Tag Archives: Senator Slom

Senate Minority Alternative Budget Update

The following information relating to the Senate Minority Alternative Budget now takes into account the Senate Draft (SD1) of HB 200, which is now going through the conference committee process.

1. Current Budget Drafts – Biennial Appropriations for the Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015.

Table 1

Table 1: 1. Current Budget Drafts – Biennial Appropriations for the Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015.

2. Graphical Representation of each Budget Draft

Table-2

3. Potential Impact on Taxpayers

During the next two weeks, as part of the conference committee process, the House Finance committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee will attempt to reconcile the differences of their respective State Operating Budget drafts. In addition to the budget, the current conference committee discussions also address some very important proposals. These important legislative proposals such as collective bargaining, early childhood education and mandatory contributions for the state employee’s health insurance fund, forebodes the average taxpayer in Hawai’i to evaluate how these measures impact their Hawai’i and the Hawai’i of future generations.

The following table highlights what the additional tax burden would be for each average family in Hawai’i under each respective budget draft:

Table 3

This table highlights what will happen if the state would pay for the annual required contribution for the state employee’s health insurance fund, the additional payroll for collective bargaining, and the future long-term costs for early childhood education.  These payouts highlight what the potential fiscal burden would be for each family in Hawai’i. This comes to an additional $646 or $1,195 in taxes per family in order to sustain the operating expenditures under both the House and Senate budget draft.

It is clear that Hawaii’s current path is unsustainable. The only budget that does not rely on any future tax and fee increases, in order to sustain current operating expenditures, is the Senate Minority Alternative Budget. Even with adjustments for collective bargaining and early childhood education, the Senate Minority Alternative Budget leaves the state treasury with a general-fund surplus of $463.4 million. This surplus could be used to lower the tax burden for Hawaii’s’ struggling taxpayers with as much as $1,040 per family.

Notes

[1] Annual Required Contribution to pay off the unfunded liability for the state employee health insurance fund: $500 million.

[2] Additional estimated biennial costs for collective bargaining: $177 million.

[3] Estimated long term annual operating costs for early childhood education: $100 million.

GMO Food Labeling – HB 174 Deferred

GMO Food Labeling Hearing

By State Senator Sam Slom

House Bill 174 – GMO food labeling – Imposing labeling requirements and import restrictions on imported genetically engineered produce was heard on Thursday, March 21.The bill authorizes labeling of non-genetically engineered food. HB 174 was not going to be heard until Senate leadership changed their minds at the last minute and assigned it to the Agriculture, Consumer Protection and Health Committees on March 19, two days before the double referral deadline. The hearing was held 2 days later in the morning for 2 hours starting at 10:00 a.m.

Hundreds of people lined up to testify at the hearing, only to see the bill deferred by the end of the day. A Senate Concurrent Resolution will commission further study on the issue of food labeling.

I did not support this version of the GMO food labeling bill after the State Attorney General issued an opinion that “GMO labels have been pre-empted by the federal government,” it violates both the First Amendment (commercial free speech), and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

The Hearing on GMO Food Labeling

Senator Slom would have had 3 “no” votes on HB 174 had the bill come to a vote. The reason? Senator Slom is a member of all Senate committees and thus eligible to vote in this case in Agriculture, Consumer Protection and the Health Committees. He is shown at the HB 174 hearing with majority Senators Baker, Nishihara and English.


March 27 – Floor Action: Session Day #39

The State Senate passed 7 House Bills on a number of subjects. Senator Slom voted in favor of all of them except for HB 848 HD2 SD1, which is an “Obamacare” bill on health insurance. The Hawaii Primary Care Association testified that in the first draft of the bill, “small employers were listed as those having 100 employees or less. Under the most recent House Draft, that number was lowered to 50, a figure that does not coincide with federal requirements under the Affordable Care Act…”

The 50 employee figure is still retained in the Senate draft. The bill will go to conference committee.


