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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 Romy Cachola, the Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives District 30, which covers Kalihi Kai, Sand Island, Hickam, Pearl Harbor, Ford Island and Halawa Valley Estate. There is one other candidate, Republican Mar Velasco.
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?
I believe that we already have a good policy on matters of accountability and transparency, but there is room for improvement. When it comes to communicating with leadership, I don’t have a problem with that. I am upfront and let them know my stand on issues, and I seek to convince them during our legislative caucus.
2. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I believe that citizen involvement is so important and key to a legislator’s ability to create avenues of communication with his or her constituents. As such, on its face, a process that allows greater citizen involvement and input into creating laws and regulations for the state is something I would support. In order to determine what type of process may work for our state, it would be wise to examine other states’ processes in order to determine what types of parameters would work with our legislative system and unique multicultural community.
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 composition of the Senate and House is determined by the makeup of the voters who they represent. While you can’t do much to change party distribution within communities per se, it is still important to be able to hear all sides. As such, it has always been my policy to have an open door to all who would like to voice their opinion or offer suggestions on improving the community we live in. If there is a strong proposal which would greatly benefit the community at large, regardless of which side of the line the proposal was initiated from, party lines should not be an issue to trying to create change for the better. Additionally, I make it a point to reach out to both sides of the aisle on many critical issues which face all of us, regardless of party, as long as it is what is best for the community.
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?
I believe we already have effective campaign controls, lobbying policies and financial disclosure practices in place, but there is always room for improvement. I don’t have any problem supporting additional finance reporting during election particularly during the primary elections, as long as they are fair and clear and to the benefit of the voting public.
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?
I believe this question had been clarified by the Office of Information Practices, but agree that greater transparency and quick response are necessary. I will support such legislation that fairly seeks these goals.
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?
I introduced a bill last session, the Unfunded Liability Bill. This measure is an innovative way to save taxpayers’ money by allowing the state to cap the pre-funding level to at least $2 billion. This measure would free up and save over $500 million per year for the next 30 years, which in turn would result in increasing funding flexibility in the future for programs addressing homelessness, affordable housing, education, and health care, and other funding needs of the state and counties. If you would like more information, I would welcome the opportunity to present my core ideas and reasonings surrounding this bill to you.
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?
Education is the greatest equalizer for all classes. I believe that students deserve quality education which in turn gives them better job opportunities, better-paying jobs, to stay in Hawaii and discourage brain drain. In general, based on the issue of the importance of education, I feel it is important to find ways to better fund education. However, it depends on the structure of the initiative presented. You still have to look at the details within the initiative, to ensure that it will do what it is intended to do, without creating more harm.
You also have to examine carefully the intent and rationale of those that both oppose and support the initiative at hand. Alternatively though, it is always my first and foremost goal to save money in other areas, in order to prevent more taxes and assessments. If there is a way to do this instead, such as through my proposed unfunded liability bill, I would choose to support alternative and innovative programs to prevent further taxation if possible.
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?
Currently, the laws governing doing business as a B&B/TVU are difficult to enforce because in their current state, the definition and enforcement of this type of business is unclear. The first step is to clearly define the scope within which these types of businesses operate. Once that is more clearly delineated, we can then focus on compliance with proper city zoning and operations laws, in partnership with the county governments, and thereby more accurately identify these businesses. This would allow the state and counties to both more effectively regulate them, tax them appropriately, as well as ensure the safety of these accommodations for residents and travelers utilizing their services.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
Article XVII Sec. 2 provides a constitutional convention. If people decide to amend for better prospects, then I don’t have a problem supporting it.
10. What should Hawaii be doing to prepare for the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and threats to the reefs?
Several Bills passed during the last session, and which I voted in support of and which were signed by Gov. Ige:
• ACT 015 (HB2182, CD1) Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report. Hawaii is committed to mitigating climate change, including its commitment to have a 100% renewable energy portfolio by 2045
• ACT 016 (HB1956, CD1) Requires the office of planning in partnership with the greenhouse gas sequestration task force to establish a framework for a carbon offset program.
• ACT 017 (HB2106, CD1) Requires the Environmental Council to adopt and maintain rules requiring all environmental assessments and environmental impact statements.
Additionally, I feel it would be in the state’s best interest to continue to increase funding for alternative energy development and create a game plan to make our state more self-sustaining and less dependent on fossil fuel and assistance from outside resources and imported goods and resources.
11. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
• Increasing affordable housing opportunities and decreasing homelessness. I believe we should continue to improve and strengthen public-private partnerships between developers and the state and counties – the state and counties to provide lands and developers to build safe affordable home communities throughout the state upon these lands.
• Improving our educational infrastructure. We are currently short about 1,000 teachers statewide. The state should focus on making a push to both encourage and retain good and qualified teachers for our youth. We should increase teacher wages and offer housing cost breaks for educators at key benchmarks to incentivize those who choose to take and continue careers in education
• Improving infrastructure and public safety. We should work with the city to encourage timely roadway maintenance and proper drainage evaluations and repairs of through-ways and community infrastructure.
• Improving access to health care. We are currently in a primary care shortage in our community, and this is projected to get worse as our population increases. I would like to look into establishing a state program that would potentially forgive part or all of a primary care provider’s educational debt in exchange for practicing here in the state, especially in our rural areas, where the need is greatest.