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Wednesday, December 06, 2017
December 6, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:29 PM :: 1177 Views

Kamehameha School Child Molester Case – Hidden Payoff to Judge Exposed

Pasha Hawaii charged in labor dispute

State tax director abruptly resigns

SA: State Tax Director Maria Zielinski has resigned in the wake of reports that state tax officials instructed a consultant on which subjects “should and should not” be addressed in its supposedly independent monitoring reports on the progress of a new $60 million tax computer system….

In a brief email to tax department staff this afternoon, Zielinski wrote that “I wanted to let you know that today is my last day in the office. I want to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication to (Department of Taxation). While there are likely to be some hurdles and bumps along the road in the coming year I believe you will all endure and be stronger from it. I plan to be moving back to Maui once I have tied up all loose ends here in Honolulu. It was an honor working with all you.”

Ford Fuchigami, administrative director in the governor’s office, said Zielinski informed him yesterday that she was resigning. He declined to say if she was asked or forced to resign, saying that he cannot elaborate on a personnel matter…. 

UPDATE:

Coverage:

read … State tax director abruptly resigns 

DoTAX Tech project -- INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION AND VALIDATION REPORTS

News Release from Hawaii Office of Enterprise Technology Services December 6, 2017

The following Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) reports have been submitted to the Hawaii State Legislature, pursuant to Act 37, SLH 2017 (effective July 1, 2017) and posted on this site in accordance with section 93-16, HRS.

Hirono: Franken Must Resign

AP:Sen. Al Franken, his political career in shambles amid sexual misconduct allegations, lost the support of his Democratic colleagues today and faced new pressures to resign over what a fellow senator said was a “clear pattern” of abuse.

Franken’s support in the Senate crumbled after another woman emerged saying he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, bringing to seven the number of women accusing him of sexual impropriety. More than a half dozen female Democratic senators and some men called on him to resign.

The Minnesota Democrat scheduled an announcement for Thursday, and while his office didn’t specify the topic, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he expected Franken to resign at that time….

Related: “Its my right as an entertainer.”

read … Franken’s support fades as Hirono, other Democrats call for resignation

Hawaii Lawmakers Used to Hearing About Potential Conflicts

AP:…Hawaii lawmakers are used to hearing the criticism that they often vote in their own interests. Most work outside jobs, and bills often come up that could benefit their sources of income….

Souki, who was House speaker from 1993 to 1999 and again from 2013 until last May, said leaders have long been relatively liberal in allowing votes amid potential conflicts. It's better to have lawmakers on the record for or against legislation, he said.

"The bottom line is that we are a part-time legislature," Souki said. "People work and they're going to have potential conflicts because of their job."…

Senate President Ronald Kouchi said if the definition of conflict was too broad, "you can almost conflict everybody out of voting and not be able to conduct business."

In a nationwide review, the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press found that at least 76 percent of state lawmakers reported outside income or employment in 2015. While that might give lawmakers expertise in certain policy areas, many of those income sources are directly affected by the actions of the legislatures.

The review was based on an analysis of disclosure reports from 6,933 lawmakers in the 47 states that required them. It found numerous examples of state lawmakers who have introduced and supported legislation that directly and indirectly helped their own businesses, their employers or their personal finances. The practice is enabled by limited disclosure requirements for personal financial information and self-policing that often excuses seemingly blatant conflicts.

Under Hawaii Senate rules, lawmakers shouldn't vote if they have a conflict. If they're unsure, they must notify the Senate president, who will determine if there is one. House rules are similar.

In multiple cases this year, Hawaii lawmakers voted on legislation potentially affecting their employers….

Another example: Rep. Sylvia Luke, an attorney for a prominent Honolulu personal injury law firm, voted for a bill that would have required the state to defend county lifeguards against lawsuits and allowed lifeguard immunity protections to expire. Ige vetoed the bill. Luke, a Democrat representing Makiki and Nuuanu, didn't return phone and email messages seeking comment.

Corie Tanida, executive director for Common Cause Hawaii, a watchdog group, said information on conflicts should be more accessible.

Lawmakers declare their income sources to the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, which posts them online. But the public must watch hearings and floor sessions, or review lengthy records, to learn whether lawmakers disclosed potential conflicts before a vote.

"We shouldn't have to go through journals, we shouldn't have to go through hours of footage to see if this conflict of interest was declared," Tanida said. "It's all about fostering the public's trust."

read … Conflict

Legislative Agenda: Impose Carbon Tax, Hike Income Tax

HI: Hawaiʻi Tax Review Commission members released the final draft of their study of the state’s tax system on Nov. 8. According to the Hawaiʻi State Constitution, a tax review commission must be appointed every five years to evaluate the state’s tax structure and recommend revenue enhancement and tax policy strategies to lawmakers.

