FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2002
Contact: Rep. Marcus Oshiro
HOUSE DEMOCRATS ADVANCE BILLS ADDRESSING LONG-TERM CARE, SMALLER GOVERNMENT, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
The Democratic Majority in the House today successfully moved bills that address Hawaii's long-term care issue, reduce government cost, support economic development, and reform campaign finance laws. The dozens of measures passed today and this evening on third reading now cross over to the State Senate for consideration.
In one of the most far-reaching and cutting edge decisions, Democrats strongly advocated for the passage of House Bill 2638, House Draft 1, which imposes a $10 per month tax on all working persons between the ages of 25 and 98. The money collected would be placed in the Hawaii Long-Term Care Benefits Fund. Persons who qualify for long-term care assistance would receive up to $70 per day for a year from the fund.
House Majority Floor Leader Marilyn Lee noted that when it comes to long-term care, "$70 can buy quite a lot. Most importantly it can keep people out of institutional care for a year, saving their families as much as $7,000."
Rep. Dennis Arakaki, chair of the Health Committee, added that "It's not a panacea, but if we don't do something about it now, we are being neglectful, for this will be paid for by our children and grandchildren."
Others supporting the measure noted that Hawaii has one of the most rapidly aging populations in the United States and enjoy one of the longest average life spans. This means that the problems associated with an aging population will hit Hawaii sooner and its impact will be more acute.
The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, the State Executive Office on Aging, the Hawaii Long Term Care Association, Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), and the American Association of Retired Persons, Hawaii, all testified in support of the measure.
At the outset of the 2002 Session, House Democrats vowed to continue modernizing State government to create greater efficiency, accountability and cut costs. H.B. 2726, H.D. 1, would consolidate various government functions, eliminating three State departments.
Specifically, it proposes consolidating the Human Resources and Labor & Industrial Relations departments; moving the regulatory function of the Agriculture Department into Commerce & Consumer Affairs; moving the promotional arm of Agriculture to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism; and merging the Department of Accounting & General Services with the Department of Budget & Finance.
"If you truly believe in rightsizing or downsizing government, then you should support this bill," House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro remarked on the House floor. He acknowledged that the bill could be further improved, but noted that it is the last remaining vehicle to accomplish State government reorganization.
Oshiro noted that several members of the Republican Minority opposed the effort to reduce government. "I did not anticipate that based on the GOP's highly publicized statements to downsize government. Let's not forget that actions speak louder than words," he said.
The House also passed H.B. 2821, H.D. 1, which would abolish all deputy and assistant deputy positions in State government except for the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii.
And making good on the promise to clean up campaign financing in Hawaii, the House approved H.B. 2844, prohibiting unions, corporations, and government contractors from making campaign contributions. The bill also would make it Class C felony for intentionally falsifying campaign spending reports.
Other important bills gaining third reading approval today included:
In supporting the measure, Rep. Ken Hiraki, chair of the Consumer Protection & Commerce Committee said, "Hawaii has the highest gas prices in the nation. There is little or no competition in this marketplace. The Legislature must be a watchdog against excessive prices."
"This will help the business who have borrowed under this program by providing more timely and market-aligned interest rates, which lately have been at an all-time low nationally," said Rep. Lei Ahu Isa, chair, Committee on Economic Development & Business Concerns.
"This program has helped our displaced workers and made significant contributions in the State's battle against alien plant species as well as environmental health problems like dengue fever," said Rep. Hermina Morita, chair, Energy & Environmental Protection Committee.
"Perhaps more significantly, it authorizes the Mo'okini Luakini Corporation to protect and care for the heiau site located within the monument grounds," said Rep. Ezra Kanoho, chair, Water & Land Use Commmittee. "This has been a long time in coming and all the parties that contributed to this effort are to be congratulated."
"Those named to the commission will serve without compensation," said Rep. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay (D - Kalihi Waena, Kapalama, Moanalua). "But their work will be an important reminder of the contributions that Filipinos have made and continue to make in Hawaii."
Lawmakers also approved a number of special purpose revenue bonds to assist business enterprises on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. The bonds enable the businesses to use the greater borrowing strength of the State without financially obligating the State.
"I am very encouraged at the way this session is taking shape," Oshiro said. "There are many great measures that taken together, address our immediate needs and also the well being of the State in the years ahead. I am optimistic that this session will be even better than last session."