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Monday, February 07, 2011
February 7, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:34 PM :: 4482 Views :: Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

Abercrombie: Some Retirees do not “make positive contributions in our community”

Don’t Mock Hu Jintao: Honolulu Councilmembers demand Rush Limbaugh be censored

Beware of government leaders who want to punish speech

I'm talking about bills that would hit authors and publishers right here in Hawaii.

Two bills before the Legislature — HB548 and SB 1208— would "hold authors and publishers of visitor guide websites and visitor guide publications liable to individuals who suffer injury or death as a result of being enticed (emphasis added) to trespass." They would also "exempt private property owners or legal occupiers of land from liability for trespassers' injury or death." (I won't even deal with the second aspect of the bills.)

The House Tourism Committee is scheduled to vote on HB 548 at a 10:30 a.m. hearing Monday in conference room 312. Its members should kill the bill and send a clear message: The First Amendment means states cannot impose penalties that would significantly chill the publication of information — which is just what these proposals would do.

The bills have the support of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Kauai Visitors Bureau and other otherwise reasonable people. They're frustrated by a real problem, that tourists are visiting dangerous locations on private property such as Kipu Falls on Kauai and getting hurt.

But their solution carries with it far more serious problems.

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Abercrombie’s DHHL pick pledges to abandon mission, build rental projects instead

Alapaki Nahale-a has won unanimous support from the state Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee as the latest nominee to head the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands -- backed by a crowd of homesteaders and others who think Nahale-a can bring fresh ideas to the job.

(And the SA editors endorse.) Here's one idea that deserves exploration: The nominee wants to consider launching a rentals program and multifamily-unit housing as needed alternatives to DHHL's conventional single-family residence development.

Nahale-a … acknowledged that this major departure -- providing units for rent rather than purchase -- would present a challenge: The federal law that established the Hawaiian Homes trust was aimed at moving native Hawaiians into home ownership. By itself, enabling rentals does not fulfill the mission.

(There you have it.  Between a Chair who doesn’t want to fulfill the mission and a NHLC lawsuit seeking to make DHHL into a ward of the Legislature, DHHL will now return to its pre-Lingle position as a failed agency.)

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SB232: Clayton Hee pushes bill which will lead to Civil Unions Litigation

Senate Bill 231 is a more extensively crafted measure that seeks to address many questions — on taxes and benefits, for example — that SB 232 does not.

Another measure, House Bill 1623, would do the same as SB 231. Its lead sponsor is House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro and it has 21 co-sponsors including Speaker Calvin Say and two Republicans.

Among other things, SB 231 and HB 1623 address concerns involving the federal tax code and state law on child custody and family court. They also address annulment, divorce and separation.

Though the language in SB 231 and HB 1623 was agreed upon by the administration, House and Senate leaders and legal advisors — and though Abercrombie had planned to introduce a civil unions bill as part of his administrative package (but ended up not even mentioning civil unions in his State of the State address) — it was all for naught.

That's because Sen. Clayton Hee — on Jan. 21, three days before the State of the State — scheduled SB 232 for a hearing in his Judiciary and Labor Committee on Jan. 25.

More of the gay victory lap: The Healing Power of An Invocation

Here’s What is Coming: Hooser, Hanabusa predict HB444 will bring gay marriage back before Courts

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Matsumoto ERS pension-benefit short $7B because State, County skimmed, union members abused pension formula

Hawaii has a public employee pension plan it can no longer afford.

The most compelling evidence of this is the decline in the funded ratio of the Employees Retirement System (ERS) from 95 percent to 61 percent during the 10 years since 2000. If the pension plan liabilities of the ERS were fully funded, it would have assets in excess of $18 billion. Instead, it has $11 billion in assets, leaving a gaping $7 billion hole. To put this in perspective, our distressingly low-funded ratio puts the ERS in the bottom 25 percent of all public pension funds in the United States….

If the ERS was fully funded, the public employers would need to contribute only the "normal cost" of approximately 6 percent of payroll to fund presently accruing pension benefits. Because of the unfunded liability, they instead are required to make a much higher annual required contribution (ARC) to close the deficit. The ARC is currently 15 percent of payroll for general employees and 20 percent for police and fire employees. The differences in the ARC and the "normal cost" of between 9 percent and 14 percent represent the catch-up payments aimed at covering the $7 billion unfunded liability over the next 30 years….

Many factors caused this funding deficit. They include public employers "skimming" investment returns by "shorting" the ARC; investment performance failing to meet targeted returns; unfunded benefit enhancements; salary increases exceeding growth assumptions; unanticipated increases in life expectancies; abuses of the pension benefit formula by rogue employees; and the sale of investments to meet current benefit payments.

