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Sunday, February 14, 2016
February 14, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:44 PM :: 5069 Views

What Scalia Taught Us

Solving the Online Tax Dodge with Cookies?

Hawaii State, Local Taxes Take $129.73 per $1000 Income

Threatened with lawsuit, DoH Agrees to Identify Marijuana Panel Members

Second Amendment Bills on the Move in Legislature

Jones Act Exemption, LNG Imports Key to Puerto Rico Recovery

Jones Act Navy Sinking in Sea of Red Ink

Former Cocaine Dealer seeks Marijuana License: Unwarranted advantages, self-dealing, favoritism, and undue influence

SA: State Democratic Majority Leader J. Kalani English, (a former cocaine dealer), is raising eyebrows at the state Capitol after he helped to pass the law to create medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii and then joined in a group that applied for one of the potentially lucrative dispensary licenses.

State employees and lawmakers are prohibited from using their positions to receive any unwarranted advantages, and cannot use confidential information obtained through their positions to benefit themselves….

…some of English’s colleagues are saying privately or publicly that his participation in a firm that applied to become one of Hawaii’s first marijuana retail centers gives the appearance of a conflict to the public.

“I wouldn’t do it,” said Sen. Sam Slom….

“Look, there’s already people that think that we’re self-dealing or we’re crooks or we’re jerks or whatever, so I think to the extent that we can show them that we are fair and we are open and we’re doing our job, I think that’s the most important thing,” said Slom (R, Diamond Head-Kahala-Hawaii Kai).

English is listed in state records as one of four members of Hawaii Medicinal Options LLC, which is one of 59 applicants for eight marijuana dispensary licenses….

Another of English’s colleagues, who asked not to be identified, said the public might believe that English, a key leader of the Senate’s ruling Democratic caucus, will somehow use his clout to influence the selection process….

“It’s the general perception of it, because there’s a general distrust anyway.”

And since bills are being considered this year to refine the dispensary law, the situation appears to be one where “you’re in the game, and now you’re making rules for it,” the lawmaker said.

Lawmakers this year are considering a number of possible changes to the law such as specifying that license holders can cultivate marijuana in greenhouses or shade houses, and English would normally participate in measures like those as the majority leader and a voting member of the Senate.

State Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo said the Hawaii State Code of Ethics exempts lawmakers from the conflicts-of-interest restrictions when it comes to voting or participating in official matters as legislators…

Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who has been a supporter of medical marijuana but a critic of the new dispensaries law, said there are already questions about favoritism or undue influence in the process to decide who will get licenses, and that this doesn’t help.

“It leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths, and I wouldn’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,” said Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Poamoho). “Perception counts for a lot in politics, and from most people’s perspective it doesn’t look good to amend the laws that could benefit you or your friends.”

  • J Kalani English Marijuana: 2016
  • J Kalani English Cocaine: 1996, 2005

read … Lawmaker’s pakalolo ties might provoke suspicion

Marijuana: Secrecy, Unknown Agendas, connected applicants and lobbyists pressuring friends

Shapiro: The state Health Department’s apparently aborted scheme to select Hawaii’s eight medical marijuana licensees in secrecy adds to a sinking feeling that this high-stakes program won’t go well.

Using a legislative exemption, the department dispensed with hearings and public comments in drafting rules for exclusive and potentially lucrative licenses to grow and sell medical pot.

Then the state tried to avoid disclosing who would serve on the panel that will select eight licensees from 59 applicants, reversing course only after the Honolulu Star-Advertiser threatened a lawsuit.

The plan was for secret judges with unknown agendas and vague criteria deciding which of the rich, famous and politically connected applicants get licenses to mint money.

What could go wrong?

The state now says it’ll release names of selectors, but claims they haven’t been chosen yet as signs of disorder abound.

The Ige administration initially defended the secrecy as necessary to avoid tainting the integrity of the process with outside public pressure on the selection committee.

They have it backward: The real worry isn’t outside pressure but inside pressure — connected applicants and lobbyists pressuring friends in the administration or Legislature to influence the process.

Prominent names tied to applications include former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, former state Attorney General David Louie, Honolulu rail director Ivan Lui-Kwan, actor Woody Harrelson, producer Shep Gordon, former St. Francis Healthcare CEO Eugene Tiwanak, tech entrepreneur Henk Rogers, Hawaii island farmer Richard Ha, Maui state Sen. J. Kalani English and Anthony Takitani, law partner of Senate Judiciary Chairman Gil Keith-Agaran.

