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Saturday, May 2, 2015
May 2, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:56 PM :: 3168 Views

We stand to lose more than a telescope

Conference Committee

Jones Act Industry Lawyer Addresses Full Repeal Strawman

JSC Seeks Applicants for First and Third Circuit Courts

Survey: Hawaii Ranks #2 in Sleep Deprivation

Conference Committee Approves .5% GE Tax Five Year Extension for Rail

SA: Legislative conferees voted unanimously Friday to approve House Bill 134. Ultimately they opted to go with the Senate’s proposal: to extend Oahu’s 0.5 general excise tax surcharge for an additional five years through 2027. The bill would also allow neighbor counties to enact a 0.5 GET surcharge to fund their own transportation-related projects from 2018 through 2027.

Lawmakers removed an 11th-hour bargaining chip that would have required any counties adopting the tax to take ownership of so-called “roads in limbo” — the hundreds of miles of roads across Hawaii whose jurisdiction is disputed by county and state officials.  But they did leave in a provision where the state claims the “air rights” above the rail system.

The state will also retain its 10 percent skim for administering the tax surcharge — a lucrative collection deal that has reaped $163 million for the state so far.

read ... Five More Years

Plan to Retool Unfunded Liability Mandate Rejected

CB: Senators rejected a House lawmaker’s last-ditch effort Friday to fundamentally change a 2013 law requiring the state and counties to pay down the multi-billion-dollar unfunded liability in retiree health care benefits promised to thousands of public workers.

Sens. Jill Tokuda and Gil Keith-Agaran rejected the pleas of Rep. Romy Cachola to pass his version of House Bill 1356, a measure he believed would have freed up billions of taxpayer dollars that could be put toward other programs and projects, such as education and rail transit.

The conference committee ultimately deferred the bill until at least next year, which means the part the Senate did support — allowing the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund to invest money with the same degree of flexibility as the Employees’ Retirement System — won’t happen either.

read ... Retool

Hawaii lawmakers poised to give $2M to Hawaii Health Connector

PBN: Hawaii lawmakers advanced a bill Friday that would appropriate $2 million in general funds to the Hawaii Health Connector — $3.4 million less than originally considered by legislators, and $8 million less than the exchange originally requested.

"The legislature does things based on compromise and its ability to serve needs of all people with a limited budget,” Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director Jeff Kissel told PBN after the conference committee decision Friday. "For them to have extended us $2 million is an important show of support."

Senators and representatives in the House finalized Senate Bill 1028 SD1 HD1 after the Senate Ways and Means committee and House Finance committee agreed to the appropriation for the online health insurance exchange, covering fiscal year 2016, which begins in July.

read ... Health Connector

Bills that would require Hawaii insurers to cover autism, orthodontics head for final vote

PBN: If passed, Senate Bill 791 SD1 HD2 would make Hawaii the 41st state, including the District of Columbia, to require insurance companies to help with autism treatment.

The bill would mandate insurance companies cover up to $25,000 a year in treatment costs for children up to age 14.

House Bill 174 HD2 SD1, which would require health insurance coverage for up to $5,500 per treatment phase for orthodontic treatment for orofacial anomalies, was also passed by its conference committee Friday.

CB: If "Luke's Law" can get past floor votes, Hawaii would join 39 other states

read ... Insurers

Gay Agenda Fails: Bullying and a Place to Hide Your Kids

CB: It would have created a network of locations where teens or young adults could receive 'services'.

CB: School bullying bill dies.

read ... Bill to Establish Safe Havens for Young People Fails Again

Hawaii lawmakers may revive dead marijuana dispensaries bill

AP: Hawaii lawmakers are saying they might revive a bill to create a system of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The bill died late Friday when it failed to pass out of a key committee before a legislative deadline. But Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said Friday night that the Legislature may make an exception and revisit passing the bill out of committee.

"There's an opportunity that we may extend, only for this bill, until Monday," Kim said....

Just 40 minutes before a deadline to conclude negotiations, Rep. Della Au Belatti deferred House Bill 321 after she and Sen. Josh Green couldn’t agree on the application process for potential dispensary owners.

Belatti wanted a merit-based process, similar to several other states including Minnesota and Colorado. Green wanted to choose applicants on a first-come, first-serve basis, which he argued was more transparent.

read ... Dopey Hopes Bubble

Bill boosting distance from turbines OK'd

SA: The City Council Zoning and Planning Committee gave preliminary approval Thursday to a measure that would increase the distance required between utility-scale wind turbines and residences, schools and health care centers.

