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Wednesday, April 27, 2011
April 27, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:23 PM :: 9710 Views :: Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development

 

 

 

Abercrombie: HGEA Settles “without accusations and confrontation”

HB1405: Lawmakers attempt an end run around the public in order to pass State Akaka bill

Birthers vs. Truthers: The Double Standard on Conspiracy Theories

White House Releases Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate

Ignored Locally: Hawaii Investigative Reporter Gets National Recognition

Congratulations to Maui News reporter Ilima Loomis, whose recent story about a local nonprofit (“Maui nonprofit questioned after financial review shows high amount of unspent grants“) was picked up by Investigative Reporters & Editors in its listing of the latest investigative reporting around the country (Extra! Extra!).

I also credit Jim Dooley and Hawaii Reporter for catching the story of a mainland company that allegedly ripped off as much as $800,000 in city payments on a loan for a Kaneohe affordable housing project. The company, which processed loan payments and was supposed to distribute the proceeds to investors in several mortgage pools, has been accused in several lawsuits of embezzling funds. The issue became public here when the Honolulu City Council approved funding to hire an attorney to pursue claims in the case.

Good story.  I checked Google for other local reporting of the case.  So far, none turned up.  Have to wonder why not.

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BoE says “Audit”, but No FINANCIAL Audits are planned

Board members voted to create an audit committee, whose first order of business will be to review the BOE’s policies and figure out which ones aren’t needed. The committee will later conduct audits of DOE offices, programs and schools.

“Historically, an audit is viewed as going out and finding all the problems,” BOE Chairman Don Horner said at the meeting. But the board, he said, is interested in “not simply identifying the problems, but identifying the solutions.”

Horner’s two top qualifications:

  1. He says “audit” a lot
  2. He refuses to do  financial audit

REALITY: Abercrombie’s Board of Education: Accountability begins now, and it’s already ugly

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Now that a Democrat is Governor, it is Time for Legislature to undo its “mistake” on UH regents

Really?  Do you think Inouye wants the Hippie choosing Regents????

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Conference Committee Still Considering More Spending

State Rep. Marcus Oshiro, the lead House negotiator, and state Sen. David Ige, the lead Senate negotiator, indicated that the draft may be completed Wednesday night if lawmakers make sufficient progress on separate revenue-generating bills to balance the budget.

Oshiro said lawmakers are still in talks over about $25 million to $50 million in state program requests and over how much to set aside for labor savings. Lawmakers are also discussing fixed costs such as health care and retirement for public workers.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and most units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association have reached agreement on a two-year deal with a 5 percent pay cut, the equivalent of about one furlough day a month. Lawmakers want to know whether to expect similar deals with the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the United Public Workers, or whether the governor might seek more savings from those contracts.

Oshiro said negotiators have reached tentative agreement on some major budget changes involving fixed costs, debt service, the Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust fund, welfare, health care for migrants, and Medicaid. Details were not publicly available.

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Abercrombie to Legislature; Just Ignore my AG on Medicare Pt B

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has challenged state lawmakers not to use legal guidance from his Attorney General’s office as reason to vote against the governor’s proposals to impose a pension tax or end Medicare Part B reimbursements for public worker retirees.

In a note to lawmakers on Tuesday, the governor describes AG letters that warned of likely legal attacks over a pension tax and Medicare Part B as “common place observations that those bills like virtually any bill passed by the Legislature will be subject to legal challenge whether or not such a challenge is well-founded.”

Abercrombie also claims that the AG never said the bills would result in an attack on grounds that they violate the state or federal constitutions. The governor also claims the AG never raised legal doubts or concerns about the bills.

However, in the March 18 letter from Hugh Jones, supervising deputy attorney general, to state Sen. Clayton Hee, Jones wrote that the pension tax “could be the potential subject of a legal challenge on the grounds that they may violate article XVI, section 2, of the Hawaii Constitution, or may impair the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

In the Feb. 15 letter from Attorney General David Louie to Hee on Medicare Part B, Louie wrote: “We advise that if S.B. No. 1268 is enacted in its present form, it will likely be the subject of a court challenge, with an uncertain outcome.”

