These are my beliefs:
Education is the great equalizer. We should be investing more into our children’s future. Every family should have access to high quality early education, great public schools, and affordable college. I have used my seat on the Committee on Education and Labor to advocate for major reform to the flawed No Child Left Behind law, and to increase Pell Grants and loan forgiveness for college students and graduates. I introduced the PRE-K Act to provide increased federal funds for high quality preschool, and am working with Congressional leaders to get it signed into law.
Early Education: I am a champion of early education. Research shows that the social and educational development that occurs in preschool is highly correlated with greater academic success in adolescence and young adulthood. Youth who have access to high quality early education are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in college and find gainful employment. They are less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system or rely on public assistance as adults.
I support protecting and strengthening the environmental laws that have sheltered our wilderness, endangered species and ecosystems and the quality of our air and water. I oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as well as in other environmentally sensitive areas. I support increased funding for our National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges as well as funding to help states like Hawaii protect natural areas for the benefit of future generations. We must take strong measures to slow the accumulation of greenhouse gases as well as plan for the inevitable effect of some level of warming on our communities, water supplies, agriculture, and plant and animal species.
I am a cosponsor of the two major bills in Congress addressing climate change: the Safe Climate Act and the Climate Stewardship Act. It is essential that the U.S. at long last provide international leadership in addressing this very real crisis by establishing mandatory limits on greenhouse gases. I also support Vice President Gore’s call to set a national goal of producing all of our nation’s electricity from renewable sources. In addition, we must recognize that global climate change is already occurring and plan accordingly by protecting vital habitat for species, conserving water resources, among other things
Hawaii is home to more endangered species than any other state; approximately one-quarter of all species listed under the Endangered Species Act are endemic to Hawaii. From unique forest and water birds to the monk sea to our threatened and endangered sea turtles to an amazing array of insects, Hawaii’s species are an ecological treasure that must be preserved. The most serious threats to our threatened and endangered species are loss of habitat and invasive species, which is why I have focused on these priorities in my appropriations requests.
Although the mainland is protected from any harmful species existing in Hawaii through inspections, Hawaii does not have similar protection from invasive species brought through imports from the U.S. mainland or from other countries. Some 11 invasive species are established in Hawaii each year. Prevention is clearly the most important first step. Hawaii also needs help in controlling the undesirable invasive that have already arrived. Prevention is far less expensive than trying to get rid of a problem species once it is established. Efforts to control miconia, coqui frogs, little red fire ant, and other species have had mixed results due in part to lack of funding and a slow response to the problem. I will continue to support funding to prevent the introduction of new invasive species and to control or eradicate existing harmful alien species in Hawaii.
Hawaii’s coasts must be protected from inappropriate development. Our beaches and scenic coasts are not only important to our economy, they are essential to our quality of life. I will work to ensure access to the water for swimming, surfing, boating, fishing; protect of important coastal habitat for endemic species; and to preserve the natural viewscapes and open space that are so highly valued by our citizens and by all who visit Hawaii.
I am committed to helping our nation towards energy independence. We must strengthen our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil. By employing new technology, we can lower energy costs and have greater efficiency. We must shift to cleaner energy to reduce global warming. Hawaii has significant potential for clean, alternative energy sources including solar, wind and ocean energy. I support increased investment in renewable energy technology and strongly support requiring that we mandate that renewables become an increasing share of our energy source. Hawaii can and should be a leader in alternative and renewable energies. We must make this commitment to our future and explore options that could promote diversifying our economy.
Strategy to Address the Energy Crisis: I support legislation that promotes public transportation, curbs oil market manipulation, pushes for the responsible development of our domestic energy supply, increases energy efficiency, and promotes renewable energy.
Fuel Prices: To provide immediate relief from fuel prices, I voted for a measure that temporarily suspended oil purchases for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the government’s oil stockpile. I support legislation that tightens oversight of oil futures trading in order to reduce the excessive speculation that is driving up energy prices.
