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Wednesday, March 04, 2020
March 4, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:01 PM :: 1144 Views

Pine: Risk of Corona Virus Recession Means Hold off 'Nice-to-Have' Projects Like Blaisdell

HR 54 Corona Virus: House Select Committee Formed

House Passes Economic package, budget, mental health bills

Officer Kaulike Kalama Funeral Service Information

Youth Vaping 'Epidemic' All Hype

Corona Virus Recession Could Kill Preschool Expansion, Tax Credits for Poor

SA: … The state House approved bills Tuesday to increase tax credits to help renters and to offset the impact of the state excise tax on food, and another measure to dramatically expand the state’s earned income tax credit. Each of those proposals is designed to provide tax relief to help make Hawaii more affordable for working families.

But those initiatives would cost the state upward of $73 million a year, and they now may be hanging in the balance. Other initiatives advanced by lawmakers Tuesday such as a push to sharply expand preschool access for 3- and 4-year-olds also could be in jeopardy.

A panel of experts called the Council on Revenues is scheduled to make new projections next week to try to account for the likely impact of the COVID-19 virus on state tax collections, and a grim prognosis could force lawmakers to reconsider their plans.

At its last meeting in January, the council predicted tax collections for this year will grow by 4.1% and then grow by another 4% in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars of extra cash for the state treasury, but a sharp downturn in the state’s critically important tourism industry could change all that….

SA: Hawaii’s tourism industry wobbles amid mounting cancellations

read … Minimum wage increase and tax credits are approved

State: Hawaii saw a $23M drop in visitor spending last month

KHON: … So far this week, three large events slated for Honolulu have been postponed or canceled, including the Honolulu Festival.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reported a $23 million drop in visitor expenditures last month and a 7.3% decline in international passengers….

read … State: Hawaii saw a $23M drop in visitor spending last month

Add Councilman Arthur Brun to list of public employees getting paid while not working

KHON: … Keith Kaneshiro, Donna Leong, and now Arthur Brun. All are earning taxpayer funded salaries, even though they can’t perform their duties.

While they are still presumed innocent under the law, some say it doesn’t have to be this way.

Attorney Eric Seitz says there’s been many cases when employers have fired their workers well before they have been convicted of any crimes.

The latest on the list is Kauai Councilman Arthur Brun who was indicted last week on drug trafficking and firearms charges and is in federal custody. He will continue to earn $5,216 a month unless he’s convicted.

Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro put himself on leave in March of last year after receiving a target letter from federal investigators, and is still earning $170,712 a year.

Same goes for the city’s top attorney Donna Leong, on leave since January last year, and earning $165,552 a year, after negotiating the $250,000 severance pay for outgoing HPD Chief Louis Kealoha.

“The fact of the matter is we should not be paying public officials or public employees for an extended period of time if they’re not actually working,” said Seitz….

State lawmakers are looking to punish public officials who commit crimes by cutting their pensions. Kealoha continues to earn his pension of about $150,000 a year even though he’s a convicted felon. There are a few bills now moving through the session, including one for a ballot question, that would freeze the public worker’s pension. But that also only applies to someone convicted of a crime.

Lawmakers have tried to address the issue with pensions before but have failed. We’ll see what happens at the end of this session….

Related:

read … Add Councilman Arthur Brun to list of public employees getting paid while not working

Hawaii’s teacher shortage explained by a teacher who left

WHT: … On the Big Island, at least the cost of living is not prohibitive on a teacher’s salary and the Hawaii State Teachers Association has negotiated a good contract that is fair to all parties concerned. So, everything is set for Hawaii to be an educational powerhouse and a leader in American education except for one thing.

Hawaii has terrible administrators and school leaders.

My own experience as someone who was recruited from Oregon to move to teach in Pahoa echoes this reality. I came with high expectation and achieved great successes in the classroom, instituting National History Day and other inquiry-based programs schoolwide at the charter where I worked. My students and parents liked me and I built relationships full of aloha.

However, my unaccountable administrator was quick to scold and slow to praise. He was suspicious of outsiders, despite needing teachers from off-island to fill the ranks of educators at his school. So, after a little more than two years I left, not because the kids were in any way deficient, or because of pay or facilities issues. I left, as so many idealistic mainland based teachers do, because I could not work where I was not respected and trusted to do the job I had been given.

If Hawaii Island and the whole state are serious about improving outcomes for our keiki, we need to seriously consider the role of administrators in schools and hold them accountable for the high rates of turnover, which they don’t just experience but directly cause. This way all of us can be held accountable for the children who are truly Hawaii’s future.….

read … Hawaii’s teacher shortage explained by a teacher who left

Hawaii lawmakers propose new state agency for getting around state laws

Cataluna: … Lawmakers are talking about creating a special state agency that would be exempt from the laws that state lawmakers have made….

