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Wednesday, March 9, 2022
March 9, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:00 AM :: 2411 Views

Feds Indict Russian Agent -- Organized Kauai Council Junket to Russia

Ige: Hawaii Indoor Mask Mandate Ends March 26

Case Asks Biden to Waive Jones Act to Ship US Oil to Hawaii

Thanks to Sneaky Lawyers, Jones Act Waiver will Require Act of Congress

State Releases Agricultural Land Use Baseline Study

Maui’s Automated Planning and Permitting System to launch April 18

How Hawaii’s Spike in Gas Prices Compares to the Nation

OSHA Raids: Hawaii 4th Most Likely Target

Special Funds? In 2022 Legislature 100% Fail Analysis

DoH Declares Navy Water Safe in More Areas

Is Hawaii's Legislature Corrupt?

CB: … the accused senator was said to have bragged that “killing a bill is easy.” But what is missing here is, why it is so easy to kill a bill and get paid for it?

Something is missing in the system that allowed this to happen.

First, the structure of the Hawaii House of Representatives is in the shape of a pyramid with the speaker of the House at the top. He has total control of the legislative agenda. His leadership team of a vice speaker, majority leader, majority floor leader and chair of the House Finance Committee (“The Big 5”) implement his agenda through 18 committee chairs who oversee passing or killing bills, often at the speaker’s behest.

This small number of people exert an inordinate amount of influence in the legislative process, and the two defrocked legislators were in positions that led to corruption….

Some reasons committee chairs could go to the dark side:

  • They are given too much authority to pass or kill a bill and are only accountable to the speaker, not the members of their committees.
  • They have tremendous influence over their members. Chairs are held in great deference. For example, if a member votes “no” or “with reservations” on a bill, they do so gingerly and apologetically, as to not upset the chair.

Secrecy and the lack of transparency are other flaws associated with the legislative process:

  • For example, committee hearings are first conducted openly but then in secret when it comes to passing or killing a bill. The fate of most bills has been determined before the hearing even begins.
  • Because of this, some chairs don’t care to hear much testimony from the public and have a habit of speeding up hearings by subtly suggesting testifiers simply say, “I stand on my written testimony.” The public hears nothing about the merits of a piece of legislation.

The House of Representatives’ Rules should be amended to make committee hearings more transparent and members more accountable with reforms that:

  • Require legislators to be engaged in selecting the bills to be heard and committee chairs to call for a vote on bills that are killed.
  • Forbid committee chairs to instruct testifiers to just “stand on their testimony.” Instead, testifiers would be required to succinctly state their case before the public.
  • Make testifiers’ written testimony readily available to legislators and the public 48 hours before any hearing.
  • Require decision-making discussions by committees to be made in public and not behind closed doors, or in virtual “breakout rooms” on Zoom.

So, is Hawaii’s Legislature corrupt? “Yes, kind of, but …”

read … Is Hawaii's Legislature Corrupt?

Two more Miske co-defendants expected to flip

ILind: … Two more co-defendants charged with Miske in the original July 2020 indictment are now scheduled to plead guilty over the next week, presumably part of plea deals with federal prosecutors.

Kaulana Freitas is scheduled to face Federal Judge Derrick Watson Wednesday morning in a plea change hearing.

Freitas was charged with being a member of Miske’s alleged racketeering and drug conspiracies, and with taking part in two chemical attacks on Honolulu nightclubs, releasing a chemical used in termite tenting on the nightclub floors.

Michael Buntenbah is scheduled to appear in federal court a week from today to change his “not guilty” plea.

Both plea deals are expected to include agreements to cooperate by testifying against Miske and other former associates.

Buntenbah was the only co-defendant who was not accused of being a member of Miske’s alleged racketeering conspiracy, but was charged with “assault in aid of racketeering,” apparently related to his taking part in at least two high profile assault cases while working as a bouncer at Miske’s M Nightclub, as well as being part of a drug conspiracy that operated as part of what prosecutors refer to as the Miske Enterprise.