Adding to the secrecy and potential for backdoor influence is that many pot license applicants are limited-liability companies, which aren’t required to publicly identify principals behind the front persons….

read … A-state-that-favors-secrecy

OHA’s Latest Cash Grab targets DLNR Leases

SA: …The little-known revocable permit program was thrust into the public spotlight a month ago when a state judge ruled that four permits the department had with Alexander & Baldwin Inc., the $1.5 billion agriculture and real estate business, were invalid.

(It is rulings like this which can get a judge promoted.  That’s why we need elected judges and justices.)

The court determined the permits, which were issued in 2000, did not comply with state law restricting usage to “temporary occupation of state lands.” Even though the statute allows the DLNR board to approve one-year permits and gives the panel the power to continue the agreements for “additional one-year periods,” Circuit Judge Rhonda Nishimura said A&B’s continuous, uninterrupted use of public land for more than a dozen years on a holdover basis was not temporary.

“Otherwise, holdover tenants could arguably be allowed to occupy public lands almost in perpetuity for continuous, multiple one-year periods,” Nishimura wrote. “Such a prospect is inconsistent with the public interest and legislative intent.”

The state has challenged her ruling.

Just a month before Nishimura’s order, the land agency board issued its annual bulk approval of more than 300 revocable permits covering nearly 100,000 acres — an area more than three times the size of Kahoolawe.

The permits — for land uses ranging from grazing and farming to parking and landscaping — are expected to generate about $2 million in rents annually for the department. Some of the permits are ministerial or for tiny parcels. Many others are held by private for-profit companies, including some major ranching and real estate players….

Concerns about unchanged or deeply discounted rents and lax oversight have been voiced recently by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Conservation Council, Sierra Club, Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and others.

In written testimony to the board in December, Kamana‘opono Crabbe, OHA’s chief executive, took issue with the board’s annual bulk approvals of the permits.

He told the panel insufficient information was presented by staff to support the bulk approvals, and such an approach was depriving the state of needed revenue. Some of the permits involved ceded lands, which generate revenue for OHA.

“The lack of a formal, open process to review the state’s 300-plus revocable permits, with nothing more than a superficial annual disclosure in a DLNR staff submittal, has resulted in the repeated rubber-stamping of past permit issuances with minimal accountability or oversight,” Crabbe wrote.  (Translation: We get a slice of that money so jack up your rents to line our pockets.)

The Conservation Council’s Ziegler said the state administration’s claims of insufficient resources to justify “nickel and diming” environmental initiatives ring hollow when DLNR is renting land so cheaply….  (Yup.  The enviros want more money for their make-work programs, too.)

Not all the permits generate nominal rents.

Hilton Hawaiian Village, for example, is paying the state $405,192 annually — the highest amount of any lessee in the program — to rent a tiny sliver of submerged land beneath the pier it owns in the lagoon adjacent to its Waikiki resort….  Hilton has been renting the .09 acre of submerged land on a month-to-month basis since the late 1950s.

read … OHA Cash Grab

OHA Cronies, Hanabusa in Grab for Big Island Geothermal Cash Flow

HTH: A company that lost a bid to build the next geothermal power plant on Hawaii Island filed a complaint with the state Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday — the day before Hawaii Electric Light Co. announced talks with Ormat Nevada Inc. had ceased.  (Hold on to your wallet, ratepayers!)

Hu‘ena Power Inc., whose attorneys include former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, alleges HELCO misled bidders through its request for proposals and used the process for a “market test.”

Noting that negotiations for the 25-megawatt project between Ormat and HELCO were at an “impasse,” the company requested that the commission tell the utility instead to accept its bid and enter negotiations.

Hanabusa and a representative of the company, formed by Hawaii-based Innovations Development Group, couldn’t be reached for comment. The company’s investors includes the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which contributed $600,000 for its geothermal proposal….

read … Rent Seeking Behavior

Borreca: Mauna Kea Telescope Failing Because if Ige’s Lack of Leadership

Borreca: An audience around the globe eagerly awaited the construction of Mauna Kea’s Thirty Meter Telescope, but bad times were coming.

Observers are calling it “Plan B” as last week TMT officials announced they would explore other sites in other countries, if they did not have state assurance of a permit to build in Hawaii by September 2017.

Who can blame them for having cold feet?

Native Hawaiians claimed that because Mauna Kea featured prominently in Hawaii creation myths, it was a sacred site and should not be disturbed. The protesters piled on.

Creation myths and jaw-dropping astronomy aside, nothing is as important to Hawaii’s Supreme Court as correctly doing the paperwork and in the case of TMT, the proper papers were not filed.

