Sine Die — My take on the 2019 session

Sine Die — My take on the 2019 session

Originally published in The Garden Island, May 8, 2019

Gary Hooser

The bill to increase minimum wage died, so there will be no increase.

HB1326 (corporate water theft) also died, so A&B does not get a $62 million benefit (yet).

We should be pleased with the outcome of HB1326 as it is a huge victory on many levels. But we should be angry, sad, and more determined than ever to reverse the inaction on minimum wage.

A subsistence wage is $17, according to Hawaii’s Department of Business and Economic Development. Both the House and the Senate and the governor have stated publicly they supported a $15 per hour increase, phased in over time. But instead, the minimum wage will remain stuck at $10.10.

It is shameful really. Though legislators and government administrators will all be getting their raises, regular low income working people will get nothing — zero.

Our state Legislature dominated by lawmakers who were elected under the flag of the Democratic Party of Hawaii (DPH), refused to pass legislation increasing the minimum wage, a top legislative priority of their own party.

This my friends is the definition of a DINO (Democrat In Name Only). The vast majority of legislators have all professed to support not only increasing the minimum wage to at least $15, but ultimately to a living wage. But when the crunch comes, the answer is “Shoots, we ran out of time. ” Or, “I’m not sure what happened, we couldn’t get Finance Committee clearance.”

I respect those who are willing to publicly defend their opposition, but that is the small minority. The majority, don’t have the courage of their convictions and instead prefer hiding behind the skirts of leadership, who dutifully carry out the will of the majority and kill the bill.

This issue alone should be enough to fuel the coming 2020 revolution.

But it gets worse.

Not one measure of substance dealing with climate change was passed. Not one. The defining issue of our generation, an issue upon which the entire planet’s future is based — and there is not a peep out of our state Legislature.

Dedicated funding for education — failed.

Banning of single use Styrofoam food containers — failed.

Legalization of cannabis for responsible adult use — failed.

Automatic voter registration — failed.

Banning of candy flavored tobacco products — failed.

Regulating “Pay Day Lenders” — failed

The Legislature did pass measures to fund the construction of a new sports stadium to the tune of $350 million.

They also passed a measure to allow platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway to collect taxes from both legal and illegal transient vacation rental properties.

Or as Josh Frost in his blog Regarding Frost, Sine Die put it:

“The legislature approved a measure, SB1292, which taxes illegal vacation rentals. It doesn’t stop them or in any way regulate them. It simply taxes them. So, in a shameless effort to add $42 million to the state coffers, the legislature ignored pleas from communities infected with short-term rentals and their effect on our affordable housing crisis.”

Sine Die 2019

There is some genuine good news, including that the legislature did in fact pass “All Mail-In Voting”, expanded the opportunities for HEMP farming, and made some good initial steps in the direction of criminal justice and bail reform.

But at the end of the day, the 2019 legislative session failed us on far too many levels.

We deserve so much more. Serving at the legislature is not just bringing home pork to the district, road repaving, lifeguards, and school sidewalks. It’s also about changing public policy for the greater good.

So when legislators brag about the money they “brought home”, make sure you ask them about what policy changes they championed, and whether or not they stood up for low income working men and women.

We need to look at our own district Representative and our District Senator, and ask the tough questions. What did they actually do?

Did they dodge the issue of raising the minimum wage or did they speak out and make their position known and public? Are they a DINO? Do they sincerely believe in the core principals of economic justice? Do they believe that climate change is real and that we have a responsibility as individuals and as a State to deal with it?

Full disclaimer: I am the elected Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii (DPH) and a member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). However, my thoughts and writings reflect my personal opinion, and I do not speak here as an official representative of the Party.

For me, this is not about Party, it’s about values. Candidates should run for office wearing a Party label that reflects their personal values. Candidates should read the Party platform and understand that when they sign their agreement to that platform, that it is supposed to mean something.

Letter: Shameful for lawmakers to not act on living wage

Letter: Shameful for lawmakers to not act on living wage

Letter: Legislature did nothing to deserve pay raise

Letter: Legislature did nothing to deserve pay raise