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Wednesday, February 2, 2011
February 2, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:54 PM :: 6486 Views

Inouye will not accept Earmark requests for Next Two Years

HB1464 to be Heard Wednesday -- Ethics rules for Homeowners Associations

UPDATE: HB1468 Flagpole Bill will NOT be heard Wednesday

ProPublica evaluates Honolulu Medical Examiner

No Hawaii Beverage Tax: “Leave our grocery budget alone”

Hawaii: Islam Day is OK but Celebrating Christianity is Verboten

Another Victory on the Road to Repeal

Senate set to vote on Obamacare Repeal

Bachmann giving speech in Hawaii

For Bachmann, who is said to be weighing a White House run, the Hawaii speech is just one of several stops she's made outside of Minnesota in recent weeks.

Last month, Bachmann began fueling presidential speculation with her visit to Iowa, the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state. Last week, she was in California with some of her House GOP colleagues for a meeting of the Republican Study Committee. And Bachmann is headed to Montana on Saturday to speak at the Montana GOP’s Lincoln-Reagan dinner.

RELATED: Rep Michele Bachmann to speak on Oahu, Maui

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$321M in pork gone: Isle programs could lose out after U.S. Sen. Inouye bans earmarks following a pledge by Obama

Hawaii programs Inouye cronies that who depend on hundreds of millions of congressional dollars are in jeopardy after U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said yesterday he would ban "earmarks" for the next two years.

The moratorium on earmarks, provisions directed by members of Congress to specific projects, could mean crony job losses, cut programs and military construction projects by campaign donor contractors that might never see the light of day.

Inouye chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and has brought in much of the federal earmark money flowing into the islands pockets of his supporters. He is perhaps the most outspoken defender of earmarks, and has often been dubbed the unapologetic "king" of earmarks and pork-barrel spending.

Related: Inouye will not accept Earmark requests for Next Two Years

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Hawaii GOP lawmakers propose that each bill should state financial impact

New laws cost taxpayers' money, and Hawaii Republican legislators want a clearer accounting of how much.

A measure introduced by the Republican minority would put a price tag on every bill with a financial impact, which they said would increase government transparency and accountability.

Hawaii is the only state that doesn't require some form of fiscal notes attached to bills, according to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which promotes free markets and small government.

House Legislative Management Chairman Kyle Yamashita questioned the value of spending state money to create vague cost projections when the state Department of Taxation already provides estimates on many bills.

"Numbers evolve through the process. That's why we have a process, to vet those things," said Yamashita (D, Pukalani-Ulupalakua), who hasn't decided whether to give the bill a hearing. "We do have mechanisms in place to be transparent and get these numbers."

Price estimates are sometimes included in testimony from the state department that would be responsible for implementing a law if it passes, but those figures often change as bills get amended during the legislative process.

"A lot of people are unclear on how the budget process works, so maybe something like this could help," said Hawaii Common Cause Executive Director Nikki Love, who (gutlessly) didn't take a position on the fiscal notes proposal.

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FULL TEXT: Anti-Rail lawsuit (RE: Burials)

Lawsuit Seeking Procurement Changes Could Affect Honolulu Rail Contracts

A lawsuit that could have a bearing on the city’s $5.5 billion rail project has been filed, challenging the way the city and state award architectural and engineering contracts.

The state Circuit Court case alleges that work has been awarded in violation of state law requiring at least three firms submit bids before a contract can be signed.

The lawsuit asks that 26 contracts that used a waiver from the three-bidder rule, including large rail contracts, be rescinded.

Rollman: Anti-Rail Coalition Returns With New Spokesperson

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SA: Clarification Needed, Give pension tax a hearing

Many of Hawaii's growing number of seniors are understandably fuming about Gov. Neil Abercrombie's proposal to begin taxing private pension benefits. But it's an idea worth exploring, provided that any such income tax increase be limited in both scope and time frame to contain what is sure to be a political bombshell for legislators.

Hawaii has a reputation as a welcome home for retirees because of its relatively low property taxes and no income tax on employer-based pensions. Hawaii is among 10 states to exempt those pension benefits among the 41 states that have income taxes at all.

Abercrombie's proposal came as a surprise to many because he stated in a campaign brochure last October that he would "have room in the general fund ... to restore broken services and for making smart public investments without raising taxes (his italics)."

“Clarification” means “try to peddle this a a ‘tax the rich’ scheme and see if the retirees bite”.

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Hawaii general fund tax collections slip 2.8%

Hawaii general fund deposits for December were down 2.8 percent compared to the same month in 2009, according to a report from the Hawaii Department of Taxation.

The decrease in funds is attributed to accrued income tax refunds that were released in July; if the accrued refunds are factored out, the general fund deposits for December actually increased by 6.3 percent.

