Gov Ige Vetoes Harmful Bills

Reason Prevails!

Gov. David Ige Vetoes Legislative Bills Designed to Harm UH

It was a tumultuous year for everyone in 2020. The pandemic created a significant budget shortfall that required a closer look at ways to significantly reduce costs. Unfortunately, this resulted in legislative bills that were hastily approved to check the box of reducing the state’s expenses. Some of these bills were ill conceived and would have severe, lasting negative ramifications for the University of Hawaii and for our state.

The State is in Better Financial Shape

Since the state’s economic situation dramatically improved since the beginning of the legislative session, Gov. Ige reasoned that many of the drastic measures to reduce costs were no longer necessary. An infusion of federal relief funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides Hawaii with timely, valuable economic support. In addition, the Council on Revenues projects a stronger, faster economic recovery for Hawaii.

As a result of these changes, on June 21, Gov. David Ige announced his intention to veto 28 of the 268 bills, which were presented to him to consider signing into law. The good news: he plans to veto two of those bills, which would have been harmful to the University of Hawaii. Fortunately, sound reason prevailed.

The two vetoed bills are SB589 SD2 HD2 CD1 – Relating to the University of Hawaii and HB1296 HD1 SD2 CD1 – Relating to State Funds.

Vetoed: Merger of UH Cancer Center with JABSOM

SB589 would have required among other things that the UH Cancer Center and the John A. Burns School of Medicine merge their administrative and infrastructure functions. In addition, the bill extends the sunset on rules governing the transfer of technology and innovation and commercialization efforts between the University and a private party.

It Could Be Unconstitutional

The Governor’s rationale for vetoing the bill was clear: “This measure may put the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s contracting clause. If enacted into law, the rule changes governing the transfer of technology and commercialization initiatives could jeopardize existing contracts committed to by the University. This would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s contracting clause, which forbids states from passing laws that impair the obligation of contracts.”

While Possibly Making UH Less Flexible In The Future

The rationale went on to state that “codifying the UH Cancer Center into law and setting organizational reporting into statute, limits the university’s flexibility to make changes to that structure in the future. While merging the administrative functions of the Cancer Center and Medical School may achieve cost savings, these structural changes should be made in consultation with the leadership of the respective institutions and UH Manoa leadership.”

Vetoed: Restrictions on UH Cancer Center Funding 

HB1296, which faced strong opposition from various organizations because it sought to repeal the Tobacco Control and Prevention Trust Fund and to allocate any remaining balances from the tobacco settlement funds to the general fund. This would have also eliminated settlement monies dedicated to the University of Hawai’i’s revenue-undertakings fund by July 2033, and caps the total amount in the Tobacco Settlement Special Fund at $4.3 million annually.

Stopped: Making UH Pay for Faculty Fringe Benefits

Clandestinely woven into the bill was a section requiring the University to reimburse the state for fringe benefit costs for any position paid for by a special fund. It also would prohibit the University of Hawai’i Cancer Center from using cigarette tax revenue for research or operation costs.

Vetoing This Was A No-brainer

Gov. Ige noted in his rationale that he would veto HB1296 because it would significantly increase costs for the University of Hawai’i, while simultaneously eliminating the UH Cancer Center’s ability to conduct cancer research and cancer center operations with cigarette tax revenue. This would basically defund programs to prevent or stop smoking and result in public health impacts and this will likely create significantly higher costs for the state’s health systems in the future.

Since the veto of a bill is an all or nothing proposition, the veto also eliminates the proposal to require the University to reimburse the state for fringe benefit costs.

But It’s Not Over Yet

While we can breathe a sigh of relief, it’s not over yet, an intent to veto is not a veto. Legislators have until July 6 to override the Governor’s vetoes.  They could also call for a special session where they could reintroduce bills. UHPA will keep you informed.

Book Now: UHPA’s Disney Aulani Weekend!

Our very popular UHPA Disney Aulani Weekend returns for it’s 7th annual event on Oct 29 & 30, 2021.  Don’t miss out!

