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Monday, March 16, 2020
March 16, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:27 PM :: 1513 Views

Corona Virus: HIDOE extends spring break thru March 27

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted March 14, 2020

SB2038: COVID-19 Becomes Excuse to Abolish Sunshine Law 

CB: … Senate Bill 2038 would exempt boards from Hawaii’s Sunshine Law on meetings when emergencies like COVID-19 are in effect….On Monday afternoon the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to decide the fate of Senate Bill 2038, which could give government boards the authority to exclude the public from board meetings under two conditions: that the meetings are accessible via “interactive conference technology,” and when Hawaii is under a state of emergency “due to a contagious illness,” as the latest proposed draft of the bill reads….

An emergency proclamation has been in place since March 5, when Gov. David Ige allowed the state “to work quickly and efficiently to prevent, contain and mitigate the spread” of coronavirus and to provide disaster relief if necessary.

But the idea to exclude the public from being in the same room when board members meet came Thursday at the behest of the very state agency tasked with making sure the public has access to meetings and records….

SB2038: Text, Status  UPDATE: "This measure has been deleted from the meeting scheduled on Monday 03-16-20 2:05PM in conference room 325."

March 11, 2020: COVID-19: Legislators Cut off Public Access

read … Don’t Keep The Public From Participating In Public Policy During A Crisis

Hawaii Gun Violence Commission Would Leave The Public In The Dark

CB: … Hawaii lawmakers want to set up a new commission to study and address gun violence and violent crimes but its meetings would be closed to the public and it wouldn’t have to release its records.

In the wake of the January incident on Hibiscus Drive that killed two Honolulu police officers and torched several Diamond Head homes, legislators have been thinking about possible ways to bring together law enforcement and mental health agencies to share information and resources to prevent such incidents, said state Rep. Chris Lee, a main sponsor of House Bill 2744….

A second part of HB 2744 seeks to ban the manufacture or purchase of parts for the purpose of assembling such guns with no serial numbers….

However, gun groups are taking issue with the bill’s vague wording, saying it would criminalize just about any object that could be used to make a homemade gun.

“This legislation would include any item that may be used to make a firearm receiver, such as a block of aluminum, a block of plastic, or even a shovel,” Yukutake of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition wrote in his testimony….

read … Hawaii Gun Violence Commission Would Leave The Public In The Dark

HB2543: Will KSBE Get the Money?

CB: … HB 2543 as it stands now would expand Hawaii’s Preschool Open Doors program to both 3- and 4-year-olds; set up a special fund within the Department of Human Services to make this program more widely available; require parents to disclose which pre-K program their kindergarteners attended, if any; and require the DOE to assess kindergarteners, among other things.

It also establishes a new “Early Learning Coordinator” role within the Office of the Governor to basically oversee the preschool expansion effort.

Preschool Open Doors works like a voucher system: it offers subsidies to eligible working families to apply toward a childcare program licensed by DHS. That agency does safety and background checks of facilities, but it does not assess any educational component of the program.

The Executive Office on Early Learning is keen on expanding high-quality public pre-K programs, of which there are currently 44 classrooms in operation at 36 DOE and charter schools.

In testimony to the Legislature, EOEL’s executive director Lauren Moriguchi commended the bill’s intention to expand childcare access for working and lower-income families. At the same time, she urged lawmakers to “focus on more than access — we must improve the quality of their care and education experiences.”

The Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, whose subsidiary, the Hawaii Council of Private Schools, licenses all private K-12 schools in Hawaii, recommends the bill contain a working definition of preschool to distinguish academic programs from other child care programs. It also wants to see more appropriations to the former….

Meanwhile: Report Ties Hawaii Youth Suicide Rate to HSTA Grab for HGEA Positions

2009: Supreme Court ruling shields Hawaiian Homelands and ceded lands revenue

read … Advocates Want More Emphasis On High Quality Pre-K In Early Education Bill

Bill to boost teacher pay moves over to House—BoE Property Tax Bill Dead

HTH: … Senate Bill 2488 has crossed over to the state House for consideration….

As the current draft stands, the legislation would allocate $26,769,500 out of the state’s general revenues in the 2020-21 fiscal year to fund discretionary teacher salary adjustments as part of an “experimental modernization project” tackling teacher pay equity issues, pay differentials for certain teachers, or both.

