Your action paid off. Minimum wage is scheduled!

Update: HB2510 Passed! $18 in 2028, increases tip penalty BUT makes permanent refundable EITC – it’s a win but should not have taken 4 years. Mahalo to all for the emails/calls, for standing in hot sun holding signs. Mahalo Kim Coco Iwamoto for holding Speaker Saiki accountable. Imua! more to come in an upcoming post….

This would not have happened without the hundreds of emails and telephone calls that poured into the offices of House Speaker Scott Saiki and Senate President Ron Kouchi – over the past 24 hours. And the thousands that have been made over the past 4 months.

Of this I am sure. Mahalo to all.

At the very last minute, HB2510 SD1 increasing the minimum wage in Hawaii from $10.10 to $18 per hour has been scheduled for 3:01pm today! A copy of the hearing notice with information on how to view the hearing is here: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2022/hearingnotices/CONF_LAT_04-29-22_2_.HTM

The legislators sitting on the committee are:
House Conferees: Representatives Onishi/Nishimoto, Co-Chairs; Ilagan, Okimoto
Senate Conferees: Senators Taniguchi, Chair; Kidani, Co-Chair; Fevella

What is likely to happen?

I am predicting that the key members of the committee have already met and worked out a deal/compromise. The committee will convene, announce the deal and then adjourn the meeting.

This is common practice for a Conference Committee where historically most/all of the negotiations is done in private – in violation of the Constitution which states in Article III – Section 12: “Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members of both houses held for the purpose of making a decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”

The other possibility is that the committee will simply “gavel in” and the Chairs announce that they still have not reached a decision, and then adjourn until a later time.

Important Note: The House is the main roadblock here. While Big Island Rep. Richard Onishi is Chair of the Labor Committee and theoretically in charge of making decisions for the House – Speaker Scott Saiki represents the Majority and is the person most responsible.

Another option, if they cannot come to an agreement with the Senate in Conference Committee – the House can simply “accept the Senate position”. This can happen instantly with support from Speaker Saiki or action can be taken by House members directly.

So – do not accept statements from individual Representatives that “there is nothing they can do” or “this is up to Rep Onishi” – Individual members can take independent actions contrary to that of the Speaker or the Chair. They simply have to stand up in the House Chamber, make the proper motion, get a second to that motion, and proceed to debate and ultimately vote. A series of motions would need to be made and voted on, but the process is available for individual members to take action on the floor.

If Conference Committee fails, and the Speaker fails to take action, direct action on the floor by individual members will be the only path left for working people to win a long, long overdue increase.

The hearing notice has links to view the hearing, read the bill, see past testimony etc. Unfortunately, the legislature does not allow testimony for Conference Committee hearings. But if you can contact the legislators directly to share your thoughts.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2022/hearingnotices/CONF_LAT_04-29-22_2_.HTM

My apology for grammatical or other errors as I am rushing to get this out today. gh

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Minimum wage increase will die today unless….

Minimum wage workers and all Hawaiʻi will lose if HB2510 SD1 is not scheduled today and approved by Monday.

Please call and email today House Speaker Scott Saiki and Senate President Ron Kouchi (scroll down for contact info).

These two men can either bring their teams together today in support of working people, or they can continue the gamesmanship and kill the hopes of Hawaiʻi’s lowest-paid workers.

Top executives of the largest Hawaiʻi publicly traded companies received an average pay increase of more than $750,000 in 2021. Their average annual take-home pay is $4.5 million (HNN).

Hawaii legislators themselves will receive a 10% pay raise this coming year.

Most if not all public workers have also had their pay increases approved.

Yet the Hawaiʻi minimum wage of $10.10 has not increased since 2014. Since then, top legislative leaders have talked about an increase, said that they supported an increase, and promised an increase – and broken those promises every year.

Economic studies produced by the State of Hawaii Department of Business and Economic Development in 2021 state that a single adult needs to earn about $19 per hour today, just to survive. That’s about 94.4% above the current state minimum wage level and 178.1% above the federal poverty threshold for Hawaii.

