Opening Day Remarks House Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto January 18, 2017

January 18, 2017

fukumoto-adj-hq-photoThank you, Mr. Speaker, members and guests. It an honor to have the opportunity to once again serve as this body’s Minority Leader and work with you, the Majority Leader and the rest my colleagues on solutions to our state’s big problems.

In my past opening day speeches, I didn’t talk much about policy. Instead, I focused on the importance of working together and encouraging dialogue on EVERY policy created by this body. Mr. Speaker, you and your Majority have responded by listening to our ideas and incorporating our opinions. In this Legislature, like in our state, I think we know that there is strength in diversity.

That said, Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk a little more about issues because our present situation demands it. This session, we’re facing a sizeable budget deficit, and the natural inclination of government is always to raise revenues and cut spending to find immediate solutions to an impending problem. We will need to take some of those actions, Mr. Speaker, but we’d be doing a disservice to the people of Hawaii and future generations if that is ALL we do.

Two years ago when I got elected as Minority Leader, I mentioned that I was the first millennial to serve in this position. In 2016, I was also the youngest female in the country to hold a caucus leadership position. I give you these statistics to remind you that I speak for a growing demographic in this State who can no longer afford to live in a place that we grew up in and love. For us, Hawaii is not just paradise, it’s our home, and we can’t afford it anymore.

Mr. Speaker, we talk a lot about the cost of living. And, I know the Governor has already proposed tax increases on transportation, and I’m sure there will be other tax increases for us to consider. I hope that, if the Majority of this body chooses to act on those increases, that you will do so with caution and consider making those increases temporary.

As the Minority members, we will be proposing measures to encourage tax equality and lessen the tax burden on middle and lower income earners, recognizing that – in the face of a deficit – these may be long term ideas. But, as a body, we should never lose sight of the goal to make Hawaii more affordable for its residents.

In terms of affordability, Mr. Speaker, the biggest thing we can do this session to help local families is to address our rising housing costs. In 2015, a nationwide survey of cities found that Honolulu had the fourth-largest percentage of residents depart. When over 52% of a Hawaii resident’s income goes toward fixed costs like housing and transportation, we can conclude that housing prices are a major reason for residents, particularly young people, leaving our state.

This year, Mr. Speaker, you will see Minority members contributing a variety of measures that offer housing solutions for individuals and families at every level of need – from homeless individuals who need temporary housing to middle-income wage earners that want to buy their first home at an affordable price.

The Minority recognizes that, as a local economist pointed out, Hawaii has become a preferred place for the international 1 percent to buy property. This desire to purchase paradise is making it harder and harder for local residents to keep Hawaii their home. And, Mr. Speaker, we look forward to working with you and the Majority to reverse that trend.

Every year, this Legislature will come up with a handful of measures to address housing and homelessness, but we need to do better. We need a comprehensive plan. By 2025, we will be short nearly 65,000 housing units in our state, and many of our local families will be priced out of their communities if we don’t increase our affordable housing inventory.

This, Mr. Speaker, is a crisis, and we need to start treating it like a crisis. Local families have watched this state become less and less affordable for decades. It’s time to find the political courage to take risks and solve that problem.

Together, we can take control of our future.  We need to be leaders that listen to the needs of the people that we represent.  We need to hear the concerns of the recent college graduate who has returned home only to find that their home has undervalued them in favor of out-of-state financiers and we need to find a way to take care of those working families who make an average wage, but can’t make a sufficient living.

We were once a State that not only took care of everyday people, we made sure that they felt accomplished, and we made sure that anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status, saw a better life as something achievable and something to aspire to.

We can be that State again, but we’ve got difficult decisions in front of us. Most of those decisions will need to be made quickly. A comprehensive plan to address housing at every level of need can’t be sidelined by a budget deficit.

We can’t keep planning our state’s economy in two year cycles. We may need some short term fixes, but we also need a long term economic plan. That long term plan MUST include making it easier for our young people, our working families and our retirees to stay and live in this state that they call home.

Mr. Speaker, we look forward to working with you and the majority on creating that long-term plan this session.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to close by acknowledging and thanking our Mililani High School students that are in the gallery and sitting with me on the floor today. Everything we do here is about making a better future for you.

Thank you for being here. And, thank you, Mr. Speaker, members and guests for listening.

***

Lifetime Achievement Award

November 18, 2016

surf-riders-life-time-achievemnt-award-with-rep-cynthia-thielenThe Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network.

