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 Maurice Morita, Democratic candidate for state House District 36, which includes Waipahu. The other Democratic candidate is Rachele Lamosao.

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 36

Maurice Morita
Party Democratic
Age 76
Occupation Former schoolteacher and lobbyist for HSTA and Laborers Union Trust Fund
Residence Waipahu

Community organizations/prior offices held

Waipahu Neighborhood Board; Dance Hawaii, Inc.; Tarlac Club of Hawaii; former member, Waipahu United Visayan Committee of Hawaii.

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

Education is my No. 1 priority. We will not be able to resolve all of our problems but in time, when we have educated our community, especially in our Filipino community, it will improve the quality of life for them and their families.

A lot of parents work two or three jobs to survive, but if their children have a good education, it will help the families out of poverty, etc.

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?

Hawaii is so beautiful, so we need to share our beauty with people from other countries. From our pandemic experience for 2 1/2 years, we have learned we cannot depend only on tourism. Tourism will always be our No. 1 industry, as were sugar cane and pineapple once upon a time.

We must diversify our economy so we don’t depend only on one industry. Some ideas I have are as follows:

— The state has a lot of vacant farm land; we should grow and harvest marijuana to export to California, Las Vegas and other countries, where the use of marijuana is legal, not only for medical reasons.

— Hawaii is one of two states without any form of gambling, I would propose a lottery for education, formatted after Atlanta, Georgia, which ran a successful lottery for education to add to the lower education and upper education budgets.

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?

It may help to exempt the purchase of food and medical care from the GET, which is the state’s main source of income. The state must diversify its economy to raise the state’s income.

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?

I am a big admirer of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and how he survived in Congress even when the other party took over the power. He was the king of politics in Washington, D.C.

If a Republican has a good idea, the person has to meet with a Democrat that can help him. In the past and present, any bills the Republican introduces will never have a hearing and will die. A smart Republican will seek help from the party in power and work with one Democrat to introduce his or her bill. Then it comes out not to who or what party that introduces the bill, if it will help the people in the state of Hawaii, a Democrat should introduce the bill.

The two-party system was developed so one party would not dominate the state’s Legislature and the minority party would be their watchdog.

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

I will be opposed to a statewide citizens initiative process. In politics, money talks and in a statewide initiative, the person or group with money will have a better opportunity to support or not support the initiative.

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?

I would be in opposition of term limits for the state legislators. The reason is if a state legislator is not representing his or her constituents, the constituents can not re-elect their legislator every two years or four years.

Another way is to make the State House of Representatives have the same terms as the state senators.

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?

Yes, I would be in favor requiring the Sunshine Law and open records laws applying to the Legislature and/or banning campaign contributions during session.

As for the ensuring of accountability at the Legislature, we have to be open and transparent in our dealing with lobbyists, and not take or receive any bribes. This is an individual choice so one has to have principles of being honest and open to the public.

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?

In the past, there were a lot of back-door deals made. We need to make sure those types of meetings/deals are prohibited with a huge fine if held, and more decisions need to be made in the public eye to be transparent. The state of Hawaii should review the federal laws regarding open meetings and should have stricter laws like the Sunshine Act that we presently follow. We should review the Sunshine Act to see if improvements can be made to make sure we have open meetings.

I know it’s frustrating because when I was a lobbyist, I would attend a meeting just to hear what decision the committee made, not openly but behind back doors. They just take the votes in public with no discussion in the public. We need to change the process so we have more open and transparent meetings on decision-making.

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?

To be blunt, you never bring people together to bridge the gaps when it comes to politics. Everyone has their own individual personal choices. Same for developments, the people in favor want it because it will make money for them and those who oppose, may not have any personal involvement. Same goes for affordable housing, the developers may be against it because they won’t make much money and the people need affordable housing, especially the young families.

As for medical issues, the pandemic has shown us that we cannot convince people via science to get fully vaccinated with the two booster shots to be safe. People have to make their own choices and take their own chances against Covid-19 regardless if its supported by science.

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.

We need to diversify our economy and not only depend on tourism. Tourism will always be our No. 1 industry. One idea is to use our vacant farm lands and grow marijuana and export it to states and countries where it is legal to use marijuana, not only for medical uses. Another idea is to have a lottery for education.

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