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Thursday, January 27, 2011
January 27, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:53 PM :: 7910 Views

Inouye becomes Useless: Democrat leader says “Senate is out of the business of Earmarks”

Moody’s: Hawaii among states with largest debt—bond rating at risk

Palafox subject of Fraud Investigation? Abercrombie’s DoH pick withdraws

Life? Hawaii ranks 48th, lacks basic protection for women, unborn children, and terminally ill

House GOP Caucus: 10 Questions following State of the State

SB819 would study Mileage Fee for Hawaii Motorists

Full Text: Recktenwald’s State of the Judiciary Speech

Congress debates State Bankruptcy plans

Alaska Native Firms Shift Stimulus Work to Outsiders

SA: Open Judicial Selection process to public view

The Hawaii State Bar Association has changed its ways in deciding to recognize the public's need to know the reasons for finding judicial nominees "qualified" or "unqualified," but Gov. Neil Abercrombie has taken a step backward in concealing the names of candidates submitted to him. The entire process should be open to the public.

RELATED: Transparency? Abercrombie administration brings secrecy back to Capitol

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Murray, Dems boot Akaka from Veterans Affairs committee

Murray was voted chairwoman by Democrats on the committee. She replaces Sen. Daniel Akaka, an 86-year-old Democrat from Hawaii who leaves to chair the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The last time a Washington senator chaired a full committee was in the early 1980s, when Sen. Warren Magnuson (40 yrs seniority, ended career 1981) chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee and Sen. Henry Jackson (30 years seniority, ended career 1983) led the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee.   (This is a peek into Hawaii’s future.  30 years without any clout in DC.) 

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Money Woes Not a Priority For Health Fund Trustees

Wednesday's meeting of EUTF trustees stuck strictly to a thin agenda that covered a single two-month-old financial update, administrative updates and reports from health insurance carriers. Yet the meeting was fraught with moments of disarray.

For one, the trustees haven't set their legislative priorities. Despite a Wednesday deadline to introduce legislative measures at the Capitol, the EUTF board had only one piece of proposed legislation. Members weren't even sure it had been submitted. The proposed bill does not help address the fund's money problems, but instead seeks to change a filing date from a fiscal year to calendar year basis.

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Hawaii's Retirement System — A Danger Demanding Sunshine

Would it surprise you to learn, that during the new millennium's first decade, Hawaii's lawmakers borrowed almost $9 billion from government workers in the taxpayers' name?

That's exactly what I discovered in the 85th Annual Actuarial Valuation Report (as of June 30, 2010) to the board of Hawaii's Public Employees' Retirement System (HERS).

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Governor Wants Overtime Excluded From Pension Base

Gov. Abercrombie is proposing a change to the state retirement law that would dramatically reduce the pensions for many government workers -- particularly police officers.

When city street sweepers were busted for false overtime, last year, the mastermind, Maintenance Supervisor Manuel Castro, admitted it wasn't the overtime they were after -- but bigger pensions from the retirement system.

“I took advantage of them in just the last couple of years when i was ready to retire,” Castro said in court.

In Hawaii, overtime counts towards government workers’ pensions. The state budget director, Kalbert Young, said there are cases where police officers or other public safety workers got more in overtime than their base salaries -- leading eventually to much higher pensions.

Starting this summer, the governor wants to end use of overtime in calculating pensions.  (Better retire now and  get while the getting is good.)

(Word for the unions that elected Abercrombie?  Suckers!  If only they could go back to the furlough days!)

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Abercrombie Proposes Doubling Vehicle Weight Tax

Gov. Neil Abercrombie is proposing a significant increase in the vehicle weight tax.

Under the proposal, car owners could see their weight tax bill more than double.

Vehicles weighing less than 4,000 pounds would see a tax increase from 75 cents to $1.75 per HUNDRED pounds.

Cars that weigh more than 4,000 pounds would see taxes rise from $1 per pound to $2 per HUNDRED pounds.

