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Wednesday, March 06, 2019
March 6, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:12 PM :: 2185 Views

Hawaii GE Tax Hits Poor 255% Harder than Rich

It's legislative season again, so taxpayers beware!

Tokuda-Connected Recycler Busted for Fraud

Technology Transformation: Priority Bills on the Move

New Reports Detail the Jones Act’s Cost to Puerto Rico

South Dakota law school: Hawaiian Day is offensive. Hawaii state rep: No it's not.

Hirono Suggests She Was Joking When She Criticized the Green New Deal

Crossover: House Sends 497 Bills to Senate

Legislators Response to Federal Rail Probe: Cancel State Audits

CB: … State lawmakers want to repeal an annual rail audit requirement in part, they say, to get out of the way of federal investigators now probing the multibillion-dollar transit project.

(Reality: They don’t want auditors to uncover even more, so they are de-funding the audits.)

On Tuesday, the House passed House Bill 118, a measure that was overhauled earlier via the “gut-and-replace” procedure. The revised bill would free the state auditor from having to inspect Honolulu rail’s invoices each year, making sure those expenses comply with what state law allows.

A similar measure is moving in the Senate.

As part of their 2017 rail bailout, state leaders gave the Department of Accounting and General Services $400,000 to verify that all rail expenditures are legitimate — that they relate directly to construction — before reimbursing the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for the costs.

However, the state auditor said last week that his office lacks both the expertise and the funding to separately assess that DAGS’ rail reimbursements are OK….

Rep. Sylvia Luke, who chairs the House Finance Committee and introduced HB 118, said via text earlier this month that lawmakers want to ensure the auditor’s work doesn’t interfere with (contribute to) the federal criminal probe related to rail that’s now underway.

She repeated that sentiment Tuesday shortly before the bill passed on the House floor (and then began giggling uncontrollably as worried-looking aides ushered her off the dais).

Her proposal comes after the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped three grand jury subpoenas on HART last month. (Translation: Closing barn door after horse escapes.)  The orders demand that the rail agency provide tens of thousands of pages related to construction contracts, change orders, federal agreements, closed-door board meetings and other facets of the project….

read … Federal Probe Has State Looking To Pull Back On Rail Audits

DAGS Rejects 11% of HART Invoices—HDoT Scheme to Milk Rail Budget May be Jeopardy

CB: …during their first full year scrutinizing fresh rail costs, finance officials at DAGS approved most — but not all — of the project’s invoices.

For 2018, they rejected expenditures to develop the transit line’s fare-collection system, plus costs to repave Kamehameha Highway (which could have been paid by HDOT with unused federal dollars) after construction, according to HART.

If the state officials keep rejecting those invoices, HART and the city might eventually be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in additional rail-related contracts, officials say.

That “could be pretty substantial,” HART’s then-chief financial officer, Robert Yu, told the agency’s board in November.

Overall, DAGS approved and certified some $317 million in invoices for reimbursement in 2018, the agency’s quarterly reports show …. 

read … Federal Probe Has State Looking To Pull Back On Rail Audits

Senate Approves 11% GE Tax Increase

CB: … The Hawaii State Teachers Association has tried for years to get the Legislature to pay more to help public schools.

Last year, lawmakers approved an HSTA-backed constitutional amendment ballot question that called for imposing a state tax on investment property for education. But the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the measure just weeks before the Nov. 6 general election, ruling that its language was too vague.

After the court decision, supporters and opponents expressed a desire to find common ground on education spending.

On Tuesday, with members of the HSTA watching from the gallery, the state Senate voted to increase the general excise and use tax by 0.5 percent to provide a dedicated funding source for the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii. Senate Bill 1474 now heads to the House of Representatives. …

Kidani, who also chairs the Senate Education Committee, acknowledged the regressive nature of the GET, which impacts low-income people the most. But she reminded her colleagues that the GET has remained at 4 percent since 1965, although each county is now allowed to levy an additional surcharge of 0.5 percent for transportation work.

(5% / 4.5% = 11% increase)

SB 1474 was approved by a vote of 21-3, but not before Sen. Lorraine Inouye voiced her objection to levying another tax on her Big Island constituents. Mayor Harry Kim and the County Council, she said, have already established a .25 percent GET surcharge on the Big Island and may soon double it.

Inouye voted against the bill, as did Sens. Gil Riviere and Laura Thielen.

SB 1474 is also opposed by the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, which fought the proposed constitutional amendment last year….

WHT: GET hike advances: Increase would be in addition to one sought by County Council

Background:

read … Senate Approves Proposed Tax Increase To Help Public Schools

Pre-K: DoE Bureaucrats Squabble over Lucrative New Fiefdom

CB: … A bill in the Legislature that seeks to clarify the oversight authority of a state office (pinata) dedicated to early learning in Hawaii has exposed rifts at the core of a supposed working partnership between that agency and the head of the state Department of Education.

