House Republicans Pleased About Environmental Protection Bills

Lynn at Podium“I’m proud to be able to show that Republicans are serious about protecting our `aina,” said House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan. 


House Bill 3177 increases the maximum penalty for violations within the conservation district from $2,000 a day to $15,000 a day, and authorizes the board of land and natural resources to assess fines based on damages to natural resources within the conservation district and other factors deemed appropriate by the board while protecting native Hawaiian gathering rights.


House Bill 3178 increases the fines for violations on public lands, allows DLNR to recoup administrative costs and expenses in enforcing public lands laws, and allows DLNR to fine the perpetrator for the value of the natural resource damaged.  The bill also doubles the fine for encroachment on public lands


“Over the years we have seen numerous wrongdoings within the conservation district and our public lands, including illegal harvesting of resources, illegal grading, or outright illegal construction, activities that destroy our coral reefs, our beaches, our forests, our entire ecosystem,” said Representative Cynthia Thielen.  “Hopefully, these increased fines pose a greater disincentive for these violations and protects these precious resources.”


“I applaud DLNR for taking a big step towards better enforcement of violations of Hawaii’s conservation district and public lands laws”, said Curtis Muraoka,  Co-Director of West Hawaii Explorations Academy. “Prevention and enforcement go hand in hand to protect our environment.  Better enforcement will only help bolster our award winning prevention programs like ‘Reef Teach’ and ‘Aloha Kai’.”


The Administration bills met with strong support from House and Senate Republicans and will ensure that the Department of Land and Natural Resources has the tools to stop behavior that ruins Hawaii’s conservation lands and public lands.  Organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Sierra Club, have also supported the legislation as it made its way through the legislative process.




Muslim Women Speak With Representative Gene Ward

Azerbaijan Conference

Rep. Gene Ward is pictured here with a

Saudi academic at the Baku conference



This first-ever high level conference on “Expanding the Role of Women in Cross-Cultural Dialogue” was sponsored by Azerbaijan’s Heydar Aliyeh Foundation and the UN’s Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) as well as UNESCO.  Representative Gene ward was asked to attend at the expense of the United Nations.


As tensions increase between Israel and Iran in the Middle East, the world is looking for good news between Muslim and non-Muslim countries and there are many reasons to find it in Azerbaijan.


Not only do Muslims, Jews, and Christians live in peace here, they actually like each other.  Situated just 2 hours north of Baghdad and Tehran, Azerbaijan sits on the path of the ancient “Silk Road” and is becoming a new crossroad as one of the safest places in the world for dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim nations.  It’s ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity is rivaled by few places in the world and is a showcase of progressive Muslim women’s rights.


This is why over 50 countries sent 250 diplomats, scholars, and elected officials (comprised mostly of Muslim women) to the capitol city of Baku to take stock of where they were and where they want to be while the world is becoming increasingly described as a ‘clash of civilizations’ between Muslim and non-Muslim nations.


Contrary to stereo-typed expectations, women from Saudi Arabia wore only head scarves while their counterparts from Pakistan were totally covered from head to toe.  The Saudi women spoke with enthusiasm about their soon to be acquired right to drive a car, though were much quieter about ever getting the right to vote. The first-ever elected female mayor of a Moroccan city however felt Muslim women’s right were changing and changing fast all over the world.


A few American academics were invited but Hawaii had the single largest delegation from the US.  Representative Ward sat on the International Relations Committee in the State Legislature, and the head of the University of Hawaii’s International Education Program Ass’t Vice Chancellor, Dr. Jenny Samaan, and Representative Ward were invited to represent Hawaii’s cultural and ethnic diversity.  (But, Representative Ward had bragging rights over women’s political participation in Hawaii as many delegates were surprised to learn that my Republican Caucus was 85% female!)


The Office of the President and First Lady of Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva spoke of how Muslim women in her country were free to dress as cosmopolitan as they wished, and were becoming educated and sophisticated leaders at home and abroad.  She reinforced her points by a surprise panel of five other First Ladies, though mostly from countries without substantial Muslims populations.


The First Lady of Poland, Maria Kaczynska, for example, stressed that her country’s women were always role models of tolerance and cultural diversity even under the trying times of the many wars in Europe.  South Africa’s First Lady, Zanele Mbeki said the strength of her female role models stood out while living under the suppressive system of apartheid.  Testimonies of the perseverance and potential of women were mentioned by the First Ladies of Latvia, Angola, Argentina, but it was the speech of the First Lady of Texas, Anita Perry, that connected most with the crowd when she said as a young nurse she was the first to report sexual abuse that was widespread in her small Texas town but nobody would every talk about or admit existed. 


