Rays" selectedBlue and Black as their class colors and featured nine valedictorians.  They were lead by Class President Jamie Economy, Vice President Tristan Maesaka, Secretary Shiho Aoki and Treasurer Keani Shirai.

The class song, the "It's Time/We Are Young" medley was the evening's "Glee" moment.

Post Session Wrap Up

With the change in leadership in the House of Representatives, the policies and operation of the House also changed in a way that was both refreshing and increasingly open.  It was a productive session where the Legislature was able to pass many bold and long overdue measures that had not been given much hearing in the past several years.  The legislative process was more collaborative and transparent and budget negotiations were opened ahead of schedule and closed nearly three days ahead of time allowed.  This unprecedented event allowed the legislature to avoid last minute chaos and significantly allowed members and the public time to review the amendments in a timely and more complete fashion.  On the state budget, we took care of the needs of our state, while remaining responsible with our finances.
The biennial budget includes expenditures of $11.8 billion for the coming year and $11.9 billion for fiscal 2015.  Included in these allocations are $50 million each in the hurricane relief fund and the rainy day fund to replenish the state's emergency reserves.  Keeping these funds capitalized is important as an insurance policy against disaster, of course, but it also pays off in favorable financing terms for the state's capital needs. Strong fiscal backups earn the state good marks from rating agencies, and that affects the state's borrowing costs.

As Chairman of the Labor and Public Employment Committee, the numerous collective bargaining contracts that needed to be honored were addressed.  We strove to find solutions for the state’s unfunded liability in the employee health fund (HB546 CD1) and the underpayments in the workers compensation fee schedule (HB152 CD1).  We worked to provide relief and protection for working people and expanding rights for domestic workers and employees (SB535 CD1).  There is still much to be done as we were unable to resolve the minimum wage on which many of our most vulnerable residents must rely, and will continue to work with the inadequacies of the workers compensation system.  
We invested in the education of our children by setting up the systemic development of early childhood education.  The Preschool Open Doors Program (SB1093 CD1) appropriates funds to prepare Hawaii's children for success in school by statutorily establishing the Preschool Open Doors Program as a school readiness program to provide access to school readiness services that address children's physical, cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional development.
We supported clean environment initiatives by passing the low cost loan Green Infrastructure bill (SB1087 CD1), which makes installations accessible and affordable for Hawaii's consumers, encouraging the installation of renewable energy systems.  Grid Infrastructure Modernization, SB 1040, enacted as Act 34, SLH 2013 improves grid communications, electric system reliability, and operational efficiencies by establishing a policy for the State of Hawaii that requires the Public Utilities Commission to consider the value of improving electrical generation, transmission, and distribution systems and infrastructure, through the use of advanced grid modernization technology.
We re-affirmed our commitment to our kupuna by appropriating funds to support health and quality of life issues, by appropriating funds for Alzheimer's disease and related dementia services; forming a task force on mobility management to assist elders and individuals with disabilities with transportation needs in each county; the Kupuna Care Program and Healthy Aging Partnership Program. (SB106, CD1, 2013).  
Also, SB1002, enacted as Act 39, SLH 2013 was the Health Care Payments Program, which ensures that timely payments to hospitals continue with no disruption in the provision of the medically necessary services to recipients, including the reimbursements of moneys advanced for such purpose. HB417 CD1 addresses the shortage of primary care providers in the state by appropriating $1,800,000 for FY 2013-2014 for the Interdisciplinary Hawaii Health Systems Corporation Primary Care Training Program at Hilo Medical Center.
We continued to promote sustainability by passing the Livestock Feed Subsidy (SB595 CD1) which provides support for the livestock industry by expanding the subsidy to allow qualified sheep, lambs, goats, fish, and crustacean farms to apply for and receive reimbursement for a percentage of feed expanses.  The Building Code and Permit Exemption (SB586 CD1) expands and simplifies the existing building permit exemption for agricultural buildings that was enacted in 2012.  
SB993 CD1 expands the Department of Agriculture's loan program by widening the range of new farmers eligible for new farmer loans and adding a farm innovation loan for farmers who perform practical research in crop development, production techniques, new technologies, and production of new crops. 
SB757 CD1 supports local sustainable agriculture and encourages the education of young farmers by providing $75,000 in funding to the Department of Education for the Future Farmers of America Program.  HB749 CD1 establishes the Hawaii Agriculture Workforce Advisory Board to promote agricultural self-sufficiency in the state through a coordinated and deliberate effort between our educational institutions and farmers.  We hope to reverse the downward trend in the number of viable farmers and ranchers currently making a living in agriculture by increasing the carrying capacity of the industry through the training and development of a new generation of leaders with the vision and goal of self-sufficiency.