Drilling: I do not believe that drilling for oil in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) is the solution to reducing our gas prices. Currently, 68 million acres of undeveloped onshore and offshore federal oil reserves are being warehoused by the energy industry. The oil industry should diligently develop production on these reserves instead of locking up more public lands and threatening our beaches and wilderness.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: We need to reduce our dependency on oil by improving energy efficiency standards and investing in renewable energy. I supported a bill that was enacted into law in December 2007. The comprehensive energy package establishes new vehicle efficiency standards (the first in 32 years), creates a renewable fuels standard, and sets new standards for lighting and appliances.
Medicare Fraud – Medicare fraud is a crime that not only hurts senior citizens but law-abiding health care providers and all taxpayers. The historic health care reform legislation that I supported makes a ten-year, $350 million investment to prevent, detect, and fight fraud in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. For example, the law makes it easier for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate potential fraud or wrongdoing at facilities like nursing homes.
Physician Access for Medicare – The current Medicare formula for reimbursing physicians, the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR ) is fundamentally flawed. I have heard from many Hawaii health care providers and Medicare patients frustrated with the annual ritual of preventing major Medicare physician payment cuts. I have supported and will continue to support a permanent fix to the flawed SGR formula so that physicians and health care providers can continue to provide care to our Nation’s seniors.
Need to invest in nation’s infrastructure: Our nation’s aging and outmoded infrastructure is crumbling. Congestion on our highways and streets has a significant economic cost, as well as a personal cost to those who waste hours of their lives stuck in traffic. High energy costs and the need to stay internationally competitive make it all the more essential that we find better ways to move people and goods in our country. Mass transit, whether by bus or rail, is part of the answer to this problem.
During these difficult economic times, investment in infrastructure is one of the best moves we can make to stimulate the economy. We will put people to work while investing in long-lasting improvements to our nation’s transportation infrastructure.
Honolulu Rail Transit: I support mass transit on Oahu, including the planned rail transit system. Traffic along the proposed rail corridor is already terrible and higher gas prices are inspiring more people to use mass transit than ever before. While additional highways may be needed, there are physical limits to how many more roads we can build.
Agriculture is essential to Hawaii’s economy and quality of life. Hawaii’s farmers and ranchers provide us with locally grown food; produce fresh and value-added products for export (flowers, macadamia nuts, coffee, sugar, etc); good jobs; and enhance our quality of life by providing open space. Aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important industry, with Hawaii as a technological leader in open-ocean water cage aquaculture and technologies utilizing deep ocean water.
I have actively sought appropriations to support Hawaii’s agriculture and was very engaged in securing provisions favoring Hawaii in the last farm bill. These include a new Agricultural Management Assistance program to help our farmers more effectively manage water, country of origin labeling for macadamia nuts, and authorization of a center for bioenergy research (Pacific Sun Grant center) at the University of Hawaii
Coverage: Health care is a right – not a privilege. It is appalling that 44 million people in America – the richest country in the world – do not have health insurance. Every family deserves access to high quality health care. We should focus first and foremost on covering children by expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). We are working in Congress to expand health insurance to an additional 10 million children, but thus far President Bush has vetoed each of our bills.
Access: We also have a major shortage of healthcare providers, especially in the Neighbor Islands. Last year, I voted to address this problem by increasing payments to doctors seeing Medicare patients, to help these doctors stay in business throughout Hawaii.
Cost: Seniors are spending too much money on their prescription drugs. In 2007 we passed a bill to require Medicare to negotiate for bulk prices on these drugs. The President vetoed the bill. Further, I am a cosponsor of a bill which would allow the safe re-importation of drugs being sold in places like Canada for substantially lower prices.
Research: We should be investing more money into health research to find cures and treatment options to cancer, diabetes, and all the major diseases Hawaii’s families struggle with every day.
Today, out of the 250,000 Filipino World War II veterans, only 18,000 are left. Of that number some 2,000 reside in my home state of Hawaii. As Filipino veterans are entering the sunset years of their lives, Congress is running out of time to fulfill our obligations to them.
I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 760, the Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007, which provides the necessary reclassification of the service of Filipino veterans to make them eligible for all the veterans’ benefits programs administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I have also introduced the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act (H.R. 1287), which would reunite Filipino veterans with their families by exempting their adult children, many of whom have been on immigration waiting lists for decades, from the worldwide and numerical limitations on immigrant visas.