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Judge Bambi Weil/Eden Hifo: Keep Juridical Nominees Secret

I Read with interest the editorial urging Gov. Neil Abercrombie to release the names of nominees he receives from the Judicial Selection Commission for Circuit and Appellate Court judges ("Open process to public view," Star-Advertiser, Jan. 27).

(Right about the time they invented Gay Marriage for the first time anywhere on Earth) The Hawaii Supreme Court in 1993 decided "it is within the sole discretion of the appointing authorities whether to make public disclosure of the Judicial Selection Commission's lists of judicial nominees."

That decision, Pray v. Judicial Selection Commission, was authored by Justice Steve Levinson and also upheld the commission's own rule of confidentiality finding nondisclosure consistent with the Hawaii Constitution.

Thus, the issue of public disclosure by the appointing authority is entirely within the discretion of our governor for Circuit Court and Appellate Court judgeships, and our chief justice for District Court judgeships.

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Talks Start About Proposed Wind Farm: Residents Have Until March 1 To Voice Concerns

Those worried undersea cables could affect important fishing areas or wind turbines would upset the view have 30 days to let the state know about those specific concerns.

That information will be factored into a draft EIS expected to be completed by the end of the year.

As the process began, a number of residents from Oahu and Maui County spoke out.

"They're talking about investing $1 billion and I want to make sure that money gets spent in the most effective desirable way," said Lanikai resident Alan Lloyd.

But others are concerned about a different kind of cost for the power from the Lanai and Molokai wind farms.

"We are talking about 10 percent of what Oahu uses being supplied by one-fourth of the land on the island of Lanai and a large portion of Molokai. People think about it, does that add up," asked Martha Evens, with Friends of Lanai.

The state wants to hear from everyone on the project, but not everyone is in favor of the plan.

"I am against this industrial power plant. It is not the best use of the land. I don't believe is it wise stewardship, I think people on Oahu and around Hawaii need to take a look at conservation practices," added Evans.

This is one of two times when public testimony will be taken into account over the proposed wind farm. The next one will come in 2012 before the final EIS is drafted.

And a lot can change over the course of a year.  (For instance, Congress could kill the subsidies.)

When the subsidies run out, here is what Lanai will look like: Wind Energy's Ghosts

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Hawaii Co Council forwards plastic bag ban

Testifiers in two hours of testimony were overwhelmingly in favor of Bill 17, but a few people bristled at what they saw as excessive governmental regulation.
"Being against this bill makes me feel like a criminal because I use plastic bags," said Hilo resident Richard Lionheart.
Hilo Councilman Donald Ikeda agreed.
"I feel that some of my rights are being stepped on," Ikeda said. "You're telling me like my big brother, I got to do this and I got to do that."

Steve Ueda, an employee of Suisan Co., opposes the bill. Suisan is a wholesaler that sells plastic bags to retailers and food service establishments.
"We respectfully request that Hawaii County allow businesses and consumers to continue to choose the best packaging for their needs rather than pass a bill that will force a flawed solution," Ueda said

RELATED: Hawaii County Plastic Bag Ban? “Stop micro-managing our lives”

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Kauai starts to choke on Bag Ban: Council to hear amendments

A new law banning checkout plastic bags went into effect three weeks ago, but many food service establishments are allegedly already complaining of food breaking through paper bags and possible contamination.

“The brown paper bags were not designed for holding these food items,” said Councilman Dickie Chang, explaining that when food spills from a to-go container, it causes the bags to break. “It can’t even hold an apple.”

Ordinance 885 was adopted in October 2009, and went into effect Jan. 11. Councilman Mel Rapozo said he intends to address some of the issues by introducing an amendment to the bill.

“It’s going to exempt the food service establishments from the bill,” Rapozo said….

Rapozo said the amendment will likely be introduced on the agenda of the Feb. 9 County Council meeting.

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New rules for redistricting Hawaii county advances

Bill 18, sponsored by South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford, sets parameters that must be used in drawing district boundaries, allows the public to submit alternate plans and sets the maximum allowable population deviation for each district to be no larger than plus or minus 4.99 percent.

(Kona voted for it, Hilo voted against. Blablabla)

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SB411: After creating COI to Dump Driskill, HHSC Board to be restructured again

Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, D-Iwilei, Chinatown, Downtown, Kakaako, Ala Moana and Waikiki, introduced Senate Bill 411 Jan. 21 to remove the five regional hospital chief executives who now sit on Hawaii Health System Corp.'s board, replacing them with community members.

The bill is getting support from Big Island legislators in both chambers of the state Legislature.

"We put the hospital managers on the corporate board because it was the only way to get rid of (former HHSC chief) Tom Driskill," Rep. Bob Herkes said. "In retrospect, it was a mistake. ... They report to themselves and that doesn't make any sense to me."

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Labor Leaders Support Abercrombie Appointment: Dwight Takamine Seen As Pro-Labor Labor Director

The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor sent the nomination to the full state Senate with a positive recommendation. Committee Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee said he was struck by the fact that not a single representative of businesses, who will be regulated by the department, appeared in person or submitted written testimony.

