Archive for February, 2008

Representative Cynthia Thielen Comments on Medical Liability

February 27, 2008

“Unless we have the doctors here in Hawaii, we will have many more victims, meaning people that won’t be able to get health care,” said Rep. Cynthia Thielen. 

The Judiciary Chair, Representative Tommy Waters would not hear the Medical Reform bill. “So I think it’s very short-sighted. Thielen says she is committed to helping physicians stay in Hawaii.

“We have an emergency situation. Physicians know what to do when there’s an emergency; you act,” Thielen said.  “I wish legislators would get the same message. We need to act and we need to act now.” 

Representative Thielen and Marumoto Said House Bill 2847 Erodes DUI Laws

February 22, 2008

This afternoon, over the objections of myself and my colleague, Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R-19th District), the House Judiciary committee voted to pass out House Bill 2847 from committee.

 House Bill 2847 provides a further exception to our drivers’ license revocation rules by allowing those who have had their licenses revoked for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or narcotics to get conditional license permits for personal medical or dental care or to assist in the care of another person who is unable to drive.  While I am sympathetic to caregivers and those with legitimate medical needs, this exception further erodes our DUI laws. 

With an exception this broad, this proposed legislation is like Swiss cheese with even larger holes.  As the House is moving a proposal for ignition interlock devices for DUI offenders and as I and my Republican colleagues continue to push for tougher sanctions against those who drive under the influence, this type of legislation does little to keep our streets safer and reduce the death toll on our roads.

Representative Cynthia Thielen

(R-50th District, Kailua-Kaneohe Bay)

Representative Lynn Finnegan Comments on HB 2849 House Draft 1

February 19, 2008

This bill (HB2849 House Draft 1 –  Employees’ Retirement System; Police Radio Dispatchers) is an opportunity to acknowledge, reward, and help recruit police dispatchers by enhancing their retirement benefits. This is something that I want to support but the other side of the coin is this.

 Last year the legislature passed a law to establish a policy framework to enable the employees’ retirement system to eventually eliminate its 5.1 billion dollar unfunded liability. This body put a three year moratorium on retirement benefit enhancements including any reduction of retirement age when there is an unfunded accrued liability.  A 5.1 billion dollar unfunded liability threatens the retirement benefits for future retirees whom we have already made retirement benefit promises to. We can not continue to make promises without fulfilling the ones we have already made.

 Finance Chair and Speaker have periodically warned us about the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) requirements. Thanks to the hard work of our leadership, healthy interest earnings, and the state and county employers, what once was a 43 year estimated time to become fully funded is now reduced to approximately 25 years. 

 So what will this look like in dollar terms? State and county employers’ contributions are currently 489 million for this fiscal year. Starting June of this year it will be increased by 72 million per year thus totaling 561 million. This is a substantial increase in future expenditures.

 I believe that these groups of workers deserve enhanced retirement benefits, but the moratorium was set in law for a reason. Disregarding it is schizophrenic and not fiscally responsible to taxpayers and future retirees.

 Past legislatures have made conscious choices to put our retirement system into disrepair like our school buildings and university facilities. Let’s keep our promise to our state and county workers. Look around you, look around the state departments, these hard workers deserve to have security of the retirement benefits that they have already been promised.   

Representative Barbara Marumoto Explains Hawaii Primary Caucus

February 19, 2008

February 19, 2008

Dear Honolulu Advertiser Editor: 

What a surprise to see my name (as well as other Republicans) on a list of “Hawaii’s Democratic Caucuses Today”.  True, voters very often identify their House districts by the representative rather than the number, but we got 7 calls by 9 am asking exactly where “our” Democrat caucus, or “your meeting” will take place.  Even though it was political, we gave out directions.

 The real reason I’m writing is to point out that the 19th District description is off.  Yes, while Waialae Iki, Kalani Valley and Kahala are in the district, so is Kaimuki from 6th to 20thAvenue!  It’s bounded on the mauka side by Waialae Avenue and the makai side by Alohea – the heart of this wonderful community.  Two other great neighborhoods you might want to add while you’re at it, Waialae Nui Valley and Ridgeline.

 Proud to represent the whole 19th District, Barbara Marumoto 

Hawaii House Republicans Discuss Cruise Industry

February 16, 2008

Representatives Colleen Meyer and Gene Ward discuss the cruise industry in Hawaii and purposed changes to rulings by the Departmen Representatives Colleen Meyer and Gene Ward discuss the cruise industry in Hawaii and purposed changes to rulings by the Department of Homeland Security.House Concurrent Resolution 79 requests the United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Boarder Protection, to reconsider the proposed rule amendment USCBP-2007-2008, Hawaii Coastwise Cruises. The resolution has been referred to the Tourism and culture (TAC) committee and the Public Safety and Military Affairs (PSM) committee.

