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Thursday, October 3, 2013
October 3, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:48 PM :: 3746 Views

Hawaii residents, lawmakers frustrated with health connector glitches

Hawaii Health Connector Claims 1,181 Obamacare Applications

Religious Freedom? UH Law School Panel to Debate Amendments to Gay Marriage Bill

Panos: Ten Plus One Reasons Why I Do Not Support The Honolulu Rail Project

Jones Act Does Not Bar International Trade From Hawaii

Honolulu Roads 13th Worst in Nation, Cost Drivers $598 per year

KIUC Seeks PUC Approval for Monthly Meter Charges

"I'm through with Hawaii Health Connector"

AP: "I think I'm through with Hawaii Health Connector," said Richard Gamberg, 61, of Honolulu, after tweeting messages to officials and complaining to state lawmakers on Wednesday. "They've got ads in the newspaper, they've got ads on the TV - it just flabbergasts me."

He was among the would-be customers in Hawaii who were still unable to buy insurance policies online Wednesday, forcing them to turn directly to insurance companies to examine their options.

read ... Online Delays

Star-Adv: Health Connector "Troubled"

SA: Hawaii's troubled health insurance exchange saw 19,457 unique visitors to its website, completed 1,181 applications and received 1,257 calls at the start of open enrollment on Tuesday....

"Like many health marketplaces across the nation, we are working in earnest to add functionality in the coming days and weeks. When it comes to a family's or small business's budget and health care, we are focused on getting it right."

Andrews added that Connector employees are working around the clock to provide this service.

The state Insurance Division approved health plans for individuals and small businesses, but the Connector has been unable to load the rates properly on the website and won't release the information until the problem is fixed.

read ... Staff is focused on posting rate plans and "getting it right"

HGEA Sci Tech Settles Contract, Snags 11% Pay Hike

SA: Professional and scientific government workers have reached a tentative agreement with the state on a new four-year contract that includes roughly 11 percent pay raises and step adjustments.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association unit, which represents about 8,100 workers, would receive 4 percent pay raises retroactive to the start of the fiscal year in July, step adjustments starting next July, and 3.5 percent raises in January 2016 and January 2017, sources familiar with the agreement say.

Workers would pay 40 percent of their health insurance premiums, down from 50 percent....

The HGEA’s professional and scientific workers unit had rejected a two-year contract offer in April that included roughly 4 percent annual raises. The union reported at the time that 55 percent of the unit voted against the offer. Other HGEA units had previously agreed to similar terms.

The HGEA’s nurses unit and the union’s school principals and educational officers unit have yet to reach new contract agreements.

read ... Nurses, Principals Next?

HSTA to Join AFL-CIO

CB: Perreira, on behalf of the AFL-CIO, has advocated extensively for legislation aimed at building a public preschool network in the state.

“Without making the commitment and securing funding for universal access to early childhood education, we risk not having a sufficiently prepared workforce for the future,” Perreira said in a promotional insert in Hawaii Business magazine. “Now is the time to make early childhood education a reality for all.”

That stands in contrast to the HSTA, which strongly opposed parts of the legislation that would allow for public money to be paid to private preschool providers.

read ... part of strategy to stop Early Ed?

Development Agency and Kakaako to Face Lawmakers' Scrutiny

CB: It was a sweltering, standing-room only affair when a proposed 46-story condominium and its accompanying 107-foot-tall parking garage brought nearly 200 people to the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s offices in Kakaako on Wednesday.

The skyscraper and parking facility are part of a contentious mixed-use housing project at the site of the old Honolulu Advertiser building on the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard and South Street, and the HCDA was holding a public hearing to let citizens voice their concerns....

While Saiki’s testimony was popular among those who are skeptical of the HCDA, it also put the state agency on notice. After all Saiki was one of nearly two dozen representatives from both parties who sponsored the bill that abolished the Public Development Land Corporation in the 2013 Legislative session.

It is unlikely that the HCDA will suffer the same fate, but the concerns about the agency appear to be similar to those about the PLDC, which was the state’s profit-making venture to develop public lands. Both agencies were created to expedite the development of property by allowing them to get around various environmental and planning rules, and both have been criticized for being too powerful.

