On behalf of that man under the bridge

The House of Representatives in Hawaii is essentially telling that man under the bridge – too bad, too sad. Get a second, or third job, or do whatever, just suck it up and stop complaining is the message.

We’ve got ours and we’re going to protect those that have given it to us, so accept your lot in life and keep out of sight, please. As long as you stay out of sight, we will leave you alone but if you start cluttering up our sidewalks, we will be forced to sweep you deeper under that bridge or even further into the woods.

You don’t vote, you don’t pay taxes, and none of your friends are my friends, so take your dirty clothes, your broken down cars, and your family too, and just stay out of the way.

Every legislator working in that big square building called the Capitol will be getting a raise this year, in July to be exact. Their pay will go up by approximately $6,000 per year or $3 per hour.

Yes, their pay is going up but yet they refuse to even schedule a hearing on SB676 which proposes increasing the minimum wage from the existing $10.10 to $12, effective July of 2022. Mahalo to the Senate for passing it out. While it’s not enough, it’s better than nothing which is what the House is saying the working poor deserve.

We’ll take our $3 per hour raise now, this year and in fact, we will even take another $3 per hour in 2024 – but we will give you wretched people nothing.

Why? Because we can, they say with a smirk as they head to still yet another important meeting with important people.

Such is the arrogance of “House Leadership.”

This will be the third year House Speaker Scott Saiki has blocked an increase in Hawaii’s minimum wage.

Representative Richard Onishi, Chair of the House Labor and Tourism Committee has not scheduled a single House bill proposing to increase the minimum wage.

House Leadership is refusing to allow any public discussion of the issue whatsoever.

Finance Chair Sylvia Luke said recently, “It would be more rational for both the Senate and the House to take another look at it next year.”

Not this year says Representative Luke, Saiki, and Onishi. Not in 2019, not in 2020, not in 2021, not in 2022 either.

Let them eat cake and tell them to shut the front door on the way out is the clear and unequivocal message.

The Hawaii State Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) has determined, “A single adult with no children needed to earn an hourly wage of $17.21 in 2018 to be able to meet his/her basic needs and to be economically self-sufficient.”

President Biden, every member of the Hawaii Congressional delegation and almost every single Democrat in the U.S. Congress is fighting for a national $15 minimum wage, and yet Hawaii’s overwhelmingly Democratically controlled State House (47 Democrats to 4 Republicans) is unwilling to give Hawaii’s working people any raise at all.

It’s sad really. It’s sad, it’s unjust, and it’s unacceptable.

If someone works 40 hours a week, they deserve to earn a wage that can provide a dry, safe place to sleep at night. While $12 won’t do that, it’s much better than the $10.10 they get now.

The research is clear and Hawaii’s own recent history proves it to be true. Modest incremental increases in the minimum wage phased in over time, do not result in job losses, increased bankruptcy, or excessive inflation. What actually happens is increased spending that benefits both workers and the economy as a whole.

Hawaii’s workers deserve respect and they deserve a wage increase, just like the entire legislature will be getting this year.

Please take a moment and share your thoughts on this important topic with your own Representative who represents the district where you live and vote. They will no doubt profess support for an increase, and then they will pivot to “But this year is probably not the right year for this to happen.”

Remind them then, that 26 other states are increasing their minimum wage this year. Remind them that they failed to increase the wage in 2019. And remind them also that they themselves are getting a big fat raise this year.

Ask them about that man under the bridge, and tell them that you will be thinking of him when you cast your vote in August of 2022.

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Blowing Smoke On Cannabis Legalization – Pulling back the curtain on SB767

Your calls to Representative Nakashima encouraging him to give a fair hearing to SB767 relating to the legalization of cannabis – definitely worked.

As a result of the many calls that were made to his office, Representative Nakashima is walking back his previous statements, telling people now he will give SB767 “all due consideration should the Health Committee decide to pass it to JHA/CPC …”

For those who may have missed it, according to an article in Civil Beat Hawaii Senate Votes To Legalize Marijuana, Raise Minimum Wage, ”House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Nakashima said he is not inclined to hold a hearing on the legalization bill, which means the measure will probably die for the year.”

So now, today the calls and emails must be made to the Chair of the Health Committee, Representative Ryan Yamane whose contact information is here</a.

Please call/email Rep. Yamane before the end of the day on Wednesday, March 17, and request politely, professionally, and firmly – that he promptly schedule and pass out SB767. Your message can be brief and to the point. I don’t really think you need talking points for this one 😉

It is interesting that the House has decided to refer this measure to the Health Committee. The Senate did not refer the measure to its Health Committee, as it more appropriately fits in the Consumer Protection & Judiciary Committees.

