Student Forums Split On ATVs, Oppose Later Classes by Cynthia Thielen

Wednesday – June 22, 2011 – Midweek

It is always inspiring to meet students who understand that it only takes one caring and vocal citizen to change laws or create new ways of doing things.

When my staff and I took our annual Legislative Roadshow to five Wind-ward schools this spring, we met numerous students who were not only inspirational but offered creative and thoughtful solutions to issues considered during this past legislative session.

The roadshow is an interactive program featuring a mock committee hearing in which students prepare and present individual testimony on current legislation. This year we chose HB18, which prohibits minors from operating, riding or being propelled on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and SB933, which would require Hawaii’s public high schools to start classes no earlier than 9 a.m.

I highly commend the students and their teachers for their research on and careful consideration of these important issues which directly impact young people in our state. Although both bills were deferred this session, they may be resurrected next year.

Regarding the permitted age of ATV operators, students were split in their opinion of the bill. Proponents believed such a law would reduce ATV-related accidents and deaths. They expressed concerns about younger, immature riders not having the judgment and training to safely operate the vehicles and thought more regulation would help decrease negative environmental impacts. Those opposing HB18 said that teens should continue to be allowed to drive ATVs, especially those working on family farms. They pointed out that this law could negatively impact small businesses that sell ATVs, and that parents should be responsible for their minors’ operation of ATVs. Both groups agreed that specialized ATV driver training, helmets, and prohibiting teens driving them with passengers would be helpful amendments.

Knowing how teenagers value their sleep, I was surprised that more students did not support high school starting later in the morning. Opponents of SB933 said a later start time wouldn’t necessarily mean that students slept longer, and even might encourage them to stay up later. Scheduling conflicts for parents, less time for daylight after-school activities, jobs and transportation conflicts were all presented as arguments against changing school starting times. Testifiers also argued that students needed to get in the habit of arriving early and on time to school in order to be prepared for the “real world” and college.

Proponents believed starting school later would ensure teens get enough sleep, resulting in better academic and athletic performance; improved moods and social behavior, reduced absences, an easier commute for district-exemption students, more time for family responsibilities and homework, and more rest for teachers as well.

As my staff and I navigate through the highs and lows of each session, our meetings with students and their teachers are always refreshing and rewarding. We are so proud of our Windward students and look forward to them becoming future leaders committed to making our world the very best it can be!



The House Republican Caucus announced that House Minority Leader Gene Ward is participating in the bipartisan State Legislative Leaders Foundation forum.

This national event recognizes a select number of legislative leaders in the United States who are responsible for shaping state public policies and developing groundbreaking new laws.  This year’s conference theme is “In the Cloud: Effective Governance in the Information Age.”

“We are pleased that Republican Minority Leader Gene Ward has been chosen to participate in this important event,” House Republican Floor Leader Kymberly Pine stated.  “At a time of rapid change when the internet is affecting the way we live and govern, Rep. Ward’s attendance will help keep Hawaii at the cutting edge of emerging cyber space issues.”

The 2011 State Legislative Leaders Foundation forum is being held on the campus of the University of Norte Dame in South Bend Indiana.  About 35 Democrat and Republican state lawmakers from various states will be participating in this year’s program.

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation will cover most costs and no state funds will be used.

“I am honored to have been chosen to attend this leadership forum,” said Rep. Gene Ward. “I look forward to learning from my fellow lawmakers  and a distinguished list of speakers to bring back solutions to improve governance in Hawaii.”

Rep. Gene Ward, serves as House Minority Leader and represents House District 17 that includes the communities of Kalama Valley and Hawaii Kai.   He is a member of the Finance, Legislative Management, International Affairs, and Hawaiian Affairs Committees in the House of Representatives.


Rep. Gene Ward’s office today announced a town hall meeting at Kaiser High School tomorrow, Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 7 PM to discuss the surprise closure of the Foodland grocery store in the Koko Marina Shopping Center. The meeting is sponsored by Rep. Ward and Sen. Sam Slom.

“Many residents have come to rely on Foodland for many decades, and it was a real shocker to learn of their abrupt closing on July 10.  What we hope to gain by this meeting is a better understanding of what took place and why, and what, if anything, can be done to prevent Foodland’s departure,” Ward said.

Members of the Sullivan family who own Foodland, Sofos Realty (who manage Koko Marina Shopping Center) have been invited to speak at the meeting. The public is invited to attend and voice their opinion on the proposed departure of Foodland and how we can soften the impact on our community.

“Foodland was founded in 1948 and is the largest locally owned grocery store chain in Hawaii with 32 locations.  It’s founder, Maurice J. “Sully” Sullivan, according to the Foodland website, had a vision that his stores would always be ‘community-focused and put customers first.’ Foodland has been an much-loved anchor tenant at Koko Marina Shopping Center since 1963, and the Hawaii Kai community is worried about the impact it’s withdrawal will have on our community,” Ward concluded.


“Governor Neil Abercrombie’s statements against the Pro Bowl yesterday revealed the severity of the vision deficit facing our state. This session my caucus wrestled with legislation and leadership that put short-term solutions like tax increases ahead of real long-term changes that would grow our economy, stimulate business and create good jobs for our keiki. I am sorry to see that our governor is choosing to continue with the short-sighted strategy that he and others employed during the 2011 session.


As reported in the media today, the Pro Bowl brings in millions of dollars more than it costs in visitor spending and, at least, $3 million in GET collections alone. This calculation doesn’t even include the visitors that are drawn to Hawaii later by the free marketing we receive by hosting the game. For over 30 years, our state leaders have seen the Pro Bowl’s value. It has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars in stadium upgrades courtesy of the NFL and helped sustain the Stadium’s revenues, keeping it available for high school graduations and local sports events. It has also attracted interest from other potential revenue generators such as ESPN soccer. That our current governor would criticize and belittle the benefits of investing just a little money in the private sector to bring nearly $30 million into our economy is shameful.


Words and actions matter. The ramifications of our governor’s statements will reverberate for weeks and will have damaging results on our economic relationship with others beyond the NFL. If our governor continues down this road, refusing to acknowledge the value of our local businesses and the private sector, our state will not reach its full potential. We must invest in our recovery and invest in our future.”

Representative Gene Ward is the House Minority Leader, who specializes in state budgeting, small business support and job creation.