The state, the University of Hawaii, which leases the land, and TMT all were told by the Supreme Court to redo the paperwork for the needed permits from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

At the same time that TMT was being pecked to death by cultural and legal protests, there was a constant nagging fear that Gov. David Ige’s support was, at the most, just adequate.

After nearly a year of controversy — featuring protests, arrests, road barricades and hints of calling out the National Guard — when it was time for the Ige administration to announce the construction restart, it was in an almost-quivering press release issued by Mike McCartney, Ige’s chief of staff….

read … Another Failed Project

Elected Judges?  Elected AG?  Senators Push to Trim Governor’s Power

SA: State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa) said attorneys general in the past have seemed willing to “bend” to the wishes of the governor when making legal decisions, rather than deciding issues based on what might be in the best interests of the state or the Legislature.

Kim said that “there has always been the issue of whom does the AG serve. Does the AG serve the governor who appointed him, or the Legislature, or both? And there has been a conflict, a very visible conflict.” That is why she advocated to make it an elected position, she said….

Senate Judiciary and Labor Chairman Gil Keith-Agaran said it still appears to senators that the attorney general is “beholden to the governor.”

“If you’re elected, then you have that independence,” said Keith-Agaran (D, Waihee-Wailuku-Kahului). “I think that’s why there’s interest in this particular amendment.”

He said the only other states where the governor appoints the attorney general are Alaska, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Wyoming, “so we’re a little bit of an outlier, in that most of the other states elect their AG.”

The Judiciary Committee voted to approve Senate Bill 2418, with only Sen. Laura Thielen (D, Hawaii Kai- Waimanalo-Kailua) voting against the measure. That vote positions the proposed constitutional amendment for further consideration by the full Senate.

Even if the bill is approved in the Senate, it may face resistance in the state House. House Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads said he will not consider a similar proposed constitutional amendment that was introduced in the House. Rhoads declined comment on whether he will consider the Senate version of the bill, saying he will wait to see if it reaches his committee.

If the measure is approved by both the House and Senate, it will be placed on the ballot for the voters to decide whether to amend the state Constitution….

The bar association warned in its testimony that “nothing erodes public confidence in the judiciary more than the belief that justice is ‘bought and paid for’ by particular lawyers, parties or interest groups.”

(Yes.  That is a really good argument for dumping the existing system and going to elected judges.)

Keith-Agaran deferred action until next month on Senate Bill 2239, which proposes a constitutional amendment to require that judges be elected to serve six-year terms. 

(What?  Judges won’t be picked by Gary Rodrigues or Clayton Hee anymore?)

He instead advanced another bill that requires the state Judiciary, the Office of Elections and the Campaign Spending Commission to study ways to implement judicial elections and report back to the Legislature with their findings.

read … Bend

Legislature considers a “victims’ bill of rights” in Soft-on Crime Hawaii

SA: Two versions of the proposed amendment were introduced last year in the state Legislature. As of Friday, it was the House version, House Bill 1144, that was advancing. Toyofuku noted two competing Senate versions; one of them — a more expansive measure, Senate Bill 3034 — was reported out of its committee….

There are 32 states that have adopted the basic language of Marsy’s Law, which adds language ensuring that victims have rights, essentially, “to be notified, to be present, to be heard,” said Meg Garvin, a Portland, Ore., attorney and advocate for the constitutional amendment….

Both state Reps. Karl Rhoads and Joy San Buenaventura, respectively the chair and vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee, are attorneys. Rhoads headed the effort to redraft the bill, patterned after the federal law, between sessions.

San Buenaventura, who ultimately voted for the bill “with reservations,” was among those raising concerns about the logistics ….

Other objections have been aired by the American Civil Liberties Union. Dan Gluck, ACLU attorney, agreed that government has not enforced victims’ rights as laid out in state law….

The state Department of the Attorney General is among those that are more supportive of the House draft….

read … Soft on Crime

Three Chosen To Fill Seat Of Late Hilo Senator Kahele

BIVN: …Kahele’s son, Kaiali’i Kahele, joins Dolly Strazar and Kaloa Robinson as the candidates who will go before Governor David Ige. One of them will be chosen as the governor’s nomination to represent Hilo in the state senate.

The three candidates were decided from a list of seven names during a meeting of the Big Island Democratic Party in Keaukaha today (Sunday, Feb 13).

HTH: Kahele replacement nominees chosen

read … Nominees

Hawaii bills tackle marijuana, police oversight, pesticides

AP: …Hawaii lawmakers are heading into their fifth week of the 2016 legislative session, and they are scheduled to take on bills relating to marijuana, police oversight and pesticide buffer zones.

