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SB2239 Senate Committee Passes Bill to Limit State Participation in Federal Programs to Militarize Police
SB3089 Lacks legislative check on governor’s emergency powers
SB2697 Provides best pathway for cryptocurrency in Hawaii
HB2028 Would Legalize Limited Raw Milk Sales
Honolulu Businessman Milton Choy was Turned by Feds ‘A Couple of Years’ Ago
CB: … Milton Choy, the well-heeled and politically connected owner of a wastewater business, has been working with federal investigators on a bribery case involving Hawaii lawmakers for years, his attorney says.
(Really Obvious Question: What did the Feds have on Choy?)
Choy, who was identified only as Person A in federal charging documents released Tuesday, is at the center of the bribery scandal involving two former lawmakers who have been charged with felony wire fraud….
Choy’s company, H2O Process Systems, worked on a wastewater treatment plant on Maui that was approved as a result of a law Cullen helped to push for in 2015. Prosecutors allege Cullen forwarded that measure as a favor to Choy.
Choy’s attorney, Michael Green, said he and Choy have been involved with the federal investigation for years, but would not say when exactly Choy began cooperating with the FBI or if other legislators or public officials may be caught in this bribery probe….
“This is something that has been done very very carefully, almost surgically, over the last couple years,” Green said….
Water Scalping: In fact, a new wastewater plant on Maui links Choy’s company with the charging documents filed by federal prosecutors on Tuesday.
The information documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office on Tuesday lay out the charges against Cullen and English and detail the steps they took to assist Choy and his business.
Cullen’s court documents indicate that in 2015 he helped to push a bill that “provided for a feasibility study and pilot project for the collection and treatment of wastewater.” Prosecutors allege that Cullen introduced the measure to favor of Choy’s company after receiving more than $20,000 in poker chips from Choy while in Louisiana a year prior.
“The Legislature’s passage of the bill resulted in a subcontract being issued to Person A’s company,” the court document states.
Details in the document point to that bill being Act 229. Cullen helped advance the measure as House Bill 1394 in 2015. The law required the state Department of Transportation to conduct a water scalping feasibility study on state airports. The measure set aside $8.6 million for the study….
In 2016, the state awarded a contract for the study worth $1.5 million to CH2M Hill Inc., a Colorado engineering company. That firm produced the report alongside R.M. Towill, another local company that deals with wastewater.
The study was completed in 2017, and based on that study, the DOT determined that the Kahului airport has “substantial potential for the development of alternative water resources,” DOT Director Jade Butay wrote in a notice in 2019 requesting that the project be exempted from certain environmental review laws.
The DOT issued two awards related to that project. One contract for construction management went to Bow Construction Management Services Inc. and another award for site construction was awarded to Jas. W. Glover LTD, the general contractor.
H2O Process Systems wasn’t listed as a subcontractor on documents provided by the DOT. Officials said Thursday afternoon they were unable to confirm that the company ever performed work on the project.
However, H2O Process Systems says on its website that it has worked on the project and lists the Kahului airport wastewater system among its ongoing projects.
On its website, the company states that it “provided all turn-key systems, processing equipment, controls and instruments in order to bring (the project) to fruition.”
“When all (is) said and done this project will allow the airport to scalp a substantial portion of wastewater that was previously being treated and discharged into the ocean from its facility on-site and reuse the treated effluent for large irrigation plots,” the company’s website says….
Choy’s most recent political donation came in November, when he gave Caldwell’s gubernatorial campaign $4,000….
ILind: More on the most recent bribery charges
ILind: It’s an ongoing investigation that’s been underway for years
HHD: Saiki Statement
ILind: Honest Services Wire Fraud
HNN: Businessman at center of bribery scandal has not been charged but has history of legal campaign donations
KHON: Lawmakers shunning legally reported money from major donor-contractor tied to bribery schemes
RELATED: Naming Names: Who Will Cullen and English Rat Out?
read … Honolulu Businessman Milton Choy Had Been Working For Years With Feds On Legislative Bribery Case
Hawaii political donor received almost $6 million in contracts
SA: … The $6 million in county and state contracts to Choy’s companies include sanitization operations related to COVID-19, wastewater treatment and filtration, and the operation of temporary emergency shelters. According to county procurement records, at least two of the largest contracts, totaling a little more than $4 million, were sole-sourced, meaning Choy’s company, H2O Process, was identified as the only one that could meet the bid requirements.
Since 2014, Choy has donated to dozens of lawmakers, including two governors, three mayors, Council members in each county, and the chairmen of the money committees in the state House and Senate.
