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Tuesday, May 12, 2015
May 12, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:23 PM :: 3710 Views

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 11, 2015

Powerwall or Powerdream?

Merger Vote Comes up Short, Hawaiian Electric Extends Deadline

State Planning Office Publishes 'Land Use System Review'

Bicycle Friendly? Hawaii Ranks 43rd

Costly consequences of Hawaii's 50-Year Old payroll technology

KHON: ...the state’s out-of-date paper system can delay payday for thousands of public workers.  Even if you’re not a state worker it can affect you, because all of that manual processing has cost taxpayers millions in overpayments that are very hard to get back....

The man in charge of the Department of Accounting and General Services, comptroller Douglas Murdock, thought this when he first stepped into the time machine upon taking office a few months ago.

“I saw a lot of people working really hard on bad systems that were antiquated, and they were heroically making things happen that were almost impossible given how old the systems were,” he said. “It’s surprising to see so many boxes of paper and that everything has to flow through paper instead of electronic.”

Systems that are 40, sometimes 50, years old crunch along often on parts sought online, including at the state’s biggest single department, education, tucked in the basement of the central Department of Education’s administration building, where stacks and stacks of colored cards are considered the payroll database.

“Each employee has a card for a year,” explained Amy Kunz, the DOE’s chief financial officer and senior assistant superintendent at the Office of Fiscal Services. “Anything that happens, any time off, any adjustments happen on this card.

“We are very paper based in our payroll,” Kunz added. “Any time-off forms, even address changes, everything is done via a piece of paper that gets submitted to human resources. Human resources has to touch that piece of paper and then it gets to payroll.”

That’s just to get the numbers crunched to get handed to someone else to type into an old-fashioned green-screen computer....

For those who think they have direct deposit? Not quite.

“Sometimes, we actually have to send a check by first-class mail and then the bank routes the money into the holder’s account,” Murdock said. “It’s not what most people would expect to see when they see direct deposit.” ....

Another side effect of manual payroll notes is overpayment of taxpayer dollars to state workers when it turns out they weren’t at work, didn’t really have that much paid vacation left or they retired a while ago.

“When people retire, they shouldn’t continue to get paid for the next week,” Murdock said, “because that becomes an overpayment we have to track and try and recover.”

But they’ve only got two years under state law to find the overpayment and collect. That tab stands at $1.35 million over the years, with the most overpayments to the DOE.

read ... Looking up to DOS

State tax returns could be delayed 16 weeks, DoTax Racks up Overtime

HNN: At first the state said tax returns were delayed just a few weeks. But now the average wait time is four months.

Fujitani says the real culprit is identity thieves.  After a flood of bogus tax filings, the state has implemented several new procedures when reviewing claims to make sure it's not paying money to imposters.

Those extra security steps require patience.

"We're hoping not to use the entire 16 weeks and we are still doing a lot of overtime a lot of shifts on the weekends," said Fujitani.

But there is another reason for delays. About 60 percent of Hawaii taxpayers still haven't caught on to the state's electronic tax filing system and automatic deposits.

read ... 4 Months

DoTax Still Can't Deposit Tax Checks for Weeks

Shapiro: ...I've had issues with the state's laxity in cashing checks since the Cayetano administration, and it's discouraging to learn from June Watanabe's Kokua Line report Wednesday that little progress has been made in 20 years.

During Gov. Ben Cayetano's tenure, it was several fairly large checks I sent to a state agency that went uncashed for five months.

This was galling at a time of recession, when the state was running a $200 million deficit and initiating payroll lags to pay the bills....

Maria Zielinski, Gov. David Ige's tax director, described to Kokua Line a system in which overworked clerks with three balky scanners manually process 564,903 returns with checks, inexplicably keeping the check attached to the return until the end of the process instead of sending it out for immediate deposit.

In an age when electronic returns and checks can easily be sent and recorded instantly with no scanning or treks to the bank, Zielinski said "it's not an overnight solution" because of the decades of bureaucracy built up around data processing, scanning and cashiering.

If only it had been decades of keeping up with the times to solve a simple problem.

As an interim fix, Zielinski hopes to lease a scanner from the bank that would allow quicker electronic check deposits, but the logistics of even that could take months.

