Mr. Speaker, aloha to you, to all our guests and our members.
As we begin the 24th legislature, we want to be mindful of issues on two different levels. The overall big picture of creating an environment in which we live while balancing the freedoms and values that we each live by in our every day lives. We have a tremendous responsibility. The work we do here at the Capitol shapes the Hawaii we live, work, and play in.
I am now going to take you back to a personal experience that I had recently.
Two weeks ago I took my children to my niece’s 20th birthday party at a beach near Pokai Bay in Waianae. It was about 4 o’clock that Sunday afternoon and we started to clean up. My sister yelled, “Lynn, Lynn, look over there!” My 11-year-old daughter Piikea was standing on the bridge and was preparing to jump into the ocean and my Mom was holding her by her ponytail. Piikea yelled, “Grandma, let me go!” At that moment I had a flash back of my own anxiety about 25 years ago of doing the same thing.
Piikea stood over the water and was shivering from the ocean breeze. I ran over to her, and told my mother it was okay to let her hair go. I asked if she had thought it through and I was pleased to hear she knew how deep the water was, what was beneath the water, and other facts like waiting for a wave added more depth. She had just made friends with some of the local kids and they were all jumping off the bridge. I gave her some tips on how to land in the water. It seemed like she needed to take this risk and I needed to let her do it. Not only did she jump safely, she and her new friend helped my son Luke give it a try. They needed courage and my support.
Being able to teach life lessons to my children in the area where I grew up is exactly why I want to live here in Hawaii. I want my children to be able to live the very unique life that I lived when I was young. Your Hawaii House Republicans want to give every opportunity for our families to remain in Hawaii. This session is about creating a sustainable and affordable Hawaii and we strive to accomplish this with innovative thinking that focuses on public education, renewable energy, housing, and tax relief.
We all agree that equipping our keiki for their futures is imperative for a sustainable Hawaii. Firstly, your House Republicans are dedicated to Public Education and educational choice. We want to seize this opportunity in order to find the areas of commonalities. Our focus is to concentrate on efforts that empower teachers and principals at the school level, untying their hands and supporting the learning that takes place at the schools.
Most teachers and principals are not afraid to be held accountable. For example public charter school principals and teachers are motivated by an accountability system of annual performance. What this means is that if they don’t do a good job, the parents won’t send their children back to their public charter school the next year. That is why educational choice is so important in today’s evolving and global society.
Yes, your House Republicans will continue to strongly support public charter schools as a means of empowering school communities. Here’s an example of what I mean. In the beginning of this school year the lead teacher for my children’s public charter school was faced with a challenge. She had to attend training on behalf of the school but it was held on the mainland during the first two weeks of school. If she left, it would not be a good start to the school year for her students.
Instead she asked the principal and the local school board to approve her class starting school two weeks ahead of time. She learned that renovations for her classroom were not going to be completed. This teacher, with the cooperation and support of the students, parents, the principal, and the local school board, came up with a plan for the students to learn about construction, cost estimates, budgeting, teamwork, and design and planning and they started classes two weeks early.
In essence, this was a mini project-based learning opportunity. The school community was able to make an unconventional decision quickly and responded to the needs of the teacher and her students.
We want more public charter schools to be allowed to exist, we want at least one more authority other than the Board of Education to authorize charter schools, and we want to ensure that when parents choose a charter school that those schools receive the same financial support and facilities support as other public schools.
Secondly, the combination of our renewable energy sources and innovative technology will give Hawaii the opportunity to be energy independent. We want to support that goal. Extending the ethanol-blended gasoline general excise tax exemption and continuing to support a renewable energy portfolio will help to achieve the goal of energy independence.
Thirdly, lack of shelter, whether it is homelessness or the need for transitional and affordable housing remains a challenge that we must overcome. The good news is that there are people in our communities that give their time and creativity to figure out solutions. Through public-private partnerships, we are seeing changes that not only heal, but provide a path to self-sufficiency.
We want to invest in more opportunities that provide a better tomorrow, today. For instance, the experience of O’ne Lau Ena in Kalaeloa incorporates shelter with programs focused on promoting self-sufficiency in a caring atmosphere.
Finally, we believe that lowering taxes provides people with the opportunity for empowerment. By keeping more of their earnings, we can prevent families from being swallowed up by our high “cost of paradise”. Let’s not forget that we still have people trying to deal with the property tax increase from last year, higher rents, and now, the increase in our general excise tax and the reinstatement of the tax on ethanol-blended gasoline.
Of course, we have our preferred methods of tax relief, whether it be the constitutionally mandated tax rebate (preferably a large one, Mr. Speaker), eliminating the tax on food and medicine, or increasing the standard deduction. But let’s face it. Tax relief is tax relief, and we want it to be real and we want it to be now.
Last Friday I attended our Governor’s press conference on Innovation. I was excited to learn of what Hawaii’s future could look like moving forward. It is a comprehensive package of ideas including public-private partnerships for innovative education, workforce development, follow through on the promise of economic diversity, with an overall goal of a sustainable Hawaii. I am very optimistic about this well-thought out, deliverable plan that brings in conscientious and resourceful Republican and Democrat ideas.
Hawaii Republicans have been successful working on many issues of importance like Renewable Energy, Three Strikes, Electronic Surveillance, Tax Relief, the Gas Cap suspension, Identity Theft Protection and Megan’s Law.
We want to redefine what we consider bipartisanship. Like in a marriage, conflict can be productive and rewarding. The result of tension can be unity in diversity. We are not only the party of opposition.
So what’s in it for Hawaii? These packages of ideas will strategically place Hawaii in the line up to catch the waves of the future while preserving that unique lifestyle and blended cultural past. We can teach our keiki life’s lessons in our own unique way like…
-You will be more successful negotiating prices with the Manapua man at the end of the day instead of the beginning.
-Or you can be resourceful by using the old brown McDonald’s trays to carry your food and also use them for body surfing.
-Or you can learn cultural sensitivity by knowing that bumbai means “later on” and is not a town in India.
-Or the value of family and friends and that everyone is either Aunty or Uncle.
Like the story of my daughter Pi`ikea and me allowing her to jump off the bridge, I gave her the opportunity to courageously conquer fear and strengthen her character. Let us take calculated risks and invest in our future to achieve the preservation of our unique lifestyle and a sustainable and affordable Hawaii.
It’s about empowerment, opportunity, and choices that bring about results.
Mr. Speaker we would like to extend a warm Mahalo to the people of Hawaii for giving us this opportunity and for having confidence in all of us to shape public policy and empower lives. We look forward to working with you and the Majority caucus, the Senate, and the Governor for the benefit of Hawaii’s future.
Aloha and Mahalo from your House Republicans.