Jones and Louie both conclusively advised lawmakers that the state would prevail if it imposed the pension tax and ended Medicare Part B payments prospectively on public workers.

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$150M Medicaid cuts risk care, opponents say

Community health center officials said yesterday they fear lengthy hospitalizations and an increase in emergency room visits for Medicaid patients if a proposed $150 million in Medicaid cuts is made over the next two years.

(Just another pitch for tax hikes.)

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Hawaii Legislative Conference Committee Working Hard on Instant Runoff Voting Bill

April 27th, 2011:  A bill to provide for Instant Runoff Voting in special elections in Hawaii has passed both houses of the legislature, and it is taking the conference committee at least three meetings to iron out the differences between the House version and the Senate version. The conference committee for HB 638 met on April 26 and again on April 26. Now a third meeting of the conference committee has been set for April 28 at 8:30 p.m

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HB688: Transsexual Agenda For Hawaii Schools

House Bill 688, known as the Safe Schools Act, was submitted by the Keiki Caucus to require the state Department of Education "to maintain, monitor and enforce anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies and procedures to protect students."

HB 688 has successfully passed through five legislative committees and six full floor votes and is now being deliberated in House-Senate conference…

REALITY:  The transsexual agenda for Hawaii schools, Board of Education: the Transsexual-Libertarian Connection

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Trial Lawyers seek Profit from Mass Release of Criminals

In the absence of this crucial information omitted by the Judiciary, the DPS followed the law. Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) Section §706-668.5 did clearly state that "multiple terms of imprisonment imposed at different times run consecutively unless the court orders that the terms run concurrently."

Since the DPS receives the court judgments and does not receive and/or routinely have access to court transcripts, the DPS appropriately applied the law as written, and does not have the luxury of "applying a previous practice" as stated by the authors.

It is interesting to note that of the nine authors of the article in question, eight are current or former practicing attorneys, who state that the DPS should have continued to flatly ignore the law, and utilize an inherently flawed previous practice. As officers of the court, they are sworn to uphold the law, which they now seem ready to abandon.

It is also interesting to note that some of the authors of the article will undoubtedly represent offenders in civil actions against the state in state or federal court if Senate Bill 106, SD1, HD1, CD1 were to become law with retroactive application.

If the court intended for offenders to serve their sentences concurrently, then it should have been spelled out in the judgments issued.

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Hawaii Human Trafficking Bill One Step From Governor's Desk

House Bill 141, which would criminalize labor trafficking, cleared its last major hurdle Tuesday, passing out of conference committee. The measure heads back to the full House for a final reading and may well be on its way to the governor's desk….

A separate sex trafficking bill did not survive, but some related concepts — including making prostitutes eligible for witness protection — were put into House Bill 240, a package of proposals from Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro to strengthen prostitution laws.

The conference committee reconvenes on HB 240 on Wednesday afternoon.

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Japanese Tourists 'Will Be Back Soon' to Hawaii

Yoshihiko Kamo, consul general of Japan in Honolulu, told Hawaii leaders and lawmakers exactly what they wanted to hear Tuesday.

"I want to tell you that Japanese tourists will be back soon," he said in an extraordinary address to a joint session of the Hawaii House and Senate at the state Capitol that included Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

Kamo was invited to speak by the House and Senate.

"The great earthquake and tsunami made many Japanese refrain from having fun to show condolence and solidarity with the victims," said Kamo. "With more than 500,000 cancellations, Japan's domestic tourism suffered a heavy blow. Accordingly, there has emerged a growing apprehension that excessive self-restraint does more harm than good to the stricken area as it slows down the economy. Hawaii's appeal to Japanese tourists remains unchanged."

Kamo said the drastic drop in travel to Japan, however, is due to the fear of radiation from the damage to the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. Kamo sought to ease those fears, too.

 Outrigger: Quick action needed to replace lost business from Japan

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Another Australian Airline to Fly Hawaii Routes

Strategic Airlines has been tipped to fly to Honolulu from Australia later this year as the carrier continues to make its mark in the local aviation industry.

The carrier last week applied for unlimited capacity between Australia and the US, with Hawaii expected to be the likely destination.

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No Hawaii Lawmakers Disclose Dependents With Stocks, Mutual Funds

Not a single lawmaker in Hawaii claims to have a child with at least a $5,000 stake in a stock or mutual fund.

