Republican Caucus Opposes Cuts to TANF

The House of Representatives Republican Caucus went on the record with the Speaker of the House, Representative Calvin Say, opposing spending cuts proposed for out State’s Temporary Assistance for Needy families (TANF) block grant. 


Under a budget plan by the Democrat Majority, the House Finance Committee, from $22 to $27 million in TANF funding would be directed to a reserve account. “These federal dollars could only be used for cash assistance payments to welfare families,” said Representative Lynn Finnegan.  These people want a hand-up not a hand-down,” continued Representative Finnegan


“If the cuts occur, a significant percentage of our TANF block would sit idle and DHS would be forced to halt funding for a wide variety of community-based programs that are successful in reducing or preventing family poverty, connecting parents to employment and providing help for at-risk children and youth,” explained Representative Finnegan.


It is important to understand that Hawaii maintains on of the largest TANF reserves in the nation.  This is a sharp contrast to about half of the other States, which keep zero or only negligible amounts of TANF dollars in reserve.  These States realize that it is fiscally sound and socially responsible to put the federal money to work right now by supporting programs that help citizens lead better lives.


“In the unlikely event that Hawaii’s TANF reserve needs additional funds at some point, DHS can scale back or cancel its community-based programs with just 30 days notice; TANF receipts do not want to receive welfare they want to be self reliant,” concluded Representative Finnegan.



We Must Put the “Card Check Bill” in Check

Representative Colleen Meyer discusses the card check House Bill 2974 and the reasons Govenor Lingle should veto the bill.

Here we go again.  Private businesses could find it a lot more difficult to operate in the future if House Bill 2974 becomes law. The Senate has passed House Bill 2974 known as the “Card Check Bill” and it is headed to the Governor’s Office for her signature. Under this bill, workers will no longer be able to determine if they want to be represented by a union through an election process using secret ballots.  The “Card Check” bill will give unions the ability to pick off employees one at a time.  They will intimidate workers into signing individual cards indicating they would like to join a union. Unfortunately, some hardworking employees will sign the petitions, not because they are in favor of a union shop, but because of persistent union requests, peer pressure tactics or simply not wanting to be harassed anymore. When the Union organizers have collected enough signed petitions to equal 50% plus one of the company’s employees, the union will inform the employer that they are the legitimate negotiating entity for the company’s employees and the company will have no recourse.  The “Card Check” bill does not level the playing field, as unions are fond of saying, it gives them the upper-hand. 


Under current law, if  30% of employees of a company sign a petition stating they are interested in joining a union, The National Labor Relations Board will arrange for an election and the employers will have time to make their case and listen to the employees’ concerns.  The issue to join a union or not will then be decided by a secret ballot. If a majority of employees vote in favor of union representation, then the company is required to recognize the union as the official negotiating entity.  However, if House Bill 2974 becomes law, the secret ballot goes out the window.


The timing for this bill could not be worse.  The cost of living in Hawaii is skyrocketing while our economy is slowing down.  On Thursday, ATA Airlines ceased operations.  This past Monday, Aloha Airlines laid off 1,900 employees, last week Molokai Ranch laid off over 120 employees, NCL is reducing its cruise ship fleet in Hawaii from three ships to one, and even attractions like Sea Life Park have recently laid off employees.


This bill sends a strong message to businesses that Hawaii is not a business friendly place. According to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Hawaii ranked 45th out of 50 states in economic outlook and we ranked 50th out of 50 on the sales tax burden levied on our citizens.  The Alliance for Worker Freedom gave Hawaii an “F” in its 2007 National Report Card. 


Instead of passing legislation that will scare off potential businesses, we should look into labor reform, such as Right-to-Work legislation.  Statistically, almost half of the states in the country (22 in total) have Right to Work laws, while only six states have card check laws.  A Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join a union individually, not as a collective group. Right to Work laws protect the freedom of private AND public sector employees to keep and hold jobs without being required to pay union dues.


2008 is an election year and the Democrats want to “curry favor” with the unions to receive their support in the upcoming contests.  It is also convenient that the Legislature passed this bill early, so when the Governor vetoes this bill, the Democrat super majority will be able to override the Governor’s veto during the regular session and avoid the criticism that often is raised when the Legislature calls a special session.


