Archive for March 2013

Hawaii Legislative Watch: Native Hawaiian issues

March 26, 2013

I’ve skimmed and summarized proposed bills in the 2013 Hawaii Legislative session that deal with taxes, education, citizens’ rights, spirited debate, and ideas to help Hawaii residents. I thought I’d take a moment to look at the Native Hawaiian issues that affect us all.

There are 8 Native Hawaiian issues in the 2013 Legislative Session. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

1. Defining “Native Hawaiian”: HB252 defines a “qualified Native Hawaiian” and requires annual reports from the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. Is a person’s identity defined by blood quantum? Should government representation, rights, privileges be based on blood quantum?

2. Promoting the Hawaiian language and culture: HB109, HB223, SB409, and SB469 designate February as ’Olelo Hawaii Month. SB236 requires the accurate spelling and punctuation of Hawaiian words and names on state and county documents. HB1089 designates October as Kalo Appreciation Month. HB1159 and SB317 re-designate the second Monday of October from Discover’s Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. HB1446 and SB1353 fund the Ka Haka ’Ula O Ke’elikolani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. HB768 and SB1004 fund the Works of Art Special Fund to support Hawaiian culture and the arts through the Transient Accommodations Tax. Why is this being funded by tourists? SB231 requires the Hawaiian Tourism Authority to develop and maintain a comprehensive Hawaiian cultural resources database. SB487 funds the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association for tourism-related programs. How much will this cost?

3. Promoting Hawaiian studies: HB1317 and SB1338 support programs to teach the Hawaiian language in pre-kindergarten. HB1329 requires the funding of Hawaiian language immersion programs. SB410 requires the DOE to develop annual assessments in Hawaiian for Hawaiian language immersion programs. Will Hawaiian language immersion students be at a disadvantage in learning and using English? HB253 and SB481 establish the Instructional Office of Hawaiian Studies in the Department of Education. Will this add more bureaucracy and more constraints on teachers? HB679 establishes the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence. Can we afford it? HB220 and SB406 require the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to establish, design, and administer a training course in “Native Hawaiian matters” for specified members of boards, councils, and commissions; and require those members to take the course within six months of their appointments. How can we balance Hawaiian studies with the need to know English in most colleges and careers?

4. Funding Hawaiian Home Lands: HB175 authorizes $10 million from the public land trust to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to develop farm and home ownership. HB1347 and SB514 fund a temporary housing pilot program on Hawaiian Homestead lands. Are we promoting home ownership or are we promoting entitlement?

5. Preserving Native Hawaiian farmlands and fishponds: HB481 permits certain traditional Hawaiian hale to be built on farm land without a building permit. HB662 establishes state lease preferences for the reconstruction, restoration, repair, or use of kanaka maoli fishponds. HB710 facilitates the restoration of Hawaiian fishponds. Will the fishponds be used for self-supporting educational purposes (they sell what they raise to fund the operation) or for commercial activities?

6. Respecting Native Hawaiian burial remains: SB234 creates a task force about Hawaiian skeletal remains. SB320 requires that discovered iwi kupuna (Native Hawaiian bones) be reinterred annually on the island of Kaho’olawe.

7. Accommodating Hawaiian canoes: SB1371 allows the mooring of Native Hawaiian canoes owned by nonprofit entities and used for educational purposes in small boat harbors. We have to balance educational access with harbor maintenance.

8. Protecting taro: HB107 and HB735 prohibit genetically engineered Hawaiian taro. HB483 identifies taro lands. HB484, HB734, SB1269, and SB1270 protect taro lands and taro-growing structures. I think we should protect agricultural lands as much as possible.

Please think about these issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

Hawaii Legislative Watch: Law on our side

March 19, 2013

Recently, we’ve looked at proposed bills in the 2013 Hawaii Legislative session that affect taxes,  education, and citizens’ rights, and provoke spirited debate.

This week, let’s look at bills that may put the law on the side of Hawaii residents and taxpayers. If I’ve missed any important bills, please let me know!

In addition to proposed bills about campaign finance reporting, conflicts of interest, and prohibitions against nepotism, there are 5 ideas that restrict legislators and give more power to voters.

