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February 21, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:25 PM :: 3759 Views

575 Candidates file for Neighborhood Board Elections

HB330: Increase GE Tax by 1%

Caldwell: House Would Reject GE Tax Hike if Voted Today

KITV: Caldwell says he's met with about 40 members of the state House and Senate as the rail project faces a more than $900 million dollar shortfall.

The mayor says as it currently stands, the measure would have a very tough time passing in the House.

"I would say right now, if we were to vote today, it wouldn't pass and I understand why. People are concerned, upset and frustrated and we have to continue this dialogue through the rest of the session," said Caldwell.

Last week, the Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously to extend the rail surcharge to the state's General Excise Tax another 25 years under Senate Bill 19.

On second reading Thursday, senators Gil Riviere, Laura Thielen and Sam Slom voted against the bill.

Caldwell agreed the issue of the rail tax likely won't be decided until the final days of the legislature this session.  (Translation: Legislators are going to try to slip this thru in conference committee while you aren't looking.)

read ... Tax Hike Coming

GE Tax Hike: Will March 3 Rail Bids Stampede House of Representatives?

SA: City officials refuse to share their projections with state lawmakers....

In recent weeks, Honolulu's mayor has met with about half of the 76 legislators at the state Capitol, trying to persuade them that to keep Oahu rail construction moving they'll need to extend the rail tax — and they'll need to do it now.

Some of those lawmakers, along with Gov. David Ige's budget director, have cautioned against making any decision on the rail tax until they get more details on how much it might cost to finish building the project.

But Mayor Kirk Caldwell last week said he can't provide them with much more about rail's future costs other than what's already been made public.

Simply put, at this point it appears no one really knows how much the largest public works project in Hawaii's history will ultimately cost to complete.

The city does have its own internal cost projections, provided by rail officials, which gives ranges on how expensive they think each of the nine or so remaining major construction contracts might be. Caldwell said he can't share those cost projections with lawmakers or anyone else because (insert excuse here) ....

some legislators say the lack of detail is complicating things as they look to hash out a measure that would extend Oahu's 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge for a limited time — instead of lifting the tax's 2022 sunset in perpetuity, as Caldwell and other rail advocates have requested.  (But on March 3, they will receive some details.)

"The question that they (rail leaders) need to answer is why are they asking for perpetuity if they are in the hole for $900 million?" Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, said Thursday. "Then they should be asking for, at the most, (a) five-year extension."

She added, "We're still trying to get an idea of whether there's enough support from the membership" for a rail tax extension.  (Translation: I'm for the tax hike but I won't show my cards unless I can win the vote.)

So far the House hasn't held any hearings on bills to extend the half-percent general excise tax surcharge this session.  (House members are up for election every two years.)

A bill in the Senate to extend the rail tax, Senate Bill 19, has passed two readings. It's expected to go next before the Ways and Means Committee....  (This is the price the demos pays for not challenging Senators at election time.)

Signs that rail was heading toward a serious budget problem first emerged publicly in August, when bids to build the project's first nine stations came in at least 63 percent over budget.

Rail officials originally estimated those nine stations would cost about $184 million to build. Instead, the least expensive of the three bids that they received came in at $294.5 million and the most expensive one came in at $320.8 million.

HART canceled those bids and divided the stations into three packages. Bids on the first set of three stations are scheduled to open March 3.

Those nine stations, however, represent only a fraction of the construction work that remains....

(Question: Will contractors compete against each other and lower the costs --or--will they jack up their bids in order to push the GE Tax hike thru the Lege?  Check out this headline from last week....)

Feb 13:  Senate Transport Committee Votes for Rail Tax Extension, Admits it's to Build More Rail into Kapolei, Manoa

(Therefore the contractors' March 3 Bid Calculation is as follows: Higher bids = Higher taxes, Higher taxes = More work on rail)

PDF: Caldwell GET Responses

read ... Tax Hike Con Game

Massive Fuel Tax Hike on the Move in the House

AP: HB1486 in the Hawaii House of Representatives seeks to fill some of that gap by changing the way the fuel tax is calculated.

The tax is currently set up to draw down 17 cents for each gallon of regular fuel sold. The bill would shift the emphasis away from the amount of fuel sold and instead take a percentage of the price of the fuel....

Opponents say increasing taxes on consumers is unfair....