At the 14th annual John Kelly Awards in the beautiful Waimea Valley, each year the O‘ahu Chapter hosts this memorable event to honor the legacy of John Kelly, the founder and leader of Save Our Surf (SOS), and to highlight important work.  The theme this year was built on a national campaign called Long Live the Beach.

For the Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2016 year’s winner is Cynthia Thielen, who has been fighting for the environment for decades.  As an attorney, Thielen helped stopped the bombing of Kaho’olawe.  As representative for Kailua in the State Capitol, she has been a strong ally in the fight for renewable energy, coastal protection and preservation of our natural environment.

 

How Many More Spitting Caves Deaths Before Signs Are Posted?

August 9, 2016

civil beatCommunity Voice

SB 2659 BILL SIGNING – Relating to Industrial Hemp

July 8, 2016

SB 2659 – establishes an industrial hemp pilot program through the Department of Agriculture which allows the cultivation of industrial hemp and distribution of hemp seed in Hawai‘i for purposes of agricultural or academic research. Comments by Governor David Ige, Representative Cynthia Thielen and Senator Mike Gabbard.

Bill signing with Senator and Reps

Left to right: Senator Sam Slom, Representatives Della Au Belatti, Cynthia Thielen, Senators Mike Gabbard and Will Espero – seated Governor David Ige.

 

Mike Buck hosts Rep. Fukumoto Chang on the Mike Buck show Monday, April 18, 2016

April 27, 2016

Mike Buck spends Monday morning with Hawaii House of Representatives Minority Leader Representative Fukumoto Chang (Mililani Mauka, Mililani) discussing the status of Marsy’s Law in the legislature, police enforcement policies, rail accountability, special funds, and homelessness.

Contact: repfukumoto@capitol.hawaii.gov
Audio Only

Hawaii Is Safe, But We Shouldn’t Be Complacent

April 27, 2016

civil beatApril 25, 2016

By Gene Ward

Missiles in North Korea, cyberattacks and the possibility of terrorist shooters springing up in our midst all provide ample reason to be prepared.

It is not often this isolated jewel we call home — situated in the middle of the Pacific — becomes synonymous with anything other than sun-drenched beaches and abounding aloha spirit. But it is in part this very thing, the seclusion, that has led some experts to ponder whether Hawaii is really safe.

Three recurring events remind us of our vulnerabilities, the first being cyber threats. According to Todd Nacapuy, chief innovation officer for the State of Hawaii, we are hit by millions of cyber attacks per day. Our banks, utilities and military installations are the prime targets and remind us that knocking out our power grid or financial systems is the new normal of modern warfare, and it is going on around us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The second recurring danger is North Korea’s continual probe into the Pacific basin. Between January and March of this year alone, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test and released a propaganda video called “Last Chance (America).”

Should Hawaii take this threat seriously? According to Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, “We watch (North Korea) very carefully. And, you know, their very long range capability is a function of how far do they reach. … So even from their own waters, they can reach part of our homeland. Hawaii is part of our homeland, and they can reach Hawaii.”

Last week, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard joined with other members of Congress to discuss “the clear and present danger of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities and the missile defense the United States has in and around the Pacific to best defend the United States of America and its 300 million people,” according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

The third threat has been the most visible in the rest of the world, but not here in Hawaii.

Terrorism since 9/11 has been motivated by fanatical ideological and religious fervor that threatens everywhere in the world, including Hawaii. With large soft targets of our 8 million tourists each year, plus any attack, however small, at any of our military facilities would have huge symbolic value for an enemy who wants all of America to cower in view of its recent successes in Paris, San Bernardino and the Brussels airport.

At a recent meeting in East Honolulu, a panel of counterterrorism experts from the FBI, Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Honolulu Police Department stated that Hawaii is protected by a coalition of more than 20 federal, state and local organizations that work together on a daily basis. The Honolulu Police Department stressed that we should all know what to do in the event of an active shooter (see this excellent training video by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department) recalling the “Xerox Killer” of 1999 who shot and killed seven people in his office on Nimitz Highway.

In the end, panelists concluded that, yes, Hawaii is safe, but warned us not to become complacent. If you see something, say something. If it’s credible, we were told to call the FBI at (808) 566-4300 or HPD at (808) 723-8581.

Knowing that we are under daily cyberattacks in Hawaii or that we’re vulnerable to North Korean missiles or that an active shooter could appear in our midst is not a cause for fear. But they provide a sober suggestion that we be prepared and not scared.

