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Tuesday, February 04, 2014
February 4, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:16 PM :: 2839 Views

Bitter Abercrombie Bickers With 'Irresponsible' Legislators over CAFR Credit

Gallup: Hawaii Liberals Outnumber Conservatives by Paltry 0.7%

HI lawmaker renews fight to end or revise controversial sex ed program

UHERO: Hawaii's minimum wage, poverty, and job creation

Lagging Health Connector Launches New Ad Buy

In Search of the Glass Ceiling: Deciphering Data on Gender and Wages

DOE reports on school year and instructional time

Hawaiian Electric deactivates Honolulu Power Plant

HB452: Hawaii House Unanimously Passes Election Fraud Bill

Multiple Gun-Related Bills to be Heard in state Senate Committee Today

Rep Thielen Pushes Hemp Legalization

Today's Legislative Agenda

Cronies give Caldwell $449K, 2nd only to The Abercrombie

CB: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell raised $449,433.55 from July 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013, which is the period covered by the latest campaign spending reports released Friday.

That amount is second only to Abercrombie, who pulled in $524,095.51 during that same time.

LINK List of Caldwell Contributors

read ... Caldwell #2

Caldwell Pushes Massive GE Tax Hike

Borreca: That extra half of 1 percent has been one busy little tax increase.

City officials estimate that by the end of 2022, the tax increase will have garnered $3.68 billion. That is about $3,860 for each of the 953,000 people living on Oahu today.

Back in 2006, when the tax was under discussion, the late Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, said the increase for the train would set a record.

"The biggest tax increase has yet to kick in, the half of 1 percent county surcharge for Honolulu's mass transit system will represent the largest tax increase since all tax rates were increased across the board in 1965," Kalapa said....

Honolulu doesn't want the tax to leave. Like true love, the tax should be forever. The city says the tax should be permanent.

The forever tax would be to operate the train.

Last week Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was on PBS Hawaii's "Insights" show with the other county mayors, who all were making the pitch that the counties should get more money from the state.

Caldwell's rationale was not the usual, "We need more money, because we don't have enough money and my constituents need new things."

Caldwell reasoned that the other counties should be able to raise the GET and then take a portion of it for county operations, and if the other counties can do that, it is only fair that the city keep its existing surcharge.

"If we are going to have to take the political hits of raising a tax, we want it in perpetuity," Caldwell said.

"If the other counties are going to get it in perpetuity, I think Oahu should have that equality."

read ... And you thought surcharge on GET was to be temporary

HB1999 Challenges HECO Monopoly

SA: State lawmakers have scheduled a hearing today on a bill aimed at putting pressure on Hawaiian Electric Co. to be more responsive to its customers' demanding lower electricity prices.

The measure, HB 1999, would empower the Legislature to review the franchise granted by the state that allows the HECO companies to operate as a regulated monopoly on all major islands except Kauai....

The bill would create a task force to evaluate the performance of HECO. The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, which is owned by its members, would not be covered by the bill.

The task force would be required to submit a report no later than 20 days before the start of the 2015 legislative session.....

Hermina Morita, chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission, testified last week on an earlier version of the bill that such a review of HECO was warranted given changes in Hawaii's energy landscape.

read ... Bill calls for evaluation of HECO's actions, strategies

Good News: House Panel Defers Child Molester Protection Bill

CB: The House Education committee yesterday shelved House Bill 1789, which would prohibit teachers and counselors from “engaging in sexual orientation change efforts" with students (who have been 'turned' by child molesters.)

read ... House Panel Defers Gay Conversion Therapy Bill

SB110 to Protect Agriculture from Anti-GMO Lunatics?

IM: Today the Hawaii Senate Committee on Agriculture will propose a “gut and replace” on SB 110. The new language will state, “Amends Hawaii’s Right to Farm Act to ensure that counties cannot enact laws, ordinances, or resolutions that limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices.”

SB 110 will state that the counties should not get involved because the matter is the kuleana of the State and Federal Governments. At the same time, the Legislature and the Governor recognize that the Department of Agriculture can’t meet its current obligations due to a lack of funding.

CB: Did Hawaii Sen. Nishihara Just Breathe New Life Into a Dying Biotech Bill?