1. Term limits for legislators: HB180 limits the terms of legislators to five consecutive terms in the House or three consecutive terms in the Senate. HB1036 limits the terms of legislators to 10 cumulative years in the House and 12 cumulative years in the Senate. SB264 limits the terms of legislators to six consecutive terms in the House and three consecutive terms in the Senate. SB573 limits the terms of legislators to 12 consecutive years in the House and 12 consecutive years in the Senate. This could encourage “regular” people to get involved in government, instead of career politicians.

2. Residency requirements for legislators: HB341 requires a candidate for state or county office to have resided within the district of the office sought for at least six months prior to nomination. HB269 and SB478 require legislators to be a resident of Hawaii for at least five years and a resident of the legislative district for at least one year prior to the general election. This would give legislators a chance to get to know the issues that affect their district.

3. More power for voters: HB1445 and HB1447 give voters the right to recall elected public officers. SB229 gives voters the right to impeach the governor, lieutenant governor, and appointive officers. SB771 gives voters the rights of initiative, referendum, and recall. SB223 gives voters the right to write-in candidates. SB982 and SB1024 require that only yes or no votes be counted (blank votes would be discounted) when determining whether a majority of votes have approved an amendment. These bills could encourage more people to vote and would promote more accountability in our elected officials.

4. Bi-annual legislative sessions: SB291 provides that regular sessions of the Hawaii Legislature would occur in every odd-numbered year, rather than every day. This would save us money by reducing the number of legislative sessions; it would limit the number of new laws that can be proposed; and it would give us more time to debate the proposed bills.

5. Limits on legislative fundraisers: HB1246 and SB843 prohibit legislative fundraisers during the legislative session. This makes sense – legislators have only a limited time in session, and it should not be spent fundraising or being influenced by campaign donations.

There are 4 ideas that encourage personal responsibility:

1. You’re responsible for your risky behavior: SB1167 and SB1168 release public entities and employees from liability for injury or damage on government land when engaged in mountain climbing, rock climbing, rappelling, and bouldering. SB1285 grants immunity to state and county agencies and employees from liability for injury or damage while engaged in hazardous recreational activities. We are responsible for our own risky behavior.

2. Actions have consequences for minors: HB239 and SB420 require the family court, when requested by the victim, to require a minor to make restitution to the victim. People should face punishment (probation or jail) as well as restitution (making things right with the victims). SB254 prohibits abortions on a minor without parental consent, unless there is a serious health risk. Abortion is a life-changing decision; parents and guardians need to be involved.

3. Grandparents have responsibilities too: HB340, HB600, and SB924 require the parents of a minor mother or minor father to contribute to the support of their grandchild until the minor’s age of majority. Teen moms need the emotional and financial support of their families, and this could reduce the amount of state financial aid; but it could also promote abortions.

4. Low-income housing for those who really need it: HB532 includes the value of registered motor vehicles as an asset when qualifying for state low-income housing. HB536 disqualifies any applicant or tenant who owns or acquires a home in Hawaii from state low-income housing. All assets, including cars and homes, should be considered!

There are 7 ideas that help and empower the general public:

1. Helping taxpayers choose how our money is spent: HB314 authorizes “crowdfunding” so that people can fund a specific capital improvement project and monitor the progress of the project. I like this idea! It would help us raise money for community playgrounds, parks, libraries, and even minor repairs; and it would make government accountable for the budget and timetable of the projects.

2. Helping employees: SB261 allows employees to refuse to join a labor union. Unless it involves licensing (such as medical personnel and lawyers), joining a union should be an individual choice.

3. Helping home-based businesses: SB367 allows home-based baking businesses to sell food items to consumers. This would encourage home businesses and entrepreneurship.

4. Helping homeowners and property owners: HB603 allows the use of deadly force when protecting one’s primary dwelling against an intruder. We shouldn’t have to worry about the “rights” of criminals who try to rob or hurt us! SB265 and SB266 restrict the government’s use of eminent domain to property acquired for public use, not private use. Personal property should never be seized (stolen) for personal gain. And if it’s for public use, it must be undeniable. SB250 refunds to property owners all but $1 million from the Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund. What do you think?