(Colbert Matsumoto is head of ERS and on the Board of the Star-Advertiser, which prolly explains why the media has been AWOL so long.)

RELATED:

1999 House GOP votes ‘No’ on Pension Raid: 'Robbing Peter to pay Peter'

HANABUSA RESPONSIBLE FOR “WHOLE GAMUT”: Cops file suit over pension fund ‘raid’

But state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) said she was perplexed by the lawsuit since state lawmakers, not the ERS or federal pension officials, set the level of funding for the retirement system.

Hanabusa said the retirement fund is not in financial danger, and there is no threat of reduced benefits for retirees and state workers as a result of the 1999 law.

"We determine how much people will be paid, we determine whether people have collective bargaining rights, we determine the whole gamut," Hanabusa said.

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It’s a New Day and it sucks

Hawaii’s retirees, most of whom are barely making it month-to-month are in Neil Abercrombie’s gun-sights as an easy mark to help fix the state’s fiscal mismanagement.

Reading through his proposal is like looking at the schizophrenic ramblings of a person not in touch with reality.

“I have no problem with people who choose to move to Hawaii to retire and make positive contributions in our community. But it is not right for wealthy retirees to pay no state taxes on the pension part of their income while others — people who work in Hawaii and retirees with non-pension income — pay their state taxes. People whose retirement income comes from 401(k), IRA or annuities pay state taxes.” …

One only need to read the comments to the article we linked above to understand the impact.

Missing are usual rabble rousers.

Speaking out are those who will be impacted.

The people he promised to serve.

No one should be surprised the seniors – a potent voting bloc – will fight this to the end.

We’ll join them.

Kalapa: Learning Curve Steep For New Leaders

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Hawaii Is the Only State to Assess Hotel-Room Tax on Timeshare Owners

The House Committee on Tourism heard testimony Monday relating to HB 809, which aims to raise the transient accommodation tax on timeshare units by 2 percent, from 7.25 percent to 9.25 percent.

If passed, the increase would be in effect for just over four years, sunsetting June 30, 2015.

In opposition to the bill, Daniel Dinell, chair of the American Resort Development Association of Hawaii, testified that the increased tax would hurt the state's visitor and construction industries. He emphasized that timeshare owners were Hawaii property owners who have made long-term commitments to the state.

"They and their guests are dependable, consistent, and stable visitors who bring substantial tax dollars to Hawaii and continue to come even during economic downturns," Dinell wrote in his testimony. "They pay a yearly maintenance fee including real property taxes, GET and other fees. No other owner of real property in Hawaii is required to pay an occupancy tax to stay in real property that they already own."

Dinell expanded, saying, "In fact, Hawaii is the only state to assess the TAT on timeshare owners in the United States."

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Full Text: Rail Litigation

Two recent cases are the first to be filed relating to Honolulu’s rail project.  The first, filed by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, is relatively straightforward. It argues that state law regarding burials and historic resources requires an inventory to be done where burials can be expected to be found. And the law also requires that this be done before decisions are made so that the information can be taken into account in a timely fashion.  Here’s a link to the full complaint.

The second lawsuit challenges city contracting policies for the rail project. Here’s the link to the full 51-page complaint, some of which is taken up with listings of rail contracts.  It’s a bit technical, but also straightforward. State procurement law originally allowed contracts to be awarded even if fewer that three bids were received. The law was later amended to delete this provision, making it clear that a minimum of three bids are required. However, city rules were never updated to reflect the amendments to the law, and some city contracts, including lucrative rail contracts, have been awarded without the legally required competition.  The lawsuit argues that the city does not have the authority to issue rules that are contrary to state law.

Panos: Hannemann Insisted City Lives Within Its Means, But the Facts Show Otherwise

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HB1627: A State-recognized Indian Tribe for Hawaii?

HB1627 is incredibly ridiculous on several levels, not the least of which is that the legislature of the State of Hawaii has no constitutional authority (either US or State) to spin off such a semi-autonomous governing body from itself. This is a pesky detail that apparently none of its advocates or legislators bothered to ask the attorney general or any other legal counsel. When you’re desperate, you make these kind of mistakes. Even as opposition testimonies pointed out the bill’s numerous inaccuracies, inconsistencies and false statements, the lawmakers remained clueless.

The only committee member who wondered out loud whether the object of HB 1627 was legal or not was Rep. Gene Ward.  Nevertheless, he accepted the beat-around-the-bush answer from one of the proponents and the committee passed the measure, patting themselves on the back for opening up dialog about this important topic.

