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Wednesday, April 4, 2018
April 4, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:04 PM :: 3927 Views

Honolulu Socialists Foolishly Allow Rep Kaniela Ing to Join Up

Is OHA a Broken Trust?

Pohakuloa: Court Orders Review of State Lease

Lawsuit: Hawaii Taser Ban is Unconstitutional

Financial Literacy--Hawaii Ranks 41st

SB2922: State Constitution to Enshrine Unlimited Property Tax Slush Fund for HSTA

SA: A plan to ask voters whether the state should create a dedicated funding stream for public schools by taxing investment homes and visitor accommodations is back in play after nearly a month of inaction in the House.

The teachers union-backed proposal seeks a constitutional amendment to allow the state to establish an unspecified “surcharge” on investment homes valued at $1 million or more, and on visitor accommodations to generate extra revenue for public education. No tax rates are proposed in the current draft of the bill.

A Senate version of the bill moved smoothly through that chamber, where it was unanimously passed last month and sent over to the House for consideration.

Until this week the House had not scheduled Senate Bill 2922 for a hearing by the Finance Committee to keep the bill moving forward. The Finance Committee also did not grant an initial hearing for a House version of the bill, House Bill 2608.

The House this week revived the bill by referring it instead to the Education Committee, which will hold a public hearing at 3 p.m. today….

read … Constitutional amendment seeks increased taxes for public schools

Hawaii Unemployment Rate Drops as Young People Flee State by the Thousands

AP: …Are there downsides to a low unemployment rate? In Hawaii, which has the United States' lowest jobless rate at a minuscule 2.1 percent, the answer is yes.

Employers are frustrated by their inability to find workers. And unfilled jobs may be slowing the state's economic growth….

Like the rest of the country, Hawaii has an aging population, and its unemployment rate has been held down in part by retiring baby boomers.

The state also has unique challenges, such as an economy long dominated by tourism. Many of Hawaii's available jobs are in the service sector and don't pay enough to cover the state's high housing costs. And economists say Hawaii's ongoing economic sluggishness could make it harder for the state to pay its public pension obligations in the future, and fund highways and other expensive infrastructure….

(Skip two paragraphs of Hanabusa campaign rhetoric.)

People are moving away from Hawaii even as employers here clamor for workers.

Last year, the state suffered a net loss of more than 1,000 people. On Oahu, home to Honolulu and major military installations like Pearl Harbor, the population declined an average of 11 people per day. The median price of an Oahu home tops $770,000.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47 percent of Hawaii's residents spend more than a third of their monthly income on rent. That's greater than any other state. About one-quarter of renters put half of their income toward housing….

Paul Brewbaker, an economist with consulting firm TZ Economics, said Hawaii's growth rate has lagged the nation's for the past decade. On average, Hawaii's economy has grown just 1.6 percent per year compared with the national average of 2.1 percent since 2009.

On a per-capita basis, gross domestic product in Hawaii was one-third higher than the national average 40 years ago, Brewbaker said. It's now the same. The trend could have profound consequences for Hawaii in the long term.

"Where do we go from here? If we're on this road, how do we pay for the public employee retirement system? If we're on this road, will we ever be able to build another freeway, not to mention a mass transit system?" Brewbaker said….

read … Hawaii's low unemployment rate masks underlying problems

Retaliation: Delacruz Bill that would slash HTA funding passes Ways and Means

PBN: …A bill that would reallocate 44 percent of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s funding passed the Senate Ways and Means committee on Tuesday.

The lastest draft of House Bill 2010 would reduce the HTA’s Tourism Special Fund, which comes from the Transient Accommodations Tax, from $82 million to $60.3 million, eliminate the $26.5 million in annual funding given to the Hawaii Convention Center, eliminate the Tourism Emergency Special Fund for unforeseen catastrophes and redefine administrative expenses, which the HTA said would result in the elimination of nine staff positions.

It would redistribute part of the transient accommodations tax revenue from the HTA to different state agencies for certain purposes, though the tourism agency claims it is not clear what these funds would be used for.

A spokesperson for the authority said lawmakers have not been in contact with HTA regarding the language of the bill, which will now go back to the House for a vote before it goes to a joint conference.

According to HTA’s testimony, the state agency has contributed to growing TAT collections, which increased 29 percent from $395.2 million in FY2014 to $508.38 million in FY2017.

