A few quick updates on Cannabis, Minimum Wage and Corporate Water Theft:

In case you are not on my email list…here is what I sent out this morning!


The legislative session is quickly heading to the finish line.

The legalization of cannabis for responsible adult use appears to be dead for this year.  In its place is a measure that takes steps toward decriminalizing the use of small amounts.  While at this time, the measure seems woefully inadequate, am willing to wait to see what actually happens, or not with this issue (HB1383 HD2).


Also woefully inadequate is the current $12.50 per hour minimum wage being proposed by the House which is not only way too low, but also does not take effect until 2024.  This $12.50 would go to full time employees who are covered by employee provided health care (as required by Hawaii law). Under this measure (HB1191 HD1) part-time employees would receive $15 per hour. 


The Senate Bill SB 789 SD1 is proposing $15 by 2023 and amending it to reach $17 by 2024 would appear to be a reasonable next step.  The Department of Business and Economic Development (DEBDT) has determined that $17 per hour is the amount needed for a single person, without children – to simply stay alive (subsistence wage). It is important to also note, both bills include provisions designed to support small business as they phase in the proposed increases.  https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=789&year=2019

From the Hooser Blog – Living Wage Legislation – Radical Leftist Concept or Essential Centrist Thinking?


Corporate Water Theft – HB1326 HD2  Much has been written about this and we await the scheduling of a hearing.  When that happens, we will need everyone who is concerned about this issue to submit testimony, and to actually show up at the hearing if you are on Oahu.


At the moment, please take the time to READ and LEARN about HB1326 HD2, and then please email All Senators (info at the bottom of this page).

Below are three blog postings that provide context and include links to source material.

Political winds stirred by political waters (most recent observations on HB1326 HD2)

“It is not an exaggeration to say that political careers will rise and fall on the actions or inactions taken by legislators with regards to the success or failure of HB1326 HD2 (referred to by opponents as the water theft bill).”


Must read email from “impacted resident” (insightful commentary on the water diversion story)

“I have been testifying (for 2-3 minutes) at water meetings in Haiku and at the County Council since I was 15 years old, I am now 53…– 3 minutes to discuss a whole web of life from Mauka to Makai…You wonder why people get mad?”


HB1326 is all part of a well executed scam (includes link to actual A&B sales agreement)

“Part of that deal is A&B’s promise to the new owner to deliver 30 million gallons of the people’s water a day from East Maui or $62 million. That’s $62 million to A&B for water they do not own.” (In other words – A&B will receive a $62,000,000 benefit upon passage of HB1326HD2)


Please email sens@capitol.hawaii.gov and the Senate to oppose HB1326 HD2. No amount of amendment can restore integrity to the process that created it.  It is pilau and must be killed.

Please, be respectful and professional in your communications – as difficult as that may be.  We have many friends in the Senate who are willing to vote the right way on this.  We also have friends who are “in the middle” and are struggling to learn more about the issue and to put things into context.  We must be careful not to push away our friends and those who are learning more and will likely vote with us as well.

Finally, if you have not done so already call and email YOUR specific Senator and ask him or her where they stand on this issue, and ask again that they oppose and vote NO.  Go HERE and simply type in your address, and the name of your Senator will pop up. https://openstates.org  Click on their name and the email etc will then pop up as well.  It’s easy.

Thank you in advance for your help and involvement.  We are at a critical time in the legislative process and every email or phone call, is important.

In solidarity,

Gary Hooser

Executive Director

Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI)


*Yes – PHI has ongoing expenses and thus fundraising needs.  Due to the political and legislative nature of our work, contributions are NOT tax deductible but are much needed.  Whether it is $25, or $2,500 any help you can offer by Friday March 22, is especially needed.  The work is stressful enough without on top of it all, worrying about paying the bills. Please help take away some of this stress if you can, by making an online contribution today at https://secure.everyaction.com/5LWqPJUnuU-BFdjqy9ccbQ2 or mail a check to: Pono Hawaii Initiative, P.O. Box 871, Honolulu HI 96808.  Mahalo in advance for any and all help you can offer.  gary

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Political winds stirred by political waters

It is not an exaggeration to say that political careers will rise and fall on the actions or inactions taken by legislators with regards to the success or failure of HB1326 HD2 (referred to by opponents as the water theft bill).

While I have written about this issue previously, suffice it to say that the “sticky wicket” I referred to then, has become downright mucilaginous (will save you a trip to Webster “oozing with mucus”). 

