IN AND AROUND THE CAPITOL
Education bill moves forward
Feary's sister testifies for private prisonsBy Crystal Kua
Auditor faults convention center controls
State schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu's accountability bill has survived the Senate's major hurdles by clearing the Ways and Means Committee yesterday.
The bill establishes an accountability system of rewards, assistance and sanctions based on student performance.
The bill's most controversial section, which calls for such a system to be exempt from collective bargaining, remained in the bill but with another committee's recommendation that the exemption last for only three years, sunseting in 2003.
The Senate's version of bill would also mandate the department to collaborate with labor unions and others -- such as parents and businesspeople -- in coming up with the details of the plan.
Senators questioned whether the department needs an exemption from the entire collective bargaining law known as Chapter 89, or just sections of it.
"There's a whole lot of stuff in 89," Sen. Jonathan Chun (D, South Kauai) said.
Sen. Marshall Ige (D, Kaneohe) said the department should begin to focus on the parts of the law that would apply to the accountability plan. "It's just too broad."
LeMahieu said after the hearings that the exemption the department is seeking would allow for more than just public employee unions to come to table to discuss the plan's details, allow participants to make decisions at the table instead of seeking ratification from others and be able to set options for consequences.
At the same time the bill was before the Senate's money committee, the state House Finance and Labor committees also took up the measure but deferred taking action on it.
The current House version of the bill doesn't include a sunset provision but that could change.
Rep. Ezra Kanoho (D, Lihue) said that setting a period of time for when the exemption would be in place could "quell fears" expressed by public employee unions who are opposed to the measure.
LeMahieu said he believes a sunset provision would be a "workable solution" but he would prefer a five-year period rather than the Senate's three-year period.
He is also concerned about what will happen once the department builds the system and then the exemption is about to expire. "It's not just building it, it's allowing it to be maintained."
Fearys sister testifiesBy Crystal Kua
for private prisons
Alison Lopez did not know Eleanor Ahuna and Maile Akimseu before the two Big Island kupuna came up to her and gave her a hug and kiss while she was on a bench at the state Capitol.
As sadness shone through Lopez's eyes, Ahuna took Lopez by the hand and counseled, "We know where you're coming from."
The three came together after testifying before the House Finance and Labor committees on a bill that would allow for the the operation of minimum-security correctional facilities by a private contractor.
Lopez is the sister of Mackey Feary, the island entertainer who hanged himself last year while serving a 10-year prison term for criminal property damage and drug convictions.
Lopez testified in support of the private operation of correctional facilities for people like her troubled brother who "died a worn-out, heartbroken man who just wanted to end his pain." Her brother was trying to kick drug addiction while battling depression and other pain, she said.
"If it's a private prison, (inmates) will have a stronger desire to succeed," Lopez said.
Lopez said a private prison may also be a way to curtail the importation of drugs into correctional facilities because there would be more responsibility.
Ahuna and Akimseu appeared before the committees along with other members of E Hoopakele or Project Rescue. The group, noting that Hawaiians make up a sizable portion of the prison population, is calling for an alternative to incarceration that would create wellness centers, or puuhonua, that would use the traditional Hawaiian mediation process known as hooponopono to promote healing instead of punishment.
The committees deferred taking action on the measure.
Auditor faults conventionStar-Bulletin staff
The third audit of the convention center in three years shows that the state-run facility is generally following approved management guidelines.
But Marion Higa, legislative auditor, said yesterday that the convention center authority could tighten its control.
Specifically, Higa said the convention center's authority should have a "more rigorous and objective evaluation" plan for watching over Spectacor Management Group, the convention operator.
Also the center authority should make sure it is in full compliance with state procurement laws.
Higa said two of the six contracts issued by the Convention Center Authority in the 1999-2000 fiscal year did not meet the procurement code.
The authority did not ensure equitable treatment of vendors in one contract, the auditor said.
She said "in another instance, the authority exposed the state to unnecessary liability" when it gave the contractor notice to start before contract execution and before receiving a performance bond.
"Other currently unresolved issues could adversely affect the operations and maintenance of the convention center," Higa said. "The most important issue is the need to retain public oversight. If the authority sunsets without resolution on this issue, the state's interests in a $200 million facility could be unprotected."
She said regardless of what agency controls the center, the state must still protect the public.
The authority agreed with the auditor's major recommendations, noting that it has started to tighten up management guidelines. The authority has also changed policies to comply with the procurement code, according to the audit report.
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Hawaii Revised Statutes