Editor’s Note: For the August 13 primary elections in Hawaii, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer a few questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities would be if elected.
The following came from Maurice Morita, Democratic candidate for State House District 36, which includes Waipahu. The other Democratic candidate is Rachele Lamosao.
Access Civil Beat’s election guide for general information and learn about other primary candidates.
1. What is the biggest problem facing your district and what would you do about it?
Education is my number 1 priority. We won’t be able to solve all of our problems, but over time when we educate our community, especially in our Filipino community, it will improve the quality of life for them and their families.
Many parents work two or three jobs to survive, but if their children have a good education, it will help families out of poverty, etc.
2. Many people have been talking about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii still relies heavily on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently regarding tourism and the economy?
Hawaii is so beautiful, so we need to share our beauty with people from other countries. From our pandemic experience for 2 and a half years, we have learned that we cannot depend solely on tourism. Tourism will always be our No. 1 industry, as were sugar cane and pineapple once.
We must diversify our economy so that we are not dependent on a single industry. Some ideas I have are:
— The State has a lot of vacant agricultural land; we should grow and harvest marijuana for export to California, Las Vegas and other countries, where the use of marijuana is legal, not just for medical reasons.
– Hawaii is one of two states without any form of gambling, I would suggest an education lottery, formatted after Atlanta, Georgia, which ran a successful education lottery to add to lower education budgets and higher.
3. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling, a problem that goes far beyond low income and into the disappearing middle class. What ideas do you have for helping middle class and working class families struggling to continue living here?
It may be useful to exempt the purchase of food and medical care from the GET, which is the state’s main source of revenue. The state must diversify its economy to increase its revenues.
4. Hawaii has the most lopsided legislature in the country, with only one Republican in the Senate and only four in the House. How would you ensure an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability of decisions? What do you think are the consequences of single-party control, and how would you address them?
I’m a big fan of the late US Senator Daniel K. Inouye and how he survived Congress even when the other party took power. He was the king of politics in Washington, D.C.
If a Republican has a good idea, the person needs to meet a Democrat who can help. In the past and present, all bills introduced by the Republican will never have a hearing and will die. A smart Republican will ask the ruling party for help and work with a Democrat to introduce their bill. Then it is not up to who or what party introduces the bill, if it will help the people of the state of Hawaii, a Democrat should introduce the bill.
The two-party system was developed so that one party would not dominate the state legislature and the minority party would be their watchdog.
5. Hawaii is the only western state without a statewide citizens’ initiative process. Do you support such a process?
I will oppose a statewide citizens’ initiative process. In politics, money talks and in a statewide initiative, the person or group with the money will have a better opportunity to support or not support the initiative.
6. Thanks to their campaign war chests and name familiarity, incumbents are almost always re-elected in legislative races in Hawaii. Should there be term limits for state legislators, like there are for the governor’s office and county councils? Why or why not?
I would be against term limits for state legislators. The reason is that if a state legislator does not represent their constituents, voters cannot re-elect their legislator every two or four years.
Another way is to make the state House of Representatives have the same terms as state senators.
7. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of significant corruption scandals, prompting the state’s House of Representatives to appoint a commission to improve government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability in the Legislative Assembly? Are you open to ideas such as requiring enforcement of the Sunshine Law and open documents laws in the Legislative Assembly or banning campaign contributions during the session?
Yes, I would be in favor of requiring the Sunshine Law and Open Records laws to apply to the Legislative Assembly and/or prohibit campaign contributions during the session.
With respect to ensuring accountability in the Legislative Assembly, we must be open and transparent in our dealings with lobbyists, and not accept or receive bribes. This is an individual choice, so you have to have principles of honesty and openness to the public.
8. How would you make the legislature more transparent and accessible to the public? Opening of conference committees to the public? Stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists? How could the Legislature change its own internal rules to be more open?
In the past, there were a lot of backdoor deals. We need to ensure that these types of meetings/transactions are prohibited with a huge fine if they occur, and more decisions need to be made in the public eye to be transparent. The State of Hawaii should review federal laws regarding open meetings and should have stricter laws like the Sunshine Act that we are currently following. We should review the Sunshine Act to see if improvements can be made to ensure we have open meetings.
I know it’s frustrating because when I was a lobbyist, I would attend a meeting just to hear what decision the committee was making, not openly but behind back doors. They just take votes in public without discussion in public. We need to change the process to have more open and transparent decision-making meetings.
9. Hawaii has seen growing division on politics, development, health mandates and other issues. What would you do to bridge these gaps and bring people together despite their differences?
To be frank, you never bring people together to bridge policy gaps. Everyone has their own personal choices. Ditto for developments, supporters want it because it will make them money and those who oppose it, may have no personal involvement. The same goes for affordable housing, developers may object because they won’t make a lot of money and people need affordable housing, especially young families.
When it comes to medical issues, the pandemic has shown us that we can’t convince people through science to get fully vaccinated with both boosters to be safe. People need to make their own choices and take a chance against Covid-19, whether it is backed by science.
ten. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed many flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share a great idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.
We need to diversify our economy and not depend solely on tourism. Tourism will always be our number one industry. One idea is to use our vacant farmland and grow marijuana and export it to states and countries where it’s legal to use marijuana, not just for medical purposes. Another idea is to have an educational lottery.
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