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Thursday, February 20, 2020
February 20, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:59 PM :: 1101 Views

Hawaii 5th Highest Per Capita Tax Collections

House Approves Budget--Without $65M for Mauna Kea Protests

Animal Activists Pressure Young Brothers to Strangle Cattle Industry

Third Circuit (Hawaii island) Seeking Applicants for Independent Grand Jury Counsel

Bridge Aina Lea: 9th Circuit Takes Developer's Last Dollar

VIDEO: Thirty Meter Telescope Supporters Hold Panel Discussion

Honolulu Makes Long-Term Bet on Commuter Rail

B: …Last week it sold almost $300 million in general obligation bonds, its latest issue to finance a 20-mile commuter rail system through the island of Oahu….

“Potentially disastrous” and “clearly a fiasco” is how the conservative think tank, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a longtime opponent, characterized the train line. Former governor Benjamin Cayetano criticized it as “the most costly rail project in the world.”….

Honolulu sold general obligation bonds for the railroad, but the bonds aren’t otherwise tied to the railroad’s fortunes; they’re backed by Honolulu’s general fund. Moody’s rated them Aa1, and they carried a top yield of 2.42% in 2041, 76 basis points above the triple-A benchmark.

Honolulu also sold GO bonds for the project in 2017 and 2019, and no doubt will again. The federal government is picking up $1.55 billion of the (so far) $9.1 billion cost. The remainder is being funded by taxes and subsidies and a public-private partnership. In the offering documents to the bonds, Honolulu makes clear that it expects the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to pay it back.

The project is being built in four phases, and is about half done. The first phase “may open in late 2020,” according to the HART website, and be fully operational by 2025….

read … Honolulu Makes Long-Term Bet on Commuter Rail

VIDEO: Governor Ige Talks TMT After Japan Visit

BIVN: … Governor David Ige spoke to media on Wednesday following his trip to Japan.

Over the weekend, the office of the governor announced that Ige was going to meet with Japanese officials, with whom he planned to discuss matters of economic interest for the islands. That included meetings “with key stakeholders of the Thirty Meter Telescope to provide updates on the project.”

Governor Ige said he met with Japan’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. “I was able to provide them with a current status for the project, reinforce our commitment to the rule of law, and ensuring peaceful and safe access to the project site,” Governor Ige said. “I really wanted to assure them of the efforts we are making to resolve the differences on the project.”

Governor Ige said he “talked about hoʻoponopono sessions that are being engaged in, and the reconciliation commission that I will be forming to look into the broader issues of reconciliation with the Native Hawaiian people, the State of Hawaiʻi, and the United States of America, so that we can develop a road map of reconciliation on the issue.”

On February 10, the State House Committee on Water, Land, and Hawaiian Affairs advanced a measure requesting the governor convene “a blue ribbon reconciliation commission to examine and formulate a reconciliation process relating to issues of past, present, and future importance to the native Hawaiian people, the state of Hawai’i, and the United States of America.” The measure was reportedly amended to exclude the TMT from the conversation, however.….

Big Q: Should the Thirty Meter Telescope truce, due to expire at month’s end, be extended for two more months?

read … Japan

New legislation pushes back against reduced Medicaid plan options on neighbor islands

SoR: … DHS is facing pressure from the legislature. HB 668 HD1 calls DHS’s decision to limit the number of plans on neighbor islands discriminatory and unfair.

HB 668 HD1 would require DHS to receive approval from the legislature through a two-thirds vote in each chamber prior to executing a contract that would reduce the number of Medicaid plans available in any part of Hawaii.

The bill also requires an audit and a taskforce to review DHS’s RFI and RFP processes related to the Med-QUEST decision. 

The bill had a public hearing in the House Committee on Human Services & Homelessness and the Committee on Health on February 13.  …

An earlier proposed version of the bill would have prohibited DHS from reducing the number of plan options on neighbor islands compared to Oahu, and would have given all Medicaid-enrollees the option to choose from the four health plans awarded contracts.

Hana Health, West Hawaii Community Health Center, Lanai Community Health Center, Waimanalo Health Center, Molokai General Hospital, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, Pediatric Therapies Hawaii, Green Wheel Food Hub, AlohaCare, Alii Health Center, No Shame Hawaii, Hoola Lahui Hawaii, and others offered testimony in support of this version….

Background: Streamlining plan will require 38,000 Neighbor Island patients to find new health insurance

read … New legislation pushes back against reduced Medicaid plan options on neighbor islands

Honolulu City Council OKs moving jail to Halawa

SA: … A permit clearing the way for the relocation of the Oahu Community Correctional Center to Halawa from Kalihi won an 8-0 approval from the Honolulu City Council Wednesday, but the contentious project still needs funding from state lawmakers.