For the 2018 legislative session, some of the commission’s suggestions will serve as the foundation for revenue enhancement proposals considered by the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means Committees, respectively chaired by Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz. Below are eight highlights and lowlights of the commission’s report.

1. …tax commissioners propose increasing the state income tax’s standard deduction to $7,500 for single filers, $10,950 for head of household filers, and $15,000 for married filers. Because low-income filers are less likely to itemize their taxes than high-earners, increasing the standard deduction helps to offset the disproportionately high income tax burden felt by working families.

Additionally, commissioners recommend doubling the state’s food/excise tax credit to assist impoverished residents who spend a larger percentage of their incomes on food than their affluent neighbors (Honolulu residents spend 15 percent of their income on food overall, according a 2016 state analysis).

Together, these measures would result in an approximately $86 million revenue reduction, per commission assessments. To close the shortfall, legislators should advance the most progressive of the commission’s revenue enhancement suggestions: raising the corporate income tax to a flat 9 percent and phasing out lower tax brackets for taxpayers earning over $100,000 annually (with such filers paying the top tax rate on every dollar they earn over $150,000). In 2023, commissioners believe that a 9 percent flat corporate tax would produce $185 million, while a rate recapture for rich residents would generate $268.8 million, totaling $453.8 million in new revenue to promote the common good.

2. Carbon tax: Hawaiʻi is the most fossil fuel-dependent state in the nation, owing to our economic reliance on tourism, the military and the shipping industry. Under the Hawaiʻi Clean Energy Initiative, however, our state set a goal of becoming 100 percent clean energy-reliant by the year 2045. Under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2007, Hawaiʻi also has a mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

A 2016 Brookings Institution report found that Hawaiʻi could generate an immediate $365 million through the implementation of a carbon tax, which would be imposed on high-volume burners of carbon-based fuels—coal, oil, and gas. While revenue generated would diminish over time as carbon levels decrease, the tax would stimulate clean energy innovation and account for the fiscally unchecked costs of market activity on climate change….

read … 8 takeaways from the state tax system review

Honolulu Bus Ridership Down 15%

CB: …More and more, Sonsona said, his friends and acquaintances are opting to use ride-hailing services — Uber and Lyft — when they can instead of TheBus. He finds himself hailing an Uber about once a week when his shifts at Musubi Cafe Iyasume run too late to catch the bus — at a price of about $20.

“You’re paying for convenience,” Sonsona said.

In recent months, Honolulu has seen headlines about dwindling ridership on TheBus, raising questions of whether riders will eventually show up in the numbers needed to help pay for Oahu’s costly elevated rail-transit system.

Ask local transportation officials and some experts and they’ll say the following is true: TheBus has indeed seen its annual ridership plunge by more than 10 million passengers in the past five years, from about 76 million in fiscal year 2012 to 65 million in 2017. This reflects a national trend in declining bus usage.  (65/76 = 85.5%)

Further, the island’s worsening congestion has stymied TheBus to where it’s no longer as reliable after winning awards as “America’s Best Transit System” in 1995 and 2001.

But they’ll also say TheBus fleet is the nation’s most heavily used system per-capita among major cities….

read … Why Are Fewer People Riding TheBus?

Will Legislators Act to Get Charter Schools out of Tents?

CB: The Hawaii Board of Education is urging the Legislature to help public charter schools pay for their facilities and offer a centralized support structure so the schools can better leverage financial resources.

The recommendations come on the heels of an annual report issued last month by the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission that said the “academic performance of charter schools continues to be mixed.”

The commission authorizes and reviews charter schools and falls under the umbrella of the state Department of Education. Its annual report for the 2016-17 school year is the sixth overall and assesses 34 charter schools in operation last year — two new ones have opened up since…..

read … Board Of Education Seeks Public Money For Charter School Facilities

State Hospital requires security for renovations

KITV: The City puts new demands on the hospital, before it can expand….

"As a result of what happened a couple of weeks ago, we asked public safety to come in and do a security audit of our physical plant and policies," said hospital Administrator William May.

PSD came up with recommendations, including adding technology to better monitor patients, change reporting procedures and putting up a 12' tall perimeter fence around buildings which house higher security patients.

"One of the core functions of government is to protect the health and safety of our citizens. First and foremost above all else, we need to make sure the health and safety of that community is protected," said Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson.

The Hawaii State Hospital has patients who have committed violent crimes but is not a secure facility.

"i would like to consider requiring the state hospital to become a secure facility as this redevelopment takes place," added Anderson….

But May admits some patients currently use the grounds to show they are not a threat to the community - before they rejoin society. That would continue to be the case in the future.  (And others fly to Stockton.)

read … State Hospital requires security for renovations

HPD won’t take guns from medical marijuana users (for now)

SA: The Honolulu Police Department will not enforce a controversial policy requiring legal marijuana patients to turn in their guns.

