Archive for March 2016

Hawaii April foolery

March 29, 2016

Hawaii April foolery

On April 1, 1936, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin printed an intriguing news story, “Remains of Viking Longship Found in Waimanalo Quarry.” Only at the end did the article reveal, “Dr. Gellisson, in great glee, telephoned The Star-Bulletin this afternoon to announce that he had just deciphered the name on the bow of the longship. Its equivalent in English is APRIL FOOL.”

On April 1, 2014, announced a new fruit found only in Hawaii: the papineapple, a cross between a papaya and a pineapple. “Two honeymoon guests ordered a tropical fruit basket to enjoy during their weeklong honeymoon stay. Of course, the basket included Hawaii-grown pineapple and papaya. After the guest checked out, housekeeping discovered that some pineapples and papayas had, well, had their own honeymoon per se,” the post explained.


Created almost eighty years apart, those are two of my favorite bits of Hawaii April foolery.

I’m not much of a prankster, but I do enjoy clever – and harmless – jokes on April Fool’s Day. Nothing mean or panic-inducing, just a little something to make people smile. The harmless prank my son remembers, years later, is how I put socks in his shoes one morning to make him think he had grown bigger.

Here’s my favorite April Fool’s Day joke, pulled-off with the help of my co-conspirator son:

Inspired by Family Fun’s “Doughnut Seeds” envelopes filled with mini doughnuts (it was really Frosted Cheerios) – I made a Hawaii version with “SPAM Seeds.” My son drew a picture of a “SPAM tree” covered in pink rectangles, and I filled a small envelope with a SPAM seeds (it was really individually-wrapped Mango Candy from Aloha Gourmet). We gave these “SPAM Seeds” envelopes to his class and shared them with family.

Are you planning to fool someone on April Fool’s Day? What’s the best trick that was ever played on you?

2016 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Observations

March 22, 2016

2016 Hawaii Legislature

The 2016 Hawaii Legislative Session will end on May 5 in just a few short weeks. The “First Crossover” (the last day to approve the third reading of a bill) and the “Budget Crossover” deadlines have passed. Of the proposed bills with action taken in 2016, 483 House bills have crossed over to the Senate and 363 Senate Bills have crossed over to the House.

After weeks spent browsing through the bill summaries, I look forward to finding out how our legislators voted – and which bills have passed. I’ll conclude with three quick observations about this year’s Hawaii Legislature.

First, there is no way that legislators could write or co-write every bill with their name on it. Legislators must rely on a small army of people and organizations to write bills. Who are the real writers of these bills? How can we find out who the authors of a bill are – and how much they have contributed in campaign donations?

Second, there are a lot of duplicate bills in the House and Senate. The duplicate bills address the same issues, but with slightly different timelines, fees, penalties, or other details (for example, a different effective date or a different percentage increase/decrease). Why do we need to introduce and carry-over so many bills that have the same intent? This seems to be a case of paperwork that never dies, ever.

Third, the number of proposed bills is overwhelming – but the bill reports are underwhelming. Currently, bill reports show the Bill number, Title, Subtitle, Appropriation, Bill Summary, Current Status, Introducer(s), and Current Referral. Here are 5 more things we need to know about proposed bills:

  1. What’s new. Add a category to sort bills by New (introducing a new act), Amended (changing, adding to, or removing a section of an existing act), and Housekeeping (fixing errors or omissions).
  2. Will the real author stand up. In addition to acknowledging the bill introducer(s), we should also identify who actually wrote each bill – whether it was the legislator’s staff members, Hawaii state department staff members, in-house lawyers, or third-party organizations.
  3. Show us the money. Instead of merely showing us that money is being requested for a bill, tell us the actual dollar amounts – whether it’s a one-time appropriation or an annual appropriation over a number of years.
  4. This reminds me of… Reference all other bills during the legislative session, in both the House and the Senate, that are substantially similar – not just “companion” bills. These bills may have different effective dates or different tax rates, but the wording and intent are essentially the same.
  5. What’s alive and what’s dead. Acknowledge bills that are “dead” for this legislative session – that aren’t scheduled for a hearing and have no chance of passing a hearing.