On January 28 the Senate passed SB2018 , proposing a phased-in minimum wage increase reaching $18 per hour by 2026. Governor Ige offered written testimony in support and the Senate vote was only one short of being unanimous.

The House refused to even grant SB2018 a hearing.

Instead, they preferred to hear only “their bill” HB2510 , which was inferior in many ways, contained too many moving parts, and did not reach the $18 mark until 2030.

The Senate as the only adult in the room, dutifully scheduled, amended and passed HB2510 SD1 . The measure now contains the $18 by 2026 provision and removes entirely the “tip penalty” that allows restaurants to pay a sub-minimum wage to their workers.

The House then rejected the amendments presented by the Senate.

Both of these bills are “ready to go and clean”, both achieve the $18 threshold in 2026, and both have been rejected by the House.

To be clear Speaker of the House Scott Saiki is calling the shots on this and so far has refused to allow a vote on either measure by the entire House of Representatives.

The Senate has already passed $18 by 2026 almost unanimously. It stands to reason that the House would do similarly IF Speaker Saiki would allow them to vote.

But no, the Speaker is not allowing a vote and instead is forcing the issue into the Conference Committee process where it can be negotiated (weakened or killed) behind closed doors.

During the Conference Committee process the House and Senate “Conferees” will meet in public at a scheduled time where they announce and formally convene. They will then recess and meet in private behind closed doors.

Behind closed doors the two sides will attempt to “leverage” the other side, using the political volatility of the minimum wage bill as a wedge to force action on other bills. They will essentially say, “I will not pass this minimum wage bill unless you pass (or don’t pass, or weaken, or amend in some specific way) some other bill that may or may not be related to the minimum wage issue.”

But as of the date and time of this blog post, no Conference Committee meeting has yet been scheduled, and as a result, the minimum wage increase is about to die.

It’s a game legislators play. Too often, it’s a game driven by ego and personal grudges.

It’s pathetic really. Grown men responsible for looking out for us, preferring instead to play their macho games of one-upmanship.

Your action is urgently needed TODAY.

Please call and email today: Speaker of the House Scott Saiki at 808-586-6100 and repsaiki@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Please also call and email today: Senate President Ron Kouchi at 808-586-6030 and senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov

Tell them both to end the games, strike a deal that workers can celebrate, and take the vote – TODAY.

Please copy your district Senator and Representative also.

If Saiki and Kouchi cannot bring their respective teams to an agreement, working people will end up with nothing. Nothing that is, except more broken promises from more broken politicians.

Please do this. Today is the last day when it will matter. Every single telephone call and email is important.

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Raise The Rage – Time To Take Action On Minimum Wage

Top executives of Hawaii’s largest publicly traded companies received an average pay increase of more than $750,000 in 2021. Their average take-home pay:$4.5 million (HNN).

Hawaii legislators themselves will receive a 10% pay raise this coming year, and most if not all public workers have also had their pay increases approved.

Yet Hawaii’s minimum wage of $10.10 has not increased since 2014. Since then, top legislative leaders have talked about an increase, said that they supported an increase, and promised an increase – and broken those promises every year.

Economic studies produced by the State of Hawaii Department of Business and Economic Development state that while each county is slightly different, “In 2020, a single adult on Kauai with no children needed to earn an hourly wage of $19.33 to be economically self-sufficient. That was 94.4% above the state minimum wage level and 178.1% above the federal poverty threshold for Hawaii.”

On January 28 the Senate passed SB2018, proposing a phased-in minimum wage increase reaching $18 per hour by 2026. Governor Ige offered written testimony in support and the Senate vote was only one short of being unanimous.

The House refused to even grant SB2018 a hearing.

Instead, they preferred to hear only “their bill” HB2510, which was inferior in many ways, contained too many moving parts and did not reach the $18 mark until 2030.

The Senate as the only adult in the room, dutifully scheduled, amended, and passed HB2510 SD1. The measure now contains the $18 by 2026 provision and removes entirely the “tip penalty” that allows restaurants to pay a sub-minimum wage to their workers.

