De-Railing the Legislature
Full Text: Joe Souki Resignation letter
Complete List of Bills Passed by the 2017 Legislature
Court: OHA Trustees Violated Sunshine Law Responding to Kerry Letter
Interior Department Releases List of Monuments Under Review—Announces Public Comment Period
West Kauai Water Settlement opens door to ‘Renewable Energy Project’ on DHHL Land
To What Extent Does Your State Rely on Individual Income Taxes?
Legislators: Rail Failed because Caldwell is not Trusted (Should have elected Djou.)
HNN: …Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, state Senate President Ron Kouchi apologized to the public for lawmakers' failure to reach a deal.
"I'm sorry and we'll try better the next time," he said. "Maybe allowing a lot of the temperatures to come down and then we'll have a chance to come back and talk."
A time out is needed because both chambers are so far apart.
The House is proposing a higher hotel tax and a bigger contribution from Honolulu taxpayers and the Senate wants to extend the .5 percent general excise tax surcharge on Oahu for 10 years.
"People need to take a step back and just reflect on this issue and just cool off," said House Speaker Scott Saiki, who replaced state Rep. Joe Souki as House speaker on Thursday.
In order to reach a new deal, lawmakers said Mayor Kirk Caldwell needs to be more transparent with the massive project's finances.
"Part of the reason it ended up in this situation, of course, is the city never gave us good numbers ... numbers we could trust, numbers we could work with," said state Sen. J. Kalani English, whose district includes Hana.
(Translation: If Honolulu voters had elected Charles Djou, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now.)
IM: Governor Ige Discusses Rail, Airbnb, Energy & Gorak
read … Caldwell is a Liar
Caldwell’s Latest Story: Rail will Run out of Money This Summer (or Not)
HNN: …"The funds from the federal government, we're not going to get anymore until we have a recovery plan that's approved. Now, we have money that they have provided to us previously and we're spending that money," Caldwell told Hawaii News Now.
He added that if no funding plan is agreed to, and with no new funds coming in, the city could run out of money for construction as early as this summer.
"By the end of the year for sure, we wouldn't have sufficient money just with the GET coming in to continue to pay the contracts for the parts of the project that we are already building," he said….
SA: Caldwell told reporters the city has 1) enough money to keep the rail project moving until late summer or 2) the end of this year, and, 3) “I believe that we can live for another day.” (That’s three different lies in one sentence. Is this a new Caldwell record for lie density on a per word basis?)
read … Caldwell is a Liar
Caldwell’s Numbers “kept on changing. Even up until yesterday it was changing.”
SA: …The decision to remove Souki didn’t sit well with some lawmakers, including Rep. Marcus Oshiro and Rep. Sharon Har, who called the removal of Souki “unprecedented.”
“I think it is a sad time at this point, and to move forward with this resolution (naming Saiki as speaker) could have been done at some other appropriate time out of respect and deference for the speaker’s position,” said Har (D, Kapolei-Makakilo).
House members continued with the vote anyway, which was 39-9 in favor of naming Saiki as the new speaker, with Souki and two other lawmakers marked absent. One of those lawmakers, Republican Gene Ward, walked off the floor before the vote because he was unwilling to take sides in the Democrats’ reorganization, and House rules did not permit him to abstain.
As the House readied to adjourn for the year, Rep. Bob McDermott (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) rose on the House floor to criticize his colleagues for going home before coming up with a solution to the rail quagmire.
“I do not think we should adjourn ‘sine die’ until we deal with the issue of the train,” he said. “This is the largest public works project in the history of our state, and we are going to walk away today and leave it unsolved.”
But frustration and fatigue among other legislators was palpable as they blasted the Caldwell administration for soaring project costs and fuzzy budget numbers, and expressed bitterness at being asked to once again bail out the city.
The Legislature extended the excise tax surcharge in 2015 at Caldwell’s request to cover cost overruns in the rail project, but the city disclosed last year that the project is again over budget. The estimated price tag for the partially built rail project has increased from $5.26 billion in late 2014 to nearly $10 billion today, including financing costs.
That sent Caldwell back to the Legislature this year to seek another excise tax extension.
Sen. Laura Thielen (D, Hawaii Kai-Waimanalo-Kailua) warned in a speech on the Senate floor of the lost opportunities created by rail’s runaway costs. She said that money could go toward installing infrastructure to support affordable housing, building shelters with social services to help the chronically homeless, and installing air conditioning in sweltering classrooms.
“The mismanagement of this project, the lack of fiscal responsibility, we are at the point now where not only has it jeopardized the city, where the city can no longer be independently operated without having to rely on state tax revenues, we are now getting to the point where it is jeopardizing the state as well,” said Thielen.
Sen. Donna Mercado Kim also took to the floor to accuse the Caldwell administration of blaming state lawmakers if he raises city property taxes to cover the rail project.
“So let’s just get it on the record: We are not the ones that are causing the city to raise the property taxes,” said Kim. “They should have known these things are going to happen. They shouldn’t have fooled the public into thinking that any city project would have come in on budget and on time.”
Sen. Kalani English also chastised the mayor during a media briefing after the floor session, saying the city didn’t give the Legislature accurate figures on the rail project.
“Part of the reason it ended up in this situation, of course, is that the city never gave us good numbers, numbers that we could trust, numbers that we could work with,” he said. “It kept on changing. Even up until yesterday it was changing. So it is bad information in, bad information out.”
He said the debate over the rail issue had taken a “heavy toll” on lawmakers.