Council members previously had stalled any action on a Plan Review Use permit to the state Department of Accounting and General Serv­ices, suggesting it was premature given concerns raised by Halawa residents and the uncertainty over funding at the Legislature.

But modifications made to Resolution 19-136 have apparently made it more acceptable for Council members.

Among the most recent changes inserted by Council members Brandon Elefante and Ron Menor are requiring the state to obtain building permits for any major structures and then updating the project’s traffic plan whenever a building permit is approved and again six to nine months after the site is occupied.

Traffic has been a key issue for area residents worried about the impacts that a relocated prison will have when coupled with the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District, also in its planning stage….

read … Honolulu City Council OKs moving jail to Halawa

Stormwater Tax: More Public Meetings Set

HNN: … a decision on the fees is expected by the end of summer.

He said it will still have to go through city council for their approval.

The city is holding more community meetings over the next three weeks, including one Wednesday night at Castle High School from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For the full schedule, click here ….

Background: Stormwater: $100M Tax Hike After 36 Years of Lawyering and Foot-dragging

read …  City seeks to create new agency to overhaul storm drainage system

Don’t ease up on dangerous drugs

SA Editorial: … Senate Bill 2793 is the means by which lawmakers are seeking to reduce the criminal penalty for small amounts of all “dangerous drugs,” which the federal government classifies as Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 substances.

The argument for it is that incarceration has been costly and ineffective in deterring the use of these addictive drugs. However, concerns rightly raised by criminal justice officials put the wisdom of this change in doubt and will have to be addressed as the bill is discussed further.

And further discussion is likely, given that the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved an amended version of the legislation, positioning it to advance to a floor vote next week.

Under the committee’s revisions, the change in the law would affect all dangerous drugs, a long list of controlled substances, among them methamphetamine, heroin, morphine, cocaine, fentanyl, carfentanil, amphetamine, pentobarbital, opium, mescaline and peyote.

Under the bill, possessing less than 2 grams of dangerous drugs would be “promoting a dangerous drug in the fourth degree,” a newly defined misdemeanor. Under the committee’s amendments, an amount greater than 2 grams would still trigger a charge of promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree, already a class-C felony in the current law, said Eileen Nims, the committee’s legislative attorney.

Critics of the bill have testified that there are other ways to divert a convicted defendant away from prison and toward appropriate treatment. Simply making the offense a misdemeanor, they said, could convey the wrong message about the lethality of these substances. They’re absolutely right…

Homeless persons encountered by police officers often are under the influence of dangerous drugs, and they are linked to many thefts, robberies and burglaries in the community, said Hawaii County Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Bugado Jr….

read … Don’t ease up on dangerous drugs

Ahead of sentencing, ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha pleads for leniency

HNN: … The court filing shows Kealoha doesn’t believe he should be penalized for the bank fraud conviction because the bank was able to recoup the funds he and his wife illegally received.

He says the lien and then subsequent sale of their Hawaii Kai home replenished the funds they got using fraudulent documents.

Kealoha also points the finger at his wife Katherine, a former high-ranking deputy prosecutor.

“He and his family have suffered great embarrassment due to the extensive media coverage” of his and “his estranged spouse’s misconduct," the filing said. It also points to her "extramarital affair.”

Kealoha knew about that affair long before the couple’s public corruption trial started in May 2019, even though the two showed up for court each day hand-in-hand….

Another argument Louis Kealoha’s attorney makes in the court filing is that he has strong ties to his adult daughter and his elderly mother who will miss him while he’s incarcerated on the mainland.

The attorney adds: “Life in prison for law enforcement officers is fraught with more danger."

The federal probation office is recommending a sentence of about five years behind bars for Kealoha.

Legal expert Michael Green says the Kealohas’ abuse of their power will be a factor in the judge’s decision on whether to go above recommendations….

read … Ahead of sentencing, ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha pleads for leniency

Judge rejects Hawaii's opioid lawsuit; State plans to try again

LN: … Hawaii sued opioid manufacturers and distributors last June, saying Purdue deceptively marketed OxyContin and other opioids and distributors sold “far larger quantities of opioids than they knew could be legitimately prescribed.” The state, represented by Texas law firm Baron & Budd and a local law firm, accused the companies of violating Hawaii’s unfair and deceptive trade practices law, which it said allowed it to seek damages without proving the defendants caused any specific harms.

The distributors moved to dismiss the state’s case last September, saying it failed to explain how they could have misled consumers since they served as wholesale middlemen and didn’t present marketing materials, deceptive or otherwise. It was not their job “to second guess decisions of Hawaii-licensed doctors to prescribe FDA-approved medicines for their patients,” the distributors argued.

