State briefs for February 12

Lawmakers debate child care and early learning goals

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers seeking to increase affordable child care in the state face a debate over the qualifications for providers.

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House and Senate leaders have made child care part of a joint legislative package negotiated with Democratic Gov. David Ige.

A divide is emerging between those who want flexibility in qualifying child care or early learning teachers and those who say instructors must be well trained in early childhood education.

Teacher qualifications impact the level of care and learning that could be provided in an expanded system.

A 2017 study by the University of Hawaii’s Center on the Family found the demand for child care in the state greatly exceeded supply.

One of the major initiatives of the legislative package is a Senate bill aimed at expanding parents’ options for early learning opportunities for children between 3- and 4-years-old, establishing a state goal to provide access to programs for all children in that age group.

The measure calls for moving the Executive Office of Early Learning to the Department of Human Services. The office currently operates Hawaii’s public preschool program within the Department of Education.

House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke, a Democrat, supports the bill. Expanding early learning requires collaboration with the private sector, which the state education department cannot achieve, she said.

About 20,000 kids children between 3 and 4 years old do not have access to preschools, child care or early education opportunities due to financing and availability, she said.

Rep. Justin Woodson, a Democrat who chairs the House Lower and Higher Education Committee and supports the bill, said that although the measure aims to expand the early learning program, he opposes dismantling public preschools.

“The public pre-K program, that will not change, that will not be altered,” Woodson said. “We’re going to continue to expand our public pre-K program. That is the intention.”

Legislator proposes expansion of deadly force law

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii legislator has proposed an expansion of the state’s law allowing residents to use deadly force to defend themselves at their homes and businesses.

A bill introduced by Democratic Rep. Sean Quinlan would allow people to defend themselves without fear of criminal prosecution.

Current Hawaii law allows residents to use deadly force only if situations occur inside their homes, but not outside on their property.

“If someone comes onto my property and they have a gun, they want to steal things from me, and maybe harm me, and I end up having to use deadly force to protect myself, I’m going to get arrested,” Quinlan said. “To me, that’s just wrong. That’s totally backwards.”

Quinlan believes Honolulu police are doing their best to address crime, but a shortage of officers requires communities to have more tools for protection.

“If we don’t have enough police officers, that suggests to me that we need to start defending ourselves,” he said.

The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee but has not been given a hearing date.

Quinlan’s proposal is similar to “Stand Your Ground” laws in other states that say residents do not have to retreat from potentially violent confrontations before using deadly force.

Critics of “Stand Your Ground” have said the laws encourage more violence and are based on how threatened a person feels versus the reality of a threat.

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Supporters in Hawaii such as Michael Kitchens, the creator of anti-crime social media group Stolen Stuff Hawaii, believe the change would make criminals think twice.

“Knowing the fact that I don’t have to be inside my home, I don’t have to run away from you, I have a right to stand my ground on my property, that is a huge deterrent to anybody,” Kitchens said.

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