The news is surprising, given the popularity of some mutual fund investments, such as HI529, a Legislature-endorsed college-savings program.

All 76 state legislators are required to file public financial disclosures listing income, sources of income, board memberships, real estate holdings, etc. Among the requirements of the disclosures, politicians must report any stock or mutual fund investments worth $5,000 or more. They must do the same for a spouse and dependent children.

But a Civil Beat review of the documents shows no lawmakers made any such disclosure for their kids. Of the few that reported any investments in stocks or mutual funds, only three disclosed spouses with such holdings.

If the disclosures are accurate, the filings are a stark contrast to the rest of America.

A related Civil Beat article reports that the majority of Americans have investments in stocks or mutual funds. If college-educated, the number of Americans with such holdings is about 73 percent.

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Josh Green finally figures out Medical Marijuana is a Scam, Pushes for Big Island Dope Dispensary

State Sen. Josh Green, an emergency room physician from Kona, said he has seen too much abuse of the medical marijuana law, especially by young people who claimed severe, chronic pain in order to get a doctor to certify them as a marijuana patient.  (A genius this one is.  Nothing gets past him!)

Green, who is the lead member on the senate side of the House-Senate conference committee on the issue, is proposing that chronic pain and nausea no longer be conditions that make a person eligible for a medical marijuana permit.

Green said he supports the use of medical marijuana for people with cancer, muscular-skeletal illnesses such as MS, and for HIV-AIDS. But he is alarmed by a large number of people under 30, and even under 21, who have qualified.

Green’s proposal would allow a single “compassion center” marijuana dispensary as a test site for two years.

SA: Pilot program would limit medical marijuana use

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HGEA vote fell well short of a mandate

It is conceivable that the Unit 9 nurses will be able to negotiate a better deal than the six other units. A “favored nation” clause in the just-ratified contract would allow the union to match gains won by other public unions, but this clause does not pertain to whatever gains Unit 9 may win.

With the nurses so strongly united in their opposition to the negotiated deal, it will be interesting to see whether the state will budge on its terms. The state’s other public employee unions — Hawaii State Teachers Association and United Public Workers — will be keeping a close watch on these talks because their contracts also expire at the end of this fiscal year.

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Nurses Head for Arbitration?

A major stumbling block in the contract offer reached April 6 was the continued freeze of step movements, which in the past granted 1,561 HGEA nurses pay raises at regular intervals.

“We've kept at that for two years and now they just can't do it for two more years,” explained Kaulukukui. “I hope we can go back to the table and get what the nurses deserve.”

If a new offer eludes Unit 9 Kaulukukui is prepared for binding arbitration, where a three member panel is tasked with crafting a contract deemed fair and appropriate.

“I think step movements definitely need to be added in there and possibly some (pay) raises,” Kaulukukui said of any new offer. The Unit 9 director maintains nurses who work at private facilities earn an average of 30 percent more in overall wages and benefits.

“So often times they go to the other hospitals, the private hospitals and then we have to start all over in training,” she said. “We might be training for one to two years and then they're gone.”

Twelve hundred Unit 9 nurses work within the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation at twelve public state hospitals and nursing homes throughout Hawaii, most of them located in rural communities.

SA: Nurses nix deal due to step ban

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HGEA Nurses underpaid compared to Private Hospitals

According to Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), which runs 12 medical facilities statewide, the salary for an entry-level position ranges from $57,828 to $71,772. For a mid-level unit manager, the range is $78,816 to $97,860. A top-level manager earns $88,656 to $110,088. The starting salary for an HGEA nurse is $57,828 compared to the starting salary for a nurse at the Queen's Medical Center which is $65,832.

A spokesman for HHSC said the agency is committed to developing an equitable solution.

SOLVE THE PROBLEM PRIVITIZE HHSC: Legislative Report: Convert HHSC to non-profit, dump civil service (full text)

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SA: Don’t give more to nurses

There are immediate things government can do to adjust to its lean financial means. One obvious adjustment moved closer to reality this week with the ratification of the new Hawaii Government Employees Association contract. Members of all but the nurses' unit of the union have accepted the deal, which offsets a 5 percent wage cut with nine additional vacation days. State administration negotiators face the difficult but crucial task: They must persuade the nurses that, although their salaries do lag behind those in the private sector, the taxpayers can't afford to offer them much more just now.