The department issued a notice Tuesday, saying it is consulting with other governmental agencies, as well as reviewing recent court rulings regarding the issue. HPD said it will, however, continue to deny new firearm permits to applicants with medical marijuana cards.

“This is a new area of concern for cities across the country, and we in Honolulu want to develop a policy that’s legally sound and serves our community,” HPD Chief Susan Ballard said in a news release. “Formulating the policy will take time, but we want to do it right.”….

read … HPD won’t take guns from medical marijuana users

Honolulu Police Officer’s Road Rage Results In Lawsuit Against City

CB:The complaint states the incident resulted from a pattern of the HPD not addressing excessive use of force by officers….

A truck driver who was dragged from his vehicle and pummeled by an off-duty Honolulu police officer on the shoulder of Farrington Highway in December 2015 has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city.

Jonard Escalante hired Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz to represent him in the lawsuit, which says that Keoki Duarte, who has since been discharged from the Honolulu Police Department, punched, kicked and choked Escalante on the side of the road after a minor car accident.

The suit states Duarte has a history of violence and suffered from “emotional distress and/or anger management problems related to his employment with the Honolulu Police Department.”….

read … Road Rage

Hawaii prepares to deliver New Year's present to caregivers

WE: Hawaiians have the highest life expectancy in the U.S., but with that longevity comes an increasing demand on caregiving that has strained the state's younger residents financially, mentally, and physically.

After 21 years of trying to pass long-term care legislation, Hawaii this summer became the first state to pass a bill that gives funding to caregivers who assist family members who have become disabled as they age or have cognitive challenges as their brains succumb to dementia or Alzheimer's disease….

Other states may follow Hawaii's path. Though they aren't considering legislation exactly like Hawaii's, some states are looking at other approaches for increasing support for caregivers. Washington state, for instance, has introduced a bill that would provide a long-term care social insurance program that would be paid for by payroll deductions. In Maine, advocates are gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would fund access to in-home care through a payroll tax increase of 1.9 percent from workers who make more than $127,000 a year.

Advocates hope the state-level changes will lead to a national solution.

"We want to learn from all of these different, state-level innovative approaches to inform the most effective, sustainable reform that will ultimately be needed at the federal level to meet the needs of the elder boom," Simowitz said….

read … Present

Council Threatens to Force Poor People to Associate with Snobby Rich People

HNN: Objections over plans to provide separate entrances for luxury condo owners and the tenants of affordable rentals has delayed approval for an Ala Moana highrise.  (Social engineering uber alles.):

The developer of Prospac Tower was supposed to have a hearing Tuesday on its plan for a 41-story, 400-foot project at the Honolulu City Council's Zoning Committee.

But affordable housing advocates objected to renters being required to use a different entrance, which they called the "poor door."

In response, Zoning Chairwoman Kymberly Pine cancelled the hearing and asked the developer to explain his plans to critics.

The condo is slated for the corner of Keeaumoku Avenue and Makaloa Street, one block mauka of Ala Moana Center.

There would be about 350 market priced condo units, which would have an entrance on Keeaumoku.

read … Punished for accepting affordable housing

Retaliation: Report Asbestos, Clean Bathrooms

KGI: …The state Department of Health found asbestos in the tile flooring of the facility in November 2016 after an employee, Charles Rapozo, brought it to the department’s attention.

A lawsuit alleging the county retaliated against Rapozo for reporting the asbestos was served to the county, also on Tuesday.

The lawsuit is said to describe how he has not been allowed to do his job at the convention hall, and spends hours each day sitting in his vehicle outside the convention hall. He was allowed to clean the bathrooms….

read … Island of Retaliation

Is “organic” going through an existential crisis?

JC: …Some of the reaction was grounded in the organic movement’s general disdain for large agribusiness firms, such as Driscoll’s, a conventional and organic grower that has used hydroponics to capture a significant share of the fresh berry market. A similar uproar occurred earlier this year around claims that certain producers, most notably “industrial” dairies, weren’t meeting the spirit —and perhaps not even the legal requirements —of the organic brand.

Though big business doesn’t dovetail with the bucolic, small farm image that the organic brand trades on, it’s part and parcel of the actual workings of the industry. Indeed, many organic food companies have already sold out to multinational corporations like General Mills, Post, Smuckers, Coca Cola, Miller-Coors, Nestle, Perdue Farms, Kellog’s and Hain-Celestial….

read … Is “organic” going through an existential crisis?

State Rep. LoPresti sets sights on Ewa Senate seat

SA: …After serving nearly two terms in the state House of Representatives, Rep. Matthew LoPresti has his sights set on the Senate seat representing Ewa and Ewa Beach.

LoPresti (D, Ewa Villages-­Ocean Pointe-Ewa Beach), who was first elected to office in 2014, plans to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Will Espero, who is running for lieutenant governor in the 2018 election….

read … State Rep. LoPresti sets sights on Ewa Senate seat

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