It’s also interesting that when the 2019 decriminalization bill HB1383 was passed in the House, the Health Committee was not involved in the discussion at all. It’s also useful to note that Representative Yamane was one of 16 House members who voted NO on HB1383 which ultimately decriminalized possession of an infinitesimal 3 grams of cannabis.

Though HB1383 passed in 2019 with a supermajority (35/16), Finance Chair Sylvia Luke characterized it as a “close vote” in recent conversations on Civil Beat .

Soooo – If I was a jaded cynic and wanted to speculate on Speaker Saiki’s intent, I would say referring SB767 to the House Health Committee and Representative Yamane, is a move intended to ensure cannabis is not legalized. It adds one more committee to the process, thus one more roadblock to the passage, and it protects Representative Nakashima (his Vice-Speaker) from the political fallout of being blamed for the decision.

A brief political vulnerability analysis, IMHO, warrants this conclusion:

Representative Nakashima represents Hamakua, North Hilo, and South Hilo. The Big Island, in general, is considered “cannabis-friendly.” He has been challenged in several primary elections in recent years, and he has one of the highest percentages of “blank votes” of any House Democrat. When he last ran for reelection, almost half the voters (47.7%) did not vote for him even though his name was the only one on the ballot.

Representative Yamane has served for nearly 18 years has never had a primary challenger. His blank vote percentage when running unopposed is at 25% and he has 3 X the campaign bankroll as Representative Nakashima ($54,000/$12,500). And his district, Mililani, Waipio Gentry, and Waikele is not exactly a hotbed of pro-cannabis advocacy.

Small additional wrinkle: The Health Committee has a total of 8 members. 50% of the committee, Representatives LoPresti, Gates, Tam, and Kapela are members of the “House Progressive Caucus.” It will be interesting to see if they make a formal request to Health Chair Yamane to schedule SB767 for a hearing.

And of course, there is always House Rule 11.3:
“If a chair of a standing committee refuses a request of a majority of the committee members to set for public hearing a bill or resolution referred to the committee, the majority of the committee members may petition the Review Panel established under Rule 2.1(14) to compel the chair to set the bill or resolution for public hearing.”

Contact information for the entire House Health Committee is here. In addition to contacting Chair Ryan Yamane , if you have the time and are motivated to help move this important issue forward, please send a message to each member.

Now you know…while perhaps not the entire story…at least a good chunk of it.

Gary Hooser

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Testimony needed today for Environmental Protection, Criminal Justice Reform, Election Reform, Tax Fairness

Here is a short but long list of important bills that need your/our attention today. Please – Take the time to submit something even if it is short and to the point. This may be the last chance for you to do so and it’s important to show there is strong community support.

And yes, if you happen to miss the “24 hours in advance” deadline, it’s ok. The testimony will be marked “late” but it will still be included in the public testimony file and committee members will still be provided a copy.

So please join me if you can! Most of you know the routine but for the “newbies”…just go to https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov and “register” at the top or “sign-in” if already registered. Next: Either click on testimony, enter the bill # SB### (no spaces), and follow instructions. Or, if you would like to read more about the bill first, then enter the Bill # in the “Bill Status” spot on the main https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov page and use the testimony link found there to submit.

Please take the time to figure it out – it’s easy really. Once you are registered and use the system once or twice, it’s really quite easy to maneuver.

Bills/Resolutions To Support

HR131 AND HCR155 – URGING THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY TO RESIST LOCATING THE PROPOSED HOMELAND DEFENSE RADAR-HAWAII WITHIN THE STATE

https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HR&billnumber=131&year=2021

HR104 AND HCR128 – Free and Fair Elections – REQUESTING THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO PROPOSE AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM THAT WILL RESTORE BALANCE AND INTEGRITY TO OUR NATIONAL SYSTEM OF CAMPAIGN FINANCE Support and amending the legislation (HCR128) to call for a limited Article V convention to propose a campaign finance reform amendment that will end the era of Citizens United.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HCR&billnumber=128&year=2021

SB159 – Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) – Automatically registers those who are eligible to vote upon their application for a motor vehicle driver’s license or identification card unless the applicant affirmatively declines.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=159&year=2021

SB335 – Requires the Agribusiness Development Corporation and the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture to annually lease at least 50% of its land to local food production businesses. Though the preference is to abolish the ADC, we are suggesting supporting SB335 with amendments to:
* Mandate the prioritization of regenerative farming operations that utilize soil and water conservation practices.
* Adding a representative of an environmental organization, indigenous farming practitioners, and an organic/natural farmer to the ADC board.
* Require a comprehensive plan for the future of Hawaiʻi’s agricultural lands and overall food system. The planning process must involve small food producers, food systems planners, farmers steeped in organic and natural farming practices, and individuals who partake in Native Hawaiian food systems restoration projects from each island

SB338 – Requires the department of agriculture to establish a 5-year food hub pilot program to increase access to local food.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=338&year=2021