The current proposal to establish a School Facilities Agency is dressed up in the irresistible language of “keiki” and “future” but the potential for corruption and mayhem can be seen from a mile away.

First of all, this isn’t so much about repair and maintenance of public schools. DAGS does that, though some may argue, not very well. No, this new separate kingdom would look at things like working with private developers to make deals to build new buildings on school campuses, redeveloping current campuses and building schools where new housing developments are going to be.

There are public schools now occupying land that might be very attractive to large developers and which could be sold off or long-term-leased in sweetheart deals … think of what could be built on campuses near the rail line, along the shore or in tony neighborhoods.

The current proposal is to exempt this real estate development agency from budgeting, procurement, environmental protection regulations and the Sunshine Law. …

Testimony from state agencies on the bill points to big problems, as in this paragraph from the Department of Land and Natural Resources:

“As currently proposed, the Agency is not required to consider the historic properties, including burial sites, that may be affected by its projects. Thirty-six public schools are listed in the national register of historic places. In addition, some public schools that are not on this list of 36 nationally recognized historic properties are historically significant. The Chapter 6E, HRS, exemption would allow the Agency to alter, damage, or even demolish those historic properties without any consideration of their historical importance. This exemption makes it highly likely that important historic properties, including burial sites will be altered, damaged, or destroyed by agency projects.”

The State Procurement Office offered both cautionary words and a real-life example:

“In general, construction projects exempt from the (Hawaii Public Procurement Code) can be very problematic in maintaining public trust. In 2010, Act 82 granted the Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii an exemption from the Code for construction projects. The processes developed were controversial and perceived as subjective and unfair and, as a result, the legislature repealed the president’s authority as the chief procurement officer for construction.” ….

read … Hawaii lawmakers propose new state agency for getting around state laws

Phoney Baloney #1: Environmentalists Working Hard to Make Affordable Housing Impossible

SA: … Slated to go before the Honolulu City Council next month is Bill 25, which updates the city’s Energy Conservation Code…

Twelve years ago, the state enacted a law requiring new homes to be built with solar water heaters. (Thus increasing the cost of construction.) But allowable exemptions, such as in cases of inadequate sunlight or installation of a gas appliance, created a loophole (justice opportunity) that prompted a lawsuit, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club and Hawaii Solar Energy Association (all desperately working to increase the cost of housing to keep the little people out of paradise).

Last year, a Circuit Court judge ruled that the state had wrongfully been allowing “wholesale” exemptions: In recent years, it had approved 99% of requests for exemption, clearing the way for fossil- fuel-powered tankless gas water heaters.

Following the ruling, the state has … expanded its vetting process, setting the exemption bar much higher (thus achieving the enviros goal of increasing the cost of housing even more).

Bill 25’s initial draft required installation of solar or an alternate technology that advances renewable energy. Technology to be tapped in exemption cases would include: a grid-interactive water heater; a heat pump water heater; or a gas-powered water heater fueled by a source that’s at least 90% renewable.

That proposal would have essentially shut out tankless gas water heaters. Today’s revised Bill 25 tethers Honolulu to the state’s tightened standards: while it would take a clean-energy step forward over the city’s existing energy code, it is less ambitious than the original bill…. 

The initial proposal for electric-vehicle infrastructure required, in most cases, that at least 25% of parking stalls in new multi-unit residential structures must be “EV charger ready”; and that new single-family houses be similarly fitted with wiring and conduit for charging.

The revised Bill 25 exempts multi-unit housing reserved for residents with incomes at or below Honolulu’s area median income, which is set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development….

Requiring 25% of new affordable-housing stalls to be EV-ready likely overshoots current demand, as many in such households are likely to be driving less-expensive gasoline vehicles.  (But that’s OK because the real goal is to make housing even less affordable)

read … Editorial: Don’t water down energy initiatives

Phoney Baloney #2 SB3110: Hawaii lawmakers take aim at international home buyers as foreign sales drop

PBN: … The Hawaii Senate has passed a bill that would ban foreign individuals and businesses from acquiring residential real estate, while data from Title Guaranty shows sales to foreign buyers dropped by 42% last year.

Senate Bill 3110 takes aim at the international buyer who “artificially increases competition in the market and drives prices” out of reach to local buyers.

Only 539 homes, less than 3% of the total number of homes sold in Hawaii last year, were sold to foreign buyers, a 42% drop from 929 properties sold in 2018, according to Title Guaranty.