Resolution 15-30, introduced by Council Chair Ernest Martin, would change the City Land Use Ordinance to require wind machines with a capacity of more than 100 kilowatts to be built a distance three times the height of the machine or 1,000 feet from property lines.

The City Land Use Ordinance currently requires wind machines to be built a distance equal to the height of the machine from all property lines.

The Council will hear the resolution for a final vote Wednesday.

read ... Wind Farm Buffer Zones

Care Home Bill Fails to Advance Despite Pleas

CB: The measure might have brought married couples together, but risked displacing Medicaid recipients in favor of private-pay clients.

read ... Care Home

Effort to Cap Payday Loan Rates Dies After Maui Lawmakers Clash

CB: Rep. Justin Woodson wanted to maintain the current maximum interest rate, while Sen. Rosalyn Baker was adamant about lowering it.

read ... Usury

Winners and Losers in Conference

SA: Lawmakers positioned dozens of bills for final passage before a key session deadline Friday, including measures to increase a state tax credit available to assist low-income residents, pursue a proposed state purchase of a downtown office building and provide $6 million to fund additional preschool slots for low-income children.

Bills that failed to advance and appear to be dead include measures to more strictly regulate payday loan companies, and a bill to conduct state elections by mail-in balloting. Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the year Thursday.

CB: Roundup of Winners and Losers

read ...  Roundup

Homelessness: Lack of Leadership from Ige

SA: The bickering between Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration and members of the City Council is one example of the lack of a cohesive, comprehensive, collaborative approach that is needed for the city to make headway in this crisis.

Also, the lack of visible leadership from Gov. David Ige and of any sense of urgency on the state level have been discouraging, even as the problem grows.

read ... Sit-lie ban can't solve crisis by itself

Homelessness 'Shaping Hawaii Tourism Industry'

PBN: Hawaii has built a reputation as the ultimate surf, sand and beach destination, featuring white sandy beaches, beautiful scenery and the aloha spirit.

Homelessness is probably not on that list, but, as residents know, it will be a daily encounter.

This fact continues to shock visitors, however. “It’s not expected in Hawaii,” said Logsdon. “You expect it in Chicago or San Francisco. You are caught off guard. It brings visitors back to the big city, seeing the homeless.”

Szigeti of HLTA shared a letter he received from a recent visitor which repeats a story he has heard many times before: I have visited Hawaii several times, but my recent visit may be my last after my experience with the homeless.

“It’s the No. 1 complaint I get from visitors,” Szigeti said.

He also noted that Waikiki’s homeless population is different from homeless in other parts of Hawaii and seems more aggressive. Szigeti said he and Colin Kippen, the state’s homelessness coordinator, were walking in Waikiki when a homeless man approached them, demanding, “Hey, buy me a sandwich!” How often, he wonders, do tourists encounter the same?

HLTA is addressing the homelessness issue. Last year, it announced a partnership with the Institute for Human Services for a $1 million program to get Waikiki’s homeless population into housing or relocate them home to the Mainland. It donated $100,000 last year and pledged another $100,000 this year, and will hold a fundraiser concert for the rest of the money on May 9 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.

“We are working on this together as stakeholders,” Szigeti said.

The problem is not isolated to Waikiki. Grace said there are homeless communities at Pounders Beach and Sunset Beach, not far from the Polynesian Cultural Center. Grace said the industry, and Hawaii, will suffer if safety is compromised.

It’s also a problem on the Neighbor Islands, and Szigeti said he is hearing about it from all the islands.

“It’s so pervasive,” he said. “I don’t think we will get anything done unless we educate the general public on how it affects everyone. [The city’s] Housing First Initiative has helped. The city gave $32 million for this. We will need federal and state help on housing homeless.”

Shaindlin of Halekulani recommended finding tested and proven approaches from abroad. He invited Henry Buhl, founder of the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless, or ACE, in the SoHo district of New York in 1992. The program offers shelter, but requires training and later places homeless in jobs.

Buhl noted that homelessness in Hawaii becomes exacerbated because there is no harsh winter, when people have more motives to seek shelter. He said when restaurants and hotels offer food to the homeless, it’s perpetuating the idea that they’ll be taken care of without doing any work. Such an approach should be considered for Hawaii, said Shaindlin.

read ... Five things Hawaii tourism execs say are shaping the industry today

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