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Sunday, March 13, 2022
March 13, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:32 PM :: 1192 Views

Can we please try some housing policies that work, like the ‘Tokyo model’?

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted March 11, 2022

Non-Ad Valorem Property Tax Financing

Do You Trust Corrupt DPP to Seize Property by Assessing Fines?

Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review 

63 Candidates File for Election

A Billion here, $600M there -- More spending by legislators

Borreca: … legislators are releasing the budget belt more than a couple of notches.

Last week, the state’s Council on Revenues issued two reports freeing up state spending, according to state Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee.

“This year we are incorporating many spending bills into the budget,” Luke said during Thursday’s Finance Committee hearing on the budget….

Ige essentially worries that good times will end someday, so the state should tuck about a billion dollars into a “rainy day” fund. The Legislature’s Democratic majority, after years of seeing no new money, now wants to give an unqualified “yes” to more spending.

“Compared to what the governor thought at the beginning of the year, we are looking at a significant increase in revenues,” Luke said in an interview…

The biggest item in the lawmakers’ budget is $600 million for Native Hawaiian housing projects…

HTH: Lawmakers resistant to $1B for rainy day fund, but Ige remains ‘hopeful’ the money will be allocated

read … more spending by legislators

Tourist Fees Still Alive, Tax Rebate Dead

SA: … Gov. David Ige also proposed a $100 tax rebate or credit for every taxpayer and their dependents, but the plan seems to be going nowhere.

The governor proposed the giveback during his State of the State speech Jan. 24 and included its estimated $110 million cost in his proposed state budget as tax revenues continue to grow following the pandemic.

However, a pair of bills to deliver the rebates, which would give a family of four $400, failed to pass out of the House or Senate after scant discussion.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has forecast that tourism arrivals will rebound faster than expected and tie Hawaii’s 2019 pre-COVID-19 number of 10.4 million in 2025. House and Senate leaders proposed a series of bills to charge tourism-related fees to offset their impacts, but only one significant bill, the latest version of SB 3192, remains alive.

It would create “a visitor impact fee program” to collect a fee to visit a state park, beach, state-owned forest, hiking trail or other state-owned natural area.

Other tourism fees appear dead, perhaps most notably separate Senate and House bills that would impose a new “climate change mitigation impact fee” on every visitor who rents or leases a vehicle, or rides a tour bus or shuttle….

PDF: How major bills fared at the Legislature

read … Wide range of bills advance, stall at mid-point of Hawaii legislative session

Accountability for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ funds?

SA Editorial: … Companion bills introduced in the House and Senate have crossed over, and it’s clear to see why. Senate Bill 3359 and House Bill 2511 each propose to appropriate $600 million for the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and its mission to carry out the act by giving homestead leases to the beneficiaries of the century-old law….

The warning signs come from ongoing worries about DHHL’s weak record of performance. A recent investigation by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in partnership with the ProPublica Local Reporting Network unearthed the need for the agency to exercise more due diligence….

there is risk in committing a major outlay of funds to the DHHL delivery system, given its history of inefficiencies and troubles.

The latest tale of woe was told by Star-Advertiser writer Rob Perez, who recorded the stories of nearly 80 Hawaiian homesteaders. Their elation after getting their home — and off the waiting list, after many years — evaporated when serious construction problems started coming to light.

This can be the sad experience of homeownership, certainly not limited to beneficiaries of a special program. But unlike conventional home purchases, this time the new owners did not choose the builder. DHHL did, but did not pay for a building inspector hired to look out expressly for beneficiaries’ interest….

Background:

read … Accountability for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ funds

After Arrests, Ethics Bills on the Move in Legislature

SA: … Following guilty pleas in February by former Sen. J. Kalani English and former Rep. Ty J.K. Cullen, a joint hearing of the House Committees on Government Reform and Legislative Management almost immediately moved out House Bill 1475, which mandates ethics training for new elected officials and state hires within 90 days of employment and again every four years.

The committees also kept alive bills designed to improve government transparency, including HB 2069, which outlines how lawmakers and state employees report and deal with gifts from foreign officials, federal officers or officials from other states.

They also killed HB 1871 and Senate Bill 2714, which would have exempted legislators and state employees from state Code of Ethics provisions banning the acceptance of “foreign protocol gifts, gifts of aloha, invitations to certain events and meals, under certain conditions.”