Even for the units accepting the deal, the agreement won't achieve all the savings the state really needed, with the deficit ballooning to $1.3 billion. But judging by the sizeable protest vote against the contract, further concessions in future contracts will be a tough sell.

This means that going forward, the state must continue to curb its spending in other ways, winnowing what functions it can afford to provide even reasonably well. There may be ways to reduce duplication of efforts through enabling better data-sharing between government agencies, a project soon to get under way with improvements to state information technology systems.

That will only go so far, however. As the economy recovers, the Abercrombie administration must resist the temptation simply to reinflate the bubble.

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Bag Tax: Legislators plan to screw Retailers after luring them in with Revenue Sharing

The House Finance Committee made another late switch that changed the impact on a key player. Though early versions would have given 20 or 25 percent of fee revenues to the stores in perpetuity, HD2 would have ended that practice after just one year.

The Hawaii Food Industry Association — representing retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers — has opposed bans on plastic bags on each of the counties because paper is far heavier, which has both economic and environmental costs. But the association repeatedly provided testimony in favor of the bill because a fee would both discourage the use of costly single-use bags and because it would deliver some revenue to the stores.

It's unclear if retailers would still be on board with a permanent fee if revenue benefit to the store is short-term.  That's just one of the moving parts that could be decided Wednesday.

HA! Ride that eco-tiger and you get eaten!  Learn this and never forget!

REALITY: SB1363 10-cents-per-bag Tax: Greens, Big Business, Big Government team up to Rip Off Consumers

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Coffman Screws Residential Solar Installers, Homeowners

On Monday, Coffman said he had "unanswered questions" about House Bill 1520, which would allow people to pay to install clean energy technology at their homes through their monthly electric bills.

The bill has drawn support from clean energy advocates and even Hawaiian Electric Company. But the Public Utilities Commission — chaired by Coffman's predecessor as House Energy Committee chief, Hermina Morita — has opposed its passage. Coffman cited updated information from the PUC as part of the reason he won't schedule a hearing for Wednesday — at least for the bill as it's currently structured.

"The reason I don't say 'no' is that I certainly talked to my counterpart on the Senate side," Coffman said. Senate Energy Committee Chair Mike Gabbard proposed a compromise CD1 version and said Monday he was optimistic it would pass.

But Coffman will only consider a bill that calls for a study of on-bill financing.

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Hawaii to Drain Hurricane Fund to Cover Shortfall

The House revealed a new plan Tuesday that would drain the entire $75 million in the fund to help cover a $200 million shortfall in the current budget year. On top of that, the state faces a $1.3 billion shortfall over the next two years.

Until now, the plan had been to tap $42 million this year, which would have been paid back in equal parts over the next two years.

It was not clear from the revised version of Senate Bill 1270, introduced in a conference committee Tuesday, whether there's a pay-back plan for the $75 million.

The revised bill would allow Gov. Neil Abercrombie only to use the money to balance the budget for fiscal 2011, which ends June 30, according to House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro.

The committee scheduled a vote on SB 1270 for Wednesday afternoon.

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Obama Friend Titcomb Pleads Guilty In Traffic Court Case

Another arrest warrant was briefly ordered this morning for President Barack Obama’s friend Robert R. “Bobby” Titcomb after Titcomb did not appear in Traffic Court to answer an excessive speeding charge filed against him last month.

The $500 warrant order was withdrawn after attorney William Harrison, who also represents Titcomb in a soliciting prostitution case, later appeared in Wahiawa Traffic Court to enter a plea for Titcomb.

Titcomb was charged with travelling 58 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone March 24 – the latest in a string of traffic violations he has racked up in recent years.

He pleaded guilty today to a reduced charge of driving 28 miles per hour over the speed limit – two mph under the threshold for an excessive speeding charge.

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He’s No ‘Birther’ but Hawaii Senator Tackles Issues Surrounding Obama’s Birth Certificate

Hear the interview on the Rick Hamada Show on KHVH Radio: AUDIO

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