The House then rejected the amendments presented by the Senate.

Both of these bills are “ready to go and clean”, both achieve the $18 threshold in 2026, and both have been rejected by the House.

To be clear Speaker of the House Scott Saiki is calling the shots on this and so far has refused to allow a vote on either measure by the entire House of Representatives.

The Senate has already passed $18 by 2026 almost unanimously. It stands to reason that the House would do similarly IF Speaker Saiki would allow them to vote on it.

But no, the Speaker is not allowing a vote and instead is forcing the issue into the Conference Committee process where it will be negotiated (weakened or killed) behind closed doors.

During the Conference Committee process the House and Senate “Conferees” will meet in public at a scheduled time where they announce and formally convene. They will then recess and meet in private behind closed doors.

Behind closed doors the two sides will attempt to “leverage” the other side, using the political volatility of the minimum wage bill as a wedge to force action on other bills. They will essentially say, “I will not pass this minimum wage bill unless you pass (or don’t pass, or weaken, or amend in some specific way) some other bill that may or may not be related to the minimum wage issue.”

It’s a game legislators play. Too often, it’s a game driven by ego and personal grudges.

It’s pathetic really. Grown men responsible for looking out for us, preferring instead to play their macho games of one-upmanship.

Please call and email today: Speaker of the House Scott Saiki (McCully, Kaheka, Kakaako, Downtown Honolulu) at 808-586-6100 and repsaiki@Capitol.hawaii.gov

Please also call and email today: Senate President Ron Kouchi (Kauai) at 808-586-6030 and senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov

Tell them both to end the games, strike a deal that workers can celebrate, and take the vote.

Please copy your district Senator and Representative also.

If Saiki and Kouchi cannot bring their respective teams to an agreement, working people will end up with nothing. Nothing that is, except more broken promises from more broken politicians.

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A Hard But Easy Ask. Don’t read unless you want to help.

I know we occasionally differ on things ;-), but I’m sure we are mutually disgusted by the conduct of many in elected office.

The culture of power and fear that permeate the state capitol is common knowledge among virtually everyone who interacts with the legislature. Ask anyone; advocates, state administrators, legislative staff, journalists, and the legislators themselves. They will all acknowledge in private their fear of crossing key members of legislative leadership and certain committee chairs. Bills are killed, budgets slashed, and positions eliminated, for personal and political reasons, regardless of the public policy impacts.

We can agree that the status quo is unacceptable and we can agree that we have good people serving in public office, but we need to elect more of them.

We have excellent candidates on every island who are stepping up. We at the Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative (PHI) as well as many other advocacy organizations on every island, will soon be announcing our endorsements.

Changing only a handful of key seats could lead to changing the very nature of how work happens in that big square building on Beretania Street. August 13th is Primary Election day in Hawaiʻi. If we work very hard during the next 90 days we can win those seats and more.

We need people: To help both on the ground (holding signs and canvassing) and in the air (telephone banking) – on all islands. Remember, phone banking can be done from anywhere!

Can you help? Will you join us if even only for a few hours per week of telephone calls, or holding signs, or canvassing? If you can, please complete this basic volunteer form. We will then contact you directly and attempt to match you up with a candidate that needs the help, shares your values, and is in your area. 

Yes, we also need money: To support direct mail, social media, and other core electioneering expenses as are legal and appropriate for a 501c4 nonprofit. 

Can you help with an online contribution today of any amount? We need the $1,000 plus contributions, the $10 or $20 gives, and everything in between. For those who feel more comfortable writing a check: Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative, P.O. Box 871, Honolulu, HI 96808. Note: Contributions are NOT tax-deductible.

That’s it.  People and Money – please sign up to help and give what you can today if possible, and especially prior to May 1 so that we might plan accordingly and hit the ground running together with our friends on May 2 – so we can win on August 13th.

Please help if you can.

We can do this.

