New high school on track for Kihei
Since she began to represent South Maui in November 2002, Sen. Roz Baker has made it a top priority to secure funding to build a new high school in Kihei.
▪ In 2004, Sen. Baker secured $5.5 M in the budget (Act 41, SLH2004) for plans and design for a new public high school in Kihei, Maui, to include ground, site improvements, equipment and appurtenances. $700,000 was released for planning. It was a start.
▪ In 2006, Sen. Baker secured the next round of funding in the budget (Act 160, SLH2006) of $7.3M. These funds were specified for plans, land acquisition and design. All were released and encumbered. Design and land acquisition processes were begun.
▪ In 2008, Sen. Baker (as Ways and Means Chair) and her colleagues appropriated $20M (Act 158, SLH2008) for plans, land acquisition, design, construction and equipment for the new high school in Kihei. Although the tough economy continued to take its toll on state budget requests, Sen. Baker never gave up.
Now, after over a decade of tireless effort, the much-anticipated high school is on the horizon. In 2013, at the request of Sen. Baker and Rep. Kaniela Ing, the Legislature authorized $130,000,000 in the state budget (Act 134, SLH2013) for the plans, design and construction of the new facility. The funds were appropriated for the second year of the biennium that begins July 1, 2014. The initial $30M of the $130M authorization will allow site work to proceed and keep the project on track.
The 7/1/14 timing will allow the completion of all necessary permits and land acquisition by the DOE, bid specs and the requirements for the request for design-bid proposal or traditional construction project to be developed and advertised in a timely fashion so the project can continue as soon as possible once the funds become available.
New signal light for intersection
Additionally, Sen. Baker secured $500,000 in the 2014 executive supplemental budget to improve the intersection at Kulanihakoi St. and Piilani Hwy. where the school’s entrance will be located. This much-needed signal light is a critical improvement to ensure safe access to and from school as well as the residential subdivision. Last year this intersection was the site of almost a dozen traffic accidents. Six of them were classified by the Maui Police Department as major, involving personal injuries and over $3,000 in damage.
It is obvious that a new high school will greatly benefit the South Maui community, but it will help other areas as well. It will alleviate much of the overcrowding in Central Maui classrooms caused by an unprecedented 20% growth from 2000-2010 and the anticipated increase to 28% through 2025.
It will also relieve some of the traffic going from South to Central Maui. More importantly, it will provide students with a greater opportunity to participate in after school sports and activities. It will help give South Maui an additional sense of community pride in the school’s teams and activities, as well as providing another gathering place for residents.
The project will also provide positive economic benefits for Maui County. It will create jobs from the initial skilled construction workers who will be hired to do the site work to the permanent faculty, administrators and staff who will provide the educational leadership at the school.
Compassionate care for rape victims
In the 2013 legislative session, Sen. Baker championed and was especially proud to help pass a measure providing Compassionate Care for Sexual Assault Victims when they seek hospital emergency care.
As a member of the Legislative Women’s Caucus for 22 years, Roz has advocated for laws to improve the lives of women in our state. Some laws take longer than others to achieve. This one took almost 17 years and requires all hospital emergency rooms to provide emergency contraception to sex assault victims. The bill known as Act 27 was signed into law on April 22, 2013 – an historic day for the women of Hawai`i!
Act 27, Session Laws of Hawai`i 2013, ensures that female rape victims are provided with medically and factually accurate, unbiased information about and access to emergency contraception when receiving emergency medical care at all Hawaii’s hospitals. This is especially important as there has been a rising number of assaults against women in our state.
No longer can victims of sexual assault be denied access to this standard of care. The measure helps prevent rape victims from being re-victimized by denying them the medical care they may need to regain control over their bodies.
Mahalo to all who never stopped fighting for the rights of sexual assault victims.
Greater protection for Domestic Violence victims
Domestic Violence (DV) continues to be a societal problem. In the last session, Sen. Baker helped pass into law HB1993 CD1, a bill that requires police officers to:
▪ Make reasonable inquiries into situations they believe may involve physical abuse
▪ Order the abuser to leave the premises for 48 hours
▪ Treat physical abuse of a family member in the presence of a minor younger than 14 years, as a class C felony.
These provisions will result in more informed assessments of domestic situations, allow family members to cool off and provide time, if necessary, for an individual to seek a restraining order for further protection.
The law follows landmark legislation Sen. Baker championed in 2012 (SB229 CD1) that prohibits employers from discriminating against victims of domestic or sexual violence if the victim notifies the employer or if the employer has actual knowledge of the abuse. The problem first came to Sen. Baker’s attention as a member of the Women Helping Women West Maui group. The law now requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for victims of DV and keeps victims from being fired or let go just because they are DV victims.
SB229 CD1 was the first law of its kind in the nation. Although it has since been challenged by business advocates since its passage, Sen. Baker and the bill’s supporters have been able to ensure that it still stands today.
Expanded EMS Services for South and West Maui
The number of calls requiring ambulance response has grown dramatically in South and West Maui. Often, both ambulances in each district are out on call. One of Sen. Baker’s main goals in the 2013 session was to secure funding to establish a Ma`alaea-based EMS Special Response Vehicle (SRV) unit for Maui’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The purpose of the new unit is to extend and back up the two existing ambulance units in South and West Maui.
SB498 (Act 242, SLH2013) passed with a $600,000 appropriation for a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week EMS SRV unit that includes a fully equipped vehicle and state-certified EMS paramedic. Put into operation in fall of 2013, this unique unit augments the excellent EMS services on Maui, improving response times and health outcomes. Most importantly, it will save lives.
