House Minority Responds to Governor’s Address

House Republicans Respond to Governor’s State of the State Address

HONOLULU, HAWAII (January 22, 2018) –  The House Minority Caucus responded to Governor David Ige’s annual State of the State Address in a press conference immediately following the legislative floor session.

The Minority Caucus identified 5 issues that the Governor failed to discuss:

Public Charter School Funding
The Minority Caucus believes every student in our State deserves equal access to education. With over 11,000 students in public charter schools, the State needs to address the inequality between DOE students and charter school students. The Minority Caucus is requesting that the State Auditor conduct a study on the legal framework and financial systems pertaining to public charter schools so that the legislature knows how to address the inequality in funding.

Equal Access to the Legislative Process
30% of Hawaii’s population reside on the neighbor islands and they must sacrifice more when wanting to participate in the legislative process. The Minority Caucus has submitted a bill that would require each chamber and county to have videoconferencing options available for testimonies by the neighbor islands.

Delays in Housing Development
The Governor mentioned that Hawaii is on track to developing 10,000 homes by 2020 with at least 40% of homes being “affordable.” But he failed to mention that Hawaii needs 65,000 new units in the next ten years to meet the growing housing demand. The Minority Caucus believes that bureaucratic delays in the permitting process contributes to the lack of affordable and timely housing. In Honolulu, it takes an average of 17 months to obtain a construction permit. The House Republicans have introduced a resolution that would urge the City and County of Honolulu to decrease these wait times to no more than six months.

Cost of Living Solutions
The Governor spoke about how our residents live paycheck to paycheck and need to work multiple jobs to afford the cost of living in Hawaii. But he again failed to name feasible solutions. The Minority Caucus is offering legislation that would “take the BITE out of food, Better If Tax Eliminated,” said Representative Cynthia Thielen. This bill would eliminate the general excise tax from groceries saving an average of $650 a year for a family of four.

The Missile False Alarm
The Governor also failed to mention the false missile alert on January 13th despite its relevancy to the people. The missile false alarm was unacceptable to the people of Hawaii. The House Minority Caucus introduced a resolution that condemns the 38-minutes of terror and ensures that lawmakers will do everything in their power to prevent such a mistake from happening again. The people of Hawaii need answers to this mistake and the Governor has failed to provide them.

“What we have proposed as a Caucus are common-sense, non-partisan measures,” said Minority Leader Andria Tupola. “We are in the 21st century, things like videoconferencing to testify on neighbor islands, or equal funding for public charter schools, or allowing the private sector to add a hiring preference for military veterans, should already be made available to the people.”

“When the Governor said, ‘the state of our State is strong’ I have seven reasons that would suggest otherwise,” said Minority Floor Leader Gene Ward. “Hawaii has the worst business climate, highest electricity rates, ranked last in US housing, our cost of living is high, we are ranked 50th in property crime and 43rd in education. If he is serious about addressing the population decrease due to young adults moving away, it starts with better educating our keiki here.”

“I think what we heard today is a typical David Ige speech. There was no big vision, no bold ideas, just tinkering around the edges,” said Representative Bob McDermott.

Representative Lauren Matsumoto said, “The biggest take away here is that we are a representative government. One of the most important things we do is hear from the people to make these laws. One thing we are doing as a caucus is introducing a bill that would allow us to hear from everyone, including the neighbor islands.”

The minority response was recorded and uploaded to be used if needed; please see link at the bottom. If you have any questions, please contact Mahealani Kahala. The House Republican Caucus consists of Minority Leader Andria Tupola (District 43), Minority Floor Leader Gene Ward (District 17), Representative Lauren Matsumoto (District 45), Representative Bob McDermott (District 40), and Representative Cynthia Thielen (District 50).

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House Republicans Press Conference – January 19, 2018

House Republicans Announce Session Agenda to Make Hawaii More Affordable, Accountable, and Accessible

HONOLULU, HAWAIʻI (January 19, 2018) –  The Minority Caucus released their bill package today highlighting bills and resolutions that will make Hawaii more affordable, accountable, and accessible.

“Our charter schools are unique, creative, and out-of-the-box; they have different ideas. We’ve seen the trend in our state towards school choice as the charter school enrollment increased by 5%.  HR 5 will help make our government more accessible to students and families who are seeking different public modes of education,” said Representative Andria Tupola, Minority Leader.