HB1486: Text, Status

read ... Massive Tax Hike

Omidyar Website Bashes Gabbard for Telling the Truth About Islamic Terrorism

CB: "Gabbard’s argument largely boils down to a few dubious ideas. First, unless the president, in his public characterizations, refers to agents of ISIS and related organizations as 'Islamic terrorists,'[ he is unable to mount an effective military and foreign policy effort to defeat them. Second, only in specifically, publicly tying terrorists to their religious ideology can the White House truly understand where the terrorist organizations recruit, how they think, etc. Lastly, his failure to use Gabbard’s preferred phrasing means he doesn’t 'get' any of this in the first place.  Let’s be clear: These are not serious policy arguments." 

Best Comment -- from Ben Cayetano:  "The excerpt below from The Atlantic article referenced by Gene Park, demonstrates the validity of Tulsi's concerns: 'Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn't actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We'll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State's intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.'  It's refreshing to know that at least one member of our congressional delegation is not afraid to challenge Obama's awkward thinking in the battle against Islamic terrorism."

Why Civil Beat has to publish drivel like this: “If you’re answering to Omidyar you’re really not independent.”

BTW This story is 1 month old:

'Serious Policy Arguments' people are reading now:

read ... What Snowden and Greenwald's Owner Has to Say to Maintain Credibility

State Saves $27M by Forcing 7,500 Micronesians into Health Connector

SA: Micronesian migrants living in Hawaii under the Compact of Free Association are no longer covered by the state for Medicaid, but they are being enrolled for health insurance through the Hawaii Health Connector. This  will save the state an estimated $27 million dollars.

In this legislative session, Hawaii lawmakers also introduced a pair of bills that would require the state to cover the costs of premiums, copays and deductibles to help low-income migrants.  The Senate health committee advanced SB1327 in mid-February....

There are an estimated 7,500 migrants affected by the health insurance changes. SB1327 seeks an estimated $8 million to cover the additional health care costs.

The bill has support from large medical entities like Hawaii Medical Services Association, the state's largest insurance company, and The Queen's Health Systems.

Related: DHS: Thousands of ghost names on Hawaii Medicare, Medicaid Rolls

read ... Save $27M

Ige = Hee? New Attorney General Opposes Return of Journalists' Shield Law

CB: ...“We are concerned that the language in the bill is too broad,” Deputy Attorney General Deirdre Marie-Iha told a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Friday.

House Bill 295, sponsored by Rep. Gregg Takayama, a former journalist himself, would protect journalists from being forced to disclose their sources to any law enforcement or any state-level official. The shield law would not apply if the journalist was about to commit a crime, or if there is substantial evidence that the information is defamatory.

The law could also apply to non-traditional journalists — like bloggers or documentary filmmakers — if they can prove that their information is of “substantial public interest.”

Marie-Iha said that even people who post on Facebook regularly could be covered under the law.

But Takayama pointed out that a shield law that existed in Hawaii for years had a similar provision. It was considered one of the best in the country, he said.

Still, media organizations and others who support a shield law say they can’t back HB 295 if it’s changed to satisfy the Attorney General. They say no law at all would be better.

read ... Ige = Hee?

Bill to prohibit lawmakers' fundraising weakened, but still alive

HNN: A proposal that would ban state lawmakers from raising campaign funds during the legislative session has been watered down considerably but the bill's sponsor is thankful it finally got a hearing after 20 years of being dead on arrival.

Wahiawa State Rep. Marcus Oshiro said he first introduced the proposal 20 years ago and it never got a hearing and died year after year until this year, when it received a hearing Thursday.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 other states place some restrictions on whether lawmakers can receive political contributions during legislative sessions. But Hawaii has none.

"There may be some linkage between bills' passage, bill failures, appropriations, confirmations being tied to campaign fundraising. This would clear the deck, clear the air," Oshiro said.

Oshiro introduced the bill, HB327, to prohibit lawmakers from accepting or raising campaign funds during Hawaii's four-month legislative session.

"It cures the perception of a quid pro quo that many have in this state. It has the endorsement of Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters," Oshiro said....

State Rep. Ty Cullen brought in 59 percent of his campaign funds while lawmakers were in session in 2014. House Speaker Joe Souki raised 57 percent of his campaign funds during that same period, followed by Representatives Kaniela Ing and John Mizuno, who reported 51 and 48 percent of their campaign contributions during last year's legislative session.

