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Sunday, March 1, 2015
March 1, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:58 PM :: 4548 Views

Will Legislators Co-Sign $660M Loan for Evicted Racetrack Owner?

GE Tax: Piling On!

SB955 Shooting Range Protection Bill Dying

Legislation Alert: Sex, Drugs and Birth Certificates

Dismissed: Judge Tosses Suit Seeking Removal of Schatz from Office

Dog n Pony Show: Tuesday Rail Re-Bids Opened: Wednesday GE Tax Hike to Pay for More Rail

SA: Oahu's cash-strapped rail project faces a momentous week ahead, with key findings and decisions that could lend a clearer picture of where the public transit system is heading.

On Tuesday, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation officials will open the project's first new bids for construction work since they canceled the last batch that they received, when all of those bids came in vastly over budget.

Rail officials are already attempting to manage expectations on this first new batch of bids. (Translation: They're gonna be high.) HART Executive Director Dan Grabauskas has said in recent months that the agency expects to see more effective cost reductions in the bids that come back later this year for additional rail work.  (Translation: This one's gonna be high.  The others will be high, too, but you won't remember what I said.)

Still, the new bids to be opened this week are a bellwether to see if HART's efforts to contain costs are at all working, now that the project faces up to a $910 million budget shortfall.  (Translation: They're gonna be high and we can use this to push thru the GE Tax hike.)

The issue with bid prices goes back to August, when rail leaders opened three bids to build nine West Oahu stations — and all of them came in at least $100 million above the approximately $184 million price tag that officials were expecting....

The bids to be opened on Tuesday will be for the first of those smaller station groups, at Leeward Community College, Waipahu and West Loch, according to HART. City officials estimate that the contract will cost between $60 million and $75 million....

On Wednesday, after those new station bid prices are revealed, state senators will further consider a controversial bill in the debate over how to address the rail project's shortfall.  (First the song, then the dance.)

In its latest version, Senate Bill 19 would extend the 0.5 percent Oahu general excise tax surcharge that's funding rail for an additional 25 years past its sunset. Under the measure, the rail tax would now be collected through 2047 to fund extensions to the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus and Kapolei.  (Yes.  They admit this tax hike is not about 'saving rail.'  It is Rail, The Sequel.)

Members of the Senate's committees on Transportation and Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs approved the measure earlier this month and added that 25-year limit instead of letting the surcharge go on in perpetuity. They also added language to divert half of the state's 10 percent administrative take on the rail tax to fund what's known as "transit-oriented development" efforts....

Bid Rigging Formula: Higher Bids = Greater Chance of Raising GE Tax = More Rail Work to Manoa, Kapolei

read ... New bids will test success of efforts to contain costs

GE Tax Hike: Price of Campaign Contributors

Shapiro: Mayor Kirk Caldwell pressed legislators for a permanent extension of the rail excise tax while refusing to say how much he expects the train to end up costing. You can't put a price on paying off your campaign contributors....

Caldwell announced a parks beautification initiative he called E Paka Kakou, which was variously translated as "Let's smoke together" or "Let's park our cars together." It takes real political talent to make no sense in two languages.

After state Sen. Brickwood Galuteria had the city clerk certify that he lives in his Kakaako district, the city sent him a $7,200 bill for wrongly claiming a property tax exemption on a Palolo home. The subject line of the collection letter said: "Bachi!"

read ... Paka Lolo

Lawmakers split on SB19--GE Tax surcharge

KGI: Kauai County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who unsuccessfully pushed for the seven-member board’s support for the legislation several months ago, said she is now lobbying at the Legislature to garner more support for the general excise tax (GET) surcharge proposal....

But some state lawmakers say they are not convinced.

“We don’t want to give authority to the counties to raise GET whenever they want to — that’s our authority, and I think that’s the feeling on this side of the chamber,” said Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa, D-Koloa, Niihau....

Rep. James “Jimmy” Kunane Tokioka, D-Omao, Wailua Homesteads, said his office sent out a survey asking if residents in his district would support the creation of a county-level surcharge. He is awaiting the results of the survey.

Rep. Derek Kawakami, D-Wailua Homesteads, Hanalei, said he supports the completion of the Honolulu rail transit project to alleviate traffic congestion on Oahu’s highways and under-stands the requests made by HART and City and County of Honolulu officials to extend the current GET surcharge and fund the project.

The hang-up, however, is the provision that would allow all other counties across the state, through county council-approved ordinances, to authorize the same 0.5 percent public transportation surcharge.