The broader concern is that a government that can't competently manage little tasks such as depositing checks will never get the big things right.

Until the civic culture prides sweating the small stuff over politics and bureaucracy, there will be no end of stories about bankrupt state hospitals, a state health exchange gone bust two years after receiving $200 million from Obama­care or massive Oahu rail cost overruns....

read ... HGEA Job Trust in Action

Bill Would Require State Worker Participation in Return to Work Programs

WCC: Ige is reviewing a bill which would require that State employees participate in RTW Programs in order to receive vocational rehab benefits....

read ... Workers Comp Reforms

Caldwell: I will Make Kakaako a Homeless Tent City Unless Council Funds 'Positions'

HNN: Caldwell has admitted the city's approach to ending homelessness in Kaka'ako is not working.  (Lie #1.  Caldwell is suddenly claiming "this city's approach is not working" as part of a game of chicken with the Council.  If the Council caves, Caldwell will just as suddenly discover that the city's approach is working after all.)

Since the sidewalk nuisance and stored property ordinances went into effect, the city has spent approximately $1,875,000 enforcing them.

"A year ago we put into place our compassionate disruption bills. We instituted sit-lie bills to move people out of Waikiki, out of Downtown, out of Chinatown -- but we didn't give them a place to go," said City Managing Director Roy Amemiya....  (Lie #2.  There are shelter spaces open every night.  Translation: The Council needs to give me the funding I want or I will keep depositing homeless people around town.)

The Mayor's office says enforcement has out-paced housing availability for the homeless, (note: 'Housing availability' and 'shelter space' are two different things.) which is why he's requested $616,000 dollars to cover the cost of seven full-time positions to work on affordable housing projects designed to get people off the streets....  (Yes.  Caldwell is using the homeless as pawns for a measly $616K in funding.)

"They've cut our staff that we've asked for to do this and in turn they've added staff to their legislative side to deal with policy. It's beyond policy at this point. It's about action. We need those people to find units to move the folks in Kaka'ako into shelter and into permanent supportive housing. This is the compassionate side to our compassionate disruption program," Caldwell said.  (And if you don't give me what I want, I will send the homeless to your district.)

Right now, Amemiya's staff is currently being paid through Housing and Urban Development grants and salary savings -- but he says that funding will not be available next year.

read ... Mayor ends Kaka'ako homeless sweeps

Luke, Tokuda on long quest to find hidden budget funds

Borreca: Remember two things about the state budget.

First, there is a limited amount of dollars to spend, and second, there are an unlimited number of ways to hide it.

This year there is $12,874,418,668 for fiscal year 2015-2016 and $13,296,497,506 for the following year.

The catch is that only about half of that money is defined as "general funds." ...

"Special funds were created several decades ago because it was a method of hiding money," Luke said in an interview.

"Today this changes the method of doing budgeting because it is kind of defective, it is not accurate," she said....

Another way a clever bureaucrat hides money is by taking money that is supposed to be used to hire someone and instead, uses it for department needs, such as paying off vacation pay. It is not uncommon for state workers to retire with several years of unused vacation pay.

"For three years I concentrated on controlling the departments' longstanding practice of holding back on hiring and using that position money for either vacation payouts or other operating expenses. To change that mindset — that was a struggle in itself," Luke said.

Essentially she told the bureaucrats that if they came clean on how much they were hiding for vacation payouts, she would put that money into the bureaucrat's general fund budget and the money designated to hire a new carpenter or inspector could actual go to hiring someone....

read ... Hidden Funds

Unedited Video: Kenoi Lies Thru Teeth in April Fools Day Interview

KITV: The last interview Kenoi did was with Honolulu media at the State Capitol on April 1.   During the interview he said it was an error in judgment to go to club Evergreen. He denied having visited any other hostess bars. He also said he misunderstood rules regarding use of the PCard and no longer uses it.

read ... here to watch the uncut version of the interview.

Obamacare State Exchange Disasters: Hawaii is the Worst

AR: According to a recent article in the Washington Post, “Nearly half of the 17 insurance marketplaces set up by the states and the District under President Obama’s health law are struggling financially.”

