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Friday, February 21, 2014
February 21, 2014 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:07 PM :: 3451 Views

Carpenter: Complaint Must be Filed Before Democrats can Expel Mufi

Supreme Court Nominee Wilson's Written Opinions

How Hawaii Will Achieve Food Sustainability: Jail a Farmer!

A Major Hurdle for Student Veterans

Honolulu Ethics Commission Calls for Audit of Water Board

Is your baby carrying excess fat? Hawaii wants to know

Free Speech on Campus? Grassroot Institute Interviews FIRE

See it Live: Famed Nimitz' WWII 'Diary' to be Unveiled Online Monday

Abercrombie Names UH Regent Nominees

Hawaii Supreme Court: How Do You Solve A Problem Like ... Appellate Mootness? More Process!

Big Cable Plan: Spend $800M to 'Save' $423M

PBN: Oahu and Maui could share each other’s power, and eventually lower residents’ electrical bills while stabilizing the grid, under a plan that involves the state, Hawaii’s largest utility and several undersea cable developers from the Mainland.

But the price tag is enormous — $600 million to $800 million by most estimates. In return, ratepayers could save a total of $423 million over 30 years, according to the state Energy Office. (Time value of money government-style. LOL!)

IM: NRDC Cozies up to electric utilities one more time

read ... 2 for 1 Reduction of Wealth over 30 years

Not rehiring Morita at PUC dicey move for Abercrombie

Borreca: Blue Planet Foundation Executive Director Jeff Mikulina said Morita had been a critical player for Hawaii's fragile environment while serving as a Democratic representative from Kauai.

"Mina understands energy policy inside and out. Unlike many legislators who rely on staff or outside consultants for information, Mina is the rare lawmaker who immerses herself in the subject and comprehends every angle of it," the environmental lobbyist said in 2011....

"She is collaborative, well grounded in policy and she has the respect of both the energy users and the energy producers; she clearly has the credentials," said Sen. Roz Baker, Senate Consumer Protection Committee chairwoman.

"She was, and is, a good PUC chair and I think she should stay," said Baker.

Morita's guidance and the decisions of the PUC have not been favorable to one of Abercrombie's own: his campaign chairman William Kaneko, who was a lobbyist for Aina Koa Pono, a biofuel company.

Twice, Aina Koa Pono tried to get PUC approval to sell biofuel to the Big Island electric company. The PUC said the fuel price was excessive and not cost-effective.

While not commenting on the Aina Koa Pono issue, Mikulina said in an email interview that Morita's PUC has been strong leader.

"We have been impressed with many of the commission's decisions in the past few years. The Maui rate case decision last May was particularly notable, requiring the utility to return money to ratepayers because Maui Electric curtailed renewable wind energy in favor of operating their fossil units.

"They even went further, appending the decision with an unprecedented ‘Commission's Observations and Perspectives' that provided expectations of utility operations going forward," Mikulina said....

...when asked if he would reappoint Morita if he were governor today, state Sen. David Ige, Abercrombie's Democratic opponent, said: "I would reappoint her."

read ... Not rehiring Morita at PUC dicey move for Abercrombie

SB2777: Farmers Still Have Chance to Free Themselves from Anti-GMO Oppressors

CB: Hawaii lawmakers are planning to discuss a bill next week that some see as an attempt to undermine (save farmers from) recent county regulations on genetically modified farming.

Senate Bill 2777 says that land uses described in state law defining agricultural land shall be allowed “without further limitations or restrictions.” ...

The bill is sponsored by Sens. Donovan Dela Cruz, Malama Solomon, Michelle Kidani and Clarence Nishihara....

The measure is scheduled to be heard by three committees on Feb. 27, including the committees on agriculture and land, chaired by Nishihara and Solomon respectively.

read ... Another Chance for Freedom

Health Connector Blames DHS 'Bottleneck' For Worst-in-the-Nation Performance

SA: The online marketplace launched two weeks late on Oct. 15 due to software glitches and has enrolled just 4,297 of 18,752 applicants as of Feb. 15....