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Progressives scrounge for ways to get control of Hawaii Public Housing Authority, oust Lingle appointees

Shapiro discovers a nest of Republicans: Linda Smith, senior policy adviser to former Gov. Linda Lingle, has apparently moved into a new position as financial adviser to the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority, on whose board of directors she served as the governor’s representative.

HPHA is maintaining silence on the matter, with several messages requesting information from executive director Denise Wise and Smith going unanswered. Sources who deal with the agency say Smith has been working there since last month….

The HPHA board is chaired by retired Boeing executive Travis Thompson, one of Lingle’s closest allies as her finance director on Maui, her transition chief when she was elected governor and a major donor to local and national Republican campaigns.

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Inside Gaming: Another effort to legalize gambling in Hawaii will most likely fade like a Honolulu sunset

Another effort to legalize gambling in Hawaii will most likely fade like a Honolulu sunset.

Hawaii and Utah are the only two states without any form of legalized gaming. A proposal to for single casino on the island of Oahu died in the state legislature a year ago. Other gaming proposals have also failed.

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Workers comp medical providers deserve better treatment in Hawaii

If you are seriously hurt while working, here is what will most likely happen:

1. You will discover that more than half our doctors refuse to treat work-injury patients. They are tired of being pushed around by carriers.

2. Once you find a good doctor, your treatment might be delayed for several months while the carrier second-guesses your doctor by seeking a second opinion. This second opinion is called an "Independent Medical Examination," but the doctor the carrier selects may have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from that very same carrier over the years. This will cause you to no longer trust the carrier or your employer.

3. During your treatment the carrier may simply ignore your doctor's periodic plans entirely. Then your doctor will have to waste endless hours calling the carrier to try finding out whether your treatment can continue.

4. Your doctor -- or physical therapist, diagnostician, massage therapist -- will not start treatment until having written permission to proceed from the carrier, even though that written permission is not required by the rules. This will delay your treatment by weeks or months.

Practitioners wait because they cannot afford to take a chance on having to fight carriers in order to get paid, and they have little confidence that the Department of Labor will help them get paid.

5. Finally, during these treatment delays you will probably sit around your house popping pain pills while getting madder and madder at your employer and the carrier until you eventually don't care if you ever return to work.

Thus, abusive treatment of our medical providers has both reduced the number of doctors willing to treat injured workers and resulted in endless treatment delays. Those treatment delays are the reason why thousands of dollars in unnecessary off-work payments have to be made each month by employers and carriers.

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Hawaii enrolls more kids for health insurance

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Hawaii child enrollees rose nearly 15 percent between the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, the fourth highest increase in the nation.

That represents a jump of 18,000 additional children signed up for the CHIP and Medicaid programs.

In all, nearly 142,000 children were enrolled in either of the programs in 2010.

CHIP:  http://insurekidsnow.gov/

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Bill Watch: School Bullying

At least eight anti-bullying bills have emerged in the Hawaii Legislature this year in response to last year's national coverage of the tragic effects school harassment can have.

After a couple of high-profile suicides were linked with school bullying, parents and community members in Hawaii got vocal. At one Board of Education meeting in October, more than half a dozen people testified on behalf of students who they feel are not being protected by the Department of Education's existing anti-bullying policy. A Civil Beat report in November revealed the department's policy, Chapter 19, lacks enforcement.

Lawmakers heard loud and clear. The eight proposals aim to solve the bullying challenge each in its own way. Some cover bullying only on school property, others take in a wider territory. We're here to give you a rundown on what they have in common and how they differ.

ANTI-BULLYING CAMPAIGN AT CENTER OF…  The transsexual agenda for Hawai`i schools

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Will Honolulu Ban Plastic Bags?

The measure, introduced by then-Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, now a state senator, has been deferred since Nov. 9, with no hearings scheduled.

First-time Councilman Stanley Chang, chairman of the Public Works and Sustainability Committee, said he is in favor of further talks about a ban. But Chang said he has not decided whether to hold hearings on Bill 43.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle said his administration has recommended a fact-finding forum to bring business representatives and interested parties together to discuss Bill 43 and its potential impact.

"I feel these discussions will assist the city and the City Council in determining whether such an ordinance will be effective," Carlisle said.

The bill includes an exemption for businesses earning $1 million or less in gross sales. City Department of Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger said the bill also does not prevent individuals from buying plastic bags.

Steinberger has noted that plastic bags make efficient fuel for the HPOWER garbage-to-energy plant.

"Plastic in any form has a high-energy conversion value with minimum residue, making it more favorable feed stock than even paper products," Steinberger said in a letter to the Council in November. In addition, HPOWER has scrubbers that clean the smoke emissions of toxic gases, city and state officials said.