Gary Hooser
Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative
https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org

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Business as usual at the Legislature, the Crooks are still firmly in charge. Guest post by former Hawaii State Senator Russell E. Ruderman

Many of us hoped we’d see some changes at the legislature after a couple of our lawmakers were caught with envelopes full of cash. But there will be no meaningful changes this year, at least not before election time.

The most important legislative ethics bills have been killed already. Similarly, we’ve seen no action to address the shocking abuses at ADC, which were illuminated by Auditor Les Kondo. The House ‘leadership’ chose to shoot the messenger and ignore the message, as we saw in the shameful harassment of the Auditor by Rep. Au Bellati’s special committee, on behalf of “leadership.’ My question for such ‘leadership’ is, “What are you hiding?”

There are precious few honest, gutsy people in positions of authority in our state government; Les Kondo is one. If we allow those few to be publicly harassed as Mr. Kondo has been, there will be even fewer of them.

Additionally, the House and Senate are playing a game of ‘chicken’ with the minimum wage issue, a game they love to play to justify inaction. As for common-sense reforms such as term limits, Sunshine laws, and donations during session (aka bribery), these are not even on the table.

Business as usual, folks, nothing to see here!

I’d like to highlight an abuse of power that has gotten little attention, SB2510, proposed by Senators Donovan DelaCruz and Glenn Wakai. This bill has the innocuous title ‘Relating to Renewable Energy,’ and has enough fluffy nonsense in it to bore most readers before getting to the point. But in fact, if passed in its original form or similar, will increase electric rates on every island, remove planning flexibility from our utilities and P.U.C., reward carbon-polluting large corporations, and set back our efforts to address climate change.

Senators Dela Cruz and Wakai have lately been on a run of harassing the PUC for not doing their bidding. They have no business doing so; it’s not their job. Our PUC is refreshingly honest and independent, and stubbornly concerns itself with the public good instead of the hidden agendas of these senators.

The bill as written by Wakai, Dela Cruz, and the corporations they represent, would require a set percentage of ‘firm renewable’ sources in our electric utilities. Sounds fine so far, but doing so would constrain the utilities from adopting the best, cheapest, and most environmentally safe reliable mix of resources. Because Wakai and DelaCruz somehow, magically and without any professional training, know better than the PUC or H.E.I.

The senators proposed a minimum 55% portion of energy to be ‘firm renewables,’ which they then try to define. How do they know 55% is the right portion? Their corporate clients told them so. 55% would help Hu Honua, aka Honua Ola, justify their tree burning facility, as geothermal, a non-carbon renewable, will fall just short of this goal. Remarkable coincidence, of course. It will also incentivize plants like AES to continue burning carbon fuels well into the future. Along the way, rates will rise significantly on Oahu as a result of such a mandate. Energy advocates and environmental groups both oppose this, a rare alliance. In its current form (HD2) the 55% has been removed by saner heads and replaced by fudge words, but we can expect it to magically return at conference time when anything goes without explanation.

In fact, with solar and battery tech evolving and rapidly getting cheaper, a more flexible mix with extra solar, wind, and battery capacity will be cheaper and just as reliable.

Perhaps it’s gone unnoticed, but our electric utilities and PUC have guided Hawaii to be the nation’s leader in renewable energy, and have done so with the careful planning that is standard with such professionals. They somehow did it without any help from Senators Dela Cruz and Wakai, but now the good senators are stepping in to save us from this pattern of consistency and professionalism.

I know some of the planners at PUC and HEI a little bit. They are capable professionals in their field and have kept the lights on through our transition to renewables. I also know Senators Dela Cruz and Wakai quite well. Fair play, democratic principles, and concern for our environment have never hindered their efforts to please their corporate sponsors.

This is part of the corruption issue because the senators are not representing the people of their district and the state. They are representing polluting corporations who get their way through ‘influence’ at the legislature. Such influence may be more subtle than envelopes of cash, but it is just as corrupt, just as harmful to our society, and is a perversion of democracy. The influence occurs through legal means such as consultancy fees, donations from lobbyists, favors for friends and family, and other ways.