Representative Cynthia Thielen (District 50) used an acronym to describe HB 1732, “I’d like to take BITE out of food, Better If Tax Eliminated. Your family loses about $650 a year from taxes on food. We are standing with working families to keep their hard-earned money.”

“We are introducing a bill that will offer equal opportunity for everyone in our state to have their voices heard whether they live on the neighbor islands or in rural areas,” said Representative Lauren Matsumoto (District 45). “About 30% of Hawaii’s population lives on the neighbor islands and does not have the opportunity to testify in person. Offering audio and video technology to the neighbor islands would increase participation in our government and give us a perspective we have not heard in a long time.”

For more on the press conference, please see the attached dropbox link. For more on the bill package, please see the attached press packet. The Minority Caucus will be hosting a response to the Governor’s State of the State Address on Monday at 11am in the State Capitol Rotunda.

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Minority Leader’s Opening Day Remarks

Please see below for the Minority Leader’s Opening Day Remarks.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank my caucus – Rep. Ward, Rep. McDermott, Rep. Thielen, and Rep. Matsumoto for their continued support and collaboration.  I really want to thank those who are here in the gallery today and possibly connected via Olelo or social media.

With the events of this past weekend, it really made everyone stop and think about how disconnected we are.  The events of today help us to remember how important it is to reconnect to our history, our people, and this place we call home.  My hope this 2018 legislative session is that we find new ways to reconnect with our community, with our committee members, and with the concerns that are plaguing our communities and affecting our quality of life.

We all represent geographic areas throughout Hawaii with very distinct needs and characteristics.  It was created this way so that we could connect on a very personal level to the needs and struggles of our communities.  Connection is the energy that exists between people when their voice is heard and their opinions are valued.  As the minority caucus, we are proposing that we connect better to our communities, our counties, and our keiki.

We should start by connecting to our communities by allowing remote testimony and more live feeds of our hearings for neighbor islanders and even some remote areas on our island.  Our caucus chose this as a priority and put forth a bill to address this issue.  I recently visited the city building in Kona and where they now allow remote testimony from other locations on the island.  Last night, our director of highways asked me to get community feedback to improve the contraflow and via social media I got hundreds of great suggestions to pass on so we can see improvements today.

Some of these solutions to allow remote testimony or involvement from our community members can be little to no cost and start this year.  The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen and we definitely can improve to create equal access for all people in Hawaii.

We can also better connect to one of the most pressing county issues that we have which is addressing the absorbent length of time it takes to get a permit in this state.  Our caucus chose this as a priority because it’s not enough to talk about affordable housing.  We need to find doable solutions now to close the affordable housing gap.  The biggest concern people have is that the price for housing goes up every day, every month, and every year when a permit is delayed.  Our counties have been crying out that they need more of our support and the 2015 report to the legislature from the State County working group gives us great pointers on where to start.  We believe by strengthening some of our vital county services it will in turn strengthen our whole state.

Lastly, we need to better connect to the ever-changing needs of our families and keiki.  We are starting to see new forms of public education that ten years ago we would have never understood.  The minority caucus made it a priority to propose equal public school funding because it is our responsibility to connect our keiki to opportunities for growth and development.  We have some schools that closed and are abandoned.  We have some schools that are desperately looking for space.  Just this past year we saw an under enrolled public school partner with a charter school to share space.  They found a win win solution using our existing inventory because we don’t equally fund CIP or all public schools.  I have no doubt that as we equally fund all public schools we will see that creativity really does thrive through making connections.

A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone.  It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens.  ‘Auamo Kuleana – may we all shoulder the burden for the responsibility that is ours.  I hope that we can find ways to reconnect with each other, our house members, our counties, and especially our communities.  We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results.  We cannot keep doing the same thing ten times or twenty times harder because that won’t work either.

If we decide to increase these connections, we will see an increase in resources, an increase in public involvement, and in events like the one that happened this past weekend our connections could make the difference in saving lives.  Our generation is tasked with creating a new vision for Hawaii built on some of our oldest values.  We can’t create this vision without improving our connections.  We shouldn’t demand unreasonable things of ourselves but we should always demand improvement.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.