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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Bryan Jeremiah, a Republican candidate for the state House, District 41, which includes Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe and West Loch. There is one other candidate, Democrat Matthew LoPresti.
Name: Bryan Jeremiah
Office seeking: State House, District 41
Occupation: Large-scale construction project manager
Community organizations/prior offices held: Ewa Beach Neighborhood Board; Ewa Beach Lions Club; Carpenters Union
Age as of Aug. 13, 2016: 54
Place of residence: Ewa Beach
Campaign website: www.voteforbryanjeremiah.org
1. This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the Legislature is run?
The U.S. and Hawaii State Constitution both establish the authority and purpose of the legislative branch, but what many people are not aware of is the fact that our bicameral Legislature is governed by internal rules, many of which can be waived at any time by a majority vote. This is worsened by the fact that Hawaii has an “outsized” supermajority of Democrats and a micro-minority of Republicans in both chambers.
Take for example the House standing committee on Legislative Management. It consists of four Democrats, two of which are the chair and vice chair of that committee, and a single Republican, Rep. Beth Fukumoto Chang. This committee is free to be the thermostat that regulates legislative policy and practices up and down however it chooses, but Rep. Fukumoto Chang, the House minority leader, is outvoted by Democrats every single time she disagrees with their rule changes.
The real “outsized influence” is the fact that there are too many Democrats and not enough Republicans in office to get a balanced perspective on how the Legislature is run. Like a Las Vegas casino, no matter how many times you play, “the House always wins.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizen’s initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes. I believe in order for government to truly be a voice of the people, we need the initiative, referendum and recall process. This is a question that the ruling Democrats should be held accountable to answer. They have held the supermajority for years but are solely responsible for denying the people the power to vote for change. The Constitution guarantees us the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” and so long as we are without a means to hold our legislators in check in between elections through initiative, referendum and recall votes, we will remain powerless and stuck in a perpetual plantation run by Democratic lunas.
3. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
This must change if we are to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. When party controls everything, we have a tyranny of the majority, something America’s founders were extremely concerned about. The problem is Hawaii voter participation is dismally low. Many people feel helpless about government because they feel the game is rigged and that their vote doesn’t count. Less than four of of every 10 Hawaii residents actually show up to vote on average during a presidential election.
This chronic voter fatigue ultimately suppresses reform and keeps us a one party system, because who comes out to vote in droves are special interest groups like unions and people with strong party affiliation.
The only way this can change is we have to engage the public and help them to realize that this government belongs to the people of Hawaii, not the other way around. I do not believe or support proposals for compulsory voting, because voting (or not voting) should always be a personal choice, but I do believe that we have to help the public trust government and trust the process by being more transparent, honest and approachable to their needs.
4. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
The first step is to stop re-electing unethical legislative barons to the committees that keep bending the rules for big corporations and entrenched special interest groups. When we have ethical people, we will have ethical legislators. We also have to enforce the ethics law, but we have a system where the Democrats cover for themselves and excuse themselves whenever a conflict arises. If we want better government, we have to elect better representatives and senators.
5. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
No, I don’t believe those fees should be totally eliminated, but scaled back to a reasonable tiered pricing. I also support putting public records online to the maximum extent possible subject to Privacy Act laws.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I would use all methods available to me, social media, email, Neighborhood Boards, telephone conferences, town hall meetings, etc. My office will be an open door and my phone will be answered, even at 3 a.m.
7. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
Voters are counting on us to build new, high-tech schools with air conditioning as a standard feature in them. It is unacceptable that we have allowed our keiki to suffer for so long from heat, noise, and allergic disruptions in the classroom while our own legislators and government bureaucrats work in comfy, air conditioned buildings. If elected, not only will I press for funding to build new schools in Ewa, but I will also introduce legislation that will require by law that all new public schools built in the State of Hawaii must have air conditioning.
8. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development, yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?
We need to have a business-friendly Legislature. In Hawaii, the first thing that a startup company or a business wishing to set up shop encounters is the multitude of rules and regulations that discourage as opposed to encourage their entrepreneurial spirit. You can’t innovate, dream and succeed when everything requires a license, a special permit or permission from Honolulu’s political class to do. When we free Hawaii’s people, we will be free to succeed and prosper again.
9. What should the Legislature do to improve police accountability?
The Legislature should not be in the business of micromanaging the police on how to do their jobs or trying to hold them accountable. This is the responsibility of the city and counties. If there is evidence the cities and counties are not performing their core function of public safety, then and only then should the state step in. Any action by the Legislature should be at the recommendation of the state’s attorney general after an investigation and within the Legislature’s constitutional authority.
10. Hawaii is the fastest-aging state. What would you do to ensure we’re taking care of our kupuna?
One of the best things we can do to help our kupuna is reduce their daily cost of living, specifically their out of pocket expenses. I would champion legislation that removed food and medical costs from the GET.
11. What would you do to improve Hawaii’s public education system?
Create an education task force comprised of teachers, parents and students that will review policies, practices and problems and will cut through the red tape to get things fixed without delay. Rather than throwing more taxpayer money at problems and hoping they’ll go away, we’ll throw away the problems together and run the most cost-effective schools in the nation. I support an “opt-in” requirement for sensitive lesson content for all students. Involved parents, engaged teachers and principals must run our educational system, not special interest groups.