The Beat

  • Is That Mark Takai? Or Mark Takano? Or Ted Lieu?

    ·By Chad Blair
    Roll Call’s Heard on the Hill blog has a short Q&A with U.S. Rep. Mark Takai. Excerpt: Q. Do you have a favorite campaign story? A: I have interesting stories here [in D.C.]. So there’s 14 Asian-American and Pacific Islanders in Congress and — without fail — every day [Rep.] Ted Lieu [D-Calif.] gets called Mark Takai, and Mark Takai gets called either Mark Takano or Ted Lieu, but it’s been a lot of fun because we all get together and do a recap of the day and who made that mistake. And, you know, it’s OK! We’re just brand new, and Ted’s a great guy too. I told Ted that as long as he continues to be someone I like, I have no problem having people think that he’s Mark Takai. I mean, I’ve got a lot of pretty awesome stories. In fact, I gave a speech at the Democratic issues conference and before I started I said, “I just want everyone to know that is Ted Lieu over there from California, and I’m Mark Takai from Hawaii. Aloha.” The next day Ted tells me, “I got to tell you this; someone came up to me and said, ‘Great speech.’” Of note: The U.S. House of Representatives is comprised heavily of white men. Screen shot. KITV
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  • ‘Clean’ Homeland Security Bill Heads to Obama

    ·By Chad Blair
    Finally! On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through September. The vote was 257-167, with 182 Democrats and 75 Republicans voting in favor of the measure. The nine-month funding bill for DHS breaks “a lengthy stalemate over President Barack Obama’s immigration policies that exacerbated the rift between Speaker John Boehner and the conservative wing of his conference,” says Politico. The Capitol in winter. Cory Lum/Civil Beat The Senate has already approved a bill extending DHS funding, so the legislation now heads to Obama’s desk for his expected signature. Hawaii Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai voted “aye” on the legislation. “Public safety should never be used as a pawn in a partisan political game,” Gabbard said in a press release. “The bill passed today will provide more stability to an agency that is tasked with the vital role of protecting our homeland. Particularly in this time of increased global threats, Congress must provide the resources necessary to those who are charged with keeping the American people safe.” Takai, in a seperate press release, said in part, “It is not appropriate that we treat the hard-working members of DHS in this manner by combining anti-immigration legislation with DHS funding. These men and women are the frontline in protecting our national security; we should not have let their livelihoods be put at risk due to a political ploy by Republicans in the House.” Takai added, “There is a proper time and place for conducting discussions
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  • Ige Announces Nine New Appointments

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    Hawaii Gov. David Ige has appointed nine new members to his administration who will serve on his communications team and in the departments of Health and Public Safety. The appointments, announced Tuesday, are not subject to Senate approval. Here’s the official release from the governor’s office: Department of Health Lynn Fallin has been appointed Director of Behavior Health. Fallin has over 25 years of extensive experience in executive level policy and administration in health, education, and human services. She has served under four Governors in cabinet positions in two states – Hawaii and Oregon. From 2011 to the present, she has served as the Deputy Director of the Behavioral Health Administration at the Hawaii State Department of Health. From 2003-2010 she served as the Executive Director of the Hoʻokakoʻo Corporation, an education-focused nonprofit. She served as a Policy Advisor in the Office of the Governor from 1999 to 2002; Executive Director of the Oregon Commission on Children and Families from 1995-1998; Deputy Director of the Department of Human Services from 1991-1994; and Director of the Governor’s Office on Children and Youth from 1986-1991. Lynn Fallin, director of behavior health Governor's OfficeMs. Fallin serves on a number of national and local boards and commissions and has been recognized nationally and locally for her leadership by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, National Governors Association Zero to Three; Hawaii Community Foundation Pono Program; and National Association for the Education of Young Children Hawaii Chapter. Danette Wong Tomiyasu has been appointed Deputy Director for Health Resources. She most
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  • Challenge to Schatz’s Senate Appointment Dismissed