State Budget Director Kalbert Young said the weight tax currently brings in an annual $34.5 million to the state. He said the proposed increase would bring in an additional $32.9 million, for a total of about $67 million.


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Beverage Daily: Hawaiian governor Abercrombie proposes soda tax

The concept of taxing sugary beverages has been proposed on a state level throughout the United States as a means of plugging state budget deficits, as well as a possible way to fight obesity, and 33 states already impose a sales tax on soda. Hawaii has a budget deficit of $844m and Abercrombie said his aim is to close it within the next two years.

Obesity rates in Hawaii are actually among the nation’s lowest, ranking 47th in the US. According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hawaiian obesity rates stood at 22.6 percent from 2007-2009, while combined rates of obesity and overweight were 57.3 percent during the same period. Nationwide, 68 percent of Americans were overweight or obese in 2008, including 34 percent who were obese – up from 15 percent in 1980.

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ACT 221 vs Earned Income Tax Credits

The television show "Lost" spent nearly $400 million during its six seasons of filming in Hawaii, according to the state in a June 17, 2010, Star-Advertiser report.

Clearly $400 million is a lot of money. Still, one must wonder, who really gets this amount? Does it stay in Hawaii? And how much does it cost to bring in this "investment"?

Then there's a July 18, 2010, article reporting that from 2001 to 2008, the state's Act 221, which provides qualified investments in technology businesses such as the film industry with a 100 percent tax credit, "cost the state up to $1.2 billion in forgone income tax revenues."

While I am in favor of the film industry's presence in Hawaii, I believe that a comparison with that industry will illustrate the importance and impact of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. From 2005 to 2009, the IRS reports, the EITC brought more than $815 million into the state. For tax year 2009 alone, the EITC returned more than $205 million, almost all of which stays right here in Hawaii, to 102,736 Hawaii residents.

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Hawaii attracted 7 million visitors, $11.4 billion in spending in 2010

Arrivals in December grew for the fourteenth straight month and overall spending rose by double-digit increases for the eighth straight month, according to data released today by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Total arrivals rose 9.6 percent to 633,730 visitors in December and total spending by these visitors increased 17.9 percent to $1.1 billion. Arrivals in all major markets posted December gains. Visitors from the U.S. West rose by 8.4 percent, visitors from the U.S. East grew by 10.1 percent, visitors from Canada grew by 16.6 percent, visitors from Japan increased by 8.6 percent and cruise ship traffic was up 11.5 percent.

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Ige: Hard time justifying Abercrombie’s Aloha Stadium plan

The NFL Pro Bowl pumps more than an estimated $30 million annually into the local economy. But luring prized economic jewels such as the Pro Bowl is becoming a high-stakes game that is every bit as competitive as anything that unfolds on the playing fields.

Without a renovated stadium, some sports fans worry Hawaii will find it harder to continue chasing events such as the Pro Bowl, which the state has committed $4 million to secure this year.

But nothing is ever easy at Aloha Stadium, which is up against the enormous fiscal pressure the state faces as revenues continue to fall below expectations. The competition for capital-improvement money remains fierce, and the state’s ailing budget is complicating plans for the stadium–especially because so many of the Department of Education’s aging buildings are in the mix, forcing the Hawaii Legislature to make unpalatable choices.

“If money is no object, building a modern stadium would make sense,” says Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “But if it is going to cost several hundred million dollars, I would have a hard time justifying it against all the other needs.”

KHON: Aloha Stadium future uncertain

Black Book: Pro Bowl in Hawaii Like a Middle Finger to the Mainland

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Bishop Silva: “Marc Alexander is still a priest”

His bishop, however, had not seen the move coming. “At the end of December,” Bishop Silva recalled in a statement released by the diocese on Jan. 20, “I announced that I had granted Father Marc Alexander the six month sabbatical he had requested for rest, study, and spiritual renewal.” In light of his departure, he said, “I am sure that many will be as shocked and surprised as I was.”

