PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

March 22, 2017

Is the Democratic Party “Progressive”?

Filed under: DNC,Elections,HI Politics,Legislature,strategy — Bart @ 9:23 am

Someone asked on Facebook if the Democratic Party of Hawaii is more aligned with the progressive views of Bernie Sanders or the more corporatist views of Hillary Clinton. This was my response:

It depends upon what you mean by “the Democratic Party.” Yes, 70% of those who voted in the caucuses last march voted for the more progressive candidate who supports those policies. So if we take a snapshot of that moment and define the “party” as those who showed up then, that would say “yes.” But slightly less than half the delegates to the state convention were Bernie supporters. Democracy is not just about showing up and leaving. It is about sticking around and doing the follow up work.

To be fair, some of the Clinton supporters also support “universal healthcare and free college and a robust education initiative and raising of the minimum wage.” So it is not just Bernie supporters within the Party who hold those views.

Delegates to the state convention elected people to the State Central Committee, which is the top policy group, the “board of directors” for the state party. Unfortunately, Bernie supporters, and progressives generally, are a minority of the SCC. For the party to become more progressive, we must elect more progressives, whether Bernie or Clinton supporters, to the SCC and other party positions. It is the SCC which pushes, or not, for the party to be more bold in pushing for progressive policies AND encouraging participation of progressives within the party.
We have plenty of Regressives within the party. Some can legitimately be called “corporatists, but many of them are more “careerist,” looking for jobs, using politics to advance their careers, feel important, reward their friends, sometimes their employers.

Also at the state convention, the party adopted a very progressive platform. The party adopted support for single-payer healthcare a number of years ago, with the prodding of stalwarts of the Americans for Democratic Action-Hawaii. I remember George Simson, in particular, being an early advocate, insisting we had to use that term. So even before the massive “Bernie Enrollment,” in many ways, the party’s official position on many issues has been very progressive.

This year, the Legislative Committee of the SCC has adopted a very ambitious legislative agenda, trying to turn those “official positions” into legislation, lobbying Democratic legislators to pass them. Our lobbying effort is only as strong as the effectiveness of our ability to persuade lawmakers to support such legislation. That requires we mobilize and train an army of party members as citizen-lobbyists. We are moving in that direction, but we are not there yet.

On paper, we have nearly 100,000 party members, meaning people who not only vote Democratic but who took the extra step of signing a party card. We need to engage those members in party activities, especially in lobbying legislators. There are 51 House districts. So, on paper, we have about 2,000 party members in an average district. Can we develop a dozen party members as citizen-lobbyists in each of those districts, responsible for developing effective lines of communication with their representative? That will mean volunteering to help their campaigns, maybe even attend their fundraisers (or bartend at one). It means watching what they do, asking them questions and become a “player,” a potential ally (or a potential critic, if necessary) in their district.

Because we have vestiges of genuine democracy left in our electoral system, one of the most effective means for “persuading” reluctant legislators is to support another Democrat as a challenger in the primary election. A word here, some new party members think there is value in running a challenger against any and all incumbents. That is naive thinking. Progressives have limited resources and must set priorities, Not every incumbent deserves to be fired. Those who have not only voted “right” but who have proven effective in getting progressive legislation passed, or junk legislation blocked, DESERVE to be re-elected.

Some party members, impatient at the gap between the progressive platform of the party and the legislation coming out of the Big Square Building, despite six decades of Democratic control, want to use the Rules of the Party as a cudgel for punishing Democratic lawmakers who vote contrary to the party platform. In general, that is not a good idea. THAT is worthy of another discussion in itself. The problem is a POLITICAL one. And we must create the political conditions, in each House and Senate district, that “allows the better angels” in each legislator’s heart to flourish, to dominate their calculations. Or, we have to have enough support in that district to replace them with someone better.