    ·By Chad Blair
    A legal challenge to Brian Schatz’s 2012 appointment to the U.S. Senate has been dismissed. Judge Derrick Watson of the District of Hawaii ruled Feb. 23 that Hamamoto v. Abercrombie is moot, as the plaintiffs waited too long to bring their case. The lawsuit came from John Roco, a Republican who lost to Cam Cavasso in the 2014 Senate primary. Cavasso then lost the general election to Schatz. Roco alleged that Schatz’s appointment was unconstitutional, arguing that Gov. Neil Abercrombie should have been allowed to pick whomever he wanted to replace Dan Inouye after the U.S. senator’s death in December 2012. John Roco. Courtesy The governor ultimately chose Schatz, his lieutenant governor, from a list of three approved candidates from the Democratic Party of Hawaii. Schatz won the “special election” last year over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to fill the remaining two years left on Inouye’s six-year term. The news of the lawsuit’s dismissal was mentioned in this article in The Atlantic, which looks at the “confusing language” of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The author of The Atlantic piece concludes: The text leaves a puzzle: Can the legislature “empower” the governor just to fill a vacant seat for the rest of the term?  How could that be a “temporary appointment”? What happens to the idea that the Senate is to be “elected by the people”? Where else in the Constitution do we give one person the power to appoint a constitutional official? I have done
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  • Honolulu City Council Panel to Take Up North Shore Development Plan

    ·By Anita Hofschneider
    The Honolulu City Council Zoning and Planning Committee intends to consider a planning document for the North Shore on Thursday that includes a highly debated proposal to allow a new residential community in Malaekahana. But the committee’s chairman Ikaika Anderson opposes the new homes, arguing that they are contrary to the Oahu General Plan. Anderson introduced amendments to Bill 47, known as the Koolauloa Sustainable Communities Plan, that remove all references to a residential community at Malaekahana. An anti-growth sign along Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore. Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat The planned homes are part of a project known as Envision Laie that’s backed by Hawaii Reserves Inc., a company that manages land owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Supporters say that adding 800 homes on ranchland in Malaekahana would help ease the affordable housing crisis. But opponents argue that would worsen traffic on the two-lane highway and ruin the rural lifestyle. The hearing is at 10 a.m. on Thursday at Honolulu Hale. Click here to read the agenda and the amendments. Read more about the issue here: Two Visions of Laie: Plans for North Shore Growth Debated
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  • Applicants Sought for Ethics, Campaign Spending Commissions

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    The Judicial Council is looking for volunteers who’d like to serve on the state Ethics Commission or Campaign Spending Commission. Ethics Chair Edward Broglio’s term ends June 30, so the council is looking to fill one seat on that commission. Two members of the Campaign Spending Commission — G. William Snipes and Tina “Pedro” Gomes — also have terms that end June 30, creating two vacancies on that commission. The Hawaii State Ethics Commission meets recently. The term of Edward Broglio, center, ends June 30, creating a vacancy that the Judicial Council is looking to fill now. Cory Lum/Civil Beat As the Judicial Council explains it, the Ethics Commission addresses ethical issues involving legislators, registered lobbyists, and state employees (with the exception of judges, who are governed by the commission on judicial conduct). The five commission members are responsible for investigating complaints, providing advisory opinions, and enforcing decisions issued by the commission. The Hawaii State Constitution prohibits members of the Ethics Commission “from taking an active part in political management or political campaigns.” The primary duty of the five members of the Campaign Spending Commission is to supervise campaign contributions and expenditures. Commissioners may not participate in political campaigns or contribute to candidates or political committees, the Judicial Council explains. The council creates a list of nominees that Gov. David Ige will choose from. The council encourages anyone who’s interested to submit an application along with a resume and three letters of recommendation, postmarked by March 13 to: Judicial Council, Hawaii Supreme Court, 417 S. King St., Second Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii
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  • What Government Shutdown? It’s Aloha Friday!