Text, Status: SB110

read ... SB110

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia's Surprising Advice for UH Law Students

CB: Scalia opened the informal talk with several minutes on originalism, his “main schtick,” before taking questions from the roughly 150 students, professors and others gathered in the law school courtyard. He’s a firm believer in interpreting the Constitution as it was meant when it was adopted.

“This anthropomorphic notion of a biotic Constitution is absurd,” he said, but that’s not to say his philosophy is inflexible.

“You want the death penalty? Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea. You want the opposite? Persuade them the other way.”

Scalia encouraged the students to question professors who favor a “living Constitution” by asking them what theory they would use to restrain judges from overreach.

“You either use the original understanding of the Constitution or you tell your judges, ‘Come govern us. You must know the answers to these profound moral questions such as the death penalty, abortion, homosexual sodomy, suicide. After all, you went to Harvard Law School — maybe even Yale Law School — so you must know the answers.’”...

“Banish from your mind the notion that everything that is stupid is unconstitutional."

read ... UH Law School

Atheist Trash to Re-File Lawsuit Against Churches

SA: Three of the five churches accused of underpaying the state Department of Education by millions of dollars for using public school facilities have come to some kind of monetary settlement in exchange for being dropped from a lawsuit, it was announced Monday.

New Hope Oahu, New Hope Hawaii Kai and New Hope Kapo­­lei admitted no underpayment or wrongdoing under the agreement with their umbrella church, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, said Jim Bickerton, attorney for plaintiffs Mitchell Kahle and Holly Huber....

Kahle, founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church, and his wife, public advocate Huber, "are pleased that Hawaii's pubic schools will benefit from this resolution now and in the future," Bickerton said in the statement.

Under terms of the settlement, no other details were released, he said....

Bickerton said Monday that Kahle and Huber would file a new, detailed complaint within three weeks, this time against only One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Oahu, local churches not affiliated with the Foursquare church.

Attorneys representing One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Oahu have argued in court that the churches have been honest and paid all required rent to the schools.

Background: Hawaii churches prevail against atheists’ baseless lawsuit

read ... Legal harassment

Sen. Chun Oakland Seeks $220M for Affordable Housing

CB: State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland wants to boost Hawaii’s affordable housing stock by convincing the Legislature to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize rentals for low-income Hawaii residents.

Sen. David Ige, who leads the Senate’s budget committee, says there’s not a chance that her bill will receive that level of funding....

Her omnibus bill, Senate Bill 2533 is scheduled for consideration by three Senate committees on Tuesday afternoon.

Among other things, the measure would inject more than $220 million, including at least $100 million into both the state’s Rental Housing Trust Fund and the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund. The senator also introduced a slew of other related bills in case the omnibus proposal doesn’t make it.

For developers like Kevin Carney of the nonprofit EAH Housing, a measure like Chun Oakland's could provide much-needed financing to build homes for the poor.

“The Rental Housing Trust Fund is a resource that we depend on a lot,” he said. “It's a very critical part of the puzzle for doing an affordable rental housing deal.”

read ... Affordable?

Honolulu Councilman Wants To End State Control Of Kakaako Development

CB:  In a resolution he introduced Friday, Anderson calls on the Legislature to repeal the HCDA and return planning authority back to the city.

This isn’t the first time a lawmaker has called on the state to dismantle of the HCDA or to limit its authority.

In fact, Rep. Scott Saiki has introduced several measures this legislative session that he says will improve the management and oversight of the development.

One of those bills, House Bill 1864, even calls for a complete repeal.

read ... Kakaako

More coordination with state urged for rail planning

SA: Two measures aimed at giving the state more say in walkable shopping areas and affordable housing that will take root around Oahu's future rail transit stations advanced out of a joint committee session Monday.

The bills, Senate Bills 2436 and 2437, were approved amid concerns aired by some lawmakers, including Sens. Dono­van Dela Cruz (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Mili­lani Mauka) and Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Downtown-Nuu­anu-Li­liha), that the state — one of the largest landowners around those station areas — isn't playing a large enough role in the city-led push to create what's known as "transit-oriented development" along Oahu's South Shore.

TOD concepts are guiding local planners in their efforts to design higher-density, more walkable communities surrounding 21 rail stations, particularly within a half-mile radius of those sites.

read ... Coordination

PUC Quietly Moves on Solar Permit Rules

IM: On January 31, 2014 the PUC issued its Decision and Order No. 31901 regarding the HECO Companies. 