“That is where things become a little blurred, and the only reason why I say that is because, when the surcharge was enacted for the City and County of Honolulu, it was specifically for rail,” Kawakami said. “As far as transportation projects on Kauai, I haven’t heard anything tangible from the county as far as specific projects.” ...

A Senate Ways and Means Committee public hearing on Senate Bill 19 is scheduled to be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the State Capitol Conference Room 211....

read ... GE Tax Hike

Maui Memorial Will not Have Pediatricians After May 1

MN: In a sign of Maui's worsening doctor shortage, Maui Memorial Medical Center is working on a contract with Kaiser Permanente to have its pediatricians cover patients at the hospital after private physicians told hospital officials they would no longer provide the service as of May 1.

For years, private-practice pediatricians have needed to be on call at Maui Memorial for cases such as natural baby deliveries and C-sections, according to those familiar with the situation. In such cases, an obstetrician and gynecologist's primary responsibility is to care for the mother, while the newborn is attended to by a pediatrician.

During years of being on call, at times around the clock, pediatricians - about a dozen on Maui now - have said they have had their medical practices disrupted and their family lives strained, and have coped with a lack of sleep and fatigue. The problem has reached the point where private pediatricians (not those with Kaiser or Malama I Ke Ola Health Center) told Maui Memorial that they would no longer attend to hospital cases beginning in May, said Wesley Lo, Maui region chief executive officer of Hawaii Health Systems Corp.

A contract for Kaiser pediatricians to cover hospital cases had not been finalized as of Saturday, Lo said, and he declined to provide details such as its cost - other than to say "it's expensive."

57% Yes -- Are you in favor of a public-private partnership for Maui Memorial Medical Center and other public health facilities in Maui County?

read ... About the Wonderful Health Care System Provided by HGEA

Coop: Kauai Electric Rates Now Lower than Hawaii Island, Maui

SA:  it's the truly customer-owned model, the cooperative, that has been the buzzword lately.

"There have been a number of people on this island talking about this for some time," said Marco Mangelsdorf, spokesman for the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative. "But the crystallizing event that got a lot of people thinking was the proposed merger between HEI and NextEra."  ...

The NextEra deal is the subject of a pending review by the state Public Utilities Commission. Mangelsdorf's group is a newly formed cooperative wanting status as an intervenor in that review; it is among 28 interested parties asking the PUC to formally be a part of its decision.

Mangelsdorf acknowledged that HELCO is not for sale, but the group wants a front-row view of the PUC action, as preparation in case a buyer ever is sought.

"It became clear to us that if we are going to get a seat at the table, the time would be now," Mangelsdorf added. "That's where the main game is being played now."

The co-op members — as well as consumers statewide — have been watching the precedent set by Kauai. In 2002, the Connecticut-based Citizens Communications Co. sold its subsidiary Kauai Electric Co. to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), which is a nonprofit owned by its customers. Whenever there's a revenue surplus, it is reinvested in the co-op or rebated to the ratepayer/members.

The company has a current operating budget of $178 million, with total assets of $327.1 million, said Jan TenBruggencate, chairman of the KIUC board.

It employs 151 people, a 10 percent cut since 2008 when the board saw the need to reduce costs. But there's progress, too, he added: About 27 percent of the original loan of $215 million has been paid off, all equity owned by the customers.

At the time of the purchase, Kauai residents paid the highest electric rates in the state; in recent months, TenBruggencate said, they've dropped below rates paid on Maui and Hawaii. Oahu's economies of scale give HECO that advantage, he said....

SA: Senate Bill 1050 and House Bill 484 'Community Based' Solar Schemes

read ... Electricity

HB825: Legalizing the Illegal Vacation Rental on Your Street

SA: TVU owners should pay the transient accommodation tax, or TAT, just like any other visitor-lodging operation.

The collection of that tax, and the distribution of shares of it to the counties, is the state's job and the nexus of its responsibility to set some regulatory boundaries, as it does with restaurants and other businesses.

House Bill 825, which would establish a system of state licensure, is one part of the strategy that should be advanced for further discussion.  The bill was passed by the House Tourism Committee but shelved by the Consumer Protection panel.... last week it was resuscitated....

Essentially, the bill would establish licensing requirements and enforcement provisions for TVUs under the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Some of the problems were raised in testimony submitted by DCCA Director Catherine Awakuni Colon, who started by citing a law requiring the state auditor to conduct a "sunrise analysis" of any new regulatory scheme proposed.

That may delay the full implementation of any state licensure. However, surely the state could get the ball rolling this session by at least enacting the part of the bill requiring vacation rental advertisements to include any existing permit numbers issued by counties, or some indicator marking them as legitimate.

