House District 13

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

House Bill 2676 Exempts Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) From the Procurement Process to Purchase Food and Fuel

In News Release, Photos on April 28, 2010 at 1:59 am

HONOLULU—On Tuesday, April 27, 2010 members of the State House of Representatives and the Senate voted to pass HB 2676 HD1 SD1 CD1.  The bill will now advance to the Governor for her signature into law.

House Bill 2676 HD1 SD1 CD1 temporarily exempts contracts made by the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) for the procurement of food and fuel products from the Hawaii Public Procurement Code, Chapter 103D, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

Representative Mele Carroll (D-13th), who represents the island of Kaho’olawe and is Chair of the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, introduced the bill as a result of her visit to the island last year in September.  She and her colleagues from the Senate spent the night on Kaho’olawe to do sight visits and get updates from the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission staff.  “We are appreciative of the dedication and commitment the staff and volunteers have demonstrated in taking on the enormous task of rehabilitating the island that was used for target practice by the navy for decades,” says Representative Mele Carroll.  “This procurement bill will assist KIRC to meeting their immediate needs of bringing food and fuel to the island in a timely manner.”

She continues, “Exempting the KIRC from the procurement process will mean that they can form contracts with reliable vendors without having to wade through the paperwork and the waiting period the Procurement Code currently requires.  As the KIRC has been underfunded from the beginning, it is my hope that this bill will allow them to accelerate their efforts while maintaining accurate records of their purchases.”

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BILL PROHIBITS SALE OF GOVERNMENT-OWNED FISH PONDS, PROMOTES TRADITIONAL FISHING PRACTICES

In News Release on April 23, 2010 at 9:58 pm

HONOLULU—The Legislative Conference Committee voted to move forward House Bill 1665, which would prohibit the sale of public, governmentally-owned Hawaiian fishponds.  The bill promotes a revival of Hawaiian fishing practices for cultural and commercial gain.  It stipulates that all revenue from fishpond related activity will be deposited into a special land and development fund for the purpose of further revitalizing traditional fishing practices and education.

Although the bill, which was introduced by Representative Faye Hanohano (D-4th) during the 2009 session, will prohibit the sale of fishponds, it does allow for leasing such properties provided a community hearing is conducted beforehand and the lessee operates the fishpond in an ecologically sound manner.  The Native Hawaiian Caucus, which is composed of Native Hawaiian members of both the House and Senate, re-introduced the bill this session as part of its legislative package.

Representative Mele Carroll (D-13th), who chairs the Native Hawaiian Caucus, says, “I believe this bill addresses cultural, economic, and ecological concerns.  It does provide for commercial activity, but only if these structures are not unduly tampered with and the environment is not harmed.”

Representative Mele Carroll with Tony Costa of Hawaii Near-Shore Fishermen and Chris Cramer of Moanalua Fishpond Heritage Center

The issue of environmental damage is a significant one; in the past, fish ponds were often filled in to provide property for housing units.  As a result, there are only a few fishponds remaining on O`ahu and neighbor island alike, though concerned citizens and organizations have worked to restore fishponds across the state.

“Hawaiians established a number of laws regarding conservation,” says Representative Mele Carroll, “As our state continues to go green, we should examine the ways our ancestors lived, sustainably, without the technology we have come to rely on.  Fish ponds are very different from the fish farming that is practiced in Hawaiian waters today, and I believe that re-implementing this system will uplift our state’s economy and instill our children with a sense of responsibility for our oceans.

The State House of Representatives will vote on House Bill 1665 on April 27.

Representative Faye Hanohano says, “`O kēia pila e mālama kō kākou kūlana na`auao a me kō kākou mo`olelo.  Mahalo ke akua no kona pōmaika`i ma kēia pila pono.  E holo mua me ka `oiai`o.”

“This bill preserves our culture and history.  We thank God for his blessing upon this righteous bill.  We move forward with truth.”

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Salvation Army officials aim to quell panic over looming welfare closures

In Mele in the News on April 16, 2010 at 3:17 am

From The Maui News

Thanks to Claudine San Nicolas for her excellent reporting.

KAHULUI – While a measure in the state Legislature would prohibit welfare office closures on Neighbor Islands, Salvation Army officials on Maui have been assuring panic-stricken clients that they won’t be abandoned when they seek public assistance.

Emotions have been running high since late last month when the state Department of Human Services first announced layoffs of more than 200 eligibility workers statewide. Many of the employees assist people in applying for government programs such as food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and also known as SNAP), Medicaid, cash assistance and child care money for families who cannot afford it.

Dan Merritt, Salvation Army’s SNAP coordinator for Maui, said homeless people and adults in low-income families expressed anxiety that the layoffs of state employees might slow down the issuance of the debit cards they receive through SNAP to buy food.

