Gov Ige Vetoes Harmful Bills

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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.

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.”

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.

Our Senate’s punch to the gut of UH

It’s deja vu all over again with budget cuts

As a faculty member of the University of Hawaii system, you play a key and significant role in supporting our state’s economic recovery. Unfortunately, our legislators, particularly those in the Senate, do not see you in this way.

After having to endure a tumultuous year of on-again/off-again threats of furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts from Gov. David Ige, we find ourselves back in a tenuous situation, only this time the  problem stems from actions by legislators in the Senate.

Federal Funds Not Being Tapped to Continue Vital Functions

Our state’s budget deficit has required all of us — UHPA, UH administration, legislators and others — to come together to have an open dialogue to explore possible solutions. We had come up with the ideal solution: the House updated the budget using federal relief funds to fill in the budget gaps to ensure the University of Hawai‘i could continue to operate without interruption. The proposed House budget provided the necessary components to ensure stability in our local economy and ensured faculty could continue to deliver key and vital services and functions — exactly what the federal relief funds were intended to do.

UH’s budget got gutted – by our Senate

With a solid budget in hand, we were all ready to move forward. Unfortunately, the Senate had other plans that no one had known about earlier. The Senate decided to throw a wrench into everyone’s plan by suggesting that the University of Hawai‘i make up the budget shortfall by seeking other sources of funding. Our elected senators decided to instead gut and replace as much as they were allowed under federal guidelines. With no regard for transparency and openness, they offered no rhyme or reason for their changes. Their rationale and modus operandi still remains a mystery. Unfortunately, their actions and decisions will place many of you in a precarious position.

Manoa caught the worst of it

They are apparently delighted in putting a squeeze on faculty, the very employees who are vitally necessary for Hawai‘i’s economic recovery. At the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, which would be the campus most impacted by their capricious decision, there will be a 13.8% budget reduction compared to the current fiscal year. This has grave implications for all UHPA members employed on the Mānoa campus.

Furloughs, Layoffs and Pay Cuts All Over Again?

The Senate has clearly revealed their intentions. There is no delicate way of saying this: the Senate is forcing the possibility of furloughs, pay cuts, and retrenchment on UH faculty. Just when we all thought we could confidently move forward together, we find ourselves right back to square one all over again, exactly where we were last year before the federal funds were received. The uncertainty this creates is crippling. How can the Senate expect UHPA members to continue to provide UH students with the support, services, and the quality of education they need to stay on the pathway for success and to develop the future leaders of the world in helping to rebuild our economy while simultaneously dealing with the haunting prospect of losing their jobs?

Moment of truth for Legislators – step up or stand by

It’s easy for legislators to try to appear heroic and proudly proclaim that they are deferring their own pay raises because so many in our community are unemployed. However, their actions and false narratives show a different scenario.  Is it too much to expect that they step up and prevent more unemployment of Hawai‘i residents, especially on their constituents that elected them to office?  They not only have the power to make this happen, they have a choice to do so. Whether they choose to exercise this power to do what is pono is another story. 

But it’s OK to spend millions on a project no one at UH is asking for

Even more concerning is the Senate’s allocation of $42.5 million dollars for a Resource and Education Center in Wahiawa that was not requested by both the UH Board of Regents or the UH administration. There are still many unanswered questions and uncertainties as to why such a costly and unanticipated demand was placed on the University when the monies could’ve been allocated to help maintain essential services, programs, and personnel to help the institution stay afloat.  According to Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, the project provides a new library and DOE offices and classrooms for the community college which will help revitalize the Wahiawa town. However, pursuing this project results in serious tradeoffs. The question we all have is at what expense and what impact to the UH system overall can this project be justified, especially at a time when the UH administration is already dealing with many other imminent and dangerous budgetary shortfalls? While we acknowledge the foresight, there are impending budgetary shortfalls that could more urgently use the federal allocations now.    

It’s unacceptable and we’re not going to stand for it

We have fought long and hard by pushing back against the Governor’s demands and threats.  To have the Senate reverse the effort and agreements we have made through open dialogue and discussions is insulting and offensive.  As the saying goes, when the going gets tough the tough gets going and rest assured that the leadership of UHPA will not tolerate such injustice and deceitfulness. 