    ·By Chad Blair
    The laulau was the kau kau on the fourth floor of the Cannon House Office Building Friday evening in Washington, D.C., where U.S. Rep. Mark Takai led an Aloha Friday pau hana. Just across Independence Avenue, House and Senate leadership was consumed with finding a way to fund the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. But that didn’t stop Takai’s office from sharing Kalua pork, lomilimi salmon, pipikaula and poi. Congressman Mark Takai loads up his plate. Cory Lum/Civil Beat Guests included U.S. Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) The 1st Congressional District congressman decided to institute the Aloha Friday practice shortly after his arrival in the nation’s capital. Takai’s staff was decked out in appropriate aloha wear, and lei were plentiful. All that was missing was the Bud Lite. Earlier in the day, as the House chamber was in chaos after a three-week funding bill for DHS failed to pass, Takai looked rather serene, wearing maile lei above his business suit. Takai guyz. Cory Lum/Civil Beat
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  • Congress Funds Homeland Security, But Only for A Week

    ·By Chad Blair
    U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “made a surprise move” to back legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for one week, The Hill reported late Friday. The short-term measure passed the House in a 357-60 vote just after 10 p.m., “with 55 Republicans and 5 Democrats voting against it. The Senate passed the one-week funding bill in a voice vote.” President Barack Obama signed the legislation just before the clock ran out. The South Lawn at the White House. Cory Lum/Civil Beat What follows is what members of Hawaii’s delegation had to say about the latest funding crisis in Washington. Sen. Mazie Hirono: “It’s good news for the nearly 2,000 Department of Homeland Security employees in Hawaii — working at TSA in our airports and for the U.S. Coast Guard in our harbors — that House Republicans finally decided to avert a DHS shutdown and fund the agency charged with protecting us — but just for one week. …” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: “Our national security should never be used as a pawn in partisan political games. Ensuring the Department of Homeland Security remains operational is critical. It is irresponsible to continue lurching between shutdown threats and crises. It is no way to govern, particularly when the safety and security of the American people is on the line.” Rep. Mark Takai: “The long-term goal has not changed, and both parties have reassurances that a full-year, clean DHS funding bill will
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  • US House Fails to Pass Short-Term Funding Bill

    ·By Chad Blair
    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is just hours away from running out of money unless Congress can unite on a funding measure. The U.S. Senate did its part earlier Friday when it passed a funding bill free of language halting President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The U.S House of Representative then took up a measure that would fund DHS for three weeks. But, in what is described as “a stunning blow to House Republican leaders,” the measure died in a 203-224 vote. Hawaii Reps. Mark Takai and Tulsi Gabbard were among those opposing the measure, along with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Earlier in the day, Takai released a statement on the matter: “This crisis only exists because Republicans continue to prioritize an anti-immigration agenda over the safety of the American people. If Republican leadership would put a clean DHS funding bill on the floor, it would pass overwhelmingly and get us out of the daily brinksmanship and constant threat of government shutdown. I have co-sponsored a clean funding bill along with every Democratic member of the House, and will not vote for a short term bill that only increases uncertainty for our workforce and puts us back in the same position in the near future.” The Capitol in winter. Cory Lum/Civil Beat A total of 51 Republicans voting against legislation while 12 Democrats voted for it. “The next steps on the funding bill are not clear, with a shutdown of DHS
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  • Security Funding Bill Clears US Senate

    ·By Chad Blair
    U.S. senators on Friday voted 68-31 to keep the Department for Homeland Security funded, barely 12 hours before the agency runs out of money. Hawaii Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz voted “aye.” The bill is a “clean” one and includes no language about rejecting the Obama administration’s executive orders on immigration. Sen. Harry Reid reacts during a joint press conference with Rep. Nancy Pelosi regarding Homeland Security funding. Cory Lum/Civil Beat The president’s order, according to Homeland Security, is designed to “crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.” Senate Democrats repeatedly filibustered another DHS funding measure that included the immigration action. Republicans want to stop the president because they argue that his order is unconstitutional and amounts to amnesty for illegal immigrants. Later Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to consider a short-term funding bill for DHS “while it considers whether to take up the clean Senate version,” said The Hill. In a statement after the vote, Hirono said: “I urge Speaker (John) Boehner to avoid pursuing a short-term continuing resolution that only passes the buck for a few more weeks.  A short-term continuing resolution doesn’t fix this problem and only leads to continued uncertainty for our homeland security efforts. It’s time that the House join the Senate in passing a clean DHS funding bill and sending
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  • Memorial Services Set for Former Rep. Mele Carroll

