Conference Committee Agrees on State Budget
Talking GMOS at the March for Science
Maui Council to Consider 7.6% Property Tax Hike
Emergency Preparedness? Hawaii Below Average State
Oral Health: Hawaii Kids Rank 49th in USA
PUC: Secret Testimony Shows Gorak Being Punished for Opposing NextEra
IM: The missing testimony in the confirmation hearing for Thomas Gorak, to serve for the next five years as a Commissioner with the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission, has been posted on the legislative website. The web-based document includes all three testimonies that opposed Mr. Gorak.
The testimony of former Commissioner Michael E. Champley is available as copyable text within the pdf document. The testimony of former Commission Chair Hermina Morita is available only in scanned format. For those who attended the hearing, Morita was allowed nearly 15 minutes to read aloud virtually her entire testimony to the committee….
read … Retaliation
NextEra Payback from HECO: Senate Rejects Gorak
CB: Opponents see the rejection as payback against Gov. David Ige for opposing NextEra Energy’s $4.3 billion attempt to buy Hawaii’s utility.
IM: Hawaiian Electric Company staff, consultants, and lawyers, show up in mass, at every single energy event, including meetings, hearings, and conferences. But they were conspicuously absent from the nomination process, before the Senate Committee hearing, and during the Senate floor vote.
Senate Statement: PUC NOMINEE GORAK NOT CONFIRMED BY SENATE
read … Senators Wanted NextEra
Legislature: Rail Tax Hike Next on Agenda
CB: …Unanimous passage of the state budget bill by a conference committee co-chaired by Luke and Tokuda should shake free other measures that were hung up because the funding priorities had not been decided yet.
House Bill 100 provides a $28.4 billion two-year spending plan, with $14.6 billion coming from the state’s general fund. The committee also approved a $1 billion budget for capital improvement projects over the biennium, which starts July 1.
Highlights include more than $100 million to pay down the state’s unfunded liabilities, $1.5 million for agricultural loans, $157,000 for the long-term care ombudsman’s office, $500,000 for rat lung worm disease, $4 million over two years for the Department of Transportation to clear out homeless encampments around freeways and tens of millions of dollars to build schools in Ewa, East Kapolei and Kihei.
The budget still needs final approval by the full House and Senate, but as it stands now it would represent a $159 million reduction ($159M less of an increase) from Gov. David Ige’s revised proposal. He trimmed his initial request after the state Council on Revenues downgraded its fiscal forecast…..
House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said Monday that Luke has started to sign off on hearing notices. By Monday afternoon, SB 1183 (Rail GE Tax extension) had been scheduled for a hearing Wednesday morning.
“The holdup was the fiscal implications,” Saiki said, adding that the House needed to get a better sense of how much unrelated public union contracts are going to cost the state….
Another significant measure under consideration this week is Senate Bill 1290, which county officials from Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island are watching closely. Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo and others were at the Capitol on Monday to see what happened in conference committee.
The bill determines how much money each county will get from the 9.25 percent transient accommodations tax that the state collects from hotel guests….
read … Tax Hike Next
More raises likely following teachers’ contract agreement, but how will the state pay for them?
KHON: …Public school teachers will be voting on the proposal Thursday. If they approve it, lawmakers will have to find the money to pay for it.
They also have to look ahead to other public workers’ contracts, which are up for renewal on June 30, such as HGEA, UPW, and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.
“Usually everyone looks at the other unions and expects similar treatment in many cases. I think if it weren’t such a tight window on such tough times, they always try to get better,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda, Senate Ways and Means chairwoman.
She says those unions will have to reach an agreement by this week, so lawmakers can vote on the proposal before the end of the session. She estimates that those collective bargaining costs for all public workers unions can reach up to $200 million over the next two years.
She points out that the latest prediction by the Council on Revenues already took out $250 million for the upcoming fiscal year. So how does the state plan to pay for all of it?
“It’s about not adding on new programs. It’s trying to sustain those core services we already have that’s important to communities, making sure the most vulnerable in our communities, that they have the services that they need,” Tokuda said.
As for the other unions, a majority of HGEA units are trying to work out a settlement through arbitration. The union that represents about 3,600 University of Hawaii faculty members got an offer Sunday, which it rejected….
UHPA’s … Hanselman says the state offered two percent for the first year starting in July, followed by another 1.2 percent in January. With no agreement in sight, any pay raises agreed upon will have to be funded by lawmakers at next year’s session.
