FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2002
Rep. Marcus Oshiro
HOUSE DEMOCRATS ADVANCE REFORMS IN EDUCATION AND CAMPAIGN FINANCING
The House Democratic Majority on Friday advanced all of its substantive measures to reform public education and campaign financing laws before Friday's midnight expiration of First Lateral, the House's first important deadline of the 2002 Legislative Session, according to House Majority Leader Marcus R. Oshiro.
"Any bill with more than one committee must have passed second reading by midnight on Friday so it can be referred to its final committee, otherwise it is dead for the session," Oshiro said, adding that exceptions are single referral bills and measures introduced last year which are already sitting in final committee.
The package of bills to structurally change the way Hawaii's public schools are governed and operated was a key focus of House Democrats' 2002 legislative agenda. The centerpiece is House Bill 2037, which would decentralize the Department of Education into 15 learning complexes statewide.
"The important features of the bill is that it really allows for all important education decisions to be made at the lowest level that is closest to the affected student," Oshiro said. "The bill also establishes clear lines of accountability."
In their floor remarks, a number of legislators asked that HB 2037 to be more closely connected to HB 2033, a constitutional amendment to abolish the existing Board of Education. "I certainly think that's reasonable," Oshiro said, "because these measure were intentionally designed to complement each other."
Other education measures surviving the deadline included:
Earlier in the session, the House also agreed to extend the work of the Joint Senate-House Investigative Committee investigating the State's compliance with the federal Felix Consent Decree on Special Education.
Another cornerstone of House Democrats this session was a package of measures to reform Hawaii's campaign financing and election laws to restore a measure of public confidence in government. Bills that met Friday's deadline included:
Still mindful that Hawaii is recovering from the effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Oshiro commended House Democrats for advancing bills to protect consumers and to provide relief to businesses. These measures included:
Rep. Roy Takumi, author of the measure, said that health must not be a "commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. Reasonable access to drugs for all residents -- young or old, rich or poor -- should be a minimum standard of care." Takumi said without such a program, many will be forced to under dose or forgo needed medication simply because they cannot afford it.
Also part of House Democrats' legislative agenda were measures to reform Hawaii's energy use toward renewable, alternative sources and away from expensive imported fossil fuels. Among the measures passing Friday included:
Measures of broad public interest also passing on Friday included:
Earlier in the session, the House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee effectively killed bills that would permit legalized gambling in Hawaii.
"These are only some highlights of the measures that were passed, but I believe they reflect the intent of House Democrats to implement true reform in education, government and our energy practices," Oshiro said.
"We have now stated clearly what our priorities are and the direction we believe the State should be moving on a broad range of issues. We have much work ahead of us, and the session is far from over."
All the measures meeting Friday's midnight deadline will now go to their respective final committees for action.