Public-Private Partnerships: Study Examines New Options for Rail
Assisted Suicide Hearing Set for Thursday
College Readiness: How Did Your School Do?
Statewide 2017 HS Graduation Dates
JSC Seeks Nominees for Two Oahu Judicial Vacancies
Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted March 21, 2017
HSTA Operative: We Made Ige, We Can Destroy Him
MN: Gov. David Ige has talked a good line about his commitment to improving education, but when it has come to teacher contract negotiations his current stance appears to be “talk to the hand.”
The state’s chief negotiator and the Board of Education chairperson, key members of the state negotiations team, failed to show up at the most recent contract talks. This has been a continuing pattern, which disrespects the bargaining process and makes it extremely difficult to engage in meaningful discussions toward settling the teachers’ contract. Even noncost items cannot be agreed to if those key members of the state’s team aren’t in the room.
That is not sitting well with the rank and file of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. Many of the union’s members frequently turned out on short notice to sign-wave for Ige and otherwise make the impossible possible in defeating Neil Abercrombie’s re-election bid.
Having been railroaded by a succession of “education governors,” they did so because they believed Ige’s oft-stated commitment to education. Now, teachers are casting suspicious eyes at what is seen as stalling tactics by the state’s current negotiators.
This is a jarring contradiction to the sense of optimism and urgency created by the task force created by Ige for “Hawaii’s Blueprint for Education.”
In fact, the only communication with the state thus far has been its initial offering of a one-time bonus of 1 percent, which on the average is equal to about $550. With health premiums slated to increase by an average $830 a year for our members, their take-home pay would decrease under this proposal….
LINK: SB683 SD2, SB686 SD2
read … We Own You
Last Tax Hike Bill to Line HIDOT Coffers
HNN: It may soon cost you more to drive your car.
Lawmakers are trying to decide which of your taxes to raise to help operate and maintain Hawaii's highway system, including one proposal that would have changed the vehicle tax system entirely.
The state Department of Transportation says it desperately needs $100 million for the State Highway Fund, but most of the department's tax increase bills have been killed this legislative session.
The last surviving proposal would have replaced the current weight tax for vehicles with a tax based on the cars value instead – the more expensive the vehicle, the more tax the owner pays.
Historically, the current weight tax has been rationalized with the idea that drivers with heavier vehicles should pay more because of the added wear and tear to the roads.
Transportation officials had hoped changing to a tax based on value would help generate more money.
"Every single bill I've introduced this session has been killed for one reason or another," said Ford Fuchigami, Director of the Department of Transportation. "If I don't support this particular bill, it will be deferred and I will have nothing." …
"Not only would we have to calculate weight at the county level, but now they want to throw in a value system on top of this. It would choke up the system beyond ability," said David Rolf, Executive Director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association. "And for a new car, because it's not depreciated enough, the tax would go up maybe 235-percent."
read … Tax Increases
Film Tax Credits: Payoff for OHA to be Required
KHON: Last year, film production companies spent $260 million while working in Hawaii. In return, Hawaii paid out about $44 million in tax credits.
Sen. Glenn Wakai, who chairs the Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology committee, co-introduced a bill that would extend the sunset date for the film tax credit from 2019 to 2024.
“I think it could become something twice the size that it is today,” he told KHON2. “Hollywood’s not going to come unless if you give them incentives, so if we were to get rid of this tax credit, I would imagine the $260 million would drop to $100 million.”
The bill would keep the incentive at 20 percent for filming on Oahu, and 25 percent for the neighbor islands.
But it also aims to make three big changes in part based on recommendations from the auditor.
First, film production companies would have to have a third-party accountant validate the numbers…. (Translation: All the claims of spending in Hawaii are based on Hollywood accounting, LOL!)
Second, big film productions would have to hire a cultural or environmental expert…. (Translation: Pay off OHA.)
Third, any production company that gets a tax credit of more than $8 million would have to hold a premiere or screening in Hawaii, even if it’s after the big Hollywood premiere. (Bread and circuses.)
read … OHA Payoffs
Amazon to tax items sold in Hawaii
SA: Amazon said Wednesday it will begin collecting general excise tax on items sold in Hawaii. That leaves two states with statewide sales taxes — Idaho and Maine — in which the e-retail behemoth doesn’t have agreements to collect.