In brief orders issued Dec. 17, Judge James C. McWhinnie agreed. The complaints were “primarily conclusory” and the state failed to explain how the distributors engaged in either unfair trade practices or unjust enrichment, the basis for the lawsuits. The cases were dismissed without prejudice, meaning the state can revise its claims and refile them….

Similar: Hawaii to Sue over Global Warming? UH Law School Debunked

read … Judge rejects Hawaii's opioid lawsuit; State plans to try again

SB2788: Junk Science Sunscreen Ban Rejected

SA: … A Senate committee on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have banned the sale of many types of sunscreens in Hawaii.

Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker said the restrictions on certain types of sunscreens called for in Senate Bill 2778 was not scientifically justified, and said the bill might have discouraged the use of sunscreen itself.

“Skin cancer is a very prevalent cancer in Hawaii, and I just can’t in good conscience — as a cancer survivor myself — do something that I know is going to make it easier for people to get burned and get cancer, and then we have a whole set of other problems to treat,” said Baker, (D-West Maui-South Maui)….

Representatives of the hysteria-mongering groups Surfrider Oahu, Animal Rights Hawaii, Friends of Hanauma Bay, and Activities &Attractions Association of Hawaii provided testimony in favor of the bill as a way to protect Hawaii’s coral reefs.

However, the state Department of Health worried that sharply restricting the sale of sunscreens to those with only the two approved active ingredients could increase the risk of skin cancer, and Baker said lawmakers’ emphasis should be on preventing cancer….

“There’s no real evidence that the products that were in that bill are actually stressing reefs,” Baker said. Testing that was done on chemicals covered by the bill was conducted on coral in a confined area rather than in the open ocean, she said, “and I’m told that when you put corals in a confined area, they’re stressed already.”

“There just wasn’t good science behind that,” she said….

SA: Study alters assumptions about suncreens

SA: Sunscreen study findings aren’t the final word

read … Proposed ban on sunscreen products rejected

Latest Round of Mindless Anti-Pesticide Hysteria Debunked by Activists own Lab Tests

MT: … A sample of potatoes from Mahi Pono’s recent donation to the Hawaii Foodbank on O‘ahu show insignificant amounts of the heavy metals cadmium and lead, a trace of the herbicide chlorpropham, and nothing else, according to the results of lab testing recently commissioned by MauiTime. The tests were conducted by Anresco Laboratories of San Francisco on a sample of potatoes acquired by South Maui State Representative Tina Wildberger, who provided them to MauiTime in late January.

Anresco conducted a general heavy metal scan on the potatoes, as well as testing for residues from 306 chemical compounds. The full results can be found by clicking here (heavy metal report) and here (pesticide report). Anresco’s pesticide tests no longer scan for the Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP) paraquat, the laboratory said. Mahi Pono recently announced that a different California lab, Environmental Micro Analysis, conducted tests for 400 pesticides – including paraquat, but not heavy metals – and found the test potatoes “clear” of all chemical residues.

Results of both lab tests were reviewed by Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui County district health officer. Pang told MauiTime that although the Food and Drug Administration does not set limits on cadmium or lead, the amounts of those heavy metals found in the sample potatoes were below the standards set by the European Union. He found the level of the herbicide chlorpropham (.011 parts per million) to be minute as well. Chlorpropham is widely used in the potato industry as a sprout inhibitor during potato storage….

read … Mindless Hysteria Debunked

Kauai Council considers polystyrene ban

TGI: … A measure to ban most polystyrene food containers from Kaua‘i passed first reading before the County Council Wednesday and is set for public hearing Tuesday, March 25.

The discussion came a day after Mayor Derek Kawakami signed off on a new, internal county policy prohibiting the use, purchase or distribution of disposable plastics on county property.

Should the council ultimately approve Bill 2775, it would make the county the fourth in Hawai‘i to approve a ban aimed at prohibiting single-use plastics. Maui, O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island have already approved similar legislation.

Introduced by Councilmembers Mason Chock and KipuKai Kuali‘i, the measure passed the first reading with a 6-1 vote. The sole dissenter was Councilmember Arthur Brun….

Poll: Should Kauai enact a polystyrene ban as is proposed in Kaua‘i County Council Bill 2775?

SA: Kauai policy expands plastics ban

read … Council considers polystyrene

Bill Would Make Sexual Assault Of Animals A Crime

CB: … Legislation making bestiality a criminal offense of sexual assault died quickly in the 2019 Hawaii Legislature.

But a new bill this session calls for essentially the same thing but also a little more.

Senate Bill 2718, introduced by Sen. Mike Gabbard, would amend the Penal Code accordingly but also make clear that the sexual assault of an animal is a class C felony or a class B felony “if the offense subjects a minor to sexual contact with an animal or is committed in the presence of a minor.” …

read … Bill Would Make Sexual Assault Of Animals A Crime

Homeless Mayhem Highlight of Waikiki Visitor's Experience

SA: … Being from Seattle, we also know that Hawaii is liberal, just like Seattle, and avoids the thorny solutions to problems obvious to all except the politicians.