March 25Floor Action, Session Day #38

Senate Honors 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Ten World War II soldiers from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were recognized by the Hawaii State Senate on March 25 during the regular floor session held in the Senate Chamber. The group of combat veterans accepted a framed certificate on the commemoration of the regiment’s 70th Anniversary. Photo by the Hawaii Senate Majority office.

The Senate also confirmed 2 individuals:

GM 667Curtis Saiki to the Board of Taxation Review, 1st District

GM 702Jose Diogo  to the Board of Taxation Review, 4th District

The Senate also passed HB 776 HD2 SD1 (Government Tort Liability) on a floor amendment motion that was approved at the previous session (Day #37). The vote was unanimous at 22 – 0 with Senator Slom voting with the majority.

Bills to Repeal the PLDC Move Forward

PLDC Rally

Two bills aimed at abolishing the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) have progressed through the legislature this week. SB 707 SD2 which “repeals chapter 171C, HRS, relating to the PLDC…” passed out of the Economic Development, Government Operations & Housing (EGH), Water & Land (WTL) and Ways & Means (WAM) committees this week to set the bill up for a full Senate floor vote (Third Reading) next Tuesday, February 19 at 11:30 am. Everyone is invited to the Senate Gallery on bill voting day.

Senator Sam Slom voted in the affirmative on the bill to repeal the PLDC in all 3 committees – EGH, WTL and WAM. He will be voting in favor of the  measure when it comes up for third reading on Tuesday.

The State House of Representatives voted to pass HB 1133 which also “repeals the Public Land Development Corporation” on a third reading floor vote of 49 to 0 on February 14. That bill has crossed over to the Senate.

FLOOR ACTIONS (Feb. 13, 14, & 15)

Senate Session Day 20: Senator Slom acknowledged in a short floor speech on Feburary 15 that 1/3 of the 60-day legislative session passed with no meaningful bills enacted. The following bills were passed on Third Reading votes: SB 913 (Time Shares, discolosures); SB 507 (Community Associations); SB 531 (Warning signs / alcohol consumption); SB 404 (Corrections Population Management Commission); SB 886 (Constitutional Amendment question to increase the mandatory age of retirement for State Judges and Justices). Senator Slom voted with the majority on all bills, 22 – 0 (3 excused). Senator Slom also awarded Senator Russell Ruderman with the “Tie of the Month” award.

The Hawaii State Senate Confirms Ted Sakai as Director of the Department of Public Safety

Senate Session Day 19: The State Senate advised and consented the appointment of Ted Sakai as the Director of the Department of Public Safety (GM 582). The Senate also passed the following bills on Third Reading: SB 1001 (Enhanced 911 Board); SB 1230 (Government Motor Vehicles); SB 1079 (Health Insurance); SB 1075 (Physical Therapy) and SB 423 (In Vitro Fertilization insurance coverage). All measures passed with a vote of 24 to 0, Senator Slom voting in the affirmative. (Photo from Senate Communications office)

Senate Session Day 18: Two bills were passed by the Senate on Third Reading; They were SB 1014 (Forensic Identification); and SB 1015 (Production of Records; Out of State Process). Both bills unanimously passed third reading 25 to 0.

FROM THE FIELD: SB 789 DEFERRED

SB 789 Was scheduled to be voted on today (Feb. 13) in the education committee. This bill would allow home schooled students to participate on an equal basis in extracurricular activities offered at the public school they would otherwise be required to attend.  Senate Education Chair Jill Tokuda recommended that they turn the bill into a resolution creating a task force made up of various interest groups i.e. Teachers, principals, parents of home schoolers etc. They would be charged with researching how school districts throughout the US are dealing with this subject and come up with recommendations and solutions to present to the Legislature before next year’s legislative session.  - Colleen Rose Meyer

QUICK TAKES

Meeting with Lanai Island Community Members

Meeting with Lanai Island Community Members

Senator Slom offered words of advice in regards to keeping vigilent on issues this group from Lanai are concerned with. They came to discuss the latest status on “Big Wind” (they and Senator Slom oppose it) and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s recent purchase of Lanai island and upcoming plans for the community. Photos taken at Senator Slom’s office Feb. 13, 2013.

