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Friday, February 21, 2020
February 21, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:34 PM :: 1414 Views

HB1676: Red Light Scameras on 3rd Reading

Felony Pension Forfeiture Moves to 3rd Reading in House (again)

Decommissioning of 2 Maunakea Telescopes Pushed Back to 2023

Gap Between Buying & Renting Narrows on Big Island

Political Engagement Among African Americans? -- Hawaii Ranks 42nd

Public Invited to Testify on 233% Bus Fare Hike

Corona Virus Tourism Impact Could be “Like 9-11”

SA: … “For sure, the virus is going to pose a slowdown in our economy because we’re so connected to tourism,” said House Health Committee Chairman John Mizuno (D, Kalihi Valley-Kamehameha Heights), who is planning a legislative briefing for the next week to find out the “strategic game plan” to prevent the virus from spreading here and to determine the economic impact to Hawaii. “Japan’s the next-biggest population of people affected, and because we have a significant amount of people from Japan traveling to Hawaii, we need to take a look at what would be reasonable safeguards. This is an epic health concern for all of us. In addition, there are going to be far-reaching ripple effects to the economy.”

…“With every twist, evolution and jump, they’re becoming more pervasive. What we’re going to see if these things gets worse — travel restrictions become more and more severe and more fear spreads throughout the general public — then you see the people coming to Hawaii for business or vacations will drop off significantly,” he said. “Our economy is so overburdened and based on tourism. It could turn into another 9/11. Literally, Lahaina visitor places were ghost towns; people were laid off in droves. It will completely take us down.”

read … Hawaii officials ponder new coronavirus’ economic impact

Weight: Road Tax Could Hit Trucks 5,000 Times Harder

IM: The Hawaii Department of Transportation recently sent out a letter to some residents in Hawai`i.

“The gas tax is no longer doing its job. Help us by joining the conversation on a new way to pay for our roads.” – Jade Butay, HDOT”…

“While a truck axle carrying 18,000 pounds is only 9 times heavier than a 2,000-pound automobile axle, it does 5,000 times more damage,” according to a 1979 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, “Truck Weight and Its Effect on Highways.”

(Translation: They want to charge trucks 5,000 times more per mile.)

Minnesota has conducted a number of analyses on the impact of weight on roads

Chart of the Day: Vehicle Weight vs Road Damage Levels

The Hawai`i Department of Transportation is encouraging people to take a survey….

HDOT FAQ: “Would different types of cars be charged different rates? Possibly. The per-mile rate could vary based on vehicle weight, emissions, and other factors. This gas tax doesn’t have this flexibility. The per-mile rate on this Driving Report is the same for all cars and is based on what the average car pays in gas tax today.”

The gas tax on a per-mile basis is cheaper for people who drive more efficient vehicles. This would disappear under a flat fee per mile. Those who drive unregistered vehicles (They want you to ride a bicycle) would see their costs decrease as they would stop paying a gas tax and would not pay a mileage tax….

Heavy vehicle owners are subsidized under both the gas tax and the mileage tax. An alternative would be to pay a weight tax based on the maximum vehicle weight per square inch of tire making contact with the road….

read … Hawai`i Car Drivers Subsidize Truck Drivers

Hawaii lawmakers again propose raising car rental tax to $8 per day

SA: … State lawmakers for the second straight year are proposing to increase the state’s daily car rental tax as a way to fund more highway construction projects that would hopefully reduce traffic congestion.

The House Finance Committee on Tuesday approved House Bill 1930, which would increase the daily surcharge from the current $5 per day to an as-yet unspecified amount. The original draft of the bill would have set the new fee at $8 per day, but lawmakers have not made a final decision on how much the fee should be increased, if at all.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee, meanwhile, approved Senate Bill 2687 on Tuesday to increase the car rental surcharge to $8 per day on Maui only. That bill calls for the extra money from the surcharge increase to be spent on Maui’s Honoapiilani Highway realignment project….