The House Judiciary committee weakened the proposal Thursday, reducing the restriction on political donations to one week before five key legislative deadlines, for a total of five weeks out of the four-month session.

RELATED: HB1476: Rep Ing Introduces Bill to Hide Identity of all Campaign Donors

read ... Bought n Paid For?

2 sides in West Coast ports dispute reach tentative contract

AP: The five-year deal, confirmed by International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesman Craig Merrilees, still must be approved by the 13,000-member union’s management and rank-and-file. They work 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle that handle about one-quarter of all U.S. international trade, much of it with Asia.

Negotiators for the union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents ocean-going shipping lines and the companies that load and unload cargo at terminals ports, began talking formally in May. Their prior six-year contract expired July 1.

The maritime association did not have immediate comment Friday....

With so much at stake, outsiders puzzled over why the talks took so long. A summer deal on health care benefits — longshoremen enjoy complete coverage, and the cost of it was expected to be a big sticking point — seemed to portend quick progress. But negotiations stalled on issues including what future jobs would fall under the control of the union, which worries that automation at the ports will erode its membership.

In the end, the disagreement boiled down to the system for resolving allegations of work slowdowns, discrimination and other conflicts at the ports. The union wanted to get rid of the man who arbitrates disputes in Southern California and proposed changes to the arbitration systems that would accomplish that; the maritime association rejected those suggestions — though eventually the two sides found a compromise.

The unpredictability that preceded Friday’s agreement could have long-term implications for West Coast ports and their reputation for reliability. With the widening of the Panama Canal and with ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast investing to attract more ships, some retailers have said they will think hard before depending on ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach for the smooth flow of cargo.

read ... Settlement?

28 entities apply to join PUC's decision on NextEra-HEI deal

SA: If the PUC approves all the interested parties, there would be 33 parties on the application including NextEra, the three electric utilities and the state consumer advocate....

"Because you are a party you get access to documents; you can ask questions, get answers and find out what is going on," said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, one of the groups that requested to intervene. "They have to answer. They often supply documents. Many times documents are filed that would be difficult to find, if not impossible."

The PUC can deny interveners or restrict the parties to specific parts of the application.

The timeline for the PUC response to a request to intervene can last from a month to more than a year, said Curtis.

read ... Intervenors

NextEra Energy plans to build Hawaii's largest wind farm on Maui

PBN: A subsidiary of NextEra Energy, the Florida-based company that is buying Hawaiian Electric Co. for $4.3 billion, has plans to build the largest wind energy farm in Hawaii on the southern coast of Maui, a company spokesman confirmed to PBN.

The more than 120-megawatt project, which would be located on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands at the Kahikinui homestead on the southern slopes of Haleakala, would be built, owned and operated by NextEra Energy Resources LLC, according to documents filed with the state agency that were obtained by PBN.

The Kahikinui Wind project would be built on about 500 acres and lease the land from DHHL for a term of 35 years....

NextEra also is one of the companies looking to build an undersea cable that would connect the electric grids on Oahu and Maui.

read ... Harbinger

Protester: Kauai Dairy Farm is "how the fascists took over in Nazi Germany and the world got a Hitler"

KGI: I attended the meeting in Koloa conducted by Hawaii Dairy Farms, and I am frightened. Gathered at Koloa School were about 150 of my friends and neighbors. There were cookies, milk, sushi, fresh fruit and security guards. Why security guards? Have you ever attended a community meeting where guards were so noticeably present? When is the last meeting that you attended that had an incident that would prompt the necessity of security? What are the thought processes of the sponsors of the meeting? What did they expect? How did they intend to respond to what they anticipated might happen?

Those who attended the meeting were subject to the most subtle demonstration of divide and conquer. Adopted by the Nazi Party in Germany, the decade of the 1930s showed how fascistic control can manipulate people. To you who attended the meeting, you witnessed one of the most manipulated meetings you’ve ever attended. You were broken up into aimless, mulling groups, giving vent to your legitimate concerns that were recorded on large scrolls of paper that went where?

Was there a conclusion? Who had copies of your concerns? The entire meeting was a manipulated travesty and you all bit with cookies, sushi and milk.

People of Koloa, citizens of Kauai, wake up! You have just been victimized by an oligarch with more money than stars in the sky. The people who conducted that so-called meeting knew what they were doing. That’s how the fascists took over in Nazi Germany and the world got a Hitler! 

