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Tuesday, April 2, 2013
April 2, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:11 PM :: 4911 Views

Hawaii Impact? Supreme Court Rejects Texas Reapportionment Case

15 Years Without Global Warming

Today's top headlines for Lanai: News or April Fools?

Hyeonseo Lee: My escape from North Korea

China mobilizing troops, jets near Korea

HB903: Toilet Tax movement in Legislature

WHT: Cesspool and septic tank owners would be charged a new fee to pay for water quality monitoring, under a bill moving through the state Legislature that’s part of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s “New Day” plan.

House Bill 903 assesses an unspecified “reasonable” fee on owners of individual wastewater systems that would go into a new water pollution control account to pay for Department of Health staff to monitor discharges and enforce permits and management plans create HGEA make work jobs. Individual wastewater systems are defined as cesspools, septic tanks, aerobic treatment units and any collection systems not connected to a sewer.  (Fact check: Pollution? No.  The grass grows greener over the septic tank.)

The annual fee would be collected by the counties as part of property taxes or through some other method….

The bill was cleared by its last committee, the Senate Ways and Means Committee, on Wednesday. All Hawaii Island House members voted for the bill before it was sent to the Senate. Big Island Sens. Josh Green, Gilbert Kahele and Russell Ruderman, all Democrats, voted in favor of the bill in committees.  (Toilet traitors.)

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi opposes the measure, saying it will disproportionally affect the Big Island, with its 58,989 individual cesspools and septic systems.

“We just feel if the Department of Health is going to levy a tax that it comes to Hawaii Island and hold public hearings,” Kenoi said Monday. “We just want to make sure the voices of our county residents are heard.”

Management plans would be required for owners of land of 10 acres or more, except for land used in farming activities…. (You’re going to have to write a toilet flushing plan and the DoH is going pay HGEA members to check your plan to flush the toilet.) The fee would be assessed on all property owners who have individual wastewater systems, regardless of the size of the property. 

(Question: Is there any bodily function which the Hawaii legislature doesn’t want to tax and regulate?)

April 8 Update: Civil Beat Can’t Figure Out Why Toilet Tax Was Defeated

read … Flush Twice, its a long way to the General Fund

UPDATE:  Cesspool tax flushed (for now)

WHT: A state Senate panel on Friday April 5 killed a proposed fee on cesspool and septic tank owners after Hawaii Island residents raised a stink about it.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee had decided Wednesday to reconsider House Bill 903 the day after a West Hawaii Today article described the impact the bill would have on island residents. The committee had passed the measure 9-1 on March 27….

State Sen. Gil Kahele, D-Hilo, who had originally voted for the bill, said he asked committee leadership to reconsider after he learned there was more to the bill than first thought. He said he received a couple of emails about the bill….

Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, said he also received emails. An environmentalist (has a license to screw the public so naturally), Ruderman had voted for the bill, and he said he still thinks it’s a good idea “in my heart.”

“Ninety-nine percent of the emails I received were in opposition. It would have been a dilemma for me, but I would have had to vote with my constituents,” Ruderman said. “I hope it comes back up next year in a way that soothes people’s fears.” (Translation: No media coverage next time.)

Ruderman and Kahele said the bill wasn’t specific enough about what the fees might be….

All Hawaii Island House members voted for the bill before it was sent to the Senate. In addition to Ruderman and Kahele, Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, voted in favor of the bill in committees….

read … Be Back Next Year

Legislators May Cut Income Tax

SA: Hawaii's top marginal income tax rate is now 11 percent. The only state with higher rates is California….

A proposal before the Legislature would repeal the 11 percent rate at the end of 2014, a year earlier than the temporary increase that was enacted in 2009 in an override of then-Gov. Linda Lingle's veto. She pointed out that 27,000 of the 37,000 taxpayers who would be hit were sole proprietors, partnerships or small business owners who report their business income through personal income tax returns.

"Small business owners who count their business income as personal income will find it more difficult to support and grow their enterprises," Lingle pointed out in her veto message. "This could mean more business closures, layoffs and fewer job opportunities."

The Legislature now appears to appreciate that negative effect on lower-paid workers, rather than seeing only a tax cut for the wealthy. House Speaker Joseph Souki is in favor of lowering the top rate early, and House Majority Leader Scott Saiki says he is looking into making it "more of a middle-class cut, as opposed to just reducing the top bracket," which would be a popular move.

Why wait until the end of next year, asks Lowell Kalapa of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii. If the higher rates are deemed unnecessary, he asks, why not scrap the higher rates at the end of this year? He suggests that the state cut spending by $48.6 million a year, which is what the state would lose if the wealthy taxpayers' rate were repealed.

