Related: Tracking Eleven Tax Hike Bills into Secretive Conference Committees
read … Lawmakers kill measure that would've funded schools, increased teacher pay
Poison Pill? Hawaii Senate To Propose 10-Year Extension On Rail Tax
CB: The Hawaii Senate is expected to offer the House compromise legislation that would provide continued funding for Honolulu’s troubled rail project.
The proposed amendment will call for extending the 0.5 percent surcharge levied on Oahu’s general excise tax for 10 years from 2027 until 2037, according to well-placed sources at the Capitol who insisted on anonymity.
But instead of receiving 90 percent of the surcharge, as it does now, Oahu would get 80 percent. Nineteen percent would go to the State Highway Fund and 1 percent would go to the state Department of Taxation for administrative purposes.
Additionally, unless Hawaii, Maui or Kauai county elect to levy a GET surcharge, the highway fund money could not be used for those particular counties. It’s a way of satisfying the concern of Oahu legislators that their constituents should not have to pay for another island’s roads….
The conference draft for Senate Bill 1183 could be presented as early as Monday, when negotiators for the Senate and the House might hold their first conference committee meeting….
The big question is whether the House will go for the idea, or even seek to negotiate further….
read … Massive GE Tax Hike
Nobody Responsible for Rail Mess: HART Board Nears 100% Turnover
SA: Also at Thursday’s HART meeting, board member William “Buzz” Hong announced that he’ll soon step down from the board in order to join the Honolulu Fire Commission. Hong has served on the HART board since its 2011 inception. With his departure, Damien Kim, the board’s current chairman, will be the only original board member remaining.
read … Nobody Responsible
It Begins: Firefighters to Get 5% Raise
SA: A panel of arbitrators has awarded raises of more than 2 percent for each of the next two years to Hawaii firefighters in a binding decision that could be the bellwether of contract negotiations for all state and county public worker unions.
Hawaii Fire Fighters Association President Robert “Bobby” Lee said the decision Monday also continues step movement salary increases every three years for firefighters based on their employment anniversaries. That means about two-thirds of the union’s 2,000 members will also get an extra step movement pay increase worth roughly 1 percent during the new two-year contract…. (Math 2+2+1=5)
Most firefighters are employed by the city and counties, which means most of the cost of the raises and fringe benefit increases will be borne by the Honolulu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai county governments.
However, the initial contract settlement in each round of collective bargaining often sets a pattern for the awards and settlements that follow for state and county workers. The firefighters decision is the first settlement for this year. Thirteen other public worker bargaining units are also seeking new contracts….
The firefighters’ representatives were dissatisfied with early offers made by negotiators on behalf of the state this year, which led to a declaration of a bargaining impasse. The dispute was then submitted for binding arbitration, a process put in place to settle contract disputes because firefighters are not allowed to strike….
read … Firefighters win raises this year and next
Judge Blocks Access To AG Investigation Of Hawaii Auditor
CB: A state Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday that the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General can keep secret its year-long investigation of the state auditor’s office.
The ruling came as part of a public records lawsuit Honolulu Civil Beat filed against the attorney general in September to gain access to the department’s investigative findings….
According to court records, the Legislature asked the attorney general to investigate the Hawaii Office of the Auditor in the spring of 2015.
The investigation was completed almost a year later, right around the time lawmakers voted to replace acting auditor Jan Yamane with Les Kondo, who at the time was the executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.
It was a surprising decision, not just because of Kondo’s fractious relationship with the Legislature over following ethics rules, but also because Yamane’s departure came with no explanation.
Senate President Ron Kouchi told Civil Beat at the time that he had a copy of the AG’s investigative report, but said that he would not share it publicly….
read … Judge Blocks Access To AG Investigation Of Hawaii Auditor
Health Beat: Why We All Need Health Savings Accounts
CB: The Hawaii Legislature wants to make the accounts available to those who buy catastrophic insurance coverage. Why not expand them?
This type of savings account should be available to everyone, regardless of income or employment.
HB407: Text, Status
read … Health Beat: Why We All Need Health Savings Accounts
HCR50: Hawaii Progressives Urge Legislators to DROP ‘Corporate Personhood’ Issue
IM: Hawai`i House Concurrent Resolution 50 (HCR50) proposes that Hawai`i join a few other States in calling for a Federal Constitutional Convention, to amend the U.S. Constitution to require free and fair elections…. (Translation: To overturn the First Amendment and abolish ‘Corporate Personhood’.)