UHPA members love the Disney Aulani Resort. If you are an early bird planner, this is your chance to get the best rooms at our heavily discounted rates before they sell out as they do every year.

Start Earlier or Stay Later

Our special rates are in effect for Oct 29 & 30.  Want to stay longer? You can reserve dates up to 5 days before or after our special rate days.  This year brings a special treat as it overlaps the Halloween weekend which should be extra fun for the whole family

First Come, First Serve Will Sell Out Quickly

You’ve probably already experienced COVID-related shortages and booking difficulties.  Early bird reservations are open now and we highly recommend you make your reservations as we only have limited availability and if previous years are an indication, this will sell out very quickly.

UHPA Believes Budgetary Cuts Violate Our Statutory & Constitutional Rights, Files Request for Hawaii Labor Relations Board Ruling

A University of Hawaii position currently occupied by a tenured faculty member is potentially being eliminated because of a legislative bill designed to target that specific job position. That bill is now with Gov. David Ige awaiting his approval or veto. UHPA has filed a complaint with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to preempt any violations of Hawaii’s laws, the state constitution and collective bargaining agreement.

Taking a Stand

After several weeks of discussions and conversations, multiple news reports, and various opinions and perspectives shared by UH and State officials, UHPA cannot take a wait-and-see approach any longer.  The specific action of summarily terminating an existing Unit 7 position currently occupied by a tenured 11-month researcher with many years of service and in good standing through targeted legislation cannot be accepted nor condoned.  

Action is Unprecedented  

Never in the history of UHPA did any Faculty member have to fear their employment could be targeted for termination by a legislator.  This action by the Legislature was not the normal sweep of vacant positions for budgetary purposes.  This was a direct and purposeful act to terminate one specific position from the UH filled and occupied by a tenured Faculty Member.

Violating Statutory and Constitutional Rights

HB 200, CD 1, if approved or not vetoed by the Governor, would not only violate Chapter 89, HRS, and our existing Unit 7 Agreement, but in UHPA’s view would violate our Hawaii State Constitutional Rights under Article XIII, Section 2.  UHPA believes that the same tenets as argued before the Hawaii Supreme Court in Act 100, SLH 1999, are the same principals at play in HB 200, CD 1. 

By Ignoring the Collective Bargaining Process

UHPA believes that as in Act 100, SLH 1999, the law would violate Article XIII, Section 2, because it negates the collective bargaining process on core subjects such as wages, hours and other conditions of employment that the voters contemplated would be part of the bargaining process when they ratified the Section 2 at the November 5, 1968 general election.

We Have No Choice

On Friday, May 28, 2021, UHPA through its legal counsel Gill, Zukeran, and Sgan, filed a request for a declaratory ruling with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board (HLRB).  While this action is unprecedented and has never been attempted before, UHPA can’t take the back seat and wait until something does or doesn’t happen.  We cannot consciously accept these types of inappropriate actions without questioning its legality.

Media Statement 

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) filed a petition for a “declaratory ruling” with the Hawai‘i Labor Relations Board (HLRB) this afternoon in response to the underhanded actions taken to modify the budget bill in conference committee without public input that terminated a tenured Faculty member’s position with the University of Hawai‘i effective July 1, 2021.

The unprecedented action has forced UHPA to take the extraordinary step of filing this petition with the HLRB to assess the bill from a legal and constitutional perspective before the June 21st deadline when Gov. David Ige must decide on his intent to veto. 

We brought this to the attention of the HLRB for a number of important reasons:

  • This action is a clear example of overreach. The Hawai‘i State Constitution empowers only the UH Board of Regents to assert exclusive control over the internal structure, management and operations of the University of Hawai‘i system.
  • This specific action of targeting a single position is not designed or intended to support budgetary concerns. There were as many as 60 other vacant faculty positions available for use.  The action only targeted one position that is currently filled by a tenured faculty member.
  • Protocols and procedures that affect the employment status of faculty members are specifically covered in the Unit 7 collective bargaining agreement to protect against these types of arbitrary and capricious actions. UHPA believes the bill violates the existing terms of the Unit 7 collective bargaining agreement and infringes upon our constitutional right to engage in collective bargaining.  