Originally referred to the Senate Water Land Committee, whose Chair is Big Island Senator Kai Kahele, HB1326 HD2 was re-referred by the Senate President Ron Kouchi to what is now a joint committee that includes Water Land and Ways and Means – that will essentially act as a single very large committee.

Students of the legislative process will understand the nuance, or lack thereof of this particular konane move.

So now there appear to be plots within plots.

House Leadership has its agenda which is to protect its members from further political exposure, but at the same time ensure HB1326 HD2 passes into law. Any changes made in the Senate will force the bill to conference committee and quite likely back to the House floor for still yet another ugly floor vote.

Senate Leadership of course has a similar dilemma, how to protect the members from political fallout but yet pass the bill.

A classic conundrum.

And why, and for who and for what purpose?

Who exactly initiated this measure?

You can be sure that it was not the Ka’u cattle ranchers or other small farmers who have been repeatedly thrown up as human shields against those who have opposed it.

This leaves only the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), Grove Farm Land Company, Mahi Pono and Alexander and Baldwin (A&B), as potential initiators of the original HB1326.

All arrows however point to A&B who seems clearly to have the most to gain and the most to lose, on the rise and fall of HB1326.

In the sales agreement between A&B and Mahi Pono in which A&B is selling 41,000 acres of their land on Maui, there is a provision that requires A&B to “rebate” $62,000,000 to Mahi Pono, should A&B fail to provide sufficient water as stipulated in the purchase agreement.

An informative news article and a link to the actual purchase agreement is HERE. https://mauitime.com/news/business/mahi-pono-purchase-agreement-lots-of-legalese-with-a-few-tasty-nuggets/

Further, according to various lawyers familiar with the legal background, killing HB1326 does not prevent the ranchers or KIUC from continuing to utilize the water as they always have.

Only A&B was impacted by the court decision which triggered the legislative action providing their first 3 year extension, set to expire soon.  HB1326 HD2, would grant them 7 additional years to comply.

All users ultimately need long term leases/permits but all users are not dependent on HB1326, except apparently A&B.

My guess is that whomever originally initiated this measure, did not tell most legislators the full story.

Some on the inside of course were likely made aware of the $62,000,000 benefit for A&B.  And similarly some were likely aware that the ranchers and hydroelectric entities were not really the primary beneficiaries of HB1326.

The vast majority of rank and file  legislators who were ultimately convinced to vote in support of HB1326 probably knew nothing about these significant pieces of information.

How the bill originally came to be remains a mystery for now, subject to speculation and the inevitable castle intrigue.

What we do know is the public record, found at capitol.hawaii.gov – Here, one can see who originally sponsored the bill, who in the House voted yes or no, read the prior drafts, read all the testimony from prior hearings in the House, track the current status and see the track record of “referrals”.

HB1326 HD2 reeks of a smell that can only be found under the rocks on the floor of the reflecting pool at the Hawaii State Capitol. No amendment nor collection of amendments is capable of masking this particular kind of odor.  #killthebill

First published in The Garden Island newspaper on March 20, 2019

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Must read email from “impacted resident”

“I have been testifying (for 2-3 minutes) at water meetings in Haiku and at the County Council since I was 15 years old, I am now 53.  I have witnessed most of the other people that spoke that evening, do the same thing over and over and over again – 3 minutes to discuss a whole web of life from Mauka to Makai (that our life depends on) and that we are watching be destroyed!  You wonder why people get mad?!?!… You have no idea how maddening it is to witness the collapse of life itself and when you relay the issues over and over and over again to some “authority” who wants to hear your position, you have only 3 minutes!! ” Maui Resident…

Below is the entire email message sent out from this resident to certain Senators that are key to the future of HB1326 (the water theft bill).  I am posting this to cast further light on the back ground of the issue, and to describe how many residents are feeling at the moment.  The writer gave me permission to repost, when I asked if I could do so without naming her.

Dear Senator XXX,                                                                 March 14,2019

I am the lady who barked out at the end of your hearing at the Haiku Community Center last month that “there is so much more that you and the water commission and all the law makers in Honolulu do not know” about the devastating effect of the total and complete water theft from the East Maui Watershed for the last 150 years.