The fact that such influence and such corporate-sponsored bills are routine and technically legal does not make them acceptable. It shows the changes we need which are not happening.

We must change this culture. Since the Legislature has done nothing at all to address its own corruption, and smugly sweeps the whole issue under the rug, I call upon our citizens to recognize the broken system we have and choose different legislators in August and in November. Nothing less will wake them up.

Russell E. Ruderman
17-415 Ipuaiwaha St
Keaau HI 96749

President, Island Naturals Markets
Former State Senator

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2022 Kauaʻi Council Elections: The Speculation and The Facts

The 2022 Kauaʻi election line-up is slowly starting to take shape. As of 04/15, 10 residents have formally expressed interest in running for the 7-member County Council. In 2020 there were 21 candidates on the primary ballot, with the top 14 going on to the general election.

The actual filing deadline is June 7 so there’s still plenty of time for new candidates to step forward as this nonpartisan race will ultimately be decided in the November general election.

Due to term limits capping Councilmembers to 4 consecutive two-year terms, current Council Chair Erryl Kaneshiro and Vice-Chair Mason Chock are “terming out” and thus unable to run for re-election.

In theory, this term limit provision creates two “openings” on the Council and an opportunity for new candidates, new voices, and new ideas.

I say, “In theory” because both former Council Chair Melvin Rapozo and former Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa have signaled their intentions to run once again for the Council.

There are 7 seats on the Kauaʻi County Council and all are up for election. In theory (there’s that phrase again) every single seat is “open”. But in reality, incumbents and former incumbents have a significant advantage.

Councilmember Felicia Cowden has filed her papers and Kipu Kai Kualii has pulled his. The 3 remaining Council incumbents Luke Evslin, Billy DeCosta, and Bernard Carvalho will also likely run for re-election.

So it may be deja vu all over again. Or not.

While at first glance we seem to get to 7 pretty quickly, me thinks things are a bit more nuanced than simply, same ole same ole wins again.

After analyzing past elections the question for the Council race seems to boil down to who is fighting for the bottom. CM Evslin who has consistently finished at the top of the list, and CM former Mayor Carvalho are both solid. Former Council Chair Rapozo whose name has remained in the spotlight via the popular “Mel and Charlie Show” streamed live regularly on social media also seems to be set.

A review of the 2020 general election final results have DeCosta at #5, Cowden at #6 and Kualii coming in at #7 – all clustered within a 600 vote margin of each other.

First-time candidate Addison Bulosan came in #8 in 2020 which clearly makes him the most likely of the existing challengers to “move up” into a winning slot. A drive around the island shows he is once again running a strong campaign with signs and banners going up island-wide.

The bookmakers in Vegas would for sure say that, at this point in time, the 2022 battle for the bottom 4 slots will be between Cowden, DeCosta, Kualii, Bulosan, and Kagawa.

But of course, anything can happen, more candidates are sure to jump in, and ghosts from Christmas past could very well emerge.

The recent bribery charges against two sitting state legislators (Maui and Oahu), plus the fact that a former Kauaʻi County Councilmember is facing 15 years in prison on charges that he led a methamphetamine ring – are sure to raise questions among voters as to who knew what, and when.

It’s also possible, and if you are listening to the political rumor mill, highly likely that there may be movement, perhaps a retirement, at the state legislative level. If this occurs, it would likely motivate an incumbent Councilmember to attempt to “move up”.

Personally, I’d like to see us move forward, not backward. My hope is that candidates reflecting a broader diversity of viewpoints, new ideas, new energy, and new voices will soon step up to throw their hat in the ring. To say the “good ole boys” are over-represented at the moment, would be an understatement.

The above is speculation, below are just the facts.

Enjoy!

Per the Office of Elections, the following have either “pulled papers”, or actually filed to be a Council candidate. List is updated every Friday.
https://olvr.hawaii.gov/Controls/CandidateFiling.aspx?elid=87

Filed: Felicia Cowden, Nelson Mukai, Mel Rapozo, Clint Yago Sr.,

Pulled but not filed: Addison Bulosan, Rosemarie Jauch, Ross Kagawa, Kipukai Kuali’i, James Robert Lanstad, Jeffrey Linder.