“They’re actually coming to me in a panic, and I have to assure them that the SNAP program will stay in effect and everything humanly possible will be done to ensure that they get food on the table,” Merritt said.

SNAP assistance currently comes in the form of electronic benefits that can be used like debit cards in most grocery stores.

On Maui, the program has up to 29 state eligibility workers. There also is one SNAP employee on Lanai and three on Molokai. All of the SNAP employees have received layoff notices that take effect June 30. Some of the employees might lose their positions but still have jobs depending on seniority and whether they qualify to assume another position.

DHS public information officer Toni Schwartz said clients and SNAP applicants should be able to access benefits more easily and perhaps faster when the department’s modernization plan takes effect Oct. 1.

“People have actually gained options,” Schwartz said, pointing out that low-income families and disadvantaged individuals can apply for benefits by e-mail, through fax and/or through an online application process.

Currently, applicants have to undergo a face-to-face interview while also providing information on a 13-page application.

The Salvation Army received a $59,000 grant from the Hawai’i Community Foundation as well as a $33,000 contract this year from the state to assist individuals and families with the application process.

The Salvation Army is one of several providers contracted by the state to conduct field work with potential SNAP clients.

Since January, as many as 112 Maui families have prequalified for benefits and approximately 374 men, women and children have received benefits with the Salvation Army’s guidance through the application process, Merritt said.

Many clients are intimidated by the 13-page-long application and its requirements for documentation, he said.

“That’s why our assistance is critical or else some people don’t bother to apply at all,” he said.

According to documents supplied by Merritt, the average monthly benefit per household for the federally funded SNAP is $427 per month. Food stamp benefits in Hawaii are more than $322 million annually. Approximately 62,852 households, and 125,052 people in Hawaii receive SNAP benefits.

Of the $322 million in benefits distributed statewide, about $17 million in benefits were issued on Maui in 2009.

Schwartz said she does not believe that the layoffs will negatively affect the SNAP program nor will they mean that private providers assisting with the application process will get any busier.

She said potential applicants also can visit their library for free and file online applications there. Others who can get access to a phone and call a state worker who will be either stationed on Oahu or the Big Island for help with application process.

“I don’t think people need to worry as much as they’re worrying,” Schwartz said.

Merritt said his office stands ready for individuals who insist or prefer face-to-face assistance.

“I believe we’re going to have to pick up the slack,” he said.

A vote on Senate Bill 2650, which would exempt Neighbor Islands from welfare office closures, is expected today.

State Rep. Mele Carroll, who represents East Maui, Molokai and Lanai residents, maintains that residents need in-person access to officials processing welfare applications, particularly residents who bilingual or don’t have access to the Internet.

The state Department of Human Services wants to close 31 welfare offices statewide to save $8 million a year and streamline benefit processing into two new call centers in Honolulu and Hilo.

House of Representatives, Senate Vote YES on SB 2650– DHS Reorganization Will Not Impact Neighbor Islands

In News Release on April 15, 2010 at 3:41 am

 

 

 

HONOLULU—Today, both the State House of Representatives and the Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 2650, which will halt implementation of the recently announced Department of Human Services (DHS) reorganization plan in all counties with populations under 500,000.

This effectively exempts all neighbor islands from the reorganization, which would require Department of Human Service clients to submit their applications online or over the phone as well as force the closure of its DHS offices on all neighbor islands.  The original version of the SB 2650 called for a reduction in force of 228 DHS employees and the closure of all but two offices, one on the Big Island and one on O`ahu.

Representative Mele Carroll (D-13th), who worked with Representative John Mizuno (D-30), Chair of the Human Services Committee was instrumental in the formulation of the latest draft of SB 2650, says, “I’m so grateful that my colleagues see, as I do, the need to retain face-to face contact on the neighbor islands.  I visited my constituents on Lana`i this weekend with Speaker Calvin Say (D-20th) and Representative Angus McKelvey (D-10th).  There, we saw how this community works together to make things work by collaborating with all groups in meeting the needs of the people.  It was mentioned that there is only one public fax on the whole island and computer access is very limited.  Many of the residents speak Ilocano or Tagalog as their first language, so filling out forms is difficult for them.  They need someone who understands their particular situation, who knows them personally, to ensure that there are no flaws in the application process.”

The passage of this bill ensures that clients on neighbor islands will still have access to eligibility and social workers.  Representative Mele Carroll says, “If the reorganization plan were implemented, residents of my district would have had to purchase plane tickets in order to see someone to assist them or in the worse scenario, they would simply give up trying to receive services.  Retaining eligibility workers on neighbor islands will enable DHS to better serve residents who don’t have access to a computer or a phone, or who are physically or mentally unable to apply for these services electronically.”

