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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
May 3, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 12:11 PM :: 11718 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

SB1274: Obamacare being used to Weaken Right to Appeal Insurance Coverage Denials

Abercrombie signature gives special rights to Men who wear Dresses

Nuclear Regulatory Commission looking into Depleted Uranium paperwork violations

Maritime Industry Leader: Throw out Jones Act requirement for US Built ships

Poverty Pimps Thrilled about State Akaka Bill

"It's sending a message to the indigenous Native Hawaiian population that we recognize you, and you can do whatever it takes to empower yourselves so that you can achieve self-determination," said Sen. Malama Solomon, D-Hilo-Honokaa. (READ: Malama Solomon's meth connection, Larry Mehau Hosts Community Rally for Sen Akaka)

"It really is fundamentally a very significant step for self-determination for Native Hawaiians," said Clyde Namuo, CEO for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs. (READ: OHA driving Hawaiians out of Hawaii)

"It restores a modicum of dignity to the first people of these islands, whose kingdom was stolen illegally," said Sen. Clayton Hee, D-Kahuku-Kaneohe. (READ: Sandwich Isles Communications: Political Connections Pay Off)

"The Hawaiian people will have their own destiny they can create for themselves instead of having other people telling them what they need to do," said Rep. Faye Hanohano, D-Pahoa-Kalapana. (READ: Larry Mehau Hosts Community Rally for Sen Akaka)


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After they raise our taxes, legislators will be seeking cover

The Legislature is moving to cancel a series of tax exemptions that have favored building contractors and Hawaiian and Continental airlines. Residents with higher incomes will find they have fewer state tax deductions and limited state tax breaks.

Even that is not likely to please everyone. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, for instance, had wanted $120 million in taxes to come from local pensioners, but the Senate refused to go along.

Abercrombie, who reportedly has been meeting almost daily with House Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House Rep. Calvin Say, has not publically commented on the huge tax increases offered up by the Legislature.

The governor’s mission is more complicated because he has had to rush through emergency legislation to borrow from the state Hurricane Relief Fund and the Rainy Day Fund just to balance this year’s budget, the one that ends on June 30.

The hurricane fund is a trust fund, so the money, $43 million of it, must be repaid. That means that next year’s budget starts out owing the state $43 million.

Abercrombie’s proposed tax increases on tobacco, alcohol and sugary soft drinks all failed last Friday.

According to members of the Senate, the budget will still balance, but there is much concern that the looming Council on Revenues meeting will spin the state budget even lower.

What does that mean?

It is likely that the budget, already just barely in the black and looking at a $43 million hurricane fund debt, will not balance.

And that means more taxes next year.

Whether Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz can help shield the incumbents running for re-election from the voters’ wrath is not known.

Democrats may not want leadership as much as they just want cover.

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Pay raises for legislators not dead yet

Legislators are going into the final days of their session with the possibility still alive of giving themselves big pay raises as unionized public workers take 5 percent cuts and constituents are asked to sacrifice more of their income to higher taxes.

Both houses voted to extend for two more years a 5 percent pay cut legislators took in 2009 to quell public uproar over a 36 pay raise they’d accepted while other state employees were furloughed in one of the worse years of the recession.

However, a conference committee failed to resolve differences between the two versions of HB 575 and was dissolved.

Without floor action in both houses by Thursday to extend the 2009 cut and freeze, not only will the 5 percent cut be restored to legislators’ paychecks on July 1, but they’ll also receive frozen 3.5 percent raises from Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 12, 2011.

That’s a total raise of 12 percent from $46,272 to about $52,000 for lawmakers on the same day members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association start taking a 5 percent cut.

KITV: Bill To Extend 5% Pay Cut For State Officials Is One Of 120 Left Unfinished

RELATED: Hawaii Legislators’ pay tops nation

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Abercrombie, Obama’s Sister and Omidyar cronies to discuss how to protect HSTA/DOE/BoE from angry parents

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Barack Obama's sister, will speak at a town hall on education tomorrow at Kapiolani Community College.

Soetoro-Ng is a co-founder of Our Public School, one of the event's sponsors.

The free event, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at KCC's cafeteria, is also sponsored by Hawaii Education Matters, Kanu Hawaii and the HE‘E Coalition, with support from the Participant Foundation.

In addition to the governor and Soetoro-Ng, the gathering will feature a panel discussion with educators.

