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Tuesday, March 1, 2011
March 1, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:17 PM :: 11433 Views

Kona TEA Party Rally: No New Taxes, Audit the DoE

HB1465 to be heard Thursday: Protect Elders against “Power-of-attorney” abuse

SB120—Special Funds Repeal--amended after 800 pages of testimony

Haloanakalaukapalili: The Story of the Kalo Plant at Iolani Palace

Governor Appoints Deputy Directors for Corrections and Behavioral Health

Finalists for new Dean of College of Natural Sciences will visit UH Mānoa

Pension Tax Passes Key Committee Votes, Republicans unanimous in opposition

The state House Finance Committee voted early today to tax pension income but set the threshold significantly higher than Gov. Neil Abercrombie preferred.

The committee decided to impose the tax on single and married taxpayers filing separately with federal adjusted gross income of $100,000 a year, heads of households and surviving spouses who earn $150,000, and couples that make $200,000.

The bill, which now goes to the full House for consideration, would generate $17.2 million a year. The committee estimates that the pension tax would apply to less than 1 percent of taxpayers.

In contrast, Abercrombie’s proposal would tax pensions on single and married taxpayers filing separately with federal adjusted gross income of $37,500, heads of households and surviving spouses who earn $56,250, and couples that make at $75,000. The governor’s plan would bring in $112 million a year and is a critical element in his approach to closing a projected two-year budget deficit of $700 million. It would apply to 8 percent of taxpayers.

The state Senate Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a vote this morning on a pension tax option that has higher income thresholds than the governor’s proposal but lower than the House version. The Senate option would generate about $50 million a year.

While negotiations will continue during the session, it appears Abercrombie will not realize the revenue he expects from a pension tax and that lawmakers will have to find other ways to balance the budget….

The three Republicans who serve on the committee voted against the bill. “We’re passing a ton of taxes,” said state Rep. Barbara Marumoto, (R-Kalani Valley-Diamond Head), adding that she would rather see lawmakers make spending cuts first….

Recognizing that several of Abercrombie’s tax revision and spending cut ideas are faltering, the committee has moved out some of its own revenue-generating options that could be part of a budget solution.

Early today, the committee voted to lift general-excise tax exemptions on several business activities and impose a partial GET over the next few years. The businesses targeted would pay a GET that starts at 2 percent and reaches 4 percent over the next few years. The bill would generate $67.1 million in fiscal year 2012 and $192.1 million in fiscal year 2013 to help with the deficit.

SA: House Finance Committee approves pension tax

Meanwhile … Abercrombie not the only fool: Civil Beat decides Abercrombie was half-wrong over his $37,500 blow-up

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Democrats wonder who will succeed Akaka, if not Lingle

Remember last year's constant ads, the phone calls, the glossy fliers in the mail? That was probably just a dress rehearsal.

Get ready for political 2012 to be 2010 on steroids.

Hawaii again appears destined to be a state in play and all the national folks have already learned how easy it is to catch the red-eye into Honolulu International.

"We learned from experience that the funds from offshore come in the hundreds of thousands and basically no one can keep track who is doing what to whom," says Dante Carpenter, Hawaii Democratic Party chairman.

The reason Hawaii will be in play is that Hawaii could end 2012 with a Republican U.S. senator, the first since 1977, when Hiram Fong represented Hawaii. All the major-league Democrats are still having nightmares after GOP U.S. Rep. Charles Djou showed that Hawaii's status as a blue state was not a sure thing….

Even a frail Akaka is the Democrats' strongest candidate against a rested and ready Lingle, who is already making moves to the mainstream center of Hawaii politics.

If it is not going to be Akaka, the Democrats (ie Abercrombie) will want to appoint a new senator strong enough to beat Lingle next year. Today, a year away from the race, that does not look like a position of strength.

REALITY: Inouye says he will have to focus on Democratic Senate races on the mainland, which makes sense because if the Dems lose the Senate, Inouye loses even more ability to deliver pork.

FULL TEXT: Inouye dumps Akaka: Says Hanabusa, Hirono, Hannemann worthy contenders for 2012 Senate race

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Lingle advisor Klompus to work in “consulting”, write Lingle book

Lenny Klompus, the senior communications adviser to former Gov. Linda Lingle, is leaving his post in state House Minority Leader Gene Ward’s office at the end of the week.

Klompus said he plans to work in consulting and radio and has an outline for a book on the Lingle years. “It’s not going to be like the Cayetano book,” he said of former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s no-holds-barred autobiography.

Best comment: “Consulting”? As in “Consulting on Lingle’s future senate campaign?”