Wiki: Reductio ad Hitlerum

read ... Hitler Cows Coming!

Dairy: “If you stop farming, then this resource is going to leave the agricultural designation”

KGI: Puhi resident Susan Fukumoto supported the plan: “Here’s somebody who has tremendous resources and advanced thinking and is trying to bring modern agriculture to a rural community,” she said. “I want to see this community stay rural and not so much based in the tourism industry.” ...

...opposing the dairy in Mahaulepu, Fukumoto said, comes with a key question: “What do you want to see happen there?”

The farm would be several miles away from Koloa, where Fukumoto’s husband’s family has lived for several generations and worked the land.

“If you stop farming, then this resource is going to leave the agricultural designation,” Fukumoto said. “Then we’re just going to have more elitist communities and more hotels. You have to be really careful about what you wish for. If you want to stop the dairy I don’t think that’s the answer.”

read ... Voice of Reason

Kunia Ridge: Taxes, Water Bills, Regulations Conspire to Give Real Farmers the Shaft

SA: Kunia Loa Ridge Farmlands was created when a state law in 2006 exempted leased agricultural land from county subdivision requirements such as sidewalks and street lights. The law clearly prohibits construction of temporary or permanent dwellings, but allows storage sheds or other structures "appropriate to the agricultural activity."

But nine years later, the bitter irony is that the very farmers who have tried to live by the rules, are the ones being shafted by dubiously high property tax assessments, bad farming conditions that include pricey water, and fellow lessees gaming a lax system.

At least three dozen apparent homes and the temple are clearly seen, and one insider estimated at least 22 families living at Kunia Loa. By law, they all should not be there, since the 2006 leased ag-lands law bans residential use.

Further complication came in 2012, when state lawmakers, over the city's strong objections, flung the floodgates wide open by enacting a law that exempted certain ag structures from needing building permits on commercial farms. Partly because Kunia Loa is not connected to Oahu's water, power, sewer or telephone grids, the city chose to look away....

At the core of this regulatory quagmire, for whom this situation should be righted, are the sincere farmers such as Pepe Paguirigan, 64, who bought into Kunia Loa Ridge Farmlands trying to make a go of farming fruit trees and vegetables. A galling irony: He has a 99-year lease for 12 acres, but the $4,445 annual property tax on his legitimate farm enterprise is nearly double that of a similar-sized lot on which sits the Buddhist temple — which should not even be there in the first place.

read ... Government Money Grab Shafts Farmers

Hawaii Most Expensive State: 17.2% Above US Average Prices for Goods, Services

WSJ: “It controls for price differences across regions,” said Eric Figueroa, an economist who runs the regional prices program for the BEA.

The agency calculated price parities for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and, separately, 381 metropolitan areas. The spread among states for all goods was nearly 32 percentage points, and the range in rents was even wider, varying by almost 97 percentage points.

Hawaii’s rents were the most expensive, coming in at 59% more than the national average, while Mississippi had the cheapest rents at 38% below the national average. That means if the national average were $1,000, someone in Mississippi would pay $621 for the same type of dwelling, while someone in Hawaii would pay $1,590....

FT: Richest States?

read ... Expensive

Senate panel weighs bill to help local victims of sex trafficking, Police Complain it is too Tough on Pimps

KHON: The bill aims to strengthen the penalties for coercing victims into performing sex for money, and it would include sex trafficking on the list of violent crimes for which victims could be eligible for criminal injury compensation. It also would replace the words "promoting prostitution" with "sex trafficking" in the law and would raise the maximum fine for promoting prostitution from $10,000 to $50,000....

Activists said that Hawaii is one of only two states that do not have a comprehensive sex trafficking law.

"What is happening behind the facade of paradise is quite honestly nauseating," said Tiare Lando, who holds the title Mrs. Oahu International and runs a mentoring program for girls called Glam.

Hawaii has a law that addresses labor trafficking, but "when it came to the sex trade, we basically were shut down over and over again," said Kathryn Xian, executive director for the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery. "You have to basically decide as lawmakers in this state that yes ... there is a problem of the selling of women and children for sex against their will," Xian said.

The average age of people getting into the commercial sex trade is 13 years old, said Judith Wilhoite, family advocate for Family Programs Hawaii. "Do the math. That means there's young girls being forced into this," Wilhoite said.

The Honolulu Police Department and the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu both opposed the bill, citing problems with the use of the term sex trafficking.