I have lived in the East Maui watershed for 49 years on a very large, totally dry streambed (except for storms) and have witnessed a massive deterioration of its health and balance in that time, including the near shore sea life.  And that is after 100 years of abuse prior to my arrival.  The stories from the “old timers” of how it was before the water theft altered the environment so drastically, fills one with wonder and awe… and deep sadness at the loss that has occurred and is continuing to occur.  Literally the death of Paradise on Earth.  You may think that I am exaggerating… but I am not.  I have traveled the world extensively.  Maui No Ka Oi is real.

I have been testifying (for 2-3 minutes) at water meetings in Haiku and at the County Council since I was 15 years old, I am now 53.  I have witnessed most of the other people that spoke that evening, do the same thing over and over and over again – 3 minutes to discuss a whole web of life from Mauka to Makai (that our life depends on) and that we are watching be destroyed!  You wonder why people get mad?!?!… You have no idea how maddening it is to witness the collapse of life itself and when you relay the issues over and over and over again to some “authority” who wants to hear your position, you have only 3 minutes!!   And yet you know that when they return to Oahu, A&B has its headquarters and paid lobbyists just around the corner from the Ledge (not mention, relatives working at every level of government) who get a lot more time than 2-3 minutes to promote their cause and have a lot more leverage ($$$$) to accomplish their agenda.    Without any accountability, they want to continue to take as much water from the East Maui Watershed as it can produce, leaving next to nothing for the flora and fauna that live there, or the residents, farmers, gatherers and fishermen.

There is a history of reckless abuse and negligence by EMI in the East Maui Watershed and A&B for the `Aina.  If that abuse is allowed to continue the watershed will become less and less effective at collecting water and sending it into the aquifer (that means less water for future generations.)  As the Mauka to Makai flows continue to be blocked at 50 or more streams and tributaries, the health of the watershed, stream life and fisheries is put in severe peril.

Where is the accountability in this bill?  Where are the required steam flow measurements pre and post diversion of the water? What is the established base flow that will be kept in the streams to keep the watershed alive and functioning? And what is the public platform for reporting streamflow measurements and diversions?  Where are the required upgrades to the diversion system that allow for stream life to pass up and down the river? Which total diversions will be torn down and reconstructed to allow for stream flow, fauna flow and a fair amount of water to be diverted?  Where is the required contribution to a fund/organization that manages invasive species impacting the watershed? Simultaneously, use of Roundup along the diversion ditches kills native stream life and flora – important and delicate parts in the web of life there.  Where are the reparations to the few native Hawaiians left (dangling by a thread) who’s civilization, culture and communities were destroyed by the total theft of the water by EMI & A&B not abiding by the original agreements in the contracts for the water?  Where is the requirement and funding to create an organization (a consortium of East Maui Watershed stake holders) that will together form a management plan and system and enforcement that will actually protect the watershed and its inhabitants in a sustainable way, to maximize yields (on and off stream), far into the future?

EMWP (East Maui Watershed Partnership) only manages above 3000 ft. elevation and, their actions are deleteriously effecting Our main area of concern which is below 3000 ft. elevation.  This is the area with the State leases and the diversions that this Bill impacts and, that needs pono management and protection.

Furthermore, regarding off-stream uses that significantly impact water consumption:

Where in this bill are the requirements for Mahi Pono to improve the tilth of the soil in the central valley by certain measurable parameters in a specific timeline so that their soil actually holds water instead of letting it all run off the surface and kill the reefs?  Improving the soil’s ability to retain water will drastically reduce the amount of water that is needed to irrigate the fields and thereby be taken from the watershed.  The central valley needs to be contoured with swales to retain rainfall, it needs unlined reservoirs used for aquifer recharge and it needs lined reservoirs to serve as storm water storage for farming.

Everyone wants to see the central valley of Maui farmed instead of developed.  So stop pitting small farmers against watershed protectors… we are on the same side!!!  There is plenty of water.  But you cannot destroy the watershed to get it.  EMI and A&B have been destroying the watershed and this bill HB1326 will allow Mahi Pono and EMI to continue to destroy the watershed.  Kill this bill!

This is a bad bill, lumping all the islands together!!!  Each island is unique and their watershed issues, users and demands are unique.  The only thing that is the same is the corporations wanting to take everything and not caring if they destroy the environment to make a profit.  So, they create a bill benefiting their cause by lumping all the islands together.  Bad bill. You can point that out.  Some rules work statewide like no drinking and driving, and some do not.  Every watershed is unique, don’t pretend otherwise.