Here are some of the worst:

1. Hawaii.  The Hawaii Health Connector won’t be struggling anymore as it is being put out of its misery. The Connector has “prepared a contingency plan to shut down operations by Sept. 30 after lawmakers failed to pass legislation to keep the state’s troubled Obamacare insurance exchange afloat.”  The Connector charges fees on insurance, like most exchanges do, to help keep operations going.  Unfortunately, enrollment has not been high enough to raise the fees needed to cover the Connector’s costs....

read ... ObamaCare State Exchanges Disaster Edition

With heavy lifting done, Kaiser wants in

SA: We just have to wonder what's being said — muttered, possibly — in the board rooms of Hawaii Pacific Health these days.

Specifically, what was the executive reaction to Kaiser Permanente Hawaii stepping up as a potential suitor in the transition of the state-owned Maui hospitals to private management?

Kaiser had shown an interest earlier in the discussions but it was HPH in the driver's seat as the bill enabling the shift maneuvered through the Legislature.

Wesley Lo, who heads the state's Maui hospital region, avoided choosing sides in his reaction statement, but did acknowledge "resources" HPH already invested to advance the plan.

('Heavy Lifting' = Political Work.  Note that the work of operating a hospital is not considered 'heavy lifting' in this analysis.  This is to be expected in a State based on rent-seeking behavior....)

read ... Opportunists

Renewable? How Often Does Civil Beat need to repeat a lie to make it true?

CB: The Civil Beat Editorial Board on Monday stated “the Legislature approved a goal to move Hawaii to 30 percent renewable energy sources by 2030 (we’re currently at 22 percent) and to 100 percent by 2045.”

The statement is wrong on three different levels....

First, the bill focuses only on electricity which accounts for less than one-third of the energy consumed in Hawaii. Twenty-two percent renewable electricity means Hawaii gets 7 percent of its total energy from renewable resources. Most energy is used for ground and air transportation.

Second, Hawaii Revised Statutes defines renewable energy in a way that does not make sense. All biofuel is renewable no matter how it is made or where it is grown. Fossil fuel derived hydrogen can be counted as renewable energy if it is converted to electricity under specific conditions. These are just a few of the misguided definitions.

Third, percent does not mean what most people think it means.

Background: HRS 269-91.

read ... Look Closer When Talking About Renewable Energy Percentages

HEI Takes Aim at Takeover Group

PBN: PBN has obtained an email sent by Peter Kikuta, counsel for Hawaiian Electric, to the 29 intervenors wanting to know if any of the intervenors are involved in the hui of groups and individuals that formed an organization called KULOLO, or “keep our utilities locally owned and locally operated.”

Thus far, The Alliance for Solar Choice, whose members include Sunrun and SolarCity, is the only confirmed member of KULOLO.

“In the event any parties to this docket or representatives, members or agents of parties to this docket who either individually, or as part of KULOLO or any similar entity or organization are or may seek to compete with NextEra Energy to acquire the Hawaiian Electric Companies, in whole or in part, it is important that the applicants immediately be apprised of that fact or intention,” Kikuta said in the email. “Information on whether certain intervenors are or intend to become competitors to acquire the Hawaiian Electric Companies is critical to the applicants’ ability to meaningfully evaluate whether and the extent to which competitors can have access to NextEra Energy’s due diligence and other information related to the proposed merger with the Hawaiian Electric Companies that is responsive to pending information requests, and to ensure a fair and just proceeding as the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission addresses the pending docket.”

read ... Hawaiian Electric concerned about group formed to publicly acquire utility

UH Manoa Boosts Graduation Rates by Cutting GPA Requirement

HNN: University of Hawaii leaders are defending a move to lower the grade point average graduation requirement in one of its largest programs from a B- to a C.

The number of UH Manoa students graduating within four years has increased by 40 percent in the last four years and those figures got a boost because GPA requirements were lowered for its psychology degree.

There are about 750 psychology and pre-psychology majors on the UH Manoa campus. It's one of the five largest majors at the flagship campus.

The psychology department used to require its graduates to have a grade point average of 2.5 in courses in their major.

But three years ago, UH Manoa lowered that GPA requirement to a 2.0, which is the same GPA required of nearly all other UH Manoa undergraduate programs.

