Tag Archives: “Hawaii State Legislature”

Hawaii Senate Informer: Life of a Bill

Our Senate Minority Videographers produced this informative video on the process of a bill from introduction, to hearings, to crossover, and passage at the legislature and ultimately into law if enacted by the Governor. Some bills are also vetoed.

Lawmakers from Alaska, Puerto Rico and Hawaii Report on the Impact of the U.S. Ship Build Requirement of the Jones Act

Hawaii State Legislators meet with their counterparts in Alaska and Puerto Rico to discuss the restrictive Jones Act.

Click here for downloadable MP3 audio file.

State Instrument Debate Highlights First Crossover Session

By State Senator Sam Slom (R)

DBEDT Business Day @ The Capitol

The most debated item of the March 4 bill crossover vote focused on whether or not the ukulele should be declared the official State Instrument (SB 3107). While the ukulele seems to be a worthy nominee as state instrument, several senators including myself mentioned that the ukulele was imported to Hawaii from Portugal, even though today it is widely regarded as a mainstream component for Hawaiian music.

I mentioned the nose flute as a possible, made in Hawaii instrument, while Senator Rosalyn Baker advocated for the steel guitar and Senator J. Kalani English spoke highly of the pahu drum. The bill passed 17 to 7. I voted “with reservations.”

The ukulele bill was a convenient sideshow to more important issues and legislation that was voted on Tuesday.

Senator Sam Slom

The bill to raise the minimum wage will have long-lasting consequences for the economy, future employment and business. SB 2609 will raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $10.10. The minimum wage is a “training wage” and most people get paid well above the minimum. Read the attached article on page 4. SB 2609 passed with a vote of 24 to 1, I being the lone opponent.

More than 300 bills were up for vote. The following is a list of bills that I voted “no” on:

SB2497: Increases fees for tobacco retailers

SB2886: Income Tax; Conformity to the Internal Revenue Code for 2013

SB2609: Minimum Wage increase; Tip Credit

SB2222: Prohibits sale of flavored tobacco Products

SB3041: New tax on small breweries or brewpubs

HB2281: Office of the Governor; Emergency Appropriation

SB2303: Fireworks; Permit Fee; Increase

SB2857: Recycling; Electronic Devices; TVs

SB2073: Collective Bargaining Cost Items; Bargaining Unit (6); Appropriations (this is one of several public union cost item bills, all of which I voted “no” on)

SB2454: Genetically Modified Organisms; Task Force; Regulation

SB2768: Kindergarten; Early Learning; School Readiness; Individualized Assessments; Appropriation

SB2436: Transit-Oriented Development Advisory Committee (WR*)

SB2437: Rail Transit; working groups; state agencies near train stations

SB2196: Energy; Barrel Tax; Energy Systems Development Special Fund

SB2234: Child care licensing exemption for private schools

SB2496: Tobacco Products; Cigarette and Tobacco Tax; Hawaii Cancer Research Special Fund

SB2855: Appropriation for the Dept. of Health Developmental Disabilities Division for the Compact of Free Trade population

SB2344: Over $500,000 appropriation for a Climate Change committee

SB 2731: New tax on car sharing

SB 2550: U.H. Hilo College of Pharmacy special fund

SB 2704: Overtime compensation for public works construction contracts

SB 2761: Disputed roads, county surcharge (tax)

SB 2858: Establishment of Office of Environment Information and Management

SB 2139: 990 student instructional hours

SB 2246: Appropriations for claims against the state

SB 1227: Mandated coverage for brain injury

SB 702: Internet crimes against children; “Alicia’s Law”

Voting on seven additional bills that were amended on the floor March 4 commenced today. These bills included the following that I also voted “no” on:

SB 2054: Mandatory health coverage for autism

SB 2495: Definition of electronic smoking device as a tobacco product and the establishment of an excise tax on such products

All Senate bills passing third reading by March 6 crossed over to the House. Several hundred House bills have crossed to the Senate, where both sides will commence hearing these bills, referred to subject matter and funding committees.

More information on third reading bills are online at:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov

Originally published in the Diamond Head, Kapahulu, St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Report #5 newsletter. 3-13-2014

Unanimous “Ayes” for Governor’s Health Nominees

Nomination

The Committee on Health voted unanimously in favor of the appointment of Linda Rosen to fill the remaining term as Director of the Department of Health, as well as 18 additional gubernatorial nominees for various health care agencies.

Nomination

All testimony was in support, or strong support, of GM 560 through GM 576, plus GM 511 and the Rosen nomination, GM 578. Nominees present (see photo collage) included retired Judge Sandra Simms and Benjamin Park for the State Council on Mental Health, Frederick Shaw and Emelyn Kim for the West Oahu Subarea Health Planning Council, Kathleen Clark for the Kauai Subarea Health Planning Council, and Antonette Torres for the Board of Directors of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation.