The House Judiciary Committee heard the resolution on April 4. The testimony was overwhelmingly in opposition.
Deputy Attorney General Deidre Marie-Iha opined, “Because no federal constitutional convention has been held in more than two hundred years, how it would operate is largely unknown. It is not known, for example, how the states would be represented at a convention; how those representatives would be chosen; or whether Congress could enact legislation that would control the procedures at such a convention.
"Even more importantly, there has been academic debate for decades on whether an Article V convention can be limited to one topic or must be a general convention, which could hypothetically propose amendments for any provision of the federal constitution, or propose a totally novel amendment unrelated to existing constitutional provisions.”
Corie Tanida, Executive Director of Common Cause Hawaii, addressed the committee.
“The Convention process is too ambiguous and states cannot limit the agenda of a Constitutional Convention. Convention procedures and delegate rules do not exist. Thus a Constitutional Convention would open the Constitution to whatever amendments its delegates chose to propose.
"According to one of the nation’s most esteemed constitutional law scholars, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, `no one knows how the convention would operate. Would it be limited to considering specific proposals for change offered by the states or could it propose a whole new Constitution? After all, the Constitutional Convention in 1787 began as an effort to amend the Articles of Confederation, and the choice was made to draft an entirely new document.`”
“Simply put, a Constitutional Convention would create an unpredictable Pandora’s Box. There is far too much at stake to risking putting the entire Constitution up for a wholesale re-write as part of a Constitutional Convention.”
The House Judiciary Committee amended the resolution. The House amendment still called a federal constitutional convention “to permanently protect free and fair elections in the United States by addressing issues raised by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010).However, the re-write removed the restriction of the convention to a limited “sole purpose”of dealing with fair elections.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard the bill on April 18, 2017.
One single-issue, out-of-state, organization called WOLF-PAC, and a handful of individuals testified in favor of amending the resolution to its original, un-amended version, House Concurrent Resolution 50 (HCR50).
The resolution was opposed by Democratic Party of Hawai`i, Progressive Democrats of Hawai`i, Hawai`i Department of the Attorney General, Common Cause Hawai`i, ACLU, Americans for Democratic Action, Community Alliance on Prisons, Hawaii AFL-CIO, Hawaii Government Employees Association, League of Women Voters of Hawai`i, Life of the Land, Sierra Club of Hawai`i, and a number of individuals.
read … Koch Brothers Influencing Hawaii Legislature?
Ex-policeman ‘No Contest’ to road rage assault case
SA: …The truck driver said he accidentally hit Duarte’s car when he changed lanes on Farrington Highway near the Kahe Power Plant in December 2015. After he pulled over, the driver said, Duarte shouted and swore at him and punched him through the truck’s passenger window. He said Duarte then opened the driver door, grabbed him, threw him to the ground, punched and kicked him, then choked him until he began to black out….
Duarte pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and felony charges of unlawfully entering a motor vehicle and attempting to unlawfully enter a motor vehicle. He faces up to a year in jail for the assault and five years for each of the other charges at sentencing in June. He is hoping the court will instead grant him a deferral of his pleas to give him the opportunity to avoid conviction and have the charges dismissed….
read … Ex-policeman gives plea in road rage assault case
Mother disturbed over DOE employee's lewd messages with 11-year-old student
HNN: An Oahu elementary school employee is on leave after being accused of sending lewd text messages to an 11-year-old student.
The boy's mother asked Hawaii News Now to conceal her identity to ensure her son's anonymity, however she wants to speak publicly about the issue in hopes it doesn't happen again.
It was an early morning text last month that sent her searching through her son’s phone.
"Nobody texts a child at 5:30 in the morning," the boy's mother said. “Not thinking I would find anything, but just to make sure because it was kind of odd for me at 5:30 in the morning. And sure enough that's where I found the text messages."
She found more than 200 messages from Thomas Jefferson Elementary School’s employee, Korey Matthews Wong. Wong works as a Data Processing User Support Tech.
