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Wednesday, May 03, 2017
May 3, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:46 PM :: 2947 Views

Video: House, Senate Fail to Agree on Rail Tax Hike

Hawaii--Worst State for Nurses

Pago Pago Declaration ‘We are Here to Stay’

Mercatus: An Economic Analysis of the Jones Act

President Trump’s Jones Act dilemma

Big Q: Should Honolulu adopt a resolution to become a “sanctuary city”? No = 73%

Victory! Rail Tax Hike Fails

SA: …a controversial 11th-hour funding deal has crumbled in the state Legislature.

With only one day left in the 60-day session, the House and Senate still fiercely disagree over how to bail out the largest public works project in the state’s history. Members in both chambers said Tuesday that it’s unlikely they’ll reach consensus because they’re so far apart and there’s such little time left.

BONUS: Legislature acted responsibly in denying rail funding

“As of now the bill is dead,” House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said Tuesday of the rail measure, Senate Bill 1183. (Yippieee!)

Barring a last-second legislative breakthrough, the city will have to come up with a solution to cover the rail’s massive deficit, which could reach $3 billion depending on how the project is financed.  (Proposal: World’s largest in-line skating park.)

Several senators criticized the version of the rail bill that emerged from last week’s conference sessions. It would raise that hotel room tax to 12 percent from 9.25 percent over the next decade and limit the city’s ability to reconstruct the Neal S. Blaisdell Center. Those changes didn’t get their necessary hearings and public input — and the measure would be vulnerable to legal challenges, Senate members said.

“Where is the transparency?” Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley- Moanalua-Halawa) said Tuesday. “Those rules are there to ensure that we are transparent in our deliberations and that no last-minute proposals are sneaked into a bill that the public did not have an opportunity to testify on.”

The Senate voted 16-9 to extend the GET surcharge instead. Minutes later a House majority voted to reject that idea.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Henry Aquino then proposed a floor amendment that would increase the hotel room tax by 1 percentage point, to 10.25 percent, for 11 years as part of a package that would provide more than $1.7 billion for the rail project.

The floor amendment would also extend the excise tax surcharge for rail by one year, and it would reduce the state’s share of the surcharge to 1 percent from 10 percent to generate more than $435 million, he said.

Aquino said that plan “provided more funding than any other conference draft” being considered by lawmakers. The various other proposals circulating in the House and Senate during a chaotic day of bargaining would have provided only $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion, he said.

Other speakers during the House debate protested that the new proposal would strip Honolulu of $45 million a year in hotel room taxes that the city now receives from the state. That money would be applied to the rail project under the new House proposal.

“This amendment will undoubtedly raise property taxes for the people of the City and County of Honolulu,” said state Rep. Sharon Har (D, Kapolei-Makakilo). She said it would be better to extend the excise tax surcharge to fund rail.

The House closely passed the proposal with a voice vote instead of a roll-call vote that would have put each lawmaker’s vote on record.

In a letter to Senate President Ron Kouchi on Tuesday, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell thanked the Senate for its amendment and criticized the House’s. The House proposal could force the city to “severely” cut staff and to make up a shortfall in the 2018 budget, Caldwell stated…. (He was lying.  You can tell because his lips were moving.)

“Where’s our governor?” Sen. Kai Kahele (D, Hilo) said Tuesday. “There is not a sense that someone is taking charge.”  He added that it’s “quite possible” that the Legislature’s leadership has lost control over the rail deliberations. (Gift for the obvious.)

“I don’t know how else to sum up what happened today,” said Kahele, who supports extending the surcharge 10 years. “It’s been a pretty incredible four days.”

It has become clear that “unfortunately, the Legislature has assumed an oversight responsibility for the rail project, like it or not,” Saiki said. “And that is because there is no other entity is the state of Hawaii, public or private, that has overseen this project to watch out for taxpayers and ratepayers.”  (So Legislators are claiming to be the most responsible politicians in Hawaii?  That says a lot about the others.)

