It is amazing how powerful hope and goals are. For some, it may be the only reason that keeps them living.
Monthly Archives: February 2007
Since my first legislative session in 2003, I created bills that coincided with future news-making events. However, some people who have worked with me on legislation or know me, feel my bills seem to eerily foretell future events. I laugh at the thought that my bills can predict the future. I just think they are coincidences. Below are some of these “coincidences”:
1. In January 2003, Senator Will Espero and I had a meeting. He suggested I introduce a campanion bill to his Senate Bill mandating state officials to undergo mandatory ethics training. I was 28 years old at the time and I thought it was a bill worth introducing in the House. I read the ethics laws and found out how gray it was to interpret them. For example, one can use one’s state office to help non-profit organizations such as the Blood Bank and the Food Bank. However, one can violate the ethics laws if you help other non-profit organizations depending on how the Ethics Commission interprets the relationship between you and the organization. Everything is basically case by case according to the Ethics Commission. Therefore, I thought, there needs to be a dialogue between state officials and the Ethics Commission. However, looking back, a mandatory ethics training put into law wasn’t necessary because we could have placed it into our Senate and House rules.
By July 2003, criticism was mounted over how KITV 4, a local television news station accepted a trip to Japan paid for by the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, with the blessing of Governor Linda Lingle’s office. The station was allegedly asked by the governor’s office to take this free trip paid by the state in order to cover the governor in Japan.
In the 2004 legislative session, the governor was accused of violating ethics rules on a couple of occasions in the media. At that time, she was advocating for local school boards. To get the pressure on the legislature, she created a non-profit group called CARE or Citizens Achieving Reform in Education, a private nonprofit corporation that raised $80,000 in donations as of April 11, 2004 to promote her education initiatives. CARE allegedly operated from her state offices using state workers, which was an apparent violation of Hawaii’s ethics laws. Also, CARE was a lobbying organization allegedly operating from the governor’s office, another violation of Hawaii’s ethics laws.
After the 2003 Legislative Session, my House bill passed the House and remained in the Senate. In the 2004 Legislative Session, with the second allegation of ethics violations (Non profit lobbying organization being coordinated out of Governor Lingle’s office) on Governor Lingle in the media, my bill got attention and coverage by the media. The governor accused the Democrats of creating the mandatory ethics bill in reaction to the allegations of ethics violations against her. In response, a person who worked with me on the bill told the media that this bill was created before any of the alleged ethics violations were done by the governor.
Senator Cal Kawamoto moved the mandatory ethics bill out of his committee and the rest is history. The bill passed the legislature and Governor Lingle signed it into law at the end of the 2004 Legislative Session.
2. In the 2003 Legislative Session, I created a bill to open up the contracts of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Hawaii Convention and Visitors Bureau (HVCB) to see how efficiently the agencies were spending. The bill was held in the House. By June 2003, the media reported on a state audit that revealed bad financial management, state funds spent on self-serving purposes, conflict of interest, and inflated reimbursement requests. By July 2003, changes in management at HVCB began and the marketing contract with HVCB was split up. HVCB retained marketing to North America. Dentsu Inc. got the contract for marketing to Japan, Marketing Garden for the rest of Asia, The Mangum Group for Europe, and The Walshe Group for Oceania.
3. In the 2004 Legislative Session, I drafted a bill to creat a science, technology, business, and art magnet school called the Academy of Hawaii. This school would be a collaboration of the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii West Oahu. The bill did not move out of the House Education Committee, therefore, I re-introduced the bill again in the 2005, 2006, and 2007 legislative sessions. Similarly, in January 2007, Governor Linda Lingle announced in the media her proposal for her science, technology, and math magnet schools. These schools would be a collaboration between the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii’s community colleges. Her magnet school proposal coninues to make the news.
4. In 2003, I bumped into Hoku Scientific CEO Dustin Shindo (a constituent) at a local hangout one evening. We talked about ideas on how to strengthen Hawaii’s technology industry. In 2004, we decided to draft a bill to float $10 million in Special Purpose Revenue Bonds for Hoku Scientific to be used in building their facility in Kapolei. In 2005, the bill passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Linda Lingle. In August 2005, Hoku Scientific made an IPO (Initial Public Offering). On October 16, 2005, Hoku Scientific’s new Kapolei facility was unveiled where I made a speech along with Mayor Mufi Hanneman. The company continued to expand and make news in 2006 and 2007. Hoku Scientic, IPO, need I say more?!