KHON: New program admits UH law school students without LSAT

read ... Dumb Psychologists

Tuition hikes, belt tightening ahead for UH

KITV: facing a $28 million dollar shortfall, UH must either raise tuition by 7 percent or make cuts somewhere....

On Tuesday, UH President David Lassner will recommend to the Board of Regents the tuition hikes he thinks are needed to balance what monies lawmakers  have doled out.

Lassner had hoped to ask for smaller increases at the community colleges and neighbor island campuses, but it's not clear if he can still keep to that plan....

read ... More Tuition Hikes Coming

Latest UH Manoa Faculty Infighting Claims Scalp

ILind: The chair of the Faculty Senate at the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus resigned from his post early Monday, citing “a serious misjudgment” in dealing with reporters last week.

In an email distributed to faculty, Professor Ron Bontekoe explained why his resignation.

“I accepted a request to speak out publicly in my capacity as Manoa Faculty Senate Chair on an issue about which I should have remained silent,” Bontekoe wrote. “That misjudgment was severe enough to make it impossible for me to continue serving effectively as Chair of the Manoa Senate.” ...

Bontekoe was quoted in a Hawaii News Now story on Friday concerning a complaint filed by a group of faculty against Reed Dasenbrock, vice chancellor for academic affairs on the Manoa campus (“Top UH Manoa administrator accused of bullying, sexism“)....

Ashley Maynard, chair of the Department of Psychology and secretary of the senate, was one of those who accused Dasenbrock of “bullying” and retaliating against faculty who disagree with him.

Background: UH Manoa Administrators, Professors Play Retaliation Games in Media

read ... About your 'enlightened, conscious and progressive' overlords

Maya Soetoro-Ng says Hawaii won’t be forgotten by The Obama

PBN: In a separate video released by the foundation, (the unbearably smug) Soetoro-Ng, who lives on Oahu and is a foundation board member, said that although the Obamas chose Chicago as the site of the library, she was “thrilled to tell you that they also plan to establish a presence in Hawaii.”

Soetoro-Ng, who is an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii Manoa, said the support in Honolulu for the project was “overwhelming.”

“And Hawaii presented a compelling and high-quality plan to host the presidential center,” she said. “The University of Hawaii, community organizations, and federal, state and local officials articulated a clear, thoughtful vision, which helped convince the foundation and the president of the importance of developing a partnership with Hawaii.”

SA: UH could get part of Obama center

read ... Consolation Prize

Tesla's New Battery Doesn't Work That Well With Solar

BB: Here’s where things get interesting. SolarCity, with Musk as its chairman, has decided not to install the 7kWh Powerwall that’s optimized for daily use. Bass said that battery "doesn't really make financial sense"....

DN: BloombergBusiness questions reality of Tesla backup battery claims

read ... Not That Good

They gave their all to make sure we are safe'

SA: As she does every year, Kay Lindemann Allen attended the Hono­lulu Police Department's Remembrance walk and memorial ceremony Monday evening to honor the memory of her father and to show solidarity with the family members of other officers who have died in the line of duty.

The rituals, prayers and speeches vary little if at all from year to year, but they never fail to stir the emotions of a woman who has spent nearly a half-century living with both the gilded memories of who her father was and the cold understanding of the brutal way in which he died.

"I miss my dad a lot," Lindemann Allen said. "After 45 years you'd think that I wouldn't, but I do."

read ... Fallen HPD Officers

Criminal Not Grateful to Soft-on-Crime Judge

SA: According a criminal complaint, Mollway sentenced Hudson to about (a piddling) two years in prison in 2002. After he was released (waaaay too early), he began making harassing calls to Mollway.

In January, he made a phone call saying he was returning to Hawaii from Texas, the court documents said. In February, he made a phone call threatening to walk into her courtroom to rape her and "blow your ... brains out Judge Mollway."

A federal judge from California is presiding over the case because Hudson's federal defender, Alexander Silvert, asked all federal judges in Hawaii to recuse themselves.

Hudson, 54, stood in court Tuesday with chains around his feet, waist and hands. He didn't speak in court, other than to answer "yes," to questions about his plea agreement. He said he agrees with a paragraph in the agreement that says he threatened Mollway "with intent to impede, intimidate or interfere" with her official duties, or to retaliate against her.

read ... Man pleads guilty to threatening Hawaii federal judge's life

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