The reins need to be tightened on personal liability suits driving up costs for businesses, as well as medical care, said Frederick F. Fogel, a Libertarian candidate seeking the House District 3 seat.
“Getting $1 million for being burned after spilling coffee in your lap out of a to-go window is driving up (insurance) costs for business, medicine and doctors,” Fogel said. “It’s all tied into those costs because the potential for outlandish awards for personal liability is there.”
Tort reform in Hawaii would include limiting how much can be awarded in a personal liability case, he said. Further ideas can be ascertained by looking to the rest of the country, where tort reform has been included in many initiatives, and the world, such as Great Britain, where if a suit is deemed frivolous, the plaintiff is responsible for not only their legal costs, but also the defendant’s legal expenses.
Whether the money businesses, medical companies and doctors save goes toward hiring or into their own pockets is another point, Fogel said. However, he noted the money would go around, hopefully, helping to spur the economy.
Fogel is vying for the Libertarian nomination in the upcoming Aug. 11 primary election. The district has no incumbent candidate following the state’s reapportionment process. Though he filed as a Libertarian candidate, Fogel said he considers himself a Libertarian who is also nonpartisan. If elected, Fogel said he would like to attract a privately funded monorail to the Ka‘u region. Such a project would bring jobs during both construction and operation, tourism and provide a quick, cheap means of transportation from Hilo to Kona.
To support the Department of Education in improving public schools, Fogel said the Legislature needs to first do away with the Board of Education and reduce administrative bureaucracy, where a good chunk of education funding is spent. Legislators can also help by empowering parents through a voucher system that gives them a choice of school, Fogel explained.
“There is not a company out there that would exist with a board that has such a dismal record as our Board of Education has had over the past 20 years,” Fogel said. “If a private company had a board in existence like this it would have been gone years ago.”
As for concerns about busing students to school, Fogel said, “it’s a matter of priorities. The money is there, you just got to spend it on busing.” He also noted that the state, rather than asking the department for how it can remedy the situation should be asking bus drivers. Reducing Hawaii’s reliance on fossil fuels will require the state to change the way it regulates and allows utilities to operate. Fogel claims that the Public Utilities Commission, the state’s lone utilities regulator, is hindering the transition to alternative energy by allowing Hawaii Electric Light Co. to charge high rates for energy it purchases cheap, and company rules that limit renewable energy running on the electric grid.
“Get the PUC out of the bed with HELCO and HECO,” Fogel stated. “We have the best potential for alternative energy in the U.S. Period. Unfortunately, HELCO is heavily invested in generating power through fossil fuel and it doesn’t want to let it go — because it hasn’t amortized the cost.”
Fogel said he supports increasing geothermal energy production so long as all safety and environmental issues are addressed. He also would want to see buffer zone established around a facility. Funding should be private, however, the state can assist with permitting and less stringent environmental requirements.
As for taxes, Fogel said he does not support taxing food and medicine. He would also like to see the state institute a flat 10 percent state income tax that would “increase some people’s tax and decrease other’s.”
On user fees, Fogel said some are necessary, but the money being collected needs to support the service being rendered. Any changes need to be reasonable.