“Amazon will begin collecting sales tax in the state of Hawaii beginning April 1, 2017,” the company wrote in a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA.
The details behind Amazon’s decision to collect taxes in Hawaii are still unclear, but it comes as the Legislature is mulling several online retail tax-related bills. On March 7, the Hawaii Senate passed SB 620, which would expand the scope of “engaging in business” to include retailers with in-state gross receipts of $100,000 or more for the purposes of a general excise tax.
KITV: Charging tax for internet sales
read … Tax
State: Uber, Lyft ride-sharing fares subject to excise taxes
HNN: Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft could soon be facing huge tax bills levied by the state Department of Taxation….
Traditional cab companies say that the ride-sharing businesses have avoided paying tens of millions of dollars each year in taxes….
Lyft did not respond to our inquiries for comment. Uber says it complies with Hawaii's tax laws.
"We have met all GET obligations since we began operations in Honolulu, and we will continue to meet those obligations," said Taylor Patterson, a spokesman for the company.
Meanwhile, some Lyft and Uber drivers say that the companies should be liable for the taxes -- not them….
read … Taxes
Sunshine Week: “We are always secretive”
CB: “We are always secretive. It’s part of being a legislator.”
Those unapologetic words this week from Hawaii House Speaker Joe Souki show the Aloha State still has a long road ahead in making government more transparent. The quote, reported by both the Star-Advertiser and Civil Beat, couldn’t have been timelier, coming in the middle of Sunshine Week.
read … Sunshine Week
Another Cop Charged in Another Child-Rape Case
SA: …An Oahu grand jury returned an indictment last week charging Teddy Van Lerberghe with four counts of first-degree sexual assault and three counts of third-degree sexual assault. The charges allege that the assaults happened from 2004 to 2008, when the girl was less than 14 years old….
First-degree sexual assault is a Class A felony punishable by a mandatory 20-year prison term.
The Hawaii Paroling Authority can release a felon convicted of a Class A felony before 20 years. However, if the victim was 8 or younger, the convicted felon has to spend at least six years and eight months behind bars before he can be eligible for parole….
read … Ex-HPD officer indicted in sex assaults
SB804: Hawaii Rep Creagan Revives Pesticide Disclosure Bill
CB: Rep. Richard Creagan wants to take another shot at passing a bill that would require agribusinesses that use large amounts of pesticides to disclose what pesticides they apply, where and in what amounts.
The House Agriculture Committee chairman has scheduled a hearing for Senate Bill 804 on Wednesday morning. The Senate approved the measure earlier this month which sought to raise the amount of money that the Department of Agriculture can keep from the pesticide use revolving fund.
Creagan, a physician from the Big Island, has published a proposed House draft of the bill that would change the wording to require farms that use more than 10 pounds of restricted-use pesticides in any year to submit annual reports detailing their applications of all pesticides.
The draft proposal would also set aside an unspecified amount of money to the pesticide use revolving fund, and give money to the University of Hawaii’s medical school to study the exposure of pregnant women to chlorpyrifos….
MN: Complaining about Eden
read … Hawaii Rep Creagan Revives Pesticide Disclosure Bill
As is so Often the Case, Civil Beat Gets it Wrong
KE: As is so often the case with Civil Beat, an article there irked — both its content and delivery.
And is so often the case, it was written by Anita Hofschneider, who, as is so often the case, inserts her own views into what is supposed to be a news story:
The issue of pesticides is highly debated at the Legislature, where most legislators have aligned themselves with the agricultural lobby rather than environmental advocates.
Uh, no, Anita. As is so often the case, you've got it wrong. First, the pesticide debate we've seen playing out at the Lege is not a pro- vs anti-environmental issue, nor is it farming vs environmentalism….
TC: Eliciting an emotional response is the most effective way of getting people to seriously think about the future
read … Musings: So Often the Case
Lawyers Profit Bigly from Telescope Hearings
HTH: The state Department of Land and Natural Resources extended its contract with hearing officer Riki May Amano to complete the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case.