Whatever the details of their pleas, which are not publicly known at this point, Freitas and Buntenbah will be the fourth and fifth co-defendants to take a deal and “flip.”…

The case is currently set for trial in early September….

read … Two more Miske co-defendants expected to flip

Electric bills may bring jolt: Could see charge increase 20%

HTH: … “As the U.S. and other nations stand with the people of Ukraine and impose powerful economic sanctions on Russia, including the refusal to buy Russian oil, Hawaii will see higher prices at the gas pump and in electric bills,” Hawaiian Electric Co. Senior Communications Consultant Kristen Okinaka said Tuesday. “Over the next several months, we could be seeing a bill increase of up to 20% on Hawaii Island.”…

Though the company has executed renewable energy contracts with independent power producers that are no longer tied to the price of oil, some are still connected to the cost of imported fuels. Okinaka said that means electric bills will go up as the cost of imported oil rises. On Tuesday, oil prices surged with a cost of a barrel of brent crude topping $132, up from $128 Monday.

“We hope this surge won’t last and that bills could start to come down in June, but it all depends on the international situation….

According to the company’s most recent Energy Cost Recovery Filing on Feb. 24 — the same day Russia began its invasion of Ukraine — already rising fuel costs were expected to increase February’s electric bill for a home on Hawaii Island using 500 kilowatt-hours by 6.37% or $13.20 to over $220.

A 20% increase to that bill would set a family back over $260….

MN: Hawaiian Electric forecasting residential bills on Maui to rise 20% in coming months

KHON: HECO projects electricity rates to jump in Hawaii

read … Electric bills may bring jolt: Big Islanders could see charge increase of 20%

Isles need Jones Act waiver for oil imports

SA: … Until this past Thursday, Russia typically supplied a quarter to a third of all oil imported to Hawaii, but then the company that owns Hawaii’s oil refinery announced it would be suspending its purchases of Russian crude and turning to other grades of crude, principally from North and South America, to meet its fuel production requirements.

Premium gas prices in Hawaii already are in excess of $5 a gallon, and now they could surge even higher. Look for prices of almost everything in Hawaii to be affected. This development could be a crippling blow to the state’s economy, which already is struggling to recover from two years of coronavirus lockdowns….

Warnings about Hawaii becoming dependent on foreign sources were sounded as far back as 2014. A report by the Hawaii Refinery Task Force considered the risk to Hawaii’s energy supply if global events resulted in the reduced availability of foreign oil. Not surprisingly, it recommended a Jones Act waiver to allow Hawaii to get petroleum shipments from the mainland at lower cost….

read … Isles need Jones Act waiver for oil imports

Half-Way Point: House Approves Stadium Boondoggle, Minimum Wage, Capital Gains Tax, DHHL, Mauna Kea Bills

CB: … As the Legislature nears the halfway mark for this year’s session, measures to provide $600 million for Native Hawaiian housing and increase the capital gains tax also advance….

The proposed minimum wage increase passed the House on Tuesday in a 43-8 vote. Voting against the measure were Democrats Rep. Stacelynn Eli, Kapela, Sam Kong, Amy Perruso, Sean Quinlan and Roy Takumi. Republicans Matsumoto and Gene Ward also voted against the bill….

Senate President Ron Kouchi and others seemed displeased that the House refused to hear Senate Bill 2018, which would raise wages to $18 an hour by 2026 — two years sooner than the House version. The measure moved over to the House in January but has sat idle since.

Kouchi indicated that the Senate may amend the House bill to reflect the Senate’s draft. He said the Senate still needs to hear from advocates on the issue.

“If there is some concern that the House and Senate wind up disagreeing and (workers) end up getting no increase – then where is that compromise? I think that would come out in the testimony and communication we will receive in the next several weeks,” Kouchi said.….