The PUC noted that “the Companies filed their respective transmittals by which they propose certain revisions to their existing Tariff Rule No. 18 [Net Energy Metering], which they describe as clarifying and non-substantive in nature.”

According to the Decision, the utilities wanted to clarify two points: a "Net Energy Metering Agreement shall not be effective until approved and executed by the electric utility” and that no customer shall operate such a system until the customer receives “a fully executed Net Energy Metering Agreement.”

The HECO Companies had met with three entities (Hawaii Solar Energy Association, Hawaii PV Coalition, Consumer Advocate) prior to filing their transmittal on January 6, 2014.

The PUC then went one step further and addressed Net Energy Metered systems with backup batteries.

“The commission also instructs the Companies to include a provision in the text and appendices to Tariff Rule 18, to the extent applicable, which clarifies that a customer that installs a battery back-up system must also obtain an interconnection review by the electric utility to ensure the proper interconnection of the customer's generating facility with the electric utility's system.”

read ... A Major Non-Docket

Funding for cooler schools advances

SA: The measure still faces the House Finance Committee, which will need to prioritize a long list of competing interests for state funds this year.

But advocates welcomed the progress in light of last week's decision in the Senate to shelve Senate Bill 2559, which would have mandated air conditioning in all public schools within the next five years. That measure had also included a $25 million appropriation for the first phase of the work.

House Education Chairman Roy Takumi (D, Pearl City-Wai­pio-Pearl Harbor) recommended his committee pass out House Bill 2596 with no changes. The committee's vice chairman, Rep. Taka­shi Ohno, a former elementary school teacher, sponsored the measure, which was co-signed by 29 of his House colleagues.

read ... AC Coming?

Star-Adv: Lift secrecy veil on child-abuse proceedings

SA: A 2012 report by the University of San Diego law school's Children's Advocacy Institute and the child advocacy group First Star highlighted how a culture of secrecy across the country hampers efforts to stem child abuse, especially in severe cases where children are killed or nearly die. Information that could prevent future tragedies remains shrouded behind restrictive disclosure laws, according to the report, which gave a letter grade to each state and called for nationwide reforms.

"Systemic shortcomings can't be fixed if no one sees what they are," Amy Harfeld, national policy director and senior staff attorney for CAI, said when the report came out. "Holding states accountable through transparency and public disclosure will promote public debate and lead to reforms that will better safeguard all children."

Hawaii earned a B in that report, criticized for having vague and unclear policies regarding the release of information in a broad category of cases and for closing court proceedings in child-abuse cases to everyone except for the individuals directly involved.

SB 2002 would change that, opening court hearings to the public that involve children whose parents are accused of neglect or abuse. One of the bill's biggest advocates is a father once accused of child abuse. He believes that the case against him would have been thrown out much earlier had it been heard in open court.

The bill has many opponents as well, including judges and social workers....

read ... Lift secrecy veil on child-abuse proceedings

State places Kaneohe preschool on 'probation'

HNN: A state investigation has now concluded that staffers at Kaneohe preschool punished some of its students by taping them up.

The findings come more than a year after parents accused preschool staffers at the Windward Nazarene Academy of this bizarre, abusive behavior.

"The department ... did substantiate some of the concerns raised" by parents, said Barbara Yamashita, Deputy Director of the Department of Human Services.

The DHS -- which issues licenses to over 600 preschools and childcare facilities in the state -- has replaced the Windward Nazarene Academy's preschool permanent license with a six-month provisional permit and has barred two preschool staffers from ever working with children.

read. .. Probation

The Jones Act is an ‘expensive luxury’

WB: The respected U.K. maritime research and analyst group Drewry Shipping Consultants said in its Nov. 17, 2013, Container Insight Weekly that the Jones Act is “an increasingly expensive luxury.” Drewry also validated Hawaii Shippers Council estimates that U.S. shipbuilding costs are four to five times that for building a comparable ship in South Korea or Japan.

read ... Luxury

Hawaii Supreme Court rejects sovereignty defense

Ilind: In an opinion issued at the end of January, the Hawaii Supreme Court went out of its way to to reject arguments made by members of a Hawaiian sovereignty group that they were exempt from state law because they are “citizens” subject to the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom (State v. Armitage, decided January 28, 2014).