More Than 500 Bills Survive First Crossover Cut-Off

On the Floor - Session March 6.

Hawaii State Legislature kept more than 500 bills alive after the first crossover bill voting deadline passed on Thursday, March 8. The Senate passed 379 bills over to the House while that body passed 286 bills back to the Senate.

The usual cadre of bad bills that call for more taxes, cost, unfunded mandates, special funds, fees and attacks on your personal liberty and freedom continue to thrive.

As a general rule, I have been consistent in voting “no” against all new taxes and fees as well as voting “no” on the creation of new special funds.

Here is a synopsis on some of the bills that were voted for in the Senate on crossover week:

I voted against SB 2787 which will authorize HECO and other utilities to implement a surcharge to help it enforce “reliability standards and interconnection requirements”.

SB 2785 is the bill that authorizes the installation of the inter-island “high voltage electric transmission system” ($3 billion undersea cable) and related infrastructure (windmills). I voted “no”.

SB 2824: This bill applies the bottle recycling tax (6¢ per container) to dietary supplements. I voted “no” on this.

Likewise I also voted “no” on SB 2511, that taxes “single use check-out bags” at a rate that could be as high as 20¢ per bag.

SB 3017: I voted against this bill on applying the transient accommodations tax to complimentary accommodations. This bill expands the TAT and I voted “No!”

SB 2747: This bill mandates owners or managers of public parking places with a hundred parking spaces or more to have electric vehicle parking and at least one electric vehicle charging station. This takes away parking from users of conventional vehicles while still preserving space for ADA accessibility. There are not many electric vehicles. Another bill that merited a “no” vote.

Still another bill that I was poised to vote “no” on was SB 2822 which would have implemented a tax on electronics recycling. Instead the bill was amended so that a task force can look into the issue.

I voted “no” on SB 2226 which would implement a tax on purchases from made on the internet from merchants such as Amazon.com.

In keeping consistent with my “no new taxes” policy, I also voted against a new tax on tobacco products (SB 2422).

I was among six Senators who voted against SB 2592 that creates a children’s savings account under the Dept. of Budget & Finance.

The land trust bill (SB 2783) that conveys properties in Kaka’ako Makai valued at $200 million, over to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) was also passed. I voted “no” on this bill that is supported by OHA as well as the Governor.

SB 2923: Voted against the ban on commercial opihi harvesting after the bill was amended on the floor.

No votes on bills that create new special funds include the following:

SB 2110: Preservation of Hawaii’s moving images (films). A new special fund is being created for this.

SB 2424: A new special fund is created for regulation of professional employer organizations (PEOs).

SB 2111: Establishment of the Hawaii film and digital media special fund.

SB 3050: Another film and digital media bill moves responsibilities of this industry form DBEDT to the Hawaii Tourism Authority and creates a new special fund for development.

SB 2506: In an effort to move the State ID functions from the attorney general’s office to the State Dept. of Transportation, a new special fund is being created to support this. The bill also complies with the nationally mandated Real I.D. Act of 2005.

SB 2348: This bill reinstates the State Educational Facilities Improvement Special Fund which was set to be repealed on July 1, 2013.

SB 2466: Establishes a long-term care facility special fund.

SB 2467: Establishes the Hospital Sustainability Program special fund and a new fee (tax).

Shovel Ready Projects: I voted “with reservations” on SB 2012, a Senate showcase bill that issues $500 million in general obligation bonds to fund repair and maintenance and/or capitol improvements to a number of state facilities. The bill is being met with a lukewarm reception in the House. The state should be doing repair and maintenance as part of its normal routine instead of waiting for such legislation.

Permanent Resident Bill Iced: The Senate recommitted my SB 212, a bill that was resurrected this year to define “permanent resident” for use in the next reapportionment coming in 2021. The bill had unanimous support in the Senate Judiciary & Labor committee but was killed on the senate floor after the chair motioned it back into committee. Some neighbor island legislators oppose counting military populations for reapportionment.