5. Helping drivers: SB290 abolishes the annual safety check. SB955 exempts a new car from obtaining a safety check from two years to three years. How effective are safety checks? HB1400 and SB790 repeal the 10% ethanol requirement in gasoline. Is gas with ethanol better for the environment? How does it affect our food supply? Are car engines designed to use it?

6. Helping rape victims: HB405, SB295, and SB529 terminate parental rights in cases of sexual assault or incest. Rapists have no parental rights.

7. Helping travelers’ dignity and privacy: SB776 prohibits the use of body imaging scanning in airports. We are not cattle.

Please think about these issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

Hawaii Legislative Watch: Up for debate

March 12, 2013

Last week, we reviewed proposed bills in the 2013 Hawaii State Legislature that pit residents against government. This week, let’s look at the controversial bills that are spurring lively debate.

Here are 14 hot-button issues in the 2013 Legislative Session. If I’ve missed any important contentious bills, please let me know!

1. Defining marriage: HB1004 defines a marriage as “a relationship only between a man and a woman.” HB1005 defines a marriage as “a legal relationship between two people of the opposite or same sex.” HB1020 and SB1292 reserve marriage to “relationships between one man and one woman.” HB1109 and SB1369 extend to same-sex couples the right to marry and to receive all the same rights, benefits, etc. as opposite-sex couples. Does government have the power to define marriage?

2. Higher minimum wage: HB53 and SB331 increase the minimum wage to $8.25 on 7/1/13 and $8.75 on 7/1/14 and ending 6/30/15, adjusting it according to the Consumer Priced Index (CPI). HB512 increases the minimum wage to $7.75 on 7/1/13 and recalculates it according to the CPI. HB916 and SB1147 increase the minimum wage to $8.75 on 1/1/14 and adjust it according to the CPI; tip credits are increased to 30¢. HB1028 and HB1215 increase the minimum wage to $8.00 on 1/1/14, $8.25 on 1/1/15, and $8.75 on 1/1/17. Does minimum wage help people earn a living or hinder inexperienced workers (teenagers and college students) from getting a job? Are we creating a permanent class of minimum wage earners? Are we discouraging people from taking initiative and earning promotions?

3. Voting by mail or Internet: HB855, HB1107, HB1218, SB412, SB579, SB720, and SB1086 authorize voting by mail. SB209 establishes a vote-by-mail pilot program. SB216 and SB927 establish a vote-by-Internet pilot program. I would support vote-by-mail or vote-by-Internet because it is convenient and can save us money, but they must address security issues. Personally, I like going to my polling place on Election Day.

4. Election Day voter registration: HB1218, SB854, SB857 allow voters to register to vote on Election Day. This could encourage residents to vote; or it could just mean more paperwork for election officials, confusion for polling place volunteers, and the possibility of voter fraud.

5. Legalized gambling: HB145 and SB769 grant a 20-year license for one stand-alone casino in Waikiki and impose a 15% wagering tax. HB1063 sets the stage for casino gaming in Waikiki and Kapolei. HB1065 creates a gambling task force. HB1320, HB1425, SB1251, and SB1376 authorize a statewide lottery; SB768 authorizes an Internet lottery. SB766 creates a state lottery report. SB767 authorizes shipboard gaming in Hawaii waters. SB918 and SB920 authorize pari-mutuel horse racing. SB1250 regulates bingo games and raffles. It’s a question of our right to spend our money and more revenue for the state vs. real concerns about increased crime and gambling addition.

6. Legalized marijuana: HB150, HB455, HB699, SB467 legalize marijuana for personal use. HB667, SB471, SB686, SB689, SB703 legalize the medical use of marijuana. On the other hand, SB472, SB739 impose civil penalties on one ounce or less of marijuana. Should marijuana be treated like alcohol and tobacco, to be restricted and taxed; or like medicine, to be licensed and regulated?