There also would be $1,933,500 allocated for charter schools to provide compensation for shortage differentials, and $9,082,380 for fringe benefit costs….

The measure passed first reading in the House and has been referred to the committees on Labor and Public Employment, Lower and Higher Education, and Finance.

The bill was scheduled to be heard last Friday by the Labor and Public Employment and Lower and Higher Education committees.

Meanwhile, legislation introduced by state House Speaker Scott Saiki that would have allowed residents to vote on an amendment to Hawaii’s constitution to give the state Board of Education “concurrent real property tax authority” to help fund teacher compensation, did not gain traction….

House Bill 2671 was not heard by any of the House committees to which it was referred….

read … Bill to boost teacher pay moves over to House

Sorry Kirk, COVID-19 won’t delay rail’s scheduled opening this year, says the head of HART

SA: … Andrew Robbins, executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, said Friday he doesn’t expect any long-term impacts either and that it’s still too early to say definitively how the pandemic will affect the financing picture of the 20-mile rail line, the largest public works project in Hawaii history.

The project’s initial segment, from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, is expected to be completed and start “interim service” by December, and Robbins is sticking to that projection….

(Translation: Caldwell is still gonna have to pay for rail operations in this budget.)

On Thursday, city Budget Director Nelson Koyanagi told the City Council Budget Committee it’s uncertain how the coronavirus will affect Oahu’s economy and how that might affect HART’s revenue situation. A majority of the project is being funded through general excise and hotel room taxes.

If revenues don’t come in as projected, city taxpayers may be forced to foot the bill as a last resort, Koyanagi said.

But Robbins said based on the latest projection by state economists showing a $400 million overall hit to state taxes, it’s a situation HART can deal with.

“From my perspective, if this is a short-term impact to the economy, that’s something we can weather and make up for,” Robbins said. “And that’s the big unknown, is how long the economic impact will be. I don’t think anybody knows that.”

HART’s slice of that $400 million pie is less than 0.5% of the GET and 1% of the hotel tax, which the agency’s staff projected to be about $2 million. “If the coronavirus situation is a two-month event and it has a relatively small impact, we could weather the storm,” Robbins said. “If it goes on for a year or more, that could be a different issue.”

Ruth Lohr, HART’s chief financial officer, said her staff’s projections are much more conservative. “Even within a $10 million hit, we could still absorb that,” she said….

“At this time there’s no change to any of our schedules or budgets,” Robbins said in a conference call with reporters. “We talked to our contractors. … They’ve all been advising their employees about hand-washing, safe practices, if you don’t feel well, who to call; but other than that, it’s been business as usual. They’ve been out their working.”…

One possible glitch that HART officials are monitoring closely has to do with Hitachi Rail Honolulu Joint Venture, which holds the contract to provide the project’s 20 trains.

Hitachi Rail notified HART on Feb. 27 that it is starting to feel an impact on its equipment supply chain, and warned that the coronavirus pandemic constitutes “unforeseeable delays attributable to the ‘force majeure event,’” essentially a situation beyond the control of the contractor. As a result, the letter said, Hitachi Rail should be granted an “extension of time, thus exempting us from any liability for any application of penalties and damages.”

The global contractor is headquartered in Italy, the European nation hardest-hit by the coronavirus, and it receives equipment and parts from China, where the outbreak originated….

HART responded by letter to Hitachi Rail on March 7 saying it disagrees.

“It has yet to be seen that (Hitachi Rail) has or will experience any inability to procure necessary material or labor,” said HART’s response, written by project manager Jeffrey Siehien. “‘Difficulty in obtaining material or labor does not constitute a force majeure event,” Siehien wrote. “If labor and/or material can be obtained from other sources or locations, the affects of COVID-19 ‘can be avoided or prevented by … use of reasonable efforts’” by Hitachi….

Hitachi Rail’s office in Genoa, Italy, remains open, although some employees are working from home, Robbins said.

“We have the materials now” to complete the interim service segment, he said. “There’s just one or two components I’ve been advised that we’re waiting on, and we anticipate them to be delivered next week.”

HART only needs six of the 20 trains to begin interim service, Robbins said.

“By and large, we’ll have all the trains by next month that we need,” he said, noting that they are being assembled in California….

