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 John Miller, Republican candidate for state House District 46, which includes Waipio Acres, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Waialua and Mokuleia. His opponent is Democrat Amy Perruso.

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 46

John Miller
Party Republican
Age 59
Occupation Pastor, owner and operator, Nazkine TV Publishing
Residence Wahiawa, Oahu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Wahiawa drive-through food distribution, 2020-2021; Addiction Recovery Ministry (Celebrate Recovery), 2018-2022; Blue Zones faith-based leader, Wahiawa Pastors Association member, 2014-2022.

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

First, recovery from the covid pandemic. I will look for ways to get the schools back up to speed and make up for the losses in education due to extended closures. I will work to assure going forward we use science as a guide, not undue pressure from special interest groups to keep schools closed. Mask mandates for students need to be lifted immediately. Graduations need to go back to normal for the students.

Next, I will protect and defend the rights of parents and guardians. I will make sure parents are included in decisions about what their children are being taught, especially in sex education. No state or government employee knows more about what is best for students than the parents or guardians of the student. Parents should not be intimidated or afraid to voice their concerns or opinions at public school board meetings and I will protect those rights.

Finally, crime has become an issue islandwide. I will oppose bad bills like HB1567 that let people arrested out of jail without bail. I will protect the rights of victims always above the perpetrators of crime. I will support HPD and help them get the resources they need.

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 tourism sustains employment for over 200,000 residents (216,000 in 2019) and brings in more than $2 billion in state revenues. We can focus on increasing the revenue from tourism and managing the number of tourists in such a way not to damage the natural resources of Hawaii.

We must find ways to protect the ecosystems and the residents who are being overrun in certain areas. We can do this by improving the state infrastructure.

We must make sure that these changes do not adversely affect the jobs of the middle-class workers who are benefiting from the tourism industry.

This will require cooperation between the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Tourism Authority, counties, local communities in and around the tourists’ attractions. I read the 33-page plan produced by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. I like their new focus away from making Hawaii just a place to get as many tourists as possible to a more strategic approach to the tourism industry in Hawaii. They write on page 7, “Our Mission: To strategically manage Hawaii tourism in a sustainable manner consistent with economic goals, cultural values, preservation of natural resources, community desires, and visitor industry needs.”

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 is sad that this question in some form or another comes up every election cycle that I can remember. Candidates make promises that don’t help the people. Common sense, we must help people increase income and reduce expenses that are taken from the income. Hawaii has one of the highest tax burdens of any state.

Yet every year the elected Legislature votes to increase taxes on its citizens whom they have sworn to protect and serve.

The Legislature unanimously voted to give themselves a raise several years ago and were too embarrassed to do it during the pandemic. Therefore, in January of 2023 they will receive approximately $12,000 for two years of their raises.

I will not vote to raise taxes on the citizens of Hawaii so certain powerbrokers in the Legislature can have their pet projects approved and then send out flyers, paid by taxpayers’ dollars, bragging about how they allocated money to help some people in their district. Let people keep their hard-earned dollars in their pockets and let them decide how their money is spent.

I will work to reduce the government regulations that make it hard for local business to make a profit.

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? 

One of the consequences is mentioned in your previous question No. 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. To blame everyone except the party that has had majority control for the last eight years is untrue.

When I first ran for office in 2018 the big question was about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It has been four years now and the party that has had control of the government voted to make the minimum wage $18 by 2028.

One of the ways that could ensure open exchange of ideas is elect people who have a proven track record of working with people of different political parties. Another step would be to withhold the authorship of a bill until it has been viewed according to its merits.

I believe that there are open-minded people in both parties who would work together if there were more opportunities for nonpartisan cooperation. I have heard stories from people who say, if you break party lines on an issue you get marked as an enemy in your party.

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

Yes. I believe this would take away some of the absolute power of the Legislature and the governor. It may even cause them to be better representatives of the people who elected them. It is a way for the citizens of Hawaii to have their voices heard in politics.

I think it would restore people’s faith in the process of government if they felt they really had a say in what goes on in their state. There are some laws that have been passed under the cover of darkness that could be reversed.

Sometimes it feels like the government has gotten too big and too out of touch from those who actually pay the bills. Another benefit is potential higher voter turnouts and more interest in state government.

Furthermore, it may cause the Legislature to introduce certain laws that benefit the people because they know that if they don’t the citizens may do it themselves. Then we have the possibility of getting term limits, campaign finance reform, and better action on government oversight and accountability. There are possible problems as well. Like too many initiatives on the ballot and certain groups of people being targeted by a majority of the voters.

