Remarks by House Majority Leader-Opening of Hawaii’s 22nd Legislature

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“Scott Saiki Image”

Mr. Speaker, A tsunami of words Will roll over our ears during the next few months. I believe it is clear that we need to listen better and learn more to effectively lead this state. So allow me to start off with one thought: We get it.


The members of this House walked hundreds of miles during the past year, listening to the concerns of their neighbors, community leaders and the people in their districts. Again and again they heard a similar message. Voters want accountability in government and in their schools, and they want [results]. We get it.

The people of Hawaii want clean government — fair, honest and above board. With this last election, Hawaii stands at a crossroads. And it is worth considering just how we got here. Because right now, before we choose a path on which to travel, we should make an honest assessment of where we are.

Many people think the Democrats have gotten too comfortable. That we have been in power for too long. So they voted for change, and some of the people who voted for that change were Democrats too.

But I would like to emphasize one point. During the past four decades, we have led the path to fundamental change in Hawaii. We have transformed our state from a plantation-based economy to a forty billion dollar economy that rests upon technology, business, finance, tourism and agriculture, and employs over 570,000 people.

We have developed a public education system that now serves over 183,000 students. We have protected and continue to safeguard our air, water, and land for future generations. In making this change, we strove to advance economic and social equality for all.

This year, they must return to these roots. I’m not going to deliver a laundry list of proposals today. Instead, this year, we’re going to do a few things and do them well. And what we propose, we will achieve.

This House will introduce a fundamental change in campaign financing, freed from the influence of special friends with large checkbooks. We will ban government contractors from giving contributions to any candidate for public office, whether at the executive or legislative level.

We will introduce a new system to expedite school repair and maintenance and to put control of contracts into the hands of local schools where it belongs. We must provide a safe and comfortable learning environment so that our children will thrive.

We will launch a Community School Board Initiative to give parents, teachers, students and community leaders a greater voice in how their schools are run. But this House will also insist that major school reforms be tested and designed for full accountability. We know from experience that just because an idea sounds good, does not mean it is good.

Many of our communities are plagued by an epidemic of ice. It breaks up families, causes crime, and strips young people of their future. This is not a new problem for Hawaii, but it’s getting worse. Drug dealers must face swift and effective punishment. But for drug abusers, rehabilitation must play a greater role.

We must focus on prevention because prisons and tough laws alone will not eliminate the ice problem. We will establish community based rehabilitation centers and targeted law-enforcement teams to stop ice.

One hundred and ten years ago this week, Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown and Hawaiian home rule ended. Hawaiians have waited too long for this wrong to be righted. This House supports the rights of the native Hawaiian people and just as it did two years ago, will urge Congress to support legislation to achieve Hawaiian self-governance. We ask the governor to join us in encouraging Congress to take action now.

The Hawaiian people are taking charge of their own destiny. And this is what we all want — to be in charge of our own destinies. Just think about how this has helped make Hawaii great — ordinary people from all walks of life can make their mark here.

Mr. Speaker, this morning you have shared with us your vision for government that is accountable and gets results. We can do better, and we will do better. For all of us, the way to begin that journey is to stand at the crossroads and take a step on the right path, the path lined with our Democratic principles of fairness, equality, tolerance and opportunity.

When there is change at the top, people expect a new beginning. But we cannot build our future with a mere slogan. Our new beginning has a human face and it is already here in this chamber.

I would like to introduce the newest House Democrats and ask them to please stand: Representative Kirk Caldwell, Representative Cindy Evans, Representative Sol Kahoohalahala, Representative Jon Karamatsu, Representative Romy Mindo, Representative Scott Nishimoto, Representative Maile Shimabukuro, Representative Alex Sonson, Representative Tulsi Tamayo, Representative Glen Wakai, Representative Tommy Waters.

This is the new generation of Hawaii’s leaders. And Mr. Speaker, they get it too. Thank you.