UHPA is seeking the HLRB’s position on our expressed concerns.

“It is unfortunate that we must expend substantial amounts of the time, energy, money, and resources to address this grievous action instead of allowing our Faculty to devote their full and undivided attention on preparing for the upcoming fall semester and to continue to support the role of the UH as an economic engine to accelerate our state’s economic recovery.”

UHPA Responds to Campus Reopening Plans

As UHPA continues to join with the UH administration to battle budgetary concerns created by the Senate, it is critical to ensure we remain in alignment with UH administration on other issues impacting faculty and students. It is imperative that we see eye-to-eye on the details of the campus reopening to move forward together. Clear communication and open dialogue are critical to avoid misunderstandings and missteps so we can effectively address bigger issues affecting public higher education in Hawaii.

We Successfully Worked Together at the Start of the Pandemic

When the pandemic and resulting lockdown occurred early last year, the University of Hawai‘i administration and faculty came together to determine how to deliver education in an online environment. Together, we were able to rapidly pivot to ensure there would be no interruption in the education of students and safely carry on research.

That experience showed the value of collaboration to create a positive experience for the UH administration, faculty, students and the community. 

Shouldn’t We Work Together to Plan the Reopenings Too?

Now nearly a year later, with the prospect of the University of Hawaii preparing to resume in-person learning on the campuses statewide, it would be prudent to approach the reopening with the same degree of meticulous detail to cover all the bases to ensure a successful reopening.

UHPA was Notified On 5/20 About the Reopenings

UH Vice President for Administration Jan Gouveia sent a letter dated May 20, 2021 to University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) Executive Director Christian Fern announcing UH’s plans to transition to campus reopenings. The letter sent was subsequently transmitted to the UHPA Negotiations Committee.  

And it Was Brief On Details & Specifics

The perfunctory letter outlined little about the UH’s plan other than the tentative targeted dates, as noted below, to coincide with a full campus reopening in the fall 2021 semester:

  • By June 1, 2021: Remove all signage that campuses are closed to the public. Supervisors should start preparing for all buildings and offices to be open for full, in-person services during normal business hours by July 6, 2021. 
  • July 6, 2021: All UH buildings and offices will be open for full, in-person services during normal business hours. 
  • August 3, 2021: All employees are expected to report to their respective campus offices and resume normal business operations. The COVID-19 Voluntary Telework Policy will be rescinded as current COVID-19 conditions no longer warrant the need for employees to work from home.

We Have Concerns About the Lack of Details

The brevity of details and specifics were very concerning. Such vague reopening plans can lead to many different interpretations, expectations, outcomes, and directives without understanding the UH administration’s intent, purpose, and desired outcomes. To move forward together, we cannot afford ambiguity. Clarity, open communication and collaboration are critical. 

UHPA has Responded and is Looking Forward to Discussions

The UHPA Negotiations Committee wasted no time in sending back a response to the UH Administration on May 27, 2021 — a day before the requested deadline — with a list of questions and requests for information, while also expressing concerns and reservations about resuming normal operations on all campuses on August 3, 2021. 
UHPA has requested that the UH administration respond no later than June 7, 2021 to the list of questions and requests for information so that informative and meaningful discussions and dialogue can commence immediately.    

One Senator builds. The other destroys. Which one did UH get?

A Study of Contrasts:
Lower Education Advocate, Higher Education Antagonist


Transparency and accountability. These are essential qualities we can demand and expect from our elected officials whom we vote into office and are given our trust that they individually will do the right thing for Hawai‘i’s people. Unfortunately, these essential qualities appear to be absent from legislators serving on the Senate’s Higher Education Committee. Navigating through the murkiness of their actions, though their shallow narratives and innuendos, may prove to be difficult to see things clearly.  However, when the haze and confusion clears, one thing is certain – their recent actions will pose significant challenges and harmful effects not only to the University of Hawai‘i faculty but the institution itself. 