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Hawaiʻi Policy Tip: Tax the rich, cool the real estate market, build affordable housing

Multiple media outlets reported last week that in a bid to cool off a hot housing market, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced it will ban foreign investors from buying homes in Canada for two years. The Canadian government took a number of steps to tamp down speculation and demand amid record home prices including higher taxes.

Could the State of Hawaiʻi or County Government likewise ban foreign ownership or non-resident ownership of real estate here? The automatic response from most who serve in public office will be, “No. That’s unconstitutional and there are federal laws against restricting interstate commerce (or similar).”

But of course, for those who would like to achieve that end, there are always “workarounds”.

And a lot depends on the definition of “foreigner” that is used.

There are a handful of states that do ban foreign ownership of agricultural land. Iowa law, for example, forbids any “nonresident alien, foreign business or foreign government” from holding agricultural land in the state. (De Moines Register)

Bills have been introduced and passed out of the Hawaiʻi State Senate to restrict foreign ownership of residential properties, but as is incredibly predictable, those bills died in the House.

It’s not likely that the County has the legal authority to ban anyone from purchasing property here, but they could “disincentivize” such purchases via the property tax structure. In fact, the County already charges local owner-occupied properties the lowest tax rates, while charging investor-owned properties substantially more.

On Kaua‘i, the owner-occupied “Homestead Rate” rate is $3.05 per thousand dollars of valuation. For an identical property owned by an “investor”, not rented out at recognized affordable rates, perhaps left empty, or used only part-time, that “Residential Investor Rate” would be $9.40.

With an “effective tax rate” of .28% Hawaiʻi is considered to have the lowest property tax rates in the entire United States. In comparison with other high property value areas, Washington DC is.56%, California is .76%, and New Jersey is 2.49%. (source wallethub.com) Note: This is based on averaged statewide data for general comparison use only.

In Japan, the standard municipal property tax is levied at 1.4% on the assessed value of the land or building.

Clearly, the tax rates for investor-owned properties throughout Hawaiʻi could be substantially increased and still remain within the norms of other areas.

No one is fleeing our shores at the moment because their investor-owned property taxes are too high. The fact is wherever those investors are from, it’s a place that has significantly higher property taxes than Hawaiʻi has.

So what are we waiting for? Our part-time resident and investor friends utilize County services AND the additional funds raised could be dedicated to the development of affordable housing for local residents. In addition, demand from the insatiable investor market drives up the cost of real estate for the rest of us.

There are already mechanisms in place to protect owner-occupied properties and to incentivize affordable rental properties. These programs and others could be expanded.

If the higher investor tax rates cause investor activity in residential real estate to slow down, most would say that would be a good thing. Not such a good thing of course for the person selling the property. The builder and the workers constructing the luxury estate home also may have less work available, unless that was balanced out by an increase in affordable construction.

Let’s be real. The truly rich will keep buying property here even if their property taxes go up substantially. We might as well reap the benefits, charge what the market will bear, and shift those funds into high-quality, affordable homes for local residents.

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Oʻahu and Kaua‘i friends: Wednesday 04/13 is a big day. Don’t miss it.

Please take the time to show up.

That’s who wins you know. The people that show up.

On Kaua‘i at 6pm, there is a “must-attend” virtual panel and community discussion on what’s happened, what’s happening, and what still needs to happen with regards to climate change in Hawaiʻi.

In 2017 we became the first state to enact a law that aligned with the Paris Agreement. In 2021 Hawaiʻi became the first state to pass a Climate Emergency Resolution. What’s our Climate Action Plan in 2022 to back up these bold moves?

The discussion starts at 6pm. Register to attend at: https://bit.ly/climatelegislation

According to The Garden Island newspaper –

“The county’s four state lawmakers will tackle climate legislation and questions from their constituents at this Wednesday’s virtual Kaua‘i Climate Action Forum at 6 p.m.