NOTE: “The council's budget committee will be discussing two rail funding bills today. Bill 42 would allow city funds to be used for rail construction and Bill 45 would disallow certain costs from being covered by the surcharge. 9 a.m. Honolulu Hale.”

KHON: With rail resolution unlikely, Gov. Ige says extending Legislative session would be ‘a waste of time’

VIDEO: Ige "I think it was a good productive session"

Related: Video: House, Senate Fail to Agree on Rail Tax Hike

read … Runaway Railroad Train

Kauai's PMRF could be Hawaii's one-shot defense during a missile attack—But Hanabusa Says ‘No’

HNN: …Assuming it has the capability, a North Korea missile aimed at Hawaii would have to be stopped by interceptors fired from military bases in Alaska or California.

Missile defense advocate Riki Ellison doesn't like the odds of placing Hawaii's safety on a one-shot option.

"You have a very tight window because you don't have an opportunity to see if you hit it and then fire again, and you've got the rest of the United States that's got to be protected," he said.

Ellison founded the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance in 2002. He advocates for better missile defense systems to protect the United States.

He said Hawaii needs its own radar and defense capabilities. He believes the Pentagon should equip the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai with Aegis Ashore interceptor missiles, utilizing hardware already in place at the Barking Sands site.

"You can fly in your missiles," he said. "You already have a launcher that can hold eight. You can fly those in in 24 hours. You can turn this thing on. It's unbelievable why we're not doing it."

Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is open to the idea, but believes turning PMRF into a missile base might detract from its mission as a test and training site….

ILind: Ian Lind sez ‘no’, too

read … One Shot

GEMS Scam Program Attracts Scrum of Grifters

SA: …there was little demand for state loans for rooftop solar by the time the GEMS program was ready to go. Meanwhile, Hawaii ratepayers are still on the hook for $33 million in interest on the bonds, which is being paid via an approximately $1.50 “Green Infrastructure Fee” on their monthly electrical bills.

The GEMS program has lent $2.8 million, or less than 2 percent, of its funds to date, according to the quarterly report submitted to state regulators Friday.

Gwen Yamamoto Lau, executive director of HGIA, said in the report that the agency has approved a loan for up to $9.6 million to fund a solar hot water project on Molokai; is working to create a way for residents to pay back their loans through their electrical bills; and is seeking to fund energy efficiency programs for residents.

All those plans are waiting for approval from the state Public Utilities Commission, the agency responsible for overseeing water, electric and gas utilities.

In 2016 HGIA requested to use the money to fund batteries connected to solar systems. That request is also waiting on PUC approval.

HGIA got approval from the PUC in February to use $60 million of the funds to pay for Department of Education energy efficiency retrofits, but the Legislature needs to approve this financing project.

The multiple state agencies responsible for overseeing the program have been one reason it has been slow to hand out loans, Yamamoto Lau said. The process prevents the program from reacting “nimbly” to market changes, she said.

The Senate on Friday also killed a bill that would have allowed GEMS to be used for rebates of up to $10,000 for residents who buy battery systems for their homes. The rebates were to have started July 31 and lasted three years.

During a House-Senate conference committee meeting Friday, Sen. Roz Baker (D, West Maui-South Maui), chairwoman of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Committee, deferred House Bill 1593, saying questions about using the loan program for rebates weren’t addressed during session.

“I didn’t see how we were able to work them out this session,” she said.

Robert Harris, director of public policy for Sunrun Inc., said the solar industry (Elon Musk) was counting on an incentive to pass this session…..

read … Scammers With a Hand in Your Pocket

Senate Kills Effort To Save Telescope from Eco-Lawyers

CB: The Hawaii Senate killed a bill Tuesday that would have allowed the state to lease land in perpetuity.

House Bill 1469 raised alarm on social media Tuesday and among environmental organizations who feared it would allow the state to give away public land, particularly conservation land on Mauna Kea for the purpose of building telescopes.

Senate President Ronald Kouchi said that the Senate agreed to kill the bill after a “spirited discussion” in caucus.