During session today as SB 2650 was being debated on the floor, Representative Mele Carroll felt compelled to speak after the Minority Leader stated that “some people don’t know how this EPOD system works.”  In her rebuttal to the Minority Leader’s opposition to SB 2650, Representative Mele Carroll agreed that people don’t know how this EPOD system is going to work.  “First of all, the Director of DHS did not consult with the employees of DHS, union leaders, providers, clients or anyone for that matter that would be affected by this proposed EPOD system.  Next, everyone here would agree that we are always looking for ways to improve efficiency.  Since it was mentioned by the Minority Leader that the department has identified deficiencies, why is the administration trying to shove down this new system to be in place without any consultation?” says Representative Mele Carroll.  “We talk about transparency all the time as we debate bills.  I believe that SB 2650 in its latest version offers transparency where we must be in compliant with Chapter 91.  This allows for consultation, public hearings and a dialogue with those most affected should this proposed EPOD system be implemented.” 

She continues, “We have an island system, and we must be sensitive to the needs of all of our islands in meeting the needs of the people.  By taking a pause, and doing a pilot project on Oahu, this bill offers the state to really examine and review the situation before us and come up with the most effective way of addressing the deficiencies in our system, but more importantly, give our taxpayers an opportunity to weigh in on the discussion.  After all, it is state tax dollars that we are spending, which is the people’s dollars.”

“Again, I ask the administration, why didn’t you propose this EPOD system earlier and consult with the employees of your department to get the best ideas in transitioning to a more effective system that will work for all of the people of Hawai`i,” says Representative Mele Carroll.  “Why only now are you trying to force this EPOD system?” 

She concludes, “I strongly support this measure and look forward to working with everyone on this matter.”

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Neighbor Island Exemption Proposed for DHS Reorganization

In Mele in the News on April 14, 2010 at 1:14 am
Posted by prgnews in Maui Today on 04 12th, 2010 | no responses

(Posted by Wendy Osher; Supporting information courtesy Office of Rep. Mele Carroll)

 

After a weekend visit to the island of Lanai, House Speaker Calvin Say is recommending that the reorganization of the Eligibility Processing Operations Division occur only on Oahu where access to services is not as limited, and not the neighbor islands.  The state Department of Human Services plans to lay off 228 workers and close 31 offices, including those providing services to welfare, Medquest and food stamp beneficiaries on Maui.

Rep. Mele Carroll of Maui speaks to Lana’i residents about the planned DHS cuts. Courtesy Photo: Office of Rep. Mele Carroll. 

Representative Mele Carroll (D-13) of Maui attended the meeting with Say and fellow Rep. Angus McKelvey on Saturday, April 10, 2010.

“It is not right to impose a new system without any consultation with the people who will be affected by it the most,” said Carroll.  “I want to thank the Lana`i residents who came to meet us on Saturday and spoke out about their concerns regarding the closure of the Lana`i office.  Together we have inspired a measure that could save our most vulnerable residents from losing the benefits they so desperately need,” she said.

The recommendation includes a suggested proviso in Senate Bill 2650, preventing EPOD reorganization from affecting neighbor island offices.  The present draft of the bill authorizes the governor to implement a pilot program in counties with a population exceeding 500,000.  According to Carroll, only Honolulu County currently meets the criteria. The State House of Representatives and the Senate are scheduled to vote on SB 2650 for third reading on Wednesday, April 14, 2010.

“Citizens on O`ahu always have the option of coming to the Capitol directly to discuss their concerns, but citizens in my district often feel they are isolated from the Legislature and from the decision-making process,” said Carroll.  “I’m happy that the House leadership, specifically Speaker Calvin Say  recognizes the importance of this issue and is willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to acknowledge Lana`i and hear its citizens’ concerns,” she said.

Among the chief reasons for the visit was to give House leaders the opportunity to see how the Department of Human Services runs on Lanai, more importantly the neighbor islands.  “There is a huge difference between Lana`i and O`ahu in terms of how DHS workers communicate with their clients,” said Carroll.  “On Lana`i, face-to-face contact is crucial.”

“Many of the residents don’t have internet access and there is only one public fax on the island,” Carroll said.  “It is very important to them that they know the person handling their paperwork—their lives, essentially.  About 58% of the population are of Filipino ancestry, many of whom came to Lana`i work on the plantations, so it is very important that a worker be present to explain exactly what is required,” she said.

Bill would stop Hawaii welfare office closures

In Mele in the News on April 14, 2010 at 1:12 am

From the Maui News, find full story here: http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/530439.html

HONOLULU – The planned closure of 31 welfare offices and layoffs of 228 state employees would be put on hold under a measure advancing through the state Legislature.

A conference committee passed the bill 6-1 on Monday as a way to stave off the Lingle administration’s welfare eligibility office consolidation proposal.

The state Department of Human Services wants to shutter the welfare offices to save $8 million and streamline benefit processing into two new call centers in Honolulu and Hilo.