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Abercrombie Donor Kelly Hu Hosts Poker Tourney

Good Friday was indeed good for seventy-five generous people invited to play in a private charity poker tournament. Kelly Hu, actress and professional poker player, hosted a charity benefit poker tournament for seventy-five friends at Route 66 Modern Classics in Marina Del Rey, CA.

Hu: “Listening to Neil speak is like going to church

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Pork Project: Hawaii Legislature Finds Money to Help Oahu Slaughterhouse

A bold move to buy Oahu's only slaughterhouse may have failed.

But lawmakers have found another way to help the struggling facility, opting to give it $750,000 in the state's capital improvement budget.

Instead of investing $1.6 million to take over the Kapolei facility, as was proposed in Senate Bill 249, the state now wants to pay to install a photovoltaic system at the slaughterhouse.

The PV system is seen as way to help dramatically lower utility costs for the Hawaii Livestock Cooperative, which operates the 7-year-old business. The state owns the warehouse and the 6.5 acres the facility sits on, and the cooperative is behind on lease payments to the state as well as other loan payments to banks and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The $750,000 has been included in the state's capital improvement budget within House Bill 200 using general obligation bond financing.

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Money for Inter-Island Cable, Credits For Clinton Crony Studio Dead?

Leaders of House and Senate Monday said they can use parliamentary maneuvers to save at least two key bills and pass them along with the rest of the agenda Tuesday or Thursday, but many lawmakers and the governor are unhappy that other issues, including an interisland electrical cable, tax credits to attract a film studio and security funding for the upcoming APEC meeting are apparently dead for the year.

State Senate President Shan Tsutsui said the Senate held firm to the six p.m. deadline despite pressure from the House and the governor to extend the deadline so more measures could be negotiated in conference committee.

Tsutsui said keeping its deadline was part of the senate effort to reassure the public that it will be predictable and transparent and not do things "the same old way."

House leaders said many of the unfinished items were delayed until it was clear there would be money to pay for them, and that negotiations that led to a tax package used up all the available time.

(If this stuff stays dead it will be a great victory for taxpayers. And Bill Clinton will have to go back to his usual money-hustling grounds…Kazakhstan.)

NYT: After Mining Deal, Financier Donated to Clinton

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Governor Lobbies Lawmakers to pay for dark cable to Lanai, Molokai Big Wind projects

The Governor and law enforcement requested $2 million in funding for the APEC conference for enhanced security ….

The governor also asked lawmakers to pass other measures that already failed to come out of conference committee, House members told Hawaii Reporter, for a total of an additional $10 million.

That includes seed money for his planned undersea power cable, which could cost the state $1 billion in the long run; funding for the UH Medical School and funding for public education. How the measures will be funded to create a balanced budget was not disclosed.

Lawmakers are scheduled to meet Tuesday, May 3, for final voting on several measures that passed conference committees last week. The session ends May 5, and May 4 is a recess day.

CB: Time Running Out to Fund Hawaii's APEC Bill

Political Radar: Short list

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Wind farm, ACT 221 scammers, push back against Geothermal expansion

Puna Geothermal Venture, a subsidiary of Reno, Nev.-based Ormat Technologies, is the sole geothermal company in Hawaii and produces up to 30 mw of energy. In February, company officials announced that they had signed an agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Co. for an additional 8 megawatts. The agreement is currently under review by the state Public Utilities Commission.

But the news was not greeted with enthusiasm by wind developers at Foster City, Calif-based Tawhiri Power, a partnership between Apollo Energy Corp. and General Electric Energy Financial Services. According to a document filed with the PUC, Tawhiri Power is concerned the additional geothermal energy could cause “severe economic damage to the company.” (GREAT NEWS!)

“This is the biggest challenge,” said Darren Kimura, CEO of Honolulu-based Sopogy, which operates a 2-mw solar thermal power plant on the Big Island. “For us as a developer one of the biggest fears we have is the curtailment potential – the possibility is a big risk.”

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PUC denies First Wind's request for 'Big Wind' extension

Boston-based First Wind was unable to secure the needed land for the project by a March 18 deadline. A day prior to the deadline, First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor filed a letter with the PUC requesting the extension.