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    Memorial services for former state Rep. Mele Carroll have been set for next month on Oahu and Maui. A public viewing will be held between 4 and 6 p.m., with service to follow from 6 to 7 p.m., March 6, at Borthwick Mortuary, 1330 Maunakea St. A Celebration of Life will also be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Lei are welcomed at the Oahu service, according to a House news release. A viewing on Maui will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. with service to follow from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., March 15, at Ballard Family Mortuary, 440 Ala Makani Street in Kahului. A final viewing will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Internment will take place at 3 p.m. at Valley Isle Memorial Park in Haiku. Lei and floral arrangements are welcomed at the Maui service, the release says. Carroll died Feb. 18 after battling cancer. She had represented Molokai, Lanai and parts of Maui until stepping down earlier this month for health reasons. Rep. Mele Carroll stands in House chambers. She died Feb 18. House of Representatives
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  • Renowned Climate Change Author Faults HECO for Blocking Solar

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    Award-winning journalist Naomi Klein blamed Hawaiian Electric Co. for limiting the progress of solar energy during a motivating speech Thursday evening at the University of Hawaii. Klein, the author of the New York Times bestseller “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” packed not one but two auditoriums on campus. The overflow crowd watched a live video of her on a giant screen in one room as others watched live in another room. Naomi Klein spoke about climate change and capitalism during a speech Thursday at the University of Hawaii. Civil Beat “The profit motive is getting in the way of the transition that people want here,” Klein said, garnering applause. She also stressed the need for the state to avoid getting hooked on liquefied natural gas, something HECO and politicians are moving toward despite all the warnings. Rep. Cynthia Thielen introduced a measure to block LNG, noting the $200 million price tag to switch to a foreign-supplied fuel. Her bill stresses the need to put that money toward renewables, but it never received a hearing in the Legislature before dying this session. She covered a wide range of topics related to climate change and capitalism during her talk, which wrapped up with a Q&A session. She touted recent successes on the national level, such as President Obama vetoing the Keystone pipeline bill, and the local level, like Maui voters passing a ballot measure to place a moratorium on GMO farming despite seed companies spending millions of dollars to defeat it. Klein has been serving as the Dai Ho Chun distinguished
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  • Ige Works to Strengthen Hawaii Ties to Federal Government

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    Gov. David Ige took time Thursday to debrief reporters on his recent visit to Washington, D.C., highlighting his meetings with President Obama, federal officials and other governors. The National Governors Association’s Winter Meeting provided the impetus for the trip, but Ige said he used his time there to talk to a number of people. “Funding for the Department of Homeland Security was a priority for all of the governors,” Ige said in a release. Special Adviser to the Governor Elizabeth Kim walks with Gov. David Ige on their way to their next appointment Monday in Washington, D.C. Cory Lum/Civil Beat “If the funding is not approved, much of the work will continue at great personal cost to the frontline personnel who would have to report for duty without being paid,” Ige said. “In addition, a lapse in funding will have a real impact on FEMA’s ability to ensure that a wide range of emergency personnel have the resources they need to do their jobs and keep our communities safer and more secure.” Ige personally invited Obama to deliver the keynote address at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in 2016. Hawaii is hosting the event, which is like the Olympics of conservation meetings. It’ll be the first time it’s been held in the U.S. The governor also met with Anthony Foxx, secretary of transportation, to assure him that Hawaii will do a better job of using federal funds in a timely fashion to maximize transportation dollars. He also talked to
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  • Tsunami Warning Improvements Pass U.S. Senate Commerce Committee

