Hawaii Supreme Court to Review Haleakala Telescope Case
Students behind the UH Hilo free speech case speak out for the first time
Budget Leaves State Cash Reserves Dangerously Low
Would better funding for OIP improve transparency?
City Files Lien Against Hawaii Kai Sludge Dumper in Waianae
Top Abercrombie Aide Joins Lobbying Firm Behind Abercrombie's Cabinet
CB: Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s chief of staff Bruce Coppa has landed a lobbying job with Hawaii’s top lobbying firm, Capitol Consultants of Hawaii.
The company is the state’s largest governmental relations and lobbying firm, and regular Civil Beat readers need no introduction to the guys who run the place, John Radcliffe and Red Morris. The two Hawaii lobbyists are big players in state politics and government, including among the biggest contributors to political campaigns and organizations. Radcliffe in particular is a close associate of Abercrombie.
Coppa will be executive vice president and partner, according to a press release.
Coppa, former executive director of Pacific Resource Partnership — the Carpenters Union and contractors trade group that was instrumental in the 2012 Honolulu mayoral campaign — has been vice president of E.E. Black, a major construction company in Hawaii, and an executive with Communications Pacific, a large Honolulu communications and public relations firm....
read ... No Surprise
True Story: Hawaii County Hires Psychologist to Study anti-Geothermal Punatics
WHT: The Windward Planning Commission on Thursday approved the allocation of $293,760 for a study on the impact of geothermal development on Native Hawaiians.
The request, which taps Hawaii County’s geothermal asset fund, came from geothermal critics and others who say the state’s indigenous population has been ignored during discussions surrounding the contentious issue.
Michael Edelstein, an environmental psychologist identified by claimants Puna Pono Alliance, Pele Defense Fund, Sierra Club-Moku Ola Group, Ohana Hoopakele and Malu Aina will conduct the study. (Translation: The Punatics are running the asylum.)
In two 4-0 votes, the commission approved the funding request and directed the county Planning Department to help draft a plan for a Native Hawaiian Health Study Review Board, also requested by the claimants.
According to the funding request, Edelstein will “conduct a baseline and prospective psycho-social impact assessment on the Big Island of Hawaii in order to identify both past, existing and potential adverse impacts upon Native Hawaiians associated with the development of geothermal energy generation facilities.”
Related: Anti-GMO Activism Caused by Illegal TVRs?
read ... Mental Case
Recycling glass feels good but it's costing Hawaii a lot
Borreca: Next to watching videos of puppies and pandas, one of the best warm and fuzzy moments happens when you recycle stuff....
Good for you, but you may want to recheck your karma when it comes to bottles....
Between October 2012 and September 2013, we brought in 23,500 tons of glass bottles and jars. That includes 29,941,561 wine and spirit bottles, according to the state health department....
In 2013, the state picked up a whopping $804,000 for all those bottles.
If the state or county collects the bottles and tries to recycle them, it costs much more than the 11⁄2 cents we charge to bring the glass into Hawaii.
The shipping charge last year was $116 per ton of glass. The glass is taken to Strategic Materials in Oakland, Calif., which pays Hawaii between $5 and $9 a ton for the glass.
"Economically, this is not an attractive option," the state auditor's report notes.
So if we are going broke by hauling the glass around the Pacific, why not get the same warm recycling feeling by using it here?
Background: Auditor: State Policies Create Barrier to Glass Recycling
read ... Feeeel Good
Tranny's School's Charter May be First to be Revoked
SA: The commission overseeing public charter schools moved Thursday to begin shutting down the financially strapped Halau Lokahi Public Charter School Thursday, ending a months-long struggle to keep the Hawaiian-focused school afloat.
The nine-member Charter School Commission voted 6-2 to issue a notice of revocation to the Kalihi school, representing the first step toward closing the school. The school will have a 30-day window to appeal. If upheld, it would be the first time a Hawaii charter has been revoked.
Tom Hutton, the commission's executive director, said staff will immediately begin reaching out to parents of the school's 114 students in kindergarten through high school to help find alternatives.