Libraries Bill: I voted “yes” to support the libraries bill (SB 2994) that allows private non-profit organizations to continue to support their local, public library (as they have for years) without being affiliated with the statewide Friends of the Library organization. During the hearing process for the bill, it was found that the head State Librarian failed to answer questions on why local friends had to join the larger group. SB 2994 is yet to be heard in the House Education committee.

For more information on all legislation look items up by bill number at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Senate Minority Caucus Meeting

Senate Minority Caucus Meeting

Senate Minority Caucus Meeting

The day before the big crossover vote I meet with my staff and the Senate Minority Research office staff to review each and every bill on the order of the day for bill voting. The staff researches and writes digest on selected bills that we flag for possible questions or no votes the following day.

Delivering a ‘Better Day’ for Hawaii

Senator Slom delivers his opening day speech. 1-18-2012

Opening Day Remarks by Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom

Video Link

Senate President Tsutsui, Governor Abercrombie, distinguished guests and overburdened taxpayers of Hawaii, on behalf of the entire Senate Minority, Aloha!

Hawaii still enjoys two competitive political philosophies within our government, not dependent on the number of senators. The majority philosophy stresses more government, taxation and control of individuals. Our philosophy rewards individual risk and accomplishment, encourages lower taxes on families and small businesses, promotes transparency in government, and advocates additional economic options for all of our residents and a strong belief in our people and the future of Hawaii.

Here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to oppose bad programs. We are going to oppose bad bills. We will bring attention to irresponsible spending. And we will do our best to offer fresh ideas and new solutions.

Let me say right upfront we acknowledge the majority’s unilateral decision to once again suspend, as was done in 2010, our tradition of making Hawaii’s opening day colorful, special and unique, in order to appear more serious and business like. But we respectfully disagree. This lack of Aloha diminishes the citizens’ role and ownership of our government. It is their chance to be here and we have marginalized that.

Expenses must be cut back in the legislature – just as individuals, families, and small business have been doing for years – but not just for opening day.

I sincerely believe our nation and our state have reached a political, economic and cultural tipping point. Never before in history have our decisions been as critical as they are now.

We have the awesome responsibility to help determine whether our nation and state will advance and prosper, or whether we allow or facilitate further interference with individual choice and rights, slipping back into a lesser standard of living.

In neighboring states and a growing number of countries, bad government decisions – overspending, burdensome taxation and debt – are bringing misery and economic despair to countless millions. We have been taught to think globally but accept that all politics is local.

While there are many actions outside of our control, still, there are changes we can make to control and improve Hawaii’s destiny. We in this body, have an opportunity to think and act outside the constraints of past failed government policy.

We must require our government school bureaucracy to be accountable for the tremendous amount of resources they consume annually. We still wrestle with a balanced budget and will vote on supplemental expenditures this year.

Our recent bond issue resulted in savings and that is positive but borrowing is still added debt and a further burden on our families and children.

Last month, the state administration was cheering over a budget surplus that enabled it to spend more money. Look at the factors that caused this “surplus.” It came from Hawaii’s hard working families and businesses who had to shoulder an estimated $600 million in additional taxes over these two years, due to the tax increases passed last year by this legislature.

More than $400 million came from increased General Excise Taxes on contractors, businesses that sublease, airlines and others – most of which that was passed on to Hawaii’s consumers and businesses as increased costs. Now we are facing a new deficit in fiscal year 2014 and beyond.

The impact of the tax increases on the state budget was acknowledged by the Hawaii Council On Revenues at its meeting on September 6, 2011. The Council increased its forecast for state general fund tax revenue growth for the current fiscal year from 11.0 percent to 14.5 percent, noting “the increases in the forecasts for tax revenue growth in fiscal year 2012 and 2013 were mostly due to new tax laws that have gone into effect this fiscal year. Without the expected revenue increase of the new tax laws, the forecast for fiscal year 2012 would have been lowered to 9.5 percent due to uncertainties about the economy and about the number of visitors.”

A few weeks ago, the Council reduced its revenue forecast to 11. 5 percent; most rational private sector businesses and economists believe that estimate is still far to optimistic.