State

Sandra Simms voiced her intention to curtail the stigma of mental health issues. Benjamin Park intends to fix systemic issues with public housing. Emelyn Kim intends to focus on the importance of home care and family caregivers. After 39 years as an RN focusing on rural medicine and community health, Antonette Torres is seeking “upstream approaches” as Hawaii’s community health model transforms.

Nomination

Linda Rosen was thanked by Chair Green for her willingness to serve the rest of Director Fuddy’s term after unexpected tragedy. Keith Yamamoto, who has known Linda for a long time, spoke of her as an efficient proponent of emergency care and an excellent pediatrician, and commended her for being “willing to do this … it’s a tough job.” Other supporters mentioned how she is always “touching the lives of the most vulnerable.”

As Director, Linda Rosen is committed to protecting “the right to have a healthy life.” Disease prevention, highest quality service, person-centered planning, and environmental protection will top her list. More strong support was voiced, including commendations for “visionary leadership,” “brilliant and innovative approaches,” and “understanding the value of data”–with an “amazing capacity to synthesize vast amounts of information” plus “a capacity for bringing people together.”

Linda Rosen and the rest of the nominees will be subject to “Advise and Consent” before a full Senate vote on a date to be announced. Senator Slom voted in favor of all the nominees.

Photos and Text by Lisa Davidson, 2/27/14

Television for “A Better Day” with Senator Sam Slom

A Better Day TV Show Taping

Senator Slom’s guests are staff members Ediana Sallee, Legislative Aide and Chelsea Pelton, UH Intern. Senator Slom and his guests discuss the 2014 Legislative session.

Four Things You Should Know About The Minimum Wage Debate In Hawaii

by Paul Harleman, Senate Minority Budget Analyst

Spurred by President Obama’s State of the Union address, the Hawaii State Legislature is taking another look at the minimum wage debate. Both the State House and Senate have introduced legislation (SB2609 and HB1623) that would not only increase the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $10.10, but would also link the future minimum wage to inflation. As the cost of living and poverty rate increase dramatically, a push for a minimum wage increase is often seen as a viable solution to address the rising level of social and economic inequality in Hawaii. Because of the “populist” nature of the debate, facts and empirical evidence are often overlooked. Consider four key points that are not adequately addressed by the legislature and media.

1.  Raising the minimum wage will benefit fewer than 4% of low-income working families.

Proponents argue that the minimum wage increase is needed to help the working poor, whose purchasing power has largely diminished over the last decade. Despite the noble intention of the Hawaii legislature, careful examination should be given to the true impact that a proposed raise would have on the working poor.

According to the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, (Testimony: SB2609, January 30th, 2013) a total of 14,303 individuals earned $7.25 or less in 2012. If this statistic is adjusted for teenage and part-time employment, the total number of individuals who are working full-time and who are most likely supporting a family amounts to 3,700.

According to the United States Census Bureau Supplemental Poverty Measurement statistics, 231 Hawaii families lived in poverty in 2012. So although the intent of the proposed minimum wage raise is to help the working poor, the facts indicate that the proposal would benefit fewer than 4% of low-income working families.

2.   Raising the minimum wage increases the costs of low-skilled labor by 39%.

Leading economists agree that historically, government mandates to increase the minimum wage have increased the cost of low-skilled labor without any improvements in productivity. Currently, Hawaii employers pay a total of 12 percent in payroll taxes, which include taxes for social security, Medicare, as well as federal and state unemployment contributions. This means that a $1 increase in the minimum wage actually increases the cost of minimum-wage labor for employers by $1.12. Under the current proposal, the minimum wage will increase from $7.25 to $10.10 over a three-year period. Translation:  the annual full-time costs for low-skilled labor (40 hour workweek) will increase by $6,642, which represents a 39% increase. With such a large increase, it remains to be seen how these employers will respond.

According to economic theory, large increases in the cost of labor without offsetting increases in productivity could lead to either higher prices of goods and services or reduced employment. In Hawaii, since minimum-wage workers represent such a small proportion of the labor force, it is reasonable to assume that the adverse economic effects of the minimum wage raise will be limited to specific businesses and industries.

3.  Raising the minimum wage will not lift working families out of poverty.

No empirical evidence in contemporary economic literature suggests that a minimum wage increase will reduce poverty. Multiple studies during the last decade have generally concluded that past minimum wage increases had no effect on poverty. As a public policy strategy, a minimum wage increase could prove successful in improving living standards of low-income working families only if a larger proportion of the minimum-wage earners are members of low-income households. However, since less than 25% of minimum-wage earners are estimated to be heads of households, a minimum wage increase will provide no more than symbolic support to low-income working families.