The PUC rejected the extension because “only a party to the docket can file a motion to extend,” according to a letter from PUC Counsel Michael Colon, addressed to Gaynor. The letter said the proper procedure would have been for Hawaiian Electric officials to file the extension for First Wind. However, Hawaiian Electric officials denied First Wind’s request to file the extension for them, according to a letter from Gaynor.

The PUC ruled that the bids were in violation of the competitive bidding process. However, commissioners granted a waiver for the projects, allowing them to proceed with the stipulation that the developers submit agreements to the PUC by a March 18 deadline that included information such as the scope of the projects, their development timeframes and pricing. While Castle & Cooke, who is both landowner and developer for the Lanai project, met the deadline, First Wind did not after the CEO of Molokai Ranch, Peter Nicholas, refused to make a deal with First Wind.

Subsequently, Nicholas announced that he would work with a new developer, San Francisco-based Pattern Energy.

According to the original 2008 agreement, if one of the developers failed in its pursuit of the project the other party could develop up to 350 mw on its designated island, according to PUC documents. And another 50 mw could be put out to competitive bid, according to a letter from Gaynor to the PUC.

However, Castle & Cooke recently announced an agreement that would cede 200 mw of wind energy to Pattern Energy to develop a wind farm on Molokai. Gaynor recently wrote a letter to the PUC denouncing the agreement as in violation of the original 2008 agreement, noting that Castle & Cooke had no right to make such an agreement. Gaynor’s letter requested that the PUC put 200 mw of the project out to competitive bid.

First Wind officials also are hoping that the island of Maui be considered as a possible project site for the Big Wind project.

RELATED: Friends of Lanai Calls for Big Wind Bidding Process to be Reopened, Hawaii Wind Developer tied to Largest-ever asset seizure by anti-Mafia police

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Michigan Welfare Money being Spent in Hawaii

Bridge card users spent about $2 million out of state in January and February, including in vacation hot spots like Florida, Hawaii and Nevada, state Sen. Rick Jones announced this morning.

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Do you know how long I’ve been in Government? Honolulu Councilmembers shout at testifiers

Three City Council members have yelled at members of the public offering testimony before the Public Works and Sustainability Committee, with City Council member Romy Cachola calling one man "stupid."

A man named Edgar Miner challenged City Council member Ann Kobayashi for her defense of Schnitzer Steel. Kobayashi's position is notable, given that she usually says saving taxpayer money is her top priority.

"Is there some vested interest or something I don't get?" asked Miner.

Kobayashi responded by yelling at Miner.

"Do you know how long I've been in government?" Kobayashi shouted….

Berg then said he wanted Matthew LoPresti, a former opponent in the race for District 1 City Council, to be the city's "landfill czar."

LoPresti has been working as a consultant on behalf of one of the company's pushing for Bill 47 to pass, and was testifying before the council….

Berg exhaled loudly and shoved his chair away from the table in response. Chang later reminded fellow council members to keep questions succinct and related to the matter at hand.

After that, Berg shouted at at least one member of the public after she gave testimony. Another member of the public approached the microphone saying, "I'm not sure I really want to testify with him."

When Keith Rollman testified in support of Bill 47 before the Public Works and Sustainability Committee this morning, City Council member Tom Berg grilled him about the city's IT system.

(Keith Rollman? Matthew LoPresti? What could possibly go wrong?)

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WHT: Kenoi Campaign Manager cancels no-bid Police Services Contract after media Inquiries

Mayor Billy Kenoi late Monday put an end to a planned Police Department contract with his 2008 campaign manager after the no-bid project drew media scrutiny.

Instead, campaign manager Christian Kimo Alameda will conduct one training session on "Aloha in Difficult Times" free of charge and there will be no contract for subsequent sessions, Kenoi told West Hawaii Today.

The newspaper had earlier in the day been told by Police Department officials that the first two-hour class July 8 in Hilo would include 40 officers at a cost of less than $500. Police Chief Harry Kubojiri said all 430 sworn officers and 150 civilian employees would subsequently be required to take the course at a cost that had not yet been determined.

HTH version: Complaints send Big Island officers back to class

Kenoi’s Aloha in Difficult Times: Billy Kenoi at Shooters—and the Pali shooter—the connections, Billy Kenoi Helped Pali Shooter, Malu Motta: “I need one governor so he can pardon me.”

