PDH

PDHblog
This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts
and exasperations about political happenings. The opinions and views are not necessarily
those of PDH's steering committee or membership as a whole.

February 4, 2015

Tax Justice Bills in the 2015 Legislative Session

Filed under: 5Economics,Equality!,HI Politics,Legislature — Bart @ 5:19 pm

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHICH TAX BILLS WE ARE TRACKING: Tax & Homeless BIlls 2015

The links in the attached pdf file can be clicked on to take you to the Status Page of each bill.

Injustice at a Glance This chart shows low income Hawaii residents pay the largest portion of their income in state and local taxes. Wealthy people pay the lowest percentage. That is BACKWARDS!

Injustice at a Glance  
This chart shows low income Hawaii residents pay the largest portion of their income in state and local taxes. Wealthy people pay the lowest percentage. That is BACKWARDS!

NOTE: If you are aware of other bills which would cut taxes on lower income earners or raise taxes on wealthier people, please post the information in the comment section. We must admit, the tax justice network has been slow to get organized this year, but there are signs that is improving.

Progressive Democrats of Hawaii has long been interested in helping shift Hawaii’s tax code from its current, regressive structure to one consistent with the professed beliefs of most Democrats, namely a PROGRESSIVE code, where wealthy people pay a higher tax rate than middle income people and low income people pay the lowest rate.

Unfortunately, despite over 50 years of Democratic control over Hawaii’s tax code, the reverse is true. Low income residents pay the HIGHEST tax rate of any income group, while the wealthiest pay the lowest. Surely, this must be a mistake! If only we point it out to them, our political leaders will realize their mistake and flip our tax structure upside down!

;)

The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice is the leading group in Hawaii advocating for tax justice issues. People interested in finding in-depth information on the principles behind tax justice, as well as learning about their 2014 legislative proposals, should go to their website. They have been slow to update their online materials for the 2015 session, but the 2014 materials are still very informative and relevant.

They have just put up a link so you can sign up for their legislative action alerts. We highly recommend you submit testimony in support of their bills, particularly their tax proposals.

Their website is here: http://www.hiappleseed.org

Their 2014 tax justice proposals are here:
http://www.hiappleseed.org/sites/default/files/14%200122%20JL%20edits%202013%20Tax%20Report%20(website%20version)%20pdf%20version.pdf

You can sign up for their legislative action alerts here:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/13_pjDNPfUm6g63PcF2sxJSMHwCYm7Df3MwQsGz_jFsA/viewform?c=0&w=1

And next time they hold a fundraiser, please condor giving them some money. They are probably the best investment you can make in social justice advocacy in Hawaii. You will get more bang for your buck with them. And, frankly, they need some staff support to help them deliver the level of high service they are capable of providing.

February 1, 2015

PDH’s 2015 Legislative Priorities

Progressive Democrats of Hawaii

2015 Legislative Priorities

We have five clusters of priority issues:

TAX JUSTICE
MARIJUANA REFORM
AGRICULTURE JUSTICE
BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS
BIG ELECTRICITY IN ENERGY

Here are some of the issues within each cluster.

TAX JUSTICE PROPOSALS:

1. Update our Low-Income Household Renters Credit
2. Update our Refundable Food/Excise Tax Credit
3. Create a Low-Income Workers Credit
4. Adopt a State Earned Income Tax Credit
5. Halt the Dec 31, 2015 Tax Cut for High-Income Earners

AG JUSTICE

• Support county home rule on use of pesticides
• Establish Statewide buffer zones and disclosure for pesticide use
• Support diversified, sustainable, and small farms
and, if such a bill surfaces,
• Support labeling of GMO products

MARIJUANA REFORM

Support legalization of marijuana
Support de-criminalization (as a less desirable, fall-back position).

BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS

We support public financing of elections and overthrowing the Citizens United ruling

BIG ELECTRICITY IN ENERGY

We support the development of alternative energy and oppose efforts to reinforce monopolistic control of the electric system. We need to democratize energy.
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Note: these priorities are subject to change as the session continues. Bills morph, new issues arise, others fade. When allies start making progress on their bill and adding support might lead to a victory for them, we will shift over, depending upon our availability.

On each of these bills, there are other groups taking the lead, while we are providing support. If we have the relationships and knowledge to lend a hand for a good cause, we will help, so long as we do not get stretched too thin. We claim no “turf” of our own. It is the issues and the relationships which are important. Not the glory, not the press clippings we can take back to our funders.

NOTE: It would be helpful if we had the bill numbers for each of these issues. There are often multiple bills on the same matter. And, of course, there are versions in both chambers. It will take a bit of time to sort this out. If you have bill numbers which correspond to these issues, feel free to post links to the status page of the bills here. Especially if you are already tracking the bills for an organization. Let’s cooperate and work together rather than leave so many things to chance and force our activists to duplicate work which has already been done.

June 4, 2014

The Return of Political Speed Dating

In July 2006, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii (PDH), in partnership with the Americans for Democratic Action, Hawaii Chapter (ADA), sponsored a brand-new format of political forum, Political Speed Dating. The field of candidates for the Democratic nomination for the Second Congressional District was huge, ten people. On the one hand, this created a need for voters to find a way to meet all ten candidates and get a feel for both their personalities and their position on the issues.

So PDH and ADA decided to hold a public forum. But were stuck with a dilemma. So many candidates made it difficult to hold a convention panel discussion. With ten candidates, sitting side by side, answering the same question, in turn, the audience would fall asleep between questions. And, the later candidates had an unfair opportunity to steal the best replies from the many candidates speaking before them. One of our members came up with the idea of “speed dating.” I will admit, I was one of those who rejected it as a silly idea. Come on, try to be serious. So we agonized over different, more “serious” formats until, (snap!) it was obvious Shannon’s idea was not “foolish,” but a brilliant solution to a difficult problem.

This year, with a slightly smaller field of candidates (6) in the First Congressional race, we are planning to once again, hold a candidate Speed Dating event. We are hoping the candidates will be good sports and help the voters get to know them better. So far, there have not been many opportunities for a voter to hear all the candidates at the same time. We hope to provide that opportunity.

Stay tuned.

Here is a KITV News story of the joint PDH/ADA Speed dating forum for the 2010 Lt. Governor’s race:

http://www.kitv.com/Hawaii-Politicians-Speed-Date-Local-Residents/5640876

Here is a print news story of the 2006 Congressional forum from the Star-Bulletin:

http://archives.starbulletin.com/2006/07/27/news/story04.html

May 28, 2014

Brian Schatz v. Colleen Hanabusa: Who Represents “Change”?

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics,US Senate Race — Bart @ 1:57 pm

US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa

US Senator Brian Schatz

Note from Bart:

The comments here represent my personal views and may not be shared by all (or even by many) other members and officers of PDH.

I have been criticized for writing lengthy comments for other online websites, but rarely for the PDH Blog. So I am posting here an extended comment I wrote on Civil Beat in reply to a reader claimed Schatz should not be seen as a candidate for change because he is “one of Abercrombie’s guys” and, therefore, the choice of the “establishment.” That reader appears to be a Tea Party rightwinger. I got a sense of that from his comment. But because some Tea Party “logic” is often found among confused voters who do not see themselves as Tea Partiers, I tried to not simply dismiss his remarks but tried to take them seriously, with the recognition his views are not unique to him or to the TP crowd, but are being pushed by some Hanabusa supporters as well.

Here is the article on the Civil Beat website, a report on the latest poll which shows Schatz leading Hanabusa by 5 percentage points. The original article, of course, is more worthy than my lengthy comments, so feel free to leave here to go there.

http://www.civilbeat.com/2014/05/civil-beat-poll-hawaii-voters-moving-toward-schatz/

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Johnny, Let me take a moment to address your comments.