Those of us that are aware that we live on the most remote landmass in the world, have lived here for generations and hope that our future generations can continue to live on these tiny remote islands, realize the value of protecting our source of life – the environment, especially the watersheds.   This is a serious matter!

In conference, you will be splicing and dicing tiny nuances of this bill when what you need to be discussing is not even in the bill at all!! You will be discussing apples & oranges when you need to be talking about bananas and Kalo.  Kill the bill!  And save your seat.

Educated and sincerely concerned for our future,

A Maui resident…


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HB1326 is all part of a well executed scam

From FB post of Marti Townsend who has researched this issue extensively dated, March 14, 2019

This is all part of a well-executed scam. A&B got HB2501 passed in 2016, allowing them to divert stream water using temporary permits despite a court order telling them not to (paying the state pennies on the gallon for access to the water, btw).

That bill inflated the financial value of their land. Then A&B converted to a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), a type of business that does not pay state income taxes. (This was just after laying off the last of their workers at HC&S with little notice, almost no safety net, and a state-funded job re-training program).

And then… A&B sold that land to a California-Canadian company (Mahi Pono – please don’t be evil🙏🏼😬) for $262 million. Part of that deal is A&B’s promise to the new owner to deliver 30 million gallons of the people’s water a day from East Maui or $62 million. That’s $62 million to A&B for water they do not own!!!

And you wonder why most of us in Hawai’i are poor? Why we can’t take care of our basic public needs? It’s the corporations – they take our resources, make our traditional ways of living impossible, contaminate the land and water, exploit the workers, don’t pay basic taxes, and pocket all the cash…. and government either neglects to stop them or worst helps them!

And now the corporations want another seven years of cheap, under-regulated access to the people’s water (and they are using the small farmers to justify it) via HB1326. Outrageous!

Get mad. Because we are being scammed. #freethestreams #hemoikawai#olaikawai

Material below is from me (Hooser)

Readers Note: For the source of the $62 million dollar information go directly to the A&B and Mahi Pono purchase agreements linked below:


2.7 Rebates. In order to reflect the diminished value of the Property due to lost farm revenue and the reduced productivity potential of the Property expected to result if EMI or Seller is unable to legally deliver irrigation water sufficient for Buyer to fully implement its farming plan, Seller will rebate portions of the Purchase Price (collectively, the “Rebates”) as follows:

(a) Seller will make a one-time rebate to Buyer of Thirty-One Million Dollars ($31,000,000) of the Purchase Price, and the Purchase Price shall be deemed to be reduced by $31,000,000 (the “Initial Productivity Loss Rebate”), if at any time prior to the earlier of (i) the date State Leases are obtained as provided in Section 2.7(d) below or (ii) eight (8) years after the Closing Date: (x) EMI or Seller is legally prohibited from delivering the Minimum Water Amount (defined below) to Buyer, and 👍 the amount of water that EMI is then not legally prohibited from delivering to Buyer is less than Buyer’s actual surface water need at that time, as determined by Buyer in its sole discretion, exercised in good faith, to meet the irrigation requirement of its then existing crops or crops planned for the upcoming 24 months in the area served by East Maui surface water (a “Productivity Loss Event”). EMI’s inability to deliver water in the Minimum Water Amount solely due to a major casualty or events beyond human control such as earthquakes, droughts or natural disasters that impair EMI’s operations shall not be considered a Productivity Loss Event.

(b) On the date one year after the initial Productivity Loss Event described in subsection (a) (the “Initial Productivity Loss Event”), Seller will rebate to Buyer an additional Thirty-One Million Dollars ($31,000,000) of the Purchase Price, and the Purchase Price shall be deemed to be reduced by $31,000,000 (the “Continuing Productivity Loss Rebate”), for a total reduction in the Purchase Price of $62,000,000, unless by that date the Initial Productivity Loss Event is cured. If a Continuing Productivity Loss Rebate is paid pursuant to this subsection (b) or the following subsection (c), the payment obligations set forth in this Section 2.7 shall be deemed satisfied and Seller shall have no further obligation to pay any further Rebate or seek the State Leases; provided, however, that Seller shall take any and all action reasonably necessary at that time in order for Buyer and EMI to continue to seek and obtain the State Leases without further involvement by Seller.