According to American Medical Response operations manager Curt Morimoto, the special response unit “has been very successful in meeting its intended purpose of not only providing ALS-EMS service in the Ma’alaea community, but also in covering both West and South Maui districts when their respective ambulance resources are depleted at the same time. Thank you Roz!!”
Electronic access to healthcare for neighbor islands and rural communities
Another important bill Sen. Baker introduced and helped pass will create greater access to healthcare especially for the neighbor islands and remote rural communities where distance and lack of specialists are a factor.
SB2469 CD1 requires parity in insurance reimbursements for patient services provided by a healthcare professional (including behavioral health) regardless of whether the service was provided face-to-face or remotely via telecommunications technologies such as video-conferencing, telephone or other methods of electronic healthcare services. It also clarifies the Telehealth providers who can offer treatments, consultations and diagnosis.
Requiring equivalent reimbursement for Telehealth services and expanding covered providers empowers consumer choice, reduces disparities in access to care, increases provider availability and improves the quality of care throughout the state.
Keeping Lipoa Point in conservation in perpetuity
Rep. Angus McKelvey and Sen. Baker were the key drivers for HB200 CD1 to set aside $20,000,000 of the State Budget to acquire Lipoa Point for the purpose of keeping it in conservation in perpetuity.
To put parameters on this important acquisition, the Legislature passed HB 1424, CD1 directing the State Department of Land and Natural Resources in consultation with the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, to acquire the 270 acres in West Maui.
The bill makes it clear that objective of the acquisition is to protect and preserve the area’s pristine condition and that the funds purchasing the property shall be used to ensure the adequate capitalization of the Maui Land and Pineapple (MLP) Employees’ pension fund against which the parcel was pledged. The measure also makes it clear that this action shall not obligate the State for the pension plan liabilities of MLP employees and retirees.
The Save Honolua Coalition, Hawai`i Islands Land Trust and MLP partnered to testify in committee hearings, answer questions and help folks outside of Maui understand how important and special this area is to preserve. This was an important win for our community, the employees whose pensions were in jeopardy and for future generations.
Upgrading Medevac services. Continuing efforts she began over 8 years ago to provide emergency medical helicopter service to Maui County, Sen. Roz Baker recently helped secure additional funding for a significant helicopter upgrade and backup Medevac service, as well as a new helipad for Maui Memorial Medical Center.
The faster, smoother Bell 430 helicopter began operating on June 1, 2012, replacing the smaller Bell 222 helicopter that had been in service since September 2004. The older helicopter will continue to be used as a backup, ensuring continuous emergency medical helicopter service for patients on Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
According to Curt Morimoto, Maui County operations manager for American Medical Response’s helicopter patient transport service, Sen. Roz Baker was a “champion” of the effort to secure state funding through special legislation that hinged on the county paying half the cost.
“I think we’ve done it the most cost effective way it could be done. It’s been a good collaboration,” Sen. Baker said. “Even when times got tough, the state and the county hung in there because they know how critical the service is. I just can’t imagine not having the service. There’s no bridge between here and Molokai and Lanai.”
Since the service began, it has handled 340 medical missions, 18 percent from Molokai. Several of the Molokai transports have been from Kalaupapa. Officials hope to soon see patients transported by helicopter not just from Maui County, but from other islands as well.
For more click here.
Fighting for distressed homeowners. Over recent years, mortgage foreclosures in Hawai’i have increased rapidly so that our state now holds the unfortunate distinction of having one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.
As Chair of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee (CPN), Sen. Baker championed the reform of Hawai’i’s foreclosure law creating landmark legislation in 2011 (SB651) that helps distressed homeowners get a fair shake and ensures homeowners are protected against fraudulent mortgage rescue schemes. Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 651 bill into law as Act 48 last year.
After the mortgage foreclosure task force completed the second year of their work, state legislators passed House Bill 1875 in May 2012 to further refine the Hawaii foreclosure law while still preserving the intent and spirit of the original reform bill.
HB 1875 provides additional protections for Hawaii homeowners and addresses the non-judicial foreclosure process for homeowners and condominium owners associations.
For more details on the new foreclosure reform bill, click here.
Advancing health policies. A major proponent for developing better public health policies in our State, Roz served for four years as Senate Health Chair from 2002-2006 and currently, as a member of the Senate Health Committee.
She recently received the National Distinguished Advocacy Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in recognition of her years of commitment to strong public health and tobacco control policies.
Here is some of her landmark legislation:
- In 2006, Sen. Baker worked to pass Hawai’i’s secondhand smoke law – at the time, the most comprehensive and far-reaching smoking law in the nation.
- Passage of oral chemotherapy coverage, colon cancer screening coverage and the state health care exchange coverage enabling laws.
- Increasing the cigarette tax to provide funding for tobacco control, cancer research, the University of Hawai’i Cancer Center and the John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Roz’s work on public health and tobacco control policy was recognized in 2007 with the Exemplary State Elected Official Comprehensive Cancer Control Leadership Award, C-Change, presented by President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush. She again received this award in 2011 for her continued efforts in cancer control.
She was also recognized by the Friends of the Cancer Research Center of Hawai’i with the Mauka-Makai Award and by the American Cancer Society Hawaii Pacific with the Patti Schuler Award.
Protecting the consumer. Under Sen. Baker’s leadership of the Commerce and Consumer Protection committee, numerous measures were successfully introduced and became law. This included procedures to:
- Modernize insurance regulations
- Allow the continuation of preferential rates for agricultural producers from interisland water carriers
- Strengthen identity theft laws
- Secure long term funding for Public Access Television statewide