Azerbaijan clearly had bragging rights for its Muslim women who could chose their own husbands, be free from female circumcision, travel alone to wherever they want, drive a car, and most importantly vote.  Azerbaijan after all was the first Muslim country to allow women to vote (1918), and was ahead of the US’s women suffrage (1920).   


Diplomacy aside, a chorus of Muslim women stressed time and again that there was nothing wrong with their religion but there was something wrong with their male-dominated traditions and misinterpretations of the Koran that allowed such practices to exist.  Outmoded interpretations for the education of women in Saudi Arabia was a case in point.  Sixty percent of its college graduates were women but only 5% of the Saudi workforce was female.  Compared to Hawaii, where over 65-70% of women have joined the workforce, the brainpower lost by Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia is incalculable.


The event ended with a “Baku Declaration” setting forth a call to all of the world’s governments to provide education and dialogue as the major ingredients for increasing understanding between East and West, Male and Female, Muslim and non-Muslim. 


The war on terror is not about a war between civilizations, but an internal war taking place in both the Muslim and non-Muslim nations of the world, especially where the command and control of one gender refuses to be equal with the other.  The identity of Muslim men rather than Islam is a pivotal question for the future.


Hawaii‘s Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities along with the East-West Center and University of Hawaii clearly can play a role in these on-going dialogues in a world that is eager to understand each other.  

House Republicans Urge Governor To Veto Bill

House Republicans“We need to think of victims first.  Drunk driving kills.  House Bill 2847 would put drunk drivers back on the street,” said Representative Lynn Finnegan. 


House Bill 2847 would expand the conditions allowed for a conditional license permit to include cases where a drunk driver must drive to school or vocational training, must drive to get personal medical or dental care, or to assist in the care of another person who is unable to drive.  It also clarifies when a conditional license permit is permissible for certain commercial drivers.


“I have asked the Governor to veto this bill.  Every exception to our license revocation laws weakens it,” said Representative Cynthia Thielen.  “What is the sense of implementing an ignition interlock program or mandating tougher penalties for driving under the influence if we enact giant loopholes like this?”


Last Friday, Governor Lingle signed the ignition interlock bill as Act 171.  However, this Act will not prevent unnecessary DUI deaths for two years.


According to statistics provided by the State Administrative Driver’s License Revocation Office, in 2007 there were 6,345 cases of driving under the influence, and administrative license revocation cases processed.  1,146 were repeat offenders.  2,424 hearings for conditional license permits were concluded, and 990 conditional license permits were granted at hearings, or 40.8% of all hearings ended up in a conditional license permit being issued.


All House Republicans and four House Democrats voted against the bill.  The Governor has until June 23rd to notify the Legislature of bills she intends to veto.

House Republicans Support New Child Safety Law

Representative Lynn Finnegan “There are grave health consequences to a leaving a child in a car unattended for a long period of time” said Representative Lynn Finnegan.  “A 2003 CDC study found that during July 2000 to June 2001 an estimated 9,160 non-fatal injuries and 78 fatal injuries occurred in children 14 and younger as a result of being left unattended in or around motor vehicles not in traffic.  At least other twelve states have found this problem serious enough to adopt similar language and it is time that Hawaii joins them. I thank Governor Lingle for signing this important bill.”


The Governor signed Senate Bill 2245, an important bill for the safety of our children.  The bill will make it violation of the statewide traffic to leave a child under the age of unattended in a motor vehicle for 5 minutes or longer.  The legislation will additionally insure the safety of children by requiring the driver’s exam to specifically test the applicant’s knowledge of the traffic code regarding leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle


This legislation will also ensure the safety of our young children by granting law enforcement officers, firefighters, or rescue team personnel the ability to use whatever means that are necessary to protect the child and remove the child from the motor vehicle if the official believes the unattended child is in physical danger.


“This part of the bill will be very helpful to ensure the safety of our keiki,” said Representative Corinne Ching.  “There is no greater punishment than the loss of a child, and as a parent of a young child, I sympathize with parents who have considered leaving children in their car because the errand will only take a few seconds. 

But this law will help make it clear that the risk is not worth the consequence.” 


“As a parent, I’d much rather pay the fine than find my child hurt,” concluded Representative Lynn Finnegan.