Representatives Question Former Senator Sakamoto on Same Sex Marriage Issue

Former Senator Norman Sakamoto served as a Democratic member of the Hawaii Senate from 1996 to 2010. He testified for the committee on JUD/FIN Capitol Auditorium. RELATING TO EQUAL RIGHTS.
Report Title: Equal Rights
Description: Recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex. Extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage that opposite-sex couples receive. Effective 11/18/13.

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Excerpt from Capitol TV Nov. 1, 2013

Former Senator Norman Sakamoto testifies on JUD/FIN Committee

Former Senator Norman Sakamoto served as a Democratic member of the Hawaii Senate from 1996 to 2010. He testified for the committee on JUD/FIN Capitol Auditorium. RELATING TO EQUAL RIGHTS.
Report Title: Equal Rights
Description: Recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex. Extends to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage that opposite-sex couples receive. Effective 11/18/13.

Contact: or or

Excerpt from Capitol TV Nov. 1, 2013

Public deserves time to be heard

Image  September 15, 2013

By Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, Rep. Beth Fukumoto, Rep. Richard Lee Fale and Rep. Lauren (Cheape) Matsumoto

ImageThe heart of a strong democracy is built on a commitment to provide people the opportunity to voice their opinions. The same democratic system that gives legislators a platform to debate is designed to provide at least that level of opportunity to the very people government is intended to serve. But the upcoming special session to address same-sex marriage will likely deny that opportunity to many.

No matter where public opinion lies, every person who wants to have a say in his or her government should be given a chance to be heard. Yet, the governor’s proposed bill may only be heard in a single joint committee, and the public will not have time to fully and openly debate this complex issue. Perhaps conversations will take place behind closed doors, but that’s not what democracy is supposed to be. This should worry anyone who hopes for a better future for Hawaii.

As legislators age 33 and younger, who come from a generation disenchanted with politics, we believe that openness, transparency and maximum public debate are the only way to restore faith in the democratic process.

When our generation looks to government, large numbers of young people feel disenfranchised or apathetic because they see too much happening behind closed doors. They wonder whether government is listening to them and whether they can actually make a difference. They routinely question whether the policy decisions made by government are merely a foregone conclusion. A truncated session will only reaffirm that notion.

One of the foremost reasons that all of us ran as Republicans, largely against the status quo, was to ensure that there was some guarantee of open, transparent debate in our state government. Irrespective of one’s political affiliation, open and public debate on any issue that affects us all is in everyone’s best interest.

Proponents have argued that this issue has already been debated for 20 years and that everything that there is to discuss has already been discussed. Though this issue may be settled in the minds of many politicians, the volume of calls and emails to our offices would indicate that the issue is not settled in the minds of the public.

It should be noted that much of the public and many current legislators were children when this debate began. In fact, only one of us was eligible to vote in 1998 when a constitutional amendment on this issue was considered. The voices of our generation should matter, too.

As young representatives of our districts and our generation, we want to be fair to the public by ensuring that government serves its people both thoughtfully and responsively. We were inspired to run for office by a deep desire to see everyday people more involved in a transparent process and will continue to advocate for openness on this and many other important issues.

Whether or not same-sex marriage draws sufficient support to pass, people of all ages and backgrounds should be welcomed to participate.

Despite what established politicians have tried to conclude, this issue has not been settled. The public deserves ample time and respect from the system whose sole purpose is to serve them.

House Minority Caucus hails bipartisan PLDC repeal

Hawaii House Caucus PictureThe House Minority Caucus today praised the bipartisan House effort to repeal the controversial Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC). After advancing from the Senate last week, House Bill 1133 SD2 passed the House in a unanimous floor vote today and will next be transmitted to the governor for signature into law.

“When legislation sparks such controversy among an array of diverse groups and the public, it is time to reconsider it. This repeal is a recognition of the public’s outcry,” said Minority Leader Aaron Ling Johanson.