PART ONE

First off, I suggest the assertion Schatz is “one of Abercrombie’s guys” is not useful for analyzing what is going on. It may be useful as a weapon for attacking Schatz by trying to taint him with the faults of Abercrombie. But it does not reflect the facts. Many of us hold politicians in contempt for “spinning” the truth, playing loosely with facts to make themselves look better and cast blame on their opponents. I suggest we are no better than that if we resort to the same tactics in our “anti-establishment” zeal.
Where does this claim about Schatz come from? OK, Schatz was Neil’s LG. Sorry. That does not provide any support for your claim against Schatz. In Hawaii, the primary voters pick the LG, not the Governor. The people of Hawaii cast almost twice as many votes for Schatz as for Bobby Bunda, his nearest rival in a crowded field.

Abercrombie did not support Schatz over his primary opponents and Schatz was very careful to steer a middle path between Neil and his opponent, Mufi Hanneman. In fact, some of Neil’s people saw Schatz as a Mufi supporter at that time. And, when Schatz was elected LG, he appointed A.J. Halagao, Mufi’s campaign coordinator, to run his office.

PART TWO

Perhaps Schatz is “Abercrombie’s guy” because the Governor picked him to become the US Senator? The Democratic Party’s “board of directors,” the SCC, a group of about 80 people from across the state, had the responsibility for presenting 3 names to the Governor from which to make that selection. I was part of that process and we wrestled with the question of whose names to move forward. There was no uniform set of criteria for evaluating the names. But, in broad terms, these are the kind of considerations we weighed:First, the pool was limited by law to Democratic party members. Second, we gave weight to whether the nominees would be able to mount an effective campaign in 2014, when the appointed term comes to an end. Some people suggested a “placeholder” appointment of someone who would NOT run in 2014 and those arguments were also considered.I do not know how conversant you might be with the pool of potential Democratic US Senators from Hawaii. It is not a large group of names. We did not necessarily limit ourselves to current officeholders, but that was a good place to start. Former elected officials were also considered, including ex-governors. Shinseki’s name was floated. At least one prominent businessman. We interviewed everyone who submitted their name or whose name was submitted by others, with their approval. Some were delusional “vanity” candidates, IMO.

In the end, we came up with Schatz, Hanabusa and Esther Kiaaina. I would defend those choices. And each of them received the support of a majority of the SCC members, even though each had their own base of supporters who favored them as the first choice. There was a significant gap in support between the third and fourth place name. I am giving away no secrets in sharing this. It can be gleaned from news accounts from the time.

A strong case could be–and was–made for each of those three nominees. But it was up to the Governor to pick. I honestly could have supported whichever one he chose.

PART THREE

The strongest argument made against Abercrombie’s selection of Schatz–and when I say “strongest,” I mean the most politically effective argument, not the most logical– is the accusation he should have “honored” Senator Inouye’s dying request that Hanabusa be appointed. (I do not hear you making that argument). I think that argument is cheap and disingenuous. And, ironically enough, disrespectful to Senator Inouye, by suggesting he be treated as a dying king wanting to name his own heir. The insinuation Inouye saw himself as the top political boss, even as an “Emperor” of Hawaii politics was a recurring accusation coming from the political right which Democrats had fought against for years. Yet here, just as Senator has died, this is how his closest operatives are insisting we should view Inouye? Forgive my French, but WTF? I had rejected that charge from the Right and was not willing to fall for it from people trying to retain control of the power which was now slipping from their grasp.Senator Inouye DID want Hanabusa appointed. In his view, she was the one most likely to hold together the team of people he had assembled over the years, the so-called “Team Inouye,” a group of staffers, close allies, lobbyists, defense contractors, campaign contributors and political insiders who wanted to continue both his policies and the stream of “pork” he had proudly brought back to the state and had distributed with them largely determining where it went and who got it. But Inouye was only offering HIS advice, not issuing a decree, not assuming his “dying wish” must be obeyed by the Governor. The way top banker Walter Dods and HECO chair Jeff Watanabe played up the letter to Abercrombie, with top Inouye staffers standing barely concealed in the shadows, was disrepectful to both democracy and the Senator, in my view. (I say that knowing it will anger people I would rather NOT have angry at me).