Nothing escapes the attention or provokes the ire of the community faster than trying to introduce policies that cause more harm than good for a child’s education and future success. 


And for good reason. Access to a quality public education is a fundamental and Constitutional right for all children in Hawai‘i free from discrimination and irrespective of their family’s socioeconomic status. In addition, the Hawai’i educational system is very unique as it is a Statewide system rather than county or jurisdictional system.  An educational system — from preschool and through grade 12 — though highly qualified teachers and rigorous standards set the future foundation for children’s lives and chances of future success. It also serves as the bedrock for the pursuit of higher education and other potential career pathways.

Action that harm our children cannot stand

It often goes without saying that the children are our future, and thus, we must do everything we can to build and support a strong and supportive educational system for children. Any attempt to undermine or weaken the educational system is not only harmful to our keiki but will result in long term negative impacts on our community and society.  Actions that harm and diminish the value of education and the return of its investments must be immediately called into question and the individuals responsible for these ill-conceived policies must be called out.

Lower Education Advocate: Sen. Kidani

Hawai‘i families are fortunate to have a strong champion for our public education system in the legislature. Sen. Michelle Kidani has consistently shown to be a tough advocate for students, teachers, school staff and administrators, and their impacted communities – relentless and unafraid of sparring with the Department of Education and the Board of Education over policies and actions that run contrary to supporting a strong educational system.

Is this what good leadership looks like?

As an example, earlier this legislative session Sen. Kidani’s unwavering  support for our public education system was critical in ensuring and maintaining ongoing support and funding for the education of Hawai‘i’s children. When Hawai‘i learned additional federal funds would be available for the schools, Sen. Kidani and other key legislators were instrumental in passing a legislative bill that was designed to use such funds to address potential budgetary reductions including personnel costs at the school level to avoid potential layoffs, furloughs, or pay reductions. 

The bill stipulated the funds would be released to the Department of Education only after the Board of Education and superintendent certified that they agreed the funds would be used as outlined in these bills.

There was unanimous agreement among the Senate Education Committee, House Education Committee and the Hawaii State Teachers Association that the funds should be allocated for teachers first instead of tutors.

Higher Education Antagonist: Sen. Kim

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, by contrast, is the antithesis of Sen. Kidani. While Sen. Kidani’s goal is clearly to build and support our lower education system, by all indications, Sen. Mercado Kim’s personal vendetta is to destroy Hawaii’s higher education system. Sen. Mercado Kim has introduced several bills that serve no other value or purpose other than to inflict unnecessary harm and to diminish value in the University of Hawai‘i system. For example, she questioned the value and purpose of tenure for faculty  (See “UHPA Defends Tenure at the Legislature”) . 

Jeopardizing the UH’s R1 Status 

By undermining the very foundation of our university and diminishing the important role of tenure to ensure academic freedom, she put the University of Hawai‘i — perhaps knowingly and purposefully — in a precarious position. By proposing to eliminate tenure for certain faculty, she would have jeopardized the University of Hawai‘i’s status as a Carnegie Research 1 institution.

Unfortunately, facts and evidence are not important for consideration in the eyes of Sen. Mercado Kim, who has been in the Senate since 2000. She has unfortunately either dismissed or misused information to create her own biased and false narratives to achieve her personal vendetta.

How can others let this stand?

Surprisingly and worrisome is that her fellow senators have not held her accountable or challenged her unfounded and unsubstantiated claims. They let her do as she pleases — perhaps as a consolation prize for having been unseated after serving as Senate President for two years.

But wait! There’s more. 

Read next week’s Monday Report for more details about Sen. Mercado Kim’s secretive, last-minute plan to eliminate fringe benefit payments for some University of Hawai‘i faculty.

How Tenure Benefits Us All

Editor’s note: Many faculty may know about the importance of tenure, but not many may fully realize the inherent value, principle, and standards tenure offers an institution and in this situation for the University of Hawai‘i and our state. This is the second in series on the importance of tenure to help UH faculty and the UH administration collaboratively work together in examining and determining best practices and to present recommendations to legislators before the start of the 2022 legislative session.

