Editor’s Note: In July 2012, Civil Beat sent six questions to each of the candidates registered to run in the Aug. 11 primary for Hawaii Senate District 11. All three responded, including Carol Fukunaga. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full. Read responses by Brian Taniguchi and Larry Fenton to see how Fukunaga’s positions compare to those of her competitors. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and Fukunaga’s response.

Preferred Candidate Name: Carol Fukunaga

Senate/House District Number: Senate District 11

Date of Birth: 12/12/47

Place of Birth/Hometown: Honolulu

Current Profession/Employer: State Senator

Education/Alma Mater(s): Roosevelt High School, UH-Manoa, B.A.; William Richardson School of Law, J.D.

1. With the exception for Honolulu rail, the state has not raised the general excise tax in decades. Would you consider increasing the GET to help the state meet its budget demands?

I’d consider such a change if it was part of a comprehensive package of
recommendations to retool the state’s tax system (e.g., through the State’s Tax Review Commission or comparable entity) and provided specific methods to reduce regressivity and prevent adverse impacts on low-income or fixed-income residents.

Similarly, consideration of changes to the state’s general excise tax system should also include an analysis of the two-year suspension of GET exemptions that affect Hawaii businesses – and ultimately Hawaii consumers. ↩ back to top

2. Lawmakers proposed relaxing environmental regulatory review to spur development and job growth in the 2012 session, and the issue is expected to resurface next year. Where do you stand?

I do not support relaxing environmental regulations where limitations on public comment/input are concerned. I support the use of modern info technology to streamline procurement by identifying and eliminating bottlenecks, and improving accountability between agencies/vendors.

With respect to government permitting, modern technology can give agencies, development entities and the public necessary information without reducing or bypassing public review/comment periods. ↩ back to top

3. Gambling — are you for it or against it? If not, why not? If so, what type of gambling and with what kind of restrictions?

I have generally opposed legislation legalizing all forms of gambling in Hawaii during my tenure in the State Senate. Many constituents have expressed concerns over its social costs, likelihood of increased crime, infrastructure impacts and the extent to which it may detract from existing businesses, tourism activities and Hawaii’s unique culture. ↩ back to top

4. The Sunshine Law is a hallmark of an open democracy accountable to its citizens. Yet, the Legislature exempts itself from this requirement. Do you support more transparency in government operations, or are there legitimate reasons to conduct some of the people’s business behind closed doors?

I support greater transparency in government operations, and have championed use of information technology to support public access and increased accountability.

Hawaii was the first state in the country to make legislative information – bills, hearing notices, committee reports, testimonies, etc. – available online as part of our Public Access initiatives in the early 1990’s. We can certainly do more to insure that conference deliberations and legislative proceedings are more open and transparent. ↩ back to top

5. What is the best legislation — and worst legislation — that the Legislature has approved in recent years? Please explain.

One example of a good idea gone awry was Act 228 (2008), which required archival quality photos of historic buildings to be submitted to Department of Land and Natural Resources prior to obtaining permits for destruction or alteration. It was intended to provide a record of historic structures before they were demolished.

However, due to broad language in the statute, the City Department of Planning and Permitting required all structures over 50 years old to provide photographs prior to obtaining building permits for alteration or demolition. It caused a substantial backlog in processing building permits for many structures that otherwise had no historic significance; and key stakeholders on the topic could not agree on the best solution to narrow the statute to cover what was originally intended. In the face of mounting public outcry, the legislature repealed Act 228 during the 2009 legislative session.

With respect to ‘best’ legislation, there are many outstanding bills adopted each year. My candidate for ‘best solutions’ is embodied in Act 239 (2000), which sought to remedy the problem of deteriorating facilities in older urban schools by providing increased funding for repairs, consistent sources of future funding and updated maintenance practices. During the 2012 session, the Senate’s ‘Invest in Hawaii’ approach leveraged the earlier model by appropriating an unprecedented level of $126 million to Department of Education for school repair and maintenance, much of which involved older schools. ↩ back to top

6. What is an issue that you would champion at the Legislature — one that perhaps has not received much attention, or an issue that is important to your district?

We need to pay attention to helping elderly residents and their families “age in place” at home — with Hawaii’s elderly population projected to double between 2015-2030, there are not sufficient long-term care beds or facilities to meet the demand.

As such, expanding the range of services available to supplement family or other caregiving support systems is extremely urgent. What’s needed is a wider range of services to help elderly residents with health care needs, home safety retrofits, andappropriate financial services to insure a smooth transition into different levels of care. ↩ back to top