With 10 million tourists visiting Hawaii each year, the rental car surcharge has become a significant source of revenue for the state. Lawmakers increased the rental car surcharge to $5 from $3 per day last year, which transportation officials projected would haul in an extra $30 million a year….

SA: Yet another rental car fee increase?

read … Hawaii lawmakers again propose raising car rental tax

OHA Working to Transform Telescope Protests into Voting Bloc

CB: … The unique tenor of Mauna Kea, which has consistently held fast to aloha and non-violence, has created a particularly fertile political ecosystem for Hawaiians. Specifically, there are large grassroots communities that appear not only willing, but eager, to vote in the upcoming 2020 elections.

This is a new, potentially exciting opportunity to elevate the role of Hawaiians in a real political force, but will require Hawaiians to become a mindful voting block. This potential elevation is about much more than just voting, it is about identifying and agreeing on issues important to Hawaiians.

This is where the Office of Hawaiian Affairs plays an important role. It recently sent out a survey to beneficiaries seeking input on identifying priorities within the Hawaiian community. Hopefully, OHA will share the results broadly, because the results become a critical opportunity for Hawaiians to begin to rally around specific political issues, like affordable housing, health care, or education.

This step forward also provides an important response to entities like the University of Hawaii, whose leadership has been critical that Hawaiians have been willing to heavily engage in issues like the TMT but appeared less concerned about broader issues impacting the Hawaiian community.

It is simply incorrect to think that Hawaiians, like many others in the state, are not deeply concerned about affordable housing, livable wages and education — of course Hawaiians care. What remains more challenging and elusive is what “average people” can do about these systemic problems. The reality is that large institutional problems require institutional solutions – and these are, quite frankly, often elusive to identify….

read … The Stakes Are High For Hawaiians To Get Out The Vote

Star-Adv: Legislators Should Demand Real Law Enforcement on Mauna Kea

SA Editorial: … Kim is now asking the TMT stakeholders to wait for two more months in hopes that additional time will help resolve controversy surrounding telescope construction. There’s scant evidence — in the public sphere, at least — that this tactic would yield anything more than more undue delay….

It’s clear that both perspectives are grounded in reverence for the site. And it stands to reason that both Native Hawaiian culture and next-generation science could co-exist — collaborate, even — and thrive on Mauna Kea. But protest leaders, some exuding near-religious fervor, have dug into a divisive zero- sum stance….

One protest leader, Andre Perez, said protesters would be open to a truce extension as long as it is not tied to construction, which they view as desecration. If this intractable position represents overall protest sentiment, is further discussion even an option?

Also, contributing to the stalemate is the governor’s tepid stance, which so far has fallen short of demonstrating firm support for TMT construction….

Just before July 10, Ige had vowed state and county law enforcement would deal with any potential obstacles facing TMT work crews. The upshot? About $15 million already spent on law enforcement operations to cope with TMT protests — which, for the most part, have looked more like a sitting service than enforcement of the law….

On Tuesday, the state House approved a draft of the new state operating budget that cut more than $65 million in funding that Ige had requested for law enforcement operations tasked with managing disturbances, including TMT protests.

It’s likely that some of that unpalatable sum will be restored before the Legislature wraps up in May. But, lawmakers should attach to whatever public funds are allocated a condition requiring reasonable enforcement of the law — in the case of the TMT project, this means no longer allowing protesters to illegally block the access road….

read … Editorial: True progress on TMT still elusive

Hawaii Among States Picking Up Funding For Planned Parenthood Clinics

HPR: … Several states have begun picking up the tab for family planning services at clinics run by Planned Parenthood, which last year quit a $260 million federal funding program over a Trump administration rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.

States including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Hawaii already are providing new funding, and Democratic governors in Connecticut and Pennsylvania have proposed carving out money in state budgets to counter the effects of the national provider's fallout with the Republican presidential administration.