Souki's leadership coalition with House Republicans is in favor of income tax relief and a two-year shrinking of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's spending request by $600 million. Saiki told the Star-Advertiser's editorial board last month that the House is not the "tax-and-spend liberal coalition" that critics feared.

Speaker Emeritus Calvin Say's former lieutenants have attacked an early repeal of the 11 percent income tax rate, saying it would leave a $48.6 million hole in the budget, and 16 Say loyalists voted against the bill when it cleared the House.

read … Reduce tax burden on small businesses

Abercrombie not doing well in attempts to raise taxes

Borreca: Some of the action was to foster social policy, such as his so-far unsuccessful attempts to discourage consuming soda and other sugar-laden drinks by increasing the taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages….

The Tax Foundation of Hawaii compiled a list of Abercrombie's requests for increases in taxes and fees for his first three years as governor. So far he has introduced 40 tax measures, with three passing in both 2011 and 2012.

The biggest controversy in 2011 was Abercrombie's attempt to tax pensions and index taxes for inflation. The attempt failed but drove a wedge between Abercrombie and senior citizens, especially retired government workers.

The Hawaii AARP mobilized retired state and county workers to lobby the Legislature and Abercrombie is remembered for bragging during a 2011 speech on Kauai about the AARP: "I'm not going to counter them; I'm going to roll over them."

If Abercrombie was unsuccessful in taxing pensions, two big revenue increases for the state in 2011 came when he raised motor vehicle registration fees from $25 to $45. That took an estimated $34 million a year from car vehicle owners, with the money going to the state highway fund. An additional $33 million a year was handed over by vehicle owners when Abercrombie convinced the Legislature to raise the motor vehicle weight tax.

The governor tried to again raise vehicle registration fees by a dollar to pay for administering the handicapped parking placard program, but it was killed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

For two years in a row, the Abercrombie administration has tried to tax plastic bags, even though all four counties are moving to or have already limited their use.

(The purpose of this column is to assist Hanabusa in making the case against Abercrombie.)

read … Abercrombie not doing well in attempts to raise taxes

UH Contracts: Legislators Move Closer to Snatching Kobayashi’s Sweet Deal

SA: A bill that would strip the University of Hawaii of procurement responsibilities for new construction was passed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday, signaling continuing legislative concern over the way the school has handled millions of dollars in projects.

Under the amended version of House Bill 114 advanced by the Senate panel, the Department of Accounting and General Services would take over procurement functions, including the awarding of contracts, for new construction at UH, while the state procurement office would assume oversight responsibility.

The legislation also gives broad authority to the DAGS comptroller for determining whether that agency or UH would maintain jurisdiction over repair and maintenance work and over any projects considered continuing or ongoing. Construction contracts in place before the bill were to take effect would stay with UH….

The amended measure passed by Ways and Means differs substantially from the House bill, which would have transferred only oversight responsibility — deciding compliance issues involving the state procurement code — over construction projects. Under the House bill, the university would have retained non-oversight functions, including the ability to award contracts and determine funding priorities….

If the full Senate passes its version of HB 114, the two chambers would have to resolve their differences and pass an agreed-upon measure before the proposal can be sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for consideration.

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, whose Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing Committee played a key role in reviewing the bill, said he envisions the proposed changes being temporary and a way to address some $460 million in backlogged repairs UH has acknowledged and other procurement-related problems.

The idea, he added, would be for DAGS to build the capacity to handle UH projects and eventually transfer that capacity, including staff, back to UH, along the lines of what happened when the Department of Education took over procurement duties and staff from DAGS years ago.

ILind: Ethics questions remain on UH policy for complimentary tickets

What this is about: Mitsunaga Names Names, Slams UH for Favoritism Towards Kobayashi

read … UH closer to losing its power to secure contracts

Workboat Magazine: Don’t limit Jones Act reform

WB: In his recent Sound Off blog “Jones Act reform for Hawaii needed,” Michael Hansen, president of the Hawaii Shippers Council, makes some cogent arguments for the exemption of mainland Hawaii trade from the onerous and outdated provisions of the Jones Act.

The only problem with Hansen’s arguments are that they apply equally well to all trade covered by this 90-year-old legislation.

LTE SA: Exemption would nullify Jones Act

read … Workboat

KSBE Cites Six ‘Myths’ in Push for Preschool Voucher Program

SA: Why the continued delay? Six myths continue to be raised. The reality is as follows:

» The long-term costs are too great.