Over the last decade, the number of people in poverty in Hawaii has increased from 162,142 in 2000 to 231,000 in 2012, according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure. The biggest contributor to this increase is the relatively high cost of living in Hawaii. On average, Hawaii residents pay a greater proportion of their household income on food and rent in comparison to mainland residents. During the same decade, rising costs for food and rent have effectively reduced the purchasing power of all households in Hawaii. Clearly, minimum-wage workers are more affected by their reduced purchasing power. Hawaii has a broader policy problem that is beyond the narrow scope of the current minimum wage debate.  If the legislature is serious about fighting poverty in Hawaii, a broader and more comprehensive discussion is essential. Such a discussion should include a thorough review of the state’s failed housing and development policies, the economic effects of the Jones Act, as well as an analysis of Hawaii’s regressive tax structure.

4.  Raising the minimum wage is expected to reduce teenage employment.

Another overlooked, but important factor is the lack of discussion of the adverse employment effects that a minimum wage raise could have on teenage employment. There is a broad consensus among economic empirical studies that minimum wage raises lead to reduced teenage employment. The estimates indicate that for each 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, teen employment is expected to be reduced by 1 to 3 percent. The current proposal increases the minimum wage by 39 percent over a three-year period. This means that employment among teenage workers is expected to be reduced by 8 percent. This will have an adverse effect on the estimated 1,900 teenagers with minimum-wage jobs. To account for the adverse employment effects for teenagers, the legislature should consider a reduced minimum-wage requirement for teenagers. For example, in the European Union, multiple countries have minimum-wage laws that differ by age. As part of these laws, the minimum wage for workers who are below 18 years old are limited to rates varying from 60 to 80 percent of the prevailing minimum-wage requirement.

minwageConclusion

Although the proposed minimum wage increase is seen as viable solution to poverty and inequality, the evidence indicates otherwise. An increase in the minimum wage would benefit a handful of low-income working families at the expense of teenage workers and small business owners. In reality, the one thing that the minimum wage proposal does accomplish is to effectively divert the political narrative away from the real causes of poverty and inequality in Hawaii.

A Better Day with Senator Slom

In this upcoming episode for February 2014, Senator Slom special guest is Kimberly Kepner Sybounmy, Ph.D. They talk about the legislature and focus on education issues.

Response to Governor Abercrombie’s State of the State:

Governor's State of the State Speech

By State Senator Sam Slom

The Governor’s State of the State will be memorable mostly for its blandness, lack of anything significantly new, and its brevity. It seemed more like a campaign speech than a review of the state of our state.

The Senate Minority appreciates the fact that the Governor emphasized fiscal and tax issues, however we feel he was less than accurate in his presentation. For instance, he took credit for an economic turnaround and the state’s sound fiscal foundation. Yet, we continue to maintain the economy has not turned around. Our residents and small business owners continue to suffer under heavy taxation and governmental regulation and the state still faces a $25 billion unfunded liability.

We think the Senate Minority has offered meaningful bills addressing fiscal integrity, tax relief and citizen empowerment. We look forward to working with the people of Hawaii to strongly advocate for the issues that are most important to them and those which they feel government has not addressed.

 

Senator Slom’s Opening Day Speech

Opening Day 2014 Hawaii State Senate

By State Senator Sam Slom
Hawaii State Senate January 15, 2014. | PDF Link

Senate President Kim, Governor Abercrombie, distinguished former State Senators, guests and overburdened taxpayers of Hawaii, on behalf of the entire Senate Minority, Aloha! The inclusion of our past Senators, in this our 55th anniversary year of Statehood, and the publication of a book of memories, is most welcome.

History, experience and perspective should be important reminders to us as we move forward. Otherwise, we are bound to repeat past mistakes.

Let me acknowledge the passing at the end of December, of Hawaii’s greatest fiscal watchdog, and the taxpayers’ best friend, Mr. Lowell Kalapa of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii. Lowell will be missed during this Session. He helped all of us understand the consequences of government fiscal actions. Many of us are glad that 2013 is behind us, because the year did not live up to expectations of change or measurable improvement and was difficult for our local families and small businesses.

Let me say that I was advised to keep my remarks “light” today and refrain from being too “hard hitting.” Light? That’s not in my DNA. We have serious problems in Hawaii that too many choose to ignore or deny. We must confront and solve them so we can have a better Hawaii for all our citizens. My professional experience and discussions with real people in the marketplace, tell me, despite what some politicians say, Hawaii has not turned an economic corner, our economy has not rebounded, and across the board we are still struggling. Recently, the State Council on Revenues reduced its economic growth projections from 4.1% to 3.3%.