5. In 2005, I drafted a state land banking bill for the Kunia area to help buy and protect valuable agricultural land for farmers. The Kunia area described in the bill went below the freeway into the Ewa plains because I feared one day the farmers operating below the freeway would be squeezed out by their landowners once their leases ends.
I introduced this bill in the 2006 Legislative Session. In February 2006, Del Monte announced it was closing down its pineapple operation affecting about 700 International Longshore and Warehouse Union employees, as well as an undetermined number of nonunion positions. My bill passed the House, but died in the Senate.
For this 2007 Legislative Session, I re-introduced my bill and my gut feeling in 2005 came true. The landowner of the farmers sold their land to a developer who will eventually kick out the farmers when their leases run out.
6. On May 29, 2005, I had a conversation with a constituent who told me to look into why the governor of Hawaii has no access to a state plane when most of the governors in our country does. I told him I would follow up on his suggestion.
In the 2006 Legislative Session, I created a bill for a $1.9 million state aircraft to be under the direction of the governor. The governor could have the plane be used by state workers for various state services. For example, the governor could utilize the plane for various government employees, equipment, and services for our island state such as engineers, medical services, psychiatrists, researchers, law enforcement, shipping prisoners, etc. I found out that according to StateLine.org, in 2001, 42 of the 50 govenors in the U.S. had access to a state plane. The cost of some of the other governors’ planes ranged from $3.8 million to $6 million, which is much higher than my bill’s $1.9 million budget. I also learned that it is cheaper to fly a group in one plane than to send them off in a commercial plane. It costs about $250 an hour to fly 13 people in a small plane to a neighbor island, which includes pilot, fuel, and landing fee costs. In contrast, it costs $650 or more to fly the same amount of people in a commercial plane. However, the cost factor will depend on how reliable the plane is, which would affect maintenance costs. In addition,we must consider insurance costs.
The bill did not move in the 2006 Legislative Session so I decided to re-introduce it in the 2007 Legislative Session. I never forgot my constituent’s request and I agreed with him that the issue should be discussed. After all, the state executive branch spent $12 million in fiscal year 2006 on commercial flights. On February 2, 2007, the Senate Transportation Committee announced that they would hear it on February 7, 2007. In the week of February 4, 2007, KITV 4 and Star Bulletin misled the public by saying that lawmakers would have a free ride. They forgot to read the bill because it was written so that the governor has authority over the plane, not the lawmakers. They didn’t know who introduced the bill because they didn’t look for the introducer in the House. Instead, KITV 4 and Star Bulletin called it stupid without even doing any work discussing the merits. I was very disappointed. During that same week Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi was criticized for having a federal plane that was assigned to former U.S. Speaker Dennis Hastert. This national news is the coincidence to my bill.
This state plane bill is not included in any of my top priorities, but it makes news over my business, renewable energy, and sex assault prevention bills.
In the end, I suggested that this bill was premature and that maybe there should be a study on how the other 42 states manage their state airplanes under the direction of their governors and do a cost analysis?
These are some of my bills that were followed by events related to the bill. Did my bills predict a future news-making event like some of my friends suggested? I don’t think so, but it is something interesting to talk about. More to come.
Last legislative session and this legislative session, I introduced a bill to include in the first degree sexual assault law, language that would include “the use of a substance to subject one to sexual penetration” to be included in the definition of “strong compulsion” in the first degree sexual assault law.
I was pleased when I found out that my bill's intent was already incorporated and passed in a large omnibus penal code bill last year. Therefore, under HRS Section 707-730(e), a person commits the offense of sexual assault in the first degree if: “The person knowingly subjects to sexual penetration another person who is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless as a result of the influence of a substance that the actor knowingly caused to be administered to the other person without the other person's consent.”
I dedicate this law to all the girls who entrusted me with their stories of sexual assault and the many more survivors in our world.
With Warmest Aloha,
Jon Riki Karamatsu
I am a Democrat by blood and heart. Sure, there are many times where Democrats and Republicans disagree. However, when both sides of the aisle come together on an issue that we think will better Hawaii, that is an awesome feeling. When I entered elected politics in 2002 as a young 27 year-old state representative, I never thought I would be making such a statement. Yes, it is the Republican Party's job to knock me and other Democrats out of office and vice versa. But there are certain colleagues on both sides of the aisle that mutually respect each other and I believe this is a good thing.
