HONOLULU, Hawai‘i – In what is likely the last session of the Twenty-Eighth Legislature, members of the Senate recognized and expressed their appreciation for Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland’s 26 years in the Legislature, the last 20 with the Senate.

Before recessing the Third Special Session, Sen. Chun Oakland was presented with a Senate certificate that recognized and commended the senator from Liliha for her tireless work advocating for those in housing, health care and education. The numbers are astounding: Since being elected in 1990, Sen. Chun Oakland has presided over 22 committees, task forces, boards and other legislative entities, including the Elder Abuse and Neglect Task Force, Child Protection Roundtable, Deaf and Blind Task Force, Mental Health Task Force, and Keiki Caucus; she has served as a member of 62 others, plus another 84 community organizations; over 26 years, she has earned 119 awards from many organizations. Sen. Chun Oakland is the longest-serving chair of the Senate Human Services Committee (18 years).

In presenting her the certificate, Sen. Les Ihara called Chun Oakland the “Mother Theresa of the Senate.”

“Her heart is so big, she doesn’t flinch in making what some feel are huge, significant request for support, because she feels the real needs of others,” said Sen. Ihara. “I don’t think the Legislature has changed Susie’s caring nature; instead, she has made us all more aware and more caring legislators.”

Sen. Chun Oakland announced her retirement from legislative office in May. Her term ends on Nov. 8, 2016.


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HONOLULU, Hawai‘i – The Hawai‘i State Senate today unanimously confirmed Dakota K.M. Frenz to the District Family Court of the Third Circuit – Island of Hawai‘i and Michael K. Soong to the District Court of the Fifth Circuit – Island of Kaua‘i.

Dakota K.M. Frenz was most recently a sole proprietor of her own private law practice in Hilo specializing in criminal law, family law, and civil litigation/collections. Prior to opening her own law practice, Frenz was a partner at Laubach & Frenz, AAL, LLC, where she focused her legal practice in the same areas of law. Prior to entering private practice, Frenz served as deputy prosecuting attorney in the County of Hawai‘i where she handled cases in the District, Family, and Circuit Courts. In addition to her legal experience, she serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Ku‘ikahi Mediation Center, a member of the Board of Directors of the Hawai‘i County Bar Association, an arbitrator with the Court Annexed Arbitration Program, a member of the County of Hawai‘i Bench Bar Committee and Hawai‘i State Bench Bar Committee. She also volunteers with the Friends of Drug Court and the Self-Help Center in East Hawai‘i. Frenz is a graduate of Whittier Law School and was admitted to the Hawai‘i State Bar in 2006. Frenz fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Lloyd X. Van De Car.

“Ms. Frenz bring to the bench a reputation as an intelligent, hard-working and prepared advocate with substantial trial experience as a former county prosecutor and more recently as a private attorney,” said Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. “Her background and what people say about her makes it likely that she will be a very good addition to the District Family Court, one of the most challenging assignments for a Hawai‘i jurist.”

Michael K. Soong has nearly 30 years of trial experience and has been in private practice since 2009 focusing on criminal law, personal injury and plaintiff litigation. His work in the public sector includes being elected to two-consecutive terms as Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Kaua‘i. Prior to his tenure as the Prosecuting Attorney, he served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Kaua‘i, a Deputy Public Defender, and Deputy Corporation Counsel. Soong serves as a Board member of the Friends of the Kaua‘i Drug Court, and is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He also currently serves on the Royal Order of Kamehameha, Kaumuali‘i Chapter, Hokule‘a-Kaua‘i Crew member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and member of Na Kalai Wa‘a ‘O Kaua‘i. Soong is a graduate of Southwestern University School of Law and was admitted to the Hawaii State Bar in 1986. Soong will the vacancy due to the retirement of Judge Trudy K.T. Senda in December.

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CENTRAL OAHU, Hawai‘i – A major component of the Whitmore Project, Enterprise Zone No. 1, North Shore-Wahiawa-Mililani, has been re-designated till September 30, 2036. Working with the Honolulu City Council, City & County of Honolulu, and the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DEBDT), Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (Dist. 22 - Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o Acres, Wheeler, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, portion of Poamoho) helped push and usher the re-designation. The newly configured Enterprise Zone No.1, North Shore-Wahiawa-Mililani includes all the agricultural lands between Wahiawa and the North Shore.

Hawai‘i's Enterprise Zone Partnership Program was established in 1986 to stimulate economic growth by offering state and county tax incentives for certain types of businesses, such as agriculture, manufacturing, and technology. Eligible agricultural production and processing businesses are eligible for general excise tax and income tax exemptions, and receive a two-year exemption from any increase in property taxes resulting from new construction.

In addition to the re-designation of Enterprise Zone No. 1, Sen. Dela Cruz is working with the DBEDT and the Hawai‘i Foreign-Trade Zone No. 9 in applying for and establishing an ag-foreign trade zone within the agribusiness tech park. One benefit of a foreign trade zone is the deferring of tariffs and duties on imports and exports. This incentive will allow farmers to keep more cash on hand allowing them to reinvest into their businesses.

"We are looking at what Federal, State and County incentives we can layer to decrease the overhead cost of business for farmers. The State needs to be a proactive partner so we can decrease food imports, increase local food production, and keep our dollars in the local economy," said Sen. Dela Cruz. “We have to be aggressive with public-private partnerships to help our local businesses.”

Preserving agricultural land and providing economic incentives are only the first steps to revitalizing Hawai‘i's agriculture industry. Farmers still face challenges such as increased costs, month-to-month leases, global competition - all have contributed to the shrinking of Hawai‘i's agriculture industry while increasing foods imports, which is now almost 90 percent, according to industry analysts.

Sen. Dela Cruz has long supported and understood the farmers’ need to remain competitive in local markets, which includes creating value-added products and ag-tourism. Consolidating activities, such as processing, packaging, and retail into a single location creates a cluster for ag-businesses. Sen. Dela Cruz believes the Whitmore Agribusiness Technology Park can become a destination for the local and visitor industry creating a regional economic development hub in a rural community.

“Not only does this help in saving the agriculture industry or protecting agriculture lands, it is about creating jobs. Job creation and economic revitalization will help residents live, work, and play in their communities. Furthermore, creating jobs in the Central Oahu region will reverse traffic commutes into urban Honolulu," Sen. Dela Cruz added. "These types of development can be used as models for other regions in the State."

The ADC, University of Hawai‘i's School of Architecture Community Design Center, and the University of Arkansas Community Design Center is currently developing a master plan for the agribusiness tech park. Stakeholders expect plans to be completed by fall of next year.

Sen. Dela Cruz recognizes such initiatives in Central Oahu will not only help sustain the local agricultural industry, but hopefully grow Hawai‘i's local agricultural businesses towards a globally competitive future. It is his belief that the Whitmore Project serves as a model which can be replicated throughout the State.

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