The Supreme Court’s action has gotten little attention so far, although the underlying case was earlier hailed by sovereignty activists as providing a strong test case for the idea that a contemporary Kingdom government retains legal independence from the rest of modern Hawaii. And the Supreme Court has now again provided its clear reasoning for rejection of such claims.

The case stems from charges filed against Henry Noa and two other members of the Restored Hawaiian Government (also referred to as the Reinstated Kingdom of Hawaii or Reinstated Nation of Hawaii) for entering the area of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve without permission in July 2006 during a demonstration aimed at “reclaiming” Kahoolawe and all other public lands for their Reinstated Kingdom.

read ... Hawaii Supreme Court rejects sovereignty defense

Union complaint delays UH smoking ban

KHON: The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) says school administrators went directly to the faculty senate about the smoking ban before speaking to the union.

According to associate executive director Kristeen Hanselman, that’s a no-no because UHPA is supposed to be the exclusive bargaining unit for the faculty.

“We clearly need to communicate more with UHPA on proper consultation on this and any other issues,” Chancellor Apple said.

That complaint put the brakes on the new rules, which would also ban electronic cigarettes. But students believe it doesn’t matter what happens.

“People are going to smoke no matter what because there’s no security everywhere, so it doesn’t really matter,” student Lauren Chang said.

“Nobody’s here to reinforce that rule,” student Kim Matsunaga said.

read ... Union complaint delays UH smoking ban

Bills aim to help homeless into private homes, Kick Smokers out of Public Housing

AP: A bill before the state House (HB1841) could widen Housing First, a program that aims to find permanent housing for homeless people.

Housing Committee Chairman Mark Hashem, a Democrat representing Hahaione and other parts of east Honolulu, said he would like to give Housing First the option to place homeless people in rooms and mother-in-law houses that homeowners offer for rent.

Lori Tsuhako, the administrator of the Homeless Programs Office in the state's Department of Human Services, testified in opposition to the bill, saying homeowners might not be equipped to handle some homeless people's mental health problems.

"The family would really need to understand the depth and the breadth of the issues that homeless person has dealt with over the years," she told the committee. "The best housing placement for somebody's who's coming off the streets in that form might be single-room occupancy or a studio unit, where there's less distraction and more ability to focus."

Helping homeless people move into homeowners' rental spaces is a strategy Tsuhako said she had not seen tried anywhere else.

Forty-five of every 10,000 people in Hawaii are homeless, the highest rate of any state, according to a 2012 report by the Homelessness Research Institute. The cost of living in Hawaii is among the nation's highest.

The prospect of losing her home motivated Terry Amos, a retired nurse who lives in public housing, to testify to the committee against a separate bill (HB2577) that would allow the state's housing authority to evict people who persistently smoke in public housing. The bill aims to keep non-smokers healthy and to save wear on the homes.

Amos, a 59-year-old resident of Punchbowl Homes in Honolulu for nearly four years, said she picked up smoking at age 42 after a knee surgery. She was bored, and a neighbor got her hooked on Newports. "It's my right, man," she said after the hearing. "I don't do drugs. I don't drink. I'm an old person with grey hair who did my stint to society. I should be able to do something not good for me."

read ... HB1841 Bill aims to help homeless into private homes

Hu Honua faces nearly $37M in liens

HTH: The stalled Hu Honua Bioenergy project in Pepeekeo ran into more trouble, as three creditors say they’re owed delinquent unpaid bills, including one for more than $35 million.

Three applications for mechanic’s and materialman’s liens were filed last month in Hilo Circuit Court. The largest, filed Jan. 30 by the project’s main contractor, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., claims Hu Honua owes $35,166,862.50. Another, claiming an unpaid bill of $1,303,976.45, was filed Jan. 29 by American Electric Co. The third, filed Jan. 16 by General Supply and Services, dba Gexpro, seeks payment of $53,286.

A lien application filed Dec. 18 by Wesco Distribution Inc. seeking $215,174.74 was withdrawn Jan. 16, according to court records.

“We at Hawaiian Dredging have not been paid a significant sum for work that has been done since early 2013,” said Gary Yokoyama, vice president and general counsel for Hawaiian Dredging, on Thursday. “We’re in the process of demobilizing from the site.”

Yokoyama said “a lot of work … remains to be completed before the plant can be up and running.”

read ... Hu Honua faces nearly $37M in liens



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