During our four-night stay we witnessed (thankfully from our 14th floor lanai) one brutal beating, obscenity-shouting homeless men, a man exposing himself on Kalakaua Avenue in broad daylight and a frail young woman sitting in a trance on the busy sidewalk, hours at a time.

The stench of pot smoking spoiled the fresh air. It was traumatic to watch one man being kicked by three men on the lovely white sandy beach. Not once did we see a police presence or enforcement. Seattle’s homelessness, misdemeanor crime and open drug use in downtown are well known. Honolulu seems eager to follow….

read … Honolulu’s homeless problem like Seattle’s

Squatters Torch Yet Another House

KITV: … Firefighters responded to a house fire near Punchbowl. Neighbors say the house has been empty since the last owner passed away years ago. They also say they’ve seen people hanging out outside of the home in the past.

Aurora Kagawa-Viviani, neighbor: “I know there has been activity outside. I’ve never gone inside. It seemed pretty innocuous, so I have not generally called the police on anyone. But clearly there was a little more activity this morning or last night.” ….

read … Firefighters respond to house fire near Punchbowl

Governor open to ‘best way’ for Dillingham Air Field operations

KHON: … Always Investigating asked the governor, who has been traveling and did not directly respond prior to today, if he was open to considering what aviation advocates have been asking for: either keeping thee airfield open, or delaying its closure date until another entity could take over. The governor said the DOT and Army are in ongoing talks.

“They are definitely engaged to determine what the future of the airfield will be,” Ige said.

KHON2 asked Ige: What do you want to see happen?

“I can tell you that the current situation is unsustainable, the leases that the Army has been willing to issue is too short to make any kind of improvements in the air field,” Ige said. “Certainly we’ll be working directly with the Army to figure out what’s the best way to manage Dillingham Air Field and see what uses are appropriate and how they should be managed.”

KHON2 asked Ige: If a long-term lease were offered would you take it and keep it?

“I do think there are lots of different components that need to be part of a long-term sustainable plan for Dillingham, and the DOT and the U.S. Army are fully aware of the concerns by those who are currently using the airfield,” Ige said. “Certainly we are working to find a way, what’s the best way to provide opportunity for the businesses at Dillingham Air Field, at the same time figure out some sustainable way to fund those improvements and manage the airport better than it is today.”

The Army previously told Always Investigating that they had been working on a longer lease for the state for the past year….

read … Governor open to ‘best way’ for Dillingham Air Field operations

This Helicopter Safety Bill Is Unenforceable. Why Do So Many Lawmakers Support It?

CB: … Spurred by recent tour helicopter crashes in Hawaii, the proposed legislation would set stiffer state requirements for tour pilots. But the feds, not the state, regulate the skies….

The proposal, House Bill 1907, has 20 co-sponsors. It was voted out of the House Transportation Committee unanimously last week and will next go to a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. Any helicopter pilot flying without such an instrument rating issued by the Federal Aviation Administration would be subject to a $500 fine….

What makes this legislative initiative unusual, though, is the certainty that Hawaii is preempted from enforcing such a state law, even if the Legislature passes it and Gov. David Ige signs it….

read … This Helicopter Safety Bill Is Unenforceable. Why Do So Many Lawmakers Support It?

Island of Retaliation: Council declines to indemnify fire chief in employment lawsuit

HTH: … The Hawaii County Council isn’t ready to put taxpayers on the hook for disciplinary actions Fire Chief Darren Rosario took in 2014 that are now the subject of a lawsuit.

The council, after an hour-long closed-door executive session Wednesday, voted 7-0 not to indemnify Rosario in a lawsuit filed by former West Hawaii Battalion Chief Steve Loyola. Had the chief been indemnified, the county would take responsibility for his actions as being in the course of his job, rather than the chief himself being personally liable. …

Loyola and fellow Battalion Chief Ty Medeiros were placed on paid leave and their uniforms physically stripped of badges and rank insignia after they publicly criticized the chief and complained to the Police Commission about his actions.

The Merit Appeals Board in 2016 unanimously ruled the battalion chiefs were not due overtime and vacation pay, and said Rosario’s actions were administrative, and not disciplinary. The two longtime firefighters, who had consistently received satisfactory performance evaluations, said they were humiliated by the chief’s actions.

During the course of that hearing, Loyola and Medeiros estimated they lost tens of thousands of dollars in overtime they otherwise would have earned, and in lower retirement benefits because the retirement income is based on prior earnings….

read … Council declines to indemnify fire chief in employment lawsuit

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