HB576 Allows Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to provide in-clinic early abortions. Provides increased access to reproductive health services for neighbor-island residents.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=576&year=2021

SB1243 – Requires the State to phase out the use of private correctional facilities to incarcerate Hawaii inmates.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=1243&year=2021

SB1260 – Eliminates the use of monetary bail and requires defendants to be released on their own recognizance for traffic offenses, violations, and nonviolent petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses, with certain exceptions.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=1260

Must Read Restore Justice. End The Cash Bail System – Civil Beat
https://www.civilbeat.org/2021/02/restore-justice-end-the-bail-system/

HB433 – Assesses a climate change mitigation impact fee on every customer who rents, leases, or utilizes a rental motor vehicle.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=433

HB767 – Establishes a programmatic goal for the department of education that at least thirty percent of food served in public schools shall consist of locally sourced products
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=767

HB1352 – Requires: (1) an inventory of lands within the State that are leased or controlled by the federal government; (2) any known contaminants or environmental hazards associated with the inventoried lands; (3) proposed alternative uses for the lands; and (4) proposed legislation, based on this information.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=1352

HB243 – Identify existing and planned facilities that are vulnerable to sea-level rise, flooding impacts, and natural hazards; assess mitigation impacts of sea-level rise.
https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=243

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Injustice and hypocrisy at the state legislature

SB676 increasing the minimum wage to $12 has passed out of the Senate and is now awaiting a hearing by Representative Richard Onishi, Chair of the House Labor and Tourism Committee.

Unfortunately, it appears that House Speaker Scott Saiki is going to refuse to even allow a vote on SB676.

As further evidence of Speaker Saiki’s intent, Labor Chair Onishi has not scheduled a single House bill proposing to increase the minimum wage, refusing to even hold a public discussion on the issue.

A third key member of the Speaker’s team, Finance Chair Sylvia Luke has also weighed in opposing increasing the minimum wage saying, “it would be more rational for both the Senate and the House to take another look at it next year,” according to Civil Beat.

Not this year says Representative’s Luke, Saiki, and Onishi.

Yet all three will themselves be getting a pay raise this year.

SB676 proposes a modest increase in Hawaii’s minimum wage from $10.10 to $12 per hour that will not take effect until July of 2022.

So when Representative’s Luke, Saiki, and Onishi say “not this year” they are really saying not next year either. It’s important to note, that they also said “not this year” in 2019 and in 2020.

Yet all three, and the entire legislature will be getting a pay-raise this year – a 10% increase, over $6,000 per year or about $3.00 per hour effective July of this year. Then in 2024, they are slated to get still another $3.00 per hour increase.

The State Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) has determined, (https://files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/economic/reports/self-sufficiency/self-sufficiency_2018.pdf) “A single adult with no children needed to earn an hourly wage of $17.21 in 2018 to be able to meet his/her basic needs and to be economically self-sufficient.”

Yet “Hawaii’s House Leadership” has determined that $10.10 is good enough for 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. President Biden, every member of the Hawaii Congressional delegation and almost every single Democrat in the U.S. Congress is fighting for a national $15 minimum wage, and yet Hawaii’s overwhelmingly Democratically controlled State House (47 Democrats to 4 Republicans) year after year, tell our workers to eat cake at $10.10.

Pandemic or no pandemic – 26 other states are increasing their minimum wage this year. Hawaii needs to be #27.

If you are as angry as I am about this, I hope you will join me in calling out the hypocrisy and injustice of it all.

Please send a message asap, today if possible to Speaker Saiki, Committee Chair Onishi, and Finance Chair Luke. Ask them with “one-click” to schedule a hearing for SB676 and increase Hawaii’s minimum wage to at least $12 in 2022 and include further incremental increases to achieve $17 by 2026.

Even if you have already sent an email in the past, please take this action again today and ensure they get the message. Yes – please send them another message today.

If you prefer to call or send them individual messages, their contact information is here: Speaker Scott Saiki, Finance Chair Rep. Sylvia Luke, and Labor Chair Rep. Richard Onishi.

Thank you for taking the time to stand up and be counted.

Gary Hooser

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Making law in Hawaii via the ballot box

What if Hawaii residents, fed up with the lack of leadership at the state legislature, decided to take matters into their own hands and change the law themselves?

This is the power of citizen initiative. “A process of a participatory democracy that empowers the people to propose legislation and to enact or reject the laws at the polls independent of the lawmaking power of the governing body.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law,

While the Hawaii State Constitution does not provide citizens with the power to pass State law at the “ballot box,” this citizen law-making tool is available at the County level.

Citizens have the right with certain limitations to put on the ballot for a public vote, proposals for both new County ordinances (laws) and/or changes to the County Charter.

Though rarely used, the power of citizen initiative at the County level is potentially a powerful tool.