(Translation: Greenmailers are a core constituency of the Hawaii Democratic Party.)

read … Senate Kills Effort To Lift Limits On Public Land Leases

Papahanaumokuakea Is Domain of the Living Eco-Gods

CB:  Should commercial interests (you know, local food) and economic growth (local food, again) be more important than natural capital and a sustainable future (ie paid ‘scientific’ positions sailing around tropical islands and taking pictures)

read … Bow Before your Enlightened Conscious and Progressive Lords

Maui Council Hearing on Property Tax Hike

MN: The Maui County Council will be holding two public hearings May 12 on the motor vehicle weight and property tax rates.

Both hearings will be held in the Council Chambers on the eighth floor of the Kalana O Maui building in Wailuku.

The hearing on the vehicle weight tax will begin at 10 a.m., with the reconvened hearing of the property tax rates to follow at 11 a.m.

read … Tax Hike

Contract Negotiations: SHOPO Next

CB: …the last time Hawaii’s statewide police union negotiated a new pact for nearly 2,800 officers, it blew a $20 million hole in Honolulu’s city budget.

That was in 2013, when an arbitrator awarded across-the-board salary increases of 16.8 percent over four years. Officers also got a bump in “standard of conduct” pay, meaning that so long as they acted professionally and didn’t get arrested they would receive a monthly salary bonus ranging from $2 to $4 for every hour worked.

Honolulu officials estimated the deal would cost the city roughly $200 million over the life of the contract. On the neighbor islands the hit was much less, but still in the tens of millions.

“That’s a tremendous increase,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at the time. “(A)nd I’m concerned, looking forward, next time we negotiate, how is that going to jump?”

Caldwell stands to find out soon enough, along with the other three mayors on Maui, Hawaii and Kauai counties. The current SHOPO collective bargaining agreement is set to expire June 30, and the terms of a new contract could be announced any day….

Money is far from the only potential issue on the table. County police departments are looking to initiate or increase their use of body cams, and SHOPO has argued that this shouldn’t happen without its approval.

Meanwhile, a state senator has urged Gov. David Ige and the counties to negotiate a better arbitration procedure for when police officers are disciplined….

read … SHOPO Next

Maui Homeless Camp “Mostly from mainland’—Some from Canada

MN: “We’ve been getting complaints coming in steadily all year long,” Antone said. “It’s getting bad. This is a public health and safety issue.”…

A French Canadian woman, who (NEEDS TO BE DEPORTED) did not want to be identified, said she was “for sure going to be gone” by May 23, though she wasn’t sure where she’d move (clue: She won’t accept space at a shelter and she won’t self-deport). She came to Maui six months ago after her son’s passport was stolen while he was on island….  (Ever notice how all these bums’ stories are the same?)

“It’s not a way to live like this, but we are comfortable,” the woman said. “During the night sometimes, it’s very noisy. People fight.”….

Fights happen every two days, she estimated.

In addition to the complaints of trash, beachgoers have reported theft and harassment, Antone said. In February, 22-year-old Sean Dunn was arrested and charged with first- and second-degree assault and abuse for beating his girlfriend who lived at the park with him.

“From what we can tell, the behavior there of some of the illegal campers, not all of them, seems to be getting more aggressive,” Antone said….

…kicking out the campers, most of whom were from the Mainland….

Park rangers, for example, “are spending 90 percent of their time issuing citations for the homeless….

“There’s not just a few people that are having a hard time and crashing there for awhile. It’s becoming homeless central.”

Engman cited issues with garbage, feces and a growing number of broken down cars at the park entrance….

Big Q: Should Honolulu adopt a resolution to become a “sanctuary city”? No = 73%

read …  Still Refusing Shelter

Immigration: Palauans being offered suitcases 'full of cash'

RNZ: Palau's Chamber of Commerce says property values are going up rapidly and locals are reportedly being offered suitcases of cash for their land.

The chamber's comments come after a Chinese website advertised houses for sale in Palau complete with residency permits of up to 99-years and direct access to the US after two years.

The Island Times reports that the ad also offers buyers easy access from Palau to other countries including Japan, Korea, Philippines and Taiwan.

Palauans have access to the US through its Compact of Free Association with the US….