Also dead is HB 1874, which would have allowed state boards to “conduct up to one retreat in private per calendar year; provided that the board does not vote on any matter, make decisions, or deliberate toward a decision on any matter currently pending before the board or likely to arise before the board.” ….

PDF: How major bills fared at the Legislature

read … Wide range of bills advance, stall at mid-point of Hawaii legislative session

Housing Bills on the Move in Legislature

CB: … Some are legislative blockbusters that relate to funding, and include $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to build homes for thousands of Native Hawaiians on a waitlist for residential leases.

But other less-publicized measures are still alive, addressing a broad range of issues from supporting development of tiny home villages to requiring the governor’s homeless coordinator to identify public lands suitable for affordable housing and providing $300 million in funding to develop rental housing….

A proposed Senate bill: … households that qualify for federal welfare payments – known as temporary assistance for needy families, or TANF — could receive an additional $500 per month for housing. A House companion bill also has crossed over….

House lawmakers have proposed what they say is a measure to help ALICE families. Sponsored by more than 40 House members including House Speaker Scott Saiki, the bill would provide $150 million to develop rental housing for households earning between 60% and 100% of the area median income….

A House bill seeks to … put money into a revolving fund to support home ownership. Central to the bill’s vision are organizations like Habitat for Humanity, which enable people to reduce construction costs by forming groups that provide volunteer labor to help build houses for themselves and others.

A three-bedroom home built with such sweat equity might require a mortgage of just $300,000 for a three-bedroom home, while the market value would be in the $700,000 range, she said. Creating a fund to help people build and buy such homes is a way not just to house people but also to enhance the state’s financial well-being, she said….

Despite federal money available for housing, people wanting to use federal vouchers often face a challenge: landlords don’t want to accept them. Two bills still alive, a House measure and Senate companion, seek to change that by creating incentives for landlords who accept federal Section 8 vouchers…. 

KITV: Optimism high at State Capitol to solve Hawaii's affordable housing crisis

read …  These 5 Bills Could Be Game Changers For Hawaii Residents Struggling To Afford A Place To Live

Onishi pushes back on retirement fund bill

HTH: … A bill that would establish a state-managed retirement fund program for employees might be dead on arrival unless proponents make fundamental changes to how it operates.

Senate Bill 3289 would enroll every worker in the state whose employer has not provided them with an individual retirement plan into a program that would automatically deduct part of their paychecks and deposit it in a state-managed account. Workers would be allowed to opt out of the program at will.

Hilo Rep. Richard Onishi is chair of the House Committee on Labor and Tourism, which SB 3289 must pass to survive the House. But Onishi already refused to put an identical companion bill, House Bill 2046, on his committee’s agenda in January, causing that bill to die on the vine.

Onishi said he fears workers could unknowingly be enrolled in a program that deducts wages they cannot afford to live without.

The latest draft of the bill sets the contribution amount between 5% and 8% of an employee’s salary or wages, which Onishi said could be untenable for many households, particularly with the effects of the COVID pandemic and skyrocketing gas prices….

But the bill is not necessarily dead. Onishi said he has given advocates of the measure an ultimatum: He will put the bill on his committee’s agenda if they agree to make the program opt-in instead of opt-out….

AARP Hawaii State Director Keali‘i Lopez previously told the Tribune-Herald that the opt-out nature of the program is important because, statistically, most people will not seek out retirement savings options on their own….

read … Onishi pushes back on retirement fund bill

War In Ukraine Helps Drive Up The Cost Of Living In The Pacific

CB: … Hawaii’s energy office says investing in renewable energy is necessary to reduce the state’s reliance on foreign oil.  But they are wrong.  What we need is more fracking, more drilling and more pipelines…..

Hawaii is the most petroleum-dependent U.S. state and residents consume about 12 times more energy than the state produces, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  (This is after 15 year of the clean energy initiative.  How long will it take for Hawaii to discover CEI is fake?)

Matson, said the company plans to respond to higher prices by increasing its fuel surcharge by 7.5% next month for Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.  (Two words: Jones Act.)

USA Today reported that nationwide, the national average price of gasoline exceeded $4.17 this week, an historic high, and it has gone up since then. Gas prices were already higher than average in U.S. territories like Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. In some parts of the Marianas, gas prices exceeded $7 this week, the Saipan Tribune reported.