As Bishop Silva explained on Jan. 26, Fr. Alexander has not lost either the spiritual gifts, or the sacred obligations, that he received at ordination. However, having abandoned his ministry, he is no longer permitted to celebrate the sacraments, or perform other priestly functions, under all but the most urgent circumstances.

“Marc Alexander is still a priest,” the bishop explained, “but his faculties have been withdrawn. He has not requested dismissal from the clerical state, nor has it been granted.”

“However, in light of his decision to abandon the active priestly ministry, his 'license' to minister, granted by the bishop, has been withdrawn. He may not licitly perform any specific priestly functions.  He may give absolution to someone only if that person is in danger of death. Otherwise, he is not to function as a priest,” the bishop said.

He also rejected Fr. Alexander's implication that his secular career could be considered as simply another kind of “calling.” Instead, he expressed hopes for the priest's return to the work of his vocation.

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Politicos make sure they are photographed sneaking prayer in Godless Senate

In this photo provided by the Office of Senator Will Espero, Sen. Will Espero, D-Ewa-Ewa Beach-Lower Waipahu; Sen. Ronald Kouchi, D-Kauai-Niihau; Sen. Gil Kahele, D-Hilo-Honokaa; Sen. Pohai Ryan, R-Lanikai-Waimanalo; Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, D-Kalihi-Liliha; Sen. Michelle Kidani, D-Mililani; Sen. Glenn Wakai, D-Salt Lake-Foster Village; Sen. Clarence Nishihara, D-Waipahu; Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-Kalaeloa-Makakilo pary on the senate floor Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011 in Honolulu. Espero organized the event to show that the Senate has not eliminated prayer even though it won't be a part of official proceedings.

RELATED: Intimidated by ACLU, Hawaii Senate prohibits itself free exercise of Religion

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Atheists cheer Senators’ prayer huddle

Voluntary prayer prior to the business of the government is much different than an officially sanctioned moment of prayer that reflects a very specific religious view. I'm not sure the floor of the Senate is the best place for it (why make a show?), but kudos to these lawmakers for trying to demonstrate the distinction between private prayer - which is protected by the Constitution - and government prayer.

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Sen Slom says he voted against Senate Prayer ban

It has been widely reported that the Hawaii Senate voted unanimously to end its practice of opening each day’s session with an invocation, but Sen. Sam Slom in his Smart Business Hawaii newsletter says he voted against the ban:  “Just at a time when we and especially lawmakers can use some Divine Guidance, the Hawaii Senate all but banned the opening invocation at the start of every senate session. This has been a tradition forever. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled decisively that invocations by legislative bodies were both legal and appropriate. This really was a spineless gesture to both the ACLU and our local atheist extraordinaire, both of who have lawsuits pending against the State. I guess I was the only one to speak and vote against this move in the Senate. God Bless Us, One and All.”

VIDEO: Hawaii Right to Life demonstrates in Hilo

Hawaii Right to Life was out in force on Monday, lining Kilauea Avenue in front of the new state courthouse and waving pro-life signs.

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Recall botched by lazy bureaucrats: Small Businesses angry

Business owners waited several hours Wednesday morning, wanting answers from state health officials. The owners expressed frustration and anger after the state listed their local products on a massive statewide recall.

“Our good will name has been trashed and its years to get this business to build to where it’s at and to have something like this happen is major,” said Dan Kaslow, of Da Kine Enterprises.

Kaslow said he stopped paying First Commercial Kitchen to manufacture the company's salad dressings late last year. He added he can prove the products are safe. Jill Lee, owner of Honolulu Gourmet Foods, said she pulled her dressings out of First Commercial Kitchen three years ago.

“I understand the health department is trying to help the public but I am here today to clear my name and provide current test results, and let everyone know are products are safe and we don't belong on that list,” said Lee.