In my four years in politics, I had some good stories in the media on a number of issues relating to business, improvements to schools, technology and science, and preventing sex assault in Hawaii. However, the media can be nice to you one day, and bite you the next. Nonetheless, I always act politely to them. You need to have thick skin in this job.
The media is very interesting in how they pick what issues to highlight. They seem to always look for anything negative to make a story that sells. Sometimes, they also mislead the public. At times, they report as if they know you, but they don't. Finally, the media sensationalizes the story by exaggerating and taking your words out of context.
Now I fully understand why politicians and entertainment stars say they have a love/hate relationship with the media. They communicate with the public through the media, and the media can decide to tell their story accurately, spin it in a different light, or totally attack them. The media has a lot of power because the way they tell your story will determine how the public perceives you. It doesn't matter if they made a mistake, because once they tell the world, unfortunately, many people will take their reporting as fact.
I always think of my late grandparents and loved ones who passed away. I also think about my ancestors. I am so grateful for everything they have done for me. I love them and miss them.
Since I am so busy and don’t see my parents too often, I cherish the time I spend with them. They are in their early 60s and still working and doing well. I am determined to do my best so I can share many of my life experiences with them. As an adult, I understand the importance of the discipline they taught me.
I am racing against time. I only have a limited time in this world to make a small difference. My thirty-two years of life have been exciting, but there are so many things I want to do before I die. It is scary how fast our future is creeping up on us. We could have sixty years, thirty years, ten years, five years, a year, several months, or maybe only days left in this world. It doesn’t matter, we have to go all-out now. We must live as if we could die tomorrow. The quality of life is not in the amount of years we live, but it is how we live it.
What happens after we die is secondary. When we die, we will find the answer. The most important thing is that you strive to live an honorable life now. You can’t turn back time and change your actions. Therefore, focus and prepare yourself for tomorrow. Think of what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. Do your best to love one another. A mistreatment of another is a mistreatment of ourselves. No one is perfect, but we must strive for the highest truth or enlightenment, which everyone can achieve in their own way.
• House Bill 334, Sopogy Inc. Special Purpose Revenue Bonds (SPRB) – Authorizing up to $10 million in Special Purpose Revenue Bonds to assist Sopogy Inc. with planning, designing, construction, equipping, and operating a solar farm power plant at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii to produce electricity from solar power. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 597 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 335, General Excise Tax (GET) Exemption for Green Facilities – Provides a general excise tax exemption for buildings or facilities in conformance with the United States Green Building Council’s leadership in energy and environmental design green building rating system. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 598 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 336, Appropriation for State-Owned Aircraft – Appropriates $1,900,000 for the department of transportation to purchase a state-owned aircraft to be used in the conduct of state business. Requires the department to adopt rules concerning the use and maintenance of the aircraft. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1977 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 337, Authorizing the Agribusiness Development Corporation to Purchase Kunia Agricultural Land – Authorizes the agribusiness development corporation to issue revenue bonds to purchase agricultural land in Kunia from the Campbell Estate. Appropriates funds to purchase the lands. Enables the agribusiness development corporation to contract with banks to provide lease management services. Allows corporation to lease agricultural lands in Kunia for up to 55 years. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 837 introduced by Senator Kokubun)
• House Bill 338, Establishing the Hawaii Innovations Partnership Corporation – Establishes the Hawaii innovations partnership corporation to provide research and development grants and to invest in enterprises in advanced technology, life sciences, and renewable energy fields. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 705 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 339, Appropriation to Establish a Sexual Violence Prevention Curriculum in Public Schools – Appropriates funds to the department of education to develop and implement a sexual violence prevention curriculum that will feature multiple, age appropriate lesson plans targeted at kindergarten through 12th grade students, a teacher-friendly lesson plan format, and flexible, interactive learning activities for students. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1736 introduced Hanabusa)
• House Bill 340, Use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) Device on Convicted First Degree Sexual Assault Offenders – Authorizes the court at sentencing to require a person convicted of sexual assault in the first degree to wear a global positioning system transmitter for up to 10 years after the person’s release from prison. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1738 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 341, Enterprise Zone Tax Credits for Long-Term Care Facilities – Defines long-term care facilities and includes care in such facilities as part of a “service business” that may qualify for beneficial treatment within an enterprise zone. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1737 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 342, Penalties for Graffiti and Minor Offender Guardian’s Responsibilities – Mandates certain penalties, including graffiti eradication, for persons convicted of aggravated criminal property damage. Holds persons legally accountable for a minor liable for aggravated criminal property damage committed by the minor. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 676 introduced by Senator Nishihara)