(c) If the Initial Productivity Loss Event is cured within one (1) year as provided in subsection (b) but at any time after such cure a Productivity Loss Event occurs again, Seller will immediately pay Buyer the Continuing Productivity Loss Rebate, for a total reduction in the Purchase Price of $62,000,000. Such Continuing Productivity Loss Rebate will not be refunded to Seller even if such second Productivity Loss Event is thereafter cured.”

hb1326 readers note….There is plenty of addition info…just go to the source link above


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from the Ledge – Red Flags, Code and Words that Matter

There were several times during my service in the Hawaii State Senate, where I came very close to supporting proposed legislative measures (bills), that were in direct opposition to my core values.  Some of these instances were a result of political pressure from colleagues (other Senators) and stakeholders (those who benefit from the proposed legislation).  But most instances of where I almost voted wrong, were those involving bills that were drafted in a manner that misconstrued the underlying intent of the bill.  

To say that in these situations the bill sponsors (other legislators serving stakeholders who will benefit) were “less than forthright” in presenting the intent and content of the bill, is being overly generous.  It is much more accurate to say the bill language was most likely driven by an intent to deceive. 

The reality of the law making process however is that much, if not a majority of new legislative initiatives, are in essence introduced by “special interest groups – stakeholders – advocacy organizations”. While the name of the special interest group will not be found anywhere on the bill itself, the bills content most often originates directly from the special interest entity.  

This reality is not unique to Hawaii, nor unique to only state government. The same is true in county and federal government and in political jurisdictions everywhere. 

These groups whether driven by business interests, professional licensing issues, environmental protection, labor, social justice advocates or whomever, are constantly encouraging legislation that benefit the particular interest they support.  Each year they encourage legislators to introduce and support bills that create new laws and/or amend existing ones.  

Often they provide the legislator with an actual “proposed bill draft” that contains the exact language they prefer.  These drafts originate frequently from a bill or a law that was passed or considered in another state or jurisdiction, but it’s also not unusual for the measures to be drafted by private attorneys employed by the interest group who will benefit.

In my opinion, this is not an inherently bad thing.  The special interest group often knows and understands the subject matter far better than the individual legislator, who is after-all responsible for voting on hundreds of issues covering a wide range of interests.  

The problem, or at least one of the problems, stem from the original drafters choice of words which far too often are simply carried over to the official bill that is ultimately introduced.

An advocate will always frame an issue in the absolute most favorable manner, a practice which can easily be pushed to transcend ethics and fair play, essentially being deceitful.

One example I remember clearly was a bill introduced to “Bring the State of Hawaii into alignment with Federal Clean Water Standards”. This sounds on its surface to be a reasonable proposal, almost like “housekeeping” (remember this word – it should always raise red flags).  

Yes, this measure sounds reasonable, until you find out on your own (because nowhere in the bill does it say this), that Hawaii’s existing clean water standards were/are actually stronger than the federal standards.  Supporting this measure would translate to supporting the weakening of Hawaii’s existing clean water standards. If passed (it was not), this measure would have saved millions of dollars for those required to utilize and manage sewage treatment plants, and our near shore waters would have in turn, become increasingly contaminated.

Important side note: In most cases federal law and rules represent a “floor not a ceiling”.  State governments are in general, allowed to pass laws that are stronger than the federal government, but not weaker.  The most prominent anomaly to this of course is the medical cannabis issue where many states have legalized an activity that the federal government considers illegal.

Another egregious example is a bill that once came before me proposing to “Level the playing field and amend the tax law to equalize the tax treatment of certain types of private trusts and foundations, so that all are treated fairly”. (paraphrasing from memory)

Who can argue with “leveling the playing field and equal and fair”?  The problem at the end of the day for this measure is that it primarily benefited one very large private trust that was coincidentally (read – sarcasm) preparing to dissolve and disperse its assets to family members. Passage of this bill would have transferred to this one particular trust many millions of dollars that otherwise would have gone to schools, environmental protection and other public services.  Nowhere within this bill did it indicate who specifically would benefit. The measure died a quick and quiet death in caucus once the true nature of its intent was revealed by one particular sharp eyed Senator.

A third and perhaps most dangerous example is use of the words and phrase, “streamline the process” and “fast track” and “expedite”.  This is most often used in the context of land use and real estate development and translates to “weaken environmental protections, make less transparent and allow rich land owners and developers to become more rich, more faster”.  Bills that contain these words are often accompanied by a “purpose clause” in the bill which trots out the need for affordable housing and jobs as justification for the elimination of public protections and accountability.   