(Hee is laughing about Takamine’s ability to intimidate you.)

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Mass Psychosis hits Legislature: 1000s testify on cat-trapping bill

While many taxpayers are frustrated with the proposals, and have written to their lawmakers opposing tax hikes, civil unions and banning of prayer, these are not the bills garnering the most attention this session.

Instead, thousands of people are writing to lawmakers about a bill related to cats.

SB 13, introduced by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, would make it a crime to trap feral cats. SB 700 would make it illegal for retailers to sell cats capable of breeding.

Thousands of animal rights activists and cat lovers have written to the Senate in protest saying the best way to care for feral cats is to trap, neuter and then release them, leading to a decrease in population.

“The big square building is one big cat house,” said Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, at a morning press briefing, who admits he may, as a cat owner, have a conflict.

Dogs haven’t been left out. Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-Kailua, introduced legislation to ban so called “puppy mills.”

Not to be out done, a SB 580, is getting attention today, because it imposes a ban on reef fish collection. A hearing is set for Thursday.

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Civil Beat suddenly interested in lobbying violations by Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association

…now that Mufi is their new head honcho… (duh)

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HB638 “Instant Runoff Voting” deferred until Feb 15

House Bill 638 Provides for instant runoff voting for all elections in which no primary election is held; authorizes the chief election officer or the county clerk to use the instant runoff voting method in special elections that would normally require a separate runoff election if no candidate received a majority of votes.

Companion: SB667 referred to JUD, no action

House Jud acted on over a dozen election-related bills:

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Dope, Collective Bargaining on the Legislative Agenda 

Beginning at 10 a.m., the Senate Judiciary and Labor committee will hear more than a dozen bills relating to collective bargaining and public employee salaries and benefits. The hearing, in Conference Room 016, could be touchy, given the pressures of the budget deficit.

Meanwhile, at 2:45 p.m. in Conference Room 229, the Senate Health Committee will hear a number of measures including Senate Bill 174, which would classify marijuana as a less dangerous drug than heroin and cocaine.

And, at 10:30 a.m. in Conference Room 329, House Bill 710 and House Bill 709 address — respectively — consultation with Hawaiian cultural practitioners when burial artifacts and remains are found and requiring the use of a glottal stop in the spelling of "Hawai‘i" in all documents and signs prepared by or for state or county agencies or officials.

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KIUC agrees to purchase power for 20 years: State’s largest solar project ready in Kapa‘a

REC Solar, the company contracted to instal the system, took 140 days to build the solar farm, finishing it on Dec. 30, according the release.

Bosshard said he would have to finish the construction before the year’s end, in order to take advantage of government incentives that would fund approximately 50 percent of the construction costs.

“The project itself would generate millions of dollars in state and federal contributions,” Bosshard said in October (laughing at the stupidity of the recently ousted eco-deluded Congress).

This would allow KIUC to purchase power from the facility at a reasonable rate, he said. (But instead, my irregular and erratic power supply is being paid for at premium FIT rates, hahahahahahaha)

Other REC solar installation contracts include Costco, in Lihu‘e (680 KW), Longs Drugs at Kukui Grove (111 KW), Pioneer Hi-Bred, Waimea (280 KW), and the Kaua‘i Community College, in Puhi (84 KW).

REC is also under contract to build a 125 KW ground-mounted system for the Waimea Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The Kapa‘a solar farm may soon loose the claim to the largest farm in the state, as a South Shore project would more than double the capacity of the Kapa‘a farm.

AES Solar is planning to develop a 3 MW photovoltaic farm in Koloa.

When the subsidies run out, here is what they will look like: Wind Energy's Ghosts

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State Surveillance Drones ‘Under Review’

State plans to fly unmanned aerial surveillance drones over Hawaii harbors are now “under review” by Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation says.

Approval of drone surveillance was given during the ”previous administration” but now “every significant expenditure and operational practice is under review including the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) portion of this project,” said newly-hired DOT spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.

A $1.4 million contract to upgrade Honolulu harbor surveillance, awarded in 2009, is financed primarily through a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Details of the port security program can be found at:

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Obama appoints Steve Case to head up Department of Potemkin Jobs

President Barack Obama has tapped fellow Punahou School alumnus Steve Case to lead a consolidated effort to spur new start-up businesses, the White House has announced.

"Startup America" is the Obama's campaign to emphasize job creation while downplaying new economic spending initiatives that could face congressional opposition.

The appointment of Case, the co-founder of AOL, gives President Barack Obama's emphasis on the economy a second prominent business face in two weeks. Last week, the president named General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt as head of a presidential advisory council on competitiveness.

With unemployment stubbornly stuck above 9 percent, the White House has drafted a series of initiatives designed to put job creation efforts on display.

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