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Tuesday, March 19, 2013
March 19, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:17 PM :: 4595 Views

Hawaii Scores ‘F’ on Health Care Price Transparency Laws

Sunburned by Corporate Welfare

Notable bills to be heard this week

New Governor Seeks Jones Act exemption to grow Puerto Rican Economy

Abercrombie: Hotel Industry TAT Concerns are "Propaganda"

SB69: Gun Registration Bill to be Heard Today

Hawaii Republican Party Growth and Opportunity Project

Hawaii GOP Chair Tours S. Korea With President Bush

Defense Contractor Charged in Hawaii with Communicating Classified Information

Hero Clarence Nishihara Defends Science Against Religious Fanatics

CB: Environmental activist Jessica Mitchell is upset with state Sen. Clarence Nishihara for not hearing House Bill 174, which would impose labels on imported genetically engineered food.

If the food is not labeled, Hawaii would not permit its sale or distribution here.

HB 174 passed the House, but Nishihara, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, won't hold a hearing on his side of the Capitol.

SA: Eco-Religionist Claims Moral Superiority

read … Screaming ‘Blasphemer!’

UPDATE: Senate will hear GMO labeling bill, despite initial concerns over constitutionality

HNN: Senator Nishihara … says he stands by the federal government's position that GMO food poses no threat to consumers and cites scientific research that says it's indistinguishable for non-GMO food.

"I don't know how many different ways you can say it to different people and some people will never be convinced, but I think they want it to be heard so they'll have the opportunity.  They'll have the chance to say what they have to say," said Senator Nishihara.

read … Senate will hear GMO labeling bill, despite initial concerns over constitutionality

Coal Plant Shutdown raises HECO rates 9%

SA: Oahu's residential electricity rates were higher in February and March largely because a coal-fired plant that provides the island's cheapest source of power was down for maintenance, Hawaiian Electric Co. officials said Monday.

The 180-megawatt plant operated by independent power producer AES Corp. has the capacity to provide about 15 percent of the island's peak electricity demand. The cost to produce electricity at the AES plant is about 9 cents a kilowatt-hour versus about 21 cents a kilowatt-hour for power produced by the oil-burning plants that provide the bulk of HECO's electricity generation, according to a presentation HECO officials made to state legislators in January.

The typical bill for an Oahu household using 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month will rise to $218.75 in March from $216.11 in February, according to HECO. Both were significantly higher than the $200.91 typical bill in January.

HECO is charging 34.9 cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity this month, up from 34.5 cents a kilowatt-hour in February

read … Less Coal More Bill

Proposal aims to increase hotel room tax by 2%

KHON: Legislators raised the rate from 7.25 percent six years ago to the current 9.25 percent.

Gov. Abercrombie and Mayor Caldwell propose hiking it another two percent.

But the hotel industry is asking that it be lowered, back to what it was six years ago.

"Utility costs have gone up 41 percent. Our payroll has gone up 28 percent, our health and welfare costs have gone up 20 percent," said Max Sword, Outrigger Hotels.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority says that extra two percent means each visitor would pay an extra $50 per visit, which is significant in an industry that's highly competitive….

The House Tourism Committee did not vote on the proposal on Monday. For now, the hotel room tax stands at 9.25 percent.

read … Tax Hike

School land bill moves forward in Hawaii Senate

AP: On Monday, senators heard the House version of the bill. They replaced its text with the Senate proposal, a more cautious approach that allows just two projects in three years. The bill goes next the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Lawmakers' cautiousness is partially in response to an outpouring of criticism from people who fear the initiative is an offshoot of the state's much-maligned public land development agency….

Waikiki resident Liz Larson told senators Monday that she is worried about how the bill will affect inner-city schools.

"If a high-rise structure is developed on the property of Jefferson Elementary School, the land will never be reclaimed for the children," said Larson, who has two sons at the school that sits at the edge of Oahu's famous hotel district.

Larson said she knows that land in Waikiki is valuable and could bring in a lot of revenue. But she said open space on school properties is especially important for families like hers who raise their kids in one-bedroom apartments.

"We're the ones who value the land the most," she said.

Neither the House nor the Senate drafts specify which schools could be developed first. But Jefferson Elementary School Principal Scott Parker testified in favor of the bill, calling the plan a "no-brainer."