Which issues are you paying attention to during this legislative session? Have you reached out to your state representative or senator; and just as important, have you received a response?

2016 Hawaii Legislative Watch: Up for Debate

March 15, 2016

2016 Hawaii Legislature

The 2016 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 20. It’s hard to believe, but 2,658 bills are under consideration in the House of Representatives and 2,371 bills are up for debate in the Senate.


In previous weeks, I highlighted bills that affect taxes, education, and individual rights vs. government powers. In this last legislative review, I tackle controversial bills that (in my opinion) aren’t black and white, right or wrong. It would be impossible for me to read every bill in such a short time, so I’m relying on bill summaries to accurately reflect a bill’s intentions.

Here is an overview of proposed bills in the 2016 Legislative Session that I think need more discussion and debate. This is a shorter list of bills, grouped into three sections: 4 bills that may be a good idea, 6 bills that could do more harm than good, and 2 bills that seem unnecessary. If I’ve missed any significant bills, please let me know!

4 “This may be a good idea, but I need more convincing” proposals:

  1. Ticket for a windfall. HB1830 authorizes a single operator for a lottery in Hawaii. HB2536 establishes a state lottery to fund homeless programs.
  2. Sports fantasies on my mind. HB1838 and SB2722 authorize fantasy contests. On the other hand, SB2429 prohibits fantasy competitions.
  3. Smoking for adults only. HB385 HD1 and HB587 increase the minimum age for smokers from 18 years to 21 years.
  4. More family leave. HB535, HB1049, HB1785, and SB2229 increase family leave from 4 weeks to 12 weeks.

6 “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” proposals:

  1. Men, women, and everyone. HB2216 requires single-occupancy restrooms in public buildings to be gender-neutral. I like the privacy of separate restrooms.
  2. Politicians rewarding campaign donations. HB2600 creates an income tax deduction for political contributions. The fox rewarding the hens for opening the coop?
  3. Who pays for public education? HB1301 creates an income tax credit for parents or guardians who home-school their children. We all pay for public education. Next will be a tax credit for private school parents, couples with no children, and seniors with adult children.
  4. Who controls the medicine we give our kids? HB1722 requires all public school students to be immunized, except for cases in which the immunization would endanger the life or health of a child. I am concerned about laws that force us to receive immunizations.
  5. This may be the end of recycling. HB167 repeals the Deposit Beverage Container Program. We put a lot of effort into the program. What are the alternatives?
  6. When you lose control over selling your property. HB1319 requires sellers to give qualifying Hawaii residents the right of first refusal in the sale of residential real property. A better way to approach this would be to limit the amount of property that non-residents can own, instead of taking away homeowner rights.

2 “What are they thinking?” proposals:

  1. Standard vs. metric signs. HB399 and SB360 would require roadway signs to show US standard and metric measurements. Is this really necessary?
  2. An association to manage other associations. HB286 establishes the Hawaii Property and Health Association to manage and guide the operation of the Hawaii Property Insurance Association, Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund, and Hawaii Health Insurance Exchange. How many levels of bureaucracy do we need?

If you feel strongly about an issue, please speak up! Contact your state senator and representative by phone, mail, or email. Talk to your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Write to a local newspaper or magazine.

2016 Hawaii Legislative Watch: People vs. Government

March 8, 2016

2016 Hawaii Legislature

The 2016 Hawaii Legislative Session started on January 20. It’s hard to believe, but 2,658 bills are under consideration in the House of Representatives and 2,371 bills are up for debate in the Senate.

In previous weeks, I identified bills that affect taxes and public education. This week, I’m highlighting bills that challenge the balance between individual rights vs. government powers. It would be impossible for me to read every bill in such a short time, so I’m relying on bill summaries to accurately reflect a bill’s intentions.