One-third of Hawaii's Obamacare enrollees were between ages 55 and 64, while just 14 percent were between ages 26 and 34, according to the Department of Health and Human Services....

The small number of enrollees is due in part to Hawaii having an already low number of uninsured -- estimated at 100,000 -- because of the state's 1974 Prepaid Health Care Act that requires employers provide medical coverage for full-time workers.

Another possible reason for the low number in Hawaii is that the Connector must rely on the state Department of Human Services to first determine whether applicants seeking financial assistance are eligible for Medicaid before they can be processed.

DHS has up to 45 days to determine whether Connector applicants are eligible for Medicaid -- the health insurance program for low-income residents -- which has caused a bottleneck in Obamacare enrollments.

read ... Bottleneck

HB2529 Amended: Hawaii Health Connector to Remain Private Nonprofit

HTH: There are a number of bills currently working their way through the legislature aimed at improving the performance of the Hawaii Health Connector. Several, such as House Bill 2529, took the approach of bringing the Hawaii Health Connector under direct state control, as opposed to being run as a private entity. The idea is that it would give legislators greater oversight over how the program is run.

After its latest revision, however, HB 2529 dropped converting the connector to a state entity, and instead proposes to leave it as a private organization.

“Your Committee finds that the operations and financial administration of the Connector deserve closer review to ensure transparency and sustainability,” reads a report by the House Committee on Consumer Protection &Commerce, which read and amended the bill on Feb. 13. “Your Committee believes that these objectives may be achieved by the Connector in its existing form but with closer engagement with stakeholders and oversight by the Legislature.”

As the newest draft reads, a new insurers advisory group and an insurance producers advisory group would be established to offer input and recommendations to the Connector’s board of directors. Meanwhile, the makeup and size of the Connector’s board would be changed. The bill next goes to the House Committee on Finance.

read ... Non-Profit

Oahu man waits nearly 2 months for Obamacare insurance

HNN: Roughly 4,300 people in Hawaii have enrolled for health care under the new program since October 1, but this man has been waiting for seven weeks to be get coverage.

"I'm just afraid that if I do get hit by a bus that no one will take care of me because one, I don't have health insurance to be covered," said Rob Rabideau who decided to enroll for health insurance on Christmas Eve, the first deadline for the Affordable Care Act, after being without insurance for five years.  

He went online to the Hawaii Health Connector web site and signed up for a Kaiser bronze plan. But a few hours later he said he decided he wanted a Kaiser gold plan, which would cost him about $100 more a month but offered lower co-payments. So he called the Hawaii Health Connector.

"They said, yes, Mr. Rabideau, we'll change it.  But we don't have the equipment to delete the bronze plan that you signed up for.  But we're going to submit the paperwork to Kaiser," Rabideau said. ...

He's also called Kaiser several times since early January and said one representative told him there was a backlog in processing new applications from the Hawaii Health Connector.  A Kaiser spokeswoman said applications are now being processed in a timely manner but she can't say whether there was a backlog earlier this year....

read ... 2 months

Rail: City restarts property acquisition process

HNN: With the rail lawsuits now finished the City can start buying property along the route in town again and the next few months will be critical in the negotiating process.

Revised numbers show the city has budgeted $202 million for property acquisition. It's already spent $42 million of that on 36 properties.

The eminent domain issue, where the City will buy some or all of a property even if the owner isn't looking to sell, can be a delicate process.

read ... Rail Roading

VIDEO: Geothermal bills debated in House Committee

BIVN: HB 2639 (introduced by Rep. Cindy Evans) is considered favorable to development. At the time the committee heard the measure – Feb. 13 – HB 2639 clarified permitting procedures for regulators, required the use of an area within a conservation district to be governed by the land board, and authorized certain county authorities to issue geothermal resource permits. It also reserved all minerals in, on, or under reserved lands to the State. It has since been amended (see below)

On the other hand, HB 1766 (introduced by Rep. Faye Hanohano) – backed by geothermal opponents – would have restored the geothermal resource subzones that were repealed in Act 97, and established a permitting process for geothermal resources development.

