Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 11 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Scot Matayoshi, a Democratic candidate for the state House Representative in District 49, which covers Kaneohe, Maunawili and Olomana. There are three other Democratic candidates, Shannon Kaui Dalire, Natalia Hussey-Burdick and Mo Radke.
1. Should the Legislature be more transparent and accountable? What would you do, given how tough it can be for individual lawmakers to go against leadership, to bring about needed reform in areas like sexual harassment policies, lobbyist regulation, fundraising during session and televising and archiving all hearings?
Yes, the Legislature should be more transparent and accountable. Completed sexual harassment investigations should be made public, but more than that — people need to feel safe bringing allegations in the first place. As a current board member of the Domestic Violence Action Center, I will be a voice advocating against sexual harassment in all workplaces, including the Capitol.
Regulating lobbyists and fundraising during session is trickier, but increased transparency on the amount and timing of donations will help to hold legislators accountable for their votes.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I do not. As we saw (and still see) in California, the phrasing of a citizen initiative oftentimes biases the voting public, who may not have the information necessary to make an informed decision. In an ideal world, with every voter fully engaged and active, I think the citizen initiative process could work. As it stands now, however, I believe it would lead to dangerous legislation from special interest groups that would cripple our state.
3. Hawaii has the most lopsided Legislature in the country, with no Republicans in the Senate and only five in the House. How would you ensure there is an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability for decisions? What do you see as the consequences of one-party control, and how would you address that?
I have always prided myself on listening to all sides before making a decision, which includes both sides of the aisle. That does not mean I will agree with or attempt to follow both sides, but more information oftentimes leads to a better decision. The danger of one-party control is it can lead to groupthink and the quelling of any opposing viewpoints. Although I know the votes will not always go my way, I plan on raising issues as I see them, regardless of who is on the other side.
4. Would you support more frequent campaign finance reporting during election years, particularly before the primary? What other steps would you take to improve lobbying and financial disclosures?
Yes. The way the system is currently set up does not work in a state where most elections are over after the primary. We need at least one more reporting period added between December and July.
5. Hawaii’s public records law requires that records be made available whenever possible. Yet state agencies often resist release through delays and imposing excessive fees. What would you do to ensure the public has access to government records?
Making records electronic will help reduce the fees, as it will take less time and resources to find requested records. I would generally like our state to move towards digital records and converting old paper records into digital searchable files. This could potentially allow the public to search government records, as well, which would negate any type of searching or administrative fees.
6. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the state’s unfunded liabilities? If not, how would you propose to meet pension and health obligations for public workers?
Pensions and health obligations are contractual obligations made by our state. Many of our working and retired families rely on these benefits to survive. We need innovative ideas to boost our economy and tax base to make sure our state has the funds to fulfill its promises. Expanding our renewable energy and agriculture industries are two areas I would like to explore as a legislator.
7. Do you support changing the state constitution to allow taxing investment properties to fund the public schools? How would you implement it if it passes?
Yes. I believe taxing investment properties will, for the most part, put the tax burden on people that can afford the tax increase. As a former public school teacher, education is a top priority for me, as it secures our state’s future workforce. We need to invest more in education so that students are ready to hold a job upon graduation. With our low unemployment rate, our economy can absorb the extra workers and continue to grow.
As to implementation, until I see the figures I do not feel comfortable speculating about the best way to implement this tax. As I stated above, I value making informed decisions and I simply do not have the information necessary to speak to implementation at this time.
8. Illegal vacation rentals have proliferated throughout Hawaii. The state is not collecting tax revenue on many of these properties and residents worry about overcrowded neighborhoods and other problems. Do you see this as a problem given Hawaii’s booming visitor industry and what would you propose to do about it?
This is a huge concern, as illegal vacation rentals are not only strangling our local rental market, but are also ruining residential communities. I want the government to enforce the laws on the books, funding the investigators needed to catch and fine those illegally renting out their homes. We should also ban negotiated reductions of fines, or at least restrict the reductions to a maximum of 10 percent. Hawaii is losing a huge revenue opportunity by allowing illegal vacation rentals to proliferate, and I suspect a lot of the money being made is going out of state.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I am neutral on a constitutional convention. On one hand, I can see the good it could do for our state, modernizing our constitution, but it also runs the risk of removing certain protections for working families.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Moving our power plants inland is one way to protect ourselves from the growing effects of climate change. I mean this for both future traditional power plants and also for renewable energy plants. We also need to take greater steps to protect our state against hurricanes and floods. Maintaining drainage canals and the hurricane relief fund will help. We should look at upgrading our infrastructure (water, power, roads, etc.) to protect our state from increasing environmental disasters caused by global warming- let’s be proactive rather than reactive.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
My district has 5,000 senior voters over the age of 65, many of whom are living on their own in their homes. I want to make sure we support them so they can remain comfortably in their homes for as long as possible. Preventative medicine and exercise programs will help keep seniors healthy and save us costs in the long-run. Once seniors require care homes, the costs can be overly burdensome on both families and the state.
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