House Committee on Education Chairman Roy Takumi said it would make sense to consider urban schools for pilot projects, suggesting Waikiki Elementary School, saying it would be easier to consolidate urban schools rather than rural schools.

He also suggested schools that are sitting on expansive properties such as Kihei High School on Maui, which he said has 77 acres of land….

read … School Land

Hawaii Preschool Plan in Crunch as Advocates Vow to Restore Funding

CB: Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s three early education proposals are sailing through the Legislature, but the money he originally proposed to pay for the initiative’s first phase — the School Readiness program — got scrapped by the state House last week.

Now, supporters are pinning their hopes on the Senate finance committee, which is expected to take up the budget bill Tuesday, to restore the funding. On Monday, advocates gathered at the state Capitol for an informational briefing to update the public on the early education bills and encourage supporters to testify on the budget bill Tuesday.

read … Preschool

Legislators to Get $10K Pay Hike

KITV: Hawaii lawmakers could soon get a huge pay increase. The state salary commission recommended legislators get a 21 percent raise this summer.

Currently, each Senator and Representative, with the exception of the Senate President and House Speaker, makes $46,272. Cuts in 2009 froze pay at that level where it has remains.

On Monday, the state salary commission recommended lawmakers get paid $55,896 starting July 1, which is when those salary reductions end….

"I think our pay is fine the way it is. It is a part-time job. It's a very good salary for a part-time job. The problem is too many people make it a full-time profession," said McDermott.

"I don't think it’s a good idea. They're taking money from the economy to pay themselves. Why should everyone suffer so they can get a better BMW?" asked Honolulu resident Chris Evans.

The salary recommendations will now go to the governor's office for approval.

SA: 2% More pay raises advocated for top officials, judges (They’re doing this so they can take it back and look like heroes while they pick up the big increase.)

Related: Hanabusa: “Legislators work very hard and deserve the raise”, Hawaii Legislators’ pay tops nation

read … Lawmakers could get big raises

Bill: Let City Have Greater Share Of Rail Surcharge

CB: That’s what Senate Bill 571, which had a hearing Monday March 18, calls for. Specifically: Changes the State’s automatic deduction of 10% of the gross proceeds of a county’s surcharge on state tax to a deduction of an unspecified percentage to reimburse the State for costs associated with handling the assessments, collection, and disposition of the county surcharge on state tax. Allows the State, by rule, to change the unspecified percentage to an amount not exceeding 10% if the costs of assessment, collection, and disposition increase.

CB: One Hand On His Wallet — Honolulu Mayor Fights State For More Cash

read … 10% More for Rail

House committee wants to increase tax on luxury home sales

CB: The Hawaii House Committee on Water and Land has approved a bill to fund natural resource protection and increase the conveyance tax for high-end properties.

Some of the conveyance tax revenue is already being used to fund environmental protection, which includes protecting watersheds, and affordable housing….

The House Committee on Finance will hear the bill next and is likely to determine the specific amounts the tax would increase

read … Tax Increase to Line Enviros Pockets

Borreca Defends Molester Lobby

Synopsis: Anyone who is against me is a racist.

Best Comment: “When someone attacks the messenger, it is a clear indication that they cannot argue their opposing point of view.”

Reality: Child molester back at work at Hawaii Legislature

read … Some Ignorant Drivel Designed to Manipulate the Weak

So-Called Consumer Advocate: Oahu Residents Should Pick Up Tab For Aina Koa Pono Project

CB: Aina Koa Pono executives hope to build a biofuel plant in the Kau region of the Big Island. But the project has attracted local opposition, in part because Big Island residents, who pay some of the highest electricity rates in the state, don’t want to see their electricity bills go up.

Jeffrey Ono, the consumer advocate, feels their pain. In filings with the Public Utilities Commission, he recommends that Oahu residents cover the extra cost of the biofuel instead, which will raise residential electricity bills by about $1.16 a month.

HECO originally proposed that the premium for the biofuel be spread out among both Oahu and Big Island residents….