Five Reasons Tenure Benefits the University of Hawai‘i and the Community

Every faculty member may be well versed and acquainted with how tenure supports their academic endeavors, but not many faculty may realize how tenure benefits the University of Hawai‘i and our State. Here are the top reasons tenure creates a win-win situation for everyone:

Reason #1: Tenure upholds the University of Hawai‘i’s academic reputation


The University of Hawaii is classified as an R1: Doctoral University (very high research activity), that participates in the sea-grant, space-grant, and sun-grant research consortia and is one of only four such universities across the country (Oregon State University, Cornell University, and Pennsylvania State University are the three others). Without tenure and academic freedom, faculty would not have the latitude able to stretch the boundaries of research and innovation. Ultimately, independent inquiry and research supports and enhances the reputation of the University of Hawai‘i.

Faculty who believe they could be terminated arbitrarily would be less inclined to take risks in their research to avoid commercial or political pressure. They might also be hesitant about sharing their research findings with students. (Yes, faculty classified as researchers are also involved with teaching students sometimes in a classroom but more often in the field or laboratories.)

Reason #2: Tenure supports community service

When University of Hawai‘i faculty feel they work for a university system that has a vested interest in their success, this creates a sense of reciprocity. Faculty want to contribute back to their community. They want to volunteer their expertise and be involved. And with tenure, they can support issues that are important to them and the community without political or commercial pressure.

Reason #3: Tenure is a quality control mechanism

There is a misnomer that once a faculty member is tenured, they are set for life. Tenure simply means a faculty member has undergone a rigorous probation period that involves having their scholarly works published in journals and other requirements to showcase their professional capabilities. However, the journey doesn’t end there. Tenured faculty must continue to be subject to annual post-tenure evaluations by their peers and demonstrate that they are subject matter experts and still being productive.

Reason #4: Tenure keeps the best and the brightest

Tenure is a retention tool. Tenure attracts and retains quality faculty. This is especially important for the University of Hawai‘i because we constantly compete with so many external factors. Hawai‘i’s high cost of living, including lack of truly affordable housing, make it challenging for faculty to make a long-term commitment to Hawai‘i, even though they may be passionate about what they do and may genuinely love Hawai‘i and its people. Top-notch faculty may also be lured away by more promising or lucrative private-sector jobs or better compensated faculty positions — with tenure — at competing universities.

Reason #5: Tenure Supports Student Enrollment

When the University of Hawai‘i strives to lower its operating costs by hiring more part-time faculty or placing them in positions that are not considered tenure-track positions, this sends a signal to prospective students that the university is not committed to academic excellence. (Currently, only about half of University of Hawai‘i members of bargaining unit 7 are tenured or in tenure-track positions.) This may give Hawai‘i students second thoughts about applying or remaining at the University of Hawai‘i. As other universities have noted, this negatively impacts enrollment. Student tuition makes up about 40% of the University of Hawai‘i’s revenue.

If a university prohibits tenure, this would impede the ability to hire and retain the most promising professors, and degrees awarded to students would not be as valued. The value of University of Hawai‘i graduates would also decline.

Tenured senior faculty bring in the lion’s share of external funding. 

Non tenure track faculty if they do bring in funds then become very attractive to other universities and can move, taking their awards with them..

New Legislative Protocols

The State Legislature has instituted new protocols for the 2021 Legislative Session.  Starting with their offices are officially closed to the public.  All meetings, hearings, floor sessions will be conducted virtually.

All House and Senate Hearings can be easily located on our webpage, UHPA At The Legislature,  Hearings on Demand.  These hearings are broadcast via YouTube and show previously held hearings.

The Legislative calendar has been modified by one week, reducing recess days from thirteen to nine.

For full details of new protocols click on the link above.