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Don’t be a Dick: Clayton Hee demands look at Aila’s “Pubic Record”

Feb 28 Email from Sen Clayton Hee to Sen Donovan DelaCruz:

By your committee "standing by its report" does that mean that you do NOT have a "body of work" on the nominee or that you simply refuse to provide the public record to a member of the Senate? Did you solicit from the nominee any questions (i.e. survey) for comment on his job prior to the confirmation hearing? And if you did why would you not release it?

Do you have a "statement" from the nominee (as your committee report states)? And if so, why would you choose not to release the "statement"?

Would you prefer to respond to these questions in a different forum?

Why would you not be inclined to provide the pubic record to an interested voting confirming member?

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Star-Advertiser: Accepting Abercrombie’s cuts is HGEA’s last best chance to avoid Wisconsin-style measures

Abercrombie wants to end Medicare Part B reimbursement to state retirees of deductions, typically around $150 a month, made by the Social Security system, to free up $40 million a year….

The governor also wants structural changes in the state Employees' Retirement System, which has an unfunded liability of $7.1 billion. The Legislature is considering, as it should be, a restructuring that would adjust the retirement and benefits of future retirees….

His two-year budget draft released last week calls for $11.4 billion in spending for the current fiscal year and $100 million less in fiscal year 2013. Abercrombie said he wants to "make structural change" without "mimicking what's going on on the mainland right now with dramatic confrontations of one kind or another." Hawaii's public labor unions can do their part by agreeing to real concessions. Otherwise, the unthinkable, ugly groundswell that swept union-stronghold Madison, Wis., might well eventually land on Hawaii's shores.  (Bring it!)

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Legislature seeks to steal Honolulu City property under closed Schools

City Council members are taking aim at bills moving through the Legislature that would redevelop unused land on public school campuses to generate revenue for school facilities.

Many Oahu schools are on city property, and the bills would transfer ownership to a public school lands trust — something the City Council fears could have negative consequences for communities, limit public discussion and affect some city parks on school campuses. School lands on the neighbor islands owned by counties also would be transferred.

"There would be ... this major land grab of hundreds of acres of city land," said City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, whose district includes downtown Honolulu. "What's more important to me is the priceless value of these lands within these communities."

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After chasing Superferry out, Socialist Legislature considers State-Run Ferry

House Bill 1239 would establish and fund a state ferry system for people and cargo between the Main Hawaiian Islands, although no dollar amount is given for the appropriation.

The legislation also creates a state ferry system authority, comprised of six members of the public appointed by the governor and chaired by the director of transportation or a designated representative.

The bill directs this body to “as soon as practicable” engage in communications with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Maritime Administration regarding federal funding assistance and the “possible purchase or lease of the former high speed ferry vessel which operated in waters of the state.”

In other words, the lawmakers who support the bill apparently want the state to consider buying Hawai‘i Superferry’s 350-foot-long catamaran. The roughly $85 million jet-propelled vessel can ferry more than 800 passengers and 200 cars.

The legislation would give the ship priority access to Hawaiian waters.

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Kaneko, Tsutsui gut transparency bill and conspire to allow unlimited bribes in increments of $200

A flurry of communications occurred after Sen. President Shan Tsutsui, D-4th, asked Kondo about the propriety of senators accepting $200 tickets to a Feb. 24 charity dinner hosted by a non-profit organization called the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs.

In a Feb. 10 letter to Tsutsui, Kondo wrote that “the acceptance of these invitations would likely be prohibited by the ethics code.”

He called the value of the tickets “substantial” and said the “donors are lobbyists, whose interests are subject to official action by the Legislature.”

“While the dinner appears to be a worthy event, we do not have information as to how attendance by legislators at the dinner would benefit the state or benefit legislators in the performance of their official duties,” Kondo’s Feb. 10 letter continued.

HIPA, a private think tank which says it prepares non-partisan research on public policy issues in Hawaii, is headed by William Kaneko, an influential local attorney close to newly-elected Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

The measure as originally written was intended to increase the public disclosure requirements on lobbying activities at the Legislature.

See the original bill here (original)

“State  law currently allows lobbying interests to hire, dine, and donate funds to policy makers during the legislative session  without, in certain situations, publicly disclosing those activities,” the original measure said.

The proposed amendment eliminates that language and some of the tightened public disclosure requirements. New version

It adds new language that would allow acceptance of any gift of $200 or less even when “it can reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the legislator or employee in the performance of the legislator’s or employee’s official duties or is intended as a reward for any official action.”

“A state inspector who had just completed the inspection of a business could accept a $200 gift from that business; a state employee in charge of issuing permits could accept a $200 gift from a person seeking a permit; a legislator could accept a $200 gift from a lobbyist seeking favorable action on a bill before that legislator,” Kondo wrote.