At the time, Senator Hanabusa was clearly the more experienced legislator than Schatz. I said at the time, she would probably be better equipped to “hit the ground running.” But, contrary to your impression, Schatz is no “empty suit.” If you are unaware of his qualifications and achievements, let me suggest that reflects more on your lack of familiarity with Hawaii politics, the legislative process and the world of non-profits. It is not your fault you are unfamiliar with these things. But I think you make a mistake when you rely upon your lack of knowledge to make bold statements.
The argument that Schatz is young enough to acquire significant seniority for the benefit of Hawaii may be distasteful to you. But it arises from the nature of power in the Senate and is not something invented by Brian Schatz or Neil Abercrombie. It is ironic that Hanabusa’s campaign, which brags about her political “Real Politic”–her ability to operate in the “real world” of hard-nosed politics, should now feign indignation that “seniority” should be considered a legitimate criterion in an election. Both Senators Inouye and Akaka remained in office, unable to retire, because they had acquired so much seniority that their loss of seniority would hurt the people of Hawaii. The decision to convince Akaka to retire was made, perhaps too late, with the hope Senator Inouye would remain in office long enough as Akaka’s replacement slowly climber the seniority ladder. All politically astute Democrats knew this, most definitely including Team Inouye’s top operatives. So it is disingenuous for them to now act as if it is “unworthy” for Schatz supporters to point to his youth and potential seniority as one argument in his favor. “Why do you dislike older people?” (I write this as someone only two years younger than congresswoman Hanabusa).

PART FOUR

So Johnny, your view of the “political establishment” and mine are quite different. I see Hanabusa’s base of support as rooted in the Inouye operatives and campaign contributors, but not necessarily those who voted for him. To a large degree, these people also supported the rise of Mufi Hanneman, who had been also groomed for Congress with an eye towards becoming senator. They have supported other ambitious politicians as well. But their top priority at this time is to elect Hanabusa to the US Senate in an effort to re-estblish their web of influence. That is the Old Order. It is crumbling. They are trying to shore up the structure, but I suspect most voters are eager for a change. Schatz is not beholden to that network. Nor is he beholden to Abercrombie’s network. He was in Abercrombie’s view, the best choice of the small pool available for appointment. But that does not make him “Neil’s Boy.” He is his own man, with his own network of support emerging, both locally and nationally. As with any political network, he will have allies I do not necessarily like. But, on balance, I prefer for the “Ancien Régime” to crumble away and allow for new possibilities to emerge.

I suspect your political commitments do not allow you to see the “establishment” in these sort of terms. But I have shared my perspective in the hopes that maybe it will cause you to question the idea that an incumbent US senator might not be “the establishment” politician and the fact Abercrombie appointed him does not make him Abercrombie’s puppet. I suspect most Hawaii voters, while not expressing their views in as longwindedly as I have just done, will see past the superficial and agree with the broad outlines of the framework I have spelled out here. And there is no contradiction between voters supporting David Ige because they want to replace Abercrombie and many of those same voters supporting Schatz’s election because they do not want a return to the “staus quo ante” domination of Hawaii politics by the Old Boy Network.

Voters want new possibilities and change. I think Schatz represents those possibilities. I read both this poll and that by PPP as saying most voters agree.

NOTE to PDH Blog readers:

Feel free to post your comments either here or on the Civil Beat site. The CB site gets more eyeballs (by a long shot). But comments posted here are likely to remain on the web for longer than those on Civil Beat. My comments on Mike Gabbard’s ties with the Chris Butler Hare Krishna group continue to get hits from people all over the world trying to understand Tulsi Gabbard’s background.