About the Author

  • Gene Ward
    Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) is a Vietnam veteran and former presidential appointee as a senior democracy officer in the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Patients Caught In The Crossfire Of HMSA’s ‘War On Doctors’

April 27, 2016

civil beatApril 26, 2016

By Cynthia Thielen

 Patients Caught In The Crossfire Of HMSA’s ‘War On Doctors’

HMSA is harming patients with its war on doctors. This year, the state’s largest health insurer yanked doctors’ previously earned ability to order medical tests without pre-approval delays. This month, it’s changing doctors’ pay. In essence, the less time and tests that a doctor gives patients, the more money the doctor gets.

HMSA’s new payment system replaces the fee-for-service structure that reimburses doctors based on the types of medical services rendered and the number of visits. The new system even rewards physicians with financial bonuses for healthier patients who require less medical care.

So the squeeze is on for caring, skilled doctors and consequently, HMSA’s 720,000 member-patients. The new compensation system is called capitated payments. Some might call it decapitating patients’ rights or crippling doctors, and HMSA’s comments to the contrary are appalling.

Capitation pays doctors a fixed rate that apparently falls between the general range of $20 and $80 per patient per month in a practice – whether or not a patient visits the doctor. Money-wise, the best scenario is healthy patients who don’t visit the office because sicker patients who require more time, care and expensive tests may lead to the doctor’s practice spending more money than it receives.

The danger is that the financial reality could be to limit complicated patient cases because it might take just one patient with a serious illness to bankrupt a medical practice.

The American College of Physicians website says, “Capitation payments are used by managed care organizations to control health care costs. Capitation payments control use of health care resources by putting the physician at financial risk for services provided to patients.”

What doctor who truly wants to help people can survive in a cancerous capitation-payment system? When capitation was previously tried in Hawaii, its malignancy caused local medical groups to hemorrhage significant financial damages. Presently, some doctors are already succumbing to the pressures of capitation by walking away from their practices.

Really, HMSA?

With capitation metastasizing among HMSA’s 3,000 in-network doctors, what chance is there that new or experienced physicians from outside of Hawaii will come here to practice medicine? This includes our state’s own keiki, who are completing their residency in the mainland, hoping to return home to practice. There is no incentive, no livelihood and no hope if this assault on the healing profession continues to escalate.

Hawaii is lucky to have a wise, respected and much older community in its midst. Add to that the baby boomer generation, aged 52 to 70 in 2016, who are the highest adult users of health care services. Our need for more – not less – highly skilled practicing doctors is obvious.

Many doctors are speaking loud and clear about being thrust into a position that could lead to hurting patients due to an insurance company’s bottom line taking precedence over people’s well-being. HMSA needs to go back to the drawing board in its newly renovated multi-million-dollar building with lavish bathrooms and find better solutions. Rethinking its budget appropriations for new construction would be a start. Perhaps members could pay adjustable monthly premium rates to HMSA – based on patient satisfaction. That’s our cost-containment, our bottom-line priority and our best interest.

As one practicing doctor recently sarcastically lamented to my office, “I will be happy when the insurance companies not only make all the rules for practicing medicine, but also are liable for the results.”

 headshot dec 2011

 About the Author

Rep. Cynthia Thielen is a member of House committees on Judiciary; Energy and Environmental Protection; Water, Land and Ocean Resources; Housing; and Consumer Protection and Commerce. She is also a member of the Women’s, Keiki, and Kupuna caucuses.

 

 

 

Death of Tax Excess Revenues

April 27, 2016

The disposition of tax excess revenue will be the death knell of Hawaii’s tax payers. Hawaii ranks as the highest taxed state. The unfunded liabilities and debt bonds of our State falls burden once again upon tax payers. SB2554 proposes an amendment made in the 1978 Constitution Convention.

To read the wording of this bill and to track its progress click here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure…

We’d like to hear from you! Feel free to call 586-6420 or email Rep. Ward at repward@capitol.hawaii.gov

Excerpt from the House floor provided by Capitol TV.

 

Mike Buck hosts Rep. Fukumoto Chang on the Mike Buck show Monday, April 11, 2016

April 22, 2016

Mike Buck spends Monday morning with Hawaii House of Representatives Minority Leader Representative Fukumoto Chang (Mililani Mauka, Mililani) discussing the rail, affordable housing, agricultural land, early release of prisoners, sit-lie bans, and homelessness.

Contact: repfukumoto@capitol.hawaii.gov
Audio Only

McDermott’s Message Building a New School for Ewa Beach

April 22, 2016

Representative Bob McDermott discusses the building of a new school for Ewa Beach with Kurt Fevella President at The Ewa Beach Lions club.

Contact: Repmcdermott@captol.hawaii.gov