GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii has three lawmakers who also are members of the military -- Army Reserve Lt. Col. Rida Cabanilla-Arakawa, an Army nurse; Capt. Mark Takai, left, Hawaii Army National Guard medical officer; and Capt. Charles Djou, Army Reserve lawyer. Takai and Cabanilla-Arakawa serve in the state House, while Djou sits on the Honolulu City Council.
State looks at lawmaker-soldiers
Rep. Mark Takai will push legislation that addresses replacing called-up lawmakers
The state Legislature is expected to take up legislation that would allow a temporary replacement for any lawmaker who is called to active duty as a member of the National Guard or Reserve.
Oahu voters approved a similar provision offered by the City Council.
Two years ago, state Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, a medic in the Hawaii Army National Guard who volunteered to go to Iraq with the 29th Brigade, was on the ballot but could not actively seek re-election because Pentagon rules prevented her from performing legislative responsibilities while on active duty.
She lost the election and was replaced by Rida Cabanilla-Arakawa, a nurse in the Army Reserve who was promoted to lieutenant colonel yesterday and assigned to the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital.
Rep. Mark Takai, who was activated two years ago with the Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Combat Brigade Team as preventive medical officer but did not deploy to Iraq, said although he found that there are no federal laws that prohibit state lawmakers from serving on active duty, there are specific requirements for lawmakers who are activated or deployed.
Takai said Pentagon rules mean that a military service member may not perform any function or take any action as a state legislator.
"The people are penalized," said Cabanilla-Arakawa, who has been in uniform for 20 years including participation on active duty in 1991 Desert Storm campaign, "and my district would be without representation."
City Councilman Charles Djou, an Army Reserve captain and military attorney for the past four years, said in 2003 at the start of the Iraqi war, he introduced a resolution that gives the City Council the authority to pick a temporary replacement for a Council member who has been mobilized for 180 days.
Djou, who as yet has not been called to active duty, authored the change to the City Charter, which was adopted by the voters two years ago, because the law was silent on what would happen to his seat if he was called to active duty.
Takai said he will push similar legislation to be considered by state lawmakers next year.
Of the 57 state lawmakers throughout the country who also are members of the U.S. military, two, Takai and Cabanilla-Arakawa, are members of the Hawaii State Legislature.
Seven of these state lawmakers have deployed more than once during their careers, while 20, like Takai, say they have been activated for a period lasting more than 139 days but not sent overseas.
That was the result of a survey taken by Takai, vice speaker of the House and a captain in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Since the survey was only of state legislators, it did not include comments from Djou.
The results of Takai's survey -- begun in December 2005 after he ended five months of active duty and completed this month -- was presented to the National Conference of State Legislatures on Aug. 17.
Takai said the results of the survey resulted in the formation of the National Network of Legislators in the Military. He will serve as its first chairman.
Besides providing information to state lawmakers who are activated or deployed, the organization will provide a forum that will allow legislators to share "best practices" and model legislation to support the military in their states.
It also will provide an opportunity to organizations and companies which support the military to work with the network.
Bill Pound, the conference's executive director, in a written statement said: "This survey brings to light the impressive backgrounds of these state legislators throughout the nation. They not only to deal with the challenges facing all military service members, but they also have been on at least one deployment while also serving in their respective legislatures."
Takai's survey found that 30 state legislatures have at least one member serving in the military. Iowa leads with five; while New York and Wisconsin both have four. California, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas and Washington have three.
The two highest ranking officers, both one-star generals, are Brig. Gens. Jodi Tymeson and Dean Johnson. Tymeson, a representative in the Iowa state House, is the assistant adjutant general; while Johnson, a Maine state senator, is an Army National Guard chaplain.
By branch of service, the Air Force recorded 10 legislators, the Army 36; Marine Corps six; and Navy three. The Civil Air Patrol and the Naval Militia in New York each have one.
Eight state lawmakers currently are on deployments.