The upcoming county conventions provide an opportunity for party members to become more active, to learn the rhythms, the personalities, the forces, within each county party, as well as to network with like-minded people so we can strengthen our political and social ties and become an effective team. It would be VERY helpful if we can elect a progressive, or at least a FAIR chair on each county. One who is transparent and who encourages participation from those members who want to get more involved. There is a lot of energy, a lot of progressive energy, available, waiting to be tapped. But it also has to be trained, guided. So long as that “training” is not intended to stifle initiative and slam the door in the face of new members. If a district or county leader consistently says your help is not needed–and we saw a LOT of that last spring as Bernie supporters tried to volunteer to help with the caucuses–that leader should be replaced by someone who is able to find a way for you to get engaged. And to learn.

So the “Democratic Party” has the potential to be progressive, has strong progressive tendencies inherent within it, but we have to do the hard work to actualize that potential. We ARE growing.

NOTE: the original FB post can be found here, along with comments from others and further remarks by me:

July 6, 2016

Why Governor Ige Should Have Vetoed SB2501. Why He Didn’t

HB2501, as indicated by the Conference Committee report is meant to “to allow the Board of Land and Natural Resources to authorize the holder over of a previously authorized water rights lease during the pendency of an application to renew the lease.” The situation which the bill seeks to remedy exists in only one instance, which the O‘ahu First Circuit Court addressed in its ruling earlier this year. In fact, even the Deputy Attorney General arguing the case said, “This is a unique situation.”

The Conference Committee, in an attempt to lend further reasoning in support of the bill, raised, in its report, the specter of losing Important Agricultural Lands (IAL) to reclassification should a minimum of 3,500 gallons per acre per day (GAD) not be readily available and the bill fail to become law. While the However, before any of the 27,000 IAL acres might be reclassified, there would certainly be contested case hearings to determine the validity of such a petition. What’s more, the Waiahole Decision set the minimum GAD for diversified agriculture at a minimum of 2,500 GAD, or an average of 3,500 GAD, set by the Department of Agriculture. So, while the Conference Committee attempts in its report to scare the bejesus out of anyone who cares about the lost of IAL, their claim only helps to make transparent their real intent of giving Alexander and Baldwin (A&B) pretty much whatever they want.

What’s more, way back in 2000, A&B filed an application for a 30-year long-term lease to access 33,000 acres of public land for the purpose of diverting an unspecified amount of water from public lands. A year later, with approval still pending from the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR), taro farmers on Maui filed for a contested case hearing on A&B’s long-term lease application. In June, 2003 BLNR finally approved the long-term lease application, at which point the taro farmers appealed the decision to the courts, as no Environmental Impact Statement was completed, as required by HRS 343.

Had A&B and BLNR followed the law more than a decade ago, we might not be talking about this right now.

Still, despite panic raised by A&B and DLNR that other revocable permit holders could find themselves in a similar predicament, there’s no evidence or reason to believe that would actually happen. The ongoing struggle and litigation against A&B is a unique situation where they are diverting large amounts of water, for arguably unknown reasons, and in the process harming farmers downstream. DLNR admits no other litigation is pending other than the ongoing cause against A&B. It’s also important to point out that there are other remedies that could address this issue, without this legislation:

  • Seeking a stay of enforcement from the court while the decision is on appeal,
  • BLNR could issue a new very limited revokable permit to A&B (such as only for upcountry residents and with specific GAD figures for diversified agriculture with directions to complete an Environmental Impact Statement for those uses (which DLNR had previously directed A&B to do), possibly to include water diversion until Dec. 2016,
  • DLNR contacts all other revokable permit holders to outline the future implementation so that they have certainty about what to expect,
  • DLNR sets regulations to address the concerns of transparency, public trust resources, and the needs of the other revokable permit holders, such as the Ka‘u ranchers, for example,
  • Separately, the Water Commission could immediately set interim in-stream flow standards for East Maui streams that are in place while the larger decision about the future of agriculture in central Maui is decided.

It’s also important to note that, even without a revokable permit, or this bill, A&B can still divert significant amounts of water from watersheds it owns: as much as 55 million gallons a day. It also has access to well water that can pump more than 83 million gallons a day.

