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Saturday, January 15, 2011
January 15, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:19 PM :: 5097 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Honolulu Grand Jury charges two more in human trafficking case

Goodwin Liu to rule over Hawaii? Obama’s Most Radical Judicial Nominee re-nominated for 2011

Tax hikes? Gambling? Defeated bills from 2010 session may reappear in 2011

Reince Priebus elected Republican National Committee Chair

State's RNC members sided with new GOP chairman

The head of Hawaii's Republican Party on Friday said all three of the state's representatives to the Republican National Committee backed the winner of an intense fight for the group's chairmanship.

State GOP Chairman Jonah Kaauwai said he, Miriam Hellreich and Brennon Morioka voted for Reince Priebus of Wisconsin.

RELATED: Reince Priebus elected Republican National Committee Chair

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Hannemann says he won’t challenge Akaka in 2012

HONOLULU (AP) - Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann says he won't challenge U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the 2012 Democratic primary.

The 56-year-old Hannemann told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in Friday editions that as long as the 86-year-old Akaka is in office, Hannemann won't run against him.

Hannemann said he'll consider running for Senate if there's an opening.

SA: Mufi Hannemann

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Arakawa sticks to open-door office pledge

County spokesman Rod Antone said the doors would be "open all the time now" during business hours - although visitors must still check in with a receptionist when they arrive to set up a walk-in appointment with an available staff member.

"It's just his way of saying, 'Hey, come and see us, we want to hear what you have to say,' " Antone said.

"You have to come in, sign in and if the person you want to see is available, you can sit down and talk with them."

During the campaign, Tavares said the doors were locked for security reasons, with county employees able to enter with a key card. She also said at the time that receptionists would help visitors make an appointment with staffers if they were available.

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State labor contracts making it hard for county to balance budget

HILO -- A commission looking for ways to reduce the cost of county government is finding itself increasingly stymied by union benefits negotiated at the state level.

The Cost of Government Commission met Friday to continue winnowing a list of cost-saving and revenue-enhancing recommendations it plans to include in a report to Mayor Billy Kenoi and the County Council before the end of June.

But with employee salaries and benefits accounting for 55 percent of the county budget, commissioners said they are frustrated by a system blocking their ability to make a real difference. The commission decided to include recommendations on those matters anyway.

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Gambling Opponents, Supporters Lining Up for Start of Hawaii Legislature

“There’s no doubt about it being an economic value,” said John Radcliffe, a former teacher who has held a number of union executive and private consulting  positions and is now one of the Hawaii’s top lobbyists. Among his clients are gaming interests who’d like to see a casino in or near Waikiki.

“I know there are members of the legislature who are no longer opposed to it as they have been in the past.”

There are other reasons to believe gambling may receive more attention after the legislature starts up on Jan. 19.

Several legislators who opposed wagering have moved on, including former Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, now serving in the U.S. Congress, and Sen. Dwight Takamine, who has been nominated to head the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations….

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Mercado Kim suggests Abercrombie Administration filled with inexperienced incompetents

But the fact that even the governor's small office couldn't finalize its budget in time to meet with senators made Vice President Donna Mercado Kim question whether the administration knew what it was doing with the entire state budget. (Of course they don’t.  But they are enlightened, conscious, and progressive, God-like almost.  So they don’t have to know what they are doing.)

Asselbaye replied that the Department Budget and Finance does, in fact, know the final budget request for the office but wanted to make certain nothing was missing. She said an emergency appropriation will be submitted to the Legislature no later than Jan. 24.

But Kim remained troubled.

"I am concerned some people (in Cabinet departments) have absolutely no experience," she said. "You have to make sure you are up and running, as we were told in the campaign, when you come before us. Just thought I'd share that with you — that you have got to to get directors up and running."

"I know the directors are working as hard as they can," Asselbaye replied.

No doubt that they are. But so is the Legislature, and they are growing anxious about the budget.

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Tokuda pushes for direct Gubernatorial appointments to BoE

State Sen. Jill Tokuda, (D-Kailua, Kaneohe), the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, plans to introduce a bill that would give the governor the authority to appoint school board members subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

State Rep. Roy Takumi, (D-Pearl City, Momilani, Pacific Palisades), will again back a bill creating a selection advisory council to screen nominees for the governor. A similar bill was approved last year and vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle. (Because the Governor’s responsibility for the failure/success of the DoE would be muddied.)