There are 11 four-car trains on the island, another one “on the dock in California” that’s ready to ship, and a 13th one that’s still being constructed and is expected to ship next month….

read … COVID-19 won’t delay rail’s scheduled opening this year, says the head of HART

Heiress said her estate won’t go to Hawaiians

SA: … Campbell Estate heiress Abigail Kawananakoa told a psychiatrist in January that she changed her mind about leaving the bulk of her estate to the Hawaiian people, a statement that contradicts her testimony in court last week.

The words came out during an interview conducted as part of a psychiatric evaluation by Dr. James E. Spar, professor emeritus of the UCLA Department of Psychology.

The evaluation’s report, a copy of which was obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, was commissioned by Michael Rudy, attorney for Kawananakoa’s spouse, Veronica Gail Worth Kawananakoa, and is entered into evidence and hidden from public view under court seal.

(Therefore) … Circuit Court Judge James Ashford ruled Thursday that Kawananakoa, 93, is unfit to manage her own finances….

Kawananakoa told Spar that “when I said I’m going to leave the bulk of my estate to the Hawaiian people, that’s a falsehood and I never said it.”

She later said, “I know who I’m not going to leave it to, and that’s to the Hawaiian people.”…

Related: Kawananakoa Estate: Sex, Drugs, and Inequality

read … Heiress said her estate won’t go to Hawaiians

FAA Has Long Resisted Safety Board Calls For Tougher Air Tour Oversight

CB: … Recommendations for Hawaii have been stalled by the bureaucratic tug of war for decades. Yet crashes continue….

read … FAA Has Long Resisted Safety Board Calls For Tougher Air Tour Oversight

COVID-19:  How One Case Got to Maui 

MN: … An Air Canada flight attendant who developed symptoms of COVID-19 after arriving on Maui is the island’s first confirmed case of the virus, Gov. David Ige announced Sunday afternoon.

The woman is believed to be a Canadian citizen who arrived on Maui on March 8 and developed symptoms March 9. State officials said that they did not have the woman’s flight information and that she was not sick while she traveled.

“We believe that risk to any passengers on the previous flight is low,” Ige said during a news conference on Oahu.

Ige said that the woman was exposed to a confirmed case in Germany on March 4. After being notified of the exposure and developing symptoms, the woman self-isolated at the Royal Lahaina Resort. A sample was collected Wednesday March 11, and after results came back positive for COVID-19, the woman was moved by first responders into isolation at a Lahaina clinic.

The Royal Lahaina said Sunday afternoon that the woman was in contact with the state Department of Health, and that the resort did not learn of her condition until the department told them Saturday night.….

The woman stayed at the hotel from March 8 to Saturday March 14 in self-quarantine and did not visit any common areas, the resort stated. No one at the hotel came in close contact with her, and no one was under self-quarantine as of Sunday evening….

read …  Flight attendant is Maui’s first case of COVID-19

Hawaii test drives COVID-19 drive-thru screening program in Kaneohe

KITV: … Designed so you don't ever get out of your car, the pilot program was organized by Premier Medical Group Hawaii with support from Walgreens, which is considering starting a national version of the drive-thru clinic.

Residents who showed up for the clinic from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday did not have to bring a doctor's order but were screened by Dr. Scott Miscovich, president and founder of Premier Medical Group Hawaii and senior advisor to Lieutenant Governor Josh Green. He says the COVID-19 task force took a page from South Korea's playbook in setting up the clinic.

During the initial screening, Dr. Miscovich asked questions about symptoms, travel history and possible exposure. If the resident met the criteria for COVID-19 testing, he/she was sent to the next step where staff collected personal information about the patient, including physician's name and insurance, and photographed IDs….

As of Saturday morning, only about 60 people in Hawaii have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Today, Dr. Miscovich said the same number of people were tested in 6 hours, out of 219 people who showed up.

Among those tested, Honolulu City Council chair Ikaika Anderson and his wife Lisa, who works closely with the homeless. Both say they experienced mild symptoms….

WHT: North Hawaii Community Hospital to be COVID-19 testing site

Meanwhile: Coronavirus vaccine test opens with first doses

read … Hawaii test drives COVID-19 drive-thru screening program in Kaneohe

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