We’ll get through this – together

As it has been proven in the past, joint-decision making and collaboration is the proven method to moving forward. UHPA plans to work closely with the UH administration to find a better way to advance the Universityʻs interests. Last year, because of our collective efforts to quickly mobilize with the UH administration to address the challenges of the pandemic, the UH system granted 10,850 degrees and certificates to students. For the spring semester, which is wrapping up soon, there could potentially be as many as 6,400 additional undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates granted. The final figure will be confirmed after commencement is held on May 15. Clearly, the UH economic engine is humming, and needs to continue to operate to lift Hawai‘i’s people out of the doldrums.

    
Economic recovery will come when we work together as a team instead of against each other as opponents. Isn’t it time we finally move forward with one mind, one spirit, and one common purpose?

Mahalo nui loa,

Christian Fern

Executive Director                                                

University of Hawaii Professional Assembly

Representing Your Interests at the Legislature

UHPA Legislative Update as of 4/5/2021

Monday, April 5, 2021, will be day 42 of the legislative session and next Thursday, April 15, 2021 is the 48th day and second cross-over.  On that day, there will be only seven (7) legislative session days left until Sine Die on April 29, 2021.

UHPA has been working with legislators and lobbying on behalf of its membership in the new virtual world and environment as it has since last session when in March the State Capital was shut down to the public.  While it has been a challenge for everyone to adjust and pivot in the new normal, the challenges and constant attacks on Faculty at the legislature goes on unaffected and unaltered by the effects of COVID-19.

To date, UHPA has been successful in working with legislators and testifying on bills and resolutions that have negative impact and harmful consequences on Faculty and the institution they serve.  The following are a list of bills and resolutions that UHPA has been successful in challenging and/or changing:

Nevertheless, there are still bills and resolutions alive in the Legislature that UHPA is working hard to either change, modify, or defer in its current form as it will have negative impact and harmful consequences on our Faculty if enacted.  The following is a list of bills and a resolution that UHPA is actively working on with the Legislature:

While these bills and this resolution may not apply or impact your position, department, college, or unit, don’t ever think that it may not change tomorrow or in the near future.  That is why UHPA’s Endorsement Committee vigilantly vets and interviews all candidates who request political endorsements, because we need to make sure that we can count on these elected officials to listen, recognize, acknowledge, and respect the voice of the Faculty before enacting legislation. 


For a list of all the bills that UHPA is tracking, visit our bill tracking page along with other related resources located at our Legislative Action Center.

UHPA Defends Tenure at the Legislature

Legislative Bill to Eliminate Academic Tenure for Non-Instructional Faculty Thwarted 


A legislative bill that would have adversely impacted the quality of education at the University of Hawai‘i — and affect the ability to attract and retain high quality faculty — has been put on hold. UH faculty can now breathe a sigh of relief — for now.

SB 1328 proposed to eliminate academic tenure for all “non-instructional” faculty based on the premise that their primary duties and responsibilities do not involve instruction with a commitment to student achievement and success and that granting tenure for these positions requires a long-term commitment of public resources.

UHPA Requested to Prepare a Resolution on Academic Tenure

Over the past several weeks, the UHPA leadership has been engaged in a series of productive and respectful dialogue and conversations with Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, the Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.  Based on UHPA recommendations, at a committee hearing last Tuesday, Feb. 16,  Sen. Mercado Kim deferred the bill and sought UHPA’s assistance to draft a resolution for the 2022 legislative session. UHPA plans to work collaboratively with the UH administration to develop a resolution for the committee to consider.

In its testimony, UHPA noted tenure for eligible faculty has been clearly outlined in collective bargaining agreements between UHPA and the UH Board of Regents since its first contract in 1975 and the subject of tenure is a cornerstone of bargainable matters under Hawaii’s collective bargaining law, Chapter 89, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

All of the other testimonies from both tenured and non-tenured faculty alike strongly opposed the bill including the University of Hawai‘i administration.