“Those gains were made in large part because Hawaii has invested in its brand and has reinvested in the people, place and culture that make our destination unique,” HTA CEO and President George Szigeti said in the testimony. “Diverting funds from the TSF will prevent HTA from maintaining the same level of investment in our state’s brand and reinvestment in the programs that enhance the visitor experience and ultimately harm our state.”…

As Explained: Hanabusa Campaign Plan: Send swarms of homeless into streets as absentee ballots drop

read … Bill that would slash HTA funding passes Ways and Means

Hanabusa Obtains SHOPO Endorsement After Her Senate Waters Down Bill To Set Minimum Police Officer Standards

CB: For the fifth year in a row, lawmakers may choose not to put Hawaii on par with the rest of the nation when it comes to having minimum standards for law enforcement officers.

Civil Beat first reported in 2013 that Hawaii is the only state without a police standards and training board. It’s one of five states without a licensing and certification process for law enforcement officers, though the Aloha State licenses professions such as doctors, private security guards and boxing event promoters.

A bill to do both of those things was watered down last week….

House Bill 2071 was amended before being passed after a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Ways and Means committees, chaired by Sens. Brian Taniguchi and (Hanabusa supporter) Donovan Dela Cruz, respectively.

The bill now heads to the full Senate, where it will likely pass, and then to a House-Senate conference committee to hammer out differences….

(And then SHOPO endorsed Hanabusa.  See how this works?)

read … Senate Waters Down Bill To Set Minimum Police Officer Standards

The Smell of Money: HDoT Suddenly Pretends to believe in Sea Level Rise—Wants $15B

CB: …roads could be moved inland — and tunneled through mountains….

Hawaii’s Department of Transportation faces huge, costly challenges if it’s to protect the state’s coastal highways from a rising ocean that is (not) already taking its toll.

The agency has a grim estimate of how much that will cost: $15 billion.

The figure, provided by DOT’s deputy director for highways, Ed Sniffen, assumes the state will need $7.5 million for every mile of highway road that must either be raised, pushed back or relocated entirely to escape erosion and flooding in the next 50 to 100 years  — and $40 million for every mile of bridge.

Reality: Report: Hawaii’s Billion-Dollar Consensus Proves Nobody Really Believes in Sea Level Rise

read … They Only Believe when it Profits Them

New push underway to test all Hawaii students for mental health disorders

HNN: Mental health advocates are pushing schools to screen every student for mental health issues.

"It's a huge issue," said Paul Gionfriddo, president of Mental Health America. "Half of all mental illnesses emerge by the age of 14."…

Experts say depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and post traumatic stress syndrome are some of the most common mental disorder in children.

"Schools should be screening kids as ubiquitously for mental illness as they do for vision and hearing," said Gionfriddo.

DOE doesn't require mandatory screenings.

Based on national statistics, it's estimated 20 percent of children are impacted by some sort of mental disorder. That would be about 36,000 students in Hawaii public schools….

"What we end up doing is delaying for 10 years the onset of symptoms to the onset of effective treatment. Those are 10 wasted years that we lose a lot of kids," said Gionfriddo.

DOE added it has recently received a grant to improve how it identifies and supports children and families impacted by mental illness….

read … New push underway to test all Hawaii students for mental health disorders

HB1489: One Tranny for Every Bathroom in Hawaii Elementary Schools

CB: …HB 1489, and a similar measure introduced this session that has since died — House Bill 2139 — has received testimony in support from the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, Hawaii State Teachers Association and the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii….

In written testimony, the Hawaii DOE said it has “strong concerns” with the bill, saying it would be “hindered” in its efforts to ensure that protections it currently offers to students and teachers are “prioritized through an education lens.”

The DOE has argued the bill is not necessary “and could result in a variety of adverse impacts to the state.”

It noted the steps it has taken to improve Title IX protections for students, including hiring a full-time Title IX specialist, establishing 15 complex area specialist positions and disseminating statewide a non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy.

Many of these steps are actions required under the resolution agreement with the U.S. DOE Office for Civil Rights. The state education department plans to present these updates to the Board of Education at a Thursday meeting…..

Reality: HB1489: Males to take over women’s sports in Hawaii?

read …Bill Calls For Hawaii To Protect Students Who Allege Harassment

SB2340: Keep Obamacare in Hawaii

SA: …Nearly half the states in this country are filing lawsuits that would make the ACA illegal in their state. Hawaii is moving in the opposite direction….

SB2340: Text, Status

read … SB2340: Keep Obamacare in Hawaii

HGEA Finds Way to Sabotage DoTax Tech Upgrade (again)

SA: …The state and AdvanTech then mutually agreed to terminate their $1.431 million contract, but state officials never revealed exactly who directed AdvanTech to change its reports. On Tuesday the Senate Government Operations and Ways and Means Committees were told that person was former Project Manager Robert Su.

That revelation prompted state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim to ask why Su was not fired….