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Cabanilla proposes Birther Tax: Hawaii lawmakers want release of Obama birth information

Five Hawaii Democratic representatives want to pass a law making President Barack Obama's birth records public and charge $100 to see them.

Sponsor Rep. Rida Cabanilla said she wants to end the controversy surrounding Obama's birth by handing over official state government records to those who will pay.

She says the fee would help offset the extra work by state workers to handle frequent phone calls and e-mails from people who believe Obama wasn't born in Hawaii.

All you need to know about Cabanilla: Child molester back at work at Hawaii Legislature

Political Radar: Afterbirth

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Bill would disregard intent in second-degree murders

The second-degree murder statute now requires prosecutors to prove an intent to kill someone to gain a conviction.

Louie said the bill would fix what prosecutors contend is a glaring loophole.

"When someone does something heinous, when they beat somebody, when they intend very serious personal injury ... or (when there is) a strong probability of injury and the person dies," the assailant should be convicted of murder, he said.

Senate Bill 1229, also House Bill 1002, is the top priority for the Hawaii Law Enforcement Coalition, made up of the attorney general, and both the prosecuting attorneys and police chiefs of all four Hawaii counties.

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George Perry Jr., Athletic Trainer, Alleged Hawaii Mob Figure, Dead at 77

A retired City refuse worker, Perry was a close associate of Big Island rancher and businessman Larry Mehau, who has repeatedly denied his own allegations of organized crime involvement.

In sworn depositions filed in a federal civil suit brought against HPD by police officer Kenneth Kamakana, five HPD CIU officers said in 2002 that Perry and Mehau had been identified as organized crime figures….

Perry was convicted in the 1960’s of a felony assault charge and in 1975 of a misdemeanor gambling offense….

Perry was a partner with former Detroit Lions NFL player Rockne Freitas, now a vice president of the University of Hawaii, in GRG Enterprises, Inc., a controversial business venture that leased state property at Kewalo Basin and subleased it at a six-fold profit to other companies without obtaining necessary state approval.

In 1999, the Honolulu Advertiser reported that the state had excused GRG from paying more than $541,000 in back lease rent after the company argued it would be forced into bankruptcy if required to pay the bill.

The company then surrendered the property to the state after disputing any obligation to pay clean-up costs of environmental contamination caused by leaking underground diesel fuel tanks at the waterfront site.

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The Challenge(s) of Geothermal: Does a new report promise too much, too soon?

Last year, the state legislature authorized a "Geothermal Working Group" to look specifically at that alternative, which uses volcanic steam from deep wells to drive generators. The committee's mandate, in fact, tasked it specifically to "analyze the potential development of geothermal energy as the primary energy source to meet the baseload demand for electricity on the Big Island." When its "Interim Report" surfaced last week, it seemed to answer that question with a resounding "Yes."

The group's chair, Big Island farmer Richard Ha (who also heads a consortium that wants to buy HEI, the parent company of HECO and HELCO), recommended that the group ask the legislature to "support the use of geothermal as the primary source of base power for the Big Island.

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US judge affirms $353-M fine on Imelda, Bongbong Marcos

NEW YORK—Judge Manuel L. Real of the Hawaii Court of First Instance has affirmed a 1995 contempt of court judgment against Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos and her son now Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for accumulated fines of $353 million.

Issued on Jan. 25, the court order gives claimants in the human rights violations case against the late Ferdinand Marcos the legal standing to go after the individual property of either or both his widow and his son, even as it adds to the $1.6-billion original judgment against the dictator’s estate.

The order may be implemented immediately against any US property overtly or covertly owned by Imelda and Bongbong Marcos. But for personal property in the Philippines, the claimants will have to ask Philippine courts for implementation of the verdict.

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U.S. EPA applauds Maui and Kauai for decision to ban plastic shopping bags

The lies and stupidity go all the way to the top. Tiiiimbeeer!

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