“People are very tired, are exhausted,” said English, adding that lawmakers need time to regroup before taking up the issue again.
But it’s not clear when that might be. Lawmakers could meet again in special session in the coming weeks or months if there are signs of a potential agreement. If not, the issue will wait until the next legislative session, which begins in January….
read … Session ends with no train ticket
Kym Pine: The Rail is Dead, Long Live the new Tax Hikes
SA: ….In a statement released today, Pine announced that she wants Caldwell to prepare a plan to impose the budget cuts as well as fee and tax increases that will be needed to pay for the 20-mile rail line from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.
”The Legislature has stated their position to not to agree to fund rail and it is time for the Honolulu City Council and the mayor to make some very tough decisions, including the possibility of stopping the project completely,” Pine said in a written statement. “Rail as of today is dead. We simply cannot pay for a project that we do not have the funds to complete.”….
read … Kym Pine
Airport Admin Bill fails After Bumpy Ride for Maui Memorial
HNN: …It was introduced this year without clarity about legal, labor and logistical issues. Not all state agencies were on board, and the attorney general failed to answer lawmakers' questions even up to the last day for negotiation.
Labor unions were not comforted by promises from the same administration that botched the Maui hospital turnover. It was disappointing, but
not surprising that the bill didn't make deadline for passage this year.
Unfortunately, the proposal faced two major obstacles: a risk-averse legislature, and the continuing inability of the Ige administration to orchestrate major initiatives….
read … Failure
Trump Gives Hawaii Everything, Legislature Gives Hawaii Nothing
CB: State lawmakers could learn something from our congressional representatives, who are accomplishing something even though they’re in the political minority….
This week, when the president’s budget finally hit Capitol Hill … Civil Beat correctly reported that “Hawaii Got Almost Everything We Sought in the Federal Budget.”….
Back here at home, though, not so much. While our Legislature fiddled and futzed with rail funding — the issue they still can’t figure out, no matter how hard they say they try — they managed to bog-down, botch and otherwise befuddle a whole host of issues critical to Hawaii.
When pressed on these things, their answers are well-rehearsed: “You don’t understand how things work here in the Legislature,” and my favorite, “It’ll have to wait ‘til next year.”
Maybe they’re right. It’s not always easy to understand how things work over there since so much goes on behind closed doors. Some sunshine in those rooms would help…..
read … Hawaii Deserves Better Than What The Legislature Delivered
Superintendent finalists outline their vision for Hawaii’s schools
KHON: …The Board of Education held a meet-and-greet Q&A session Thursday with candidates Linda Chen and Christina Kishimoto.
Chen is the the founder and managing director of Ikigai Educational Consulting. She has served in a number of educational leadership roles in Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia.
Kishimoto is currently the superintendent and CEO of Gilbert Public Schools in Gilbert, Arizona. She previously served as superintendent, and assistant superintendent of school design, of Hartford Public Schools….
The full board is scheduled to interview the finalists next week Thursday, May 11.
read … Superintendent finalists outline their vision for Hawaii’s schools
Police Commissioner Cites Another ‘Failed Investigation’ Of Possible Abuse
CB: Darren Cachola is once again at the center of controversy at the Honolulu Police Department.
Cachola was fired from HPD after grainy surveillance video was leaked to the press in 2014 showing him pummeling his then-girlfriend inside a Waipahu restaurant.
There were serious concerns about how HPD officers responded to the incident, particularly because Cachola was never arrested or charged.
His case resulted in widespread calls for police reform.
On Wednesday, Honolulu Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan pressed acting HPD Police Chief Cary Okimoto for answers after a media report that Cachola had another run-in with the law in an incident involving his wife. He was not arrested.
Sheehan, who is a former prosecutor, said the latest incident again raises concerns about how HPD responds to reports of domestic violence.
Although Okimoto refused to discuss the matter publicly during a Wednesday Police Commission meeting, Sheehan told Civil Beat on Thursday she is hopeful the public will get answers soon.
“Here we have more evidence of violence against women and yet another instance of tepid response from the Honolulu Police Department,” Sheehan said. “And I want to know why that keeps happening. I want to know why.”
read … Police Commissioner Cites Another ‘Failed Investigation’ Of Possible Abuse
A hollow ethics threat by former HPD Chief Kealoha
IL: Civil Beat reports that an attorney representing former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha has demanded Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan recuse herself from taking part in the deliberations on whether the city should pay to Kealoha’s legal bills relating to possible federal charges.
“It is clear from her past conduct that she cannot be neutral or unbiased in this matter,” attorney Kevin Sumida wrote in a letter to the commission.
Sumida threatened to file an ethics complaint against Sheehan and the commission if she does not step aside (Civil Beat: “Kealoha Threatens Police Commissioner With Ethics Complaint”).
Apparently the evidence of “bias” is that Sheehan previously voted against positions favored by Kealoha.
This certainly sounds like a very empty threat aimed simply at clouding the public’s understanding of what’s going on.
Frankly, a quick look at the applicable provisions of the city’s ethics law suggests there are no grounds for the threatened complaint….
CB: Kealoha Threatens Police Commissioner With Ethics Complaint
read … A hollow ethics threat by former HPD Chief Kealoha
Rep. Andria Tupola Running For Chair Of State GOP
CB: …Tupola was asked how she would be able to wear two hats — party chair and minority leader.
“First off, I’m a mom, and moms are amazing,” she replied.
She said her only work commitment was her legislative duties, which take place primarily from January to early May….
HNN: Andria Tupola running for Republican party chair
read … Wearing Two Hats