“As we have previously stated, the Legislature created the HCDA in 1976 to give it the autonomy to plan and coordinate community development and renewal projects, not just in Kakaako, but in Kalealoa, Heeia and Hamakua on the Big Island,” Saiki said. “In doing so, the Legislature stated that the creation of HCDA would quote, unquote ‘serve the public interest.’ We submit that as part of its statutory duty HCDA must make a greater effort to specifically address increasing concerns related to overdevelopment, height density and infrastructure in the Kakaako district.”

SA: Condo developer bullish on outlook for Kakaako

SA: Nearby residents oppose condo tower proposal

HR: Honolulu Seminar Sheds Light on Opportunities with Chinese Real Estate Investors

read ... Kakaako

Hawaii State Salaries 2013: Huge Pay Hike for Judges

CB: Until the raises went into effect July 1, Hawaii trial judges ranked last in the nation in terms of salary when the cost of living was factored in, according to a comparison by the National Center for State Courts.

There were 32 circuit judges earning $136,127 per year in 2012, which put them 25th nationally — and that's before calculating in Hawaii's cost of living, which is the nation's highest. When the salaries were adjusted to reflect this, the state's circuit judge salaries were dead last.

That all changed July 1 when the raises took effect.

Thirty-three circuit judges now make $185,736 per year, more than their counterparts in any other state were earning as of Jan. 1. The new salaries don't make Hawaii's circuit judges the highest paid when the cost of living is considered, but it certainly gives them a big boost.

The state’s 36 district judges enjoyed a similarly large salary bump, from $128,296 in 2012 to $175,032 in 2013.

Pay at the highest court followed suit.

Hawaii’s four associate justices earned $151,118 per year in 2012. They’ll make $206,184 in the 2013 fiscal year.

The head of the Hawaii Supreme Court, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, saw his pay go from $156,727 last year to $213,840 for 2013.

Recktenwald remains the highest-paid employee in the Judiciary, which employed 1,854 employees as of July 1. (That is a 73-employee decline from the previous year.)

read ... Judge This

Kauai: Abercrombie Comes Up Short of What's Needed to Give Councilmembers an Out from Luddite Mob

KGI: The Kauai County Council’s Planning Committee unanimously approved Wednesday sending a proposal to the Legislature to fund three pesticide inspectors at the state Department of Agriculture.

“In my correspondence to the governor, I asked him to reestablish the positions that were removed by his predecessor,” said Council Chair Jay Furfaro, who introduced the proposal.

The state’s responsibility is “very clear” in the Hawaii Pesticide Law, but they don’t have staff to enforce it due to budget cuts during the previous state administration, he said.

“It only makes sense to ask them to reinstate those positions, which came out to $555,000,” said Furfaro, adding the money would cover salaries, benefits and support staff.

The request now moves from the five-member committee to the full council, where all seven council members will weigh in. A final council approval means inclusion of the proposed bill in the 2014 Kauai County Legislative Package.

In the meantime, the council is crafting county Bill 2491, which gives the county some power to regulate pesticide use. Bill 2491 was approved by the council’s Economic Development (Agriculture) Committee last week and is heading to the full council for final approval.

Councilman Ross Kagawa said the council made progress with Bill 2491, “but still, the state has to step it up.”

“Myself and council member (Mel) Rapozo, we have worked long and hard on trying to get the state’s attention,” he said. “Gov. (Neil) Abercrombie just came up a little too late and too short.”

Ha: Hawaii County's Bill 113 & the Big Picture

Sept 23 2013: GMOs: Abercrombie to Impose Pesticide Standards, Setbacks on Farmers

read ... GMOs

Fracking: Hawaii County Council Ctte Votes 7-0 to Ban Something that Doesn't Exist in Hawaii

HTH: A bill to ban hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — received the support of the Hawaii County Council during its first reading Wednesday.

The council, which must vote on the bill one more time, voted 7-0 in support after amending the legislation to increase penalties. Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi and Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter were both absent....

No geothermal companies have publicly stated any intent to use enhanced geothermal in Hawaii.

More than a dozen people spoke in favor of the bill.  Many were from Puna....

One concern with enhanced geothermal, or perhaps a benefit depending on how one looks at it, is the potential to unlock underground heat sources away from the isle’s active rift zones.

That could potentially lead to a further expansion of geothermal power, which is promoted by its supporters as offering a way to provide affordable, renewable energy, but criticized by opponents who see the technology as not safe or reliable.

“This is not just about Puna,” Ford said. “It could happen on other islands, too.”

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, also spoke in favor of the bill.