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Kyo-ya Hotel: Three of Five Zoning Board Members have Conflicts of Interest

At the April 21 meeting, Board Chair David Minkin disclosed that his law firm, McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, represents Kyo-ya. Board member Susana Berardy also disclosed a conflict. Her husband Joe on Monday told Civil Beat that the company they run — DBI Hawaii Inc. — has provided Hawaiian quilts and other bedding to Kyo-ya.

Both recused themselves from further deliberations, according to both Tanoue and Hawaii's Thousand Friends Executive Director Donna Wong. A voicemail left for Minkin Monday was not returned.

Even without Minkin and Berardy, the board would still have a quorum and be able to adjudicate the matter. But a third board member — Herb Chock — also raised the possibility of a conflict, and awaits an answer from the Honolulu Ethics Commission.

Chock and his associates operate a construction and engineering consulting firm that has worked with Kyo-ya in the past.

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Hawaii Trial Judges Worst Paid in U.S.

The 2010 Survey of Judicial Salaries states that a "general-jurisdiction trial court" judge in Hawaii was paid $136,127 last year.

In terms of raw ranking, that placed the Aloha State in the middle of the pack, 24, compared with the rest of the U.S.

However, when the cost of living is considered, the report concludes that the "adjusted salary" for Hawaii judges is actually $81,116. Using the adjustment, Hawaii ranks 51 among the states, including the District of Columbia. The next closest salary, (also adjusted for cost of living) is $97,710, paid to judges in Maine.

RELATED: Hawaii Rated Worst State to Earn a Living

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Crisis? 16.9% More Spending for Kauai Human Resources Dep’t

The county Personnel Services Department is seeking a significant increase in funding — mostly due to the end of furloughs — but Kaua‘i County Council members are more focused on its ongoing transition to human resources.

Personnel Services Director Malcolm Fernandez recently appeared before the council to present the department’s $1.02 million budget for Fiscal Year 2012, which starts July 1. The request represents a 16.9 percent, or $147,400, increase in funding for the department compared to the current fiscal year.

However, council members seemed more concerned with its transition from a personnel to human resources department, which is taking years to become reality.

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Crisis? $30M Projects for Kona

West Hawaii is due to get about $30 million for "top priority" projects in the upcoming state budget, Sen. Josh Green said Friday.

Legislators approved the appropriations late Thursday.

Topping the list is $12 million for a West Hawaii Judiciary Complex. The project is often called "long-awaited," as judiciary employees, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and members of the public have been on record seeking a new home for the court system for three decades.

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Hawaii homeowners threatened by foreclosure would have options to stay in homes

The 102-page bill calls for a dispute resolution process to begin facilitating potential loan modifications by October. Residential owner-occupants also would have the option to convert their nonjudicial foreclosures to a process overseen by the courts.

The measure, modeled on a similar mediation system used in foreclosure-plagued Nevada, is scheduled for final votes in the House and Senate on Tuesday. Opponents of the legislation said it could result in new home buyers facing higher down payments and stricter loan requirements if lenders have to wait longer to get paid by borrowers in default.

Online SB651:

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Hawaii Muslims painted as Victims by Islam Day Proponent

"Our fight continues. There will always be evil whether from the bin Laden's of the world or the Timothy McVeigh's of the world and the fight continues, but it is a huge blow and the closure of a chapter," said Hakim Ouansafi, Muslim Association of Hawaii, Board Chairman. "This is a joint fight between all faith, all people that stand for peace and liberty and justice."

Ouansafi says the 4,000 Muslims in the state have an overwhelming sense of relief. While the 10 years since 9/11 have been rough they hope the end of bin Laden also ends the racism and bigotry toward Muslims.

"We are cautiously hopeful that with the closing of the bin Laden chapter that the bigotry and discrimination chapter can also be closed," said Ouansafi.

REALITY: On the trail to Hawaii Islam Day: Saudi money, Libyan assassins, Palestinian Jihad, London bombers, Malaysian sodomy, and laughing Islamists

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Six decades after death, Maui man receives Medal of Honor

In 1951, during the Korean war, the 21 year old Kahoohanohano sent his men out of harm's way during a firefight with a group of North Korean soldiers. As his men fell back to safety, Kahoohanohano gathered grenades and firearms and singlehandedly fought the enemy until his ammunition ran out.