The overall management of the tax modernization project is now under Executive Assistant and Program Manager Rona M. Suzuki, according to a spokeswoman for the department. Tax officials said the state is hiring a new outside consultant to report on the tax project’s progress….

Reality: Tech: 'Clinically Psychotic' HGEA Signs Suicide Pact

read … State manager coached consultant on tax project, lawmakers told

Senators press for audit of problem-plagued computer modernization project

HNN: State senators are demanding an audit of the state Tax Department's $60 million computer modernization project.

The digital overhaul is meant to update Hawaii's antiquated tax system, but has been plagued with turmoil and accusations of mismanagement.

Senators on the Ways and Means and Government Operations Committees unanimously approved the resolution for an audit — and want it to begin this summer.

The hearing got heated when State Senator Donna Mercado Kim hit new state tax director, Linda Chu Takayama, with a series of questions on the audit.

Takayama replaced the previous tax director, who had suddenly resigned.

That happened after an independent consultant said it had been instructed by state tax officials to make changes to its latest report, which was much more critical than prior reports about the computer modernization project.

"There's some contract violation here. Why wouldn't we go after them?" asked State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee.

"We terminated the contract as soon as we could," Takayama responded.

In recent months, the state fired that consultant, AdvanTech, and management of the project shifted to the chief information officer when six project managers resigned. Now, management of the project is back with the tax director.

Meanwhile, the upheaval has spurred (created an opportunity for) the union to file complaints (designed to finish off yet another State tech upgrade)….

Kim hopes the audit could happen this summer while the project is going on.

The auditor says that would be very unusual. The office typically conducts audits after the fact….

read … Senators press for audit of problem-plagued computer modernization project

Wastewater Discharge: Hawaii County Next to be Sued?

WHT: …At its monthly meeting March 28 at the West Hawaii Civic Center, the county Environmental Management Commission spoke of Hawaii Island’s responsibility to protect its oceans and recommended in a resolution the county adopt a program commensurate with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) standards and practices.

“The commission voted unanimously not to play regulatory games or go down the legal path, let’s simply do what’s right,” said Commissioner Dr. Rick Bennett.

The commission’s action came in the wake of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Feb. 1 in a lawsuit brought against Maui County by Earthjustice on behalf of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation and West Maui Preservation Society.

The ruling upheld a decision that found Maui County in violation of the Clean Water Act through its use of injection wells at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, into which it pumped treated wastewater that co-mingled with groundwater and ultimately flowed into the ocean.

The initial ruling dictates that any connection between wastewater discharge and the ocean is considered direct, even if groundwater acts as the proverbial middle man in the transaction. To discharge such effluent then, any entity must obtain an NPDES permit.

Maui County is appealing the decision to the Supreme Court, but Bennett and other commissioners believe if it holds, Hawaii County could face similar liability for wastewater discharge on the Big Island.

“If somebody had the resources to do that, they could sue us easily,” Bennett said….

Related: Lahaina Injection Wells: Is WOTUS Just too Complicated to Enforce?

read … County awaits legal outcome before committing to expensive wastewater discharge changes

Waipio EMS station construction encounters year-long delay

KHON:  t's been more than two years since the city broke ground on a new Emergency Medical Services facility in Waipio.

The facility was supposed to be completed by spring of last year. Now that date has been pushed back to July.

Nearby residents have noticed construction has taken a bit longer than expected. 

"Just as a comparison, we had Wendy's come into our neighborhood down the street. Not only do they have to clear trees and brush and everything else, but they had to build the whole building. They did it and they are hiring people," said Waipio resident Carswell Ross. 

read … Waipio EMS station construction encounters year-long delay

TVRs: How Dare the Little People Get a Cut for Themselves

Cataluna: ‘People have worked out a way to actually pay their bills and get ahead for once. I don’t see how we can be treated as criminals when we are just trying to purchase property in Hawaii and have help paying for it.”

That quote from reporter Allison Schaefers’ story last week jumped out as bald, unguarded truth.

It was spoken by a women from Australia who bought a condo unit in Waikiki and is at odds with the building’s condo board because she is renting out her unit as a short-term vacation rental. The long-term residents of the building say she’s flouting the rules, and that allowing Airbnb-type short stays turns their building from a quiet residential place to, essentially, a hotel without hotel-level staffing to clean up the mess and keep the peace.

But back to that quote, which puts into words a belief held by many, and all the impact of that sentiment.

Hawaii has been marketed for so long as a place where everyone is welcome, as so blessed with abundance that, almost like magic, there’s a piece of these islands that every single person can call their very own. Sure, the ultrarich buy up vast acreages….

read … Quote puts into perspective the motivation behind vacation rentals

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