UPW is also trying to reach an agreement with the state, but there’s no word on how negotiations are going….
read … Tax Hike Coming
Son of HGEA President: Fired state cop sentenced to 10 years for sex assault
HTH: A former Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officer was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for the New Year’s Day 2016 sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl on a beach in Hilo’s Keaukaha neighborhood.
Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura told 40-year-old Ethan Ferguson a prison term is the appropriate sentence in his case.
“While you were employed and on duty as a Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer, you sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl. And in doing so, you took advantage of your position as a law enforcement officer,” Nakamura told Ferguson.
On Feb. 22, a jury took less than three hours to convict Ferguson of two counts of second-degree sexual assault and three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault for the Jan. 1, 2016, incident at Lalakea Beach Park.
During the trial, the victim, now 17, testified that Ferguson, who was on duty and in uniform, took a pipe containing marijuana from her, led her to a secluded area at one end of the park and gave her the options of “money, drugs or sex” to not arrest her. She said Ferguson pinned her down with his body, pulled up her tank top and bikini top, and forced sex acts on her….
The victim addressed the court Monday and said her life has changed dramatically.
“I enjoyed being in school, being involved. … Since this incident, I just haven’t been as happy. I haven’t been as close with my family. I have a hard time opening up with my family. … I know what I was doing that day was wrong,” the girl said before becoming visibly and audibly emotional.
“Not a day goes past that I don’t think about what happened. … I would just like him to serve the maximum,” she added….
Ferguson, who was fired for misconduct by the Honolulu Police Department before being hired as a DLNR enforcement officer in 2013, was placed on paid administrative leave until his conviction. He will have to register as a sex offender….
read … Fired state cop sentenced to 10 years for sex assault
Honolulu Prosecutor Could Be A Witness For The Defense
CB: In an unusual move, a defense attorney wants Keith Kaneshiro to testify about a prosecutor’s investigation into “ghost tickets.”….
A hearing is scheduled for May 15. Burge said he plans to issue a subpoena to Kaneshiro before the hearing.
read … Honolulu Prosecutor Could Be A Witness For The Defense
Honolulu To Open Makiki Apartments For Homeless
CB: Applicants for the 42 units must earn less than $22,000 per year for an individual or $31,400 for a family of four….
One of the one-bedroom apartments will be occupied by a building manager, and the nonprofit organization Housing Solutions will manage the property and provide services to its residents.
Potential residents must earn less than 50 percent of the area median income, which is less than $22,000 per year for an individual or $31,400 for a family of four.
Applicants must have a certification from a service provider showing that they’re homeless. Those who are hoping to live in the complex can email Shanelle Lum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
read … Housing
Hawaii: Second Highest Paid RN in USA (not counting Cost of Living)
BHR: Hawaii Hourly: $42.75 Annual Wage: $88,910….
read … Becker Hospital Review
Hawaii Better Business Bureau to be Used to Promote Liberal Agenda?
SA: It’s time to ask ourselves if we expect way too little of businesses….
Unfortunately we don’t see the same readiness among most business leaders to fight for a living wage for ordinary workers so that they can afford the basic necessities. Why is any effort to advance this idea generally cast as liberal activism that threatens the viability of businesses?….
Why is it the norm that businesses lay people off to improve the bottom line? Why do we never consider that lowering executive compensation and raising wages for rank and file workers might help us address the disgrace of houselessness?….
At the recent Better Business Bureau Torch Awards, keynote speaker Stephen M. R. Covey, bestselling author of “The SPEED of Trust” made the case for why businesses must build on a foundation of trust, not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it is the smart thing to do. Trust – one word for adhering to the standards for fair, honest and ethical business practices advanced by the Better Business Bureau — builds prosperity both for the business and the community…..
This high-cost state of Hawaii has just about the lowest wages in the nation. Sure, some businesses in this state pay their workers well. But too often, institutions that represent business oppose tax credits, wage increases for low income earners, or consumer protection measures.
What if the Business Roundtable or the Chamber took the lead in saying we need to do better? That we need to pay workers a living wage, for starters?….
Dawn Morais Webster, an independent issues advocate, also is an adjunct professor at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and serves on the Better Business Bureau-Hawaii board.
Dawn Morais Webster: Leading Progressive Columnist Makes Complete Fool of Herself
read … BBB is a Scam