• House Bill 343, Income Tax Deductions for Employers Who Reimburse Employees’ Public Transportation Costs – Provides an income tax deduction for an employer who reimburses the employer’s employees for the cost of public transportation incurred by the employees for transportation to and from work. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 599 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 344, Prompt Payment Provisions for Contractors – Authorizes contractors and subcontractors to include in their subcontracts additional provisions that must be met before the subcontractor is entitled to receive final payment for completion of work on a government project. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 601 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 345, Establishing a Peace Day Non-Holiday – Establishes September 21 of each year as Peace Day to promote peace programs, improve international relations, and increase educational awareness of peace. Encourages citizens to observe and celebrate the blessings of peace and endeavor to create peace on the holiday. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 260 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 346, Establishing a Peace Day State Holiday – Establishes September 21 of each year as a state holiday to be known as Peace Day to promote peace programs, improve international relations and increase educational awareness of peace. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 261 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 347, Appropriation to Support Project EAST (From Senator Fukunaga) – Appropriates funds into the Hawaii 3Ts school technology laboratories fund for the economic development alliance of Hawaii to expand project EAST programs to public schools. (Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1921 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 348, Establishing an Information Technology Bachelor’s Degree (From Senator Chun Oakland) – Requires the board of regents for the University of Hawaii to establish a new bachelor’s degree program in information technology at the Manoa campus. (Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 243 introduced by Senator Chun Oakland)
• House Bill 896, Appropriation to Wire State Capitol Facilities for Broadcasts (From Senator Ihara) – Makes appropriation to wire state capitol conference rooms and the capitol auditorium to broadcast public hearings. (Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1083 introduced by Sen. Ihara)
• House Bill 897, Appropriation for Archived and Indexed Video and Audio Streams of Legislative Proceedings for the Internet (From Senator Ihara) – Appropriates funds for archived and indexed video and audio streams of legislative proceedings on the Internet. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1084 introduced by Senator Ihara)
• House Bill 898, Fixed Guideway Station Enterprise Zones – Creates enterprise zones within a half-mile radius of stations of a fixed guideway system on Oahu. Grants various tax concessions relating to enterprise zones to qualified businesses, including new construction of affordable housing within those zones. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion: Senate Bill 860 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 967, Pilot Project, Surveillance Cameras to Deter and Prosecute Graffiti Offenders – Establishes a pilot project in the department of transportation to develop and evaluate a program for the acquisition, placement, operation, and maintenance of video surveillance cameras for the purpose of deterring graffiti on state highway signs and of prosecuting offenders. Appropriates funds. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1225 introduced by Senator Nishihara)
• House Bill 968, GET Exemptions from Trusts Benefiting the Blind, Deaf and Disabled – Exempts from the general excise tax, up to $2,000 of income from trusts whose sole beneficiaries are blind, deaf, or disabled and taxes any additional income from the trusts at a 1/2% tax rate. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 704 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 1015, Workers Rights, Workers Compensation and Pension Waivers, (BY REQUEST – Constituent) – Permits director of labor to reopen worker’s compensation case after settlement if settlement has been obtained by the exertion of undue influence over any party or as a result of the disability or mental incompetence of the employee. Requires private employers who provide pension plans to their employees to allow an employee who has vested to receive pension payments upon becoming disabled, regardless of age. (Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1652 introduced by Senator Gabbard)
• House Bill 1105, Short Form Bill Relating to Procurement – Speaker introduced bill for Rep. Karamatsu. (No Senate Companion Bill)
• House Bill 1106, Short Form Bill Relating to Iolani Palace – Speaker introduced bill for Rep. Karamatsu. (No Senate Companion Bill)
• House Bill 1661, Use of Date Rape Drugs in Sexual Assault – Amends the definition of “strong compulsion” to include the use or attempt to use a controlled substance to overcome a person. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1980 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 1662, Use of Linked Investments in Agricultural Loans – Establishes linked investments to provide loan funds for agriculture. Authorizes the State to invest in linked investments. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1979 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 1663, Prohibition of Association Board Members Service, (BY REQUEST – Constituent) – Prohibits a member of any association of apartment owners from serving on board if the association member is in arrears of $1000 or more in maintenance fees, fines, or any other fees owed to the association for at least 3 months. (Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1671 introduced by Senator Nishihara)
• House Bill 1664, Streamlined Sales and Use Tax (From Senator Fukunaga) – Adopts amendments to Hawaii tax laws to implement the streamlined sales and use tax agreement. (Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1840 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 1665, Renewable Energy Technology Income Tax Credit (From Senator Fukunaga) – Establish that all energy technology systems must be installed and placed in service in the State of Hawaii to obtain energy tax credit.