February 12, 2014

In the Past, the State Legislature Has Allowed Minimum Wage to Fall. Repeatedly.

Filed under: 5Economics,HI Politics,Legislature — Bart @ 10:02 pm

Testimony from Progressive Democrats in Favor of a Minimum Wage Hike

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON LABOR AND PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT

Rep. Mark Nakashima, Chair

Rep Kyle Yamashita, Vice Chair

Feb 11, 2014, 9:00 a.m.

Conference room 309

HB 2580, RELATING TO LABOR IN SUPPORT, with AMENDMENTS

Aloha Chair Nakashima, Vice-Chair Yamashita and Members,

My name is Bart Dame and I am testifying on behalf of Progressive Democrats of Hawaii in support of

HB2580, but with a suggested amendment. We have read the other bills and have found things to like

in most of them, but believe HB2580 is the best vehicle to move forward, as it covers our concerns.

Except we believe the proposed wage hike is too low, given how the Legislature has neglected raising

the minimum wage for over seven years and the cost of living has severely eroded its value. (more…)

November 5, 2013

A Perfect Response to the Hearing at the Legislature

Filed under: Equality!,HI Politics,Legislature — Bart @ 10:55 am

OK, we have been busy, we have been lazy, we have been negligent of our responsibilities in not posting things here.

But one thing which has been keeping me legitimately busy has been being down at the Legislature, talking to legislators about the marriage equality bill, providing support to the outnumbered gay and lesbian and straight sisters and brothers who have been down there in an oppressive, hate-filled atmosphere.

As I straight male, I have found it oppressive. To my gay sisters and brothers, it is an extremely heavy burden and I want to join them with this song. I think it expresses my feelings in a much more celebratory song of freedom and uplift than my heart can manage, so I will turn it over to her.

Enjoy!

October 31, 2013

PDH Testifies in Support of Marriage Equality

Filed under: HI Politics,Legislature — PDHawaii @ 5:03 pm

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Relating to Senate Bill 1 Testifying in Support
On Behalf of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i

Aloha Chairs Rhoads and Luke, Vice-Chairs Har, Nishimoto and Johanson, and Members of the House Committees on Judiciary and Finance.

Mahalo for this opportunity to present testimony in strong support of Senate Bill 1 Relating to Equality, which will legally recognize and allow for marriages for same-sex couples. We believe this is a bill that is a long time coming and we want to thank Chairs Rhoads and Luke and the members of the committees for taking the time to hear this historic and incredibly important piece of legislation.

Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i (PDH) assumes everyone has heard the arguments from both supports and opponents of this bill, so we are restricting our testimony to the issue we think will be the fulcrum on which its fate will be decided; the question of the breadth of the religious exemption.

The majority of opponents, including those expressing objection or concern on religious grounds have, for very pragmatic reasons, decided not to oppose the bill on the question of marriage equality itself, but rather on the very thinly veiled question of religious freedom. PDH, however, believes this argument is a red herring which should not derail the march toward equality.

We believe strongly in the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. Religious institutions for which same-sex marriage is a violation of their faith shouldn’t be forced to perform those marriages. Lest the guise of “religious discrimination” be seen as a legitimate reason for withholding support for this landmark legislation, we feel the need to point out the protection that has been codified in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 4 of the Hawai‘i State Constitution.

The highest law of the land spells out, in no uncertain terms, that government cannot force a religious institution to do something that violates their beliefs. And though its opponents will attempt to claim otherwise, this bill does not violate their First Amendment rights.

If a religious institution allows its clergy to perform marriages for non-members, if it allows non-members to use its facilities and grounds for marriage ceremonies and celebrations, and does it in exchange for money, it cannot claim protection under the First Amendment, nor Article I, Section 4. That institution is then considered a “public accommodation” and subject to anti-discrimination laws.

