May 3rd, 2005

Floor Speech on SB 682 Relating to Tobacco

Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu
Floor Speech
Senate Bill 682
Relating to Tobacco
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

I rise in support.

Mr. Speaker, in regards to Senate Bill 682, I want to thank the chair of Health and vice chair of Judiciary for working with the other conferees on a compromise. I would also like to thank the representatives from Waimea, Upcountry Maui, Wailuku, Mililani, and Waipahu for their suggestions.

The concerns some of us had were with the penalties businesses would face. We took out most of the "gross negligence language" and emphasized the "intent" and "fraudulent" language.

The main concern I have with the bill is allowing the attorney general rulemaking authority. When I asked Attorney General Bennet what he plans to do through rulemaking, he stated that he wanted to get more penalties on businesses. I got confused because I thought the intent was to punish the black market especially when the punishment deals with revocation of a license to do business and possible jail time? However, the attorney general gave us his word that the rules will be fair and he will show them to the legislature. As a compromise, we placed a sunset date of July 1, 2009 so we can analyze the work of the attorney general.

Even though there are parts of this bill that I still have concerns with, I think we did the best we could to find a compromise. Although, I did not get the pleasure of meeting him, I hope Speaker Richard Kawakami is proud of our efforts.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Floor Speech on SB 55 Relating to Meal Breaks

Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu
Floor Speech
Senate Bill 55
Relating to Meal Breaks
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

I rise in support with reservations.

Mr. Speaker, the senate president once told me a story of what first impressed him of you. You were a very young chair of a Water Land and Ocean Affairs hearing, and there were some disagreements on a bill being heard in your committee. You told your members with passion, "we're going to vote on this and I want all you guys show your colors."

Mr. Speaker, these are my colors. I am going to reveal the struggle I am having within me on policy for Hawaii. In regards to Senate Bill 55 relating to meal breaks, I was trying to find a balance between employers and employees. I respect anyone willing to put his or her savings and property at risk to start a business. It is because of these risk takers that jobs are created for our state's workforce. We often forget that there are also business owners struggling, living on paycheck to paycheck. On the other hand, I respect all the work labor has done for us. Considering, my first job was working in the warehouse for Duty Free Shoppers Hawaii, tagging merchandise for eight hours or more a day.

I have reservations on this measure because I feel there are times when we are over-regulating business owners and entrepreneurs. Liabilities raise the cost of doing business in Hawaii, therefore, we should carefully analyze whether we are overseeing Hawaii's business community or choking it?

When I was in college, I worked for Duty Frees Shoppers Hawaii in the flightline division. The supervisors at Duty Free would give us meal breaks, but there were times where either the supervisor forgot because it was so busy or they offered me to take a meal break but I stayed and worked because they were short of workers and I didn't want to leave my supervisor short-handed. A disgruntled worker could make a claim against the company for those missed meal breaks under this bill. However, this is something I wouldn't have done because I was so grateful to have a job and felt loyal to the company. At the same time, if there is abuse, we need to protect the workers.

Also, I had concerns for the small businesses with only one, two, or a few employees. I hear that owners often allow them to take a break at the work site to avoid closing down the store or service. I think we can try and address these concerns in the future.

On a positive note, I am proud of the labor chair's work in trying to find a balance by putting a clause where businesses can appeal for an exemption. His job is a tough one, so I understand the amount of pressure he faced.

In my struggle on this issue in balancing business and labor, I had a nice talk with Senator Najo Yoshinaga, who served in the legislature from 1954 to 1974 and is a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Whenever, I see the senator, he is always talking to me about business, creating jobs, technology, and Enterprise Honolulu. Now think about it, this is a senator that made a career on worker's rights legislation and laws such as the Prepaid Health Act, which many states wonder how we did it. I asked the senator on why he is so excited about business and economic development? He simply replied, "I had to adjust to the times. You cannot be extreme in one area." In his twenty years in politics he focused on the labor side. However, near the end of his career, he began to take an interest in business and economic issues. The senator told me, "I didn't do enough. By the time I started, it was too late…my twenty years were up."

Mr. Speaker, I will continue to strive to make Hawaii economically stronger where risk takers are encouraged to create jobs and bring in revenue into Hawaii's treasury. We must not forget that these risk takers are providing more jobs for Hawaii's workforce. Further, I will continue to seek a balance between employers and employees. When Senator Najo Yoshinaga's career ended in 1974, that was the year I was born. I will continue where he left off to make Hawaii an economic power and I dedicate a part of my career to him.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.