Ono also urged Aina Koa Pono to release the results of an environmental assessment of the project expeditiously. And he expressed disappointment that the energy developer hadn’t negotiated a community benefits package with local residents who will host the project, according to the PUC filing.

read … Reason for Impeachment

Legislators Yank Funding for UHH School of Pharmacy Building

HTH: Campus administrators are keeping their fingers crossed after the Legislature dropped from a working version of the state budget a request for $38 million to fund a new pharmacy school building at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Representatives in the state House on Wednesday passed on their version of Hawaii’s $23.3 billion budget for fiscal years 2013-2015 and forwarded it on to the Senate, minus a line item that UH-Hilo and Big Island delegates have been requesting for years.

Administrators at UH-Hilo have said that failure to fund a facility for the fledgling college will result in the institution losing its accreditation.

Background: Mitsunaga Names Names, Slams UH for Favoritism Towards Kobayashi

read … Mitsunaga vs Kobayashi

Sand Island Business Association–Money & Politics

ILind: Officers and directors of the Sand Island Business Association contributed over $225,000 to a variety of political candidates and elected officials between 2006 and 2012, according to data from reports filed with the Campaign Spending Commission. The contributions came as they were trying to generate political pressure to force the Department of Land and Natural Resources to agree to a deal giving them fee-simple title to the 70 state-owned acres that make up the Sand Island Industrial Park.

It looks a lot like the same “make friends and rent influence” tactic SIBA used 25 years ago when it lobbied to obtain control of the property through a master lease and major financial concessions from the state, although at that time their actions were more flagrant and contributions more concentrated on key officials.

read … Fee Simple Conversion

Budget Actions in D.C. This Week Will Mean Tough Choices For Hawaii

CB: The Senate moved Monday night toward the passage of a temporary spending bill as early as Tuesday that lessens the chances of a government shutdown but leaves in place sequestration budget cuts and the furloughs associated with them.

In what’s expected to be a busy week, the Republican House and the Democratic Senate are also trying to pass their versions of full-year budgets, setting the stage for a budget battle this summer and fall that would have major implications for Hawaii.

read … Tough

Malulani Activist Endorses Banner Takeover of MMMC

HR: Banner, a good solid hospital, wants to take over Maui Memorial Medical Center.

What about Banner Health? I can tell you that on the mainland, Banner has a great reputation. Banner Health and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center opened the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center on Sept. 26, 2011, in Arizona. US News and World Report rated MD Anderson the number one in the country for cancer care.

read … Maui Needs a Better Healthcare System

Smart Grids Need to Be Evaluated With Cost Benefit Analysis

HR: SB 1040 defines "Advanced grid modernization technology" without including any references to costs or impacts.

read … Henry Curtis

Solid waste contract would cloud Hawaii County waste-to-energy

WHT: Hawaii County is poised to issue a 10-year contract to divert most of its waste from the county’s two landfills, a contract that would all but close the door on the prospects for a waste-to-energy facility that has been endorsed by Mayor Billy Kenoi.

The multimillion-dollar contract, for a private vendor to take organic waste that would otherwise be landfilled and make compost out of it to sell to the public, was solicited and then rejected last year. The County Council this year has considered and repeatedly postponed a resolution that would allow the Department of Environmental Management to go ahead with a multiyear contract….

Waste-to-energy isn’t considered cost-effective for a garbage stream of less than 500 tons per day, according to a spokesman for Waste Management Inc., which operates the plants in other states. Hawaii County’s current waste stream, before any organic waste is removed, is just under 200 tons per day at the Hilo landfill and just under 300 tons per day at the West Hawaii landfill….

read … And who is the organic contractor?

Honeytrap: Honolulu Defense Worker Charged with Nuclear Espionage

ABC: A defense contractor and former U.S. Army officer has been charged with communicating national defense secrets to a 27-year-old Chinese national with whom he had a romantic relationship. According to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court Monday in Hawaii, Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, who held a Top Secret clearance, transmitted “national defense information regarding existing war plans, information regarding nuclear weapons, and relations with international partners,” to an email address known to be used by the woman referred to as “Person 1.”
Bishop met the woman during a conference on international military defense issues, and according to the complaint, she “may have been at the conference in order to target individuals such as Bishop who work with and have access to classified.” Court records state that Bishop maintained “an intimate, romantic relationship with Person 1 since June 2011,” and worked to hide that relationship from the U.S. Government.

LINK: Criminal complaint against Benjamin Bishop

SA: Defense worker in Hawaii gave nuke secrets to Chinese, FBI says

read … Honey trap

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