House Bill 921, which asserts that the state’s Executive Office on Early Learning has administrative authority over Hawaii’s public pre-kindergarten classrooms, has drawn sharp opposition from school superintendent Christina Kishimoto.

She has made her displeasure known in testimony, comments and a Feb. 5 letter to the chair of the Early Learning Board, the governing board for EOEL that shapes early learning policy in the state.

“All partners at the table are being treated as ‘capable’ leaders when it comes to PreK programming, while HIDOE is being represented as incapable of understanding and managing its own PreK program,” according to Kishimoto’s letter to state Early Learning Board chairman Robert Peters, a copy of which was reviewed by Civil Beat….

(Translation: Truth hurts.)

read … Who Should Run Hawaii’s Pre-K Program?

Caldwell’s Latest Tax Hikes to create 110 new positions

SA: …Among Caldwell’s pitches to help make financial ends meet in the coming fiscal year is a $5 monthly fee for curbside trash pickup, which would generate $5.6 million annually. In recent years, two previous proposals were shot down….

On the expenditures side of the ledger, Caldwell needs to explain his call for more than 110 new or reactivated jobs. Is this reasonable in times of tight spending? The city already has more than 8,000 employers in 26 departments. Their training and job responsibilities should be made flexible enough to align with ever-evolving city needs. Otherwise, taxpayers are shortchanged….

Under Caldwell’s proposal, owners of hotel and resort land would pay $13.90 for every $1,000 of assessed value — a $1 increase over the current rate. Meanwhile, the Residential A “Tier 2” bracket would pay a $10.50 rate on any value higher than $1 million — up from the current $9 rate paid on that portion of the tax….

Over the past decade, the proposed operating budget emerging from the mayor’s office has increased by $1 billion — to $2.83 billion for the 2020 fiscal year. As the price tag for debt service and other obligations continue to climb, the city must strive for a no-nonsense sustainability. In the absence of it, Honolulu could slide into a deficit that upcoming generations may be unable to shake….

Big Q: What do you think of a proposed $5 monthly trash pickup fee for residential homeowners?

read … Tax n Spend

Mystery: BioFuel Scammers Behind HB307

IM: … Unknown Winner. The goal of 100 % renewable electricity should be amended to include a new category that no one can figure out what the heck it includes (HB 307)

"`Renewable energy` means energy generated or produced using ... other self-replenishing non-fossil fuel resources."

After the House Energy Committee refused to hear the bill, the House re-assigned HB 307 to the House Finance Committee, and 20 minutes later, with no testimony, the committee rammed the bill through. Then the full House then voted 47-4 to pass the bill….

One advocate of the bill is Mele Associates.

In the Aina Koa Pono rip-off proposal of a decade ago, Mele Associates et al proposed that HECO ratepayers would pay a subsidy of $250,000,000.00 so that HELCO could buy reasonably priced biofuels made by zapping crops with microwaves using experimental technology….

read … Hawai`i House Favors Multinational Corporations & Walls

Dairy Shelves Empty in Hawaii Thanks to Anti-Dairy Activists, Jones Act and Hemi-Global Cooling

HNN: … A combination of bad weather and mechanical problems with two of the company’s (aging Jones Act) ships has resulted in empty shelves at several Oahu grocery stores.

(And anti-dairy activism)

A photo taken by a viewer Monday morning at the Foodland in Ewa Beach showed no milk on the shelves.

Another picture taken at the Ewa Beach Safeway shows the store’s dairy section almost completely wiped out.

One of the state’s largest produce distributors says they’ve been dealing with repeated weather delays from both Matson and Pasha since December.

“I cannot remember this kind severe weather (caused by hemi-global cooling) being this long lasting. I think it started from the middle of December until now,” said Mark Teruya, CEO of Armstrong Produce….

“This week we had to fly in about a half million pounds of produce because our customers expect us to have the product,” said Teruya. “The cost is a lot higher but you get the product in.”…

read … No Mo Dairy

Will Dead Criminal Finally Do Something for Family?

CB: … Pekelo Sanchez, 33, was sleeping in a stolen Dodge pickup truck on the morning of Feb. 11, 2017, when police, banging on the windows, ordered him and his 19-year-old female companion to exit the vehicle, according to the complaint.

“Awoken and startled by the sudden commotion,” Pekelo Sanchez was shot by police as he reached for the keys, the complaint states.

Police shot him a second time when he started the engine, the lawsuit alleges. The complaint claims Pekelo Sanchez was at this point so critically injured that his body began to “involuntarily move and operate the vehicle.”

But police provided a different account at the time, saying officers initially tried to remove Pekelo Sanchez and his companion from the truck by shattering the driver’ side rear window because he refused their orders to get out, according to news reports.