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New government may be started by state in order to hand out money, land to OHA Trustees

The two bills move on for votes in the full Senate this month. If passed, they would be taken up in the House.

"The state holds most of the ceded lands, not the federal government, and having the ability to negotiate with the state for some of our lands back so that we can create a trust for the Hawaiian people my cronies is huge. It's very important," said Office of Hawaiian (sic) Affairs Trustee Rowena Akana.

The proposals recognize deem Native Hawaiians OHA Trustees and their cronies as to be the indigenous people of the state and call for the creation of a commission tasked with forming a roll of qualified Hawaiians OHA cronies who could be part of their future government. One of the bills goes a step further by setting up a process for ratification of governing documents, forming a governing council and appropriation of money to be spent by the Office of Hawaiian (sic) Affairs….

Said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Clayton Hee, D-Kahuku-Kaneohe. "This would be a nation within the state of Hawaii.”  (And his brother Al would be able to monopolize their telephone system and get even more federal handouts for Sandwich Isles Communications.)

Online: SB1, SB1520: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov

RELATED: A State-Recognized Indian Tribe for Hawaii?, More than 73% of Hawaiians not "Qualified" for membership in Akaka Tribe

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State-Level Akaka Bill Stirs Controversy: Effort To Recognize Native Hawaiian Entity Is Opposed By Some Groups

At a joint hearing Monday of the Senate Ways and Means and Judiciary committees, opponents of the bill insisted on testifying, even though Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee said previous committees have heard substantial testimony.

The proposal is opposed by advocates for full Hawaiian independence, because it assumes continued U.S. and state government control of Hawaii. The proposal would require Native Hawaiians to prove ancestry and vote, first on delegates to a convention and then on the product of the convention's work.

The committees approved the bills, with a two no votes from Republican Sen. Sam Slom and Democrat Sen. Will Espero.

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Recycling War: Registered Lobbyist Says He Isn't A Lobbyist

A City Council Public Works and Sustainability Committee meeting took a bizarre turn Monday afternoon when former City Council candidate Matthew LoPresti had trouble explaining whether he was a lobbyist. At least two City Council members said LoPresti scheduled one-on-one meetings with them, but didn't disclose he was a lobbyist.

LoPresti was testifying before the City Council about Bill 47, which would end subsidies to for-profit recycling companies. (At the forefront of opposition to the bill is Schnitzer Steel, which Department of Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger said gets about $2 million per year from the city, despite also making a profit from business. That's another story.)

Confusion over lobbying began when City Council member Ann Kobayashi asked LoPresti if he was hired by a company to oppose Bill 47. Kobayashi said LoPresti presented his concerns to her in an earlier one-on-one meeting.

"I met with you in my office, and according to your testimony you're just a citizen," Kobayashi said. "You're not being hired by a company?"

LoPresti first avoided answering the question directly, and Kobayashi asked again whether he was voicing his concerns as an individual.

"For the purpose of this testimony, yeah," LoPresti said. "Not a penny has come to me at all, yet at least."

But LoPresti then explained he registered as a lobbyist, and met with City Council member Breene Harimoto about the issue on behalf of Hanni Hartmann, a Schnitzer Steel competitor. Hartmann was in the audience, and had been sitting next to LoPresti before he sat down before the City Council to testify.

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Lawmakers Told Oil Price Spike Could Cut into Hawaii Tourism

University of Hawaii Economist Carl Bonham said a sustained rise in oil prices in the $110 to $120 a barrel range would likely cut a half or a full percentage point from the 3.4 percent increase forecast by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization this year.

Crude oil futures have been climbing over the past month as political unrest in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya sent jitters into financial markets. A barrel of West Texas Intermediate oil for April Delivery closed at $97.88 on Monday, up from about $75 at the start of February.

The rising oil prices could have major implications for Hawaii, especially if they jump into the $110 to $120 range for an extended period of time, said Bonham. He said sustained higher prices could cut into U.S. gross domestic product as consumers spend more on gasoline and energy and less on discretionary items such as vacations in Hawaii.

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Labyrinthine land-use laws suffocating isle economy

Last April, the Kuilima decision blocked the expansion of the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore. Before this case, developers were only required to do a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") if their plans had changed. The Hawaii Supreme Court found that even if the plans hadn't changed, a supplemental EIS would be required if "circumstances" had changed. The court said that a migration of monk seals into the area was enough, but it seems clear that it was really the migration of people into the area that changed things. In either event, an EIS is always an expensive proposition.

In July the court decided the Ala Loop case, which dealt with a Big Island charter school on agricultural land. A nearby neighborhood association, Ala Loop, didn't want the school in its backyard. Although state law specifically delegates enforcement of land-use law to the counties, the Supreme Court, reversing the Intermediate Court of Appeals, took a new tack. It found that the "clean and healthful environment" phrase in the Constitution gave Ala Loop a private right to sue.

