Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary 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 Greg Bentley, Republican candidate for state House District 15, which includes Haena, Wainiha, Hanalei, Princeville, Kalihiwai, Kilauea, Anahola, Kealia, Kapaa, Waipouli, Wailua and Kapahi.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for State House District 15

Greg Bentley
Party Republican
Age 60
Occupation Entrepreneur
Residence Princeville, Kauai

Community organizations/prior offices held

Former captain, U.S. Army Reserve; board of directors, For Our Rights.

1. What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what would you do about it?

Affordable housing is a major barrier to economic stability. In an age when emotionalism and identity politics prevail, it is easy to overlook the simple fundamentals of economics. Housing prices are based on supply and demand. If supply increases prices fall and if demand increases pricing will rise.

Available land is a major hindrance with 90% of the population occupying 10% of the land mass. Zoning prohibits land from being used for human occupancy. Large landowners are incentivized to retain their holdings because of preferential property tax exemptions. Modifying zoning and applying an equal land square footage tax would free up many acres for development. The end result would be lower housing costs with the increased supply of land.

The cost of doing business in Hawaii is burdensome. A streamlined business environment would encourage developers, and increase the supply of new homes.

Inflation is the result of money printing by the federal reserve. The distribution of this currency through federal gifting to Hawaii and its residents results in inflated prices of all goods and services. Refusing these funds may bring prices down. Material cost may also be reduced by modifying the Jones Act which regulates shipping to our island.

2. Many people have talked about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii is still heavily reliant on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently about tourism and the economy?

Tourism is necessary and should always be part of the islands. Hawaii is one of the world’s most spectacular places to visit and tourism is an invaluable asset and should be nurtured.

Kauai once thrived on agriculture and I believe it is the key to the future of my district. Having an ideal year-round growing environment makes it very attractive for revitalizing this industry. Government intervention in the agricultural economy has taken the incentive out of farming.

Getting Kauai’s unused and tax-sheltered land productive once again would be a top priority. The market for safe organic farming and food is ever-increasing. Kauai can once again be an exporter for global consumption.

3. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling to get by, a problem that reaches far beyond low income and into the middle class, which is disappearing. What ideas do you have to help the middle class and working families who are finding it hard to continue to live here?

Filling in the middle class will be one of the greatest challenges for the future of Hawaii. Freedom and liberty are at the core of these issues. I am convinced without a doubt that prosperity flows from free and fair markets. Markets that are unrestrained by the shackles of government-imposed monopolies. Moving government out of the way will unleash the human potential and creativity that is necessary for a prosperous middle class.

The dwindling middle class has also been the result of mismanagement in government agencies. Agencies that may have started with good intentions have ended up enslaving future generations to poverty.

4. Hawaii has the most lopsided Legislature in the country, with only one Republican in the Senate and only four 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?

Cleaning out the voter roles and accountability at the ballot box will make great strides in balancing out the Legislature. With the Legislature leaning so far to the left it is very difficult to have an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability.

As a minority legislator, I would make every effort to move forward with bills that would hold elected officials accountable to their oath of office.

5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the statewide citizens initiative process. I am very concerned with the imbalance of political power and would favor a direct initiative allowing a measure that is circulated in a petition to be placed on the ballot which would automatically become law if it is approved by voters. The approval of the law would not require any involvement by the legislature.

One of the first direct initiatives that would enhance the spirit of aloha would be the election of a constitutional sheriff.

6. Thanks to their campaign war chests and name familiarity, incumbents are almost always re-elected in Hawaii legislative races. Should there be term limits for state legislators, as there are for the governor’s office and county councils? Why or why not?

Absolutely, there should be term limits. I believe the limit should be set as one two-year term. This would flush out any career servants who may have a propensity toward corruption. I am reminded of what the scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

All of humanity is subject to corruption, it is in our nature and we need safeguards in place. Two years in office is sufficient to apply reason, common sense and constitutional oversight to any legislation being proposed.

7. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of prominent corruption scandals, prompting the state House of Representatives to appoint a commission tasked with improving government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability at the Legislature? Are you open to ideas such as requiring the Sunshine Law and open records laws to apply to the Legislature or banning campaign contributions during session?

A balance of power is paramount to thwarting corruption. Lord Acton (1881) stated, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Limiting legislators to two years in office can be a safeguard to halt the abuse of power.

Stopping campaign contributions after each election would be a good start, there would be no need to raise re-election funds. Once elected to office the public servant would be free to carry out their duties of serving the people unencumbered by the burden of seeking contributions. I am in favor of the Sunshine Law and open records laws.

8. How would you make the Legislature more transparent and accessible to the public? Opening conference committees to the public? Stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists? How could the Legislature change its own internal rules to be more open?

The running of the constitutional republic behind closed and locked doors is abhorrent to a free people. This is what the Hawaii government practiced during the last two years and it should never be repeated.

All meetings between lobbyists and those in the legislative office are to be publicly disclosed and posted, failure to do so would be a violation of the law. The names of both lobbyists and legislators are to be made public.

All governmental meetings of any kind are to be accessible to the general public physically, in person. I personally would make myself available to discuss any concerns with those in my district.

9. Hawaii has seen a growing division when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. What would you do to bridge those gaps and bring people together in spite of their differences?

The educational system in our state has failed to instruct succeeding generations on the purpose and meaning of our federal and state constitutions. The same can be said of our bill of inalienable rights. Failures in the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government to understand the application of our rights as free citizens have been obvious.

Priority should be placed on the public school system to adequately teach and test all students in their comprehension and application of this knowledge. Thorough testing of comprehension should be mandatory for graduation from all public schools and universities.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.

One of the founding fathers of this great republic, Dr. Benjamin Rush, reportedly said, “Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship to restrict the art of healing to one class of men and deny equal privileges to others: the Constitution of the Republic should make a Special privilege for medical freedoms as well as religious freedom.”

The big idea I have is to take back our freedom. A citizenry free from the burden of unconstitutional mandates, over-regulation and taxation will be the spark that ignites the engine of economic prosperity, social cohesion and the return of aloha.

All of the Hawaii Department of Health administrative rules and emergency laws are to be thoroughly vetted for their constitutionality. To prevent government officials and politicians from making knee-jerk emergency decisions related to public health, a diversified independent civilian board of medical and scientific personnel would be consulted. The names of these individuals would be pulled from the list of signatories found on the Great Barrington Declaration.

Emergency health decisions should never be made by government-paid doctors and scientists.

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