WikiLeaks: Former FSM Ambassador to the United States Sentenced To Jail for Selling Passports

read … Palauans being offered suitcases 'full of cash'

Biofuel: “The greatest destroyer of biodiversity on the planet”

DB: That fall I went to Borneo to meet Biruté Mary Galdikas and the orangutans she has devoted her life to for a piece about the latest discoveries of cognitive ethology—that animals have much richer mental, emotional, and moral lives than they’ve been given credit for. One afternoon we drove for fifty miles past nothing, to our left, but row after row of oil-palm trees going straight to a hazy low blue ridgeline maybe thirty miles in the distance. Fifteen hundred square miles of some of the oldest and most species-rich and spectacular rain forest on Earth had been totally eradicated to make room for one profitable line after another of Elaeis guineensis— oil-palm trees, with big clusters of oil-rich nuts—flickering past. Dr. Galdikas has hundreds of orangutans in her care center outside the town of Pangkalanbun, confiscated from loggers and pet owners, but there is almost no forest left in central Kalimantan, the southern, Indonesian two-thirds of Borneo, where she can release them. In the late eighties the deforestation rate in Borneo was the most dramatic on Earth, and it’s still happening. Rain forests one hundred and thirty million years old in places, with insects, plants, and other species that haven’t even been identified, are going up in smoke. The Wildlife Conservation Society is calling it the greatest destruction of biodiversity on the planet. And almost nobody in the West knows or cares, even though we are all implicated as consumers of hundreds of modern products that contain palm oil.

Phony, just for Show: Pacific Biodiesel’s first sunflower crop is headed to harvest

read … Biofooled

State Supreme Court’s DUI decision helps Drunks and Lawyers

MN: A state Supreme Court opinion that someone arrested in a DUI case has a right to speak with an attorney before being tested will affect “the way police conduct their investigations after they arrest a person,” Maui County Prosecuting Attorney John D. Kim said.

Deputy Public Defender Wendy Hudson said it hasn’t been determined how that will work.

“We’re just waiting to see how this plays out,” Hudson said last week. “We were throwing around the idea of who’s going to be on call each night for these sort of situations.

“But in reality, unless someone has an attorney retained, I don’t know how the police are going to offer up an attorney for consultation. The logistics of it remain to be seen.” ….

Under current law, a breath or blood alcohol reading is only good if it’s done within three hours of an arrest, Hudson said.

read … Opportunity for Defense bar

Soft on Crime: Rapist Gets probation, Allegedly Molests Child

HTH: …According to the indictment, the alleged offenses, other than failure to register as a sex offender, occurred between Nov. 26, 2015, and Feb. 7, 2016.

The document states Alatan “had recurring access” to the minor and “did intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly engage in three or more acts of sexual penetration or sexual contact with the minor over a period of time.” According to the document, Alatan “intentionally or knowingly restrained” the girl and displayed “to a minor material which is pornographic.”

In addition, Alatan allegedly failed to register as a sex offender on Sept. 14, 2016.

According to court records, Alatan pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault on April 12, 2011, and was sentenced to five years probation and a year in jail by then-Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara, which means Alatan was on probation when the offenses in the indictment are alleged to have occurred.

Court records indicate a warrant for Alatan’s arrest and revocation of his probation was issued April 11, 2016, and the warrant is still unserved….

read … Alleged Child Molester

Community event to raise money for women’s center in Waipio

HNN: Local vendors will come together this Saturday in support of a program that focuses on services for women struggling with unplanned pregnancy.

“Craft Fair for Hope” will be held between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Bay View Golf Course in Kaneohe.

The event will feature a wide selection of homegrown shopping options like food and home décor. The group Nalu & Hi’ilawe Kay from Sons of Yeshua will also provide entertainment.

Proceeds from the event will benefit A Place for Women in Waipio and will go towards supplying the donor funded program with resources and new baby items for clients.

Counseling and referrals at A Place for Women are free and confidential for those who seek them.

For more information on A Place for Women in Waipio, click here.

read … Community event to raise money for women’s center in Waipio

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