Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 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 Jamie Detwiler, Republican candidate for state House District 37, which includes Waipio and Mililani. Her opponent is Democrat Ryan Yamane.

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

Candidate for State House District 37

Jamie Detwiler
Party Republican
Age 62
Occupaiton Retired social worker and health care administrator
Residence Honolulu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

2022-present, Oahu League of Republican Women member; 2019-present, Hawaii Republican Party delegate; 2016-2020, guest lecturer, Critical Incident Trauma Response and Support; 2018-2020, Tripler Army Medical Center Mentorship Program co-facilitator; 2012-2020, Young Government Leaders Organization, co-founding member of Hawaii Chapter, professional development chairperson; 2008-2010, National Association of Social Workers Hawaii Chapter, executive board secretary.

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

The biggest issue facing our residents is the high cost of living to include housing, food and gas. While canvassing my district, residents express concerns regarding the high tax burden. Hawaii has the second-highest tax burden in the nation. Local first-time homebuyers are being outbid by foreign investors, and many others are impacted by rising food prices.

Hawaii has the most geographically isolated population in the world, some 2,500 miles from the North American continent and more than 85% of our food is imported at a cost of $6.8 billion per year. Hawaii consistently loses farmers from its already small community as land costs are prohibitive and profits are minimal. We need to support business and community partnerships throughout the state to be less dependent on food sourced from the mainland.

I would collaborate with fellow legislators to create legislation including affordable housing strategies with critical input from experienced local developers, decrease government regulation, remove the general excise tax on food and medical services, and reduce the gas tax. These actions would create disposable personal income allowing taxpayers to either save money or spend it, and therefore boosting the economy.

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?

Some policymakers and organizations have recommended limiting tourism. Before we consider slowing or limiting the number of tourists coming to Hawaii, we must look at diversifying our economy. We need to ask critical questions. Why is government funding tourism marketing? Will new industries be afforded the same government funding? Why do we have two organizations promoting tourism, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and Hawaii Tourism Authority?

Our lawmakers need to work together to develop legislation that would significantly lower the tax burden and regulations for starting a business in Hawaii.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses are critical to U.S. economic growth. They contribute 65% of all new jobs. Without small businesses, the economy won’t grow. There is duplication and overlap of services within several state agencies. The layers of bureaucracy in Hawaii state and county government must be reviewed and eliminated to streamline and encourage new business development. Additionally, all government funded agencies and programs must adhere to compliance, transparency and accountability guidelines.

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?

One of my proposed solutions is to restructure the overall Hawaii state tax laws. Hawaii has the second-highest personal income tax burden. As stated earlier, we need to remove the general excise tax on food and medical services as well as collaborate with county lawmakers to reduce property taxes and vehicle registration tax. These actions would increase the net income of Hawaii residents as well as the ability to spend their hard-earned money on goods and services or save for a down payment on a home.

Research shows that consumer spending typically equals two-thirds of gross national product (GNP). As you would expect, lowering taxes raises disposable income, allowing the consumer to spend additional sums, thereby increasing GNP.

Additionally, we need to seek out fiscally conservative candidates and vote them into office. Instead of spending taxpayer money on new projects and nonprofits that go unchecked, we need to hold our legislators accountable. I encourage my constituents to hold me accountable for my words and actions.

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 would ensure that there is an open exchange of ideas, transparency, and accountability for decisions as a requirement for all elected officials to read the U.S. Constitution, the State of Hawaii Constitution, and to adhere to their sworn oath of office. Once these requirements are met, each legislator must sign a statement of agreement and understanding.

While drafting legislation, it is important for lawmakers from all parties to collaborate with the goals of addressing the needs and concerns of our constituents. We work for “we the people.” Before we begin to collaborate, we need to build relationships and truly seek to understand one another’s perspectives. We must never lose focus on our purpose and responsibility as legislators.

The consequences of one-party control for the past 50 years have resulted in the expansion of government, lack of transparency and unethical behavior by people in office. Our freedom and liberty must be protected through servant leadership.

According to the State of Hawaii Constitution, Article 1 Section 1, Bill of Rights, all political power of this State is inherent in the people and the responsibility for the exercise thereof rests with the people. All government is founded on this authority.

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

I have researched the pros and cons of the “citizens initiative” and read testimony where it has been implemented in the U.S. and other countries. I do not support the citizens initiative process as it will add another layer to the legislative process. It will also impact timeliness, brevity, and allow groups with assertive voices to dominate discussions.