But the plan wouldn’t go forward under the bill pushed by lawmakers worried that the needy would lose in-person access to services.

The measure prohibits welfare office closures on the Neighbor Islands and requires public hearings before they could be consolidated on Oahu.

State Rep. Mele Carroll (D-East Maui, Molokai, Lanai) said in a news release that the state House and Senate will vote on the measure Wednesday.

She visited Lanai on Saturday with House Speaker Calvin Say and Rep. Angus McKelvey (D-West Maui, North Kihei), who chairs the House Committee on Economic Revitalization, Business, and Military Affairs.

Carroll said she initially arranged to hold discussions with DHS employees on Lanai but was quickly joined by DHS clients. The gathering drew about 40 people, many of whom expressed worry about the new DHS plan.

“Many of the residents don’t have Internet access, and there is only one public fax on the island,” Carroll explained. “It is very important to them that they know the person handling their paperwork-their lives, essentially.”

She said that many island residents are bilingual and having someone available in person would be important to help them understand the intricacies of the system.

“It is very important that a worker be present to explain exactly what is required,” she said.

The representative from the 13th District believes the visit to Lanai saved the offices from the reorganization program. She also complained about the lack of consultation with the clients during the development of the reorganization plan.

Neighbor Islands May Be Exempt from DHS Reorganization

In News Release, Uncategorized on April 13, 2010 at 1:51 am

Rep. Mele Carroll Speaks with DHS Clients

 

HONOLULU—On Saturday, April 10, Rep. Mele Carroll (D-13th) visited Lana`i with a House Speaker Calvin Say (D-20th) and Rep. Angus McKelvey (D-10th), who chairs the House Committee on Economic Revitalization, Business, and Military Affairs.

Rep. Mele Carroll says, “Citizens on O`ahu always have the option of coming to the Capitol directly to discuss their concerns, but citizens in my district often feel they are isolated from the Legislature and from the decision-making process.  I’m happy that the House leadership, specifically Speaker Calvin Say  recognizes the importance of this issue and is willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to acknowledge Lana`i and hear its citizens’ concerns.”

Among the chief reasons for the visit was to give House leaders the opportunity to see how the Department of Human Services runs on Lanai, more importantly the neighbor islands.  Rep. Mele Carroll says, “There is a huge difference between Lana`i and O`ahu in terms of how DHS workers communicate with their clients.  On Lana`i, face-to-face contact is crucial.  Many of the residents don’t have internet access and there is only one public fax on the island.  It is very important to them that they know the person handling their paperwork—their lives, essentially.  About 58% of the population are of Filipino ancestry, many of whom came to Lana`i work on the plantations, so it is very important that a worker be present to explain exactly what is required.”  Especially with many of the residents being bilingual, a person with the skills to speak their language and assist them with services is necessary.

Several DHS clients attended the meeting to ask questions and offer suggestions to Representative Mele Carroll and her colleagues that were present.  One client claimed she was once on hold for five hours when calling an O`ahu DHS office and asked how such situations could be avoided if all DHS beneficiaries were required to apply for services over the phone.  Others cited concerns over whether elderly and disabled clients had the technical knowledge necessary to apply for services electronically, saying, “We are worried that Lana’i will be forgotten if they get rid of our DHS staff and office.”

After hearing concerns from the residents from Lana’i and discussing the issue with Representative Mele Carroll, Speaker Calvin Say recommended as a solution that EPOD reorganization occur only on O`ahu, where access is not as limited, and that Senate Bill 2650 include a proviso preventing EPOD reorganization from affecting neighbor island offices.  The present draft of the bill authorizes the governor to implement a pilot program in counties with a population exceeding 500,000.  Only Honolulu County currently meets that criteria.

Rep. Mele Carroll says, “Although my ultimate goal is to ensure that no cuts are to take place in the Department of Human Services, this visit to Lana’i has accomplished saving neighbor island offices to be exempt from this reorganization that the administration is proposing.  It is not right to impose a new system without any consultation with the people who will be affected by it the most.  I want to thank the Lana`i residents who came to meet us on Saturday and spoke out about their concerns regarding the closure of the Lana`i office.  Together we have inspired a measure that could save our most vulnerable residents from losing the benefits they so desperately need.”

The State House of Representatives and the Senate will vote on SB 2650 for third reading on Wednesday, April 14th.

Rep. Mele Carroll says, “My colleagues and I have been fighting the reorganization for months.  I am very grateful to the Speaker, Representative Angus McKelvey and Representative John Mizuno for your assistance in this matter.  More importantly, to the residents of Lana`i whose stories were told to us that really made a difference.”

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Rep. Mele Carroll, Speaker Calvin Say, and Rep. Angus McKelvey Hear Questions and Comments

Rep. Mele Carroll Addresses the Lana`i Community