The virtual event comes as the state Legislature’s 2022 session draws to a close, and one year after Hawai‘i became the first state in the nation to pass a climate emergency resolution.

Now, the forum’s hosts — environmental groups Kaua‘i Climate Action Coalition, Zero Waste Kaua‘i and the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation — want to know what happens next.”

On Oʻahu –
Labor for Living Wages Rally @ State Capitol

Wednesday, April 13, 10 a.m.–Noon
Join Hawaiʻi’s labor unions and Raise Up Hawaiʻi supporters and rally at the Capitol in support of a strong minimum wage!

Add your body and your voice to send legislators a message they cannot ignore.

$18 by 2026 and elimination of the tip penalty is the demand.

All are welcome! A limited number of printed signs will be available on-site, but we encourage you to bring personalized ones if possible.

Wear Red! Sign, or no sign – Please just show up! Your body and your voice are important.

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Telling Stories: GMO, Pesticides, and the Hawaiʻi Kai connection

Jeff asked me to tell my story about Bill 2491 and our fight against the 4 largest chemical companies in the world. He wanted to know how it started and of course how it ended.

Jeff Gere, a Hawaiʻi storyteller known internationally for his creativity, put together this 3-part ECO-TOUR of HAWAIʻI – for the recent National Storytelling Network “Earth Up” Virtual Conference.

Gary Hooser vs. GMO Pesticides (20 min.)
Eco-Disasters & 2 Oahu Heroes (14:30)
Ha’ena Reclaims Itself (3 voices, 22 min.)

He asked me for the story, so I gave it to him.

I sat in my backyard on Kaua’i with Master Storyteller Jeff Gere and videographer extraordinaire Robert Zelkovsky and told them my story. Jeff prompted me with questions along the way, but mostly he just let me unload my thoughts and memories. He then took the nearly two-hour recording and condensed it into a concise 20-minute video: Gary Hooser vs. GMO Pesticides (20 min.)

It’s a tale told through my eyes, my memory, and my experiences of the time. It’s safe to say there are thousands of other stories from those who marched, who testified, and who spent many hours and days of their lives engaged in this monumental effort. It is a story shared by many.

On June 20, 2013, the now-infamous Bill 2491 addressing the health and environmental impacts of the agrochemical/GMO companies based on Kaua’i, was introduced before the Kaua’i County Council by myself and the late Councilmember Tim Bynum.

The following 6 months were probably the most intense, the most challenging, and the most fulfilling of my political life. The work and the fight continues, but those first 6 months were life-changing.

We won and we lost, and then we won again.

The effort started with only a handful of people on the ground, holding signs on corners and meeting in small groups in living rooms and coffee shops. It grew into thousands marching in the streets.

Due to the work of many, there are now modest buffer zones preventing the application of Restricted Use Pesticides on lands bordering schools. There are also requirements for full disclosure of every application of Restricted Pesticide Use – on all islands. The neurotoxin chlorpyrifos has been banned, as has atrazine. And public schools now have a policy banning the use of herbicides on school property.

The stories you tell are the stories you become, and the work of course goes on. Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and Dupont have all changed their names, but they and others, continue to develop, sell, and apply toxic chemicals on lands throughout the islands.

Monsanto has pled guilty to felony charges of knowingly using banned toxic chemicals on Oahu and Maui. Syngenta likewise was found guilty of poisoning their field workers on Kauai.

Yet the Hawaiʻil legislature continues to resist further attempts to increase regulation over the industry. The Chair of the State House Committee on Agriculture, Representative Mark Hashem, refuses to even schedule a hearing on increasing fines and penalties for pesticide misuse. Nor would he hear a bill proposing to increase pesticide buffer zones around schools.

However, he accepts campaign contributions from Bayer (Monsanto), a convicted corporate felon who knowingly used banned toxic pesticides, putting workers and residents at risk.