In theory, citizens could tackle the elephant in the room and limit the growth of tourism.

For example citizens could be asked to vote on a measure that essentially states, “No new lands shall be re-zoned for short-term visitor accommodations, nor shall any residential transient vacation rental permits be issued, until the County has established visitor industry carrying capacity limits via a comprehensive community planning process, and has passed into law appropriate ordinances intended to limit negative impacts on cultural, environmental and other essential community resources/services (roads, housing, emergency services etc.).”

Note to those who enjoy quibbling over words: The exact language of any proposal would require extensive thought and legal review. The examples used here are intended only to be a launching point for further discussion.

Another idea likely to resonate with some: “No agricultural lands shall be converted to any nonagricultural use except those lands that directly abut existing urban areas, are serviced by adequate infrastructure, and developed for affordable housing defined as 100% of median or below.”

It’s unclear whether or not the County has the right to establish a minimum wage that applies to private business within the County. In other municipalities on the continent this is possible, but in Hawaii this power may be reserved to the State.

However, there are always “work arounds.” It may be possible that a citizen based ballot initiative could require that, “The County may contract with and purchase supplies only from entities who pay their Hawaii employees at or above a specified minimum wage.”

On the issue of environmental protection, a ballot initiative could expand on existing law and propose a broad and comprehensive ban on single use plastics or other similar items.

County elections are also fair game to an extent. Do you support Council Districts? Multimember Districts? A County Manager system?

The primary caveat is that any proposed initiative must deal only with issues that fall within the County’s legal authority. For example the County may not pass laws that directly impact public education, airports, courts, harbors, and similar State regulated areas of society.

Generally speaking County ballot initiatives cannot directly spend money, cannot increase taxes and cannot down-zone property. It is my understanding that a ballot initiative may set conditions that legally limit “future up-zoning” and may create new programs/departments that will cost money in the future to implement. However a ballot initiative cannot actually amend the County budget nor directly spend money. Full disclosure: I am not a lawyer and welcome the input of those who know this area of the law better than I.

The challenge is clearly identifying a proposed ballot initiative that:

1) Falls within County jurisdiction and legal limits of ballot initiatives.
2) Creates bold systemic change – It only makes sense to tackle a ballot initiative if the issue/proposal is “big” and enables/creates systemic change that would be unlikely to pass through a normal Council process.
3) Is broad in its impact yet easy to understand.

If there is interest and energy, there is still time. Depending on various factors, the proposal would have to be clearly articulated and legally vetted by August of this year in order to provide the many months needed to gather the signatures and meet the various legal deadline requirements.

The citizen initiative process only happens when citizens take the initiative to make it happen. So…what say you?

Signature requirements per County:

Kauai County
Ordinances: 20% of voters registered in the last general election.
( = 9,450 signatures needed based on 2020)
Charter Amendments: 5% of voters registered in last general election.
( = 2,365 signatures needed based on 2020)

City and County of Honolulu
Ordinances and Charter Amendments: 10% of the voters registered in last regular mayoral election. ( = 55,000 signatures needed based on 2020)

Hawaii County
Ordinances: 15% of total number of persons who voted for the office of mayor in the last election. ( = 13,000 signatures needed based on 2020)
Charter Amendments: 20% of the total ballots cast in the last general election. ( = 17,750 signatures needed based on 2020)

Maui County
Ordinances: 20% of the total number of voters who cast ballots in the last mayoral general election ( = 10,200 signatures needed based on 2018)
Charter Amendments: The Maui charter provides two separate options. The first requires a petition signed by 10% of the voters registered in the last general election. ( = 10,800 signatures needed based on 2020). The proposed amendment is presented to the city council, which votes on whether or not to submit it to an election. The second option is a petition signed by 20% of the voters registered in the last general election ( = 21,600 signatures needed based on 2020). After certification of a 20% petition, the proposed amendment shall be submitted at the next general election.

Note: Persons serious about pursuing a County ballot initiative are advised to read the County Charter, do their own math, and seek legal advice as to process, language and authority.

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Political Labels And The Man Under The Bridge

A “radical centrist” is how I’ve recently taken to describing myself and my politics. Needless to say, I’ve taken flack from progressive friends on the left who see centrists as the enemy, blue dogs, and regressive corporatists in hiding.

I use that label because I can’t believe that values based on equality and fairness are somehow fringe. Bigotry is fringe. Inclusivity and a celebration of our diversity is a value held by most. Ditto to so many other values and goals held by those of us who are too often characterized as being “far left.”

Don’t a majority of us believe that if someone works 40 hours a week, they deserve to earn a wage that can provide a dry, safe place to sleep at night?

Environmental protection, access to healthcare, and taking care of the elderly, the infirm, and the very young – are not radical ideas.