With 2 of 3 NCL cruise ships leaving, federal rule change would kill local cruise industry. House Republicans introduced a resolution today calling for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to reconsider their proposed rule change that would affect coastwise cruises in Hawaii.

 “The potential losses to our economy are staggering”, said House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan.   “According to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s estimates, this rule change could decrease sales by $155 million, decrease labor earnings by $44.4 million, and cost Hawaii almost 1,500 jobs,” she continued.  “Given the recent business decisions by Norwegian Cruise Lines to pull Pride of Aloha and Pride of Hawaii from the local cruise market due to increased competition, we can ill afford to lose foreign cruise vessels as well,” Finnegan explained.

 “Given the projected reduction in economic growth, I don’t think our economy can afford another $200 million dollar hit,” added House Minority Floor Leader Colleen Meyer (R-47th District), who is a member of the House Finance committee.  “And the loss of even more jobs through so many sectors of our economy is certainly undesirable,” continued Representative Meyer.  The proposed rule would make foreign flagged cruise vessels travelling between U.S. ports stop at a foreign port for at least 48 hours.

  “This rule change will likely end most interisland cruises originating outside of Hawaii, leaving only Pride of America and this is not conducive to growing a local cruise industry,” commented Representative Barbara Marumoto (R-19th District ), member of the House committees on Economic Development & Business and Tourism, Arts & Culture.  “As has been reported in local media, without the boost in visitorship provided by all interisland cruises, tourism would have been flat for the past 4 years,” said Representative Marumoto.

“It makes no sense”, added Rep. Gene Ward (R-17th District), also a member of the House Finance committee.  “This rule change is so damaging to our tourism industry and economy.  Every other state that is home to a port city that deals with the cruise industry opposes this change – Alaska, California, Washington, Maryland, and more.  Politicians from those states have testified against this rule change, but our Congressional delegation supports it.  Even Senator Inouye’s good friend from Alaska, Sen. Ted Stevens, is opposed to this.  Why is our Congressional delegation trying to further damage our economy?

  In public commentary on the proposed rule change, the Hawaii Tourism Authority stated, “Hawaii’s cruise line industry provides great economic benefits to all affected islands, including generating business for tour and attraction operators, transportation providers, retailers, stevedoring and tug companies and may other residents and businesses providing goods and services to ships, passengers and crew.  On Hawaii island, Kauai and Maui, the economic benefits from Hawaii’s cruise line industry has an even greater impact on the smaller island communities.”  They further add that the “adoption of this item could mean the withdrawal of all international cruise business in Hawaii, and result in significant economic losses for our entire state. 

Besides the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the county of Hawaii, the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, Royal Caribbean Cruises, the Hawaii Pilots Association, and the Governor, among others, have submitted public comments in opposition to the rule change.

Representative Thielen Questioned House Bill 1972

February 16, 2008

Representative Cynthia Thielen voiced her opposition to House Bill 1972, which requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish and operate a county-wide highway traffic advisory radio system to advise motorists of updated current traffic conditions in any county having a population of greater than 300,000. 

 Representative Thielen voted no on the chamber floor and stated, “Why do we need to use taxpayer’s money to operate a new radio station when Perry and Price on KSSK do such an excellent job?”  ” They have traffic reports every ten minutes,” said Representative Thielen. The Perry and Price morning show has maintained its position as the top-rated “morning-drive show” since 1983. 

House Bill 1972 passed its Second Reading and has been referred to the committee(s) on Finance (FIN) with Representative(s) Thielen voting no (1) and Representative(s) Herkes, Manahan, Nakasone, M. Oshiro, Pine, Takumi excused (6). To oppose House Bill 1972 send your testimony to Representative Marcus Oshiro, Chair of FIN at reposhiro@capitol.hawaii.gov or to Representative Marilyn Lee, Vice Chair of FIN at replee@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Rep. Pine Presents $66,883,000 Check To Ewa Beach Students

February 14, 2008

Representative Kymberly Pine presented a $66,883,000 mock check to Ewa Beach Elementary School students for a new middle school that will be constructed just miles away.   “Governor Linda Lingle has released the funds giving contractors the money they need to build the project in a timely manner,” said Representative Pine  “This is a big deal for the children of Ewa Beach because they are going to get the finest state of the art middle school in the entire state,” Pine explained.

  Governor Linda Lingle has released $66 million to construct the new ‘Ewa Makai Middle School, which will help alleviate overcrowding at ‘Ilima Intermediate School and the seven elementary schools in the Department of Education’s (DOE) Campbell Area Complex. The DOE is proposing to open the school during the 2010-2011 school year.