That would particularly help Oahu, which currently lacks any such enforcement aid, and which could then assess fines on the thousands of currently illegal TVUs in operation.

But what ultimately needs to happen is at least some of the operations need to be given the opportunity to get right with the law.

read ... Massive Tax Hike

'Interim' status leaves four UH regents in legal limbo

Borreca: Getting who you want on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents is getting trickier by the day.

As it stands right now, four new regents, named by former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, are putting in the hours working and voting, but in reality they are in a very insecure limbo.

Back in October, Abercrombie named Simeon Acoba, Dr. Dileep Bal, Peter Hoffmann and Helen Nielsen to the board to fill vacancies....

Because of a state Constitutional provision regarding interim appointments, Ige must either nominate them as his picks as regents, or they will be out as regents on May 7 when the current legislative session is set to adjourn.

The catch is that while Abercrombie named the four and dozens more to other boards and commissions, he said they were just "interim appointments." And he never sent their names to the Senate for confirmation.

At a Thursday news conference, Ige was asked about that.

"We are working with the attorney general's office to identify what is the process on all the interim appointments," Ige said.

Asked if the interim appointees were just in limbo, Ige said "Yes."

Part of the trick is that the Abercrombie UH regents came from a list sent to him from a screening committee prescribed by state law.

The governor cannot just pick someone to be a regent; the names come from a special appointed panel.

So now there is a question: If Ige wants to name someone else instead of one of the four, does he go back to the remaining names suggested by the panel, or does he ask for an entire new set of names?...

The clock is ticking in all this because if Ige waits until the end of the session to send in his nominees, then the ones who were named as interim appointees cannot be included. According to the AG, anyone appointed as a regent but not confirmed by the Senate "shall not be eligible for another interim appointment to such office as the appointment failed to be confirmed."...

read ... 'Interim' status leaves four UH regents in legal limbo

Buffer Zones for Wind Projects?

IM: This year Hawai`i Representatives Feki Pouha, Beth Fukumoto Chang, Lauren Matsumoto, Cynthia Thielen, Jarrett Keohokalole, Chris Lee, Scott Nishimoto introduced HB 1384 to establish buffer zones for large wind generation facilities.

The House Committee on Consumer Protection & Commerce received 173 pages of testimony, mostly from Kahuku residents favoring the bill.

read ... Buffer Zones

Maui Enviros Bring EPA in to Monitor and then Shut Down HC&S Harvest

SA: In a couple of weeks Hawaii's only sugar grower begins its 143th harvest season on Maui, the last plantation holdout from bygone days when sugar was king in the islands.

But the venerable Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. likely will do so facing greater scrutiny as the Environmental Protection Agency conducts an investigation and emboldened Maui activists take aim at sugar cane burning following an improbable election victory over the corporate growers of genetically engineered crops.

"People are finally realizing they have the power," said Brad Edwards, a Kihei social worker who has been pressing for greater oversight and restrictions on cane burning.

Under pressure by concerned residents, the state Department of Health is considering holding a community meeting regarding HC&S' 2015 burn permit, said Nolan Hirai, manager of the Clean Air Branch.

The EPA, meanwhile, is apparently looking into whether the plantation is operating in compliance with federal clean air regulations. The agency sent a seven-page letter to HC&S Nov. 24, asking for documents and records about its biomass energy plant and cane burning operations.

SA: The culling practice makes cane harvests more fruitful, HC&S says

read ... The End of Cane in Hawaii

DoE, HSTA Fail Deaf Students

WHT: Two years ago, Julian Beymer couldn’t communicate. He couldn’t speak his name, count, recite the alphabet or say “mommy.” He has a hearing loss and could have learned American Sign Language. But that’s not what his family wanted.

His family chose listening and spoken language. They want Julian to speak for himself, communicate with the world at large and have every opportunity to pursue the life he chooses.

Today, Julian is a happy 4-year-old preschooler with cochlear implants speaks like a 2-year-old. His mother, Grace Beymer, said he is doing well, despite inadequate educational services for children like him in Hawaii.

Grace realized Julian wasn’t hearing anyone when picking him up from daycare. His back faced her as she called him. He did not turn. His teacher got his attention by tapping his shoulder. He ran excitedly toward Grace. At home, Grace tested Julian’s hearing by banging pots near him. The noise was to no avail. At age 2, Julian was properly diagnosed with a hearing loss.

Once a child gets diagnosed with a hearing loss, the family chooses a communication mode and hearing aids or implants, if needed. In Hawaii, Grace said they are often offered ASL as the choice and then mainstreamed in public school programs, spending part of the day in the general education classroom and the remainder in special education.