The radical part I suppose is the urgency of now. We want to actually move this agenda forward. Perhaps those on the left feel this more deeply than others. Many I suppose, are more insulated from the hardship and injustice that surround us, view the world through a different lens, and literally may not see the world that we do.

We see the blue skies, the rainbows, and the opportunity that is before us, but we also see that man under the bridge. We drive by him daily and know he is not there by choice. We know he would much rather live like we do, in a house with a roof and a refrigerator with food in it. Some who drive by will mutter that he needs to get a job. But we know there are no jobs for people like him, at least no jobs that pay a living wage.

We see the sea eating away at the side of the road, and we read about the fires and the storms. It’s common knowledge and accepted science that carbon emission from burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of climate change, yet our government does little to nothing. Grand proclamations, yet another task-force, and endless lofty feel-good fake green energy goals will not save the planet. Spoiler alert and our collective dirty little secret: It’s about consumption, not just generation.

There is no shortage of wealth in the world and we live surrounded by abundance. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this abundance is held by less than 5% of the world’s population. Requiring that 5% who have so much more to pay more, is not a radical idea. It’s not communism to require those that use more, consume more, and pollute more – to pay more. It is also not communism to strictly regulate corporations who extract, sell and profit from our planet’s natural resources.

The level of income inequality in the U.S. is higher than all European allies and Canada (G7 nations). According to Pew Research, “The wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled between 1989 and 2016…the top 5% held 248 times as much wealth at the median…”

The money we spend on militarism is obscene. The cost of just the F-35 failed fighter jet program so far is $1,700,000,000 (that is one trillion, seven hundred billion dollars).

The top federal tax rate in the United States in 1960 was 90% and today it’s at 40%.

Again, there is no shortage of wealth.

Most of the moving forward solutions are basic, tried and true, and really not that complicated: Increasing social security, raising the minimum wage, investing in education, expanding affordable healthcare, and increasing taxes on the wealthy. The strict regulation of extractive and environmentally harmful industry must be made a priority and agencies charged with this oversight must put people and the planet above corporate profits.

The Green New Deal has been made into a boogeyman program by those on the hard right, but even a cursory review reveals the great potential it holds for job creation, climate change mitigation, and environmental protection.

There is no shortage of good ideas and solid public policy initiatives that can move us forward. What’s lacking is the political will to buck the fringe on the far right that has claimed the mantel of the centrist. To be clear, the far-right whether they be the entitled, the ignorant, or the uninformed – do not represent the center.

Truth, equality, and justice are the core centrist ideas and values the vast majority of us hold dear. It’s time now, to roll up our sleeves, and radically pursue them. Now. Today.

That man under the bridge will be dead and that road will be gone unless we act soon.

Gary Hooser

First Published in The Garden Island newspaper, March 3, 2021

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Legislative Updates: Cannabis, Criminal Justice, Food/Farms, Reproductive Rights

Aloha Friends,
I wish this were not the case and truthfully the weekend work is wearing on me as well. However, if we do not show up with testimony by Monday morning, we will surely end up paying a price for our neglect. Hence.. here is another “all hands on deck” call to action.

We are approaching the half-way point in the legislative process. House bills are thus in the final House committee and getting ready to pass over to the Senate, and vice versa.

Any bill that does not “cross over” in the very near future, will be dead for this session. Thus, this is the last chance for the very important measures listed below, and your testimony in support is urgently needed.

Committee Hearings Scheduled For
Tuesday
(testimony in SUPPORT needed by 9 am Monday 03/01)

Criminal Justice Reform
SB1260 Eliminates the use of monetary bail for traffic offenses, violations, and nonviolent petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses, with certain exceptions. Must-Read – Civil Beat “Restore Justice: End The Cash Bail System.” ​

Cannabis – Decriminalization, and Legalization
SB758 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=758) – Increases from 3 grams to 1 oz the threshold for decriminalization
SB767 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=767) – Legalizes the personal use, possession, and sale of cannabis

Food/Agriculture
SB335 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=335&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Requires at least 50% of state ag lands leased for local food production

SB337 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=337&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Cover Crop Incentives

SB338 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=338&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Food Hub Pilot Program

SB341 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=341&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Taro Tax Exemptions

SB1251 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=1251&billtype=SB&year=2021) – Farm to School
For bullet point bill descriptions and testimony assistance for all 5 measures, read HAPA – “Support Good Food and Agriculture Bills!” (https://www.hapahi.org/blog/support-good-food-and-agriculture-bills)

Reproductive Health Care For Rural Communities
HB576 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=576&year=2021) Reduces costs and ensures that patients and health care providers are not forced to travel to another island for reproductive health care. See Planned Parenthood Hawaii – bullet points (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sSNAjZHsbPq-Bpo1Z2O4ZRo_nBq9fwEZu06Q0fRjD8U/edit) .

Environmental Protection
SB350 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=350) – Clean water shoreline testing, environmental justice, requires water quality testing, and informing the public of health risks.