Sanchez then attempted to evade the scene, dragging a pair of officers across the parking lot, ramming the truck into two townhouses and a parked vehicle, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report of the police account. That’s when officers opened fire, the newspaper reported.

Sanchez, whose criminal record included six felonies for drug charges and auto theft, was pronounced dead at the scene….

(NOTE: If Sanchez had been in prison, instead of being released by soft-on-crime doogooders, he would be alive today.)

Cataluna: Spate of shootings seems to be new normality

read … Final Payout

Hawaii Claims Lowest Average Personal Loan Balance Among States

Experian: … Hawaii held the lowest average personal loan balance of $12,638 in 2018. District of Columbia ranked second with an average balance of $13,261, followed by Kentucky with an average balance of $13,817, Illinois with $13,895, and Georgia with an average balance of $13,896.

Among MSAs, the Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas, market had the lowest personal loan balance of $7,580 in 2018 ….

BIN: Study: Hawai‘i has Lowest Personal Loan Debt in U.S.

read … Experian Data Shows Personal Loan Debt Continues to Grow

7th Annual Vietnam Era Patriot Recognition

News Release from Rep Bob McDermott:  … Representative Bob McDermott (R – Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point) will recognize Vietnam Veterans on the House floor on Friday, March 8, 2019.

In March, our nation recognizes National Vietnam War Veterans Day. This year, as with the past six years, Rep. Bob McDermott will be recognizing Vietnam Veterans with Hawaii ties. This year's honorees are Staff Sergeant Leonard Ho, USMC, (Ret.); Lieutenant Colonel Daniel O'Leary III, USAF, (Ret.); Lieutenant Colonel Johnie Webb, USA, (Ret.); Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Vernay, USMC, (Ret.); Admiral Richard Macke, USN, (Ret.); and General David Bramlett, USA, (Ret.).

House Session begins at 12:00 pm and the public is welcome to attend….

read … Recognize

Hawaii Tests Abortion by Telephone

NY: …Eventually, she heard about a service called TelAbortion, which uses video conferencing to connect doctor and patient. Once an ultrasound confirms that the pregnancy is no more than ten weeks along and the TelAbortion physician gives the O.K., the patient is sent medications that, essentially, induce a miscarriage, ending the pregnancy.

Telemedicine—obtaining medical services over the phone or through the Internet—is not a new phenomenon. In the U.S., it began to take off in the late nineteen-fifties, and a 2016 federal grant to increase access to health care in rural areas has made it more mainstream. Medical abortion (as distinct from surgical) relies on a drug protocol that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000. What makes TelAbortion unique is the coupling of the two technologies. It enables a woman to terminate a pregnancy in the privacy of her own home, but with medical oversight.

The F.D.A. protocol, which involves two drugs—mifepristone and misoprostol—now accounts for thirty-one per cent of all non-hospital abortions in the United States, according to a 2014 study from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive-health research and advocacy organization. When the two medications are taken together, they work between ninety-five and ninety-nine per cent of the time, depending on gestational age. Medical abortion has also proved to be safe. According to the Guttmacher Institute, complications from medical abortion result in hospitalization 0.4 per cent of the time. By contrast, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, in 2017, found that women are fourteen times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than from taking mifepristone for a medical abortion. (Mifepristone can be taken by itself, but it is more effective taken in tandem with misopristol.)

The TelAbortion service that Thomas hoped to use is part of a five-state trial that the reproductive-health initiative Gynuity launched, in 2016, in response to the ever-diminishing availability of abortion services in the United States. As of the end of January, two hundred and eighty-three women had received TelAbortions, a hundred and fifty-eight of them in Hawaii.

Dr. Bliss Kaneshiro, an ob-gyn at the University of Hawaii, who is one of four physicians in her practice participating in the Gynuity trial, told me that consulting with patients over the Internet has been surprisingly intimate. “I was worried that the video visits wouldn’t be as personal as they are in the office, but I’ve found it’s very personal,” she said. “I get to glimpse into people’s lives. I see kids in the background and a partner listening. I see patients in their bedrooms. I get a sense of how this is playing out in their lives.”

So far, Kaneshiro has done about eighty telemedical abortions. “So many patients have vocalized how much they’ve preferred this de-medicalized process,” she said. One patient who lived a mile from the office simply preferred to communicate screen-to-screen. But most of the women in the trial, like Thomas, are hampered by geography, finding it expensive and often logistically impossible to access distant services. “I didn’t have to get a hotel or buy a flight to Oahu,” Thomas told me. “I got to be home, which was not just financially efficient, it was just comforting and private.” The total cost of her abortion was less than three hundred dollars.….

read … The Challenges of Innovating Access to Abortion

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