HB353 CD1 Coffee Berry Borer; Appropriates $250,000 in matching funds for the Department of Agriculture to research methods for the prevention and treatment of coffee berry borer infestations and another $300,000 in matching funds to control and mitigate the damage from coffee berry borer infestations.  HB1089 HD1 Designates October as “Kalo Appreciation Month.” And SB5 CD1 Lease Compensation provides several means of compensation in addition to rent reductions when the State withdraws, condemns, or takes public land leased for intensive agricultural or pastoral uses and renders the land unusable for the original purpose of the lease.
The State Budget
In developing a measured budget for the executive branch of government for fiscal biennium 2013-2015, the legislature continued its adherence to the principles: Support the State's core functions, including programs that provide services for those most in need; Make strategic investments in people and programs that encourage economic growth and lower future costs; and Support long-term planning and accountability efforts to fundamentally change the character and delivery of government services.
Budget highlights:

$100,000,000 in fiscal year 2013-2014 and $117,400,000 in fiscal year 2014-2015 to begin pre-funding Other Post Employment Benefits

$18,811,090 in fiscal year 2013-2014 and $14,358,110 in fiscal year 2014-2015 to support the Office of Information Management and Technology as it implements its strategic plan to revolutionize information technology within Hawaii

$87,000,000 in special funds in fiscal year 2014-2015 for various repair and maintenance projects across the State's airports, harbors, and roadways

$10,000,000 in federal funds for each fiscal year to the Department of Education for the Weighted Student Formula, $40,000,000 in federal funds for each fiscal year for regular instruction, and $3,600,000 in federal funds for each fiscal year for special education in regular schools

$43,153,802 for fiscal year 2013-2014 and $76,744,627 for fiscal year 2014-2015 to the Department of Human Services for Medicaid health payments

$1,850,000 in special funds and over $10,460,000 in other federal funds for clean energy initiatives

$980,500,000 in general-obligation and general-obligation-reimbursable bonds for fiscal year 2013-2014 and over $387,340,000 in general-obligation bonds for fiscal year 2014-2015 for much-needed capital improvement projects across Hawaii, including over $454,000,000 over the fiscal biennium to address improvements, upgrades, and renovations at Department of Education schools and over $233,000,000 over the fiscal biennium for University of Hawaii facilities.

Acts and Vetoes 
If a bill was enrolled to the Governor before the last 10 days of session he had to act upon it before the end of session. For bills enrolled to the Governor in the last 10 days of session, the deadlines are approaching.

Notice of Intent to Veto Deadline – June 24, 2013
If the Governor has any intention of vetoing a bill, he must inform the Legislature of his intent by the 35th day after adjournment sine die. If a bill appears on this list, it may be vetoed. If a bill does not appear on this list, it will become law – either through the Governor's signature or without signature by the 45th day after adjournment. 

Veto Deadline -July 9, 2013
The Governor has until the 45th day after adjournment sine die – to veto bills that were on his intent to veto list. If he chooses not to veto it, it becomes law without his signature. Any bill not signed or vetoed by this date becomes law without the Governor's signature. 

To find what has passed the Legislature, is pending the Governor's action, has become law or has been vetoed 
Go to the Legislature's Website: www.capitol.hawaii.gov 
Go to the "Reports and Lists" icon on the Legislature's homepage. 
To find out what has successfully made it through the Legislature, scroll down to :
Measures that Passed the Legislature 
Bills Passed Bills that have been approved in final form by both houses and have been enrolled and sent to the Governor for approval. 
Constitutional Amendment Bills that Passed in Final Form Constitutional Amendment bills that passed the Legislature in final form. 
Resolutions Adopted House and Senate resolutions and concurrent resolutions that have been adopted. 