Grace questions why Hawaii only offers programs that use ASL. She said most states honor three education choices for deaf and hearing-impaired students and have qualified professionals for each choice. Besides ASL, families can choose the total communication approach — a combination of sign language and visual oral speech — or an oral deaf education, which uses auditory verbal principles to teach listening and speaking. The latter is what Grace wants for Julian....

HB 758 provides additional incentives for educational specialists and other qualified teachers. At issue are the statutory pay scale restrictions that do not credit incoming teachers for their previous experience gained outside the state, according to the bill.

While DOE has no position on the bill, the Hawaii State Teachers Association does. Joan Lewis, HSTA vice president and lobbyist, said the union thinks it should be up to the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board to determine what’s appropriate and approved to attract the best quality teachers.

HB 758 appears to be dead for this legislative session after missing a deadline to be heard.

However, Lowen is drafting a resolution and working on the best language to foster ways to accomplish the bill’s goals.

This was the second time Big Island lawmakers introduced legislation on Grace’s behalf. During the 2014 legislative session, HB 2228 attempted to require the state Department of Health to conduct a three-year pilot program on Hawaii Island to assist preschool-aged children with cochlear implants to acquire spoken language skills.

That bill was deferred indefinitely and a resolution drafted to form a working group addressing issues pertaining to assisting children with hearing impairment. The group’s progress was unknown, as of press time Thursday.

Meanwhile: Hawaii Blind-Deaf School Homosexual Rape Gang Case

read ... Thanks, DoE and HSTA

Interview process begins for UH athletic director

SA: The University of Hawaii was scheduled to begin the interview phase of its search for a new athletic director Friday, according to a member of the search advisory committee.

The committee member would not say who the leadoff interviewees were. Late Friday a UH spokesman was unable to say who — or how many — candidates have been interviewed....

Additional interviews are expected next week as UH apparently seeks to speed up a process that was initially designed to produce a successor to Ben Jay "no later than mid-year."

Earlier UH began issuing interview invitations to what an official described as "several" candidates.

Indications are that a list of "over 70" applicants, according to UH's last public statement, has been whittled to about a fifth of that number as members began culling out those who failed to meet the posted minimum standards. UH is also said to have taken "nominations" for the position.

UH had said it expected to begin interviews in early March, with finalists "being further vetted during the latter part of March."

read ... A Sad Joke

Candidates sought for Honolulu city clerk post

SA: The Council is hoping to name a permanent replacement by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

A special search committee is being formed to evaluate applications and make a final recommendation to the Council. Council Resolution 15-55 proposes the five-member committee consist of Council members Ikaika Anderson and Ann Kobayashi, and one-time Council employees Mark Oto, Frank Streed and Diane Kawauchi.

An advertisement describing the vacancy is published in the classified section, Page J3, of the Sunday Honolulu Star-Advertiser. A Council news release said the ideal candidate should possess "a minimum of five years' management experience, including supervision of a multi-division agency," as well as other qualities including knowledge and experience with other city-related issues.

The position is for a term of six years. Applicants should submit a resume and three references to City Clerk Search Committee, Honolulu City Council, 530 S. King St., Room 202, Hono­lulu, HI 96813, Attention: Mark Segami.

read ... City Clerk

Muslim Proposes Sharia Law for Hawaii--To be American Hub of Islamic 'Sukuk' Finance?

EIN: United Arab Emirates in Los Angeles, H.E. Abdulla Alsaboosi addressed a Honolulu audience...at the USA-UAE Bilateral Relations function sponsored by Pacific and Asian Affairs Council (PAAC) in Honolulu, Hawaii on Feb. 27, 2015....

Emirates airlines frequently finances aircraft through ijarah leasing and issuing sukuk (Islamic bonds). There is no reason why United and other USA airlines cannot achieve the same result while at the same time creating hundreds of thousands of US aviation jobs similar to Emirates airlines. The state of Hawaii may consider to issue a sukuk or Islamic Bond and achieve recognition in the international news as the first US state to issue sukuk....

(Translation: I offer you a bribe to become the first Americans to grovel before us.)

read ... Money Laundering

Schatz Joins Group Controlled by J-Street Lobbyists

A: More than 70 percent of the federal legislators who have announced their intent to skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to a joint session of Congress about the Iranian nuclear threat are endorsed by the self-labeled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby J Street.

J Street has endorsed 18 of 24 House of Representatives members and two of four U.S. senators (including Schatz) who are skipping Netanyahu’s speech, according to the lobby’s announcements of endorsements for elections in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

read ... Lobbyists

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