Tucked into a bill that would move around a school buildings agency is a multimillion-dollar proposal to fund the construction of a new Aloha Stadium in Halawa.

Senate Bill 3334 would transfer the School Facilities Authority from the state Department of Education to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

But it also would give the state $350 million worth of general obligation bonds to finance the new stadium development. A committee report on House Bill 2470, a companion measure to SB 3334, proposes putting the $350 million in bonds for the stadium in the state’s supplemental budget bill instead.

Last year, lawmakers slashed the stadium’s financing to $170 million.

Bills that fail to win preliminary approval in either the House or the Senate by Thursday’s firm “crossover” deadline likely will die for this year, although lawmakers have been known to manipulate their rules and procedures in the past to resurrect measures later in the session if they are deemed to be particularly important….

The capital gains tax increase would increase the maximum capital gains tax from 7.25% to 11%, a step that the sTax Department estimates would allow the state to collect an extra $100 million or more each year.

That measure passed the House in a 46-5 vote, with Democratic Reps. Patrick Branco and Sam Kong voting against the measure along with Republican Reps. Matsumoto, Ward, and Bob McDermott.

read … House Approves Minimum Wage, Mauna Kea Bills After Emotional Floor Debate

Rail park-and-ride facility’s cost soar to half billion

HNN: … Half a billion dollars.

That’s the cost for the the rail system’s park-and -ride facility and related structures at the Pearl Highlands station ― costs rail officials (want you to believe they) are now trying to rein in….

HART said it’s too early to provide details but current and former City Councilmembers said downsizing shouldn’t be part of the plan.

“It is a big concern because not only does it serve Central Oahu it would also impact the folks (contractors and unions) who don’t have rail service and need rail service, (make big fat campaign contributions(” said City Councilmember Brandon Elefante.

“A decrease in rail ridership would negatively impact the financial feasibility of the rail system.”  (Which is why they keep finding excuses not to commence service)….

read … Rail park-and-ride facility’s cost soar ... but so does support for the project

Homeless from out-of-state increases in isles

KITV: …  Throughout the pandemic the number of homeless coming here from the mainland dropped significantly. But now as restrictions are being lifted, there's been a spike in homeless arrivals.

"It's definitely at a peak right now and so we're seeing some pressure on the system from those people coming from out-of-state without any intention of, you know, having a permanent residence," said Jill Wright, spokeswoman for the Institute for Human Services. "They want to come here and have a taste of paradise. So we've seen a lot of pent up demand."

According to the Institute for Human Services, more than 20% of residents in its men's shelter recently relocated to Oahu -- the latest hurdle as state leaders work to end homelessness in the islands.

"We see people daily from the CORE team that have just arrived within the last few days or the last few months," said Dr. James Ireland, director of Honolulu Emergency Services Department. "As Safe Travels goes away here, -- as COVID is getting better, which is a good thing -- that could potentially open up that gate again."

Hawaii has the second-highest homelessness rate per capita in the United States. And with travel restrictions easing this month, there may be more transplants on the way….

read … Homeless from out-of-state increases in isles

Hawaii Proud Boys founder likely headed to trial for his role in U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6

KITV: … The founder of the Hawaii chapter of the far-right extremist group - Proud Boys - is likely headed to trial as late as next March for his role in the violent insurrection at the U-S Capitol a little more than a year ago….

Nick Ochs, who also was a 2020 Republican nominee for Hawaii House District 22 in Waikiki, is facing federal charges in the case.

In court documents recently filed in District Court in Washington DC, both parties discussed the possibility of an early resolution of this case, however, it does not appear that the matter will be resolved without a trial….

A trial date is scheduled for either November 22nd, December 6th or March 6th, 20-23. The trial is expected to take about two weeks….

Ochs faces numerous federal charges including conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction and theft of government property and aiding and abetting….

read … Hawaii Proud Boys founder likely headed to trial for his role in U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6

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