Rep. Cynthia Thielen added, “I’m pleased that we were able to accomplish this repeal in a bipartisan fashion. There are many things the two parties do agree on – it’s encouraging to see members from both sides coming together for such good work. This is a prime example of the Legislature collaborating to satisfy the wishes of the people it serves.”

The previous Legislature established the Public Land Development Corporation with the intent of growing Hawaii’s economy, but its hurried process and closed-door implementation were criticized by a host of environmental and good-government organizations and individuals.

The repeal of the PLDC was a top priority of the House Minority Caucus this legislative session. The primary introducers of HB 1133 SD2 include thirteen Democrats and six Republicans.

See Hawaii Reporter:



Legislative Report – March 18, 2013

Leg ReportMarch 18, 2013

Caucus Jan 2013 # 2

Left to right:  Representatives Gene Ward Ph.D, Beth Fukumoto, Aaron Ling Johanson, Cynthia Thielen, Bob McDermott, Lauren Kealohilani Cheape and Richard Fale

News Release: Governor dismisses hotel industry concerns over upholding hotel tax increase as “propaganda”

Governor Abercrombie today dismissed industry concerns that his proposal to repeal the sunset on the high transient accommodations tax rate would harm Hawaii’s tourism industry. In response to a legislator’s echoing of industry worries that the high tax rate is hurting business and the greater Hawaii economy, the governor interrupted by saying he has been hearing “the same propaganda.”

Our caucus members are concerned that the governor would show this kind of insensitivity toward the needs of our state’s private sector, especially as this attitude was coupled with numerous requests for new and higher taxes and fees and higher spending on numerous government programs. The House has already killed most tax and fee increase proposals and passed a fiscally responsible.

The bill the governor was commenting on, SB 1194 SD2, failed to pass the House Committee on Tourism today. The TAT rate was incrementally increased twice in 2009 and 2010 from 7.25 to 9.25 percent. The rate is set to revert to 7.25 percent on June 30, 2015 if the sunset is not repealed.

To read the complete news release, please click here.

House passes fiscally responsible budget

The House budget that passed last week does many things for which the House Minority Caucus has long been advocating. This is a clear sign that the House is moving in the right direction. The budget has now crossed to the Senate for further consideration.

The House budget improves government accountability and restructures and reprioritizes spending by:

  • Proposing $600 million less in spending than the governor’s proposal;
  • Removing automatic funding of vacant positions so the legislature can evaluate need on a case-by-case basis;
  • Beginning to pay down the state’s staggering unfunded liabilities with $100 million per year for the two fiscal years. If passed, this could be the first year the state will contribute to unfunded liabilities; and
  • Restoring some of the most vital services for protecting our economy and environment, such as agricultural inspectors.

Some members expressed reservations regarding some of the taxes and fees that are still alive and the potential resurrection of other increases. The House Minority Caucus will remain vigilant to protect Hawaii residents from increasing our state’s already high cost of living.

HB 200 HD1 appropriates general fund spending for the current biennium fiscal years FY 2013-2014 and FY 2014-2015.

Notable bills to be heard this week

Information about how to send testimony on the below measures can be found at the corresponding links.

Tuesday, March 19

  • SB 215 SD3 establishes the public-private partnership authority (PPPA). While some argue that the PPPA would spur jobs and economic development, critics argue that the proposal is too similar to the controversial Public Land Development Corporation. See more details here.
  • SB 693 SD2 HD1 establishes a three-year pilot program for red light cameras. See more details here.

Wednesday, March 20

  • SB 1133 SD2 HD1 removes the exemption for dietary supplements in amounts greater than one ounce from the deposit beverage container program, effectively raising the fee for those purchases. See more details here.