Pay Increase Due in November

Negotiated 1.2% Retroactive Pay Increase Due November 20, 2020

In accordance with the Tentative Agreement over Article XXI, Salaries, of the UHPA/BOR Unit 7 Agreement, dated May 13, 2020, and the subsequent Legislature passage and Governor’s approval of Act 48, SLH 2020, the following negotiated pay raises are forthcoming:  

  1. Effective January 2, 2020 all Faculty Members shall have their base pay increased by 1.2%
  2. Effective January 1, 2021 all Faculty Members shall have their base pay increased by 1.2%

The State of Hawaii, Department of Budget and Finance, has released the legislative appropriations to the University of Hawaii for payment.  All Faculty Members in service before January 2, 2020 shall receive a retroactive pay increase of 1.2% of their base pay retroactive to January 2, 2020 in their November 20, 2020 paycheck.  All Faculty Members in service on January 1, 2021 shall receive a 1.2% pay increase to their base pay.

While this in no way signals or disregards that the University of Hawaii will be facing significant budgetary shortfalls and challenges in the near future, these negotiated pay increases were agreed upon by the Employer on August 3, 2017 and which the Legislature has already budgeted for its payment.

In Solidarity,

Christian Fern

UHPA Executive Director

Karla Hayashi

UHPA Negotiations Committee Chairperson

Update on UH Faculty Retirement incentives

UHPA Negotiations Committee Update On Proposed Retirement Incentive For UH Faculty

In a Letter dated August 27, 2020, University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner proposed to enter into negotiations with the University of Hawai‘i Professional Assembly (UHPA) concerning a retirement incentive to UH Faculty who are eligible for retirement or early retirement and who retire between December 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

The UHPA Negotiations Committee recognizes that this matter has significant interest to eligible UH Faculty and the committee members are encouraged by the Employer’s initial proposal. The UHPA Negotiations Committee members reviewed the Employer’s proposed offer and identified areas that required further clarification, as well as areas not viable to support such an endeavor.

On September 28, 2020, the UHPA Negotiations Committee submitted a counter proposal to the Employer’s August 27, 2020 proposal.  

The UHPA Negotiations Committee just received a response from the Employer on another counter proposal dated October 5, 2020.  The UHPA Negotiations Committee is reviewing the recent counter proposal and made this matter a priority.  We will keep the membership apprised of any new developments in the days and weeks ahead in hopes of reaching a mutually agreeable retirement incentive.

In Solidarity,

Karla Hayashi

UHPA Negotiations Committee Chairperson

In Memoriam: UHPA’s First Executive Director Jerome “Jerry” Comcowich

UHPA joins others in mourning the loss of Jerome “Jerry” Comcowich, a retired UH faculty member who was UHPA’s first executive director. Jerry became a founding member of UHPA in 1973 and served the union for decades as a board member and as delegate to National Education Association meetings.

Jerry was walking in a bike lane near his Enchanted Lake residence on the morning of September 3, when a driver of a pick-up truck struck him and two other parked vehicles. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition where he later passed away.

The loss of this healthy 80-year-old who enjoyed running 10 miles a week is tragic, but Jerry’s commitment to service and contributions to the community will not be forgotten.

“Everyone who has crossed our path over the years has had an important role in shaping what the UHPA is today,” said Christian Fern, UHPA executive director. “We’re proud to be beneficiaries of the work of people like Jerry.”

Jerry joined the UH as an assistant professor in the College of Education in 1969, serving as an academic advisor and developmental counselor. He later joined the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and was instrumental in planning the SOEST building. Jerry retired in 2009 from his tenured faculty position at SOEST’s International Center for Climate and Society.

While at the University, he took several leaves of absence to grow professionally and serve the community. In 1977, he was named special assistant to U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga, working in Washington, D.C. His primary areas of focus were higher education, transportation and labor. He also worked as a special assistant to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, beginning in 1990, and focused on labor, education and foreign affairs legislation.
In 1994, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton as a special assistant to Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education David Longanecker in the U.S. Department of Education. In that position, he advocated for student financial aid to ease the burden of debt from tuition for college graduates.

Jerry’s family has requested memorial gifts be directed to the Hawaii Food Bank. On behalf of all UHPA members, UHPA has made a contribution as a tribute to Jerry and in honor of his life and support to UHPA.