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?

Yes, a good model would be two terms for the state Senate and four for the state House. I have heard firsthand stories recently of people who said, they are afraid to vote for a candidate who is not an incumbent due to potential acts of retaliation. They know the incumbent can cut funding and withdraw support for community organizations.

So, if you vote against them or help opposing candidates it can cost you something later. I keep hearing people talk about speaking truth to power, but they don’t say a word when unions put pressure on its members or others who belong to other unions to do certain things. Speaking truth to power would include all power, not just power you don’t agree with.

Many of Hawaii’s most persistent problems have been in existence for years as the same elected Legislature members maintain their positions. It’s time for real change. It’s easy to become complacent and apathetic when you know you’re not going to be challenged.

Additionally, I feel like many good candidates who would happily serve their communities never enter politics due the large amounts of money and union endorsements the incumbents have in their campaigns.

7. Hawaii has recently experienced several 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?

I will not be able to ensure accountability at the Legislature, but I can suggest some potential safeguards. I am open to the Sunshine Laws and open record laws to apply to the Legislature and banning campaign contributions to incumbents during sessions. I would suggest banning endorsements during session too.

Next, it should be mandatory to provide explanations why a bill was killed. There is too much pay-to-play going on. Furthermore, eliminate corporate and union political contributions and endorsements. That’s the source of quid pro quo corruption.

Also, require the reporting of campaign contributions to be made monthly. Significantly increase the penalties and jail time for lawmakers who are convicted of taking bribes.

Finally, there needs to be equal representation of all political parties on the state House commission tasked with improving government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. There are too many instances of leniency when like-minded political investigations try and hold themselves accountable. There have been too many corruption scandals in multiple state agencies in the government in the last four years.

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?

I think there should be a task force of nonmembers of the Legislature to assess and address this problem. Take people from all political parties in Hawaii as well as nonmembers of political parties and task them to offer solutions. Hire a professional organization not affiliated with Hawaii state government to moderate and facilitate these meetings.

Promote and explain to citizens how to access the voting records office held in the state Capitol. Require all proposed bills and the sponsors of the bills to be made public and allow testimony to be given on every single bill before it is passed on to committees.

If a bill is killed provide detailed explanations to the public, why it was killed.

Stop allowing legislation to be passed with future dates of inception and then be sent into a committee where the date is changed in secret. I would support stricter requirements on lobbying and lobbyists.

I have read some very good work done by the League of Women Voters and The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on this subject. These two groups would be a valuable resource to help provide solutions — solutions they have already published on increasing transparency in government.

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?

Politics has invaded every area of our lives and culture. There is politics in sports, schools, churches, families and corporations. I have heard firsthand accounts about family members refusing to talk with one another due to their beliefs on vaccinations and mask mandates. Companies are firing people if they don’t comply with mandates.

As a pastor I am trying to promote peace and love for one another. This may seem simplistic, but it is both vital and necessary if people are going to be brought together despite their differences. It is hard work.

The excessive use of lockdowns and mandates have exasperated the separation and division between people. I will promote freedom of choice when it comes to requirements on citizens that have not been proven to be beneficial for public health mandates and other issues. I believe most people are intelligent enough to research and make decisions that are best for their families.

I don’t think any government agency loves a person’s family more than they do. Therefore, the families will make the best decisions for themselves. If elected officials start treating people as logical intelligent adults, and not children, that will be a great first step. I will do that.

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.

Some of the technology being used by the state needs immediate updates. This was exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Two specific issues occurred while trying to track people with Covid infections and distribution of unemployment benefits.

I would ask for an evaluation of the 31 state departments and the 152 or so subdivisions and agencies of the state government to see where potential modernization can be implemented. Next, I would work with others to find the funding to get technology updates without raising taxes. Then, without hesitation I would push to get it done.

The one Big Idea is to get the homes built for every Native Hawaiian who is currently on the waiting list. Promises have been made and broken to the Native Hawaiians for too long. I believe that until the people who were here, before technology, tourists and everyone else, are honored and respected nothing else will be blessed. The time is now.

The people of Hawaii are its most valuable treasure. Hawaii is a place where people come from all over the world to visit. If we can creatively balance the preservation of traditional and cultural practices and the modernization of Hawaii, it will benefit everyone.

 

 

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?