» This is school vouchers. Families who are eligible for financial assistance through the proposed program will be able to enroll only their children with providers that are contracted by the Executive Office of Early Learning and meet program requirements. (Translation: Yes, this is a voucher program. LOL! Democrat Hawaii is enacting vouchers and nobody noticed.  LOLROTF!  No lets extend this to K-12 and get some real education reform.)

» I didn't go to preschool and I am fine.

» Fix the K-12 system first.

» Gains fade by third grade. Long-term studies such as Perry Preschool, Abecedarian and the Chicago Longitudinal Study invalidate this claim. These studies, among others, find that preschool works. Hawaii's strong P-3 work is making great strides to make early learning seamless with K-3 programs. Consistent learning standards, as well as enhanced teacher training and support in the K-3 grades, are critical. (Reality: Abercrombie 'School Readiness' Plan Based on Proven Failure)

» Parents should take care of their own children. (Yep, they class this as a ‘myth.’)

read … Voucher Program to Funnel Money to KSBE

Clayton Hee Celebrates National Atheists Day

PR: State Sen. Clayton Hee gave the moment of contemplation on Monday to open the Senate floor session, thanking God for the separation of church and state.

Hee quickly added an "April Fools."…

Before session ended, sen Sam Slom thanked God for all of his blessings, "including your ability to suffer fools."

read … A Fool 365 Days of the Year

Teacher Subs Lawsuit Could Cost Hawaii Taxpayers $75M

CB: After a series of rulings and appeals, the state last year agreed to pay 9,000 substitutes roughly $15 million in back pay, taxes and benefits — wages that the state circuit court ruled they should’ve been paid between 2000 and 2005.

But it’s likely that $15 million is just scraping the surface of what the state will end up paying the teachers when the litigation’s final kinks are ironed out, according to Alston. The payout could swell to as much as $45 million if the court rules that the state owes the teachers interest, attorneys’ fees and other charges — litigation that could take another year or so, he said.

And then there’s the separate complaint involving 15,000 or so part-time teachers, some of whom are also substitutes, who claim that they were also underpaid. That lawsuit, which still has to undergo another round of appeals and might take another year and a half before it’s settled, could yield another $16 million plus other fees, Alston said.

read … Teacher Subs Lawsuit Could Cost Hawaii Taxpayers $75M

Mayor open to a 4% pay raise

SA: Mayor Kirk Caldwell indicated he likely would allow 4 percent pay increases for himself and department heads to take effect as proposed Monday by the Hono­lulu Salary Commission.

Questions linger over the proposed increases, however, as several members of the City Council, which still must OK the raises, were either noncommittal or said they are inclined to reject the raises.

The 4 percent increase was also recommended by the commission to apply to Council members.

read … 4% Raise

Hawaii House to Vote on Bill to Protect Absentee Ballot Process

CB: While one version of legislation to protect the integrity of absentee voting died last week in the Senate, a similar bill is headed to the floor of the House.

Senate Bill 827 would prohibit candidates from helping voters complete their absentee ballots. The bill cleared the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month.

House Bill 1027, which proposed doing the same thing, died in the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee last week.

read … Hawaii House to Vote on Bill to Protect Absentee Ballot Process

Proposed changes to bill aimed at tightening gambling law

KHON: On Tuesday, State Senators will hear a bill that's aimed at strengthening Hawaii's gambling laws, especially for sweepstakes machines.

But proposed changes to the bill aren't sitting well with some.

It appears some people and groups who've been for the original bill are against the proposed amendments, and vice versa.

Honolulu police have been raiding sweepstakes arcades over the past six months, confiscating the machines.

"They still have 82 of our machines," said Gene Simeona, Lucky Touch Owner/Manager….

HB 343, HD 2 passed out of the House and crossed over to the Senate.

But there was some concern that arcades like Dave and Busters, Fun Factory and Chuck E. Cheese, and that promotional contests by banks, McDonald's, and other companies, would also be affected.

"That's not the intention. The intention is again to go after these sweepstakes types of devices and machines," said Aquino.

So now, there's a proposed Senate Draft to the bill, to address those concerns.

But some are saying, the proposed amendments would run counter to the original purpose of the bill.

The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, the Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, and the League of Women Voters all submitted written testimony in support of the original bill, and against the proposed Senate draft.

Meanwhile, Simeona says he was opposed to the original bill, but is for the proposed amended version.

Tracy Yoshimura, distributor of the sweepstakes terminals, agrees….