I am in support of encouraging oral and written testimony. We need to increase awareness to the public of the Legislative Reference Bureau/Public Access Room, which equips citizens with excellent knowledge and skills to take initiative at the legislative level.

I firmly support accountability and transparency from legislators. If elected, I expect my constituents to hold me accountable and provide timely communication. They are elected by the people and work for the people. Having been involved at the community level by testifying in person, online, and in writing allows “we the people” to be heard. Additionally, the Legislature must collaborate and communicate with media to inform the public in a timely manner of upcoming committee and bill hearing dates. It is not enough to publish the measures and bills schedule on the state Legislature online calendar.

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 support term limits for all elected offices. In addition to the reasons provided, the people want accountability, transparency and elected statesmen and stateswomen with a proven record of servant leadership, knowledge and skills, accomplishments and a history of merit-based commendations resulting in positive outcomes and impact.

If I am privileged to be elected, I will support term limits. Most importantly, in addition to working diligently for my constituents, I plan to mentor future servant leaders who desire to hold public office. I am Hawaii-born and raised by amazing parents who served their community and instilled within me a passion to serve my community with a deep compassion for the people of Hawaii.

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?

As mentioned earlier, I would support a requirement for all elected officials to read the U.S. Constitution, the State of Hawaii Constitution, and to adhere to their sworn oath of office. Once these requirements are met, each legislator must sign a statement of agreement and understanding. Additionally, I would support an established table of offenses (rules of conduct) with a coinciding list of consequences such as warnings, suspensions and dismissal. This process is used for federal employees and similar parameters in the private sector.

I support the Sunshine Law and open records laws applying to the Legislature as well as a ban on campaign contributions during session.

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?

Government transparency and accountability is one of the priorities of my campaign platform. I along with fellow constituents have experienced the lack of transparency from elected and appointed government officials. Finding out “after the fact” that measures/bills were killed before being heard in committee was discouraging and disheartening. Yes indeed, we should open conference committee to the public and develop stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying as well as lobbyists.

Before we ask the question on how the Legislature could change its own internal rules to be more open, we need to establish a working foundation that includes the merits of checks and balances:

— Prevent excessive use of power by any branch or department of government.

— Require accountability and responsibility of government officials.

– Uphold respect for fundamental inalienable rights of every citizen according to the U.S. Constitution. Once this foundation is established, create a legislative code of conduct.

“We the people” deserve to know the consultations and conversations at the legislative level that will impact our citizens and future generations to come.

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?

Bottom line up front, I do not support mandates or lockdowns. What concerns me about the division in politics regarding various positions on development, health mandates, and other government agency-imposed guidelines is the severe infringement of our freedom and liberty as defined by the U.S. Constitution. Supported by the fourth and fifth amendments, the Supreme Court has decided that competent adults have the right to autonomy, including the refusal of medical treatment if they so wish. We need to respect everyone’s personal decisions.

Many of us were impacted by government overreach that started before 2020 but was amplified at the onset of the pandemic. So many lives were impacted by restrictions imposed by unelected bureaucrats in government agencies. Our rights under the Constitution must be upheld in totality.

As a trained mediator, I would make the following recommendations to start the process of bringing people together and to bridge the gap between differing opinions. In a setting outside of the Legislature such as a conference center:

— Utilize the skills of a professional facilitator/mediator who would provide a neutral platform.

— Identify issues and conflicts, and utilize solution-focused strategies to reach resolution or progress towards resolution.

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 support business and community partnerships throughout the state to be less dependent on food sourced from the mainland. Families and kupuna are struggling to put food on the table.

Energy and food security are priorities of my campaign platform. I refer to an earlier response that Hawaii has the most geographically isolated population in the world, and more than 85% of our food is imported at a cost of $6.8 billion per year and rising.

As a home gardener of flowers and vegetables, I began to think about how the business community and key stakeholders could support farmers by beginning to build a food source throughout Hawaii. While this is not my idea, I do support the concept and development by developer-Realtor Peter Savio and stakeholders who purchased land from Dole Food Company for the purpose of farming. As of April 2022, Mr. Savio found buyers for all 100 plots of agriculture land. The mortgage will be $400 a month per acre, with an overall price of $60,000 for an acre of land.

This model has the potential to expand statewide. This would create additional jobs supporting the agricultural industry and begin to rebuild our economy.

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