It is a given that every single “affordable housing forum” that is held to figure out and “chart a path to generate more affordable housing” will conclude with a statement on the need to “streamline and expedite the process”.  Rarely if ever will the conclusion be to properly staff the agencies responsible for processing the permits and even more rarely will the actual building of truly affordable housing be a requirement for the lessening of public protections and over-sight.  

There are many, many other real life examples I could name, but for now I think it suffice to say, words matter. Legislators and citizen advocates alike will be well served by knowing some of the more common buzz words and catch phrases to watch out for.

“Housekeeping” is a phrased used to imply that there is nothing of substance being changed in a bill but it is simply “cleaning it up”, perhaps making it “gender neutral” or “bringing it into alignment with other statutes”.  In many cases, these phrases are intended to make a busy legislator look away or perhaps only skim through the bills review. To the contrary, these words should trigger a legislator looking even closer at a measure and to not discount it as unimportant.  The placement of a comma, or the changing of any word really, has the potential to fundamentally change the meaning of the law.

I would be remiss if I did not include before I conclude, the phrase “public/private partnership” which means that a public asset or responsibility is essentially sold to a for-profit business.  Yes, the private sector can and does operate more “efficiently” in many areas than government, however many if not most “public services” are not intended to be profitable (think parks, lifeguards, police, fire departments and yes even public transportation), which is why they are called “public services” and paid for and administered by government. There is a place for public/private partnerships but history will show that this is an area of great abuse. This buzz word should not bring comfort to lawmakers who believe in putting the public interest ahead of corporate profits.

Only legislators can introduce bills and everyone – the governor, for profit and nonprofit and everyday citizens must go through the same process. Some bills can be purposefully vague, others are by nature of the subject matter simply confusing. The volume of bills and frenetic pace of the session only further exacerbates the likelihood for error and misjudgment. Because legislators aren’t subject-matter experts in all subjects they rely on bill advocates or departments to explain the measures. 

For elected officials and citizen advocates alike, a little bit of skepticism and lot of critical thinking are essential attributes. And yes, watching with vigilance the words contained within all measures, is simply the responsible thing to do.

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HB1326 water theft, minimum wage trojan horse, sticky wickets and asking for help.

Aloha Friends,

I wanted to share with you a few updates, some interesting reading I hope you enjoy, learn from and perhaps find provocative.  And I wanted to also ask for help, which I don’t want to get in the way of the other important stuff, so will place at the bottom of this page 😉

First: The corporate water theft bill HB1326 introduced by Representative Ryan Yamane has passed the House, and now is in the hands of Senator Kai Kahele.

I want to mahalo plenty the House members who voted No yesterday on the House floor –  Be sure to take a moment today and send them your gratitude for standing up to corporate exploitation and for Hawaiʻi’s water rights!

Kitagawa, Lisa, 808-586-8540, repkitagawa@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Perruso, Amy, 808-586-6700, repperruso@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Eli, Stacelynn, 808-586-8465, repeli@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Wildberger, Tina, 808-586-8525, repwildberger@Capitol.hawaii.gov

DeCoite, Lynn , 808-586-6790, repdecoite@Capitol.hawaii.gov

McKelvey, Angus, 808-586-6160, repmckelvey@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Gates, Cedric Asuega, 808-586-8460, repgates@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Kobayashi, Dale, 808-586-8475, repdkobayashi@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Thielen, Cynthia,808-586-6480 repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov 

The below blog link will bring you up to speed both on the bill but also on the process of “crossover and conference”.

”HB1326 is the proverbial “sticky wicket” with Hawaii legislators caught between the interests of the corporate elite, and those who put protection of the environment ahead of corporate profits.Read the entire piece HERE on the Hooser blog  

There are two minimum wage bills still alive that will need your help in the future.

SB789 introduced by Senator Brian Taniguchi proposes to phase in increases to achieve a $15 per hour level by 2023 – FOR ALL WORKERS (both full time and part time). This measure also includes tax credits to help small businesses.

HB1191 introduced by Representative Aaron Johanson proposes a two tiered minimum wage with most full time workers who are provided health insurance by their employers entitled to receive a $12.50 per hour by 2024.  Part-time workers and those who do not receive employer health care coverage would be entitled to a $15 per hour minimum wage, also in 2024.

My personal preference is a blend of the two measures that provides phased in increases to $17 per hour, with continuing incremental small annual increases above the rate of inflation until a true living wage is achieved PLUS a tax credit to support those small businesses who provide health care coverage.  This ensures that ALL workers are paid a decent wage, AND ensures that small businesses are incentivized to provide ALL workers with full time work and health care benefits.