7. Partial birth abortion: SB251 prohibits partial birth abortion. Abortion is an individual choice, but I oppose partial birth abortions.

8. Death with dignity: HB606 would allow euthanasia with a lethal dose of medication; requires informed consent. Euthanasia is an individual choice.

9. Tighter seatbelt laws: SB4 and SB340 require all front and back seat passengers to wear a seatbelt, regardless of age. As adults we have the right to behave stupidly, especially if it doesn’t endanger someone else. This law would put more responsibility on our police and could be uncomfortable for the elderly (my grandmother always sat in the back seat so she wouldn’t have to wear a seat belt).

10. Ban and taxes on plastic bags and styrofoam: SB318 bans non-biodegradable plastic carryout bags. HB356, HB357, SB13 and SB14 add a 10¢ tax on single-use checkout bags, with businesses retaining 1¢ of the tax (subject to income and general excise taxes for the first year). HB934 and SB1165 establish a fee for single-use checkout bags. SB621 adds a 10¢ tax for foam disposable food containers. My ten cents: I think that plastic bags and styrofoam should be a business and consumer decision; I am skeptical that eliminating plastic bags will really help the environment; and I am outraged that businesses would be paying tax on the tax!

11. Solutions for the homeless: HB519 continues the “Housing First” program for chronically homeless individuals. I question the “housing first” model – what incentive do individuals have to become drug-free or accept treatment/counseling? HB535 requires temporary nighttime parking lots where homeless individuals who live and sleep in their vehicles can park overnight. How can “nighttime only” parking be enforced? What if vehicles park there during the day too?

12. Repeal the Public Land Development Corporation: HB9, HB82, HB110, HB226, HB317, HB352, HB454, HB589, HB1133, HB1267, SB1, SB245, SB246, SB338, SB425, SB480, SB663, SB780, SB781, SB866, and SB958 repeal the PLDC. It seemed like a good idea two years ago, but look at how many attempts there are to repeal it!

13. Higher high rises in Honolulu: HB1118 would exempt qualifying high-rise dwelling projects with affordable rental units in the urban core of Honolulu from height restrictions. We should encourage affordable rental units, but height restrictions should apply to development.

14. No parking at ’Iolani Palace: HB1227 removes the parking lot surrounding ’Iolani Palace and develop a pedestrian area. It’s a trade-off between visitor parking and open spaces. How can we compromise?

Please think about these issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

March 5, 2013

Recently, we’ve looked at proposed bills in the 2013 Hawaii Legislative session that affect taxes and education. This week, let’s look at bills that pit residents against government.

There are 10 issues, large and small, in which government is intruding more into our lives and our businesses. If I’ve missed any important bills that limit our rights and freedoms, please let me know!

1. Fewer consumer rights: HB 663 and HB1198 ban non-biodegradable single-use checkout bags. SB619 bans polystyrene foam take-out containers. SB620 requires food services businesses to offer compostable or reusable food containers at no extra cost. HB243 and SB428 ban consumer fireworks statewide. Businesses and consumers should make the decision about plastic bags, styrofoam, and fireworks.

2. Privacy concerns: SB693 establishes a red light camera pilot program. This infringes on our privacy, cannot account for the timing of yellow lights, and can only catch the vehicle, not the actual driver. SB465 establishes penalties for “constructive invasion of privacy” if a person (celebrity) has a “reasonable expectation” of privacy. This seems both too narrow (Does it only apply to celebrities? Does everyone have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy?) and too broad (What about photos of crimes in progress, investigative reporting, and people in the background? What about candid but inoffensive photos of celebrities?).

3. More constraints on law-abiding firearms owners: SB36 requires annual renewals of firearm registrations and mandatory education and training every two years. This makes it unreasonably difficult to own a registered firearm (criminals won’t have this problem).

4. Limits on free speech: HB119 would allow only “natural persons” the right of freedom of speech. What is a “natural person” and could this limit the free speech of other “persons”? HB272 and SB196 make “abusive conduct” against a public employee a “violation”. Who decides what is “abusive conduct” and could this be used to intimidate or retaliate against legitimate complainants?

