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Sunday, September 17, 2017
September 17, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:44 PM :: 1593 Views

Why America's Missile Defenses Might Not Work Against North Korea

Legislature with U R Missing

Carbon Tax Heads $700M in Tax Hikes Proposed for Next Legislative Session

SA: A consultant hired to review the state tax code is recommending a potentially controversial package of tax cuts and increases as a way of re-balancing the Hawaii tax system and raising extra money for the state. Here are some of the key proposals with revenue generated or lost annually:

>> Proposal: New carbon tax
>> Extra Revenue: $365M--makes tax system significantly more regressive

>> Proposal: Impose hotel room tax on alternative rentals such as Airbnb
>> Extra Revenue: $135.7M

>> Proposal: New tax on sugary beverages of 1.5 cents per ounce
>> Extra Revenue: $48.8M--Regressive tax

>> Proposal: Tax state and federal pension income above $25,000
>> Extra Revenue: $47.8M

>> Proposal: Expand efforts to collect existing excise tax on e-commerce
>> Extra Revenue: $35M

>> Proposal: Eliminate state deduction for property taxes paid
>> Extra Revenue: $31M

>> Proposal: Increase cigarette tax to $4 per pack from $3.20
>> Extra Revenue: $20.3M--Hawaii already has fifth highest cigarette tax in the nation

>> Proposal: Increase rental car surcharge to $4 per day from $3 per day
>> Extra Revenue: $18.5M

>> Proposal: Increase medical marijuana tax to 15 percent from 4 percent
>> Extra Revenue: $13.2M

>> Proposal: Increase liquor taxes by 10 percent
>> Extra Revenue: $5M--Hawaii already has third highest beer tax, seventh highest tax on spirits

>> Proposal: New tax on vapor/e-cigarettes of 95 percent of wholesale
>> Extra Revenue: $4.5M

>> Proposal: Significantly increase standard state income tax deduction
>> Revenue Loss: -$61M -- Helps make tax system less regressive

>> Proposal: Double refundable food excise tax credit
>> Revenue Loss: -$25M--Eases tax burden on the poor, makes system less regressive

Republican House Minority Floor Leader Gene Ward was critical of the draft report, saying the proposals for increases in so-called “sin taxes” such as taxes on liquor and tobacco have been contemplated by lawmakers for the past decade.

“What creatively have they done?” Ward asked. “What was new in that report that you didn’t know about? They threw the spaghetti against the wall, and what stuck was the shopping list that they’ve been putting out year after year. Their job is to be creative and innovative.”

Instead of a tax review commission, Ward said what the state needs is a “spending review commission” because “that’s where we’ve got the problem.”….

The Tax Review Commission is scheduled to meet again on Oct. 3 …. For more information, visit http://tax.hawaii.gov/stats/a9_2trc/

Related: Crichton: Environmentalism is a religion

read … Tax Hikes Coming

HART Submits Rail Recovery Plan after 16 Months of Chaos Produces Massive Tax Hike

SA: The FTA had extended its original Aug. 7, 2016, deadline three times before HART finally hit the “send” button on a workable plan.

In that 13-month period, HART saw its previous executive director, Dan Grabauskas, resign as the project grappled with a growing multibillion-dollar budget deficit. Numerous high-ranking officials also left the agency. Public debate over rail surged once more.

The state Senate saw a shakeup in its leader­­­­­ship over the issue. The Legislature met in special session this month to bail out the project when its two chambers couldn’t reach a deal earlier this year.

Tempers flared in private meetings as Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell clashed with his former rivals in the Legislature, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, over a suitable rail funding deal.

Neighbor island and tourist industry leaders protested their hotel-room tax dollars being lumped into the state’s solution to solve rail on Oahu, leaving lingering resentment once the special session ended.

On the heels of this year’s worth of frustration trying to solve rail, the recovery plan submitted Friday includes the state’s new $2.4 billion bailout package. A copy of the report will be posted to HART’s website on Monday, Brennan said.

Schatz and Hanabusa testified earlier this month that, based on their discussions with FTA officials, they’re optimistic the plan will be solid. Caldwell has pledged to return to the Legislature if it’s not enough….

read … Rail plan sent to FTA after a year of delay

New documents reveal state system that failed abused boy

SA: The state removed a 4-month-old infant from his parents’ custody after he was abused so severely he almost died. Doctors estimated his rib fractures were as much as two weeks old.

The Department of Human Services, which investigates child abuse cases, identified Zion McKeown’s parents in internal documents as the primary suspects in the 2008 case, according to records recently obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The couple denied responsibility and were not charged, and the case was classified as one involving an unidentified perpetrator.