HB1352 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=1352) – Requires: (1) Inventory of lands that are leased or controlled by the federal government including surplus military lands; (2) Disclosure of known contaminants or environmental hazards associated with the inventoried lands (3) Proposed alternative uses for the lands

Tax Fairness – Budget
SB56 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=56&year=2021) – A progressive and comprehensive proposal increasing taxes on high earners, corporations, and property speculators, and temporarily removes certain GET exemptions, in order to raise the revenue needed to avoid cuts in social services and environmental protection.

HB290 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=290&year=2021) – Eliminates the weight tax exemption for private vehicles owned by military personnel taxing those vehicles the same as Hawaii resident-owned vehicles.

Special Action Alert from Capitol Watch
Sierra Club of Hawaii
OPPOSE HB1015 by Monday, March 1 (https://www.hawaiicapitolwatch.org/2021-blog/2021/2/23/watch-out-for-these-water-license-bills)
OPPOSE BAD WATER BILL

Update on HB1286 COVID Travel: Blocking County Protections

HB1286 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=1286&year=2021) proposes to strip the County from its ability to set travel rules during the pandemic and implements a one size fits all COVID screening policy. This measure has passed all of its committees in the House and awaits a final floor vote before it crosses over to the Senate for further deliberation and votes. Please contact YOUR district Representative and ask them to vote “NO” on the floor when it arrives there. You can find out who your Representative is and their contact info by going here: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/fyl/

Increasing Hawaii’s Minimum Wage

SB676 (https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=676&year=2021) increases Hawaii’s minimum wage from $10.10 to $12 effective July 1, 2022. This is a modest but good step in the right direction, and certainly nothing business needs to fear.

Regardless of which island you live on, please help send a strong message of support to YOUR district Representative and Senator today if you can. It’s easy. IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY DONE SO – PLEASE Just go to this simple “one-click form” (https://p2a.co/D1SMTxU) and voila, the Representative and Senator who represent you and your district will receive a message indicating your support.

Hawaii has the highest cost of living, yet 20 states have a higher minimum wage.

Pandemic or no pandemic, the minimum wage is going up this year in 26 other states. Our frontline workers who literally slave away at minimum wage jobs in stores, offices, and fast-food restaurants across the state – deserve a raise.

While $12 in 2022 is a good start, we continue to encourage legislators to amend SB676 to include an incremental phased-in increase to $17 in 2026.

Kuleana Academy Leadership Development

Perhaps the most important action of the day: Regardless of where you live in Hawaii, if you have roots within your community, have a burning desire to make our world a better place, believe in putting people and the planet ahead of corporate profits, and have some track record of community involvement (not just talking about it on FaceBook) – please consider applying to the Kuleana Academy (https://www.hapahi.org/kuleana) .

Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) is now accepting applications for the 6th Kuleana Academy. This is a five-month political leadership development and non-partisan candidate training program for emerging leaders in Hawai‘i. Watch this short video and apply here (https://www.hapahi.org/kuleana) .

Other Stuff

Many readers ask me how they can be most effective with the least amount of energy and time. This short blog piece I wrote recently provides that answer: The Political Power You Don’t Know You Have

Please take action and then share this email with your friends and networks. And then, after the work is done, please join me in taking the rest of the weekend off 😉

Yours,
Gary Hooser
http://www.garyhooser.com
Pono Hawaii Initiative
https://ponohawaiiinitiative.org

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Wednesday 2/24 – Please Show Up @ Capitol: Defend and Respect Workers – employed and unemployed

Regardless of where you live, please join us, either virtually or in-person Wednesday February 24 to demonstrate your support and your respect for workers, both the unemployed and those fortunate to still be working.

There are two tracks:

If you live on Oahu, please show up: Meet at the Unemployment Office on Punchbowl Street Wednesday, February 24 at 10:15 am. Then, march to the Capitol for peaceful but determined action in support of workers, Bring your mask and social distance safely, but stand in solidarity with workers across the islands. Bring a sign if you can!

If you live on a neighbor-island, please join in a virtual storming of the gates (even more peacefully) via email, telephone, and social media during this same time period – from 10:15 am until 12:30 pm.

On Maui – Please also join in a coordinated action from 11am until 12:30pm
@ 200 S. High St. Kalana O Maui Bldg, Wailuku
Bring your mask and social distance safely

Our message to legislators and to the governor is simple.

1. Open the unemployment office for in-person service.
2. Increase Hawaii’s minimum wage.
3. Stop taxing unemployment benefits.
4. Support the right of employment recall.
5. Ban forced over-time.

The bottom line message is that Hawaii’s workers, both the employed and the unemployed deserve respect.

It’s true, some workers are forced to work over-time or risk getting fired. It does not matter whether they have children waiting for them at home or not.