Additionally, the public display over A&B’s announcement in April to restore flows was arguably disingenuous. In 2008, BLNR ruled that 12 million gallons per day of water should be restored among 8 streams in East Maui. Despite this order, A&B released minimal amounts of water to these streams, until their announcement in April. The public “stunt,” lent further credibility by the legislators on hand for the press conference, should serve as a reminder that A&B consistently flaunts the law, until it serves their purposes not to.

Ultimately, the situation which A&B and DLNR say this bill will address, is a result of a combination of foot dragging by the DLNR and A&B’s refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else. Had DLNR (or A&B) completed an Environmental Assessment or Impact Statement in conjunction with their initial 30-year lease application in 2003, this situation might not exist at all.

Despite all this, Governor Ige chose to sign the bill. He said, “We have a water permit process that has not been working.” This is fundamentally untrue and incorrect. Permit process WORKS for everyone except A&B, who DLNR has been giving everything they ask for… for decades, in clear and repeated violation of the law. Governor Ige goes on, “While I have major reservations about HB2501, it does provide time to transition to a press that ensures water is distributed fairly in accordance with the public trust doctrine and that decisions are made in a timely matter.”

Unfortunately, flawed reasoning and a willingness to be swept up in fears of who else might be affected, he signed the bill. While disappointing and frustrating, opponents of the bill should draw the conclusion that the Governor is just another corrupt politician, bought off by powerful and moneyed interests. Certainly there are criticisms that can be laid on the Governor, but there isn’t any evidence that he’s corrupt. Rather Ige, earned whatever political chops he may have over decades working with many politicians who ARE corrupt and in a system that is corrupt.

A&B didn’t need to sell the legislature a bill of goods about how others might be negatively affected by a failure to pass HB2501, they would have gone along willingly. The Governor, on the other hand, inevitably listened to those for whom A&B’s fear tactics were effective. Rather than risk hurting farmers, HELCO, and KIUC, Governor chose to sign the bill. He should definitely be made to feel our frustration and disappointment, but he should not be painted with the same brush as those legislators who stood shoulder to shoulder with A&B executives at the April press conference.

February 4, 2015

Tax Justice Bills in the 2015 Legislative Session

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


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:

You can sign up for their legislative action alerts here:

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:


Here are some of the issues within each cluster.


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


• 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


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


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


We support the development of alternative energy and oppose efforts to reinforce monopolistic control of the electric system. We need to democratize energy.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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.

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


Rep. Mark Nakashima, Chair

Rep Kyle Yamashita, Vice Chair

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

Conference room 309


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.


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.

March 17, 2011

Footloose on Maui

Filed under: General,HI Politics,Legislature — frosty @ 5:01 pm

As I was leaving the ACLU office earlier this week, after a meeting, they mentioned an issue they’re working on with some folks on Maui regarding the restrictions on dancing in establishments that serve alcohol.

According to the Maui Department of Liquor Control, restaurants or bars must have special permission, or a permit, in order to allow dancing in the establishment and in order to receive a permit, the establishment must meet special conditions:

§08-101-23 Special Conditions:
(a) Any dancing or entertainment shall be in areas designated and approved by the director.
(b) An approved area for dancing shall have, when utilized, a minimum area of one hundred square feet, be a non-consumption area, and shall be clearly designated for dancing.
(c) No obscene public or exhibition dancing either with or without partners,or obscene language, songs, or entertainment shall be permitted.
(d) Entertainers shall not expose to view any portion of the pubic hair, anus cleft of the buttocks, vulva, or genitals, or any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola.
(e) Any entertainment such as burlesque or strip tease shall be conducted upon a stage or platform which is at least twenty-four inches above the level of the floor and removed at least six feet from the nearest patron and shall be limited to class 5, category B, dispenser licensees, and to class 12, hotel licensees.
(f) No licensee shall permit any person to perform acts of or acts which simulates:

  1. Sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, bestiality, oral copulation, or flagellation.
  2. The touching, caressing or fondling of the breast, buttocks, anus or genitals.
  3. The displaying of any portion of the pubic hair, cleft of the buttocks, anus, vulva, genitals, or any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola.