The bill also would have required the BLNR and the counties to implement the recommendations of the 2013 Final Report of the Geothermal Public Health Assessment Study Group prior to issuing permits for future geothermal development.

In the end, the first measure passed, with amendments. HB2639 now advances to the Finance Committee. The second bill was deferred.

read ... Geothermal

High cost oil fired generation creates potential for shift in Hawaiian electric sources

WPE: As recently as 2008, oil and coal accounted for more than 90% of Hawaii’s annual electric generation. The petroleum share of electric generation has been declining, from a high of 81% in 2002 to 72% in 2013 (through November). Meanwhile, generation from renewable sources has climbed from a 4% share in 2002 to more than 12% in 2013. Generation from coal comes from a single 180-megawatt (MW) facility on Oahu and has been relatively steady at 13%-15% of total generation each year.

Total utility-scale electric generation has declined six years in a row from 2007 through 2012. This reduction is attributable to distributed generation and net metering policies that encourage electric generation from homes and businesses, mostly from solar photovoltaic installations, and increased energy efficiency measures.

read ... WPE

HB1796: Clearer Rules for Schools With Uncontrollable Kids

CB: Maureen McComas realized something was amiss at her daughter’s public special-education preschool when the 4-year-old started acting differently at home. The nonverbal girl, who has both Down’s syndrome and autism, would leave school visibly upset. She had frequent violent outbursts and resorted to self-destructive behavior, often hitting herself repeatedly.

Around the same time, the girl's teacher began to regularly send her clothes home stuffed in a bag, soiled with dried feces.

After a few weeks, McComas confronted school personnel and discovered that her daughter was being isolated by the teacher and other classroom staff who allegedly used two wooden bookshelves to corner her against the wall during nap time. They didn't want her to disturb her four classmates, McComas said.

During the 90-minute periods when her daughter was trapped by the furniture, she would defecate in her pants — a telling sign, McComas suggested, that the treatment deeply distressed the girl....

Seclusion is just the tip of the iceberg. Incidents like the ones exposed in recent abuse cases at Kipapa Elementary and the School of the Deaf and Blind suggest that school personnel are using inappropriate restraint methods — including tying an uncontrollable child to a chair with rope — in Hawaii’s classrooms more often than most parents know.

As of now, Hawaii is one of just a few states without clear administrative policies or a law on restraint and seclusion, according to Ivalee Sinclair, chairwoman of the state’s Special Education Advisory Council. Experts say the absence of a statute creates a breeding ground for inappropriate restraint and seclusion, not to mention costly lawsuits, often because the staff lacks training and clear procedures to follow.

A bill advancing in the Legislature aims to crack down on such practices and define when and how restraint and seclusion should be used. House Bill 1796 advanced out of the House Education Committee earlier this month to a hearing Thursday by representatives on the Judiciary Committee who recommended that the measure be passed with amendments.

read ... Uncontrollable

New policy eliminates hidden fees at UH

KHON: First, we helped University of Hawaii West Oahu students get their money back.

After our story aired last month, UH is now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again at any of its campuses.

Before passing new fees onto students, UH must now explain exactly how the money will be used.

When a proposed fee goes before the board, it must state when it will begin, when the service will be available, and how it will be used to support startup of the new services.

read ... Hidden Fees

Shakedown: Billion Dollar Telescope in Court Again

HTH:  The hearing was scheduled to discuss how a recent Supreme Court ruling regarding a CDUP for a telescope on Maui applies to the TMT case.

The state Supreme Court ruled Dec. 13, 2013, the Board of Land and Natural Resources was improper in its procedures that led to the issuance of a permit for a large telescope currently under construction on Maui’s Haleakala. Native Hawaiian group Kilakila O Haleakala had been arguing the case since 2010....

read ... TMT project’s challengers Grub for Money

Caldwell Ignores Committees on Women, Disabilities

IM: Current members of the Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women (HCCSW) are Kat Brady (Chair), Marya Grambs, Faye Kennedy, Linda Louie, Jewel MacDonald, Gina Nakamura and Sandra Tuitele.