Despite the state’s suspicions and other red flags, including the parents’ history of family violence, the mother’s loss of her parental rights to a daughter and the father’s criminal record of assault and abuse, DHS eventually reunited Zion with his mother — the couple were separated by then — and imposed no conditions on the father’s visits with his son.

Before the Family Court approved reunification, the parents underwent counseling and other services, but even that was problematic. The two were largely noncompliant with the court orders and services associated with their son’s case, according to testimony the state attorney general’s office submitted to the Legislature this year.

Zion was returned to his mother without an assessment done by a team of outside experts — a step required under DHS rules in serious abuse cases, according to the documents.

“It’s a significant omission,” said Richard Gelles, former dean of the School of Social Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Three years later, Zion, then 4, was dead, the victim of abuse so severe that a doctor said the injuries were consistent with someone hitting a concrete wall at 65 mph.

Kyle McKeown, Zion’s father, and Grace Lee-Nakamoto, McKeown’s girlfriend, were charged with second-degree murder and are awaiting trial on Maui..….

read … New documents reveal state system that failed abused boy

Media bring legal challenge to Police Commission secrecy

ILind: What’s amazing about the current legal challenge to the Honolulu Police Commission’s policies favoring secrecy is that it didn’t happen years ago.

The current challenge comes in the form of a petition to the Hawaii Supreme Court asking that the commission be prevented from closing the public and press out of contested case hearings over whether the public should pay attorneys fees for officers caught up in the current federal grand jury probe into the Honolulu Police Department. The case was filed by attorneys representing Civil Beat and Oahu Publications, owner of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser….

Commissioner’s Steven Levinson and Loretta Sheehan earlier made this same argument to the commission without success.

Civil Beat’s story on the legal challenge reports:

[Brian] Black [attorney for the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest] said the current legal challenge is straight-forward.

Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the public and the press have a presumptive right of access to court proceedings. That standard, he said, also applies to quasi-judicial government proceedings, such as the contested case hearings for police officers.

He noted that the Hawaii Supreme Court had already said as much in a 2004 ruling.

What the CB story fails to say is that Levinson, a retired justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court who was appointed to the commission late last year, was on the court and participated in that 2004 ruling. In a sense, he helped write the book on the public’s right to access agency hearings of this kind….

read … Media bring legal challenge to Police Commission secrecy

City Fees Add to the High Cost of Sprinkler Retrofit

SA: …After the Marco Polo fire, the City Council considered Bill 69 to retrofit older high-rise buildings with sprinkler systems, but on Aug. 22 deferred the measure to gather more information….

At Saturday’s meeting, industry experts and fire safety professionals discussed fire safety regulations, prevention strategies, insurance and city loans to help the public. They also fielded questions from the audience….

After the meeting, HFD Assistant Chief Socrates Bratakos said a residential fire safety advisory committee was formed at the request of the City Council to come up with recommendations for Bill 69.

He said the committee is looking for ways to improve affordability for retrofitting buildings, such as reducing city fees and adding potential exemptions for places that don’t need a full sprinkler system.

“We’re trying to figure out where it’s best needed or not needed,” he said after the meeting. “Any other sorts of fire prevention systems, depending on how the building is built and maintained, can be good to maintain a minimum level of safety.”…

read … Taxing the Tax

Ige Spews CO2 from Here to NYC—Meeting with Tax Credit Schemers to Talk ‘Warming’

HNN: The conference, hosted by The Climate Group, will be the first international climate conference in the U.S. since President Trump announced the country's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

read … CO2 Emitter

Crony Capitalist Kelly King Plans to Spend $1.5M to Attract More Homeless to Kihei

MN …hot showers, a place to do laundry and a resource center are some ideas that around 35 people, some homeless, came up with Saturday as ways to help the homeless population in South Maui.  (Translation: Lets make this an even easier place to stay homeless and refuse shelter.)

Politicians, community leaders and social service organizations, along with the homeless and formerly homeless residents, gathered for a meeting facilitated by Maui County Council Member Kelly King’s office to seek input from the community on how to spend $1.5 million that developers put into a workforce housing development fund in the past to address homelessness in South Maui….

Maude Cumming, executive director of the Family Life Center in Kahului, which does homeless outreach, said that, in South Maui, half of the homeless are single Caucasian males ages 25 to 50.

Maybe less than 5 percent are veterans…

Yamashita said some ideas that the agency is looking into include repurposing an existing building in South Maui that could serve as a drop-in center where people can come in and bathe or as a place where people can be picked up for work meth.  It could also serve as a place where homeless people could keep their belongings….

Others at the meeting pointed to having respite emergency shelter for those who may have just undergone medical care and are released from the hospital but do not have a place to live.  (What?  You mean actually getting the homeless into a … uhh…home?)