RED FLAG  HB96 also introduced by Representative Johanson proposes to “authorize each county to establish a minimum wage that is a higher wage than the state minimum wage…” I am very concerned that this measure will be used as a way to “punt” the minimum wage issue to the counties and provide a political “out” for the State legislature to claim they took positive action on the minimum wage issue.  Giving the counties this authority does not result in increasing the standard of living for working people in Hawaii, but risks further delays and ultimately finger pointing between the state and county as to who is responsible.  If the state established a living wage “floor”, then to allow the counties to exceed that living wage floor would be acceptable (in my humble opinion).

Heads Up! The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii is a powerful force at the legislature and they are fighting hard to block any and all increases to the minimum wage.  PHI President Josh Frosts blog is must reading! Check it out HERE Let’s be clear – The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii is Lying to You


If you are rooted in your community, share the core values of putting people and the planet first, and aspire to serve in government at a leadership level…then consider the Kuleana Academy. This is a statewide nonpartisan program and residents from all islands are encouraged to apply.

Go HERE for more information and to view a short video featuring recent graduates of the program! Please watch the video!

Now for my request for help:

As described in the past, I wear several hats – President of the Board for the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), and Executive Director for the Pono Hawaii Alliance (PHI) – Each has a separate Board of Directors and each has a separate administrative structure and budget.  This is necessary due to the laws governing political activity and the tax treatment of contributions.

HAPA does not engage in any campaign work nor does it support any persons election to public office.  HAPA does educate and train aspiring leaders who want to get more involved and possibly serve in public office.  HAPA is nonpartisan, does not restrict participation in its activities based on party affiliation and extends invitations to all political parties in its training programs. HAPA’s work on legislative issues is also limited. Thus contributions to HAPA are tax deductible and may be made HERE.

Contributions to PHI are NOT tax deductible, however its legal structure allows it to engage in unlimited lobbying on legislative issues plus it may provide some support of candidates who are running for public office.

As you can imagine, fundraising for PHI is more challenging because the contributions are NOT tax deductible.  At the same time the work PHI does is valuable and needs to be sustained.

We are now in the middle of the legislative session and frankly we need your help to continue the work. The PHI “mother of all data bases” project needs to be kicked up a notch NOW which translates to aggressively targeting various districts in Hawaii with issue based surveys – thus recruiting residents from those districts to join the movement and engage those very same issues.  In addition we are funding other communications related efforts in support of our key issues, and there are the never ending costs of inter-island travel that have to be dealt with.

In summary, PHI needs to raise at least $10,000 within the next 24 days, or an average of $416 per day.  This will allow us to maintain and grow momentum, plus put us in a strong position for the final month of the legislative session.  Can you help?  Whether it is funding one day of work, or one hour, any and all contributions are welcome and much needed.  Especially helpful are those contributions that can be received by the end of the day Friday, March 8.

Online contributions may be made securely HERE.

Or checks may be mailed to: Pono Hawaii Initiative, P.O. Box 871, Honolulu HI 96808

Thank you in advance for all of your help –


Gary Hooser, Executive Director – Pono Hawaii Initiative – 808-652-4279

PS. It goes without saying that if you want to meet personally to talk about how you might get further involved in supporting the work, please do not hesitate to call or email.  If you are willing to join in our effort by offering testimony at the legislature, or support our work with funding or in other ways – I would love to speak and or meet with you in person or a small group.  I am also available to speak to political science classes, or any groups or organizations interested in learning more about the political process in Hawaii (without charge of course).

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from the Ledge – HB1326 From Crossover to Conference 

With the legislative session at its midway point it is time for “crossover” when bills that have been heard and passed in one legislative body cross over to go through the same identical process, in the countervailing body.

The Hawaii constitution requires both the House and the Senate to hold hearings on and to ultimately both agree to the same exact terms of a bill, before it can be sent to the governor for approval or veto.

Entering this crossover phase now is HB1326hd2, a controversial measure which allows KIUC/Grove Farm and A&B/Mahi Pono and others to continue diverting and dewatering streams without conducting an environmental impact statement (EIS) or securing the long term lease/permits normally required by law.