But there is another interesting difference between the two approaches. Tokuda would make the student member of the school board a voting member. The student member of the existing school board is not allowed to vote, a longstanding disappointment for many student government leaders.

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Say rejects power grab by Dissident HGEA operatives

State House Speaker Calvin Say has rejected state Rep. Sylvia Luke’s request that dissidents receive the chairmanship of the House Finance Committee, sources say, but he has slightly retooled his offer.

The Palolo Democrat would give dissidents two leadership posts — Majority Floor Leader and another unspecified post — and five committee chairmanships other than Finance, sources say. One dissident, state Rep. Cindy Evans, served as Majority Floor Leader last session.

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Legislature: Safer to be feared than Loved

With less than a week remaining until the opening of the 2011 Hawai`i State Legislature (January 19th), from all outward appearances, everything is proceeding as normal in the Big Square Building. The University of Hawai`i has distributed their thick, expensive, 4-color process budget presentation, lobbyist-cum-intimate friend of the new Governor, John Radcliffe is holding court on one of the Capitol's fabled $10,000.00 koa benches, and the senate is already conducting informational briefings on Castle & Cook's proposed inter-island wind project which would "transmit up to 400 MW" of DC power to Oahu through an undersea cable from wind farms thereby obliterating a full third of tiny, picturesque Lana'i in order to feed The Gathering Place's insatiable energy habits which the Blue Planet Foundation's energy-efficient light bulb giveaway and expensive network TV show have somehow failed to much quell.

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City of Honolulu: Tax Charities to feed HGEA

Many cities and counties on the mainland exempt schools, nonprofits, churches, hospitals and other public-benefit organizations from paying any property taxes. Many state constitutions -- Hawaii's is not one of them -- even prohibit such taxation, embracing the notion that charities provide important community benefits that more than offset losses in tax revenue.

But with the city hurting for revenue, some believe Honolulu's exemption program needs to be re-evaluated and possibly overhauled, bringing more equity to the system and better reflecting the cost of providing city services to the properties….

THE PROSPECT of nonprofit organizations having to pay more taxes in an economy that already has forced many to trim staff and programs sends shudders throughout the industry.

Many of the nonprofits offer services that lessen the burden on government coffers and enhance the community's well-being in ways that go beyond the bottom line, industry executives say. These organizations feed the poor, house the homeless, shelter the abused, educate the young -- tasks that otherwise would be the responsibility of the public sector.

"They save the government and the community lots of money and heartache," said the Rev. Marc Alexander, vicar general of Hawaii's Roman Catholic diocese, which property records show owns Oahu land with an exempt value of more than $420 million.

Adding to the local charities' tax burden in these tough times potentially would be devastating, especially because demand for their services in many cases is up, industry executives say.

"You would see an increased number of well-intentioned nonprofits collapse because they just couldn't handle the added costs," said John Howell, president of Easter Seals Hawaii.

(Not mentioned: The whole thing is being pushed by a couple of atheists with the ACLU backing them.)

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Atheist County: Councilmembers “Impressed” by Atheists research on taxing charities

A group advocating for separation of church and state is raising concerns about the city's trash collection services to churches, which don't pay refuse collection fees. The Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church issued a statement in which its president, Mitch Kahle, called the city's "a rotten policy."

The mayor's press secretary, Louise Kim McCoy, issued a statement in response about how churches fall into the city's "nonprofit category" with respect to garbage pick-up.

"Nonprofit organizations that do not conduct commercial activity for gain or profit do not fall within the definition of businesses and are therefore not subject to refuse collection charges," McCoy wrote.  "Some examples of organizations that the City has determined that do not to fall within the definition of 'business' and are not subject to refuse service charges include: schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations, as well as churches."

City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia told Civil Beat he's aware of the HCSSC's concern, and is impressed by Kahle's research. Garcia said it's a good idea for the city to look into whether churches ought to be charged more for opala collection.

City Council member Ikaika Anderson told Civil Beat it's among the topics a real property tax task force he's assembling will examine.

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Atheist State: Some Senators question Atheist Control over Invocations

The state Senate's proposal to end the practice of beginning a floor session with an invocation, which will be voted on in Senate rules changes next week, does not have the complete support of every senator.