In this weak national and state economy, working families and small businesses are struggling to make ends meet or to make payroll.

Homelessness grows at an alarming rate because government creates more poverty through increased taxes, fees and regulations.

If the goal today was to show the public we understand their pain and tough financial straights, we should pledge that we will reduce taxes. We invite job-creating employers to this big square building to testify to what they believe should be done, then we ignore them.

We are all aware of our state’s severe economic challenges, many of which have been created by this very legislature. Some are still in economic denial of our actions and consequences.

Without systemic changes, we cannot improve Hawaii’s economy. Without holding ourselves to the same laws we pass, we cannot make what we do behind closed doors in this building more transparent.

The era of government free spending of other people’s income is over.

This is not just about money. It is about leadership and discipline. It is about setting the bar higher for our citizens to follow. It is about the future we will leave for our children

No matter how much taxpayer money we spend, government has allowed our basic infrastructure to deteriorate, including our roads, airports, harbors, parks, sewers, and water systems.

This legislature should do everything in its power to stop the $6 billion plus heavy, steel on steel elevated rail, which we made possible years ago and which diverts taxpayer money from sensible and desperately needed, infrastructure repair.

Hawaii recently suffered the loss of two major medical facilities on O’ahu. Part of this was financial but part was the role of legislative actions.

A few weeks ago, our largest petroleum refiner announced it would shut down and sell its refining capacity, distribution and retail outlets. It is hoped that a new buyer will be found without major labor lost. But is this unexpected? For more than a decade, this state has made big oil, a public enemy. We added taxes, more regulations, investigations and bans on new facilities. In our love affair with “clean” energy alternatives, we have not told our citizens the truth about the real cost of transitioning to wind, solar, OTEC, Geothermal and biomass. We led the community to believe these sources are “free.” We need a new, deregulated, voluntary energy policy.

Your minority offers real alternatives to the serious problems Hawaii faces:

  • We should immediately reduce the continuing job destroying unemployment compensation tax increase set for March, pass overdue tort reform, reduce state spending, eliminate waste and debt, and implement solutions to our massive unfunded liabilities, such as the State Employees Retirement System (ERS) and State Employer Union (Health) Trust Fund (EUTF).
  • We again will prepare an alternative, supplemental, operating balanced budget showing where cuts should be made while keeping our pledge for “No New Taxes”;
  • Technology is only a tool, but we have adopted it as our new Deity. We have data overload and need to support the new chief information officer’s goal to modernize and efficiently manage all government data systems;
  • For too long our community has overlooked labor and human trafficking slavery because of several politically placed individuals and organizations here. This is the year we must end these practices and stop looking the other way;
  • Government schools must be fully vetted and incentives provided for students and meritorious teachers. Throwing more dollars at government schools while allowing reductions in classroom teaching is neither good business, nor good education.
  • We must support measures to restore political power to our citizens including initiative, referendum, recall and legislative term limits.

Hawaii needs an economic jumpstart, not from more government stimulus debt, but from the ideas and experience of those who actually create private jobs.

We celebrate and honor our men and women in uniform and are grateful for the military’s many contributions –not just financial – to Hawaii. Yet, through reapportionment, we seek to ignore and disenfranchise them, unlike all other states. This must change as we here define “permanent resident.”

Our professed belief in sustainability should not be solely related to energy.

There is wide spread public discontent with our state legislature. Many believe we spend too much time increasing our own salaries and benefits, exempting ourselves from laws we pass for others, and covering up questionable ethics. We must have the political will to change this.

These are not partisan issues, rather, real problems we can face and solve together.

We can be compassionate, but not at the expense of complacency of our fiscal responsibilities.

We approach this session for the opportunities that these tough times present. We restate our belief in Hawaii’s people.

We celebrate our individual God-given liberty and our ability to change for the better. We hope that prayer will return to the Senate this year. If there is ever a time that God’s spiritual support and guidance is needed, it is during our legislative decision making.

Every day is a “new” day; it is time we make it A Better Day for all of Hawaii’s people.

Mahalo, God Bless Hawaii and the United States of America.

Aloha.