In Hawaii, water is a public trust resource. The health of native streams and coastal wildlife, traditional customary practices, and domestic water needs are prioritized over private commercial uses of water. “Holdover” revocable permits are a loophole to get around Hawaii’s  water protections. These month-to-month permits improperly allow corporations to divert streams for years without protecting the ecosystems or downstream users.

HB1326 originated in the House (thus the HB).  The initial version proposed granting these companies the continued ability to divert various streams for an unlimited amount of time, thus avoiding the need to conduct an EIS and other studies required to secure their long term permits.

During its first hearing in the House Water Land committee, Chair Representative Ryan Yamane amended the measure to limit the time period remaining to complete an EIS and other documentation to 7 years thus generating a HB1326hd1.

This measure was then heard in House Finance, Chaired by Representative Sylvia Luke, who further amended and “cleaned up” the bill, thus creating HB1326hd2.

Along this path, with Maui Representative Tina Wildberger first shining the light, the measure has picked up an increasing number of “No” votes during every single subsequent vote.

In addition the Hawaii Sierra Club, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, HAPA, and numerous other individuals and public interest organizations have loudly and persistently expressed their strong opposition to the measure – making HB1326hd2 a political litmus test of environmental values.

This is now the can of worms crossing over from the House to the Senate, squarely into the lap of State Senator Kai Kahele Chair of the Senate committee on Water and Land.  Senator Kahele by the way is also running for Congress in the second congressional district (the area most directly impacted by HB1326hd2).

The next step in the legislative process involves Senator Kahele scheduling a hearing for the bill in his committee.  There seems to be no doubt that he will ultimately pass the measure out, after making further amendments.

As in most controversial and hot potato issues, the political tendency is to either kill the bill or attempt the wisdom of Solomon and split the baby.  In this case, the large corporate players who are driving the entire effort are too big, and the political repercussions too great- to kill the bill.

Conversely, splitting the baby in half, to possibly 3 years instead of 7, as the committee will no doubt feel inclined to do, is also totally unacceptable to the environmental community.  After all, these same corporate entities have already squandered a prior 3 year extension and have been diverting this stream water for decades now without the proper environmental protections required by our state constitution.

Whatever ultimately passes out of this Senate Committee, and any other it might be referred to in the Senate, is destined to go to “conference”.  The conference committee is made up of the Chairs of both the House and Senate subject matter committees, plus other members of the House and Senate.

In order for any bill to pass out of conference committee and ultimately become law, both Chairs must agree on the same identical language.  If either Chair disagrees, the bill dies. NOTE: WHILE THIS IS PAST PRACTICE THE CONFERENCE RULES WHICH MAY CHANGE SESSION TO SESSION – ALLOW FOR A MAJORITY OF THE CHAIRS TO MAKE A DECISION AND THERE MAY BE 4 CHAIRS ON THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE, SO THUS ONE CHAIR IS UNABLE TO BLOCK PASSAGE. (this section is CAPS was added and not in the original publication of this piece).

The parameters upon which the two Chairs negotiate are set by the content of the bill that was passed out by each chamber.  Consequently whatever amendments that will ultimately be made in the Senate become “the Senate position”. Generally speaking negotiations must be limited to matters that separate the House/Senate positions, and may not be more or less restrictive than those already established positions.  New material such as new significant conditions not contained in the two bills on the conference table, are normally not entertained.

At the end of conference both Representative Yamane and Senator Kahele must agree, and thus share responsibility for the content and passage of HB1326hd2 – which when amended becomes a “Conference Draft” or CD1.

This of course, is the proverbial “sticky wicket” with legislators caught between the interests of the corporate elite, and those in the broader community who put protection of the environment and the fundamental public trust ahead of those corporate profits.

The large corporate diverters have without question been abusing the system for generations, as these diversions date back to the plantation era.  Their strategy now is to use small farmers and ranchers who also need permits for their water as human political shields, knowing legislators are hard pressed to bring hardships upon the little guys.

However the Senate can choose to protect the small users and or offer them assistance in achieving compliance, while at the same time insisting that the large and most egregious users comply promptly with the law.

Now is when our elected leaders will show their true colors.  There is a reasonable path forward and granting additional years to comply without teeth or strong penalties for non-compliance is unacceptable.

Set strong parameters, perhaps give them 6 more months to comply if you must, but then hold them accountable.

*Note – If you are interested in learning more about the inside workings of the Hawaii State Legislature and how to best impact the law-making process, you might be further interested in reviewing these additional “Lessons from the Ledge”.


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