Both versions are on the agenda for Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which is set for 9:30 a.m., in Room 016 at the State Capitol.

read … Proposed changes to bill aimed at tightening gambling law

Apoloiona: Akana is Sophomoric, Cheap, Irresponsible

CB: I was appalled to read the Honolulu Civil Beat article "OHA trustee says $21 million property deal was shady."

What this irresponsible opinion completely ignores is that shameless, political sniping is unhelpful to elected officials who are honorable, capable and conscientious leaders.

To suggest any kind of curious dealings on my part in the handling of a major commercial property acquisition by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is ludicrous and shows a serious lack of understanding of the respect I have for the trust that has been placed in me as an elected official.

This kind of sophomoric finger-pointing insults the public’s intelligence and panders to an audience that my accuser assumes is interested in finding cheap thrills on a subject that deserves far greater sobriety.

At best, her ethics complaint against me provides about as much insight into the $21 million property acquisition as you would expect to read in a cheap tabloid purchased at the grocery store checkout counter.

read … OHA Trustee Responds To Ethics Complaint

Pot Arrests Don't Clog System

CB: David Louie, Hawaii Attorney General: "In support of the decriminalization provisions, it has been suggested that the decriminalization of marijuana would assist the Judiciary in reducing a backlog of cases involving the offense of promoting detrimental drugs in the third degree, in violation of section 712-1249, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS). But the attached statewide statistics from the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center shows that there is no significant backlog of cases in the courts. Most of the cases initiated during a calendar year are being disposed in the calendar year. Those that remain pending at the end of year probably do so because they were initiated late in the year or were continued by the court. ..."

Richard Minatoya, Maui Deputy Prosecuting Attorney: "We believe that the claim by proponents of this bill that this measure will 'clear up the courts' is unfounded. Contrary to claims by proponents, there are very few cases in which Promoting a Detrimental Drug in the Third Degree is the sole charge. In a large majority of the cases in district court, the charge of Promoting a Detrimental Drug in the Third Degree is in addition to other charges. We feel that this bill will have no impact on the congestion in the courts. ..."

Keith Kaneshiro, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney: "While there has been mention that marijuana cases currently 'clog' our criminal justice system, such that 'decriminalizing' the possession of certain amounts of marijuana would ease the burden, our records do not reflect any such clogging. In 2012, the Department charged 221 stand-alone counts of HRS §7l2-1249, which is essentially possession of less than l ounce marijuana. Similarly, there were 241 charges in 2011, 216 charges in 2010, and 240 charges in 2009. These figures are considerably lower than some other petty misdemeanor charges, and based on the experience of our deputies, it is extremely rare for these HRS §7l2-1249 cases to receive any jail-time, aside from the possible holding-time while a defendant awaits hearing. ..."

Darryl Perry, Kauai Police Chief: "In recent studies by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) the following facts were validated: 1. Less than 0.7% of all state inmates were behind bars for marijuana possession. 2. 99.8% of Federal prisoners sentenced for drug offenses were incarcerated for drug trafficking. 3. Under legalization, more people, not fewer, will be ensnared in the criminal justice system. A fact most people do not know is that alcohol — not cocaine, heroin or marijuana — is responsible for 2.6 million arrests every year. That is 1 million more arrests than for all illegal drugs combined. ..."

Jerry Inouye, Honolulu Police Department Narcotics/Vice Division: "Petty misdemeanor arrests for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana made up only two percent of all Honolulu Police Department arrests in 2012. Therefore, it is unlikely that there will be any significant savings for law enforcement or the Judiciary. Statistics from the State Department of the Attorney General show that in 2012, of the 594 persons arrested for possession of an ounce or less or marijuana, only seven spent more than 10 days in jail. This demonstrates that petty misdemeanor marijuana charges are not creating a backlog in the criminal justice system. ..."

read … Hawaii Courts Not Clogged With Pot Cases

Hawaii senators propose judiciary, OHA budgets

AP: Chairman David Ige said Monday that the Senate OHA budget proposal adds funding for education and health care initiatives that weren't included in the House version.

The proposal meets the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' request for $3.5 million per year in general funds and provides funding for direct health care and prevention programs along with academic services.

The Senate proposal is a boost from the House draft, which set aside just $2.9 million and $2.4 million in general funds each year.

After hearing the House proposal, OHA urged senators to provide more funding and emphasized the impending loss of federal funds due to federal budget cuts.

Ige has said that the Senate has more flexibility in crafting budget proposals than the House did because the Council on Revenues released positive revenue reports after the House budget drafts were published.

The Senate judiciary budget draft includes $145 million in general funds each year.

That's up from the House proposal which set aside 143.9 million in general funds each year.