David Ige and Suzanne Chun Oakland told Civil Beat some senators would prefer to have more discussion and perhaps reach a compromise — for example, an invocation before the Senate is gaveled into session.

Some senators are also uncomfortable that the invocation is being halted to essentially kill a lawsuit from the Hawaii Citizens for Separation of Church and State. Members of the group allege they were roughed up by Capitol security after they verbally interrupted an invocation last April.

The invocations have been given by a wide variety of people of faith over the years, and no single religion has been promoted above all others.

The state House, meanwhile, is seeking legal advice on what it should do about House invocations, while the Honolulu City Council has considered making its invocation secular.

Shapiro: “State Senate leaders proposed to end the invocations traditionally offered by clergy before floor sessions after complaints about the separation of church and state. So it's official: They seldom have a clue; now they won't have a prayer, either.”

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Kim still looking for a DoT scandal

The state has awarded a $99 million, three-year contract to Securitas Services for security guard work at state airports.

Securitas is the incumbent contractor and its bid for the new job was $10.3 million lower than its closest competitor.

State Sen. Donna Kim, D-14th (Moanalua, Aiea, Fort Shafter, Kalihi Valley, Halawa Valley), who has been examining various airport issues including security services, said airport officials should have put the security contract out for bid several years ago….

FLASHBACK: Retaliation: Legislature votes to keep Lingle appointees from returning to civil service

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Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Anti-First Amendment and Second Amendment Agenda Exposed in Opeds on Arizona Shooting

The title “Beware dangerous public rhetoric” sets the stage and premise for the awful political grandstanding of the paper.

Before even delving into the content of the editorial, consider the title.  Dangerous rhetoric.  Rhetoric is the ability to use language to communicate effectively and persuasively.

What is dangerous about language?  I wonder if this so-called newspaper and its editorial staff took umbrage at the pictures and statements during President Bush’s tenure that called for him to be killed, showed him decapitated, or with a pistol to his forehead or with crosshairs on him.  I think it did not.

VIDEO: Father of 9yr old Tucson Victim: Don't use my daughter's death to take our freedoms, Alleged Tucson Shooter: Flag-burning Leftist, dope smoking atheist

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Hawaii Not Flagging Mentally Ill in Gun Background Check System

Hawaii is one of 10 states that haven’t flagged people as mentally ill in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, according to a group that includes more than 550 mayors.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns released a report on flaws in background checks following the six killings in Arizona in which shooter Jared Loughner was able to pass a federal background check despite a history of drug arrests, abuse and mental health issues.

It said Hawaii and nine other states had failed to flag mentally ill people in the NICS database because of chronic federal underfunding for the program.

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Catastrophic decline in carbon dioxide

Anthony Watts publicizes an alarmist report, from Science, about changes in carbon dioxide. I have a different reaction from the alarmist, who claims to have determined the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide for 35 million to 100 million years.

The lesson I take away is that atmospheric carbon dioxide has been falling from a level of 1,000 parts per million to a mere 280 parts per million, until humans intervened to drive it back up to almost 400.

Presumable if we hadn't, it would have continued to fall, until -- at a level around 105 or so -- life was extinguished.

MORE: Greenhouse Gas Observatories Downwind from Erupting Volcanoes

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Hawaii foreclosures hit new high in ’10—2% of all homes

Real estate research firm RealtyTrac Inc. reports there were 12,425 properties statewide affected by foreclosure last year, a 38 percent increase from 9,002 properties in 2009.

The properties were mostly homes but also include commercial real estate.

If all the properties affected by foreclosure were homes, the total would represent more than 2 percent of all homes in the state

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Foreign investors must report ag land holdings

Any foreign who acquires or transfers any interest, other than a security interest, in agricultural land in the U.S. is required by law to report the transaction no later than 90 days after the date of the transaction.

Foreign investors or entities must file Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act reports with the USDA in the county where the land is located, according to the release.

Failure to file a report, filing a late report or filing an inaccurate report can result in a penalty with fines up to 25 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land.

For AFIDA purposes, agricultural land is defined as any land used for farming, ranching or timber production, if the land is more than 10 acres in size or if the land is 10 acres or less and in the aggregate producing gross annual receipts of more than $1,000 from the sale of farm, ranch, or timber products in total.

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