    ·By Patti Epler
    The Senate Commerce Committee has passed an amended version of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015. The measure, which seeks to boost tsunami warning efforts beyond just simple evacuation maps and response plans, would enhance scientific research and lead to better warning technology such as better buoys and sensors. Sen. Brian Schatz successfully offered an amendment to include research into historic tsunamis like the mega-tsunami that hit Kauai 500 years ago. The quake originated in the Aleutian Islands. The amendment also authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to put tsunami sensors on telecommunications cables deep on the ocean floor and authorizes studies on how tsunami currents might affect urban areas where high-rises are clustered and create canyons. Read Civil Beat’s previous coverage on the efforts to bolster tsunami warning and preparedness here. A tsunami warning DART buoy.
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  • Nursing Home Care in Hawaii the Best in the Nation?

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    The Honolulu Star-Advertiser boldly declared in its front-page headline Wednesday that nursing home care in Hawaii is “the best in nation.” Hopefully, people read the story all the way to the end, and then look at the paper’s reporting from last summer, which paints a far different picture. In the latest piece, the most favorable indicator in the federal evaluation system — nursing homes with five-star ratings — was cherry-picked and a story was built around it. Even then, the headline in the print edition should have included a qualifier since Washington, D.C. is actually the best in the nation in that category. (Some 39 percent of nursing homes in Hawaii have the top rating compared to 53 percent in D.C.) Elderly receive help at a long-term care facility. Cory Lum/Civil Beat The far larger issue, though, is the story burying a crucial point for readers to consider when deciding how much weight to give the rating system that makes Hawaii seem so great. Federal regulators have highlighted concerns over state regulators here tending to be lenient when it comes to inspecting nursing homes and not doing them on a timely basis. In fact, Hawaii faced a huge fine for failing to inspect 17 of its 45 nursing homes in the time frame prescribed by federal law. A Star-Advertiser story in June quoted experts who underscored just how serious of an issue this is. “To go beyond (the required time frame) opens up the whole problem of what is happening within these facilities,” Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy for the Washington, D.C.-based
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  • Hirono Talks Up Immigration on MSNBC

    ·By Chad Blair
    The first Japanese immigrant to serve in the U.S. Senate shared her views on immigration reform on MSNBC’s “The Rundown” with José Díaz-Balart on Wednesday. Mazie Hirono’s appearance came in advance of a “Rundown” interview with President Barack Obama and as the GOP in Congress has hung up funding for Homeland Security in order to halt the administration’s executive action on immigration. Sen. Mazie Hirono speaks at an Interior Department meeting in Washington on Tuesday. Cory Lum/Civil beat Here’s an excerpt from the MSNBC transcript: DIAZ-BALART: Senator, more than one in three Hawaiians are from Asian descent. What would you like to stress as we get ready to sit down with the President tonight?  HIRONO: Let me just emphasize that as an immigrant myself, my mother brought me to this country, escaping a terribly abusive marriage in Japan and she had a vision for a better future for her children. And that is something that so many immigrants, millions of immigrants, who came to this country and who are here now hope for also. So what I would like to see is comprehensive immigration reform, much like what we passed in the Senate months and months ago. Hirono, you’ll recall, frequently talked about her mother and her family’s experience as an immigrants during her successful campaign in 2012. The Hawaii senator was also asked about the controversy surrounding Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, who recently — and incorrectly — said he served in the U.S. Army
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  • House Lawmakers to Make Recommendation Friday on Rep’s Residency