She said her son met Wong when he was in the 5th grade. She said many of the texts included inappropriate comments that dated back to January.
"It was really devastating because this is somebody who we trusted," she said.
His mother is upset about how long it took for the school to get the employee away from her son.
A judge granted her and her son a temporary restraining order on Tuesday saying Wong is not allowed to contact him, even enter the child's school.
The Hawaii Department of Education said Wong has been with the department since 2013, and was placed on leave on April 13…..
read … Another Day in the DoE
DOE has change of heart after first denying classroom space to Christian group
HNN: …The international Christian organization wanted to hold once-a-week activities for elementary-age children called the Good News Club, in which kids learn life lessons through Bible stories.
But school officials denied the request, saying no classrooms or meeting rooms were available because of the school's own after school programs, teacher meetings, and other activities.
Child Evangelism's lawyer Mat Staver, founder of the national firm Liberty Counsel, found that hard to believe.
"We looked at the maps and looked at the places where these clubs can meet and where other clubs meet and there was plenty of room," he said.
So Child Evangelism and Liberty Counsel sent the complex area superintendent an appeal letter….
read … First denying classroom space to Christian group
After 2 brutal attacks, some call for greater efforts to ensure the mentally ill get treatment
HNN: …On Monday, an 80-year-old woman sustained massive injuries while waiting for the bus in Downtown Honolulu.
The following night, a grocery store manager in Haleiwa had his throat slashed by a man who bystanders said was talking about vampires.
Both suspects are homeless with lengthy rap sheets -- and a history of mental illness….
In 2014, the state passed a law that allows the courts to step in and order treatment for people incapacitated by mental illness.
Despite the need, it's only been used a handful of times….
"We could drop the number of violent acts by 70 or 80 percent if people could get some medication," Green said.
Psychiatrists say anti-psychotic drugs are much better now than they used to be. Instead of taking pills, a patient can get a shot that lasts up to a month….
read … Mental
Enviros Begin to Walk Back Coral Bleaching Hysteria
WHT: A rather obsolete mindset concerning Hawaii’s strained reef systems re-emerged among attendees after listening to a presentation on coral bleaching Wednesday evening — optimism.
Hawaii couldn’t escape the worst global bleaching event in history in 2015, which bleached nearly 90 percent of corals that year and killed almost half of the coral off the coast of West Hawaii.
At her forum covering the devastating environmental development Wednesday night at Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, Katryn Wiese — professor of Geology and Oceanography at City College of San Francisco — said there are indications the state’s reefs are poised to rebound better than most affected coral across the globe.
“It looks like Hawaii is not going to be subjected to another coral bleaching event this year, although we have to keep track and look at it pretty regularly to see,” Wiese said. “If it doesn’t, then the corals will have a chance to regrow.”
The two primary threats to coral are rising ocean temperatures facilitated by global warming and pollution, such as sewage runoff, which is prevalent in Hawaii.
While Wiese explained ocean temperatures will continue to rise no matter what, natural weather patterns may spare Hawaiian waters just enough to create conditions that might allow coral to bounce back. Those chances are tied specifically to El Nino, a naturally occurring, reversing climate pattern that can change water temperatures by between 1-3 degrees Celsius.
El Nino impacts Hawaiian reef systems by raising water temperatures and exacerbating the effects of global warming.
Coral bleaching is actually a regular occurrence in the Pacific Ocean historically, Wiese said, and bleached corals don’t necessarily equate to dead corals. Depending on the species of coral, they may survive anywhere from 2-5 years in a bleached condition. Thus, the problem isn’t that corals are exposed to increased heat, it’s that they’re exposed to that heat for too long to sustain themselves.
read … Walk Back
Bought n Paid For: Schatz, Hirono Rolling in Cash
CB: Sen. Brian Schatz, whose term is not up until 2022, has $2.2 million in campaign cash, according to Federal Election Commission records….
Hirono’s donors include a mix of people from Hawaii and the mainland.
And almost 60 percent of her contributions come from political action committees, which is not unusual given the desire of PACs to sway national legislation.
Local contributors during the first quarter of 2017, according to Hirono’s filing with the Federal Election Commission, included Alexander & Baldwin CEO Chris Benjamin and $1,000 from political consultant Jennifer Sabas….
read … Owned