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”’War’ Breaks Out Prior to Senate Recess”

Moments before the state Senate was about to adjourn yesterday, and to begin its 5-day mandatory recess period, Sen. Carol Fukunaga, D-Makiki, rose on a point of personal privilege. Fukunaga, who rarely speaks on the Senate floor, said she wanted to give her colleagues and the community a message of “peace” prior to beginning the recess. Instead, she touted the contents of Senate Concurrent Resolution 21, which urges the President of the United States not to “preemptively start a war with Iraq.”

The resolution, authored by Maui Democrat J. Kalani English, was co-signed by 16 fellow Democrat Senators, but had not yet been scheduled for floor action. The resolution, a highly partisan, one-sided attack on the United States government and President George W. Bush, was the subject of a state House debate a day earlier. Members of the Senate quickly lined up to either defend SCR 21 and its propagandized version of “peace” or to defend the president and America’s military.

Sen. Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-Waimanalo, rose to rebut Fukunaga’s call for a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the Middleastern conflict built upon United Nations and International support. Hemmings told the Senate and visitors in the gallery that the United States already is at war and has been fighting terrorism, and he reminded them that more people were killed in the twin towers on Sept. 11 than at Pearl Harbor. He urged strong support for the president and the U.S. Military.

A 45-minute debate ensued, and many other Senators espoused their views about the pending war with Iraq. Democrat Sen. Suzanne Chun-Oakland of Nuuanu gave a teary, emotional call for peace, while the resolution’s author, English, told how he stood in solidarity with the 1,000 anti-war demonstrators from Maui.

Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, said peace is important, but not peace at any price and that there are worse things than war, such as enslavement and death by dictators like Saddam Hussein. He reminded his colleagues that those in the military desire peace the most, not choosing to be in harms way or to be separated from family and friends. However, these same military personnel accept their responsibility and duty and put their lives on the line for everyone else in America. And now that Hawaii’s military men and women have been called to action, Slom said, the Legislature, at the very least, should show support for them.

Freshman Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser said he resented Slom’s comments, implying those speaking out for peace yesterday did not support the military, though his support was for a resolution attacking the alleged injustices of this nation and its President.

Democrat Sen. Rozalyn Baker of Maui startled many by saying “I am a Vietnam veteran” then corrected herself to say she grew up in the Vietnam era. She too spoke of the importance of peace, but chose to attack the United States, while painting Iraq and its dictatorial regime as “victims” in the current situation.

Minority Floor Leader Bob Hogue, R-Kailua, said he strongly supports the president and urged his colleagues to do the same, saying the president has access to greater information than do members of the Hawaii Legislature.

Democrat Sen. Cal Kawamoto, one of only two active military veterans in the state Senate (the other being Senate President Robert Bunda) did not sign the Democrat resolution, and chose instead to strongly advocate support for Hawaii’s military, now in harms way.

The resolution will be debated again in more detail at a later date, but any action by the state Senate will be even less significant if war with Iraq already has begun.

Immediate reaction from the general public was that this Legislature, which has yet to balance the budget, fix the schools and provide alternative transportation solutions, is way beyond its area of expertise in attempting to influence national and international foreign policy.

”GOP Senators AWOL at Important Confirmation Hearings”

With Gov. Linda Lingle’s 16 cabinet appointees facing Senate confirmation in a Senate with 20 Democrats and 5 Republicans, the appointees need all of the support they can get from a sympathetic public and the Republican Senators who should be supporting them and the first Republican administration in 40 years.

All of the Senate committees, except Ways and Means, allow only one Republican committee member, usually out of a total of 7 to 9 members. Therefore, that Republican needs to play a pivotal role, especially when the conferees or other administration personnel find themselves in a room dominated by individuals and groups testifying in opposition to the administration’s agenda of change.

But several Republicans have dropped out of sight during hearings, not even being present when the governor’s bills are heard or her cabinet members come before Senate committees for review.

For example, Tuesday, in the Senate Judiciary committee hearing of the confirmation of attorney general Mark Bennett and Hawaiian Homes Chair Micah Kane, lone Republican Senate member Bob Hogue did not attend.

On Wednesday, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs appointee Mark Recktenwald went before the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, and the only Senators to show of the seven member committee were Chair Ron Menor and vice Chair Rozalyn Baker. Republican member Paul Whalen was notably absent.

In other non-confirmation hearings in both the House and Senate, Republican members have had a less than perfect attendance record when administration spokespeople have come to testify. Case in point was last Saturday’s House hearing where the governor’s Senior Policy Advisor Randy Roth and the governor were the subject of an attack at a House hearing where Roth was testifying, rather than the House Democrats focusing on the subject bills and issues. No Republicans helped defend him.