Here is an overview of proposed bills in the 2016 Legislative Session that test the balance between government’s power and the power of the people. I’ve grouped the bills into five sections: 7 proposals that constrain government’s power, 7 proposals that look out for taxpayers and residents, 6 proposals in which government is acting like a parent, 4 proposals that will be a hardship for employees and employers, and 4 proposals in which government is on the edge of illegal action. If I’ve missed any significant bills, please let me know!

7 proposals that constrain government’s power:

  1. A supermajority for tax increases. HB423 proposes a constitutional amendment to include a two-thirds supermajority voting requirement for the legislature to pass laws that raise taxes or create new taxes.
  2. Power to the people: initiative, referendum, and recall. HB418 gives voters the powers of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall. HB472, HB1976, SB952, and SB2708 give voters the power of Referendum. HB474, HB1970, HB2441, SB951, and SB2701 give voters the power of Recall. HB1796 allows an initiative issue question on a general election ballot. SB2521 and SB2754 give voters the right of direct initiative.
  3. Term limits. HB168, SB835, SB927, SB2699, and SB2753 limit the terms of members of the Hawaii Legislature to 12 consecutive years. SB2752 prohibits incumbents who have served for 12 consecutive years from being a candidate to serve an additional term of office in the Hawaii Legislature.
  4. One legislature, fewer arguing legislators, fewer proposed bills. SB931 and SB2703 propose a unicameral legislature consisting of 51 legislators.
  5. No fundraising during legislative sessions. HB327 HD1, SB244, and SB2266 prohibit legislators from holding fundraisers or receiving campaign contributions during the regular legislative session.
  6. Resign to run. SB1182 requires state elected public officers to resign before running for a different public office.
  7. Check with Legal before submitting this bill. HB394 requires all introduced bills to be subject to a legal sufficiency check to determine whether the bill is constitutional before First Reading.

7 proposals that show government looking out for taxpayers and residents:

  1. Zero-based budgeting. HB689 incorporates zero-based budgeting into the executive budget.
  2. How much will that bill cost? SB2719 requires a fiscal impact statement for any proposed legislation that calls for an appropriation or results in significant fiscal changes for Hawaii.
  3. Public assistance for Hawaii residents. HB1045 and SB1249 require a recipient of public assistance to be a resident of Hawaii for at least 4 months.
  4. Bringing back the SuperFerry. HB2670 and SB3090 implement an interisland ferry system. HB2225 and SB2618 ask for a feasibility study for an interisland ferry system.
  5. Move into low-income housing for 7 years. HB2246 establishes a 7-year limit on tenants in state low-income housing projects, and requires that unemployed tenants perform community service or enroll in classes.
  6. Cutting safety check costs in half. HB1089 HD1, HB1804, HB2436, HB2578, and SB2715 require motor vehicle safety inspections every two years (instead of annually).
  7. Worker’ unions optional. SB2717 prohibits mandatory union membership.

6 proposals in which government is acting like a parent:

  1. Water or milk with that kid’s meal? HB1437 and SB1179 require food establishments to offer for sale only bottled water or low-fat milk as part of a children’s meal.
  2. Weed whackers interfere with our beauty sleep. SB990 prohibits using a weed whacker before 8 am or after 6 pm near a residence.
  3. Tax our sodas – but not our shaved ice and malasadas! SB1256 imposes a fee on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  4. No more Styrofoam take-out. HB754 bans polystyrene foam containers in restaurants and food establishments, effective 1/1/16. HB2232 bans polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) containers in restaurants, food establishments, hotels, and food packagers by 2023.
  5. Next up: snorkel inspections. HB1460 prohibits people from using a snorkel without a safety valve.
  6. Eyes up, pedestrians! HB2723 prohibits pedestrians from crossing a street while using a mobile electronic device.
  7. Vote – or else! HB1495 makes it mandatory for registered voters to vote, with a $100 fine if a registered voter fails to vote without a valid excuse.