To find out what has been acted upon by the Governor, scroll down to the bottom section,:
Governor's Actions on Legislation 
List of Acts 
Bills which have passed both houses of the Legislature and have been enrolled, certified, signed by the Governor (or if not signed by the Governor, passes the required time period of time without veto), or passed over the Governor’s veto, and published. 
Notice of Veto 
Proclamations giving notice of Governor’s plan to return bills with objections. 
List of Vetoed Measures 
Bills passed by the Legislature that have been rejected by the Governor. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Waiakeawaena Elementary School Directed by Mr. Kudo

Just before the close of the legislative session, we were treated to a performance at the Capitol by the Waiakeawaena Elementary School Band.

I believe that Waiakeawaena may still hold the distinction of having the only traveling elementary school band in the state.  But I do know that they have the longest serving band teacher in Mr. James Kudo who was a teacher at the school many years ago when I was his student in the 6th grade.

Mr. Kudo has retired, but still serves as volunteer band director at the school.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Coach Estrella's Last Inning

After 27 years as coach of the University of Hawaii - Hilo Men's baseball Team, Joey Estrella's Vulcans rewarded him with double header wins.  Saturday was the last season game for the coach who has become an institution in Hilo.

Coach Estrella was presented with proclamations from Governor Neil Abercrombie, Mayor Billy Kenoi, State Senate, House of Representatives and the Hawaii County Council.  The Governor and Mayor proclaimed Saturday, April 13, 2013 as "Joey Estrella Day" in the State of Hawaii and County of Hawaii respectively.

From L-R Chancellor Donald Straney, Councilman Dennis Onishi, Lincoln Ashida, Senator Gil Kahele, Coach Estrella, Reps Mark Nakashima, Richard Onishi, Clift Tsuji and AD Dexter Irvine. 
Chancellor Straney apologized that he did not have a proclamation to present the coach but said, "I have a space in UH Hilo's history reserved for you". 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gary Washburn: Living Treasure

Mark with Mr. Gary Washburn at the Honpa Hongwanji Living Treasures Luncheon at the Sheraton Waikiki.
Gary Washburn is a highly merited educator and gifted musician who is committed to the next generation of instrumentalists.  he was born to be a performer and parlayed his experiences into becoming a guiding force behind a very successful high school band program.  Mr. Washburn continues to motivate his students through life lessons that continue well beyond the classroom walls.

I first met Mr. Washburn when he was hired at Honoka'a High a few days into the school year in 1978.  It was my first year at Honoka'a also, and I found myself in the re-constituted concert band class that had been dismantled when the previous band teacher sought other employment as school enrolment put music on the chopping block.  Mr. Washburn was not quite the marching band type, but he took us on a band trip to Maui that first year as our rag-tag little group marched in the Maui County Fair parade.  Thus bagan a career in Honoka'a that would grow to become legendary.

Mr. Washburn re-created a music program that capitalized on his forte and under his tutelage, the Honoka'a Jazz band has performed multi-concert tours on Oahu annually to celebrate National Jazz Appreciation month, released several CDs, won won a National Association of Music Merchants award, appeared on National Public Radio's From the Top, and was one of thirty-six schools chosen nationwide as a Grammy Signature School.

In 2011, Mr. Washburn received the National Society of High School Scholars's Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction Award.  Yesterday, the Honpa Hongwanji of Hawaii inducted Mr. Washburn as a Living Treasure of Hawaii recognizing his contributions to Hawai'i's rich cultural heritage devoted to preserving the spirit, traditions and values of our island home for future generations.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hilo Dorms on Track to Completion

Eight months following groundbreaking ceremonies, the University Village Phase I project is progressing quickly and is scheduled to open later this summer for the beginning of the 2013 Fall Semester.

The project is located on 33 acres fronting the University of Hawaii Hilo's main entrance on Kawaili Street and will feature 300 student housing units in apartments and suite-style residence halls.

These new units will be the first to be added to the campus since 1989, and are being financed by $32 million appropriation by the legislature.  The Hilo campus has just 600 housing units on campus and services in excess of 4,100 students.

In addition to offering housing facilities for Big Island residents who face long commutes, it is hoped that these housing facilities will help to provide the opportunity for a more diverse mix of students coming from the mainland and internationally to provide more international diversity that contribute to the quality of education received from UH Hilo.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

House Big Island Caucus Ready to Work

The Big Island Caucus gathers for a picture the day before the Legislative opening.  Pictured from left to right Richard Onishi (Dist 3), Cindy Evans (Dist 7), Clifton Tsuji (Dist 2), Faye Hanohano (Dist 4), Mark Nakashima (Dist 1), Nicole Lowen (Dist 6), Denny Coffman (Dist 5)