Name: Beth Fukumoto
Current occupation: State House Representative, District 36
Political experience: State Representative, District 36: Mililani, Mililani Mauka, Waipio Acres; Vice Chair, Committee on Veterans & Military Affairs and Committee on Tourism; House Minority Leader; Leadership Advisory Council Member, She Should Run; State Director, Women in Government; State Director, Women Legislative Leaders; Fellow, Millennial Action Project; Fellow, Aspen Institute’s Rodel Fellowship for Elected Leaders
What should the government’s role be in providing access to health care? What should or should not be covered in a basic policy?
Quality healthcare is a right and the government’s role is to protect that right by ensuring that everyone has access to it, regardless of how rich they are. A single payer system, like “Medicare for All,” would accomplish this while driving down overall costs, as indicated in many studies, including the recent study by the libertarian Mercatus Center.
The Affordable Care Act, while it didn’t go far enough, nonetheless did a decent job of setting minimum coverage requirements, particularly with the inclusion of contraceptive and other family planning services. Because in addition to being important to women’s health and autonomy, these services reduce poverty in a lot of different ways.
Deadly mass shootings have fueled arguments for increased gun control. Do you agree? What should or should not be changed about America’s current gun laws?
I was in high school when the Columbine shooting took place. My parents and I had to talk about what to do during a school shooting. A generation later, I’m talking to my niece about the same things. That this is something we have to worry about, and that kids have to wonder if their desks will stop a bullet, is complete failure of our political system and a reminder of the power of special interest groups – corporate and non-corporate.
We need gun reform now. But mass shootings are just one of the many reasons we need reform. Shootings happen more frequently than they’re reported in headline-grabbing tragedies. And death by suicide makes up over 60% of gun deaths.
Extreme risk protection orders, to temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns, have been effective at reducing gun deaths in situations that involve noticeable warning signs, like suicide, domestic violence, and even mass shootings. We need a national registry, universal background checks, and mandatory waiting periods, all on the federal level, because state and county regulations have been inadequate. Even letting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives digitize their records so they’re more easily searchable, something Congress forbids them from doing, could help to reduce gun deaths by making it easier to enforce our gun laws.
In light of recent nuclear threat concerns, should the United States play a more or less prominent role in international relations? What actions should be taken?
Before President Obama met with Iran’s leaders to discuss the deal to halt their development of nuclear weapons, a lot of foreign service officers had already worked hard on all the elements of the agreement and on getting all the stakeholders to sign on to it. It’s going to take that same kind of effort if we’re going to have any hope of forming a similar agreement with a country like North Korea.
While there may be room to (simultaneously) pursue a strategy of making nuclear weapons obsolete, we should focus on incentivising countries not to develop them and imposing penalties when that isn’t feasible. We leveraged our influence over our international partners to impose sanctions on Russia, even though it was an important supplier of energy to many of our allies.
Unfortunately, our country’s leadership potential is hampered by the current administration. But that’s a temporary problem. One thing Congress can do now is use its appropriations powers to try to reverse some of the damage the administration has inflicted on the State Department’s staff to make sure we have the expertise to make new agreements. Laws can and should be passed to restrict the actions the president can take.
Congress needs to reassert its role as an equal branch of government. Eliminate the blanket authorization for the use of military force. And, insist that any administration work with Congress to move forward on major interactions with foreign governments. We do need to play a prominent role in international relations, but we should do so by investing in strong diplomacy.
A White House proposal aims to slash the Department of Interior’s budget by $1.6 billion, and shift funds from new land acquisition to the development of oil, gas, and coal. What elements of this plan would you keep, what would you change, and why?
Probably the only thing I would keep is the plan to address the national park system’s maintenance backlog. Increasing development in oil, coal, and natural gas, is particularly egregious to me because it conflicts with the plans we need to implement to reduce the effects of climate change. We can and must increase our energy supply with clean, renewable sources. Not only is it better for our environment, but more people can be employed in that sector of the economy.
I’m proposing that we end all fossil fuel subsidies and use that savings to implement a “first hurt, first helped” program that would invest those funds into the areas most affected by fossil fuel industry to rehabilitate their environments but also provide new job opportunities for those who are put out of work by the closures of these industries.
If you could introduce one piece of legislation, what would it be and why?
I would introduce comprehensive housing reform to ensure that Americans have access to affordable housing. First, there should be minimum basic housing provided by the government, to get the homeless off the streets with Housing First and other subsidized government housing programs. Everyone should have a roof over their head and a place to call home even when they can’t pay for it. Second, I would ensure affordable housing is available for average wage earners to purchase or rent by working with private developers to support affordable construction through HUD grants and low income housing tax credit programs that are not currently achieving their full potential in Hawaii. Finally, I would seek an exemption to the commerce clause of that would allow Hawaii to tax out of state property owners at higher rates. As a legislator, I’ve moved more legislation than anyone in this race that would tax out of state property owners. I’ve proposed taxing real estate investment trusts – which are essentially corporations that own property with out-of-state shareholders who build luxury developments but pay no taxes on their profits. I’ve also proposed a few other measures including a state property tax offset that would allow local residents to recoup all their property tax costs, allowing the city to increase taxes on property owners without increasing taxes on local property owners. I’ve also proposed vacancy taxes. Legislators use the commerce clause as an excuse not to move on these measures that would make sure local families aren’t pushed out of their homes by out-of-state investors. So, I would seek an exemption to the commerce clause.