Bill updates

Conveyance tax

A measure to increase the conveyance tax on high-end real estate transactions passed the House Water & Land Committee today. The bill directs funds to watershed protection and invasive species control. The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, citing a potential threat to real estate sales. (SB 1166 SD1)

Early childhood education

Many people have voiced concerns that an early education program would grow the size of government, create a public education voucher system and possibly restrict religious freedom in private schools. The House Education Committee passed bills last week that would:

  • Ask voters whether to amend the state Constitution and allow public money to fund private preschool. (SB 1084 SD1)
  • Establish a school readiness program for 4-year-olds who are no longer eligible for junior kindergarten for the 2014-2015 school year. (SB 1093 SD2)
  • Establish an early childhood education system to move the state toward universal preschool. (SB 1095 SD2)

Minimum wage increase

  • The House Labor Committee passed a proposal last week to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.25 by 2016 and indefinitely tie future increases to the consumer price index. (SB 331 SD2)

In Our Communities

Rep. Gene Ward (District 17 – Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley) 

In place of the “Great Lawn” of Hawaii Kai, Kamehameha Schools and Foodland are requesting a change in the East Honolulu Sustainable Communities Plan and proceeding with plans to construct a strip mall. Please join Rep. Ward and other community leaders at an upcoming town hall meeting to gauge public opinion of the proposed development. Invited speakers include representatives of Kamehameha Schools, Foodland and the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

When: 7:00-8:30 p.m., Thursday, March 21, 2013
Where: Kamiloiki Elementary School Cafeteria, 7788 Hawaii Kai Drive, Honolulu

In The News

Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson (District 31 – Moanalua, Foster Village, Aiea)
Aiea gears up for new library

Rep. Cynthia Thielen (District 50 – Kailua, Kaneohe Bay)
Lawmakers Call for Study on Health Risks of Popular Weed Killer

If you have any questions or concerns about measures in the House or Senate, please don’t hesitate to contact the House Republican Caucus. We look forward to continuing to work with you to make Hawaii an even better place to live.


Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson
Minority Leader
T: (808) 586-9470

Rep. Beth Fukumoto
Minority Floor Leader
T: (808) 586-9460

House Republican Caucus Commends Fiscally Conservative House Budget

Caucus Jan 2013 # 2The House Minority Caucus recognized significant progress toward fiscal responsibility in the House Budget that passed today. As compared to the governor’s budget request for the current biennium fiscal years FY 2013-2014 and FY 2014-2015, HB 200 HD1 appropriates 2.1 percent and 3.5 percent less in general fund spending respectively.

“This is a clear sign that the House is moving in the right direction,” said Minority Leader Aaron Ling Johanson, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Finance. “I commend Chair Luke for protecting taxpayers from many harmful cost of living increases and pursuing a responsible budgetary approach as Hawaii’s fiscal outlook begins to improve.”

He continued, “This budget does many things that the Minority Caucus has long been advocating for. It restructures and reprioritizes spending to improve department efficiency, improves government accountability and begins to responsibly rebuild a solid foundation for Hawaii’s future.”

“The Governor has indicated that with rebounding revenues, the state should be free to spend taxpayer dollars at pre-recession levels,” said Minority Floor Leader Beth Fukumoto. “It’s promising that the State’s finances are rebounding, but it’s important that we not get ahead of ourselves.”

This is the first House budget to be passed under coalition leadership and House Finance Committee Chair, Rep. Sylvia Luke.

Reps. Fale, Fukumoto and Ward Address HB634 – RELATING TO EMPLOYMENT

Report Title: Employment; Worker Retention
Description: Establishes job security requirements upon the divestiture of a covered establishment if the covered establishment employs 100 or more persons. Effective July 1, 2030. (HB634 HD1)

3/5/2013 H Passed Third Reading as amended in HD 1 with Representative(s) Cheape, Fukumoto, Johanson, Thielen voting aye with reservations; Representative(s) Fale, Kobayashi, McDermott, Ward voting no (4) and none excused (0). Transmitted to Senate.

Head shot fukumotocontact:, or Excerpt from Capitol TV