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    A special committee of House lawmakers is set to continue its work Friday on a petition challenging the qualifications of Rep. Calvin Say to represent the 20th District. A small group of voters believes the speaker emeritus actually lives in another district with his wife and kids instead of the Palolo home he maintains to be his primary residence. The six-member committee, chaired by Rep. Karl Rhoads, began its work with a quasi-judicial hearing Feb. 13 that allowed both sides to briefly make their case. Rep. Calvin Say listens to testimony during a hearing on a petition questioning his residency, Feb. 13. A special committee is expected to make recommendations Friday on what action the full House should take. Cory Lum/Civil Beat The committee has spent the two weeks since then reviewing additional evidence and preparing a draft report with recommendations on what action the full House should take. The meeting Friday is expected to include a discussion of the draft report and decision-making on it. The committee has compiled pertinent documents here. Read Civil Beat’s past coverage of the Say residency saga here.
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  • Shield Law Bill Clears House Judiciary Committee

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Karl Rhoads, unanimously passed a measure Tuesday that would protect journalists from having to disclose their confidential sources under certain circumstances. There was a shield law in Hawaii until 2013 when it was allowed to sunset because lawmakers couldn’t agree on the language amid pressure from the Attorney General’s office. The Judiciary Committee made several amendments to House Bill 295, including language to make it clear that the privilege is held by the journalist and not the source. The goal there, Rhoads said, is addressing concerns that if a journalist feels a source isn’t being truthful, there won’t be any legal or moral obligation to keep the source secret. Hawaii lawmakers are considering bringing back a shield law to protect journalists from revealing their sources and notes. sskennel/Flickr Rhoads said language would be also added to ensure that if a journalist revealed a source to someone also protected by a confidential relationship, like an attorney or priest, that it would still be privileged. But if a journalist told someone at a bar, for instance, who a source was then the privilege was waived forever. The bill heads to a vote before the full House next. Read Civil Beat’s past coverage here.
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  • State Offers Help to HMSA Members Whose Data Was Hacked

    ·By Nathan Eagle
    The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is offering advice to the roughly 18,000 current and former HMSA members whose personal information was compromised in a cyber attack on Anthem. Members who sought treatment in one of the 14 mainland states where Anthem operates are being directed to AnthemFacts.com where they can learn about services the company is offering, including identity repair assistance, child identity protection and free credit monitoring. The Hawaii Insurance Division and the Office of Consumer Protection will continue to monitor the situation, and suggests that consumers take extra precautions, such as reviewing their credit reports for signs of fraudulent activity, DCCA said in a news release Tuesday. An estimated 18,000 HMSA members may have had their personal information compromised in a recent cyber attack. Chad Blair/Civil Beat “We will continue discussions with Anthem and HMSA to ensure the members affected are notified in a timely manner and informed of the next steps and protections offered,” said Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner. OCP also reminded consumers to be alert for scammers who may try to take advantage of the Anthem security breach, the release said. “This is a good time to remind everyone to never provide personal information to anyone unless you’re 100 percent sure that they are who they say they are,” said Stephen Levins, OCP executive director. “The main point is to exercise caution. Just because someone says they’re calling from your bank or health insurance company, doesn’t mean that they are.” Consumers should also be on the
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  • Ormat Awarded Big Island Geothermal Contract

    ·By Sophie Cocke
    Hawaii Electric Light Co. has selected Ormat Technologies to provide an additional 25-megawatts of geothermal energy to the Big Island. The company, with headquarters in Reno, Nevada, already operates the state’s sole geothermal plant, Puna Geothermal Venture. Puna Geothermal plant on the Big Island. Courtesy of Puna Geothermal Venture The selection closes a drawn-out competitive bidding process that the electric utility initiated in November 2012. Companies were asked to resubmit bids after the utility said the proposals came in too high. “Ormat was selected based on numerous criteria, including attractive pricing, technical design and capability, financial soundness, as well as commitment to resolving all environmental issues and to working with our Hawai‘i Island communities,” Jay Ignacio, HELCO’s president, said in a press release. A formal contract for the energy still needs to be negotiated and submitted to the Public Utilities Commission for review, according to a HELCO spokeswoman. More than 47 percent of the Big Island’s electricity is currently generated from renewable resources, including wind, hydro, rooftop solar and geothermal, according to HELCO.
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