"The term should be reserved for the most serious offenses," said Captain Jason Kawabata of the Honolulu Police Department's narcotics and vice division. In other words, not all pimps who are promoting prostitution are forcing prostitutes to perform against their will.

read ... Sex Trafficking

SB677: Police Commission wants to retain firing powers

WHT: New bills in the Legislature that would alter and reduce police commission powers aren’t sitting well with the body that oversees the Big Island’s men in blue.

Of chief concern is Senate Bill 677, which would give the mayor of each county the authority to fire the police chief — a power that currently rests solely with the state’s four county police commissions.

“To give (that power) to the mayor goes against what the police commissions were created for,” Commissioner Leroy Victorine said at a meeting of the body in Kailua-Kona on Friday. “The commissions were set up to keep politics out of that process.”

Despite incidents in other parts of the state that appear to be driving legislation, commissioners agreed the system isn’t broken and shouldn’t be fixed.

“All of this is being driven by a set of circumstances in Kauai and Honolulu,” the commission’s acting Chairman John Bertsch said. “Not to say it can’t happen on the Big Island, but the Legislature is reactive and unfortunately it’s applicable statewide.”

Bertsch said the mayor has the ability to come before the commission if he has an issue with a chief.

“The police commission should be politically independent, answering only to the commission,” member Peter Hendricks said.

Among other bills that raised red flags, Senate Bill 389 would change the makeup of the volunteer nine-member panel to ensure that three commissioners have experience in civil rights, women’s issues and law enforcement. The bill would require that a member of the State Commission on the Status of Women be appointed to each of the four county police commissions in the state, a measure that the state attorney general deemed unconstitutional in recent testimony....

In other bills relating to police commissions and departments, SB 388 would require police departments to post policies on domestic violence and officer-involved domestic violence and standards of conduct on the department websites. SB 396 specifies that citizen complaints against an officer involving domestic abuse by the officer would not be required to be in writing or sworn to by the complaining party. SB 497 would repeal the privacy exemption within the Uniform Information Practices Act for county police officers. And SB 109 would give police commissions the duty of establishing procedures for the suspension and termination of officers....

read ... Firing

Developmental Disability: Hawaii Among Best States for Early Intervention

TH: ...there are twenty-two state-specific definitions to determine EI eligibility and they vary wildly. Delayed and at-risk children living in states like Massachusetts, New Mexico or Hawaii receive substantially better EI services than children with the exact same conditions living in states (with inappropriately strict eligibility criteria) like Missouri, Arizona or Georgia. To make matters worse, EI eligibility criteria have steadily become more stringent and services less intense due to budget crises over the past decade. From 2006 to 2013, more than 20 percent of states have made eligibility more restrictive.

We are simply not reliably serving the mildly delayed and at-risk children for whom EI is most effective. While states typically serve children with high-risk conditions like Down syndrome or foster care placement, only six states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico and West Virginia) serve infants and toddlers with moderately at-risk, in addition to delayed children, under IDEA Part C.  For example, an infant with a low-income, single mother who is depressed often has boulder-sized barriers to early intervention services—even though problems frequently evolve by the time of kindergarten entrance....

read ... Hawaii Among Best?

Republicans aim to curb Obama's monument designations

WE: Republican lawmakers believe Congress, or at least the public, should have a say in which areas of the United States are turned into national monuments. Republican lawmakers have proposed legislation to curb unilateral executive authority they say Obama has abused.

“President Obama has sidelined the American public and bulldozed transparency by proclaiming three new national monuments through executive fiat,” House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said Thursday.

Rep. Raúl Labrador and Sen. Mike Crapo, both Republicans from Idaho have introduced legislation that would require Congress and affected state legislatures to approve new monument designations.

Crapo and Labrador authored the bill in anticipation of Obama's designation of close to 700,000 acres of Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds area as a national monument.

“It’s on the short list,” a Republican aide told the Washington Examiner.

Labrador and Crapo oppose the move and the local community appears divided on whether it wants the designation.

An online petition backing the designation has more than 13,000 signatures, but another group opposing it has collected more than 4,000 signatures.

Local ranchers fear they will no longer be able to use the land if it is declared a national monument, which would make it easier for the federal government to prohibit grazing.

“They're going to force us out of business,” Doug Baker, whose cattle graze on the land, said in a video posted on a site opposed to the national monument designation.

read ... Land Grab

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