Yamashita and Cumming said they do not currently have the staffing to provide one-on-one assistance that may be needed for people who cannot get around on their own or recently discharged people needing special care.  (Translation:  ‘No.”   Did you notice it is the ONLY idea which was flatly rejected?  That’s because it was the ONLY idea which actually involved getting the homeless off the streets.)

Who is Kelly King? Abercrombie defends $3.5M earmark after being nailed by CBS

read … Keep the Homeless Homeless

ACLU: We will Push Hawaii Counties to become 'Sanctuaries’ for Illegal Aliens

SA: we call on our county councils to pass legislation requiring council approval for any law enforcement agreements implicating immigration enforcement. We the people, and not Jeff Sessions or officials operating without local public input, must determine when and whether our law enforcement should collaborate with federal immigration enforcement. Our values, civil liberties, and safety are at stake. The ACLU of Hawaii will be working with communities across Hawaii to pass such legislation promptly.

read … Illegals

Big Island: Donald J Trump Scares Seven Liberals Away from Voting

HTH: …Oahu had 477,993 registered voters as of Aug. 29.

Hawaii County Elections Administrator Pat Nakamoto said her office also received complaints. Seven people canceled their voter registration, she said.

“We did have other people call with concerns,” Nakamoto said.

Hawaii County had 107,875 registered voters as of Aug. 29.

Kauai Elections Administrator Lyndon Yoshioka said he heard of only one call, which was not as much a complaint as a question about whether the individual could opt out of the public list. He said he explained that wasn’t allowed under law.

Kauai had 42,478 registered voters as of Aug. 22.

A spokesman for Maui County, which had 89,859 registered voters as of Aug. 28, could not be reached for comment by press time Friday….

read … Seven Down….

Aquarium fish: Let science guide decision-making

SA: Unlimited fishing, reef destruction, species extinction, illegal trafficking, complaints of “no fish” — the blame for all these accusations is heaped upon Hawaii aquarium fish collectors by a small but vocal group determined to shut down the aquarium fishery. Recently, 12 coral reef biologists wrote to legislators supporting the Hawaii aquarium fishery. Why are coral reef biologists largely unconcerned? Because scientists follow the data published in peer-reviewed journals and government reports, none of which has demonstrated negative impacts from aquarium fish collecting in Hawaii. In fact, 18 years of extensive monitoring on the Kona coast has shown that the fishery there is sustainable at the current level of fishing and reef health. A few biologists working against aquarium fish collecting cite their own beliefs, unsupported by Hawaii-based research, and offer as facts untested assumptions and anecdotal stories of environmental harm.

In 2016, there were 43 collectors on Oahu, and 35 active licensees in West Hawaii. This is a very small, limited fishery, but in dollar value it is the most valuable nearshore fishery in the Hawaiian Islands. Oahu and West Hawaii island account for almost all of the collecting activity; aquarium fish populations on the remaining islands are largely untouched….

SA: Some Hysteria Written by a Dive Tour Operator and a Lawyer

read … Science

Brian Schatz Can’t Distinguish Between Weather and Climate

SA: …“There’s an instinct to not talk climate during natural disasters (too political),” he tweeted another day. “But we see more and more severe weather hurting Americans.

“I want a bipartisan dialogue on how to prepare for severe weather caused by climate change. Severe weather costs lives and money.”

Schatz calls himself a “climate hawk” on Twitter and has become a leading advocate for urgent action.

“Climate change is real and it is the most urgent challenge of our generation,” Schatz said in another hurricane tweet. “Extreme weather becoming more frequent and severe. If you don’t want to call it ‘climate change’ I understand, but we have to deal with it.”

His critics argue that scientists have made no specific link between climate change and recent hurricanes….

He’s drifted into hyperbole and raised eyebrows at times….

read … Wow.  What a simpleton!

Sale of Apartments Will Profit HHFDC, Reduce Affordable Housing

SA: …There is no asking price for the projects, so there’s no way to know for certain whether a deal could be hammered out that adequately serves the public interest.

But among the terms that are known, the one that is most worrisome is the timeline established for rent increases. The properties are being offered with an affordability requirement capping annual rent increases at 2 percent for the first five years, for current tenants. Given the fixed income of retirees, Pohulani Elderly rent hikes will be held to 2 percent for the life of the lease.

For the rest of them, however, after those first five years rents could go up to the maximum allowed under federal affordability guidelines. These are set to be affordable to households earning up to 80 and 100 percent of area median income (AMI).

The problem is that increasing to the fullest permitted extent would raise the bar far beyond the reach of many current tenants who earn below 80 percent of AMI.

read … Scheme to Profit State HHFDC

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