• House Bill 1666, Appropriation to Establish a Small Business Technology Grant Program (From Senator Fukunaga) – Establishes a supplemental grant program of $10,000,000 for follow-on research and development project funding for Hawaii based small businesses that received federal funding in fiscal year 2007 through the Hawaii Technology Development Venture or the National Defense Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences. (Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1688 introduced by Senator Fukunaga)
• House Bill 1684, International Liaison for the Legislature – Creates one full-time position of international liaison for the legislature within department of business, economic development, and tourism, office of international affairs. Makes appropriation. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Companion Senate Bill: Senate Bill 1983 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 1685, Magnet Technology School for Gifted & Talented, UH-West Oahu – Requires the department of education to establish the academy of Hawaii for gifted and talented students to develop the potential of students who have demonstrated superior achievement or possess the potential for superior achievement through the provision of appropriate educational opportunities. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1981 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 1686, Establishes 90 day grace period for the 30-day Prison Term Penalty Option for Driving Without a License for drivers whose license to operate mopeds, motor scooters, motorcycles, passenger cars, and trucks or vans having a gross vehicle weight rating of 15,000 pounds or less expired within the 90 days preceding the violation. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1982 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 1865, Establishes the High Tech Revenues Special Fund – Requires a tenant of high technology development corporation facilities to: (1) transfer 2% of its equity to the corporation; and (2) pay 2% of its annual gross revenues to the corporation for deposit into the high tech revenues special fund to pay for cost of acquiring land, building new infrastructure, maintaining existing infrastructure, corporation operations, and grants. (No Senate Companion Bill)
• House Bill 1872, County Surtax for Non-Resident Residential Property Owners, (BY REQUEST – Young Democrats) – Requires counties to add a surtax to the real property taxes paid by non-resident owners of residential properties. (No Senate Companion Bill)
• House Bill 1873, Raising the Wage Limit for Overtime Pay, (BY REQUEST – Young Democrats) – Raises from $2,000 to $2,800 a month the maximum monthly salary over which the wage and hour laws concerning overtime pay do not apply. (No Senate Companion Bill)
• House Bill 1874, Entertainment Surcharge, Entertainment Income Tax Credit, (BY REQUEST – Young Democrats) – Imposes an entertainment service surcharge for certain forms of entertainment and provides a tax credit equal to the amount of the surcharge. (No Senate Companion Bill)
• House Bill 1875, Lowering the Age to Run for Governor to 25, (BY REQUEST – Young Democrats) – Proposes an amendment to the constitution to reduce the age of eligibility to become governor to 25 years. (No Senate Companion Bill)
• House Bill 1876, Establishing a Children’s Health Care Pilot Program for Uninsured Children, (BY REQUEST – Young Democrats) – Creates a three-year pilot program in which department of human services pays half of the premiums for the health care provided by a mutual benefit society to uninsured children 31 days to 18 years old who are ineligible for other state or federal health care coverage. Appropriates funds. Sunsets June 30, 2010.
• House Bill 1877, Exempting Some Owners from the Workers Compensation Law – Exempts from the workers’ compensation law owners of businesses holding at least 50% interest in their company. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 196 introduced by Senator Slom)
• House Bill 1878, 41st Representative District, Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) – Authorizes capital improvement projects for the 41st representative district. (No Senate Companion Bill)
• House Bill 1879, Allows State Funds to Be Used in Linked Investments – Allows director of finance to invest up to 10% of state short-term investment moneys in linked investments. Sets procedures. Caps loans. Limits uses of such loans. Restricts eligible borrowers to an entrepreneur in the State. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1984 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 1880, Green Facility Tax Credit – Establishes a tax credit for the acquisition of environmentally-friendly green technology facilities. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1985 introduced by Senator Hanabusa)
• House Bill 1881, Debit Card System for Teachers to Purchase Supplies – Establishes a debit card system to permit teachers to buy school supplies within a predetermined spending limit. (Rep. Karamatsu’s Senate Companion Bill: Senate Bill 1889 introduced by Senator Gabbard)