President Obama told a packed room at the ceremony, "After firing so many bullets, the barrel of his machine gun was literally bent, but Tony had stood his ground. He had saved the lives of his men."

The North Koreans drew closer, and Kahoohanohano engaged in hand-to-hand combat using the only weapon he had left - a shovel. The young Hawaiian was killed in the fight, but the President says his courage inspired his men to regroup, rally, and drive the enemy back.

RELATED: Conspicuous Gallantry: Medal of Honor for Kaho’ohanohano, Svehla

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State Court Employees Contribute $19,489 to Japan Relief Fund

On behalf of the employees of the Hawaii State Judiciary, the Judiciary’s statewide Japan Relief Fund coordinator Lori Okita (far left) yesterday presented a $19,489 check for the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund to Coralie Matayoshi (center), Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross, Hawaii Chapter.

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Hawaii Seeks to Prohibit Sale of Intact Pets

Hawaii legislators are seeking changes to a proposed animal cruelty bill in an effort to prohibit the sale of unsterilized dogs and cats. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is urging the public to promptly speak out against the amendment, which it calls a “perversion” of the original bill.

As amended, House Bill 243 would prohibit a pet retailer from selling an unsterilized dog or cat. The purpose of this measure is to “mitigate the suffering of the feral cat and stray dog population,” according to the bill. It would take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

The original version of HB 243 provided that the killing, or attempted killing, of an animal of another person without that person’s consent would constitute animal cruelty in the first degree.

PIJAC issued an industry alert today in which the Washington, D.C.-based organization claimed the amended version of HB 243 establishes an unprecedented restriction on pet owners.

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With Enactment of Hawaii Employment Non-Discrimination Law, One-Quarter of U.S. States Ban Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity

On Monday, Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie signed into law House Bill 546, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in employment and as a matter of public policy. The bill had received final legislative approval in mid-April.

Hawaii becomes the 13th state to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing and public accommodations, marking one-quarter of U.S. states with such laws. More than 125 cities and counties also have such laws on the books.

RELATED: Abercrombie signature gives special rights to Men who wear Dresses

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Program nurses a need

The participating employers include Hawaii Pacific Health, the Queen's Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, Castle Medical Center and the quasi-public Hawaii Health Systems Corp. The University of Hawaii, Cha­mi­nade University and Hawaii Pacific University also are partners.

The group is spending $96,000 to launch the program, Tiwa­nak said.

RN graduates will be hired by the hospitals and be part of the staffing rotation over a six- to 12-month period depending on the employer.

"This gives them like an edge, a feel for not only the environment that they may or may not be interested in, it gives them a good on-the-job orientation that sort of fulfills that prior-experience requirement," said Miles Taka­aze, HHSC spokes­man.

"It not only trains, but also retains because they're familiar and they'll stay longer."

Statewide, registered nurse graduates in 2009 — the latest statistics available — totaled 609, down from 636 graduates in 2008, according to data from the Hawaii State Center for Nursing.

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Work resumes at Oahu's oldest church for construction of a multi-purpose center

A church spokesman says digging of trenches to test for the presence of historical artifacts, including human remains, began Monday after the church was given approval by state agencies to go forward with the modified plans.

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Obama’s friend pleads no contest in prostitution case

Robert. R. “Bobby” Titcomb, a close friend of President Barack Obama, pled no contest to a charge of prostitution this morning and was fined $500, but under a court agreement the charge will be stricken from his record if he stays clean for the next six months.

Titcomb, a Punahou School friend and a Hawaii golfing buddy with Obama, did not appear in District Court this morning and was represented by attorney William Harrison.

Harrison told District Judge Leslie Hayashi that Titcomb “was out of town.”

Titcomb, 49, was arrested at South and Pohukaina streets at 9:40 p.m. April 4 with three other men for prostitute during a Honolulu police sting operation in Kakaako targeting prostitution customers.

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Rasmussen: No Osama Bounce for Obama

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 26% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Thirty-six percent (36%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -10 (see trends).

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Donald The Mole

For a while, I've thought Donald Trump was a mole designed to lead the Democrats to a landslide in 2012 no matter who they nominate or how the economy is doing. And here are the reasons why: Only a nit or a mole would pick on someone's birthplace as a kickoff to his (or her) election when there are other things to worry about, like say, the economy, unemployment, immigration and who's going to win on "Dancing With the Stars."

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