From my perspective, we have become a nation, and a state, of entitlement. Our work incentive, our American individual exceptionalism, have been eroded by a growing clamor by those who think they are entitled to the fruits of other peoples’ labors.

Last week, we noted the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” It is another war, similar to international conflicts and the “war on drugs,” that cost much, but wars we have not won. Since 1964, more than $21 trillion has been transferred in the U.S. from some taxpayers to others thought to be “entitled.” In 1964, approximately 14% of Americans were classified by government as being below the “poverty level.” Today, it is more than 21%. Clearly, government is moving in the wrong direction, creating more poverty.

Money thrown at a problem does not bring positive results. Money without a sound, workable plan and able leadership, results in more failure.

Consider:

Our state’s existing $25 billion unfunded liability.

Providing more subsidies with lack of oversight to our largest energy monopoly, which keeps increasing electricity rates, and experimenting with wind turbines, and undersea cables, instead of deregulating to help consumers.

Allowing even higher salaries, benefits and $10 million more to a deficit ridden UH athletics program. A UH that is proud to have “52% of the students able to graduate in 6 years?”

Spending nearly a million dollars on a “Pono Choices” sex program to teach 11 and 12 year olds how to have sex?

Proposing a 36% pay raise for the Chief Elections Officer who failed miserably during the last election.

Raising motor vehicle fees and taxes while not repairing roads and potholes? Are you serious?

Using $204 million to create a flawed Hawaii Health Connector for Obamacare?

Funding a study on “Global Warming” while the streets, highways and streams of Hawaii are littered with trash and sewage. Are you serious?

Members of the public, who pay our salaries, are fed up. They demand we listen to them and change. We better do so, starting today.

Taxpayer expenditures for welfare and social services exceed expenditures for government education. We must refuse to support those who choose not to work or are financially irresponsible. Leading the nation in food stamps, and welfare subsidies, and being among the top for homelessness, are not badges of honor.

During the Not So Special-Special Session on same sex marriage held in November, 10,000 people came to the State Capitol. Many weren’t registered to vote. Few had been to their Capitol before. In the end, nearly all were disappointed, frustrated, or angry because of the perceived arrogance of their representatives. They felt betrayed.

“Let the People Decide!” was their cry.

Article 1, Section 1 of the Hawaii State Constitution says, “All political power of this state is inherent in the people and the responsibility or the exercise thereof rests with the people. All government is founded on this authority.”

It seems many in government have forgotten that we derive our power from the people.

A state without accountability and lack of consequences sets a dangerous precedent. We need meaningful change and must provide consequences for bad behavior and poor performance in government.

Every year, the Senate Minority has introduced legislation providing the people more empowerment and choices, as well as greater government transparency. This year, we again have introduced measures to allow for Initiative, Referendum, Recall and Term Limits. Hopefully, the people will become more engaged so the Majority will at least hear these measures.

Hawaii requires True Economic Development. Instead of artificially forcing entry and training wages up, and taxing and regulating small business further, we must listen to our local job creators and incentivise them. Those in government who have never met a private payroll shouldn’t be giving their failed advice to businesses and adding more taxes, regulations and employer mandates.

We say everything we do here is “for the keiki.” But is it? With sexual assaults and harm to our children increasing, and more evidence of human trafficking of minors, Hawaii needs more meaningful protection of our keiki. We should start with adoption of Jessica’s Law and harsher penalties for those who hurt or endanger our children.

Our skies may become crowded with drones and unmanned devices. We welcome their positive use but must be vigilant with unlawful government or law enforcement use that violates 4th Amendment Constitutional guarantees. We shouldn’t condone NSA-type spying on law abiding citizens.

I pledge my efforts to support good legislation regardless of who introduces it; to analyze and report honestly on the impact of all bills, to work towards ending Legislative exemptions and to boost transparency.

Let use celebrate our individual, God-given liberty and our ability to change for the better.

Our goal, as I outlined last Session, is not a “New Day,” but, A Better Day. This is not a partisan position. We can navigate a different course. Turn that State Government canoe into the wind and explore the greatness that Hawaii can be. For, We, The People.

God Bless Hawaii, our men and women in the armed forces, and the United States of America. Aloha and Mahalo

Senator Hemmings Guests on “A Better Day”

Former State Senator Fred Hemmings share with Senator Sam Slom in this discussion on recent issues that have come up this past legislative session.

“A Better Day” with Senator Slom streams above as well as on Olelo.org and on the following Olelo Cable TV channels on Oahu:

8/01    Thu    7:00pm    VIEWS 54

8/06    Tue     8:30am    VIEWS 54

8/13    Tue     8:30am    VIEWS 54

8/20    Tue     8:30am    VIEWS 54

8/27    Tue     8:30am    VIEWS 54

9/03    Tue     8:30am    VIEWS 54