January 22, 2011

Civil Unions – The time is right!

Filed under: HI Politics,Legislature — Tags: , — rachel @ 1:25 pm

The time may *finally* be right to enact a “civil unions” law in Hawaii. After a  roller coaster session last year, HB444 relating to Civil Unions was approved by the legislature only to be vetoed by the Governor, making it farther than any other similar bill had in Hawaii. [A decent summary of HB444 history can be read on wikipedia.] After a very public and emotional fight during an election year, politicians on the record in favor of equal rights for all were returned to their seats by voters despite efforts against them by religious groups opposed to HB444. That most important “poll” conducted in the voting booths, coupled with the election of a new Governor who is in favor of Civil Unions set up the current legislative session as an opportune time to pass legislation that would grant all the rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. The common feeling as the legislative session approached was that a civil unions bill would be introduced, heard and passed quickly and early in the session so that lawmakers could then move on to other less contentious topics.

So here we are. The legislative session opened on Weds Jan 19th. Thursday and Friday seemed to be mostly house-keeping days as committee seats were assigned and bills were introduced. A quick look at the legislature’s website shows that so far 1096 bills have been introduced in the Senate and 820 have been introduced in the House. A text search shows that of those, 2 Senate bills — SB231 & SB232 —  relate to civil unions. More on the difference between these two bills later. Late on Friday afternoon, after many people had moved on to pau hana happy hours, a notice was released announcing a hearing for SB232 on Monday at 10am. We had expected a bill to be heard early, but wow, that was really fast! Now it is time to do our part and get our testimonies together over the weekend and submit them before 4pm on Monday.

First of all — please do your part and submit testimony enthusiastically supporting civil unions, and equality for LGBT families, by Monday January 24, before 4 pm.  Select one of these ways to submit testimony:

  1. By email: Send to the Judiciary Committee at JDLTestimony@Capitol.hawaii.gov. Testimony sent to individual senators will not be accepted.
  2. By web: Testimony may be submitted online if less than 4MB in size at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/emailtestimony.
  3. In person: Bring one copy to the committee clerk in Room 002, State Capitol.
  4. By fax: Fax to the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms Office at 808-586-6659 or 1-800-586-6659 (toll free for neighbor islands), at least 24 hours prior to the hearing.

Submitted testimony must include the bill number (SB232), as well as the hearing date and time (January 25, 10 am). The most effective testimony is a brief paragraph that tells the committee who you are and why you support equality. If you can’t find the testimony you submitted last year, or if you want to get ideas from others, all of last years testimony can be viewed here.

Now, onto some rambling commentary after the jump… (more…)

August 11, 2010

Progressive PAC Announces Endorsements

Filed under: Elections,HI Politics,Legislature — frosty @ 10:16 am

The Progressive PAC, made up of members of Progressive Democrats of Hawaii and Americans for Democratic Action Hawaii, recently released its list of endorsements for this election year. Of all the PAC’s endorsements, there are a handful of candidates that will receive financial assistance from the PAC.

After much examination of candidates’ position on civil unions, emergency contraception in the emergency room, job security, progressive taxation, renewable energy, education, we have targeted our support for the following candidates who are in key races.

Neil Abercrombie for Governor
Gary Hooser for Lt. Governor
Michael Golojuch for 19th State Senate District (Oust Gabbard!)
Representative Blake Oshiro in House District 33
Linda Ichiyama for House District 31
Jason Bradshaw for House District 43 (Oust K Pine!)
Cynthia Rezentes for House District 44

The Progressive PAC, to fund its donations to candidates, will be holding a fundraiser on Saturday, August 21. at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, 1730 Punahou St. from noon to 2:00pm and tickets are a suggested $60 donation. We need your help to support these candidates to ensure they win their primary races! (more…)

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