The bill specifies that “a nonresident alien shall not acquire, own, or hold any interest, directly or indirectly, in any threshold property,” which refers to a residential property with a main structure that was built at least five years before the sale.

After clearing the Water-and-Land and Judiciary committees, SB3110 passed third reading on Tuesday and will now be sent to the House for consideration….

read … Hawaii lawmakers take aim at international home buyers as foreign sales drop

Phoney Baloney #3:  Hawaii Bills to Ban Coal; Offshore Oil & Gas Exploration

IM: … Senator Gabbard introduced SB 259 last year and SB 2780 this year.

The bills would both prohibit offshore drilling for oil or natural gas in state marine waters and prohibit issuing permits to pursue any such drilling operations….

A would-be ocean driller in state waters would need to spend millions of dollars on state permits, and even if approved, would get nothing in return, as there are no oil and gas reserves in state waters.

SB 2780 passed the Senate by a vote of 25-0 on March 3, 2020. Now the State House can decide whether to spend time advancing a bill that has no impact on anything….

HB2657 HD3 has a misleading title: “Relating to a Coal-Free Hawaii.”

The bill would not regulate charcoal, biochar, or coal in general. The bill deals only with coal use that is currently regulated.

The bill would ban the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Health from approving any new, modified, or renewed permit for a regulated use of coal.

This bill applies only to the AES coal plant in Kalaeloa, the largest fossil fuel generator in the State….

Hawai`i might get media coverage for being the first State to ban coal….

read … Hawai`i Bills to Ban Coal; Offshore Oil & Gas Exploration

Electric scooter company waits to operate until state laws change

KHON: … “We don’t have electric scooters in the law right now and that’s what we are establishing,” said Senator Lorraine Inouye.

Inouye says electric scooters are considered illegal on public roadways. One proposal would add a new definition for these devices and they would not be considered mopeds.

“The counties are to decide how they would like to manage to have the scooters; however, we do have some regulations already in the bill,” said Inouye.

LINK: SB2995 SD1

read … Electric scooter company waits to operate until state laws change

Endless Cycle of Retaliation: 8 Years Later Scott Nago’s Game Still in Court

HTH: … Hawaii County is suing an attorney representing former Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi in a 2012 defamation lawsuit filed by Elections Administrator Pat Nakamoto, saying the money Yagong and Kawauchi paid him rightfully belongs to the county.

Kailua-Kona attorney Frank Jung asked the county Board of Ethics to weigh in on the county’s claim that Jung, who worked as a part-time legal specialist in the County Clerk’s office during Yagong’s and Kawauchi’s tenure, was barred from working on the case in his private practice for at least 12 months after leaving county government.

The county, in an Oct. 29, 2018 complaint, wants Jung to turn over the $84,928 Yagong and Kawauchi paid him to defend them in the lawsuit after he left the county. The complaint also says Jung is not entitled to $250,859 in fees and costs for representing the two….

2012: Hawaii County Election: It’s the Girlfriend, Stupid

read … Hawaii County sues attorney

Maui: Time for people to decide on county manager system

MN: … After years of political duplicity, countless reviews and studies, the citizens, not the politicians, may finally get an opportunity to decide how we wish to be governed, as the issue can now be placed on the November ballot after a full council vote….

read … Time for people to decide on county manager system

HPU Enrollment Drops, Debt Soars

CB: …Enrollment at Hawaii Pacific University has plummeted more than 50% over the past decade. And as revenue from tuition and fees has dropped so have the number of faculty, with those that remain facing salary freezes for the better part of a decade.

Meanwhile, the university has accumulated a mountain of debt, some $75 million in bonds to service. In the past few years, its operating losses have swelled from less than $2 million to $13 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019….

read … Hawaii’s Largest Private College Is Fighting For Its Future

Hawaii bankruptcies rose 27% in February

SA: … Hawaii’s slow-growth economy saw a 27.1% jump in February bankruptcy filings in what could portend continued increases through 2020 if the coronavirus affects the state’s tourism industry.

The 136 cases last month were the most for any February since 149 were filed in 2014, according to data released Monday from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Hawaii. There were 107 filings in February 2019….

Honolulu bankruptcy attorney Blake Goodman expects the number of cases to rise in 2020 for the third year in a row.

“The last two years it’s been a 10 or 11% increase, and I predict this year there’s going to be an accelerated increase of filings — maybe a 15 to 17% increase,” he said. “The coronavirus is just a trigger, but the overdue economic slump and recessionary forces are certainly going to take hold in the mainland economy. The mainland gets a cough and Hawaii gets pneumonia.”…

read … Hawaii bankruptcies rose 27% in February

Tulsi Gabbard Gets 103 Votes in Am Samoa--her best showing anywhere 
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