In Ala Loop the Supreme Court went further than in Kuilima. Not only did it establish a private right for any person to sue on an environment claim, it also establishes that a court can determine that any law is an environmental law and gives rise to an environment claim. These cases create new and powerful weapons for activists, and we're likely to see them used in more suits against developers.

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VIDEO: Bioenergy plant opponents block road in Pepeekeo

On Sunday, Hawaii state legislators made a stop in Pepeekeo to learn about the planned Hu Honua bioenergy plant. But waiting for them when they arrived: A community roadblock.

Local residents opposed to the power plant gathered on Sugar Mill Road and stopped cars going to and fro, letting everyone know about their opposition to the project before granting motorists passage. The residents said that the private road is under the local homeowner associations’ jurisdiction, and that the Hu Honua company has failed to pay any road maintenance fees.

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Kakaako homeless given extension to pack up and leave

The HCDA, along with the city, the sheriff's department, HPD, and outreach services have been coordinating efforts to help them move. It comes in the midst of growing complaints about the area's burgeoning tent city.

HCDA executive director, Anthony Ching, says "The area is becoming dilapidated and run down. In the last two months, there's really been a spike in the population out here, and so, it's resulting in a lot of trash, a lot of unpermitted lean-tos and tents, and the grass is dying."  (So they will move it somewhere else and make it somebody else’s problem instead of forcing the homeless into shelters.)

HNN: Homeless in Hawaii: Living in the bush  (The other tent city)

REALITY: Homeless tent cities: Seattle’s decade-long nightmare coming to Honolulu?

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Eugene Sanders, Former Cleveland Schools' Head, lecturing on “School reform”in Maui

(Next they will hire the head of Detroit schools.  Now there’s someone the DoE can really learn failure from.)

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More than 150 dogs seized from puppy farm

The case began this morning with a simple noise complaint about barking dogs. Two officers happened to be right down the road on a separate trespassing case. They got the noise complaint and quickly arrived at the farm. They heard the dogs then went in and were disgusted with what they saw.

The conditions were described as deplorable and inhumane with feces and urine spread throughout the kennels at the farm in Waimanalo.  In some cases the dog's fur was so matted the vet couldn't get to the skin to assess the health conditions.  Some dogs were limping, others had eye problems.  In other case feces and urine were in the dog's food bowl and water dish.

"The animals can't even get out of their own waste and there are medical conditions related to that," said Pam Burns, Hawaiian Humane Society President.

The case has been ongoing almost three years. We even highlighted the story in August with undercover video from inside the facility which showed sick, injured and dead dogs.  But it's been difficult for officers to cite the owners because of the relatively weak laws in Hawaii.  This time investigators felt they had enough evidence.

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New trial set for HPD officer accused of sex assault

He testified that he picked her up on Kuhio Avenue about 5 a.m. after he got off work. He was assigned to the fourth watch in Waikiki with other rookies a few days shy of completing his probation at the time. The Honolulu Police Department says Tarmoun is now on restricted duty with no police powers pending the outcome of its internal investigation.  (Still on the payroll.)

1) Tarmoun said he thought the woman was a tourist looking to "hook up" so he took her to his girlfriend's apartment where he planned to "have some fun."

2) His girlfriend testified the apartment is hers and that she was out of town at the time.

3) His wife testified the car in which Tarmoun picked up the prostitute is registered to him.

Tarmoun said he realized the woman was a prostitute when she asked him for money.

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Maui Doper Claims she isn’t getting high, just medicated

As for having a high, that is not for me. It eases the pain - one a day is more than adequate - and that is all I need. It takes a while before the pain releases but it does make you much more comfortable.  By the way, my brain is functioning just fine.

KITV: Police are looking for four armed men who they said robbed a marijuana-growing operation in Aiea (Just ignore this.  Dope is peaceful.  Really.)

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Rosanne Barr nailed for Illegal Grading, Grubbing on Hamakua Nut farm

Neighbor Roree Oehlman said all-terrain vehicle trails have been bulldozed on Barr's 46-acre property. It's not clear whether the work was done in preparation for Barr's announced upcoming reality TV project for Lifetime Television.

"This property has a history of flooding onto our property in the past," Oehlman said.

The Tribune-Herald was unable to contact Barr or her trust. In a Feb. 4 entry to her blog at http://www.roseanneworld.com, Barr wrote: "I will take people on the ride of their lives upon my four wheel drive vehicles. They are not prepared for the ultimate excitement and thrill that comes from the many roads I have bulldozed around here! We will have a blast ...."

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