Fortunately, Rep. Hashem has an opponent in the upcoming August 13 primary election. She is a long-time resident of the district and shares our concerns as to the need for increased regulation of the agrochemical industry. She also believes in supporting responsible development, protecting our environment, improving our schools, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and addressing the ongoing water crisis caused by Red Hill which affects all of Oahu

Her name is Kathy Feldman https://www.kathyforhawaii.com and I strongly encourage all who are as outraged and as frustrated as I am – to support her today. An online contribution of any amount I am sure would be most welcome. If you live in ʻĀina Haina or Hawaiʻi Kai or have friends that live in the area, please reach out directly to her and volunteer.

We need Kathy Feldman to win.

Sincerely,
Gary Hooser
* Written just prior to Bill 2491 It’s Not About Eating The Corn
* A short review of the SB3095 (post-Bill 2491) victory. This Is What Democracy Looks Like
* The most recent update on industry status. GMO Industry Footprint Shrinks By 50%

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Essential information for candidates – dry but not horribly so

Today’s missive is about the reality of a primary election in which voters start casting ballots in less than 100 days. That’s right, on or about the first week in July overseas absentee voters will get their ballots, and then shortly thereafter every voter in Hawaii will get their ballot in the mail as well.

If you are a political junky, candidate, or one of those very special people who are helping candidates read on. The rest of you will likely want to turn the page.

For new candidates – I suggest you get moving, get those signs and banners up, and start knocking on doors.

I speak of course to the all-important primary election which is a make-or-break moment for legislative candidates in the House and Senate. For nonpartisan council races, the campaign for many continues on to the general election of November 8th.

Below is a calendar of key dates, election facts, and some historical data mixed together with just light touch of opinion and friendly editorializing.

May 5th – Legislative session ends

Voters and various advocacy organizations will begin preparing their “legislative scorecards” intended to inform voters about legislator actions and inactions. SuperPacs will likewise now begin to prepare their “hit pieces” in anticipation of attacking candidates they hope to defeat, who have failed to live up to their promises.

June 7 – Candidate filing deadline

All serious candidates should have already filed long before this. Candidates filing on the final day will often be those playing games. One such game involves the long-time incumbent announcing on this date they will not be running for reelection. A family member or favored friend then shows up and files on this same day – and as a result, runs unopposed.

June 29 – Deadline for Clerk’s Offices to mail ballots to overseas voters

This means ballots must be printed and prepared for mailing in 22 very short days. An ambitious timeline to say the least. It also means that people start voting in the first week of July.

July 26 – The latest day that voters can receive their Primary Election ballots in the mail. The law says ballots must be received at least 18 days prior to the election.

It’s important to note that this date refers to the final day ballots must be received and NOT the date when most will actually be received.

In 2020, primary election ballots were mailed out to voters on July 14. Consequently, some residents began casting their votes as early as July 17th and 18th, a full three weeks prior to the August 8th 2020 primary.

Of the 406,425 people who voted in the 2020 Hawaii primary election, 400,952 cast their vote using a mail-in ballot. While some preferred to drive their ballot to the elections office to drop it off in person, the majority voted from home via mail.

Pew Research analyzed national voting patterns for the 2020 general election and reported that 76% of mail-in ballot voters returned their ballots at least a week before Election Day.

51% of all registered voters turned out to vote in the 2020 primary election.

Translation: 388,058 ballots were literally left on the table. They presumably simply sat on kitchen tables or in a pile of unopened mail until they were lost or thrown away.

It gets worse, or better if you’re a candidate seeking opportunity. 30% of eligible voters in Hawaii are not even registered, adding several hundred thousand more untapped votes on to that same proverbial kitchen table.

August 1 – Voter service centers open and same-day voter registration begins.

Those voters who prefer to not mail in their ballots may personally drop off ballots and or vote in person. In addition, Hawaii first-time voters may simply walk into the voting center, register, and then vote.

August 13 – Primary election day or the final day to vote

Candidates – this is where you go to find out more: https://elections.hawaii.gov/candidates/candidate-filing/

And, if you hope to be successful, I suggest you not dally further.

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