The contract amendment continues her employment through the end of the year, assuming the process isn’t complete by then, and increases her maximum compensation from $200,000 to $350,000. The original contract was signed March 31, 2016, and was set to expire June 30.
The cap is on par with Hawaii Circuit Court judges who make $197,112 annually.
Amano, a retired judge, makes $375 an hour under the contract. The extension was approved in January….
As of March, DLNR’s expenses for the contested case held in Hilo reached $316,477.22.
The bulk of that comes from Amano’s pay ($238,035.89), hearing venue rental ($31,950) and hotel bills ($22,049.73).
The University of Hawaii at Hilo, which also holds a master lease for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, is the applicant for the telescope’s permit.
Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said the university spent $475,054.84 on attorney fees for the quasi-judicial hearing as of October. He said invoices submitted since then are being reviewed.
Meisenzahl said the fees for outside legal counsel are paid through a “risk management account.”
The long-delayed telescope project faces another setback with the possibility of a third contested case. Hilo Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura ruled last December that the Land Board should have granted petitioner E. Kalani Flores a contested case hearing for the project’s sublease on Mauna Kea.
That ruling is under appeal, and DLNR recently issued a solicitation for a new hearing officer if the hearing is held.
A department spokesman said the agency received five responses.
read … Lawyers Scheme for Self-Enrichment
Lawyers profit from Homelessness: City's decision to pass on ACLU settlement offer proves costly
HNN: It was a case the ACLU offered to settle for $28,000.
But a lawsuit that prompted the city to change how it handles property seizures during its homeless sweeps wound up costing taxpayers on Oahu well over a half million dollars.
After months of litigation, the city of Honolulu paid out $48,500 to 19 people whose property was destroyed during its homeless sweeps.
But the big money went to attorneys.
In December, a court ordered the city to pay two law firms who represented the group of homeless people $395,000. Add that to the $150,000 the city spent to beef up its own legal team -- the total cost of the case came in at $593,500.
"They ended up paying way more than they should have had to," said (snickered) Nick Kacprowski, attorney for Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing….
Attorneys say they are continuing to monitor the city to make sure all homeless sweeps are in compliance with the court ruling (Ca-Ching!). As for the $395,000 -- Kacprowski says much of the award will allow attorneys at the firm to take on similar types of cases in the future (You Betcha!)….
read … Another Lawyers Scheme
Psychiatrist Sues HHSC
WHT: …Dr. Barry Worchel is seeking an injunction against Gregory Keane, public health program manager for the Hawaii County Community Mental Health Center Branch of the state agency. Worchell claims Keane is interfering with his contract with Global Medical Staffing, which provides contract physicians to supplement the sole on-staff medical doctor at Kona Community Hospital.
Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra has scheduled the first hearing in the case for 10 a.m. March 30. Worchel was denied a temporary restraining order Friday; the hearing will determine whether a preliminary injunction should be granted to prevent further attempts to work around Worchel’s contract.
“The point about this case is that a government bureaucrat is interfering with a private contract in favor of a particular psychiatrist and detriment of others, which is resulting in the denial of medical psychiatric services to individuals who come into the Kona Community Hospital on weeknights, weekends and holidays,” said Worchel’s attorney, Ted Hong. “It has the intended effect of also driving out highly qualified psychiatrists from the West Hawaii community, because they can’t earn a living.”
read … Psychiatrist Sues
Will Council Put Developers on HSDC Nomination List?
SA: …Okuhama is a self-employed commercial mortgage broker who operates Hawaii Lending Specialists LLC.
Scott owns slipper maker Scott Hawaii, headquartered in Kakaako, and has challenged developers on issues including their plans for affordable housing and providing public park space.
It’s up to the City Council to nominate six people from which Ige will select two.
Both Scott and Okuhama are nominated for new terms for the seats that must be filled by a small-business owner in Kakaako and a resident of the area. But they face competition from four others, including a general contractor and the owner of a commercial real estate development firm, who received more written endorsements than the two incumbents.
That worries Wayne Takamine, a resident who was involved in drafting plans for public use of state land in Kakaako and is wary of board candidates with ties to the construction industry.
read … Kakaako