  “Building new schools are among the best investments we can make in growing areas like the ‘Ewa Plain to improve residents’ quality of life,” said Governor Lingle. “The new ‘Ewa Makai Middle School will provide the students with quality facilities and at the same time help to relieve overcrowding at several other schools in ‘Ewa Beach,” the Governor continued.

Rep. Ward Says Civility Lacking in Health Committee Hearing

February 12, 2008

Usually, I would write about a particular bill or issue of interest.  There were quite a few choices in yesterday’s public hearings of the Health Committee.  Universal health care was a topic of discussion.  So was emergency funding for Honolulu’s EMS services.  And pain management.  As well as increasing reimbursements to providers by insurance companies and leveling the playing field between non-profit and for-profit insurance companies – increasing competition, if you will.

 While many of these issues are important and interesting, there was a civility/protocol issue that was disturbing in yesterday’s hearing.  Of the many bills on the Health committee’s agenda today, HMSA was a testifier.  Indeed, as the largest health insurance provider in town, they have a stake in much of the legislation in the health arena.  Increasing health care insurance premiums does not make HMSA the most popular company in the State, or this Legislature, it seems.  Even more so when the Chair of the Health Committee is a health care provider (a doctor) and one of the pressing issues in health care today is reimbursement rates to providers.

 Time and again, the Chair of the Health Committee took the opportunity in the questioning period to attack HMSA for their shortcomings or opposition to measures, taking a sometimes angry and condescending approach to their testimony.  Through it all, HMSA’s representative responded with grace and dignity.

 Being a member of the Minority Party in the State House of Representatives, I can sympathize with the dynamic of being painted “the bad guy” and attacked as such.  What we should remember as people, and lawmakers, is that we serve the public, even individuals or entities that we may not appreciate or agree with, but that we should treat with civility. Our democratic form of government was purposely created in such a way as to allow for different points of view to be heard.  It is not the most efficient form of government, but it is the best.  And civility, amongst persons of different viewpoints is key to promoting democracy.  What was practiced in yesterday’s Health Committee by its Chair went a bit too far and was the most disappointing aspect of the hearing beyond whatever policy was crafted. 

Rep. Thielen Persistence Brings Wave Energy to Maui

February 7, 2008

 Governor Linda Lingle acknowledged Representative Cynthia Thielen for her persistence, which led to establishing the need of renewable energy in Hawaii. Australia-based Oceanlinx Ltd. plans to generate 2.7 megawatts of power using offshore hydrokinetic technology in Maui.
When successful, Oceanlinx would be Hawai’i’s first commercial provider of electricity from ocean waves. Hawaiian Electric Co., which owns the Maui utility, said it’s still working out the final details of a memorandum of understanding with Oceanlinx.

Medical Liability Reform – Our View

February 5, 2008

here are a number of bills introduced that attempt to address increasing medical liability insurance premiums, a primary cost driver of health care costs.  House Bill 1992, House Draft 1, the primary bill that the House will move to address this issue, was passed out of the Health committee on January 25th, and the House referred it to the Consumer Protection and Commerce committee on January 31st with opposition from Representatives Scott Nishimoto, Blake Oshiro, Karl Rhoads, Scott Saiki, Maile Shimabukuro, and Alex Sonson, all attorneys.

 House Bill 1992, House Draft 1, is modeled on Texas legislation, with a safeguard for catastrophic events, allowing up to $3 million in damages in such cases.  Testimony in the Health committee and in an informational briefing held by the Hawaii Medical Association in December 2007 included such facts as:

·        Texas recently enacted tort reform legislation and their premium rates went down between 8 and 16.4%.

  ·        Texas saw 19 insurers return or enter the market.

·        The State of Hawaii Medical Claims Conciliation Panel (MCCP) reviews all medical malpractice claims filed in Hawaii, and in 2006, found no negligence in 82% of the cases it reviewed.

·        Maui is the only neighbor island with a neurosurgeon.  There are some nights on Oahu where there is no neurosurgeon on-call.

·        In Hilo, there is only one orthopedic surgeon on-call.  In Honolulu, there are two, with a third available one day per week.  There were once 22 orthopedic surgeons at Queen’s Hospital.

 There is hope for this needed reform.  Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair Robert Herkes is amenable to hearing the bill, and moving it for further discussion.  Judiciary Chair Tommy Waters is on record saying he does not want to hear the bill, but public pressure could change his mind.  His number is 586-9450, and his email is repwaters@capitol.hawaii.govBottom line: It works, and we need it.