It’s also true that some businesses, hotels, resorts, and others are using the pandemic as an excuse to lay off employees that have dedicated 20 and 30 years of their lives to serving that company, cutting off their health insurance and replacing them with new lower-wage workers.

The 590,000 people who have filed for unemployment benefits this past year will soon be sent a bill for the state income tax owed on this income, plus penalties and interest for late payment. The state should of course waive this tax for 2020 and 2021. It’s the least they can do for their gross mishandling of the situation.

Fortunately, the Hawaii State Senate has moved forward a modest increase in the minimum wage, proposing a $12 per hour increase effective July 1, 2022. While far short of the $17 minimum that is needed, it’s a step in the right direction. This measure SB676 must still be scheduled for a hearing in the House and be passed there. It is uncertain at the moment whether or not the House will be supportive.

Hawaii workers deserve respect.

They deserve to be able to go to the unemployment office and speak to someone in person, just the same as someone obtaining a building permit or paying their taxes. Being forced to make endless telephone calls to numbers that are never answered is unacceptable.

There is no good reason that a physical office staffed by real human beings cannot be opened. Our many friends who through no fault of their own have lost their jobs, should be able to meet and discuss with a live human being, face to face, their unemployment application. Every day on every island people are meeting in person to do their banking, accounting, shopping, dine in restaurants and interact with various government agencies.

The unemployed should be granted the same privilege. This of course should be done safely as it is being done in other offices and stores. Prioritize these state employees as essential and make the vaccine available to them if that has not already been done.

If there is a fear that these unemployed individuals who have been waiting weeks, some perhaps months just to get a return telephone call will become irate, that is understandable and expected. While an understandable and rational concern, it’s not sufficient reason to continue keeping unemployment offices closed, statewide. Add security, stagger hours, start with kupuna, or make it by appointment only. But bring in human beings to answer the darn phones and set the appointments.

Enough is enough. The failure to reopen is either due to a lack of resources, a lack of political will, or a lack of respect for workers. The Governor, The Senate President, and The House Speaker have access to the resources, and if they respect and value workers they should marshal the political will – and just do it.

I encourage all to please join in the effort and strongly but courteously demand that the unemployment offices be opened for in-person service and Hawaii’s workers, both the unemployed and those with jobs – be treated with respect.

Please take a moment today and personally call and or email those who are in a position to provide the resources needed. Ask them politely but firmly to take action, demonstrate the political will and show Hawaii workers the respect they deserve.

Please take the time on Wednesday, February 24th, from 10:15 am until 12:30 pm to show up at the Capitol if you can.

If you live on a neighbor-island or otherwise unable to attend, please join in the effort virtually on this same day and at the same time: By sharing the information on social media AND calling and emailing the 3 individuals who have the power to fix this mess and show their respect for workers – IF they have the political will to do so.

Governor David Ige
(808) 586-0034
david.y.ige@hawaii.gov (mailto:david.y.ige@hawaii.gov)

Contact the Governor

Senate President Ronald Kouchi
808-586-6030
senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov (mailto:senkouchi@capitol.hawaii.gov)

House Speaker Scott Saiki
808-586-6100
repsaiki@Capitol.hawaii.gov

As always, your communications should be courteous and professional, but firm.

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The Political Power You Don’t Know You Have

Every day it seems I get an email or call from someone who wants to get involved with legislative advocacy, but they want the process “simpler.” Many just want to “point and click,” send in their testimony and then get back to their life, knowing and feeling good about doing their civic duty. I say mahalo to you all for being willing to give even a small amount of your time for this work. Even short testimonies and brief emails can be impactful when done strategically.

As a member of the public, I’m hoping you will embrace and utilize the political power many of you don’t even know you have. You are not powerless. It may feel that way sometimes but in the world of politics where one vote really does matter, the power is in fact yours to wield…or not.

Every legislator loves serving and wants to continue doing so as long as is humanly possible. This not necessarily a bad thing. If someone is doing their job properly, loves their job, and wants to keep doing that job, this is a natural and positive inclination.

The most important person to any legislator is the person who can help them get elected.
Yes of course I am over-simplifying things. Yes of course issues matter, facts and data matter, and doing the right thing matters. But at the end of the day the question every elected official asks themselves whether consciously or unconsciously is, “Is this decision/vote going to help or hurt my re-election?”

The vast majority of votes cast daily by legislators are routine, mundane, tedious, and housekeeping in nature. However, many inevitably rise to a level of community importance so as to become political hot potatoes. Some legislators embrace and live for these moments and others fear and hide from them. This is when the voice and testimony of constituents who live in the district carry the most weight.

To be absolutely clear: The opinions of people offering testimony or sending in email on an issue who live in the legislator’s district matter more than people writing the same exact words who live elsewhere.