Students were scheduled to return from winter break Tuesday.
Flashback: (Transsexual) Kumu Hina Wong-Kalu, director of culture, Halau Lokahi Public Charter School
read ... Insolvent
Medicaid Cuts off Hilo's Welfare Doctor, Prosecutes Him
HNN: A man affectionately known as Hilo's welfare doctor for aiding the underserved stands accused of fraud. But many on the Big Island are rallying to his defense.
In September, the state cut off Medicaid reimbursements to Dr. Frederick Nitta, saying he overbilled the program more than $1.2 million when he gave drug screening tests to patients.
But Nitta said it was all a mistake, involving wrong billing codes.
"How can I help people get off drugs ... get them off drugs before they deliver their baby if I'm going to be a hypocrite and commit fraud," said a tearful Nitta.
Right now, he's one of the only OBs taking new patients in Hilo.
But without Medicaid reimbursements, many fear people will go untreated....
The drug test used by Nitta allows for the testing of up to 14 different drug classes. Nitta said his officer workers were told by a manufacturer's representative and by other physicians that he could bill for each of the 14 tests.
However, HMSA recently told him that was improper, prompting Medicare's watchdogs to investigate.
"The pattern of the numbers of drug kits he was billing the state for all seemed to indicate that it was in fact fraudulent," said Kurt Kresta, an investigator for the Department of Human Services.
But Nitta's attorney Eric Seitz said that proving a fraud case requires the state to show that Nitta intentionally overbilled Medicaid with idea of profiting from that.
He said Nitta did none of that and will pay back the money.
"There is no credible allegation of fraud. Yes, there was overcharging but the explanation for the overcharging is based on a lot of confusion," said Seitz....
The dispute underscores problems physicians face when dealing with the arcane world of healthcare billing codes.
Jeri Leong, executive director of the Healthcare Coding Experts of Hawaii, said billing codes can be very confusion because they change so much.
During the past year, insurers HMSA, UHA Healthcare and AlohaCare have all had to issue clarifications and guidances on how to bill for these types of tests.
Medicare issued similar guidance in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
"There's mass confusion out there," Leong said.
"We have other clients who have billed for these similar services and so this is an area we have been researching and advising on."
For now, Nitta said he's still seeing his clients even though he's not getting paid for them.
"There will be a public health crisis if they continue to withhold reimbursements from him," said Seitz.
read ... Medicaid
Kaiser Makes no Offer for MMMC
PBN: Kaiser Permanente Hawaii told employees in a memo distributed on Thursday that it did not submit a financial proposal to acquire Maui Memorial Medical Center.
Maui Memorial Medical Center is one of 13 hospitals in the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. state network, which is currently facing a $48 million deficit for fiscal year 2015.
"Today we are informing the Hawaii Legislature that Kaiser Permanente did not submit a financial proposal to acquire Maui Memorial Medical Center," the memo said. "Instead we have proposed working with them on ways to manage health care operations in order to provide affordable, high quality health care to the Maui community. We are looking forward to continuing these discussions."
read ... MMMC
Attorneys Question Hawaii PUC’s Approval of Wind Farm
CB: HECO urged commissioners not to wait for the environmental review to be completed before ruling on the project because the wind farm developer might lose out on a lucrative federal tax incentive that expired at the end of 2014. The utility also argued that a regulatory delay could have a chilling effect upon renewable energy development across the state.
On Dec. 31, commissioners approved the project, arguing that nothing in the state’s environmental review law, known as Chapter 343, required that they wait for the EIS.
But local attorneys with expertise in environmental law say that the PUC should have waited.
“If they make a decision first and do the environmental review later, that is illegal,” said David Henkin, an attorney at Honolulu-based Earthjustice, an environmental law firm. “It completely undermines the purpose of having environmental review.” ...
Henkin said that the PUC had opened itself up to potential litigation in prematurely ruling on the Na Pua Makani wind farm.