4 proposals that will be a hardship for employees and employers:

  1. $16 minimum wage. SB2463 raises the minimum wage to $16 per hour by 2020.
  2. Employee contributions for family leave. HB1911, HB2128, SB965, SB2477, and SB2961 create a family leave insurance program, which requires employees to make contributions into a trust fund. HB496 HD1 SD2 requires an actuarial study on the cost of implementing this program.
  3. Payroll assessment for sick leave. SB2290 establishes a payroll assessment to fund sick leave in the private sector.
  4. Tax surcharge for long-term care. HB1253, HB1885, SB272 SD1, and SB2478 establish a long-term care surcharge on state tax to pay for claims for defined benefits under the long-term care financing program.

4 proposals in which government is on the edge of illegal action:

  1. Ringing the doorbell for a land grab. HB1635 and SB2173 force commercial property owners to sell land to tenants, if the tenant has at least a 15-year lease, has occupied the premises for at least 5 years, and is not in default on the lease.
  2. Opening the car door to illegal immigrants. HB688, SB20, SB365, and SB683 SD2 allow limited-purpose driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants (“regardless of immigration status”). SB2718 repeals the issuance of limited-purpose driver’s licenses.
  3. Heavier burden and more paperwork for taxpayers. HB968 HD2 SD1 establishes that a taxpayer is liable for any amounts passed on and separately stated as the tax owed by the taxpayer for the transaction in a receipt, contract, invoice, billing, or other evidence of the business activity. Provides a civil penalty and reporting of violations to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Effective 1/7/59.
  4. Lights, camera, ticket! HB1324 and SB1160 SD1 establish a 3-year pilot program for red-light cameras.

If you feel strongly about an issue, please speak up! Contact your state senator and representative by phone, mail, or email. Talk to your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Write to a local newspaper or magazine.

“I am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai

March 5, 2016

I Am Malala

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997 near Mingora in the Swat Valley, Pakistan, the first child of a Pashtun family. Her father Ziauddin founded the Kushal School; her mother Pekai is a traditional Pashtun woman who lives in purdah. With the encouragement of her father and the quiet support of her mother, Malala started speaking out in favor of education for girls, giving interviews and speeches, writing a diary under the pseudonym Gul Makai, and winning awards and recognition.

The Taliban came to Swat Valley in 2007, and life changed drastically. Malala criticizes, “The Taliban destroyed everything old and brought nothing new.” Then on October 9, 2012, on her way to school, Malala’s bus was stopped just before a military checkpoint. A Taliban solider asked for her by name and then shot her. The bullet went through her left eye socket and out under her left shoulder. “People prayed to God to spare me, and I was spared for a reason – to use my life for helping people.”

“I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban” (2013), written by 16-year old Malala Yousafzai, with foreign correspondent Christina Lamb, is an inspirational and bittersweet account that combines Pakistan’s recent history and Malala’s personal story, written 10 months after that ruthless shooting. What stands out is how her parents let her make her own choices; and how much passion and courage Malala demonstrates to speak out against Taliban edicts.

Of life in Pakistan and the Pashtun culture, we learn that hospitality and generosity are important. Malala’s home was often filled with family and friends. Though poor, they shared what they had and never let things go to waste. Before the Taliban came to Swat Valley, women were free to travel unaccompanied and go to the market. Under the Taliban’s control, women’s education, travel, and clothing were restricted; music and entertainment was banned; and the Pashtun history was altered with the destruction of many Buddhist statues. “It was as though they wanted to remove all traces of womankind from public life,” reproves Malala. The Taliban bombed schools and discouraged education. By keeping people fearful, ignorant, and unarmed, they remained in control.

Malala’s personality shines through the recital of Pakistan history and her personal story. She is confident and outspoken, valued by her parents in a society where boys are celebrated. She studied hard and was competitive about her grades and exams. She was determined to leave her face uncovered, taking care with her appearance (though she would rather study than go shopping). Through her writing, we see Malala’s strong family support, their faith in God, the urgency of prayer, and their love of their home.

Today, Malala and her family live in Birmingham, England. Malala writes about how alone her family feels in England, no longer surrounded by family. Malala continues to fight for the right for girls to go to school. “The last year has shown me both the extreme hatred of man and the limitless love of God.”