Milton Choy, Jarret Choy, two other family members and two business managers of wastewater and industrial equipment companies, H2O Process Systems LLC and Fluid Technologies, owned by Choy, have donated $268,046 to candidates for Hawaii office since 2014.
During the period of time when the pair of former lawmakers allegedly accepted bribes, English was Democratic majority leader, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Technology and a member of the Senate Committees on Ways and Means and Transportation. Cullen also served on the House Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Committee and the Government Reform Committee….
read … Hawaii political donor received almost $6 million in contracts
How Hawaii Legislative System Invites Corruption
CB: … We desperately need those of you in positions of leadership in the House and Senate to step forward today and lead.
You have the power and you don’t require a bill or a law or a task force – to immediately:
1 - Ban the practice of political fundraising during the legislative session.
2 - End the unilateral power of a committee chair.
3 - Require public votes to defer bills indefinitely, or to otherwise kill a bill.
4 - Open the Capitol to the public – NOW
The current practice of allowing committee chairs to solicit and accept $2,000 to $4,000 campaign contributions (and more when bundled) at the very moment they are voting to pass or kill legislation that impact those same donors – is legal corruption.
It’s common knowledge that some committee chairs will kill bills for personal and political reasons unrelated to the substance of the measure or the public impacts. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022
Allowing committee chairs the sole power to decide whether to hear a bill, to pass a bill or to kill a bill invites corruption – both illegal and legal. It’s common knowledge that some committee chairs will kill bills for personal and political reasons totally unrelated to the substance of the measure or the public impacts.
Some will kill a bill simply because a friend, colleague, or member of leadership asked them to do so. Now we know that some do it for cash stuffed into envelopes, trips to casinos and fancy dinners….
read … Corruption By Any Other Name Is Still Corruption
Hawai’i Carbon Tax Promotes Imports Over Local Production
IM: … All locally produced products would cost more because farmers and commercial product producers would have to pay more for fuel and electricity. Imports would have embedded fuel and electricity costs that would not be affected by the carbon tax.
As for whether a carbon tax would reduce greenhouse gases, it should be noted that carbon tax proponents include American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell. Carbon taxes legitimize the continue use of fossil fuel as long as the polluter pays a tax that increases the price to consumers….
The Hawai’i State Legislature is debating carbon taxes this year.
If the effort is to get a small tax into law this year, that can be sharply increased in future years, then the spread in the cost between local production versus imports would also be expected to increase in future years….
read … Hawai`i Carbon Tax Promotes Imports Over Local Production
Record Inflation Hits Consumers & Business Owners in Hawaii
KITV: … At the Makiki Farmers Market in Honolulu, vendors told KITV4 in some cases bulk item prices have made unprecedented leaps.
"Some of our ingredients have more than doubled. It's been insane," Homemade pie baker Kathy Masunaga of Sweet Revenge Honolulu said regarding the price of cooking oil, "From one of these giant containers its gone from 18 to 20 dollars- and now it's 45," she said.
Those like Masunaga selling their wares at the farmer's market also must contend with the price of gas to get there.
The average price of gasoline is $3.47 a gallon across the US, according to Triple A, but $4.43 cents in the sate of Hawaii.
As for the price of a gallon of milk, the national average in January was $3.82 per the USDA. Yet, in Hawaii $6.76 is the average price for a gallon of milk.
"Price increase is tough. Finding product is tough. Because everybody is fishing for the same product especially with the new mandates on paper product and recyclable products," Steve Gonzalez of Gonzo Mexican Food described his inflation woes….
SA: ‘Alarming’ Honolulu inflation hit 6.0% in January -- Energy prices in Honolulu soared 32.3% over the year while food costs rose 8.4%. The prices for used cars and trucks skyrocketed 38.4% during the same time frame. The 6% inflation rate was the highest for Honolulu since it ended 1991 with an annual rate of 7.2%.
read … Record Inflation Hits Consumers & Business Owners in Hawaii
Some drivers remain wary over Oahu’s red light cameras ticketing vehicle’s owner
KHON: … The project raises questions — like what if a friend is borrowing the car or what if it is stolen?…
Ashley Thorrel said, “but it also could be, I guess, hard on other people that do let others borrow their car, so that’s just like a concern.”
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Minnie Kim said, “because I have other people that drive my car too, so I think it should be for whoever was actually driving the car, not the owner of the car.” …
read … Some drivers remain wary over Oahu’s red light cameras ticketing vehicle’s owner
Pacific may be most likely to see Chinese 'strategic surprise'
R: …The Pacific may well be the part of the world most likely to see "strategic surprise," the U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said on January 10, in comments apparently referring to possible Chinese ambitions to establish Pacific-island bases….
Flashback: China plans to revive strategic Kiribati airstrip
read … Surprise
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