Over the past two decades, union membership has declined nationally, but not so in Hawaii, where 24.7% of our workforce is unionized. That’s the highest percentage in the country.  If you compare Right to Work states with those that have “Card Check” laws, the Right to Work states are outperforming the Card Check states.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the states that have the highest percentage increase in Gross Domestic Product over the last few years are states with Right to Work Laws.  Those states that have “Card Check” laws or high union membership do not perform well at all.  Michigan ranked 48th of 50 and New Jersey was ranked 36th.  It is a shame that the Majority Party is putting “political points” and union interest before the economic well being of the people of Hawaii.  I urge the voters of Hawaii to contact their state representatives and senators and tell them not to override the Governor’s veto.



The Electorial College

Representative Colleen Meyer discusses the Electoral College with Representative Gene Ward.
The Electoral College has been serving American politics for more than 200 years. But recently, due to a close election for the U.S. Presidency, some people at both the local and national level have been advocating a change in the way we elect our Presidents.
So here we go again! House leadership has again introduced a bill (HB 3013) that will take away the advantage that a small state like Hawaii has over big states. It was introduced by the same person who chairs the Judiciary Committee (Rep. Tommy Waters). It has already passed a second reading with the Republican caucus voting “no,” but it has one more floor vote before it goes over to the Senate and Governor Lingle for signature.

This bill is another misinformed attempt to enable the winner of the presidential election to be determined by national popular vote rather than the Electoral College. The bill adds a new section to Chapter 14, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to enact agreement that allows member states to determine the winner of a presidential election by “national popular vote.” (HB3013 HD1)

Our founding fathers knew better. They understood the nuances of political contests, particularly the importance of small states and the possible tyranny of large states overwhelming national presidential elections. They understood especially how small states could be affected if only the popular voted counted. For example if one voted in Hawaii’s 2004 presidential election, it was a likely vote for John Kerry, but under the proposed new system, your vote would have gone to George W. Bush.
Likewise if someone in Hawaii’s 1988 presidential election voted for Michael Dukakis the vote would have only counted for Bush (Senior), and in Hawaii 1968 presidential election between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon, a vote for Humphrey would have become a vote for Nixon. Is this the kind of ‘kapakahi’ results we want in Hawaii?
The best description in understanding the Electoral College is a sports analogy. In baseball’s World Series, for example, the team that scores the most runs overall is like a candidate who gets the most votes. But to become the World Series champion, it is the team that wins the most games who becomes the winner of the series. So no matter how many runs (votes) you get, you still have to win the most games (state ballots). No one calls the World Series unfair just because the team that got the most runs loses, right? It is all about the games, just like in politics it is all about the states.
Another downside for our nation with a proposed plurality ballot would be that “urban America,” particularly the large states on the east coast (e.g. New York) and west coast (e.g. California) will be the dominant player at the expense of “rural America.” Stated differently, imagine the urban core of Honolulu deciding for the entire state of Hawaii who should be our next governor and you can see how this allows a national advantage of large states and large cities to dominate. I believe the values of farmers and small town Americans are just as important (if not more important) as big city values and voters, so the Electoral College is the best way to filter for these differences.
The current Electoral College strengthens the status of minority groups, because the votes of small minorities within a state may make the difference between winning all of a state’s electoral votes or none of them. It enhances the political stability of the nation by promoting a two-party system that protects that presidency from impassioned but transitory third party movements, and forces the major parties to absorb the interests of small states and minorities; and it maintains the federal system of government and representation. Each state is allocated a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Representatives, plus its two senators, so Hawai`i has four electoral votes. All states have at least three electoral votes, no matter how small they are.
Hawaii needs more tax relief for our over-burdened families, expanding access to quality healthcare while reversing the financial problems plaguing our doctors and hospitals, developing more transitional shelters and affordable housing while fixing potholes, harbors and airports; we do not need some national agenda about a grudge match to distract us from the tasks at hand.
As the smallest state in the nation, it does not seem strategically wise to give up our comparative advantage offered us by the Electoral College. House Bill 3013 HD1 asks us to do this. Last year a similar bill was vetoed by Governor Lingle. The only thing left to say about this bill is: “Mahalo for your veto, Governor, get your pen ready for this year too. for your veto, Governor, get your pen ready for this year too.