“If anyone is upset about what the PUC did then they would have to take it to court and relatively quickly,” he said.
read ... Questions
NextEra: Merger Discussion Began Last May
IM: On December 13, 2014, I published “The Inside Scoop on HECO’s Four Year Death Cycle.”
The blog suggested that Nextera and HEI started negotiating in May.
HECO President and CEO Alan Oshima personally told me I was wrong and the facts would soon emerge.
Nextera just released the facts. The discussions started in May.
SA: Lau to receive $10 million upon HEI's purchase
read ... Inside Scoop
HECO Approves Only 6 of 2,749 Solar Systems on Overloaded Circuits
SA: In December, Hawaiian Electric Co. approved rooftop solar systems for only six of the 2,749 customers in high-use areas waiting for clearance, according to a letter HECO filed with the state Tuesday.
HECO promised in October to approve almost all of the systems on the waiting list by the end of April. HECO says it still intends to do that....
"We understand our customers who are on circuits with high amounts of PV have been waiting and appreciate their continued patience," said Darren Pai, HECO spokesman. "Consistent with the plans we announced earlier to address these PV applications, we expect to make significant progress on approving them in the coming months as we implement new technical solutions to integrate PV, which we've developed by working with the solar industry."
The utility is waiting on PV manufacturers to meet the new standards created from a study conducted by HECO, SolarCity, the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Renewable Energy Lab. The new standards would reduce the risk of damage to the grid from high numbers of connected PV systems. HECO is getting feedback on the new standards from the industry, Pai said.
"These new standards will improve the (solar systems') ability to mitigate voltage spikes and disruptions to the stability of the electric system. We've now developed testing and certification protocols so inverter manufacturers can demonstrate their equipment meets these new standards," Pai said. "The manufacturers then need to conduct their testing and certification." (Translation: Solar system output will be curtailed, perhaps into batteries.)
HECO expects that will be done in time to approve most systems by the end of April.
Homeowners could not move forward with solar installations without the utility's approval, leaving 4,807 solar customers waiting for approval as of Oct. 31, 2014.
read ... Overloaded by Scam Salesmen
Campaign to save Hawaii troops hits 10,000 signatures
HNN: The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii is in a stretch run for signatures. With two weeks left in the Chamber's "Keep Hawaii's Heroes" petition drive, there is an all-out effort to reach the goal of 40,000.
"Right now it's approximately 10,000 signatures. That's so far through our web site, as well as going to the different organizations and obtaining signatures there," executive director Sherry Menor-McNamara said.
The Chamber is trying to spare Hawaii from the Pentagon's downsizing plan for the Army. The battle has been over the placement of the sign-up sheets in Satellite City Halls.
No Help from Mazie: Hirono ranking member of Senate Armed Services subcommittee
read ... 10,000 signatures
Family and friends say goodbye to YWAM Missionary lost at sea
CE: YWAM reported on their emergency update blog that the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) assumed control over the 75-foot vessel and is in the process of removing and disposing of it.
Brenman's mother, Charlene Calish, requested a memorial fund be set up in her son's name to replace the lost ship.
read ... Lost at Sea
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to be married in April, Groom not Named
HNN: Gabbard's office confirmed the engagement announcement with Hawaii News Now on Thursday.
Gabbard and her fiancé are planning for a wedding in April right here in Hawaii.
The groom-to-be is from Hawaii and is a cinematographer, but it is unclear how long the couple has been dating.
SA: Details on the groom-to-be were unavailable
read ... Secret Husband
Turnabout: Criminal Cuts Fence, Breaks In to Prison--PSD Still Doesn't Notice
SA: ...Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said the guards noticed the fence had been cut while making their rounds at about 10:30 a.m. (Break in or break out, PSD doesn't notice until its too late.)
She said the culprit or culprits broke a lock on a metal maintenance shed to take items from inside. She declined to say what was lost.
Schwartz said inmates are housed in a separate area....
Question: Does a break in count against the total of breakouts?
Best Comment: "guaranteed inside job"
read ... Break-in