The Senate committee agreed with the House to set aside $4.5 million to restore pay for judges who took a pay cut in 2009.

read …  Budgets

Pentagon comptroller says no furloughs past September

HNN:  In a move that directly affects almost 20,000 Hawaii-based civilian employees of the Defense Department, Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale says no furloughs will be undertaken beyond the end of the current budget year Sept. 30.

"We will look for other options," Hale says. "They may not be pleasant, and they may force us into some difficult choices."

Hale, speaking to a Web conference of the Association of Government Accountants, said, "We want to start doing this with more of a scalpel and less of a meat ax."

Jared Serbu of Federal News Radio in Washington D.C., said Hale specified this could include "involuntary separations" of enlisted personnel.

read  … Pentagon comptroller says no furloughs past September

Backlog forcing thousands to renew vehicle registrations in-person

HNN: Hawaii News Now has learned as many as 100,000 Oahu drivers are having to renew their vehicle registrations in-person because of a mainland company's mistakes.

The result is long lines at the DMV.

It is because the company that processes safety checks is behind.

So even if you got your new safety sticker two or three months ago the city's records may not show it and that means you can't renew your registration online.

read … 100,000 Waiting in Line

Taxes Already Too High on Tobacco Products Sold in Hawaii

HR: SB 492 would increase the tax on Other Tobacco Products from 70% to an “unspecified amount.  In the bill it states, that “tobacco products other than cigarettes are currently taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes, even though their use carries similar health risks.”

This tax increase and that statement in the proposed legislation sends a message that smokeless tobacco products are just as harmful to public health and costly to the state as cigarette smoking, which numerous scientific studies says are not true.

The Other Tobacco Product category in Hawaii is primarily made up of smokeless tobacco products, such as moist snuff which are pictured above.

read …  Tobacco Tax

Craft Brewers Face Regulatory Challenges

RM: In addition to sampling many excellent beers from around the country over several days, I sat in on a few educational sessions and spoke with several well-known brewers from around the country to gauge the state of the industry.

While demand for craft beer is growing across the country, it appears many small brewers are also bumping up against outdated federal and state regulations.

State laws regulating breweries vary greatly. The trend, as I’ve noted previously, appears largely—though not universally—to be toward deregulation.

I spoke with Garrett Marrero, founder of Maui Brewing Company in Hawaii, the largest craft brewer in the state.

Demand for craft beer has helped Maui Brewing and other brewers in the state push to expand limits on production six-fold over the past few years—from 5,000 barrels to the current 30,000-barrel limit.

“It’s nice when there are issues where you can be aligned with your competition, and I think that was an obvious one,” says Marrero.

read … Craft Beers

Giant 'golf ball' radar ship to monitor North Korea

Heritage: The Navy is moving a sea-based radar platform closer to North Korea—and that’s not the only kind of military hardware the Administration has felt compelled to pressed into service—even though it had long maintained the equipment wasn’t needed.

Heritage defense expert James Carafano notes that, in addition to the SBX-1 radar, which the Obama Administration mothballed last year, the Pentagon has also added the B-2 stealth bomber and F-22 stealth fighters to the forces currently war-gaming in South Korea.  “Odd how, after telling us over and over that we don’t need this equipment, the Administration suddenly finds they are more than handy… that they are, in fact, essential to dealing with—and hopefully defusing—a very real threat to our national security and our allies,” Carafano observed.

And, he reminds, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced a crash program to beef up US missile defenses on the West Coast.  “The Administration has pooh-poohed missile defense from day one, cutting funds and slow-walking R&D at every turn,” Carafano says.  “If they’d just kept a steady course on missile defense, they wouldn’t find themselves scrambling to make up for two years of lost progress in two month.”

read … Giant 'golf ball' radar ship to monitor North Korea

Mililani school raises funds for computers

KHON: "All classrooms, all support services and making sure we have as many kids being able to work with the technology as possible," Mililani Ike Elementary School principal Steve Nakasato said.

Mililani Ike is one of the largest elementary schools in the state. The goal is to buy 40 new computers for the more than 1,000 students who attend the school.

The PTO estimates that will cost at least $40,000.

"But as the economy has been going down, it's been harder and harder to raise the same amount of money that we did, maybe 10 years ago, so we've had to be a little more creative," PTO president Suzie Abeshima said.

That means reaching out to the business community and asking for donations.

Students are also taking pledges for an upcoming CrossFit event that involves half the school. So far, they've raised $12,000.

If you'd like to help, contact CrossFit event coordinator Patrica McKenzie at 312-9707 or events@mililaniikepto.org.

read … Mililani

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