The State of the HFA Report
Aloha Ka Kou: December 18, 2015
The 2016 State Legislative session is just a few weeks away and Hawai’i Family Advocates (HFA) is “geared” up to serve as your advocate in promoting, defending and exposing legislation and policy proposals affecting family, faith and freedom. We will employ lobbying, education and empowerment to advance our mission of creating a community where families are strengthened, all human life is valued and religious liberty flourishes.
Based upon recent history; the ideology, politics and partisanship of elected representatives; and the special interest groups that continue advancing their agendas at the State Capitol, we believe there is a strong possibility that legislation will arise on the following subjects.
In relation to the Family, we expect the legislature to once again pursue legislation that will either decriminalize or legalize marijuana. The evidence is undisputed that marijuana is a drug of choice for many children and that it has debilitating, long-term effects on brain development.
Over the years, the legislature’s Keiki Caucus has proposed laws usurping the authority of parents. For instance, the deceptively named “Safe Places” initiative disguises its true intent. Such a law would establish a child protective program void of any oversight and supervision by the judiciary. In short, the lawful authority and responsibility of mothers and fathers in raising their offspring would be jeopardized if a child complains to a social worker that the relationship with their parents is strained.
Another major concern of HFA is the Sex Education policy in our public schools, which remains unsettled. Do not be surprised if legislators intrude in the decision-making process.
In relation to Life, there is good reason to believe that special interest groups supporting same-sex marriage will once again seek legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide. With such an emotional and divisive issue in our community, we know truth will prevail. HFA, like you, believes that: Human caring never abandons human life. And assisted suicide forces us to choose between caring and killing!
In relation to Freedom, HFA will vigilantly oppose any legislative action or policy that curtails religious rights pertaining to “marriage equality,” sexual orientation and public accommodation or services. HFA is aware that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision relating to same sex marriage can be used as a sword to infringe on religious freedoms. Therefore, HFA is strongly considering the introduction of a Government Nondiscrimination Act.
HFA will be a staunch advocate for initiatives that advance balanced and responsible programs, laws, policies and fiscal appropriations that help the people of Hawai’i lower their cost of living, obtain affordable housing, pay less for energy, address homeless issues and strengthen the family unit.
In terms of the cost of living, our legislature for decades ignored the fact that Hawai’i is only one of seven states imposing a tax on food purchases. Eliminating the GET on food would save an average family approximately $400 a year. That may not seem like much, but combined with a stop on raising vehicle registration fees and weight taxes; extending the GET surcharge on Oahu’s elevated rail project and hiking energy costs, Hawai’i families would realize significant savings.
Ask yourselves: What major policies, laws, programs or fiscal appropriations have the executive and legislative branches proposed in the past five years to address this state’s affordable housing/rental crisis? The answer is “none!” Various government sources indicate that Hawai’i’s affordable housing shortage is estimated at 50,000 units by 2016. Current government affordable housing programs simply warehouse people. This is not a solution.
We implore our elected officials to create, develop and implement affordable housing projects that facilitate home buying for those making 80 percent of the median income in Hawai’i. Mentoring, home ownership education, responsibility and accountability must also be included. Government can begin by eliminating useless rhetoric, streamlining the permit and entitlement process, partnering with the private sector and identifying state lands and/or existing properties that can be developed for what we would describe as incubator rental housing. By providing affordable housing, lower-income families can stay in Hawai’i, become economically stable and raise children in a wholesome environment.
Our faith community has always been at the forefront of social justice and humanitarian challenges, and the current homeless crisis is no exception. Honolulu Mayor Kurt Caldwell’s accusation that the faith-based community has failed to “step up” in addressing this crisis is uncalled for and baseless. Many churches through their ministries and individual members operate food banks, shelters and outreach services for homeless people. The faith community will continue doing so, and HFA will initiate and support responsible and relevant legislative action addressing the homeless crisis and all other social justice and humanitarian issues.
It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken adults! We build strong children through the family, more specifically through mothers and fathers. Without a doubt, this has not been a priority for our executive and legislative branches. Much has been said of gun control legislation in response to tragic massacres we witness in America and across the world. I submit to you that we need the same amount of passion, energy and focus when it comes to the misuse of alcohol and drugs by our children. This long- and short-term carnage to our children is just as horrific as the carnage caused by recent terrorist acts.
Therefore, HFA will be relentless in creating, developing, implementing and supporting programs that educate our children on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. Education that shines a light on the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on brain development. Education that highlights the risk and tragedy of drinking and driving. Education that reveals the truth of multi-generational alcohol and drug abuse and the virtue of breaking this tragic cycle. For the strength of a nation lies in its home.
HFA’s vision is creating a community where families are strong, all human life is valued and religious liberty flourishes. We will advance this vision through our core values of faith, family and freedom. As an affiliate of Hawai’i Family Forum, HFA through its lobbying efforts will be the voice for those who have no voice and the means through which the principles and values of life, liberty and freedom will be heard and advanced in government. With your help, support and involvement, we look forward to a productive legislative session in 2016!
Aloha Ke Akua,
James R. “Duke” Aiona Jr.
President and CEO, Hawaii Family Advocates