He introduced an anti-fracking bill last session which was later withdrawn in favor of a resolution. Ruderman has said he plans to propose a statewide ban again next year.

read ... Banning Something that Doesn't Exist

KIUC Asks for Natural Gas Fuels in Latest Bid

Coop News: “We’ve had many discussions with various alternative fuel suppliers over the years, but it’s never progressed to the point of written proposals,” said Brad Rockwell, power supply manager of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative headquartered in Lihue.

The co-op issued its first formal request for information to prospective fuel suppliers, Sept. 24. Co-op managers are hoping to learn more about potential supplies of various fossil fuels, including oil, natural gas and biofuels.

KIUC currently operates conventional power stations with peak-rated capacity of nearly 122,000 kilowatts. The fleet includes nine diesel generators, two gas turbines and one steam unit. Older hydroelectric units also supply about 1,300 kw of rated capacity to its system.

With no local fossil fuel source production, KIUC has met annual demand for diesel, naptha and used or recycled oil with shipments from mainland U.S. ports more than 2,000 miles away. The co-op’s existing fuel supply contract expires in April 2015.

The co-op also has set a goal of generating at least 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2023.

read ... Natural gas

DoE Enrollment Jumps 1%, Charters 2% 

SA: Enrollment at Hawaii’s public schools is up by 1.1 percent over last school year, an increase of about 2,000 students, according to figures released Tuesday by the Department of Education.

A total of 185,273 students are enrolled in public schools for the 2013-14 year.

That includes 9,797 students in 33 public charter schools — a 2.1 percent increase — and 173,658 students in 255 DOE schools, a 1 percent increase over last year.

The DOE attributes the growth to a large number of births in 2008 — resulting in a bump in kindergarten enrollment this year — and more students staying in public schools rather than opting for private schools.

read ... Lots of Births in 2008

Study: Number of homeless living on Oahu underestimated

HNN: Findings from a local independent report released by C. Peraro Consulting, LLC assessing the quality of the annual homeless count reported that unsheltered homelessness may be underestimated by as much as 40 to 59 percent.

The one-day street count in Oahu was reported earlier this year by the State of Hawaii as 1,475 persons.

Results from the study show a potential undercount of between 587 and 875 persons, putting the total well over 2,000 and as high as 2,350 persons.

PDF: Full Text of Study

SA: Safe Haven homeless facility searches for new quarters

read ... Homeless

UH Manoa Oppresses Tobacco Smokers Effective Jan 1

SA: The University of Hawaii's Manoa campus plans to toughen its anti-smoking policy starting Jan. 1 with a total ban on tobacco products and electronic cigarettes — a move that would make it the first tobacco-free college campus in the state.

School officials say the ban is aimed at creating a healthier campus. Smoking is already prohibited in buildings and most outdoor areas, including courtyards, "breezeways" and terraces, under the UH system's smoking policy.

read ... But Welcomes Marijuana as Always

College Rankings get to Bottom Line

SA: A recent report caused a stir by ranking U.S. colleges based on how much their alumni earn, calculating in cold, hard cash the return on educational investment. The University of Hawaii, for one, cried foul, with a vice chancellor asserting that how much recent graduates earn was no way to accurately measure the quality and outcomes of higher education.

Of the Hawaii colleges included in the report, Hawaii Pacific University ranked best for return on investment, at No. 306, followed by UH-Manoa at No. 467 and Chaminade at No. 729....

And, for what it's worth, despite UH's middling ranking, the report did reveal the value of a bachelor's degree from Hawaii's largest university. Manoa graduates on average earned $73,000 a year after 10 years in their respective fields, topping Honolulu's median household income of $71,263 and nearly reaching — with a single earner — Hawaii's average family income of $78,757, according to Census data.

read ... Manoa?

Wonder Scammer to Face Trial March 18

SA: One of the defendants — Sean Barriero, 44, — pleaded guilty to transporting the university's money. He is out on $200,000 bail until he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi on Dec. 5.

The other defendant — Marc Hubbard, owner of Castle Entertainment in North Carolina, who is alleged to have orchestrated the theft — faces trial March 18 on charges of wire fraud before Kobayashi. Hubbard entered a plea of not guilty in Novem¬≠ber and is free on $200,000 bond secured by property he owns. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Barriero, a British national who lives in Miami and the head of Epic Talent LLC, received the university's $200,000 in an escrow account, federal prosecutors said. Barriero spent some of the money on personal purchases, including a Mercedes-Benz.

read ... Wonders

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