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A Sham of a Hearing (SB 3269 SD 1)

The Facts of What Really Happened

We went through the recording of the SB3269 hearing and pulled out important soundbites you need to know. In UHPA’s opinion, this was an example of collusion at its finest and the epitome of a rigged hearing. There was unanimous written opposition to the bill. Its sole support came from former Board of Regents (BOR) member Jan Sullivan whose written testimony continues to remain elusive and invisible. 

We’ve extensively hyperlinked to relevant sections of the videotaped hearing along with timestamps in YouTube so you can see and hear this yourself. 

Chair Kim Calls Out UHPA

Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Donna Mercado Kim started the meeting on SB 3269, SD 1 by calling out UHPA on its member communications saying that the measure was not action taken by her or the legislature.  Chair Mercado Kim stated that the measure was proposed by the Board of Regents (BOR) Permitted Interaction Group (PIG), and that it was not the Legislature’s attempt to take away or insert themselves over the BOR. Chair Mercado Kim was referring to the UHPA newsletter (32:18-32:51) that is posted on the UHPA webpage. 

Jan Sullivan Referencing Written Testimony That Doesn’t Exist

At the start of Thursday’s Senate Higher Education Committee (HRE) meeting, there was posted online a total of 579 pages of written testimony on the proposed SB 3269, SD 1. All written testimony posted online at the time of the hearing were opposed to the HRE passing proposed SB 3269, SD 1. During oral testimony, Senate HRE Chair Donna Mercado Kim called on former BOR member Jan Sullivan (Chief Operating Officer Oceanit) and former BOR Chair (and current BOR member) Ben Kudo (Attorney Ashford & Wriston) to provide their oral testimony on the proposed SB 3269, SD 1. Sullivan expressed strong support for the bill and continuously referenced her written testimony (34:49), while ironically BOR Kudo only stated facts, did not take a position, and did not submit any written testimony.  

For many of us who looked through all the written testimonies submitted prior to the hearing, it was bewildering to comprehend since Sullivan’s written testimony was non-existent or available online.  It could’ve been written in invisible ink and contained in some of the blank pages in the 579 pages of written testimonies submitted.    

Sullivan Criticizes the Board of Regents (Where She Served)

While being questioned by HRE Chair Donna Mercado Kim about the Board of Regent’s Permitted Action Group (PIG), Sullivan criticized the BOR for not performing its responsibilities for granting tenure. Sullivan stated that at one time the BOR used to act on tenure and promotions, but she objected because she believed the BOR had no idea what they were approving.  Sullivan stated that they had no background on individuals, how it was justified and prioritized, and thought it did not make sense for the BOR to perform those functions. Thus, the policies were changed to delegate those responsibilities to the UH President (i.e. because of their lack of understanding, knowledge, and experience with tenure the BOR removed themselves from the process). Wow?! After more than a decade (serving two (2) five-year terms as a BOR appointee), a reasonable person might come to expect that any long-term serving Regent would at least have a basic understanding of academic tenure. (58:29-59:38)

Board of Regents Double Talk?

During former BOR Chair Ben Kudo’s oral testimony, he testified that the BOR voted not to take any action on the PIG recommendations because the SCR 201 Task Group had not been formed and when he tried to explain the recommendations of the SCR 201 Task Force, Sen. Mercado Kim abruptly cut off former BOR Chair Kudo (36:17-37:47) saying his time was up.  Again, Regent Kudo only offered to state the facts and didn’t take a position on the measure. 

Since the BOR didn’t submit any written or oral testimony, the question is: Was Regent Kudo speaking on behalf of the BOR or as an individual?  Regent Kudo didn’t qualify and/or clarify who he was speaking for or on behalf of during his oral testimony.  Was his testimony on behalf of the BOR in support of SB 3269, SD1, or was it his own personal testimony in support of SB 3269, SD1, in which the BOR has yet to take action on these recommendations? Or was he trying to provide background information but was prohibited from continuing?

Who From the PIG Actually Proposed This?

Chair Mercado Kim explained that SB 3269 was proposed by the BOR PIG (32:50-32:56).  The BOR PIG consisted of BOR members Jan Sullivan, Ben Kudo, Ernest Wilson, Robert Westerman, UH officials Deb Halbert, Bonnie Irwin, Erika Lacro, Brennon Morioka, Velma Kameoka, and UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern.  However, only BOR PIG member Jan Sullivan testified in support of the measure.  In the spirit of transparency, honesty, and openness of elected officials, one should provide further clarification on who specifically asked the Legislature to introduce SB 3269.  Whether it was several, all, or just one of the BOR PIG members who asked for its introduction, and/or whether it was approved by the BOR as a body of the whole.  It is clear and evident that the BOR didn’t submit any written or provide any oral testimony on SB 3269, SD1.  Thus, there are serious, unanswered questions regarding who specifically supported and authorized the introduction of SB 3269 from the BOR. 

Senator Kurt Fevella: A Must LISTEN 

During questioning, Senator Kurt Fevella at the end of the hearing went into a rant (1:05:09 – 1:08:36) about how he personally felt about: 1) the individuals testifying in opposition of the bill; 2) why he believes the bill will improve the quality of life for everyone at UH; 3) how he didn’t appreciate the individuals testifying in opposition spreading false narratives and bad mouthing Chair Mercado Kim; 4) UH researchers cannot perform legitimate research work if they are not physically on site; 5) how our State pays for everything and that UH is the only university in the nation that is funded by state funds or taxpayer monies; 6) that UH researchers don’t bring in 80% of their research funds in which most colleges in the mainland require that of their researchers; 7) that the Hawaiian community didn’t get their facts straight, that their arguments are based on a false premises, that there tenured colleagues from the other campuses told them to testify on this bill, and said in the end to remember We was here for you guys; and 8) all this is being done to save “some” taxpayer money. 

Union Solidarity Demonstrated 

UHPA and its over 3,185 members across the State sends a shout out with deep appreciation and gratitude for the support provided by our fellow unionized brothers and sisters who submitted testimony in opposition to SB 3269, SD 1, on behalf of UHPA:

  • Hawaii Government Employees Association, AFSCME, Local 152
  • State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers
  • Hawaii Nurses’ Association, OPEIU, Local 50
  • Hawaii State AFL-CIO
  • United Public Workers, AFSCME, Local 646
  • Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, Inc. 
  • International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Local 665
  • Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, Local 1463 
  • Graduate Student Organization 

Our fellow unionized brothers and sisters understand that this bill encroaches on public employees constitutionally protected collective bargaining rights guaranteed by the Hawaii State Constitution, and that an injury to one is an injury to all.   

The Fight Has Just Begun

The bill now heads to the Senate Ways and Means (WAM) Committee.  UHPA will keep you apprised of the next steps through our News Flashes to your inbox. You can catch up any time via our website article archives.

In Solidarity We Stand!