Dynamic, Multi-faceted Role of Faculty

Faculty also presented strong, compelling, and eye-opening rationale and reasons opposing the bill. Currently, Faculty are divided into different classifications based on their primary functions and some are classified with an “I” designation for “instruction.” However, these designations do not adequately and accurately convey the multi-faceted roles of faculty. Even if faculty are branded as “R” for “researcher” or “S” for “specialist,” they are still actively engaged in the instruction and provide a wealth of services and support functions focused on student achievement and success. This underscores that designations assigned to faculty do not truly reflect the diverse professional roles, responsibilities, and work they perform for the academy and the students that they serve.   

For example, research faculty mentors graduate students in the field or in laboratories, and specialists develop lesson plans, mix lectures with activities, discussion, and practice and work with distressed students or those with disabilities to insure their success. In this sense, all faculty are involved with instruction and significantly contribute to student achievement and success.

Miriam Stark, a UH anthropology professor, cited the significant contributions of faculty at the UH Cancer Research Center, UH Economic Research Organization, Water Resources Research Center and College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources that do not fit neatly into the definition of instructional faculty but overall contribute to student achievement and success.

Faculty also noted their roles are dynamic and ever changing to accommodate the needs and priorities of the university.  This makes the amount of instruction and service to student achievement and success fluid.

Purpose of Tenure

It’s important to reiterate the purpose of tenure: academic freedom for faculty. This is just as important for faculty members engaged in research as it is for an instructional faculty member. For example, tenure ensures faculty can engage in controversial research and instruction with impunity.

Another Potentially Overreaching Bill

In addition to the bill on academic tenure, the Senate Higher Education Committee also heard another bill (SB 1394), which would require that 25% of the UH research faculty’s salary be paid with extramural funds. The bill proposed to make it a requirement for all new grants,

contracts, and agreements that begin on July l, 2021, would have to stipulate that these extramural funds would be used to pay for the research faculty’s salary.

The intent of this bill was also a way to address the state’s budget, but UHPA pointed out that in the aggregate, extramural funding sources already make up more than 25% of the research faculty salaries. This bill was deferred and UHPA will collaborate with the UH administration to provide a report on this data.

2020 UHPA Legislative Agenda

Aloha,

December has arrived and it is time to prepare for the 2020 Legislative Session.  Your legislative team will now include the members of the UHPA Board of Director’s Political Endorsement Committee.  We are excited with the expansion of our legislative team.  The team prepared the Legislative Agenda for 2020 and presented it first at the October 19, 2019 Faculty Forum for their review and input. It then went before the Board of Directors at their November 2, 2019 BOD meeting and was approved for implementation.  Top priority is the Collective Bargaining appropriations Bill.  For full details please see link below.

As we start the first legislative newsletter for the 2020 session, we would like to provide you with a few resource links

Board of Regents Financial Reports Budget

UH Budget Documents

UHPA Bill Tracking

Salary and Benefits Changes Effective July 1, 2019

Salary Increases
We are entering the third year of our four-year contract. All bargaining unit 7 members will see a salary increase of 2% effective July 1, 2019, which includes lecturers, whose updated fee schedules are outlined in Article XXI, Salaries of the UHPA-BOR 2017-2021 Contract.

EUTF Premiums and Contributions
The new EUTF Plan Year for Active Employees starts on July 1, 2019. Any plan changes made during the Open Enrollment Period (April 2019) will now be reflected in your payroll deductions.  The changes in premiums and contributions can be found here.

Legislative Update Newsletter Launches

Aloha UHPA Members,

Starting this week, UHPA will be sending out up-to-date notices as often as every Thursday about legislation, testimony and hearing notices that directly impacts faculty.  We’ll only publish articles about issues that affects you and we’ll explain why. On “slow weeks”, we won’t be sending anything out, so when you see an email with “Legislative Update”, you’ll know it’s worth your time.

Our seed list of subscribers are UHPA Board Members and UHPA Faculty Reps, but all UHPA members are welcome to subscribe, just email us and we’ll be happy to add you on the list.

For those that enjoy a good deep dive, you can always follow our bill tracker links and watch the same legislation that we’re watching.

We love hearing from UHPA members so don’t hesitate to hit reply on any issue and send us your questions and concerns.

Collective Bargaing Cost Items – ON IT

The House and Senate have introduced Bills to ensure that all cost items agreed upon will be included in the 2019 budget.  Both Bills have passed through their first committees.  We will keep you updated.