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Aila: “There is no problem with Aquarium fish”

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state senate committee is scheduled to hear a bill that would ban the sale of any aquatic life for aquarium purposes. Supporters and opponents of the measure both cite the environment and the economy for their positions.

Supporters of Senate Bill 580, including environmental groups anti-Superferry filth like the Sierra Club and the Pacific Whale Foundation, say taking reef fish has depleted the population. (Even though a single whale eats more fish than the entire aquarium industry collects.)

"This bill would kill my industry," said Randy Fernley, owner of Coral Fish Hawaii, which sells fresh water and salt water fish for aquariums. "It would kill my shop, and virtually affect hundreds of salt water hobbyists throughout the state.

Fernley said he has been in business for about 40 years, and does over $1 million in business annually. He said that while there are a handful of breeders that he uses, "most fish are wild caught. But we are monitored and have been monitored throughout the last 35 years by the Department of Land and Natural Resources. We've been sending in reports. Everyone's required to have a license," he said.

William Aila, interim DLNR director, said that the measure is not new. "This bill has been going in the legislature in one form or another for close to ten years, because you have folks who have a philosophical difference on whether or not you should be able to take resources from the ocean, put them into an aquarium, and send them halfway around the world for people to enjoy," Aila said.

For his part, Aila said the DLNR opposes the measure. "It is a moral issue," he said, "because from an environmental standpoint, there is no problem with aquarium fish. It's sustainable, based upon the number of users right now, and the level of catch."

Aquarium located next to Pacific Whale Foundation: Maui Ocean Center  Just as the whale-killers of Pacific Whale Foundation blocked the Superferry because it might kill whales, the aquarium keepers of the Pacific Whale Foundation are trying to block aquarium collectors because …. THEY ARE A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES.)

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New Bill Aims to Keep Puppy Mills Out of Paradise

Hawaii, the so-called "progressive" state infamous for its very regressive attitudes regarding animals, might be taking steps this legislative season to actually change things for the better.

Consider, for example, House Bill 1621. This bill would put in place new regulations to deal with the problem of puppy mills in Paradise. As the proposed bill itself states, "The legislature finds that Hawaii does not currently regulate the large scale breeding of dogs and that this lack of regulation often results in the breeding of dogs in a cruel and inhumane manner.  The large scale breeding of dogs is often conducted under conditions that inflict long-term suffering on the dogs and may also lead to the sale of unhealthy dogs to unsuspecting consumers."

Therefore, "it is necessary to regulate large scale dog breeding operations and facilities in order to prevent cruel treatment of the dogs and protect the public."

The current lack of regulation has led to such horrors as those uncovered at a breeding facility called Bradley Hawaiian Puppies last year.

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Hawaii Banning Toy Guns?

If Hawaii State Rep. Scott Saiki gets his way, guns will be outlawed in Hawaii. Toy guns for kids, that is. Adults can still buy toy guns…..

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Document Forgery factory helps illegals trick Hawaii Farmer

(This excerpt from an article by Michael Cutler apparently does NOT refer to the Aloun farms case.)

…last year I agreed to assist a law firm that was retained by a farm in Hawaii because two of their managers were arrested and criminally charged with intentionally hiring illegal aliens.  Generally I would not assist a defense attorney.  I certainly have the right to assist any law firm I want to, but I would never assist in the defense of a person who, in my judgment, was guilty of wrongdoing- this is a matter of personal principle.  I do not compromise on core issues and this is certainly one of them.

In the Hawaii case, however, all of the employees that were hired by the managers, who were subsequently arrested, showed the managers counterfeit Alien Registration Cards (Green Cards).  In my judgment the cards were not flawless but were of sufficiently good quality that it would be easy to understand how a farm manager would not detect the fact that these documents were bogus.  If you doubt this, consider the fact that the illegal aliens in this case, citizens of Mexico, were hired in California and flown by commercial airlines to Hawaii.  Their counterfeit documents were accepted by the TSA employees at the airport who permitted them to board their flights to Hawaii. Interestingly the title of the employees of the TSA who made this decision is "Document Checker!"

In this particular case, the workers were all paid "on the books." There was absolutely no evidence of any sort of exploitation and there were no other factors usually associated with the intentional employment of illegal aliens.  The entire case was based on the use of fraud documents proffered by the employees and by statements made by a few of the illegal alien employees who agreed to become cooperators.  There were no audio or video tapes to substantiate any of the claims made by the few cooperators who, by cooperating with the government, were permitted to remain in the United States for over one year and work while the case was pending.

The two farm managers were ultimately acquitted of all counts of their indictments.

RELATED: Illegal aliens get past TSA, jet off to Hawaii with forged ID

Not Related: Woman swims from Mexico, arrives in Hawaii Sunday

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