Motorists aren’t the only ones affected by the increases. Hawaiian Electric said Thursday that Oahu residents should expect to see about a 10% increase in their monthly electric bills, while Maui and Hawaii island residents could see their bills increase as much as 20%. (This is after 15 year of the clean energy initiative.  How long will it take for Hawaii to discover CEI is fake?)

read … War In Ukraine Helps Drive Up The Cost Of Living In The Pacific

Kauai Council News: Only Felicia Cowden was Craven Enough to Accept Putin Junket

SA: … Branson was charged by federal criminal complaint Tuesday for allegedly failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, conspiring to commit visa fraud and lying to FBI agents. Kauai County Council member Felicia Cowden is listed in the charging documents as “Councilmember-1.”

According to the Justice Department and documents obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, at Branson’s request Cowden invited Gov. David Ige, former Pacific Missile Range Facility commander Capt. Vincent Johnson, former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, officials with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawa­kami and Senate President Ron Kouchi to meetings with Branson and Russian Federation officials to discuss retaining the name of the fort.

Those officials included Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Embassy Minister Sergey Koshelev, according to the correspondence.

Cowden also forwarded Ige, Kouchi, Kawakami and DLNR officials invitations from Branson to travel to Vologda, Russia, for a conference in 2019. They all declined. Cowden and three others from Hawaii accepted the all-expenses-paid trip.

Branson had been tapped by Russian President Vladimir Putin and top Kremlin officials to push pro-Russian policies and messages while building relationships with county, state and federal government officials and others, according to the complaint.

“At the direction of the Russian government, she led a years-long campaign to identify the next generation of American leaders, cultivate information channels, and shape U.S. policy in favor of Russian objectives,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll, in a statement announcing the charges.

read .. Cowden uniquely craven

Kauai Council News: Brun co-conspirator pleads guilty

TGI: … Orlando “Ole” Manguchei admitted last week to conspiring with former Kaua‘i County Councilmember Arthur Brun to having possessed a firearm and ammunition as a felon….

Brun and Manguchei spoke on the phone, with Brun explaining that he had a line on a firearm.

Brun, as a councilmember, actually worked to secure funding for the wiretap services used to record these conversations.

Manguchei has a rap sheet going back to 1994, having served time for DUIs, harassment, drug charges and firearms violations.

He has escaped extended-furlough custody twice in the last decade — first in 2015, when he went missing from a transitional home in Kapa‘a while serving time for threats and drug charges. Manguchei was not discovered until June 16, 2016, when vice officers found him along with four dogs that had recently been reported missing from the Kaua‘i Humane Society.

While doing time for weapons charges, Manguchei, while on work furlough in 2019, escaped custody and was apprehended after a week-long manhunt through the mountains near Wailua.

Brun agreed to a 15-year prison sentence for charges ranging from weapons violations to possession and distribution of meth, assaulting a law-enforcement officer, and evidence- and witness-tampering. Brun said in his plea that he sold drugs to support his addiction. His sentencing statement is scheduled for March 24….

read … Brun co-conspirator pleads guilty

No Bidders For Incredibly Cheap Russian Oil

B: … Sokol oil from the Sakhalin-I project in Russia’s Far East was offered by ONGC Videsh for May-loading, with the latest price indications showing deep discounts for the grade. The failure to attract bids follows a similar pattern to Russia’s Urals crude, which has struggled for buyers despite being incredibly cheap.

Sokol is a favorite crude of Asian buyers such as South Korea, China, and Singapore, as well as Hawaii. The lack of interest could provide a sneak peek into what’s to come next week when another Far East Russian grade -- known as ESPO -- begins trading for the month. China’s independent refiners in the Shandong region are typically big consumers of the oil.

ESPO yields a large amount of diesel when refined, making it a very attractive grade at the moment as fuel margins soar on concerns about the disruption to Russian flows….

read … No Bidders For Incredibly Cheap Russian Oil

U.S. tsunami warning system needs major overhaul, report says

WaPo: … The United States’ tsunami system is in need of a major update, with ongoing problems that include outdated software, delayed alerts and poor communication to the public, according to a panel of tsunami experts. Its recent report sees “an urgent need for action” and advises the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to overhaul aspects of the system to fix these and other pressing issues. ….

read … U.S. tsunami warning system needs major overhaul, report says

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