5. Fewer rights for smokers: HB1210 prohibits smoking in a motor vehicle if a minor is present. SB616 prohibits smoking at public bus stops, parks, beaches, and in motor vehicles if a minor is present. Smokers are being pushed out of private and public spaces.

6. Fewer rights in public housing: HB83, HB515, HB740, HB884, SB88, SB944, and SB1115 ban open containers of intoxicating liquor on sidewalks and/or common areas within public housing projects. HB86, SB330, SB651, and SB942 ban smoking anywhere in a public housing project. Public housing residents should have the choice to ban smoking and alcohol.

7. More constraints on fishermen: HB731 prohibits catching uhu (parrotfish) within state marine waters. SB1320 prohibits catching any parrotfish. This is difficult to enforce; fishermen can’t choose which fish to catch. HB1155 restricts opihi harvesting. SB27 prohibits synthetic nets for gill net fishing.

8. More restrictions on farmers’ markets: SB737 establishes a farmers’ market operator license. Will this become a barrier to entry to small farmers and growing businesses?

9. More constraints on dog breeders: HB233 establishes licensing requirements and minimum standards of care for commercial dog breeders. Can this be enforced? Will this apply to family dog breeders?

10. More restrictions on pest control: HB673 establishes a pesticide use fee and reporting system. This means more bureaucracy and more fees. Will this apply to homeowners too? HB1386 establishes a pesticide-free buffer zone around school, child care facilities, and health care facilities. SB648 and SB649 ban pesticides with glyphosate.

Please think about these issues and how they may affect you and everyone around you. If you feel strongly about an issue, speak out! Talk to your family and friends, let your Hawaii legislators know about it, and write letters to the local newspapers.

“Winners Never Cheat” by Jon M. Huntsman

March 2, 2013

Winners Never Cheat

In 1982, he founded Huntsman Chemical, a multi-billion dollar company. He walked away from a business deal because he refused to pay kickbacks to government officials. In 1986, he closed a $54 million business deal with a handshake – and stuck to it. In 2003, he brought his company back from the verge of bankruptcy to a position stronger than ever. In 2004 he helped build the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Hospital in Salt Lake City, one of the largest cancer research centers and hospitals in the world. He has given away over $1 billion of his own money.

Jon M. Huntsman is a self-made billionaire who proves that you can stick with your principles and still make a profit. In his book “Winners Never Cheat: Even in Difficult Times” (2011), he reminds us that we should hold fast to our ethics, even in the darkest times. “Circumstances may change but your values shouldn’t” (page 1), he declares.

With earnest writing, common-sense suggestions, and inspiring anecdotes, Huntsman delivers 12 chapters that are more like short pep-talks. He reminds us that everything we need to succeed in today’s marketplace we learned as kids. Be fair. Don’t cheat. Play hard but decently. Share and share alike. Tell the truth. Keep your word.

Huntsman reminds of five honest business practices:

1. Negotiate fairly and honestly. Never misrepresent or take unfair advantage of someone.

2. Don’t compromise your values by agreeing to bribes or pay-offs.

3. Strong leaders surround themselves with the best people available and take responsibility for the outcome – good, bad, or ugly.

4. Reprove faults in a way that keeps intact your employees’ self-confidence and commitment to do better.

5. Show your employees respect and acknowledge their accomplishments. Insist that their families come first.

Huntsman also offers four simple suggestions to restore value-based behavior:

1. When you engage in something that affects others, first ask yourself: Is this right? Would I like to be treated this way?

2. Take your values to work. Don’t disconnect them when you sit down at your desk. There should not be a conflict between making a profit and adhering to traditional principles of decency and fairness.

3. Consider yourself your brothers’ and sisters’ keeper and set the example for ethical behavior.

4. Make the underpinnings of your life a story of f-words (phonetically, at least): family, faith, fortitude, fairness, fidelity, friendship, and philanthropy.

“Nobody is completely self-made,” Huntsman reminds us. We owe are success to all the people who have helped us. And sometimes the most satisfying moments in life are when we can help others in return.

How do you apply your personal values to your work? Which companies and leaders inspire you with their principles?