A diverse group of community and environmental activists gathered at the State Capitol on April 9 to speak out and persuade legislators not to support bills that circumvent environmental review processes. Most of the bills, including SB 755 which I and several senators initially supported as a tax incentive measure, was gut and replaced to become a vehicle for the state and county governments to use to circumvent the environmental review process.
This bill along with HB 2927, HB 2398 and HB 2819 have all been crafted to circumvent the process, mainly to enhance Transit Oriented Development (TOD) for heavy rail. I’ve voted against all of these bills. The four bills are in conference committee.
Public testimony against the bills have been submitted along with nearly 600 names through a petition drive. The exemption to environmental review apply only to government projects.
The Friends of the Aina Haina Public Library sought assistance from my office at the beginning of this legislative session in January. This fine 50-year old non-profit volunteer organization, was being intimidated by the “Big” Friends of the Hawaii State Library, and the State Librarian, Mr. Richard Burns, who told them they could not continue their fundraising on library (state) property unless they were part of the FHSL.
There are other Friends’ groups who also were threatened. All they wanted to do was remain independent and continue to support their libraries. My bill, SB 2994, allowed them to do just that.
Unfortunately, there has been an orchestrated campaign of misinformation—and sometimes nasty innuendo— against the independent Friends and legislation to keep them from remaining independent.
This small bill, has grown into a major legislative issue, involving the Senate and the House. Hearings and rulings by the State Attorney General have shown that the State Librarian has been acting outside his scope of authority and that the FHSL, a monopoly organization, can not control non-profit groups.
A full information briefing with the Attorney General and Legislative Auditor, is scheduled by the Senate Education Committee next week.
Meanwhile, my bill was deferred in the House and HB 1054 was amended with the same contents. The Senate passed the bill out with a vote of 22 to 3. HB 1054 is being worked out in conference with a Proposed CD1 in the works. My original bill has spawned this bill and 4 resolutions.
Photo: Some of the core volunteers from the Aina Haina Friends of the Library organization at the Hawaii State Senate gallery. The ladies have been quite vigilant in monitoring the progress of the library bills.
From the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board Report, April 24, 2012.
The plastic bag fee bills are on life support with two bills passed by the Senate failing in the House. SB 2511 and HB 2260 are currently dead after reaching the House Finance committee with no further action taken. However, HB 2483 is the current vehicle that now contains the fee on plastic bags. The bill will go to conference. I voted “no” on all of these bills.
The State Senate confirmed Ted Yamamura and Jonathan Starr to the Commission on Water Resource Management. Both were met with opposition from several environmental groups. Opposition was the greatest for Mr. Yamamura who still passed with a vote of 19 to 6. Dean Seki was confirmed as the State’s newest Comptroller with a 25 to 0 vote. I voted in favor of all 3 nominees at the April 17 floor session.
Congratulations Senate Sgt. of Arms director Ben Villaflor, a former world Jr. Lightwegiht Champion on his appointment to the Hawaii State Boxing Commission.
The State Department of Transportation (DOT) spent $75,000 on an unmanned drone aircraft that was supposed to be used for security over Honolulu Harbor. The drone has never flown. Reason? Not approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Honolulu Harbor is in the flight route of Honolulu International Airport.
I will be speaking at the May 8 East Oahu Breakfast Club from 7:00 am to 8:15 am at the Hawaii Kai Retirement Center on Kawaihae Street.
The State Senate passed the $11.162 billion Supplemental Budget bill (HB 2012 HD1 SD1) 24 to 1 during the crossover voting session held in the State Capitol on Tuesday, April 10.
Senator Slom was the lone dissenting vote on the budget saying that there should be cuts in spending.
The House Draft of the State Budget shows that several areas take up whopping amounts of funding of nearly or more than $2 billion each — Dept. of Education ($1.824 Billion), Dept. of Human Services ($2.3 billion), Dept. of Health ($1.5 billion) and the Dept. of Budget & Finance ($1.82 billion), from which the Employeeʼs Retirement System (ERS) and the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) is administered.
The State Constitution mandates a balanced budget and like last year, this yearʼs budget will not be balanced without mandating cuts in spending or increased taxation, which I oppose.
The latest Council of Revenue projections from March 7 shows an optimistic growth in tax collections of 11.5%. The rosy projection is still short of the 14.5% used when the budget was submitted by the Governor. My office predicts single digit growth in tax revenue.