4 (North Hilo, Hamakua, North Kohala, Waimea, Waik
Full time public service as State Senator
Owner, Aloha Blooms Farm 1993-Present
Sales Manager, Hilo Hawaiian, Hilo & Kona Lagoon Hotels 1975-87
Manager, Orchid Island Hotel 1967-75
Hawai‘i State Senator 2015-Present: Chair, Senate Transportation and Energy Committee Committee; Member: Senate Ways and Means and Water and Land Committees; Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Commission; Women’s Legislative Caucus; H
There are two essential qualities needed to effectively serve as a State Senator and I possess both:
1) A commitment to being fully accessible to constituents – to listen and learn about their concerns, fears, hopes and dreams, and then to take action to address the situation. I keep an open door, return phone calls, respond to emails from constituents and I mean it when I say I will help. And by doing this, I’ve developed trusting relationships both in the community and in the Legislature to make it possible to secure funding and programs ($420+ million in CIP and GIAs over the past 4 years) and adopt legislation, as needed.
2) I grew up in the plantation village of Wainaku and have served as Senator, Mayor and Council member. I know well the eight very distinct communities that make up Sen. Dist. 4 (virtually all of North Hawai'i). While there are many values shared by these communities, they manifest themselves quite differently from Pepeekeo to Hawi to Waimea and Waikoloa. I work closely with dozens of individuals, public service groups, non-profit organizations, schools, and hospitals, etc. to address their needs and concerns. I understand their priorities, the goals of their CDPs and strategic plans and vision. I also am deeply imbued in statewide transportation and energy planning as Chair of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee. I serve on Ways and Means, and am an active member of the Womenʻs Legislative Caucus. Also, I am the only Neighbor Island legislator on the still new Climate Change Commission. All of this serves to help me more effectively advocate for my constituents.
1) The cost of living – and urgent need to make Hawaiʻi more affordable for our residents – including housing, food and healthcare. This includes addressing tax policies and the shortage of physicians.
2) The need to strengthen and diversify our economy to “grow” good paying jobs and stop the brain drain. This includes addressing the economic and environmental “cost” of energy and urgent need to shift to renewables to reduce energy expenses, address climate change/sea level rise and protect quality of life.
3) The need to bring public infrastructure into the 21st century – improving schools, hospitals, transportation and agricultural infrastructure.
My highest legislative priority will be to continue to secure Capitol Improvement Project and Grant In Aid Funding, as well as operating funding, for Senate District 4 to strengthen and diversify the economy (which includes supporting life-long education), improve essential infrastructure, and protect the environment. I am grateful that by working with the various communities in my district, and with the support of legislative colleagues, I was able to bring home more than $420 million in CIP and GIAs over the past 4 years to improve the quality of life. I intend to continue this, if re-elected.
In addition to the above, I intend to pursue correcting a major concern that the students at many Hawaii public charter schools are not provided breakfast and lunch; in fact, Hawaii turns back money to the federal government to help underwrite food service for many public charter school students. This was brought to my attention just this past session by the statewide organization of Hawaiian Civic Clubs with Waimea Hawaiian Civic Club taking the lead. I concur with them that this is very disturbing; kids canʻt learn if they are hungry and a very high percentage of the public charter school kids on Hawaiʻi Island are eligible for free/reduced breakfast and lunch – and they are not being fed. I worked hard to address this in the 2018 session and intend to renew my efforts in 2019, if re-elected.
Also, I intend to again pursue establishing tax credits for energy battery storage to incentivize more energy generation using photo voltaic, hydro and wind resources. I also will pursue transforming our Hawaii airports for the safety and convenience of island residents by adopting a public-private partnership model that has been extremely successful all across the country. Hawaiʻiʻs public workers have agreed to this transition recognizing that it will expedite improvements, make our airports cleaner and safer, and potentially reduce costs for what is essential interisland air travel in an island state.
I view the job of State Senator as “doing the peopleʻs work.” Sometimes we make big transformative decisions – such as the “Our Care, Our Choice” law (aka Death With Dignity). Or deciding that Hawaiʻi must bite the bullet and commit to 100% renewable energy resources for utilities by 2045.
But sometimes, the decisions come down to changing one word in a law that doesnʻt seem like a big deal, but takes a lot of time and attention and can have significant consequences.
A woman named DeEtta, who lives rural Hamakua in Senate District 4, called me early in the 2018 session in urgent need of help. I didn’t know her but she explained she was homebound due to illness, and was desperate to renew her State ID, which had expired. Her disability had prevented her from leaving home, so she was unable to get her ID renewed.
Hawaii law said she had to get her “doctor” – that’s the word used in the statue – her “doctor” had to sign a form that she is homebound so that the State ID staff would make alternate arrangements to renew the ID. The problem was, her doctor had closed his office, and she had been unable to find a new one. In the meantime, her husband was in Hospice and she knew she would need an official ID to handle funeral arrangements and other personal matters. After many calls, I asked Bay Clinic to come to the rescue, and they did. They sent a doctor to her home to certify that she was, in fact, homebound. Then, the State ID staff took it from there and renewed her ID.
Thankfully, DeEtta’s problem was resolved while her husband was still with us. But we realized that it was a conundrum seniors across my district and state might encounter. The timing was right to draft and submit a bill to make the necessary word revisions to the law…from “doctor” to “approved certified caregiver.” This became SB 2013. Even though it was a simple change in words, few bills pass the first time, but by talking personally to fellow Senators and Representatives, the bill sailed through. And the Governor has now signed it into law (Act 75/2018).
I thank DeEtta for reaching out to me, and I thank both my Senate staff and legislative colleagues for being so responsive. It was the right thing to do. Also, since the billʻs passing, AARP and all of the four County senior services offices have expressed deep gratitude because they realize it will help them with situations involving kupuna all across the state.
I do get satisfaction out of addressing the needs of constituents – itʻs really what this job is all about.