There is tremendous irony in the unwillingness of these Republicans to show up, or speak up, at hearings. For so long, the Republicans seemed to accept the fact they were not going to influence the outcome of hearings or the people who testified from the former Democrat administrations. However, they now have strong allies in the governor’s appointees and spokespeople who need their support, but they aren’t there to further their own agenda or that of the governor.

”Worst Anti-Business Bill Makes Its Way Through Senate”

In the Senate Labor Committee, the baddest of the bad bills reemerged from last year’s Legislature. The so called “successor employer bill,” introduced this year as SB 1 by Sen. Brian Kanno, would force any person or organization that buys an existing business to retain at least 50 percent of all existing employees, no questions asked.

Last year’s bill, dubbed by NFIB’s Hawaii President Bette Tatum as “the worst anti-business bill she’d ever seen,” required a successor employer to retain 100 percent of all former employees. Tatum said this bill was discussed at a national NFIB conference where it won the prize as the worst type of anti-business legislation amongst all the bills from all 50 states.

While the testimony was overwhelmingly in opposition to this bill by businesses, organizations and the state Department of labor, the ILWU said the bill did not go far enough.

The bill, as drafted, would only apply to businesses with 100 or more employees. The ILWU suggested two changes: reduce the number of employees to 50 from 100; and require the employer to retain 100 percent of the employees until, with the union’s approval, the company need only retain 50 percent of their employees.

The examples of mistreatment by successor employers given by the unions in their testimony all involved hotel buyouts extending back to 1986. One former housekeeping employee who formerly worked at one of the affected hotels, sobbed through her testimony and said that she had worked for the hotel for 31 years, and though 66 years of age, had a lot more to offer. The new owners chose not to rehire her, she said, and now it was extremely difficult for her to find work. The former housekeeper later did confide that she received severance benefits and full retirement, but she did not disclose to the committee that she is currently re-employed.

Senate Committee Member Cal Kawamoto asked the ILWU if the union would support an exemption for the construction industry since it is a special industry with a unique set of labor problems. The union spokesperson readily agreed, but when asked about exemptions for the retailers, manufacturing, and food and beverage industries, he declined to give support.

With the room full of uncharacteristic opposition to the measure, the bill’s author, who also is the labor committee chairman, decided to defer decision making until Friday at noon, though a quorum was present. Deferring a vote is a typical trick used by legislative chairs who don’t want opposition present when they pass or kill bills, and they hope by making it inconvenient for the public, they will be more likely to pass or kill without an audience.

”A Different kind of War Being Fought at Lake Wilson”

Even Saddam Hussein might be afraid of the puke green, slimy monster now consuming Lake Wilson on Oahu — it grows faster than a speeding bullet, chokes the life out of fish and is stronger than any pretend monster in Star Trek or Star Wars.

The official name is Salvinia molesta, but it more likely could be categorized as a weapon of mass destruction.

Once a growth in people’s aquariums, the weed is now the biggest and fastest growing pest the state must deal with.

Apparently some bright people dumped their aquariums into the lake, despite all the warnings of fish and wildlife experts who say never, never do that. The weed liked all the sewage it found to grow off of in the once vibrant, sparkling lake, that now is a dumping ground for treated (sometimes raw) sewage.

Now the monster is taking over the entire lake and all the life in it. Only television coverage can do justice in showing off this terror.

The Lake Wilson State Recreation Area has been closed until further notice as one lonely guy hired by the city attempts to use his heavy machinery to remove the weed from the water. He is backed up by city personnel who continue to load up their dump trucks and take the weed to an area where it will be recycled into fertilizer.

Only problem is any headway they make in digging up the weed, is gone by the next day as the weed doubles the area it consumes every day.

How about that Weapon of Mass Destruction Saddam?

”Second Amendment Rights Advocate Alan Gottlieb Visits”

The Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Founder Alan M. Gottlieb of Bellevue, WA, one of the nation’s leading proponents of second amendment gun rights, is visiting Hawaii with his family.

That did not stop the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Richard Rowland from arranging a luncheon speaking engagement with Gottlieb and local second amendment rights supporters this Friday at the Pacific Club.

Gottlieb, the author of several books on gun rights, is a popular radio and television talk show guest and is interviewed frequently on second amendment issues by the major national media.

”City Jumps the Gun on BRT Approval”

In the midst of the city administration’s gung ho plans for the in town portion of the $1 billion Bus Rapid Transit system, there appears a glitch.

Michelle Matson, a community activist who is a member of an opposition group closely monitoring the BRT’s progress, and the Chair of the Planning, Land Use and Transportation Committee for the Diamond Head-Kapahulu-St. Louis Heights Neighborhood Board, says there is a question of non-compliance by the City Administration with

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