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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 6 General Election, 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 John Miller, the Republican candidate for state House of Representatives District 46, which covers Wahiawa, Whitmore Village and Launani Valley. There is one other candidate, Democrat Amy Perruso.
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. I would encourage the Fourth Estate to put more pressure on the Legislature to expose those persons who found guilty of sexual harassment and remove them from public office. In addition, I would push for criminal and civil penalties to be levied against those persons who are found guilty. Furthermore, I believe all newly elected members of the Legislature should be required to undergo education on the definition and reporting of sexual harassment.
The lobbyists should be required to adhere to the same standards that the Legislature is required.
If elected I will not do any fundraising during the legislative session and I believe there should be laws put into place that prohibits all legislators from fundraising while in session. The lawmakers have been elected to carry out their legislative duties for the people, not raising funds for the next election.
All public hearings should be video/audio-taped from “gavel to gavel.” These tapes should be archived and made available to the public.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
Yes, this process would give the citizens of Hawaii a voice over the special interest groups. In addition, it would make it possible to recall corrupt politicians.
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?
The consequences of a lopsided Legislature can best be summed up by this quote by John Dalberg-Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
The Speaker of the House could file all bills and remove the authorship and allow solid good ideas to prevail regardless of the party affiliation. Elect more minority members to the committees. Require proportional representation in leadership posts and committee posts.
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. Make it mandatory that no fundraising be allowed until after May 31. Require campaign finance disclosures before the primary and make it available to the public.
5. Hawaii’s public records law requires that records be made available to the public 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?
I would want to make sure that there is a balance in a person’s privacy as embedded in the state constitution and the release of certain personal information about public employees. Furthermore, I would recommend an increase in the staff for the release of public records and lowering the fees and subsidizing costs in appropriate cases.
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?
Depending on what source you believe, these liabilities are between $12 billion and $35 billion. I believe the current plan is designed to have these liabilities funded by 2050. With that being said it is extremely important that the Legislature does not increase the current benefits. We must ensure that the promises made to the retired workers and those soon to be retired are kept.
With 2,500 to 3,000 workers retiring each year, the numbers will continue to mount. It will take self-restraint and vigilance to keep this plan on track. Care needs to be taken not to allow lobbyists or special interest groups to increase benefits. Also, it will take discipline for the Legislature to keep making the payment necessary to fund these liabilities and should make extra payments into the fund whenever possible.
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?
I support teachers being paid above average wages and great benefits. I’m not convinced that taxing investment properties is the best way to do that. If this were to become a tax on rental properties it could, in fact, cost teachers more money than they are currently paying for renting their homes. In addition, this solution would appear to create some frustration among the members of the other state workers unions.
Recent polls taken by the Star-Advertiser indicates that the majority of voters do not support this proposed change in the state constitution. If the constitution is changed, I would be a strong advocate to make sure that every dollar raised by this tax would go to where it was promised to go.
8. Illegal vacation rentals have proliferated throughout Hawaii. The state is not collecting tax revenue in 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?
I do see this as a problem. In a recent conversation with a neighbor, he informed me that he had to move to Wahiawa because at the place on the North Shore where his business is located the rents are upwards of $5,000 per month due to the illegal practices of the Airbnb’s.
I think the state should hire more enforcement agents so that the assessments can be assessed and collected. Chronic offenders and those who refuse to pay the taxes and fees assigned should be disallowed to rent their properties. It appears the quickest and most efficient way to handle this issue is through increased enforcement of the existing laws.
9. Do you support holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
Yes. It has been 40 years since the last state constitutional convention and there is a whole new generation of people who should be afforded the opportunity to have input into the state constitution. Laws are made for the living, not the dead. This would help motivate the younger generation to get involved in the state government.
Moreover, there have been many changes in the environment that need new and improved methods of care and conservation. Technology is constantly evolving and we should be using the latest technologies to protect and preserve our natural resources.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Amar Singh, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Hawaii Manoa believes the use of Geotextile Tubes can help save the beaches and protect the reefs. I believe we need to be willing to let the educated and qualified people working in our local college submit ideas to help prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and the reefs.
Also, we need to be planning for the moving of homes and roads that are near the shoreline.
11. what do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The most pressing issue in District 46 is the survivability of the Wahiawa General Hospital. WGH serves one-third of Oahu. WGH treats approximately 20,000 patients per year. WGH provides long-term care and nursing for 100 local families and over 400 good paying jobs for young professionals. In addition, WGH treats the military personnel who sustain leg and foot injuries in the training of the military in Wahiawa and families members for many health-related issues.
I will fight for funding for WGH that other rural hospitals receive. I will use the power of the media and press to keep WGH at the forefront of the Legislature’s minds. I will fight for the health and welfare of the sick and the dying above and beyond the expenditure of monies to buy building and properties.