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Monday, September 28, 2009
September 28, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:19 PM :: 6351 Views

Lingle not to blame for teacher furloughs

Gov. Lingle does not have the legal authority to furlough or lay off teachers or other Department of Education employees, nor is she able to determine when schools will be closed.

The decision to furlough teachers and close schools on furlough days was not something anyone wanted. However, the DOE, BOE and HSTA felt it was the fairest way to address the budget shortfall.

They could have laid off employees or implemented pay cuts and required teachers to work. They could have had teachers take furloughs on non-instructional days or on state holidays.

More agit-prop: Furlough days mean missed meals , Mayor Kenoi Announces Program to Help Families on Furlough Days 

RELATED: Furloughs vs Layoffs: The union no-solution strategy

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Teachers' health cost stays same in Hawaii (VEBA Plan nearly insolvent)

The VEBA program has not been trouble-free, however. The HSTA Member Benefits Corp., a for-profit subsidiary of the teachers' union that handled administrative tasks, filed for bankruptcy this year after under-reporting its tax liability.

In June, the teachers' union — citing insurance losses and anticipating rate increases — dropped HMSA as its claims administrator in favor of HMA. Under the HMA plan, teachers pay a higher copayment for medical services — 20 percent instead of the 10 percent under HMSA — but their premium rates remain the same.

In August, the teachers' union announced that it would bring back HMSA as an option, although teachers have to pay substantially higher premium rates, a 21 percent increase for the individual plan and a 16 percent increase for the family plan.

State lawmakers considered a bill last session to move up the sunset date for the pilot program and ensure that the teachers' union, not the state, would be held liable if the VEBA fund became insolvent. The bill failed. But several lawmakers remain concerned and may not be inclined to extend the pilot after this fiscal year.

"I think we've given it the time to run its course," said state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), a labor attorney.

Takeno, the HSTA's interim executive director, said the union would ask for an extension. "Absolutely," he said. "If VEBA is not extended, it will hurt all employees since HSTA members will be forced back into the EUTF. HMSA and Kaiser would have the monopoly on the medical insurance market again since we cannot negotiate our own separate rates with them, as well as with other carriers like HMA."

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ADV: OHA strategy gets needed fine-tuning

(Fine-tuning?  That's a laugh!  But given the amount of advertising OHA does in the HA and SB, this kind of vacuous BS is no surprise.)

But as trustees consider the plan's final touches, they must evaluate those staffing reorganizations with care, to ensure that OHA's new focus on research comes without sacrificing too much in continuity. They need to keep lines open with the community they serve so that critical needs don't get short shrift. 

(Afraid the people they fire are going to turn on OHA?  So keep slackers on payroll to keep politics in line?)

READ: OHA driving Hawaiians out of Hawaii , Akaka Bill Reading List , It's September--Do you know where your Akaka Bill is?

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Shaping U.S. ocean policy (Fish farming?  Fishing strangled by enviros?)

"I think the fishery management system in America is broken," he said. The regional councils that do the managing, Gaffney added, focus too much on commercial fishing interests at the expense of others, such as conservation needs.

Citing one example, he noted the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council played a key role in the collapse of the lobster fishery in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. "They rode that fishery right into the ground, and it still hasn't recovered," said Gaffney, who used to serve on the council.

Ostrowski, who is interim president of Oceanic Institute, a research institution affiliated with Hawai'i Pacific University, wants the Obama administration to develop an aquaculture policy that is based on science. There currently is no policy.

In such a void, decisions about aquaculture proposals are driven mainly by fear, triggering attempts to halt the developments, Ostrowski said.

"It's all based on fear," he said.

Along with additional funding, a science-based policy that covers permitting, environmental effects and other such issues would help Hawai'i's young aquaculture industry grow, he said.

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Lay nets threaten Hawaii sea life

Dozens of lay gillnets, stretching a total of several miles, have been seized by state conservation enforcement officers since new regulations were established in 2007 governing use of the nets and banning them from Maui waters and three nearshore areas of O'ahu.

DLNR Chairwoman Laura H. Thielen said the rules so far have had "some modest effect" in reducing the impact of lay netting on coral reef ecosystems.

"We also found out it really illustrates how difficult and complicated fishing regulations can be, and the challenges in enforcing fishing regulations and rules," she said.

Hawai'i is the only state that does not prohibit inshore lay nets, which are banned or severely restricted in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Fiji and many other Pacific island nations and territories.

Even with the new restrictions, the nets are still allowed in 75 percent of waters around the main Hawaiian Islands, and DLNR enforcement has been hampered by staff and funding shortages.

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Time to move ahead with next landfill

It's anticipated that the city's aggressive waste disposal plans — expanded curbside recycling, a third boiler at H-Power and a contract to ship garbage to the Mainland — will reduce O'ahu's garbage output significantly enough to make a large-scale landfill unnecessary.

That's a laudable goal, but we're not there yet. And it's unlikely those plans will eliminate the need for a landfill entirely. Not everything can be burned by H-Power, and hiring private contractors to haul garbage away can't be depended on as a permanent, financially stable solution.... (WHY NOT?)

But if (Hanabusa's) longstanding promises posturing to the community are to be kept, and the LUC's orders followed, then the status quo is not an option. Another site must be found, and it's up to the council, working with the Hannemann administration, to start looking, immediately.  (Help Colleen at Mufi's expense.)

(Another option.  Use the ash from H Power to produce concrete and/or asphalt.)

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Environmental Council defers further work

Council Chairwoman Gail Grabowsky, a Chaminade University professor, wrote the state Department of Health last month saying the council wouldn't reconvene until "the conditions to conduct a successful council meeting have been met."

The normally low-profile council briefly stepped into the spotlight in 2007, when it passed a resolution saying the state should conduct an environmental impact statement for the Superferry. Six months after the council's Superferry recommendation, the state Supreme Court arrived at a similar conclusion.

(Good riddance to anti-Superferry rubbish) 

RELATED: Superferry Update: A rat, a coward, and thin-skinned pseudo intellectuals , Unperplexing Opposition to the Hawaii Superferry

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Hawaii beach weddings targeted

(The economy is down so what do the NIMBYs do?  Same thing they ALWAYS do.)

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Abercrombie: Withdraw from Afghanistan

(As usual, Abercrombie is doing his best to help the Islamists)

"Absent clear and achievable policy objectives and a cold-eyed assessment of the costs to achieve them, the United States should not commit a single additional Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine to Afghanistan.... The United States could consider providing financial, logistical, intelligence and other support to an Afghan government and training for its security forces. But only if American goals in Afghanistan abandon fanciful and messianic visions of "fixing" a nation that is simply not fixable by outsiders."

(Who said anything about "fixing" Afghanistan?  We're trying to "fix" the Taliban and al-Qaeda.  Job not finished yet.)

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