They are up against a deadline Friday, when all bills must be in their final committee….

read … Deadline

HPD leader under fire for soliciting support for promotion

HNN: A Honolulu Police Department leader who is being promoted is under fire again. This time for a letter he sent out to drum up support for himself.

The decision to appoint Major Ryan Borges to assistant chief caused controversy because of his arrest for domestic violence 23 years ago. Borges recently wrote a letter reaching out to various community leaders and citizens for help, but critics say it violates department policies and are calling for an internal affairs investigation.

In his letter, Borges writes that he made a bad mistake in 1993, committing an act of terroristic threatening against his then-wife. He says he paid a severe price for his indiscretions, but that he turned to Christ and has been forgiven. Borges asks that character reference letters be sent to HPD Chief Louis Kealoha.

"The letter clearly shows that this individual should not be promoted to assistant chief," said State Senator Will Espero. "This letter, in my opinion, made it worse."

Espero questions whether the letter violates the department's Standards of Conduct which states:

"Officers and civilian employees shall not seek the influence or intervention of any organization or persons outside the department for purposes of personal preferment, advantage, or transfer, except as provided for by civil service rules and regulations or any collective bargaining contract."

The Honolulu Police Department posted several letters of support for Borges on its Facebook page. One of them is on letterhead from former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona. Another is written on Honolulu Fire Department stationery and is signed by Chief Manuel Neves. There's also a letter apparently sent from Honolulu Council Chair Ernie Martin's cell phone….

read … HPD leader under fire for soliciting

UH NCAA Violations—It’s the Administration’s Failure to Stop the Coverup

SA: …In the NCAA’s court, the stack of legal documents in Infractions Case #00202 is steadily rising like one of the upscale Kakaako condos….

What if, for example, there had been no clumsy attempt at a cover-up by the various parties? What if somebody in the then-administration — chancellor or athletic director — had put a decisive foot down early, forcing coaches and compliance to work hand-in-hand? …

Most of the transgressions that brought the NCAA gumshoes here in March 2014 — a free iPad, the use of a car belonging to a man who may or may not have been a booster, an operations director acting as a coach, practice hours, etc. — were, in the grand scheme of things, manini.

Lying and obfuscating weren’t. Nothing raises NCAA hackles — or dooms an institution to more grief — than fibbing to the folks from Indianapolis.

Sans the cover-up, Isaac Fotu would have gotten no more than a three-game suspension last year. Gib Arnold probably not much more. The drama could have been over in time for UH to hang a Big West championship banner in 2015….

read … Coverup

March 8: Who will Hawaii voters pick for Republican Presidential Nominee?

HTH: Presidential politics is heating up as the caucus and primary season has begun. Democrats and Republicans in Iowa started the process by going to their precinct caucuses on Feb. 1. They were the first in the nation to express which candidates they like most.

Hawaii is also a caucus state, and the Republican and Democratic parties will hold caucus meetings in state representative districts throughout the state in March — March 8 for Republicans and March 26 for Democrats….

In Hawaii, participating in the caucuses is a citizen’s only opportunity to indicate a preference among all the candidates who are running in each party….

When it comes to November, and the presidential election, the candidates — only one for each of the parties — are set and your choice is obviously limited. So, to get in on the action, make sure you are registered to vote and then join the party of your choice and put March 8 or March 26 on your calendar.

read … Caucuses Coming up

Gabbard vs Wasserman-Schultz Showdown at the Plaza Club Tuesday?

CB: The Facebook page of the Democratic Party of Hawaii says that U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz, and Mazie Hirono and U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai will be special guests at the DNC fundraiser.

Could be a little tense at the Plaza: Gabbard has publicly criticized Wasserman Schultz’s leadership at the DNC, where Gabbard is a vice chair.

read … A Little Tense

Nuuanu Ave Next Target in Caldwell’s War on Cars

KHON: The proposal would add bike lanes along the road, extend sidewalks on both sides of the street, and cut down the number of lanes from four during peak hours to three.

It would also turn two of the intersections along the stretch into roundabouts, something that has one neighborhood board member concerned.

“Hawaii doesn’t have a lot of experience with roundabouts there are a few of them but I don’t think they’re that common here that everyone is tuned in to how to get around them,” said neighborhood board member Dale White.

White says he’s also concerned that the proposal would take away street parking that some of his neighbors depend on.

read … Force you to lower your standard of living

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