The Committee did not meet for most of Mufi Hannemann’s first term.  The Committee was revived during his campaign for re-election when he was challenged by Ann Kobayashi. 

The Committee continued to meet during the term of Mayor Peter Benson Carlisle.

The Committee met between four and six times a year in the five years prior to the January 2, 2013 swearing in of Honolulu Mayor Kirk William Caldwell.

The Mayor’s Committee on Disabilities met 34 times in the five years prior to Mayor Caldwell’s election and has not met since.

Under Mayor Caldwell, the City and County of Honolulu has never scheduled a meeting of either Committee.

read ... Not Needed Until Election Rolls Around

Future Caucus debuts to engage young people

SA: Members of the bipartisan caucus gathered to launch the group with Gabbard, community members who compose its advisory panel, and Steven Olikara, co-founder and president of the Millennial Action Project, which helped form the national Future Caucus....

Local elected officials noted that the caucus also hopes to increase voter turnout among young people by devising ways to invite more of them to take part in the political process.

Rep. Beth Fukumoto (R, Mililani-Mililani Mauka-Waipio Acres), a co-founder of the state's caucus along with Chang and state Rep. Taka­shi Ohno (D, Nuu­anu-Li­liha-Alewa Heights), said the group this year plans to create educational videos, host more talk-story-style town hall meetings and visit schools so "people can see us and interact with us and realize that we're not all that different — we just decided one day … that we needed more young people in government."

read ... Future Caucus

Who Are Hawaii's U.S. Senate Candidates' Biggest Donors?

CB:  Among those who recently contributed generously to Schatz (i.e., between several thousand dollars and the maximum of $5,200) are the following:

Developer Christine Camp, attorney Rick Fried, Hawaii Opera Theater Executive Director Karen Tiller, Title Guaranty CEO Michael Pietsch, AIO Group CFO Bonny Amemiya, attorney Jeff Portnoy, Central Pacific Bank CEO John Dean, Facts Global Energy Chairman Fereidun Fesharaki, Kaneohe Ranch CEO Mitch D'Olier, Kyo-ya President Greg Dickhens, Karl Heyer IV of Heyer & Associates, Frank Lyon of Lyon Associates, Island Holdings executive Keith Amemiya, JTSI attorney Bruss Keppeler and Hawaiian Dredging Construction President Bill Wilson.

Among those who have contributed generously to Hanabusa are the following:

PVT Land Co. operator Ben Yamamoto, Inouye Legacy Fund Executive Director Jennifer Sabas, Tamura Super Market CEO Clifford Tamura, Matson Navigation executive Kuuhaku Park, R.M. Towill Corp. executives David Tanoue and Collins Lam, Honolulu Publishing chairman Dave Pelligrin, SSFM Engineers executive Michael Matsumoto, Monarch Group manager John Toner, U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni, A&B executive Meredith Ching, A&B attorneys Allen Doane and Nelson Chun, Western Pacific Fishery Management Executive Director Rose Kitty Simonds, retired Navy Admiral Thomas Fargo, Keaki Technologies principal Vaughn Vasconcellos, Hawaiian Telcom executive John Komeiji, former UH President M.R.C. Greenwood and education specialist Anne Kokubun.

Attorney Jeff Watanabe and Hawaiian Electric executive Connie Lau each gave to both candidates.

SA: Schatz deserves a full Senate term, Durbin says

read ... Who Are Hawaii's U.S. Senate Candidates' Biggest Donors?

Honolulu Inflation only 1.7%

SA: Inflation in Honolulu remained muted during the second half of last year, helping underpin a steady recovery in the local economy, government officials said Thursday.

Prices for a range of consumer goods and services rose 1.7 percent from July through December when compared with the same period a year earlier, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. That was the smallest year-over-year increase in Honolulu's Consumer Price Index since the second half of 2011, the BLS reported.

"A rate of 1.7 percent is considered to be a low inflation rate," said Eugene Tian, the state's chief economist. "This is especially true during an economic expansion when you would expect higher inflation rates."

read ... Inflation

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