The proposals have stirred political debates over abortion at the state level, with some opponents claiming it's a government endorsement of abortion and an inappropriate use of taxpayer money….

some of the rejected federal funds have been replenished by state or local funds in Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Vermont, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, California and New York. Hawaii's current fiscal year budget sets aside $750,000 to partly cover a $2 million loss in Title X grant money…..

read … Hawaii Among States Picking Up Funding For Planned Parenthood Clinics

Hawaii DOE’s Next 10-Year Vision Will Have To Wait

CB: … “We should at least spend more than an hour … digesting it and inviting stakeholders to participate (in the feedback),” said board member Brian De Lima at a meeting Thursday.

DOE officials made the 29-page document public last Friday, giving the board less than a week to read it over and formulate questions for discussion.

Board members deferred taking any action on the plan until a later date….

The goals are broad and ambitious (Pollyannaish). The DOE envisions raising proficiency in language arts, where only 54% of students hit statewide achievement targets, and math, where only 43% of students meet the targets, to the mid-90% range within 10 years. The department also aims at lowering the the chronic absenteeism rate from 15% to 3% in that same time frame.

read … Hawaii DOE’s Next 10-Year Vision Will Have To Wait

Will DoT Regulate Uber/Lyft?

CB: … House Bill 2002 and Senate Bill 2808 would both put ride-hailing services under the auspices of the state Department of Transportation. However, they fall short of regulating them to the extent of taxicabs, which local transportation companies feel puts them at a disadvantage….

The Legislature tried last year to pass a law regulating transportation network companies but it was ultimately hung up late in the session.

House Bill 2002 and Senate Bill 2808 are modeled after a law passed in the City and County of Honolulu in 2016. 

Under both bills, the companies would need to run potential drivers through background checks. They’d need to pay permitting fees to operate in the state….

Both HB 2002 and SB 2808 explicitly state that drivers are independent contractors and not employees….  

Uber and Lyft support both but they prefer the Senate bill, which has largely been left untouched since it was first introduced. The original versions of both bills were already agreed upon by Uber, Lyft and the state Department of Transportation….

HB 2002 was amended to give more power to the DOT to launch investigations if they received complaints from riders. It would also create a lengthy hearings process conducted by the DOT regarding any complaints of drivers. Documents related to the investigation would be made public after the hearings conclude.

Those amendments were originally found in a separate bill, HB 2643, which was put forward by the Hawaii Passenger and Property Carriers Association, a new group that’s lobbying on behalf of taxis and other carriers, and had the support of Robert’s Hawaii and the Hawaii Transportation Association, a longstanding group that serves the broader commercial ground transportation industry.

That bill had the support of local transportation companies but was opposed by Uber and Lyft.

HB 2643 included stronger provisions in fare transparency and would require companies to show proof of insurance as well as proof that they are registered to pay the state’s general excise tax.

It also would have set up a lengthier process for potential drivers to apply with the state….

Hawaii’s four county mayors have all asked the Legislature to allow them to charge ride-hailing companies a per-ride fee that could go toward funding infrastructure projects.

SB 2122 would allow them to do that. It’s awaiting a hearing by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which it needs to clear before Feb. 28 if it hopes to stay alive this session.

read … Uber And Lyft Are Fine With Hawaii Regulating Them — Just Not Too Much

Waianae man receives one of the strongest sentences in Hawaii state history    

KHON: … A Waianae man that was accused of attempted murder and gun charges received one of the strongest sentences in Hawaii State history on Thursday morning. Circuit Judge Paul B.K. Wong sentenced Lafoga to two consecutive life sentences, ensuring that Lafoga will never be released on parole.

Prosecutors said that Lafoga shot Kele Stout four times with a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun in September 2015. Lafoga then drove Stout to a store where Lafoga went to purchase accelerant to burn Stout’s body and work van. Stout managed to escape and drove himself to the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center where he received lifesaving treatment….

Ranier Ines, Lafoga’s accomplice, will be sentenced July 30. Ines also faces a life sentence….

HNN: Man who shot victim 5 times gets life sentence without possibility for parole

read … Waianae man receives one of the strongest sentences in Hawaii state history

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