Many point to our island state as the place where the same-sex marriage movement began. We believe this is a heritage to be proud of and though, in the nearly two decades since, many states have moved ahead of us on this issue, it is finally time for Hawai‘i to take its place on the right side of this issue and on the right side of history.

Mahalo for your time and consideration.

August 31, 2012

Linda Lingle vs. Mazie Hirono

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics — OahuSophist @ 3:00 pm

Representative Hirono was endorsed not too long ago by our friends, Progressive PAC. Mazie is one of the most progressive members of the U.S. House of Representatives, consistently supporting environmental protections, the middle and working classes, and standing as a bulwark against the kleptocratic policies of a House controlled by a Republican Party that is in the grips of ultra-conservative ideologues. Mazie is without a doubt the only choice Hawaii voters have if they are at all interested in holding at by a Senate controlled by those same ideologues.

That’s not to say former Governor Lingle is one of these ideologues herself. But she’s certainly shilled for them in the past. After being passed over for the veep nod from McCain in 2008, she went on the road with nothing but positive things to say about McCain, but more importantly, about Sarah Palin, the Tea Party star child whose 15 minutes of fame is officially over (Fox News didn’t renew her contract as a commentator). Though Lingle was elected as a moderate and in response to a public perception that Democrats had run amok for too long, there is little room for argument that she drifted to the right at an increasing pace as her term as Governor proceeded. A vote for her is a vote for everything the Romney/Ryan Republicans stand for.

The potential consequences of this election are stark indeed. A Romney presidency would, in my opinion, be at least as bad as the second bush presidency, if not worse. And if the Republicans are able to not only hold on to their control of the House, but also gain control of the Senate, our state and our country sink ever further into a future controlled moneyed interests: corporations and individuals whose singular motivation is the collection of more and more wealth, at the expense of our families, our jobs, our economy, and our environment.

Unless this sounds like a future you want to hand to your children and grand-children, don’t vote for Lingle. Even if you believe Lingle is still a moderate, there’s no reason to believe she won’t vote the GOP line if she makes it to the Senate. At the absolute minimum, her very first vote will be against Senator Inouye for the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, something Hawaii can’t afford to let happen.

In the days and weeks between now and the election on November 6th, check back for a breakdown and rebuttal to the recently updated Republican platform and point out just how far out of touch the GOP is on any number of key issues.

June 19, 2012

Mazie Hirono Completes PDH Survey

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,National Politics,SHAPES platform — frosty @ 10:47 am

What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?

(No Response)

Foreign Policy

1. What are your thoughts regarding a potential military conflict with Iran? Would you support military intervention against the regime there, why or why not?

We must make every effort to prevent the situation in Iran from escalating into a military conflict. We need to use every tool we have to convince the government of Iran to behave responsibly: from diplomacy to sanctions. At the same time, we cannot tolerate the threat of such an unstable regime’s possession of nuclear weapons.

2. Would you support cutting military spending and redirect the funding to other budget items? If so, where would you suggest redirecting those fundings?

(more…)

Ed Case Completes PDH Survey

What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?

The main reason is that most of the American people are currently disenfranchised inside the Beltway. The inside crowd is dominated by political action committees and other special interests dedicated solely to the maintenance of their own interests at all costs to the exclusion of everyone else, and Congress is dominated additionally by the mindset that every debate and policy issue presents a stark choice between political extremes.

All of this results in hyperpartisan, my-way-or-the-highway, take-no-prisoners gridlock, and classic alamihi crab syndrome reactions to any attempt to find a better way forward. None of this is representative of the mainstream of the American people. No wonder that, in the most recent poll taken on the subject (Rasmussen, June 2012), only 7% of Americans, crossing all party and other lines, believe Congress is doing an excellent or good job. Please see my Issues Agenda: Fixing Washington.

(more…)

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The opinions and views are not necessarily those of PDH's steering committee or membership as a whole.
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