To take it a step further, if you live in the legislator’s district and if you are active in politics and campaigns, you have more influence than almost anyone else. The legislator needs and wants your vote, and he/she definitely does not need or want your opposition whether it be you running for office against him/her or you helping someone do the same.

All testimony is important, but not all testimony is equal. If you happen to live in a district represented by a legislator who is also Speaker of the House, Senate President, Majority Leader or the Chair of a major committee – then your voice is even more impactful than others.

But in order to use your power, you must first know who your district Senator or Representative is! More importantly, they must know who you are. To accomplish this, you must begin a dialogue with them, and there is no better time to start than now.

This is the place anyone who aspires to affect the public policy process should start. Find out who your district Senator or Representative is, send them an email introducing yourself, and let them know what issues/bills are important to you. Ask about their position on bills and gently but specifically request a reply.

If they fail to reply send them a follow-up and make sure they know that you live in the district. Of course, all communications should be polite and professional, and you probably should acknowledge that you know how busy they are, but that you would appreciate a response. This is where it all starts. This is how a relationship with YOUR Senator and Representative begins.

So if you are too busy to follow the process and read all the bills, just start by emailing YOUR legislator requesting they support/oppose whatever bill that might be important to you. They may or may not sit on the committee that will “hear” the bill, but they still must/should have a position on the measure and will likely have to vote on it at some point in the process.
To find out who exactly YOUR district Senator and Representative is AND to get their email and phone # – use this handy tool provided on the Capitol website https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/fyl/ Just put in your address and voila! The information you need will appear.

AFTER communicating with YOUR legislator, please also submit formal testimony on the bills when they are scheduled. It’s easy, and if you need help just ask YOUR legislator’s staff for guidance!

For more read: Lessons from the Ledge – An almost complete primer on how things really work at the legislature

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Abolish the ADC – All State Owned Agricultural Lands Should Grow Food For Local Consumption

Your testimony is needed NOW!

Please testify in strong support of BOTH HB1271 and SB335.

HB1271 Abolishes the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) and transfers its responsibility and budget to the Department of Agriculture. HB1271 is scheduled for a hearing before the House Agriculture Committee this Friday at 10 am. Testimony is due ASAP and prior to the hearing (late testimony is better than no testimony). See here for info: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=1271&year=2021

SB335 mandates the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) lease out at least 50% of its land to farmers and ranchers whose business is “local food production.” SB335 is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee this Friday at 3 pm. Testimony is due ASAP and prior to the hearing (late testimony is better than no testimony). See here for info: https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=335&year=2021

Why does there need to be a law requiring the agency (ADC) managing State agricultural land to actually lease that land for local food production? The answer: According to a recent State audit the ADC’s management has failed miserably over the past nearly 30 years.
Read Audit Here: https://auditor.hawaii.gov/summary/report-no-21-01-audit-of-the-agribusiness-development-corporation/

The ADC in my opinion should actually be abolished but until then it needs to be tightly controlled – and there needs to be a mandate to lease these state agricultural lands to farmers and ranchers who actually grow food for local consumption – regardless as to whether they are managed by the ADC or the DOA.

The ADC manages over 22,000 acres of state-owned agricultural land, most of which is located on Kauai and central Oahu. The vast majority of this land is not used to produce food, certainly not food for local consumption. Spoiler alert: The large fields of corn you see are mostly “seed corn”  grown by agro/chemical companies, intended for export, and used to produce ethanol, cattle feed, and high fructose corn syrup. No one actually eats this corn.

🌱A state audit recently revealed that throughout the entirety of its 27-year existence, the ADC has failed to accomplish much of its mission aside from acquiring large acres of land.

🌱The special powers and exemptions granted to the ADC have led to an opaque and unfair leasing process. Small farmers and ranchers have been denied leases with no justification.

🌱Instead of being used for local food production, the majority of ADC lands are currently being leased to agrochemical companies for experimentation and GE seed crops for export.

🌱Mismanagement of ADC lands and a lack of accountability has led to lawsuits, Clean Water Act violations, and other illegal activities on ADC lands that create liabilities for the government.

🌱The results of the audit show that the corporation is incapable of carrying out its basic statutory responsibilities and functions. It also shows that they’re unable to fulfill the recommendations contained in the auditor’s report. Therefore, the ADC should be dissolved.

🌱Lawmakers should prioritize regenerative farming operations on state agricultural lands that utilize soil and water conservation practices. These farming practices provide additional environmental benefits such as improved soil health and preventing run-off.

🌱A stakeholder engagement and planning process is needed so Hawai’i’s agricultural lands can be utilized for sustainable, local food.

Testifying Is Easy
I encourage all to be involved and take action. All you need to know about submitting testimony, tracking bills and contacting your legislator can be found at https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov  Just register, plug in the bill # (HB### or SB###) and you are good to go.

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